Strange problem in filterless soil tank - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 3 Old 10-25-2011, 12:18 AM Thread Starter
Strange problem in filterless soil tank

Well after running almost a year totally problem free this tank has come down with quite the problem =/.

It started about 4-6 weeks ago, suddenly mulm was everywhere. But it wasn't like normal mulm... this stuff comes from nowhere and kinda sticks to the leaves. The water has lots of particles in it that won't settle out. I siphon it up weekly and its already building back up a day after cleaning.

It wouldn't be so difficult to figure out if this tank hadn't gone through a lot of changes lately, but it has. Three months ago it was moved. I drained it most the way, left plants and hardscape intact and moved it about 20 miles away. It was fine for about the first month. Had about 24 small fish in it. Currently theres less then half of that.

About the same time I started getting problems I added 3 khuli loaches to the tank. I know two of them died and they may of brought in something that started killing the other fish. It might be possible that the one khuli is causing the mulm issue by disturbing the substrate, but I kinda find that unlikely. There is about an inch of sand over the soil below. The khuli is maybe 2" long. Despite loosing about a dozen fish, my cherry shrimp and bamboo shrimp seem fine. Bamboo actually looks fantastic. So water quality has been maintained/isn't an issue. Plants are growing well for the most part, despite the crap sticking to them.

Before it was moved

a week or two after it was moved-kinda over grown

These are from 24 hours after the last waterchange/cleaning and heavy pruning. The build up will get worse as the week goes by.

5 days later. The first picture shows how its kinda sticky, even if the leaf is in a current. Its easy to knock it off with the siphon, but the particles that escape into the water seem to settle out and sick back to be plants again.

Also in one corner of the tank opposite the powerhead these weird little balls build up. There about 2mm across and all very consistent in size. They keep there shape pretty well too. Obviously something has to be making them but I can't figure out what. I suck them up every week and every week their back lol.

mkay so far my best guesses are I'm dealing with some sorta microorganism, like a water mold or bacteria, or the one khuli loach which I still think is unlikely but can't really think of anything else =/.

So just looking for any ideas, comments, or suggestions. This is unknown territory for me. I'm planing on removing all the fish and seeing if anything changes. If it doesn't I'm just gonna go with my gut feeling on how to deal with it unless something better is suggested.

.... I'm probably drunk.

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post #2 of 3 Old 10-25-2011, 03:00 AM
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Weird looking little brown balls of whatever.
I would consider that after a year,soil below has expended most of it's nutrient's in supporting growth of the plant's and wonder if water column dosing is also taking place even though it is low tech tank?
Seem to remember (rare), that you were dosing Fertilizer in one or more tank's?
With sand preventing the solid waste from penetrating to root area.Perhap's it is time to replace,replenish the soil in some way.
I recently set up soil tank with layer of osmocote and cat litter (unscented) on bottom, followed by an inch and a half of top soil and then,, I cut a piece of nylon mesh found at craft /hobby store to fit inside diameter of the tank and then covered the nylon mesh with two inches of sand.
I am hoping the soil produces for a bit longer than the year that most folks say is about all one can expect from soil with regards to nutrient supply.
Some time back my own planted tank began to become a victim of it's own success.
growth was becoming so thick that plant's which received no flow or movement of water across leaves, began to suffer.
I might consider running a filter were it me to increase flow, and perhaps allow that which is settling on the sand/leaves to become trapped by filter and maybe removed while rinsing the media.
Might also consider some trumpet snails to help sift through the sand and perhaps allow a little more aeration of root area's, as well as contributing to nutrient capacity by waste produced while burrowing through the sand.(snail poop).

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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post #3 of 3 Old 10-27-2011, 03:16 PM
Mine did that too, it happened naturally as my soil started to biodegrade. After a couple of months, mine stopped. I think its just a phase the soil goes through and the degrading stuff seeps through the top sand/gravel layer (mines ultrafine gravel). I did lose a black skirt tetra and a bolivian ram when this was happening but I think that was from stress since one of my other black skirt is really aggressive. Not sure if biodegrading soil is the cause, but IMO, that's what the mulm is coming from.
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