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To vacuum or not to vacuum....that is the question.

Andrew Butler

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I'm interested to hear opinions here: to vacuum or not?
If a planted aquarium has decent flow and filtration with sufficient water changes do we need to vacuum the bottom?
 

Matty123

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Birmingham
I'm interested to hear opinions here: to vacuum or not?
If a planted aquarium has decent flow and filtration with sufficient water changes do we need to vacuum the bottom?

In short the answer is no. I have good flow and when I 'hover' over my substrate I barely suck up any detritus. But a light vac without disturbing plant roots every 'blue moon' is ok. The plants root system will suck up any fish poo and such and prevent pockets of anaerobic bacteria pockets within the substrate.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Bart Hazes

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Edmonton, Canada
I like a nice detritus layer and only siphon some off when it gets too much, which in some tanks is never and others once every few months. I consider detritus as slow-release fertiliser and add zero macro fertilizer or root tabs to my tanks. Just a little iron and trace elements if plants seem to need it. Detritus is also fertile ground for microbial live from bacteria up to ciliates and little worms. I've raised dwarf cichlids and in these tanks without any direct feeding and they were growing as well or better than my painstakingly hand-fed fry.
For me it doesn't depend on flow. Most my tanks just have a small circulation pump, no filter, and some have no circulation either.
 

zozo

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It also depends on other things, mainly common sense.. I personaly know people having, doing all that but still feed way to much and and don't see the need to remove dead plant material. This can end up in a huge accumulation of organic debri in and on the substrate creating a breeding ground for patogenes, bacterias and fungus causing all kds of infections like fin rot.

This common sense commes along the way with experience, it's a learning process coud take years.. Some have it naturaly and some don't and never will.. I'm no psychologist, don't know what it is, a way of thinking or maybe a way of seeing.. I kinda compare it with seeing when it's time to clean your room, some people see it and do it, oters don't and have a mess all the time.

There to many things to take into account makking it very difficult to give a conclussive yes or no anwser. One could say if you have all aspects involved under control you do not need to do that much substrate cleaning, maybe never.. If it aint all in control you can run into scenarios where substrate cleaning definitively is a good idea till all is under control again. Not a matter of if but when and seeing it.
 

dan4x4

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Zozo is bang on here.

Despite having an internal juwel filter and a powerhead, I have one dead spot. I also like to feed my fish (10 tiger barbs) in 125 litre. Furthermore I add indian almond leaves. So I do a good vacuum of the dead spot. Light vacuuming for the substrate not very often.

I like the overgrown look, so If say for example i managed to cover the whole tank bottom with plants, then I'd vacuum the dead spot but nothing else. Unless I got some kind of issue.

I dose EI.

Like Zozo said overtime you'll be able to gauge it :)
 

Silviu Man

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In my 100 litters tank I am cleaning only the death leaves and communitary snails. But, I have a very good biological filtration and a pre-filter, together with a resonable flow and many "easy" plants. So, I think it depends of many factors : substrate, number of fish, plants, ... The best way to take a decision is to do two things : observe the substrate (should be clean) and make some water analisys (should have amonnia and nitritis 0). And no death matter (vegelal or animal).
 

George Farmer

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I believe good substrate maintenance is essential for long-term aquascape success.

A lot of waste production (from bacteria and plants, as well as the usual fish/inverts) accumulates over time - even with the best filtration/circulation and plant growth.

I do not vacuum specifically, but wave my hand or credit card just above the substrate and plants. This lifts up the accumulation waste organic matter that is then siphoned as part of a water changes (usually 50%).

Before each water change I also gently stroke/rub the plants to dislodge any waste matter that accumulates. Even if it's invisible, it's still there!

Just my £0.02. :)

If you watch from around 14 minutes then you get the idea.



Keep on 'scaping,
George
 

Silviu Man

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Yes, sometime I also "shake" the stem plants when I change the water. Having many shrimps, this become rare.
But I do move the pipe over substrate, when I make get water out, and take as much as the particles rise from it.
 

jameson_uk

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Just wondering whether livestock needs to be taken into account?

If you have Corys are you better off removing as much detritus as possible??
 

KipperSarnie

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23 Jul 2016
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Aldington Kent
I have a small pump that I use, not to syphon but to blow any detritus out of the plants & crannies while I'm water changing.
The pump sits in the tank the delivery hose is fitted with a plastic pipe with a fantail end fashioned into it with a hot air gun so I can direct the flow & crap towards the water change syphon.


Does that make sense?:)
Gibberish is my first language!
 

zozo

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Just wondering whether livestock needs to be taken into account?

If you have Corys are you better off removing as much detritus as possible??

That's certainly an issue to take in account.

Detritus is not per definition a bad thing, snails and shrimp and also some fish eat off it, they help to break it down and are a link in the process to turn it into plant fertilization. For some snails it even is essential, for example Viviparidae snails are highly depended on detritus, they feed like little vacuum cleaners filtering eddible particles out of the water from the detritus. You realy need a bit of a dirty tank to keep them or feed extra dust food, they wont eat from a cucumber. A viviparus snail wouldn't be very happy in George's tanks. :rolleyes:

But detritus shouldn't accumulate to much, to thick and to long at the same place. If it is, it finaly will start rotting. If little bottom dwelling fish wiggle around all the time into this muck, certainly isn't beneficial for their well beeing it can cause deseases like fin rot etc.

