12-09-2011, 09:43 PM
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I was so nervous to remove my old HOB in fear of removing the bacteria. Byron helped ease that a lot and I did a lot of reading on it. The filter actually only holds a small amount of the bacteria in the tank, most of it is in the substrate, on the plants, decor, etc. Especially with live plants you won't have an Ammonia issue, the plants will suck it up before the bacteria even has a chance. I would just yank the HOB off of there, I left my Bio-Wheels in suctioned next to the sponge for a couple days but then said screw it and pulled them out. No change to water quality at all, actually nitrates reduced a very small amount. I have a 29g with 8 Rasbora, 5 Tetra, 3 Emerald Cory, and 3 Giant Danio if that helps give you a picture of the stocking level. As I've learned quickly from the kind members here "Plants are natures filters" let them do their job.
About the Cory's if you have recently been making changes, sloshing your hands around, etc it could just be stressed. I am horrible with fish illness and diagnosis though (I'm really focused on learning the plant aspect right now) so I'm probably not the one to get advice from on the rapid breathing, I would lean towards stress from the recent changes, keep your eye on them. As mentioned above my fishes (especially the Cory's) have been 100 times more active and exploratory since going with the sponge.