Nitrates, cleaning filters and gravel.
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Nitrates, cleaning filters and gravel.

This is a discussion on Nitrates, cleaning filters and gravel. within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> I have a 3 1/2 month old tank with 3 adult platys and about 4 fry with 3 small anubias. During week 10-12 I ...

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Nitrates, cleaning filters and gravel.
Old 07-29-2012, 05:19 AM   #1
 
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Nitrates, cleaning filters and gravel.

I have a 3 1/2 month old tank with 3 adult platys and about 4 fry with 3 small anubias. During week 10-12 I changed 25% water every 3rd day. The tests stayed constant at ammonia-0, nitrite-0, nitrate-5ppm.For week 13 I decided to go a week between changes and unfortunately I didn't test either. Day 5 of week 13 my filters started spewing out a brown muck after being turned back on after feeding. ( 2 hobs with sponges which I had never cleaned) Day 7 of week 13 I noticed one platy glancing a little, so I tested and did a 50% wc. Nitrates had jumped to 80-100ppm. I thought the excessive nitrates came from the dirty filters so I rinsed the sponges and filter housings in a bucket of removed tank water. It was disgusting. Over the next 6 days I did 25% wcs daily and rinsed filters out again as they were still spewing small amounts of muck. The nitrates have dropped to about 15 ppm. There is still a small amount of muck from the filters when turned back on. My questions are am I right about the filters causing the nitrates? Is there something else I need to do in regards to cleaning them? I have read differing views on the frequency of vacuuming gravel, what are the pros and cons of weekly and monthly vacuuming? Thank you. P.S. On day 5 of week 13 I thought I needed root tabs, they dirtied the water and I vacuumed them out on day 7 thinking they may be causing the muck. Could they have caused the nitrate spike?
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Old 07-29-2012, 06:03 AM   #2
 
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Do you have clay gravel? Seachems flourite is clay. I have it in my tank. This gravel is very difficult to rinse clean. When first installed, my filter sponges would be covered with gravel muck and I was cleaning them weekly. Now this muck is much-much less. My tank was installed in Feb. 2012. Now I clean my sponges every week as a routine.
Your nitrates can accumulate in two ways. By overfeeding and/or an ammonia spike probally caused by disturbing the gravel.
it is recommended to keep the vacumn tip above the surface of the gravel and not in it. If you are pulling up gravel, then you are too close.
Also think about adding more plants and remove any items in the tank that does not support bio-filtration. The items include things like sunken boats, divers, treasure chests, etc. But a piece of driftwood is ok.
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Old 07-29-2012, 08:30 AM   #3
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjordan390 View Post
Do you have clay gravel? Seachems flourite is clay. I have it in my tank. This gravel is very difficult to rinse clean. When first installed, my filter sponges would be covered with gravel muck and I was cleaning them weekly. Now this muck is much-much less. My tank was installed in Feb. 2012. Now I clean my sponges every week as a routine.
Your nitrates can accumulate in two ways. By overfeeding and/or an ammonia spike probally caused by disturbing the gravel.
it is recommended to keep the vacumn tip above the surface of the gravel and not in it. If you are pulling up gravel, then you are too close.
Also think about adding more plants and remove any items in the tank that does not support bio-filtration. The items include things like sunken boats, divers, treasure chests, etc. But a piece of driftwood is ok.
No, its just the standard sealant coated gravel.
If disturbing the gravel can cause an ammonia spike and I dont vacuum gravel for a month or more, eventually I will have to clean it. Wouldn't this be worse than doing it every few days or week?
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Old 07-29-2012, 10:16 AM   #4
 
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I am not familiar with sealant coated gravel as I have never use it. The plants if you have enough should remove the safe ammonia and nitrates in that order. But what plants cannot do is to compete with over feeding. So cut back on the amount and feed no more then twice a day. If you can add some cories; they will help to keep the bottom clean by going after uneaten food.
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Old 07-29-2012, 10:40 AM   #5
 
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Originally Posted by rjordan390 View Post
I am not familiar with sealant coated gravel as I have never use it. The plants if you have enough should remove the safe ammonia and nitrates in that order. But what plants cannot do is to compete with over feeding. So cut back on the amount and feed no more then twice a day. If you can add some cories; they will help to keep the bottom clean by going after uneaten food.
I doubt that the small amount of anubias I have makes much difference. I will not be able to add any more plants or fish. I'm trying to learn the pros and cons of vacuuming gravel weekly as opposed to once a month or longer. I've read that you should not vacuum gravel as it will disturb toxins and cause ammonia spikes. But if you leave it alone for a month or more, when you do vacuum it, wont it be many times worse?
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Old 07-29-2012, 11:01 AM   #6
 
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In a well-planted tank, having plants rooted in the substrate (which Anubias is not), and provided the biology is balanced, you do not need to "clean" the substrate. I have tanks in which I never touch the sand, but they are well planted. In a couple others i just very lightly skim the surface, but having sand i do not dig into it ever.

