Gravel Vacuuming Double Layer Substrate
My substrate is 3/4 Eco-complete fine gravel topped off with regular gravel. I vaccuum in small sections and I can see the debris go up, but I only go down to the top of the fine gravel which is almost like the consistency of sand. The fine gravel is heavy enough to stay in the tube and not get sucked up though.
I'm hesitant to plunge deep down in the substrate because I don't want the gravel to mix. However, now I"m wondering if I need to do this because my Betta has fin rot and I'm trying to figure out where the problem is.
Fin rot is due to stress and poor environmental conditions. As this Betta is on its own [I'm assuming], stress should not be an issue unless something is not to his liking (water parameters, aquascape, etc). So that leaves environmental factors on their own, which with one fish in the tank should not be a problem.
I never go into the substrate in most of my tanks. I have plain sand in 6 and fine gravel in the 7th. I do some digging into the gravel as I have loaches that like to burrow. But otherwise, never. The detritus should work its way down into the substrate, assisted by snails, where the bacteria can then break it down into organics which the plants use and other types of bacteria use. The substrate is a very important bed of bacterial activity, more signifcant by far than the filter in planted tanks.
Regular water changes, not overfeeding, and maintaining the correct water parameters should avoid fin rot. If other fish were present, maintaining the right community would also be a factor as this is most often the cause of stress and fin rot-type issues.
I just replaced the substrate in a tank that had gravel over some sort of "plant substrate" material. I didn't set it up that way, and it was years ago, but I did dig into the bottom once... what a mess. It took two water changes to get it back to normal. I think that gravel over this sort of substrate is asking for trouble as it is hard to do a proper vacuuming job without disturbing the sub-substrate and gravel needs to be cleaned out.
I changed it to sand.
As to whether this is a factor with your fin rot issue, it's all related in one way or another even if one thing in particular is not the direct sole root cause.
I read that with sand you are not able to vac as deeply either. Everything I read says to just wave the vac above the surface. However, are you able to sufficiently clean it? I need a substrate that I know can be very clean. I read that those flat glass marbles are really good at keeping the dust down even though they don't hold the good bacteria. Also may not be good for planted plants. Maybe even regular gravel by itself could be good? Only 1/3 of my plants are actually planted, the rest are attached to rocks or floating. Any suggestions?
I'm not seeing the problem here. A healthy population of bacteria in the substrate is essential to a healthy aquarium. And this can be achieved by never digging into the substrate. The larger the substrate material (in terms of particle size), the worse it is for all this.
Glass supports the ammonia oxidizers.
I don't vacuum my substrate at all anymore, not even waving the vac over the surface. When I did, that was sufficient as the larger visible detritus just stayed on the surface. You dont want or need to dig into the sand with the vacuuming. Now, even with some magnifying glasses on, I don't see anything, other than the odd decomposing lead, and the last few times that I did vacuum there was nothing to speak of in the pail.
After having this tank running for almost six months I saw my first fish poop not long ago, it was resting on a piece of driftwood.
Are you able to check the parameters of the water? (Specifically pH,ammonia, and nitrite)
How long have you had the betta?
What lighting do you use?
Is there anything reflective like a mirror nearby?
Based on the post sounds like I'm cleaning my substrate well enough. I was just going down the list to try and figure out what could be causing the fin rot.
My Ammonia and nitrites are always 0, the tank is cycled and nitrates < 5. My PH is 7.4 in the mornings. Sometimes i think about adjusting the PH, but have read plenty times not to do that. I've had the Betta since April 13th. He came with beautiful fins, but looking back at original pics he had a few splits. I put him in QT about a month ago for a week and did daily 90% water changes and aquarium salt. He healed really good in one week to about 90%. Then I reintroduced him to his tank and he started with the thinning fins again. Now he's on Kanaplex in the planted 10 gal and the thinning appears to have stopped, but no new growth yet. So I'm just trying to figure whats wrong. I've slowed the current in his tank and feed him plenty protein.
Also I have 2 10-watt CFls. and he does flare at his reflection from the tank walls, but this behavior has calmed down dramatically vs. when I first got him.
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Now you have me confused after reading your comment about not vacuuming down into the substrate. Never?
I don't see how one can not go down into it at some point. It is gross! I leave the areas around the plants alone but where there are open areas I vacuum about once a month. I feel as though I have to because of the high bioload and nitrate history I have.
We forget--or don't initially understand--how important the substrate is in a planted tank. And this is not just because there are plants needing nutrients; it is because with plants we can allow the natural biological system to work more on its own. But every time we start messing with it, by vacuuming the substrate or dumping chemicals, we are adding roadblocks.
There is a very significant and complex biological system operating in a healthy substrate. You might find my article on bacteria useful, rather than my repeating much of that here:
My 115g 5-foot tank with a 3-inch sand substrate never has the substrate touched in any way. This tank gets a partial water change of half the tank every week, but I think I have only ever run the Python over a part of the sand once or twice, and that was for a specific reason. In my two tanks with loaches I do some substrate cleaning weekly, because the loaches burrow, and once of these tanks has had a couple of organics issues so I do a bit more than otherwise.
The type of fish can affect this; in a tank with messy fish like plecos one has to do more substrate cleaning. So everything has to be taken in balance.
Going back to the OP's tank, planted with one Betta, substrate vacuuming should never be necessary if the fish is not being overfed. Snails also help a lot, Malaysian Livebearing are ideal, also pond or bladder snails.
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