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Substrate cleaning - planted tank

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Substrate cleaning - planted tank

Post by cephalotus on Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:46 pm

People with heavily planted/aquascaped tanks - (how) do you clean the surface of your substrate?

My tank has a soil substrate capped with ~1/2" of fine sand. There are also lots of plants and rocks in there and I find that mulm/detritus can build up in all the little nooks and crannies. It's not really feasible to get a whole gravel vacuum in there because of all the obstacles, and it's hard not to suck up the sand too. I've been using a turkey baster to spot clean areas of buildup but the sand still has lots of particles on the surface. I have MTS for aerating the substrate but I've found between them and myself messing with things some soil has become mixed in with the sand layer. There is also a small amount of redart clay mixed in with the sand due to me occasionally brushing against the clay background. All in all, the sand surface doesn't look particularly clean.

One school of thought seems to be that in a planted tank, especially with shrimp and snails to help break things down, the detritus isn't really a big deal and there's no harm in letting it decompose naturally. I end to view my palu as a mini ecosystem so this doesn't really bother me.

However, I also keep reading about the detrimental effect of "dirty substrate" on Corydoras barbels. One of my eight cories has eroded barbels and I'm not sure if they were like that when I got him three weeks ago or if this is a recent development. I have also noticed my cories occasionally flicking their bodies as if something is irritating them (the danios and rice fish don't do this). The internet tells me this could be from poor water quality, dirty substrate, disease, or just a side effect of small bits of sand getting into their gills as they forage.

Should I be worrying about keeping my substrate cleaner or are these just paranoid observations of a new fish owner?
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Re: Substrate cleaning - planted tank

Post by mikebike on Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:00 pm

I use a chopstick to siir up the bottom/sand/gravel/plants and at the same time and a syphon hose draining into a bucket.
I disturb the subsrait to allow me to syphon off the loose material.
I leave the bucket to settle for 1/2 an hour or so and check for fri/fish before dumping the water on my potted plants.
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Re: Substrate cleaning - planted tank

Post by the clean guy on Thu Oct 17, 2013 5:02 pm

You could also use a turkey baster to get into those spots works great Smile
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Re: Substrate cleaning - planted tank

Post by mikebike on Thu Oct 17, 2013 5:38 pm

It takes a long time to clean up 2 square feet of tank bottom with a turkey baster<grin>
Although it works well to get the detrius stird up by blasting the debris.

Even more difficult in my 90 gallon lanted tanks with 6 square feet of surface area.
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Re: Substrate cleaning - planted tank

Post by caoder on Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:00 pm

With a dirt substrate, last thing you want to do is stir the bottom as that is simply a disaster, but having light current will help keep the debris in certain locations and make cleanup much easier with a turkey baster. Try using a powerhead or circulation pump to create flow. Most fish would also appreciate flow.
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