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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I really could use some advice on my current situation on my new 55 gallon dirt set up.

I set set up my 55 gallon after waiting years to finally being ready. The plants are growing well but the tank is cloudy. I followed instructions on dirting with clay using mostly remineralized top soil. I spent weeks readying the soil & finding a pure clay source.

I added 1 inch of just RMT & 5-10% natural pure powdered clay mixed in with the RMT on the bottom. I then placed 1 inch of Flourite that was well washed around the sides then I capped over with 1.5 - 1.7 inches of washed Flourite. If my flow is high meaning I can move the bottom plants around a little not a lot but a little the tank becomes cloudy. Say 70% clear at best.

Now I did install a 15 watt UV inline filter later on to try & help clear out the tank , thinking it was bacteria & an algae bloom since it looked slightly tan green looking at times. So that reduced the flow on the Ehiem 2215 & the tank became 95% clear over night.

Then the flow became almost near zero because I forgot to put back the upper plate inside the filter thinking I needed to take down the filter which is not a good idea because of new bacteria developing. I did it any way this time I took the UV off an noticed a much better flow now in the tank.

However the tank went back to being 70% clear again!, meaning cloudy looking. I am not really sure if it is because of the added flow causing clay to leech out from the cap, or trashing my bio filter using my house water which is run through a water softner, I know my bad I did use prime while rinsing, However I forgot that I switched from KCl to NaCl which probably is not good for the filter bacteria. I should have used the by pass water & primed it I know now but forgot about that little detail.

All levels show no NH3, NOR NO2. So what is going on?? Is my tank cycling or is clay leeching up into the water through the 1.50-1.75 cap??? An if so can I build more cap maybe with pool sand over the top. I really would not rather add anything since its now day 20 & most of the plants are growing well.

I am a clear water freak , I would rather tear the tank down & rebuild if I knew the tank would never clear. I feel even though I may have damaged the filter bacteria the hazy water is from clay particles leeching out not bacteria.

A couple of questions: #1 Should I spike the system with ammonia to challenge it, since in 20 days I never picked up a NH3, NO2 spike at all.


#2 If it turns out the clay is leeching , what can I do to stop it if anything? Add pool sand over the Flourite?

The UV is deceiving because it slows the flow which means less substrate disruption, however the tank got to within 96% clear!

#3 Will pool sand make the substrate anaerobic an if so this is probably not good.

Advice would be great. Thanks
 

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I doubt it's the clay leaching. Mostly likely bacteria and you are incomplete in cycle and/or in a mini cycle.

I'll offer the advise you might not want to hear…..Leave the tank alone.

Do your normal weekly water change @ 10-25% level and allow the cycle to run it's course. The hardest part of this hobby is being patient, the best part is we learn to be patient. It's just not an instant gratification hobby.

When I decided to use MTS in my own tanks I read the complete substrate forum and all threads on the general forum related to dirt. One thing jumped out at me. The people with the most problems used a gravel type cap vs. sand.

I'm convinced a sand cap it an important part of the equation. If you would look at my tank you would see the 1.5" of sand on 2" of MTS. On closer inspection , you notice a thin layer of the coarsest dirt with the finest sand in between the dirt & sand cap. I refer to this as a "seal" layer. I feel this contains nutrient and bacteria in the substrate for use by plant roots.

This is not the care with gravel type caps I feel the is more interaction with the water resulting in more swings in perimeters.

This is merely my theory.

Is there any scientific data to support my theory….NO.
Do more people post with gravel cap problems…YES.
Does anyone use more volatile organic substrate content than me…NO
Do I have these problems…NO

Please don't listen to the "Chicken Littles" that will cry the sky is falling, their accounts of Anaerobic Apocalypse are at best misinformed.
 

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So how are you doing the cycle ? In order for a cycle to happen, your tank needs ammonia. Do you have any plants in there ? Plants carry the beneficial bacteria that
cause a cycle to happen.
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/showthread.php?t=107303
If you want to stay/w just gravel on top and you prepared the soil well you will have a minimal amount of problems/w it. It's just less likely if there was sand between the soil and the gravel.
Dogfish said it all and whatever is causing the cloudiness will take care of it's self
in time. Best proceed to getting the tank healthy and allow the tank to
start getting settled.
The bacteria will take care of it's self as the tank gets growing well. Just don't put in lots of fish at one time thinking it has enough bacteria to support them as the bacteria develop as per food supply. It would be beneficial for you to test for ammonia while
the tank is newly set up. If there is any, this likely is why the water is cloudy.
But the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate cycle can't happen if there is no ammonia.
 

