40 gallon tank that is too much upkeep

  • #1
Objective: I am considering what changes I could make to my 40g so that the tank is more efficient with cleaning water and so my cleaning of the tank is less a trouble for me. For the past 5 months it has had too much algae for one thing. Thus, cleaning takes 4-6 hours every other week with 2 hours every off week when I dont bother cleaning things in detail. Previously, before 5 months ago, it would always take me only 2 hours or less to clean my tank. A significant very much time consuming problem and an I dont want to do task is the cleaning of algae off my plants and also, in smaller amouts, algae everywhere like walls.

Since it takes 4-6+ hours a week or every other week, I don't like cleaning my 40g anymore rather than being okay with it like cleaning my 5 smaller than my 5.5g single fish betta tanks and single fish 10g betta tank. Rather, from attrition, the 4+ hour task was okay for a three months, but now, it is a very much pain to clean my 40g. It is much a pain, that I might have just a very stripped down tank for now on. Again mostly, every other week, it takes 5 or 6 or so hours to clean my 40g.

Again, my tank is too much and so much a pain that I might keep it just stripped down to a minimal. It is so much a pain, that I wouldn't care even if I did have a bare glass bottom even though that is not an issue nor what I need to change. However, having a bare bottom says and illustrates how much this tank is too much to clean just little small things of it now.

i-v) some notes:
i) My lighting: I don't think I will change my lighting to the lights 24/7 auto natural light setting. I have too much algae that makes cleaning much more difficult. I will likely have to dedicate 2 hours to clean my live plants. Previously, I didn't clean my plants at all. I think that was before when I had a cheaper aquarium light. Currently I have a NICREW RGB 24/7 light. I used to have just a regular NICREW RBG light. For the later, I would leave my light on from 9am to 10pm on a timer. It would not give me algae on my plants. With this new light, I originally did the same timer setting, but after that kept giving me algae, I put it on its automated feature of 24/7 different natural effect light pattern. This is the amazon page for my NICREW RBG 24/7 light.

ii) Just now change: Filtration, after this cleaning last night, I am considering what changes I could make to the tank. I am added a second Hydro Pro V sponge. I would like more mechanical filtration rather than need bio filtration. I have two hydro big sponges now, and I have an aquaclear 110. When i clean my aquarium, there is too much waste, which looks like left over food, without and before my additional sponge.

It looks like my old sponge filter has algae buildup on it. I will try to brush it off soon in a bucket.

iii) Additional filtration and equipment: Recently, I added an additional UV filter to my 9w Green Killing Machine about three weeks ago. I bought it primary because some of my fish looked like they might have got internal bacteria infection or some other water not good issue. In addition, I bought an second one to help with my algae issue. It is a generic 5w UV filter that is sold by COODIA on amazon. It is bigger than my green killing machine, but I like that it is basic and straightforward with just water flow and UV rather than the more restrictive flow design of the green killing machine. You can see it in my picture on the right wall. The green killing machine is in the back wall.

I have a 4 disc air stone, it is being vinegar soaked right now to clean it. In the mean time, I will likely get a replacement, and I will put the old one up for storage for possible later use.

iv) My plants are the main thing that get algae buildup. I am considering if I should just replace my 10 or so anubias plants with a new 6-9 fully new and with lots of leafs anubias plants. My current anubias are rather not so healthy looking and look beat up. In addition, my anubias seem to harbor this algae.

v) Maybe shrimp could help address this issue. They mostly eat just all algae in the tank and maintain things. Now that I put my betta that was in my 40g into a smaller tank, that is now an option I could choose.

I have included a picture of my current aquarium stocking stats.

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Here are two pictures of my 40g before my want to make more changes:

Here is a picture of my 40g right after a aquarium cleaning:


After two weeks, for the first week, I did just a water change without thorough cleaning, except the two filters.
This is a picture right before I would do another 4+ hour thorough cleaning of everything:


Here is a closeup picture of the algae on my plants that adds lots of time to aquarium cleanups:


From this morning, here is a picture of my tank after a thorough cleaning and before I want to make major changes that I talk about in this post.

