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Old 08-29-2018, 10:51 AM   #1
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Planted tank requires frequent cleaning - how to keep it cleaner longer?


I have a 90G tank that’s been set up for 4-5 months now. I have several plants and the following fish in it:
9 Rainbows (8 are medium size, one is larger, but none are at their max size yet)
1 German Blue Ram
3 Hightail Swordfish
3 Pearl Gourami
2 Otocinclus
4 Amano Shrimp
5 Nerite Snails
(I know I need more Otos, Amanos and potentially Blue Rams. But this post in NOT about that)

My issue is how dirty the tank gets … it needs a thorough cleaning every week because of all the brown poop that collects on my white sand substrate.

I am using an Eheim 2217 filter with this configuration:
- Top layer (near the outlet): Purigen (that I regen every month)
- 2nd layer from top: Filter floss
- 3rd layer from top: Eheim Substrat in mesh bag
- 4th layer from top: Blue coarse filter pad
- 5th layer from top (this is the bottom layer, near the water inlet): Eheim Mech in mesh bag
I have it set up such that the intake to the filer is at the left end of the aquarium and the spray bar is at that right end. I find that the poop collects more near the spray bar end than near the intake end (that's to be expected, I guess...)

I feed sparingly - only once a day and the food is gobbled up in 60-90 seconds.

I dose Thrive twice a week and my plants are doing well. No big algae problems either.

I have a Finnex 24/7 cc light that provides a photo period of 6-8 hours.

My water parameters are good: 0 ammonia, 0 Nitrites, Nitrates get to 10-20 ppm every week and I do a 60-70% water change every week when I clean the tank. I currently clean my filter once a month and the water I get coming out of the cleaning is dark brown - filthy.

This just feels like a lot of care taking for the tank. I am happy to do it, but I've read in several forums that a planted tank is relatively low maintenance and this tank doesn't feel like it right now. What could I be doing differently ?

Thanks in advance for your advice!

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Old 08-29-2018, 01:50 PM   #2
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First: That amount of weekly maintenance is perfectly acceptable and "should" be done on any tank of that size.

Second: If anything, planted tanks (within reason) should require more "work" to remove excess organics (the brown stuff on your sand). Decaying organics = ammonia = initial "food" for algae spores to germinate.

Third: Eheim 2217 alone is no where near enough for a 90 gallon. I have a 2217 and a Marineland C-220 on my 90 gallons and that is still not enough. I would look into grabbing a filter rated at double the output of that 2217 and run both (so the 2217 and the 2x output filter).

Over filtering results in "cleaner" water, more surface agitation and will help remove dead spots in the water (where the brown crud is collecting).

A cheaper alternative is running a power head / circulation pump to remove dead spots in the tank. The 2217 should have more than enough physical volume for a 90 gallon tank.

Swirl a siphon over the sand to remove crud during water changes.

Hope this helps.

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Old 08-29-2018, 06:58 PM   #3
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IMO you would need 4 Ehiem 2217's for that tank. Your tank turn over should be at least 10x per hour.....in your case 900 gph.


This is more of what you need. Maybe combined with an HOB.
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:00 PM   #4
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Years of research... some fish dont last in a planted tank. Rams die in my planted tanks in about 6 months. No matter the frequency of wcs. Same water as the bare bottom tank I keep a crew of rams in. This experiment is not quite a year yet but the results thus far are blatant. Rams are even more sensitive than discus. They require pristine conditions. To keep them in a proper planted tank (to me) may as well be like keeping golden retrievers on Mars.
I know... people have kept them in planted tanks before.. my experiment has them living far longer in bare bottom tanks than planted.
I'm not really here... fell in the tank and my phone is just that smart
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Old 08-29-2018, 10:07 PM   #5
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Good to know Brookster. Never heard of that. Are those German's?
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Old 08-29-2018, 11:26 PM   #6
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When I kept a planted tank, I would never see the fish waste. The substrate was EcoComplete which allowed the wastes to “fall in the cracks”. Of course, during plant rearrangements the water would look like chocolate milk.
I do like the look of sand; I have that in my current tank. But it can be like having a white carpet.
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Old 08-30-2018, 09:11 AM   #7
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The more filtration the easier a tank is to keep also a freshwater sump is usually done but keeping an easy fast growing plant in a sump may help
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Old 08-30-2018, 01:30 PM   #8
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I fully expect the poop to show up more easily on white sand than other substrates. In my tank, it shows up much more near the spray bar end than at the intake end, and so my hypothesis was that I need to move the water around more ... i.e., additional filter or power head. I just don't know which is the better option and where to place the filter or the powerhead in the tank. Any resources to help with that will be super appreciated!
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