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I really could use some advice on my current situation on my new 55 gallon dirt set up.

I set set up my 55 gallon after waiting years to finally being ready. The plants are growing well but the tank is cloudy. I followed instructions on dirting with clay using mostly remineralized top soil. I spent weeks readying the soil & finding a pure clay source.

I added 1 inch of just RMT & 5-10% natural pure powdered clay mixed in with the RMT on the bottom. I then placed 1 inch of Flourite that was well washed around the sides then I capped over with 1.5 - 1.7 inches of washed Flourite. If my flow is high meaning I can move the bottom plants around a little not a lot but a little the tank becomes cloudy. Say 70% clear at best.

Now I did install a 15 watt UV inline filter later on to try & help clear out the tank , thinking it was bacteria & an algae bloom since it looked slightly tan green looking at times. So that reduced the flow on the Ehiem 2215 & the tank became 95% clear over night.

Then the flow became almost near zero because I forgot to put back the upper plate inside the filter thinking I needed to take down the filter which is not a good idea because of new bacteria developing. I did it any way this time I took the UV off an noticed a much better flow now in the tank.

However the tank went back to being 70% clear again!, meaning cloudy looking. I am not really sure if it is because of the added flow causing clay to leech out from the cap, or trashing my bio filter using my house water which is run through a water softner, I know my bad I did use prime while rinsing, However I forgot that I switched from KCl to NaCl which probably is not good for the filter bacteria. I should have used the by pass water & primed it I know now but forgot about that little detail.

All levels show no NH3, NOR NO2. So what is going on?? Is my tank cycling or is clay leeching up into the water through the 1.50-1.75 cap??? An if so can I build more cap maybe with pool sand over the top. I really would not rather add anything since its now day 20 & most of the plants are growing well.

I am a clear water freak , I would rather tear the tank down & rebuild if I knew the tank would never clear. I feel even though I may have damaged the filter bacteria the hazy water is from clay particles leeching out not bacteria.

A couple of questions: #1 Should I spike the system with ammonia to challenge it, since in 20 days I never picked up a NH3, NO2 spike at all.


#2 If it turns out the clay is leeching , what can I do to stop it if anything? Add pool sand over the Flourite?

The UV is deceiving because it slows the flow which means less substrate disruption, however the tank got to within 96% clear!

#3 Will pool sand make the substrate anaerobic an if so this is probably not good.

Advice would be great. Thanks



Would were it me,,add another 2215.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Dogfish for the advice . That was my recent way of thinking as well. Meaning a sand cap would leech less & keep the tank clearer.

Now this is not my first tank & I am well versed on the nitrogen cycle, so I did spike the filter with filter media from an already cycled tank. What I stated in my thread is that I have been testing for ammonia & nitrites every day for 20 days & picked not even a trace up. The plants may actually be uptaking the NH3 & NO2 for food? So unless things get out of hand I may need to add the ammonia? From my readings on these tanks they are supposed to be semi ready to go or just say at a more advanced level because of bacteria in the RMTS. Given that knowledge I assumed that maybe the tank cycled & I missed it. However I do not feel the tank is cycled just yet or maybe its just starting I will be posting levels shortly but as of 24 hours ago there was no trace of ammonia showing & 0 levels of nitrite, but that may change real soon.

I almost went ahead an added ammonia because thats what I normally do but since dirted tanks are knew to me I figured I would wait & see what others say.

Regarding fish, my QT tank is still cycling so it will be a long time before fish will go in. There is a small snail population growing though.

I am really disappointed in the Ehiem 2215. It is WAY under powered for even a 55 planted. Should I go ahead & challenge the system or wait & see what happens? Thanks again folks for the info so far.

So what does everybody think?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Nitrite reading!

Just ran some new tests Ammonia is still showing zero. However NO2 now shows 0.25 or greater. The tank is getting very hazy so I guess water changes are out for now . Should I dose ammonia since it is not showing?? Normally I would but as stated earlier this is my first dirt tank so I am in uncharted territory?

Pictures:
 

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If you absolutely can't leave the tank alone :icon_mrgr

Then put in more plants. If you don't want more plants in you aquascape add high growth rate floaters like hornwort or water lettuce. You can remove the floaters latter.
 

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Add ammonia.
Feed the bacteria.

Nitrifying bacteria grow slowly, the cloudiness is not from them.

Here is the fishless cycle to keep you on track that way. It is just fine to work on other problems (like cloudy water) while doing the cycle.

