siphoning substrate. - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 16 Old 06-28-2012, 12:14 AM Thread Starter
PhilipPhish's Avatar
siphoning substrate.

So I'm planning on doing my monthly tank cleaning, which means taking fish out and cleaning plants.

I've been siphoning my substrate, but I over heard a PETCO employee say not to do that.

There are no live plants in my tank.

Would someone please tell me whether or not I should siphon, and why?

Thank you!

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post #2 of 16 Old 06-28-2012, 01:38 AM
LyzzaRyzz's Avatar
You should always siphon!
Trapped particles, debris and poo make their way through the gravel, and sit there, making ammonia. Gravel/substrate siphoning helps get all that gunk out of your substrate and not harming your fish.

Petsmart/Petco employees are notorious for stupid, as i like to say. They are taught how the store/chain wants them to care for their fish, not the proper way.
Anything a pet store employee tells you, you should take with a grain of salt, then come on here and ask us!

We wont steer you wrong!

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post #3 of 16 Old 06-28-2012, 05:57 AM
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Most people tend to overfeed, so yes cleaning the gravel should probably be done. I use to do it at every water change back before I had planted tanks. Now that my tanks are planted, I don't even think about cleaning the gravel.

I'm curious though as to why you remove the fish ever month, seams like that would cause them stress having their environment constantly changing and disrupted. You don't have to clean every square inch, just getting all the open areas you can reach is enough.
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post #4 of 16 Old 06-28-2012, 07:54 AM Thread Starter
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Oh, I see now! Thanks guys!

Geomancer- My mom told me to take them out. If thats not a good idea, then I won't do it.
In my 30 gallon, I used to just have femlae betta fish, a pleco, and 3 guppies. so I took them out (except the pleco) and I rearranged the tank. It kept the female bettas from fighting.
Now I have 4 female bettas, 4 cory cats, 3 swordtails, a sailfin molly, 8 guppies, and a pleco in there. I've only had the cories, swordtails, molly, and the 5 other guppies fro a month, so I've never cleaned out the tank while I had them.

  • Caspian~Tigger~Prince Nez~Dragon~Andy
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<--Salt and pepper Cory Cats
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post #5 of 16 Old 06-28-2012, 08:35 AM
Chesh's Avatar
I agree with the PPs on this one - you should be cleaning the substrate to remove detritus, but taking out all of the fish every time is not a good plan. It's too stressful on the fish - and on you. . .

You should be doing a weekly water change of around 30% (though this amount can vary depending on how many fish you have and how dirty your tank gets.) Use your siphon to get as much gunk as you can off the floor of your tank while you're draining the water, and then use your siphon in reverse to replace the water you've taken out with clean dechlorinated tap water of the same temperature.

Just to clarify what Geo said - some people don't clean the substrate when they have many live plants because the toxins caused by the decaying fish waste/food becomes fertilizer for the plants and creates Co2 in the tank. In the case of a gravel substrate, using the vacuum can disturb delicate root systems - also a no-no.

But since you don't have plants, you definitely should be getting that yucky stuff out of there. Your fishies will thank you for it! :)
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post #6 of 16 Old 06-28-2012, 08:53 AM
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Some people say it disturbs bacteria. But I would definitely clean as much as possible if I didn't have plants.
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post #7 of 16 Old 06-28-2012, 10:21 AM
1077's Avatar
I agree with everything that has been posted above.
It is true that beneficial bacteria on substrate is far greater than that found in filter media or on other hard surfaces ,but vaccuming say one half the tank ,and vaccuming the other half the following week, will remove organic waste while still preserving a good portion of the good bacteria that grows there.
In heavily planted tank's,(heavily) there is next to no need to worry bout vaccuming.
If the tank has only a few plant's,,then I would vaccum the area's wher there were no plant's.

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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post #8 of 16 Old 06-28-2012, 02:07 PM
Byron's Avatar
Just adding my concurrence with what's been said.

For some more info on the bacteria in the substrate and why it is essential to a healthy aquarium, have a read of this:

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #9 of 16 Old 06-28-2012, 02:26 PM Thread Starter
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I siphoned out my tank today. I don't like gravel vacuums... they are hard to use. I got it cleaned and re arranged. Eventually I'm going to get more plants and decor and then I'm going to completely rearrange the aquarium.
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post #10 of 16 Old 06-28-2012, 04:59 PM
Chesh's Avatar
Hmmmm... do you have gravel or sand for your substrate? If you have sand, siphoning is fine, but if you have gravel, you might want to consider getting into the gravel with a vaccume - even if you don't prefer it. Siphoning can't do as good a job getting the mulm that sinks to the bottom of the gravel, and eventually you'll start to see your nitrate levels climbing if you leave it.

Planting will help this, of course! Good luck with that!
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