As said, common sense.. :) How do you scape it? How do you plant it? How do you stock it? What are your goals expectation and preferences? etc. Look and see, when where and if it is nescessary before it becomes a problem. Do you use Easy carbo and such? You will have more dying algae than somebody who doesn't use it, than you have an extra accumulation of detritus, than you more likely candidate to keep a closer eye to these issues and maybe clean it more often. :) And so on..
 

Andrew Butler

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I started this thread after commenting on another (link below) to hear other peoples opinions on this topic and now I have them!

I decided to put a tee on the inflow pipe to my filter which means I can open it up and then drain water out with a hose easily and mess free when it comes to the weekly water and pre-filter change.

I'm not saying I never need to have a vacuum around the substrate from time to time but with the majority of my tank carpeted it is more just a case of stirring it up a bit and the inflow takes the majority of that away when I do drain it and I really don't think I have any dead spots making my weekly water change that bit easier.

I do think the livestock make a difference as I have the shrimp in and amongst the staurogyne repens area nibbling away, the pygmy corys and galaxy rasboras getting right in amongst the monte carlo which makes up a majority of my tank and everything else seems in a balance (apart from a bit of algae on the rocks) at the moment but time will tell!

https://www.ukaps.org/forum/threads...python-water-changer.48307/page-2#post-494056
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Detritus is not per definition a bad thing, snails and shrimp and also some fish eat off it, they help to break it down and are a link in the process to turn it into plant fertilization. For some snails it even is essential, for example Viviparidae snails are highly depended on detritus, they feed like little vacuum cleaners filtering eddible particles out of the water from the detritus.
As well as MTS, Red Ramshorn and Physella snails, I have Asellus in the tanks, and they are extremely efficient at removing plant detritus, to the extent that the only mulm I get are small black flecks of (presumably) inedible material.

I wouldn't mind a bit more biofilm in the tanks.

The late <"Bob Marklew, pleco breeder extraordinaire"> used to have tanks with some degree of mulm, and he was an incredibly skillful and meticulous fish keeper.

cheers Darrel
 

BarryH

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25 Feb 2017
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Derbyshire
If it's not to daft a question, does the same answers apply to tanks with gravel substrates?

I have a number of tanks with fancy goldfish and all of them have a gravel base leaving bigger gaps for waste to fall into. The fish do dig around in the gravel but I'm wondering if hoovering over the top as with a sand substrate still applies to gravel.
 

rebel

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If it's not to daft a question, does the same answers apply to tanks with gravel substrates?

I have a number of tanks with fancy goldfish and all of them have a gravel base leaving bigger gaps for waste to fall into. The fish do dig around in the gravel but I'm wondering if hoovering over the top as with a sand substrate still applies to gravel.
I think this answer is for planted tanks.

For your gold fish tank with gravel, my suggestion is to use a gravel vac and dig right to the bottom and siphon off every bit of mulm. :)
 

HiNtZ

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26 Jan 2016
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London
Nope - only plant material and stuff like java moss after it's trimmed. Everything eventually dissolves into the water column - the food/plant waste, poo, etc which the filter will pick up, filter and convert into nothing bad. Keep up regular water changes and it'll never be a problem either way.
 

jon nash

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2 Jul 2017
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cheadle staffordshire
Just ordered one of this for my new scape. It also came in handy to suck up water puddles in my dsm tank. :)

Is it effective in your opinion?
well i'm in two minds after reading different views ,mainly from shrimp keepers who don't vac and let nature do it's thing :)
 
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Its all about the balance...fish-water-food. You can go without vacuuming for years without any negative and possibly positive effect if you don't overstock, don't overfeed(underfeeding an overstocked tank is not a solution) and have good filtration.

Stirring up the mulm inside deeper layers of substrate generally always causes a mini ammonia spike leading to fish problems and algae. So long term you should pick one approach, either vacuum weekly or you only siphon over the surface to pick up the detritus and never disturb the lower layer. It is only natural due to chemical processes that the substrate gets full of unwanted stuff but that's how nitrogen cycle works. The substrate plays a huge role in nitrification....especially if undisturbed for the most part.

From my personal experience I have gone for years without siphoning the substrate in a sand bottom tank...not heavily planted, just some plants. My fish are/were majorly bottom feeders, long barbels always and I've never seen fin rot on any of my fish in this tank. When I took the tank apart after some 4-5 years because it leaked, I was pleasantly surprised of the nice smell of the sand I never ever disturbed.

...But it all depends on the tank set up because in a smaller tank, heavy planted, no siphoned, but overstocked for a few months(not by choice but because the above tank broke) I saw fin rot and fish dying. It wasn't because of the substrate not being cleaned. The tank was simply overstocked and was not functioning healthily biologically. I saw the same thing happening in a third overstocked tank...again not by choice but in this one I did clean the substrate when it was overstocked...same problem....fish issues and deaths. .You'd know if your tank is overstocked if at any one time you see too many fish swimming around :) So generally said, don't overstock. Substrate cleaning is irrelevant if the bioload is too much to handle for the tank. And you can skip it forever if the tank is balanced.
 
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