What I would do about cloudy water:
Nothing. Wait it out. Let it clear itself.

Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1a) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine.
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1b) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.
__________________________

Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1b) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Tropical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I appreciate the advice that I am getting from everybody, however I feel after 22 days the tank should settle particulates more at this point. I am confused of how much is bacterial bloom verse clay/ soil particles getting through the cap because more flow seems to make it worse which is not a good sign.

On a positive note, the tank is in the middle of cycling . It is consuming 0.50 ppms of ammonia daily & the nitrites are rising fast. I decided to go ahead an aerate again for 4 or 5 hours at night which seems to clear up the surface plus should give the forming bacteria more o2. The plants are growing well also. That is the nice part, but I like clear water!

The way I see it. The tank has a poor chance at totally clearing up. I followed the RMTS threads & added natural red clay detailed in the thread. I spent many weeks preparing the soil. I am not sure what I did if anything wrong.
The water has an orange yellow hugh to it. I believe the plants in part are in the dirt area now because they are showing colors I have never seen to date!

I have maybe 3 options at this point. Option # 1 wait it out. What does that mean? 2 weeks 6 months? Some have stated using clay with a gravel cap never cleared even after 6 months!

Option #2 save the tank & rebuild the substrate , less work then a complete removal & redo. Skim 1/2 inch off the top of Flourite & recap a full inch of pool sand to contain particles better? I probably would need at least 2 big water changes after the disturbance to clear. I am leaning towards this.

Option #3 Complete rebuild! Remove all the substrate add new RMTS with or without 5% clay, then cap with 2-2.5 inches of pool sand maybe a small initial layer of Flourite over the soil. Then Flood.

What do you think?? If the tank was going to totally clear it would be slowly clearing even if it was 1 or 2% daily, but its not, it actually looks like its getting more hazy as the days go ticking by.
 

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Ive done a tank once before with topsoil and peat moss covered with sand. I rinsed the soil several times to get it to be as clear as possivle. Not sure if this is your problem but just some food for thought. If you didnt rinse then you may just need a lot of water changes
 

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"Option #2 save the tank & rebuild the substrate , less work then a complete removal & redo. Skim 1/2 inch off the top of Flourite & recap a full inch of pool sand to contain particles better? I probably would need at least 2 big water changes after the disturbance to clear. I am leaning towards this."

>Pull your plants.
>Get a lager diameter length of venal hose.
>Syphon off as much gravel as you can.
>Refill as needed until all the cap is gone
>After the cap is off, syphon one corner, done to the glass, create a small triangle of open space, now the Dirt is starting to dry a bit.
> cover with newspaper and press out more water until the dirt the consistency of mashed potatoes.
> Add 1.5" of RINSED, PFS as your new cap.
> Add hardscape
> Plant your tank
> use a saucer to refill the tank, pouring water on saucer.
> Add your heater, turn on, set temp.
> Add filter but, DO NOT turn on
> Allow the tank to sit for a few hours as some particle matter may float out of the rinsed PFS….Because you rinsed it, this should be min.Then turn on you filter.

I've done this procedure a few times now to remove a sand cap. Purely for cosmetic reasons. I changed Black Diamond to Play Sand, later Play sand to PFS.


- My MTS mixes have so much powdered Red Art Clay the dirt has a peach hue to it. I use a sand cap I have no issues with leaching. :wink:
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
rethinking filtration & substrate?

I am giving a further update on my 55 NPT. I am nearing day 30 now & the tank is close to finishing cycling. I have been dosing 5-10 drops of pure ammonia since the tank always showed zero NH3 even though NO2 was being produced regardless. Nitrates are rising fast, they went from my controlled 5ppm to 20-30ppms. The last time I added NO3 was about 8-10 days ago since NO3 was bottoming out to near zero when checked. I am dosing ammonia to about .5-.75 ppms to give a boost to the first bacteria group, knowing I need NO2 to finish cycling.

I did not have the heart to redo the tank at least yet because of substrate leeching. I do suspect that some clay/ soil particles are still leeching out because microscopic analysis seems to show dirt / clay colored material & diatoms along with other algae on the aquarium glass.

What to do? The tank seems to have cleared to a point where it will not get any better. The front view hardly shows any sign of yellow green haze almost looking very clear. The sides show more of a yellow green cast to the water with enhanced coloring from reflections maybe making it seem worse than it really is?? Looking strait down the water looks more clear but with again a slight yellow cast to it more like there is some wood tanin leeching out but there is no wood.

