Cleaning a Planted Tank
I have a new 70 gal fw planted tank. Just finished it's second week of cycling (with about 18 small fish). Incidentally, I think it's completely cycled NH3, NO2, & NO3 all zero. I'm also new to the hobby (first aquarium). I'm leaning toward the teachings of Diana Walstad's book "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium: A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise for the Home Aquarist". I'm not using soil from the back yard, however I am using an equal mix of Flourite and Eco-Complete. I have read other threads from people using Eco-Complete that they do not clean with vacuum deep into the substrate. They move the vacuum lightly over the top without disturbing the substrate. According to Diana, she never vacuums and does water changes very infrequently when everything is in balance (when she's not working on a problem or setting up a new tank). Not wanting to start a thread to debate Diana's methods!!!
If my goal is to not intervene any more that necessary (i.e. vacuum bottom of tank as little as possible or never), what would be the signs that I need to clean it better or more often? What's going to go wrong that should tell me "Oh, I need to vacuum the tank"! Bear in mind, I have and intend to maintain a heavily planted tank (but without fert regimes and CO2). If I fail, I fail, but I'm not going to go down that road until I find out that the low maintenance methods won't work. Actually, Diana has already demonstrated that it will work, I just may not be able to learn how to do it without pulling my last hair out.
I have been told that you really don't gravel vac but just run the thing over the top of it. If you do much more you will suck the Eco up.
As for maintenance, I would not wait until things go wrong. The sign is your fish start to die or get really ill. An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. Regular water changes keeps things balanced and does not let things get to the point where it is an emergency.
25-50% water changes weekly has never steered me wrong.
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