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Opae Ula Crazed.
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Hi all...

Don't know where to place this question, so chose here. If the subject has been discussed elsewhere, please feel free to send me there. :)

I have a planted 29 gallon tank. The largest and quickest growing of the plants is a 'wisteria', which has a very large root system. There's also a very vigorous val, that is taking over one end of the tank.

Quite a bit of 'stuff' accumulates on (and probably IN) the substrate at the base of these plants... I'm wondering how it's possible to vacuum at these places without damaging root systems? I bought (and use) the smallest vacuum siphon I can find, but it still doesn't reach in these places.

Any suggestions out there, please?

Thanks in advance!
Rob
 

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I had the same problem, best solution I've found is to start the siphon near the root base, and have the end of the siphon tube horizontal to the substrate. It doesn't get all the detritis, but most of it gets sucked up.
 

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I have a very heavily planted tank and honestly once the plants are established I just go ahead and dig into the substrate at the roots and it doesn't harm my plants at all.
 

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I use a siphon to do partial water changes, and I fasten the end of the tubing to a long rod and use the siphon as a vacuum. It's very gentle, and I can't (and don't want to) vacuum beneath the gravel. Get's the crap off the top without taking away the mulm that the plants like.
 

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I just very lightly graze the top of the gravel if I can fit the tube in between. If I can't fit the tube in between, I probably can't see the mulm to much anyway. Fish poop is good stuff, I don't use root tabs and my crypts are growing "Out of Control".
 

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When I want to get to the roots in my newer planted tanks I use rigid tubing attached to regular airline tubing. Definitely can aim the siphon much easier.
 

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Opae Ula Crazed.
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Alot of plants like the sediment that collects within the substrate. I'm not sure the science behind it, but plants like Crypts love 'dirty' substrate. I've noticed this in alot of my tanks, and so have a few planted people from around here. Usually if I plan on having crypts in a tank, I'll scape the tank the way it should be, sans crypts. Once the tank is established enough and I feel the substrate is 'mulmy/dirty' enough, I'll add the crypts. I get hardly any 'crypt melt'. Crypts are heavy root feeders, as are quite a few other plants and if they can't get the nutrients (insert root tabs here) I find they sorta dwindle away and eventually bounce back after mulm collects.
Alot of aquarists will use mulm from their already established tanks in new set ups under the substrate to give that extra little boost required sometimes in new set ups.
 

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Rarely do I ever vacuum the substrate. If I notice mulm is collecting on top of the substrate, I'll use my hand to wave the water around to stir it up for the filters to collect while I do a water change.
 

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Vacuuming substrate is for fish only tanks. Fish poo = plant food
I don't totally agree with that. You get other things in the substrate besides fish waste - uneaten food, rotting bits of plants - all sorts of stuff. This stuff can cause pockets of noxious gas in the substrate - even if you have mts stirring it up.

I went a few months without doing gravel vacs cause I was waiting for some new plants to get firmly rooted. Everything looked fine, but when I finally started doing light gravel vacs again the water coming up reeked of sulphur (the water column itself did not). To me this was a sign that things in the substrate weren't so healthy, so I carefully vacced different portions of the gravel every other day until the smell was gone. My plants didn't suffer from it at all.

My tank is heavily planted, no c02, no ferts, and my plants are big and healthy even tho I vac the gravel around them. My goal is to have an overall healthy tank, and I just don't think having a nasty substrate is healthy.
 

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ShrimpRetirement
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Detritus is what you need to vacuum out, but it's not crucially necessary. The gravel in a planted tank does not need cleaning like you'd do in a fish only tank. I actually think all that kicked up debris that you disturb when attempting to clean the gravel will cause algae outbreaks because they land on the clean leaves and turn into algae. That's my experience at least.
 

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Hmm I've never had any algae in my tank so far (2 years). But all the debris goes right up into my Python and not into the water column.
 

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Most of it winds up in my sump. When i do water changes a tun my pumps off and siphon/pump out the water in my sump. I don't vacuum the tank itself. On my old sumpless tank if I vacuumed (not a water change) I'd get an algae bloom afterward.
 

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Thank you for asking the question...in doing so you've helped me out a tonne. I've had a tank for 3 years and have always vacuumed the gravel. I'm currently in a battle with BGA - and I'm sure that my vacuuming the gravel is definitely one of the causes. I'm also sure that this is partly the cause of my problems with slow growing plants.
 

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Interesting discussion point: I had a discussion with someone at an LFS and they told me that even in a planted tank, you need to occasionally do a deep gravel vac because some plant roots will give off substances that will hinder the growth of other plants in the tank. She also mentioned buildup of anaerobic pockets of bacteria that would build up also.

I have a heavily planted FW 55 community, well stocked, that for the most part is thriving, except for my crypt wendtii florida sunsets, which melted away. I have standard plain ol' gravel for substrate, about 3 inches, and a Marineland C-360 filter w/purigen, I do 30-40% PWC weekly and usually just vaccuum the top 1/2", except for today when I stuck it all the way down in about 1/3-1/2 of the gravel bed and it came out nasty as expected, since I hadn't done that in a while.

The discussion I was having with the LFS lady was in reference to using sand as a substrate in the 37 I'm repairing to replace my 10g fry. I read on Aquarium Advice forum that you should use Pool Filter Sand as it is fine enough to not allow waste to get into the substrate, and it also will not allow anaerobic pockets to form. Easy to clean also, just run the vac across the top. I could see that using my python would make it easy, you just crank the flow adjust down to get the waste and leave the sand where it is.

So do I gravel vac deep or not? Does that LFS lady know what she's talking about or is her head up her you-know-what?
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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some plant roots will give off substances that will hinder the growth of other plants in the tank.
I don't think this alleopathy has ever been scientifically proven in an aquarium?

She also mentioned buildup of anaerobic pockets of bacteria that would build up also.
A possibility, but depends on how a tank is set up, especially how deep the substrate is, what type and maturity of the plants (roots do their own exchange and are very effective at preventing anaerobic spots), and whether or not there are any substrate burrowers such as MTS.

Personally, I don't vacuum once the plants have filled in.

Some people periodically poke holes through their substrate with a chopstick or something similar to promote O2 circulation.
 

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So if I have areas of the tank that aren't covered by plants, should I vaccuum those a little deeper, and just skim the tops around the established plants?
 
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