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Old 01-04-2009, 04:21 PM   #1
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Need adivce on my current setup

I'm not really a beginner, but I don't know that much either so I posted in the beginner section.

My setup is as follows:

30 gallon glass
Rena Filstar X2 Canister Filter - 75 gallon
Black Gravel, Artificial plants/ornaments
25-30 Neon Tetras, 10 Black Phantoms, 3 Corys

First off I used to have a 10 gallon and used a mix of reverse osmosis and tap water to the right proportions and never had algae. Now I use just filtered tap water due to cost, and have algae blooms which is easily cleaned. Is this due to using tap water? I fill using a python and add conditioner and bacteria.

Next whenever I do a water change I tend to do a lot of vacuuming since I have a good 2 inches of gravel and there's lots of stuff in there. I sometimes end up with a 50% water change which is lots. So I'm thinking of just doing a quick 25% water change. Then to vacuum the rocks I'd put some polyfill in my canister filter, and hook up a vacuum to the inlet and vacuum away and jsut cycle the water to collect all the crap. Then throw out the polyfill in the canister and put the regular media back in.

Also the first filter on the canister, the large one get lots of crap in it which will not wash out under running water. It seems to be stuck in there pretty good. Do I jsut do as good as I can or should I replace this filter more often which would get expensive?

Next, I find it a pain to bury the air hoses and air stones under the gravel. I have an air stone under 2 rock ornaments for a neat effect, and an air curtain along the back wall. The reason my gravel is so deep is too cover the hoses and air stones. Any advice or ideas. Is it alright to have such big bubbles or should I just leave an air stone hang in the corner for a fizzy effect. When buried you get huge bubbles.

Next I find I have little plant coverage compared to all the photos I see on the net. Should I add more plants?

AS far as water testing goes I used to test the water hardness and PH and mix RO water with tap water to get the exact formula I wanted. The fish did well and I had no algae. I also never test for amonia, nitrates, etc... I've never had a problem in 2 years. Is it something I should get into and start doing?

I got a little baby guppy the other day for free...it was hiding in the tetra tank at the lfs. Think it'll survive on its own without any other guppies?

Overall I'm jsut trying to perfect my skills on a basic artificial fresh water tank with cheap Neons and Black Phantoms before I venture over to live plants with sand and then to salt water. I want to learn as much as I can here first.

Any tips or advice on my setup would be welcome. Thanks a lot guys for such a great site.
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Old 01-05-2009, 06:46 AM   #2
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Hi Gondo. Welcome to AA! Lots of people smarter than me will guide you.

Firstly, a 50% water change at a time shouldn't cause any hassles. I do weekly 40% changes. Others do anywhere from 20% - 50%. It varies and a lot of it is figuring out what works for you. If you feel better, do less water changes and only vac half the substrate with one water change and vac the other half with the other water change. Rocks can be removed and just rinsed in old tank water.

So can filter pads. I wouldn't be rinsing filter pads under the tap. The chlorine is likely to kill off nitrifying bacteria that grows in your filter and keep it ammonia and nitrite free. If you can't get all the guff out that's okay. If you want to replace the pads you can, but only replace one at a time, again so you don't throw away all that bacteria.

Lots of people have planted tanks, but lots of others don't. Then there are different types of planted setups from low-light/low maintenance to high-light/high maintenance planted tanks. It all about what you want to see and how much time (and ultimately $$$) you want to put into it. There's an excellent article about planted tanks in the articles section.

Being able to test your water parameters (in my opinion) is absolutely critical. Established tanks need to be tested less often, but I will recommend investing in a good liquid testing kit. It'll be the first thing you do to diagnosing any problems. pH, Ammonia, Nitrate and Nitrate are the minimum tests I'd want for a fresh water setup. There is much value in knowing a little water chemistry 101.

Be sure to post a pic of your tank soon!
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Old 01-05-2009, 06:57 AM   #3
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Thanks. That's is exactly what I do....I vacuum one section of gravel with each water change to eventually cover the entire tank. But there is so much stuff that I need to do a complete vacumming some day which is why I thought of hooking the vacuum to my filter and going at it to clean it all out good.

I do have the ceramic pieces in the canister for the bacteria colony. Do I still need to be careful with the pads and gravel to keep that bacteria as well? I also give a dose of bacteria (stress zyme) with each water change.

The reason I never when planted is cause I heard plants grow and can take over. It's high maintenance. Then you need sand substrate. How do you vacuum that without disturbing the roots and picking up the sand?

