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Discussion Starter #1
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.

Thanks Donetta
 

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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.

Byron.
 

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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.

Jeff.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
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.

Jeff.
I vacuum and vacuum and I still pull up lots of junk. Maybe I should consider changing it.

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?


Thanks!
 

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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.
 

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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.

Jeff.
 

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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?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
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.

Donetta
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Byron,
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.

Cheryl
 

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Byron,
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.

Cheryl
In some of my tanks, it is true that I never touch the substrate, not even on top. In a couple, I do. It depends upon the specific tank.

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:
http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/freshwater-general-articles/bacteria-freshwater-aquarium-185721/

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.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
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.

Byron.[/QUOTE]


Byron, so how many Malaysian snails would be good for my 10 gallon?

Donetta
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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.

Byron.

Byron, so how many Malaysian snails would be good for my 10 gallon?

Donetta
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One.:lol: In a few weeks, you will have dozens.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Hi Byron, I read the article on Bacteria and it was informative although a lot of it went over my head ;-). Anyway, I did get that the balance and bacteria are very important. Also, one point said to never add bacteria products that reduce sludge. Is that right? I was adding it when the tank was new and now that I have been treating my tank with Kanaplex for my Betta's fin rot. I was told this would not Kill the beneficial bacteria.

Also, only 1/3 of the plants in my tank are actually planted in the substrate. So, still not vacuuming? I have several Anubias varieties attached to rocks with rubber bands. Some of those were originally planted in the substrate, but kept getting knocked out from the vacuum. Maybe I'll replant some since I don't have to worry about vacuuming. I'll have to keep some on rocks because our how they grew out from the rhizome maybe, but I'll see. I know these small smoothe river rocks probably gets biofilm on them. Do you think is necessary to clean them off?

I'm curious of what your maintenance routine is like. What do you suggest for my tank? How often do you change filters, clean tank walls etc. My tank is all out of balance. Probably why my Betta is sick too. But things are getting corrected slowly. What do you do when your fish get sick? If they get sick? YOu have any suggestions for Betta?


Thanks

Donetta
 

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Hi Byron, I read the article on Bacteria and it was informative although a lot of it went over my head ;-). Anyway, I did get that the balance and bacteria are very important.
I tried to make that article as understandable as possible, recognizing that it is a very complex and technically scientific topic. I hope it explains why bacteria is important. I had one biology major ask me if she could cite from the article, since she had never found so clear an explanation; qute a compliment.

Also, one point said to never add bacteria products that reduce sludge. Is that right? I was adding it when the tank was new and now that I have been treating my tank with Kanaplex for my Betta's fin rot. I was told this would not Kill the beneficial bacteria.
We're talking different products here. First, true bacterial supplements like SafeStart are fine in new tanks to quick-start the nitrifying bacteria; in establishedc tanks I see no point in continuing to add them, as the bacteria are established at the level needed, and anyway with live plants this is all a moot point as the plants outcompete the bacteria [or more correctly archaea, not bacteria, the true nitrifyers in established tanks]. The "sludge" products are very different, and I would never use these. By increasing the breakdown of organics they produce ammonia, sometimes quite rapidly; we have had a couple threads in the past where sudden increases of ammonia were eventually determined to be due solely to using these products.

Kanaplex is an kanamycin-based medication to treat fungal and bacterial issues. Follow the directions.

Also, only 1/3 of the plants in my tank are actually planted in the substrate. So, still not vacuuming? I have several Anubias varieties attached to rocks with rubber bands. Some of those were originally planted in the substrate, but kept getting knocked out from the vacuum. Maybe I'll replant some since I don't have to worry about vacuuming. I'll have to keep some on rocks because our how they grew out from the rhizome maybe, but I'll see.
I tend to leave the substrate alone. Anubias is best attached to wood or rock, but just don't bury the rhizome.

I know these small smoothe river rocks probably gets biofilm on them. Do you think is necessary to clean them off?
No, never. This biofilm is essential to a healthy aquarium. It will attract all sorts of bacteria and archaea, algae too, and be a source of a host of microscopic food and infusoria. Life on this planet would never exist (in its form) without biofilms, an indication of their importance.

I'm curious of what your maintenance routine is like. What do you suggest for my tank? How often do you change filters, clean tank walls etc. My tank is all out of balance. Probably why my Betta is sick too. But things are getting corrected slowly. What do you do when your fish get sick? If they get sick? YOu have any suggestions for Betta?
Maintenance: weekly water change of half the tank volume. Light vacuum over the substrate in a couple tanks, nothing in the others. I run a sponge scraper over the front wall, as this eliminates the beginnings of any algae, even though I never see any. Other tank walls are left alone unless I see algae, which happens in one tank but not the others. That's it.

Sponge filters (my 10g, 20g, 29g and 33g each have a sponge filter) are rinsed under the tap at every water change. Canister filters (70g, 90g, 115g tanks) are rinsed under the tap once every 3 or 4 months. The fine white pads are replaced maybe each rinsing, or every second rinsing, if they are getting out of shape; if this gets too much, they cease being effective. The other media, like ceramic disks and "bio" stuff, is never replaced, just rinsed well.

Diagnosing fish problems is difficult without experience and training. I have a microbiologist friend (she is a member here, but rarely posts) I contact for help if I see anything unknown to me.

Byron.
 

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Byron, you rinse your filters in tap water? I always thought that killed the bacteria. I always do mine in tank water, but if that's not necessary, I'd love to know for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I really appreciate you taking the time to explain all this! Again I see my program needs to be simplified once again. As a new aquarist I get excited and like to do stuff, but then I can burn myself out! I'll just do the weekly water changes, no vacs, get MTS, only the front wall unless it's agae. I was killing myself trying to get to the back wall! Don't have to worry about the rocks. Stop adding stuff. Sounds like I just need to leave the tank alone!!:-D. I trust this is all leading to that state of balance. However, if the Betta fins don't heal I'll put a post in the disease section.


Thanks again Donetta - growing by leaps and bounds!
 

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Byron, you rinse your filters in tap water? I always thought that killed the bacteria. I always do mine in tank water, but if that's not necessary, I'd love to know for sure.
It would take a hefty dose and soaking in chlrorinated water to do any serious harm to the micro organisms. They are far tougher than we generallyy give them credit for. The actual bacteria/archaea live within a film that both protects them and keeps them stationary and, from some studies on the efficacy of these biofilms in water treatment, have been found indirectly to be very persistent, they aren't easy to clean off using various chemicals and mechanical means.

Jeff.
 

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Jeff is correct. But what I rely more on, is the fact that in a planted tank you have two things working for you. First, the plants; they grab more ammonia than the bacteria/archaea, and grab it faster, continually. Second, even aside from the plants, there is more bacteria/archaea throughout the tank--especially in the substrate--than in the filter to begin with. So even if you kill off what's in the filter, in a balanced tank and one with plants, there cannot be any detriment. Another reason not to mess with the substrate.:)
 

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Good to know! I never fuss with the substrate. That's one of the main reasons I went with sand. Of course, I now have a two tanks with eco-complete in them, but don't see myself doing anything with that either.
 
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