I have listen to all ideas & they all seem like good advice. There are probably several good ways to clear it up, but I am thinking the least amount of work for a first try seems most logical. Either a slight removal of say 1/4 inch of the top of the substrate than add back at least 1/2 of pool sand to try & slow leeching by making the substrate more dense??? Then go back in & do 2 50% water changes after the tank finishes cycling?? At this point I have to say the plants are growing well overall & I want to give the tank the benefit of succeeding. If in the end I would dread breaking it down if she will not clear that will be an option but from what I have learned from this is that pool sand would make a better cap especially when using clay & RMTS. That will be my next tank.

Regarding filtration & flow. This tank needs more flow so I have been going over the options.
HOB filter. Would add more o2 but degas more CO2 as well as create more noise & deflect well needed par.
Powerhead, I could install with sponge & spay bar, I like this option.
Circulator, would improve flow use less electricity, but not help filtration as much.
2217 Ehiem could carry the tank alone, & replace the 2215 running now?
A second 2215 as some have suggested?
A SUMP: Well thats my next big tanks filter for sure but this baby is not getting one:icon_mad:


What do you think?
 

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If you absolutely can't leave the tank alone :icon_mrgr



Then put in more plants. If you don't want more plants in you aquascape add high growth rate floaters like hornwort or water lettuce. You can remove the floaters latter.

How does this help a bacteria bloom? I'm curious because over the last week my water went from clear to cloudy, suspected source: frozen beefheart that was stuck in my intake strainer...leading me to believe bacterial bloom...i do have some super fast growers in my tank...will this help?


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Just add some polyester fiberfill to the filters, and it'll clear up quickly. There's no use to adding chemicals to the tank if you haven't pin pointed the exact cause, polyester fiberfill will catch the micro particles that regular filter pads can't, and not only will help it to clear the water polyester fiberfill also rids the water of discoloration.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I am using polyester filter material & it does not clear out tiny particles. I do believe most folks that say their tank is totally clear is in fact not totally clear. If you have a long tank say 48 inches or more you will see a difference from front to back view. My tank has cleared a lot however it looks totally clear from the front but from a side view it looks like their is some drift wood coloration going on. Some of it is the light but most of it is not. Try the flashlight trick at night. Shine a flashlight directly down or from the sides in a totally dark room with No aquarium light on. You will probably see a haze in most tanks. My pressurized tanks will past this test but still will show a small amount of particles but spread out at greater distances. It almost temps you to take a drink.

I have come to the realization that most dirt tanks will fail this test as well as the horizontal test. My tank looks clear from the front but looks slightly hazy looking down the 48 inches , but I still can see 30-40 feet or more past the back of the glass. So it is fairly clear but not totally clear nor will it ever be totally clear.

I am ok with this since I get much more enjoyment from a dirt tank than a pressurized tank mostly because of the less labor that is involved as well as better plant growth in some species.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I forgot to mention my reasoning for this condition which is really not bad to begin with. The dirt substrate will bubble up gas sending particles into the water at regular intervals that will cause in part a perpetual slight haze in the tank. But it does improve with good filtration & time! It will out gas maybe for years so it is impossible to expect perfectly clear aquarium water IMO.
 

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Just add some polyester fiberfill to the filters, and it'll clear up quickly. There's no use to adding chemicals to the tank if you haven't pin pointed the exact cause, polyester fiberfill will catch the micro particles that regular filter pads can't, and not only will help it to clear the water polyester fiberfill also rids the water of discoloration.

I do have some of the fluval brand polyester fiber fine predicted pads made for clearing up water post maintenance, so I will add one, but I'm thinking that it can't be micro particles because it's been about a week now and it's just as cloudy still, wouldn't they have at least settled out to some extent in that time frame??


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I forgot to mention my reasoning for this condition which is really not bad to begin with. The dirt substrate will bubble up gas sending particles into the water at regular intervals that will cause in part a perpetual slight haze in the tank. But it does improve with good filtration & time! It will out gas maybe for years so it is impossible to expect perfectly clear aquarium water IMO.

Yeah I totally get thay, and I'm not going for the RO water look...I mean who doesn't want pristine looking water, but once you have your water circulating in your tank/filter, picking up BB, macro/micro/trace elements minerals and nutrients along with fish waste, out gassing, dirt/w/e substrate particles, you CANT have not do you want water that is void of anything but hydrogen and oxygen. I just want to see the back of my tank!! It is like pea soup in there( not literally, it isn't green, just white haze).


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