01-28-2010, 10:47 PM
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My personal experience in this sort of thing indicates two main culprits: 1) your tap water has ammonia in it from time to time or 2) your substrate is old and the bottom layers are starting to deteriorate. I would begin by testing your tap water a couple times over the next couple days. If your tap water has ammonia in it, then you may need to invest in a reservoir to pre-filter your water. If it is not the tap, then my next bet would be your substrate (i.e., gravel). To clean your substrate, remove about 1/5 per week and rinse it thoroughly, let it set for a few days, rinse it again (colanders work well for rinsing most substrates) and then place it back in the aquarium at the end of the week. Repeat this process four more times for the next four sections of substrate. This will help purge your system of excess organics.
If your HOB's are plugging up within a week or two, then it is a pretty good indication that you have too many organics in your aquarium. Feeding less and cleaning parts of your aquarium system may be necessary (do not clean more than 1/5 of the environment at a time, or you may loose too many of your beneficial bacteria). Your canister filter may also be to blame in this cases--you may need to rinse out the filter media every months or two (not too thoroughly, just enough to loosen things up) instead of only a couple times a year. What I have learned is that small preventive measures executed frequently tend to fair much better than occassional large alterations. Canister filters are great, but they can encourage a laziness that can have fatal side-effects; people get used to the idea of not cleaning them out very often and they wind up harboring a lot of unnecessary organics.
The above is opinion, of course, and I would recommend that you talk with some other people about your situation before making any major decisions.