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When you're rinsing the sponge filter, are you rinsing with tap water or tank water? If you're rinsing with tap water you're just adding chlorine to your beneficial bacteria colony and killing off all the beneficial bacteria. I would say that you are very much overcleaning your filter. Many people on here hardly, if at all, ever clean their filters because of the beneficial bacteria buildup. If you are rinsing the filter, only use tank water from the water change to remove sludge.


I would suggest more water changes and less filter cleaning, water changes help significantly more. Also, you may want to try lowering your temperature to around 75 degrees. Higher temps tend to encourage algae growth more than lower ones.

The last thing would be recommending you to get a different test kit that isn't strip-based. I would recommend the API Master test kit, as th strip readings can often be inconsistent or inaccurate. Better off with a drop based kit.
 
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