I hacve the kit of kh, gh, and ph. But that is only good for water which is not very useful if your just using tap water. Unless I get my own reverse osmosis machine I don't need these. I never testes amonia, nitrates, or nitrites. I do know all about the cycle and when setting up I'll use some food, bacteria, and let it sit for a few weeks then take my chances. I also way understock so it's not that big a deal.

One question. If I don't get the gunk out of the first filter pad, will it rot and cause amonia? Or is rinsing it but leaving the gunk stuck in there ok?
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Old 01-05-2009, 07:22 AM   #4
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I wouldn't hook the vac to the filter. The best place for all that muck is out of your tank, not into the filter. Sounds to me like your vac regime is okay. Maybe up the number of water changes for a few weeks and see if it helps.

Don't waste your hard-earned on the stress zyme or any other bottled bacteria. It's pretty much worthless. Some people have had some success with BioSpa but only if its been handled correctly in accordance with the strictest of conditions. Even though you have ceramic tiles, I'd still only change out one filter pad at a time. If your big pad is that gunky, and you can't get rid of most of it when rinsing in tank water, it probably needs replacing. You're right. Eventually it might rot and cause an ammonia spike.

Plants will generally grow in most ordinary gravel substrates, but the finer and smoother the gravel the better for the plants root systems. A sand substrate isn't a prerequisite. You actually don't need to vac a planted tank. The plants use the mulm as plant food. During the usual weekly water change, I'll swoop the vac over the bits of substrate that are visible and collect any big bits of goob or dead leaves and that's it. Once every 8-10 weeks, I clean the filter and do a plant trim.
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:56 AM   #5
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The switch to filtered tap water is probably your biggest culprit. Most likely you are introducing phosphates and nitrates that are in addition to the normal nitrate production happening in your tank cycle. I would suggest getting a sample of your filtered tap water test just to see what your starting levels are, then your tank water tested and you can get a barometer of what the sources are.

With respect to the pads, rinse them in old tank water. If they get really bad, replace them. I have several sets that I flop back and forth.

I wouldn't recommend using your filter for a gravel vac either. It just adding to the gunk. The normal gravel vac works fine. Since you're not using a UGF vacuuming the entire gravel bed is fine also. Your main bacteria housing is in the can media.

No reason to stress zyme at all. All you need for your PWC's is something to take care of the chlorine and chloramines (Prime is my favorite).

If you rinse the filter pads good most of the gunk you see is discoloration. If it's not, the bacteria will take care of it but it can be a nitrate source.

The other thing to look at is your light source. How old are the bulbs? As bulbs age the spectrum they give off changes to a spectrum that encourage algae growth. Bulbs/lamps should be changed every 6-12 months. Also is your tank near any window or day light source? Another trigger for algae growth.

Algae needs 2 things. 1) To eat (nitrates and phosphates) 2) light

How often do you clean the can?
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Old 01-05-2009, 06:39 PM   #6
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First off, I'd replace the media in the can with some polyfill just for a thorough vacuuming, then toss it and put the regular media back in. That way I can do a good vacuuming without the water loos, and without putting the gunk into the regular filters. Just use polyfill for an hour or so to do a good vacuming.

I do a water change at least once a month, but usually every week or 2. The canister gets a good cleaning and carbon replacement every month or 2. I rinse the seramic media under tank water to maintain the bacteria. It's jsut the first pad that's dirty, and it's not even that bad. The only thing is the gunk sticks to the pad and is hard to remove.

As for light, I replace the bulb every 6-12 months. I have 2 LED moon lights as well. I have them on timers to give me 5 hours of full light/day with the moon lights on the other 19. There is a window nearby but no direct sunlight. The window is facing south.

My algae isn't that bad. I'd have to let the tank sit for over 3 months without a cleaning to see a lot of algae. With regular cleaning the tank is crystal clear. I was always under the impression that algae is good, and a sign of a healthy tank. Also with artifical plants you'll get the algae. With live plants, the plants absorb nitrates or whatever it is that causes algae so you should get less. That was my understanding anyways.

Thanks for all the advice guys. I guess I'll use up my stress zyme then buy no more. I'll switch to prime next time as well. I was using stress coat because of the aloe vera thing but I also heard the aloe vera is no good. I trust prime because it removes chloramine which not all conditioners do....just in case my local utility uses them some day.
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