2020-08-02 15.45.24.jpg

It is clean. However, i missed cleaning my old big sponge filter. Apparently, it has lots of algae that I will try to rub off later today.

2020-08-02 15.42.08.jpg

From this morning, before cleaning up, here are two picture of my plants on a shower floor:

2020-08-02 17.47.48.jpg

2020-08-02 17.47.46.jpg

Those first three previous aquarium pictures are representative pictures of this topic. Those first three pictures were taken 3 or so months ago, but they show the issue in good focus. They show representative states of my aquarium is in before and after cleaning during all these recent months.

The later last two aquarium pictures are from this morning rather than three months ago. Then, this morning, I also took two pictures of my plants.

Of note: Previously I had a betta in the tank, so there was some floating pipes in the first two pictures. In addition, I had a aquaclear 20 + surface skimmer that I took out because without a betta, I dont need to worry about a betta eating surface food in excess.

So here are things I am thinking about:
A) Plants, Replacing or doing something different with my plants. Maybe I could buy new plants or maybe I could use just plastic silk plants. Maybe the latter are easier to clean. I think I might should replace all my plants right?
B) Shrimp, It might be a good idea for me to buy some red cherry shrimp or amano shrimp. Then, I would have to worry about cleaning less. However, then I would have to take care of unique needs of shrimp, which are sensitive to water and needs food or additional ornaments. Shrimp would really help my cleaning troubles I think no?
C) Air stone, I could get a 4 inch disc air stone like I had before. They are about 13 bucks on amazon. However, maybe I should just totally change my air stone kind of setup. For instance, I could have more than one air stone.
D) Filtration and sponges, I think my it is a good idea to have added an additional sponge filter. I have been wanting additional mechanical filtration to help with cleaning for a while now. In addition, this large sponge is much cheaper and much less maintenance than an additional and second aquaclear 110 that I was considering as an alternative to this sponge.
E) As stated, I don't think I will change my lighting from its natural and automatic 24/7 change effect of that light I mentioned in the first paragraph- the NICREW RGB 24/7 automated aquarium light. However, maybe you object to that.

My current thoughts:
For A) If i do get new plants, then I will have to look up how to immediately and fully kill snails in a bucket when I get the plants in the mail because I am tired and dont want to deal with another tiny snail infestitation. After 8 months of having them, I killed them all of mine in that tank with a month long treatment of Dimilin-X. There were about 200+ very tiny bitty micro snails the size of a small water myst or about 1-2mm large.. Dimilin-X is generally okay with fish, but my prolong use caused me issues with some of my fish later on during that month. Later on, some of my fish had great stress because of prolong use. Dimilin-X is primary used for anchor worms, but has that off use attribute of killing shrimp after a while. I will have to look up some kind of toxic or ill insecticide or so maybe if I do get new plants in the mail that i put them in for a few days.

However, it looks like and I think, I think replacing and renewing my plants is a good idea or to replace them with silk plants. My old plants are very beat up with lots of leaf partially torn off. I might be able to keep one or two good ones of the eight, but I will have to look up basically killing everything on the plant except the plant. That might even be some kind algae killer powder I put in a bucket for a few days.

Some of my anubias plants have just one leaf. Previously, I have had some that got damaged because it was zip tied to the rock out of place or too tight. That is not a nice way to keep plants weighed down either, so i might have to change that too.

I must replace 2/3 of my plants. My favorite plant that I have had is Amazon Sword. It regrows fast and looks healthy after getting beat up. However, I have kept just anubias plants for over a year now because I dont want to deal with root tabs, let alone liquid fert. Rather, for liquid fert, i like having the aquarium be able to maintain itself without additional chemicals. Maybe, just maybe, I could think about root tables some more; however, I have had omnicot tabltes before and in some of my sand places too, and I dont like those as they seem inefficient for me. Rather, my previous swords would just die until the root became egg rotten smelling after many months towards that dying. I would have to buy more expensive seachem or api or something ones.

