03-17-2012, 12:17 PM
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There's some mis-information in this thread...
I don't have a planted tank, but if you do, you should not gravel vac around plants. This may disturb/damage roots and removes valuable organic fertilizer. In a heavily planted tank, you don't need to gravel vacuum at all - merely remove surface material if it bothers you (but a layer of mulm is a healthy thing!
According to Seachem, Prime detoxifies ammonia, nitrites and nitrates for 24 - 48 hours. This can allow a fully functioning bio-filter to process any ammonia/nitrites in the supply water. I would not use it routinely during a cycle - you'll need water changes if/when there are any spikes.
As to the dirty water, I suspect the filter media. Open cell sponge is really not fine enough to filter out fine particulate matter. In addition to sponge, I use a filter pad and filter floss (spun polyester) to filter fine particles and polish the water. For a neglected tank or filter, or a tank with high fish waste, there may be a lot of dissolved organics in the water making it 'muddy' (a lot of waste can quickly turn into a lot of manure tea!). The only cure is water changes and/or products like activated carbon or Seachem Purigen.
A tip is to guard against over feeding...even if there is not excess food that decomposes, the more fish eat, the more waste they will produce. Yes, like us, fish can over eat...and because in nature, at times, food can be scarce, fish are programmed to eat whenever food is available. It is better for the fish and the water if you are somewhat conservative about feeding.