In tanks without substrate-rooted plants, cleaning a gravel substrate at each water change is something I wold do, though some suggest not.

Nitrates should not be so volatile as you describe, jumping from 5ppm to 80ppm in less than a week. In an established tank, nitrates should remain at some low level from week to week with a regular weekly partial water change. This indicates something is not balanced; no mention of the tank size is made, so can't go further with this.

Filters should be rinsed as needed to keep them clean. At each water change is fine if that is what it takes, though again this would suggest either too many fish or overfeeding.

I would also get some substrate-rooted plants; with livebearers, presumably the water is medium hard to hard, so Corkscrew Vallisneria is an ideal plant as it is fast growing and does better in harder rather than soft water.

Byron.
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Old 07-29-2012, 11:11 AM   #7
 
Gravel and filters, when neglected, can become nitrate factories...especially if you over feed. In addition, some larger size gravels are problematic as they allow food to fall out of reach too quickly. I was using a small gravel and still decided to switch to sand.
You should clean filters and gravel siphon weekly until under control. Watch how much you feed to ensure your not feeding too much.
Once the gravel is cleaned up and you are feeding properly, you may only have to gravel siphon very infrequently. In the planted tank (and some not) and tanks with a sand substrate, the substrate is never siphoned any more than a pass over the top.

Note: There are some schools of thought that suggest that undisturbed substrates develop a beneficial eco system that actually makes for a healthier tank (e.g. deep sand beds). Along these lines, many fish keepers are overly concerned with mulm on the surface of the substrate. Mulm is actually a natural and healthy element and unless particularly unsightly is best left alone.
(food for thought).

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Old 07-29-2012, 11:19 AM   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron View Post
In a well-planted tank, having plants rooted in the substrate (which Anubias is not), and provided the biology is balanced, you do not need to "clean" the substrate. I have tanks in which I never touch the sand, but they are well planted. In a couple others i just very lightly skim the surface, but having sand i do not dig into it ever.

In tanks without substrate-rooted plants, cleaning a gravel substrate at each water change is something I wold do, though some suggest not.

Nitrates should not be so volatile as you describe, jumping from 5ppm to 80ppm in less than a week. In an established tank, nitrates should remain at some low level from week to week with a regular weekly partial water change. This indicates something is not balanced; no mention of the tank size is made, so can't go further with this.

Filters should be rinsed as needed to keep them clean. At each water change is fine if that is what it takes, though again this would suggest either too many fish or overfeeding.

I would also get some substrate-rooted plants; with livebearers, presumably the water is medium hard to hard, so Corkscrew Vallisneria is an ideal plant as it is fast growing and does better in harder rather than soft water.

Byron.
It's a 20g tank. I am currently unable to buy any more plants. I am very careful to not overfeed, twice a day an amount they can eat in less than 2 minutes. I've read 2 different views on frequency of gravel vacuuming and just want to know the pros and cons of each. Thank you.
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Old 07-29-2012, 11:20 AM   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AbbeysDad View Post
Gravel and filters, when neglected, can become nitrate factories...especially if you over feed. In addition, some larger size gravels are problematic as they allow food to fall out of reach too quickly. I was using a small gravel and still decided to switch to sand.
You should clean filters and gravel siphon weekly until under control. Watch how much you feed to ensure your not feeding too much.
Once the gravel is cleaned up and you are feeding properly, you may only have to gravel siphon very infrequently. In the planted tank (and some not) and tanks with a sand substrate, the substrate is never siphoned any more than a pass over the top.

Note: There are some schools of thought that suggest that undisturbed substrates develop a beneficial eco system that actually makes for a healthier tank (e.g. deep sand beds). Along these lines, many fish keepers are overly concerned with mulm on the surface of the substrate. Mulm is actually a natural and healthy element and unless particularly unsightly is best left alone.
(food for thought).

AD
Thank you Abbeysdad. What does mulm look like?
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