For B) I think shrimp is a good idea to cut back on my cleaning.

For C) anything air stone is good and it isn't as big of a deal. However, maybe you think something would be more aesthetically or more bubbles better. I have a 4 inch round air stone disc that many of my kuhli and java loaches like to hide under.

For D) again, I am glad I added more mechanical filtration. I don't need more bio filtration, but I wanted more mechnical. Previously, I was hesitant about the additional space it would take up, but it isn't so horrible with that.

  • #2
In my experience, when I am having algae issues, I find that I also usually have a higher concentration of nitrates and/or phosphates in the water too. Do you know where either of these concentrations are riding? Are you dosing any fertilizers for your plants as well? or is this all low tech?

If it's low tech, your plants should be consuming some of that nitrate and phosphate, but it's possible perhaps they're not consuming enough? and that's what is allowing the algae to keep coming back?

I know you said you clean this tank, how often do you dilute the concentrations (about every 2-4 weeks or so? from what I'm gathering) (do water changes) and by what percentage usually?

I have a 40B with only an AC70 running it. This tank is considerably overstocked, Aqadvisor is telling me its 282% overstocked and I'm at 19% filtration for the amount of fish I have in this tank. My ammonia and nitrite stay low per my cycle (in the AC, I'm using 1Bio-max 70, and another Bio-Max 110, Planning on adding more bio-max during the next tank cleaning.

My nitrates and phosphates in this tank are always high-ish, it's decorated with a single piece of driftwood (and flourite black gravel) but I get no algae, because my light (cord) has been chewed to smithereens by my (moms) Rabbit (oh joy...)

To reduce the amount it grows, I would recommend decreasing your photo periods. It seems like everything was 'fine' before adding the different/newer light. Plants require light spectrums in Red, Blue, and Green (as I'm sure you know from your prior light choice), it's possible that this new light gives off more of a yellow, white, and green spectrum, which is great for growing algae, much brighter than the typical plant lights, but also good for algae. Typical photo periods for the least algae as possible while keeping your plants happy would be about 6-8hours on, and 16-18hrs off. Right now, your light timer has 13hours on, and 11 hours off. The anubias are lower light, low tech plants, and don't need the light on for that long, I think it'd be safe to decrease that amount of time.

Additionally, the more algae that grows on the plant leaves, the less the plant can grow because the algae is actually blocking the light out from the plant leave (and subsequently stunting it), and anubias are also slow-growing, which adds onto this issue. (slow growing plants are more prone to getting algae on them).

I understand your anubias are (might be) practically 'dead', but I promise you, if you take that healthy rhizome (and whatever plant matter that is still green and not melting) and plant it back into an aquarium where there isn't algae covering it, reduce photo periods, and keep the nutrient levels in the tank optimal (don't remove all of your nitrate/phosphate OR dose flourish excel), the anubias leaves will grow back. It'll take some time before it looks like it used to, but anubias can be expensive and given these are live plants (hearty plants at that), I would think you could save a buck or two by rehabbing them, if anything, you could split the old growth from the new once that takes, and essentially 'start over' with your plants, they just wouldn't be as mature as if you had purchased them from the store.

I had a betta tank, (*cough* my moms, now by default mine), that hadn't received a water change in at least 6-8 months. The algae growing was a mix of cyanobacteria and hair algae. (what you're dealing with almost looks like a thick diatom film? is it relatively easy to rub off? just thick?) The light would be left on 24/7 and the fish fed maybe once a week, maybe 2 or 3 times a week...I had added some anubias and java fern to this tank before algae became a problem. After the fact, my anubias that had grown into my dragonstone was nothing but stunted leaf stumps at the end of long, bright green/yellowish stems. It's been about a month since I've been *recaring* for this tank, and my anubias is starting to come back, without algae. I manually cleaned the tank (Did a 70% water change, filled, did another immediate 50% dilution, filled, did a 30% the next day, am on 30% w/c every 2 weeks now - this is outrageous for the type of fish you have, and your nitrate/phosphate probably isn't as high as in this example, but this is what I had to do to remove all the gunk), removed and cleaned everything from the filter (except bio-max), am keeping light on a regular, reduced schedule, and feed once a day. Everything is looking much better.

What I'm saying in that, is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of totally re-doing everything, I would just consider giving the tank one last good cleaning with a 35-40% water change (maybe more, or multiple water changes on different days depending on how high those two are testing), Reduce your lighting schedule so the light is on a max of 8hrs a day (or night, depending on how you like it), and make sure your nitrate/phosphates aren't real high (or higher than 40ppm).

With the type of algae you're dealing with, red cherry shrimp Might help, but I would almost count on snails or otocinclus to do a better job. Typically shrimp will pick at the algae that's growing small strands from your decor. This stuff looks more like a film, of which a snail, or a true sucker algae eater might take care of a bit quicker. I know you mentioned you're opposed to snails, but nerite variants will not reproduce in freshwater (they need brackish, or half saltwater for their eggs to hatch, they will lay small white 'calcium like' deposits, these are eggs, but they're infertile, and can be removed with a course sponge). Some CAN nibble on plants, but typically anubias is too thick for them to rasp at. Otocinclus are great algae eaters, though, they CAN be fairly sensitive, as many of them are still being wild caught, I have 6 in a 135G and they do a good job of keeping my plants clean (the glass is always a bit green, but my plants are algae free).

In terms of airstones, I've always enjoyed the longer one's at the back of the tank, but if you're looking for something specifically to help harbor bacteria as well as create a central area of flow, the disk would probably be the best option, if you didn't have a sponge filter in it's place anyway.

One thing I am confused about, you mentioned you're happy you've added more mechanical filtration in reference to the sponge? and that you don't want more bio-filtration? Maybe I'm misunderstanding something there, but sponge filters aren't really mechanical filters. They are, but they do a better job at harboring bacteria than they do pulling the gunk up and out of the aquarium (to reduce waste concentrations from their breaking down later on). Your AC is a better mechanical filter than the sponge filters are, to my understanding.

UV. sterilizers are good for taking care of 'green' water, that is caused by unicellular algae in the water column. Typically this stuff is caused by excess light too. and I just now noticed, you're running 2 sponge filters, an ac 110, AND an internal 'canister' filter? There has to be some kind of something going on with the water. I would think you have PLENTY of filtration. I mean, I suppose there is no such thing, but to be dealing with algae issues this excessive after having so much filtration I could only imagine how frustrating.

If you hadn't considered the nitrate/phosphate concentrations, you could add a phosphate/nitrate remover pad to the AC110. I personally like seapora's sponges, as they come in bulk 12x24 or 18 strips that you can cut to size for a very fair price considering what you'd spend for a single use, 'aquaclear or 'fluval' branded nitrate/phosphate remover.

  • Thread Starter
  • #3
1) I added the second sponge filter for mechanical filtration, but I did not add it because of bio filtration. Rather, I am okay with different or additional bio makeup and filtration, but I added it just for mechanical. For an additional HOB filter, it would require more cleaning, so I have to consider that more. My current old sponge filter does make the bucket water very dirty when I squeeze it in a few buckets as i eventually clean it good. It takes about 2 clean water bucket plus an additional 1, for assurance, clean water bucket to get it totally clean. It is not as dense material in the water it makes dirty like the sponge in my hob filter though as you mentioned. Rather, it takes a long time of running water and squeezing to clean that sponge. Again, I would have to consider a HOB filter.

2) The internal canister filter you mention is actually the new Generic 5w UV filter I bought recently off amazon, two weeks ago. Yes, it is very big compared to my 9w green killing machine. It is very basic and straightfoward with just pushing water through rather than restrictive and more careful UV water flow of the 9w unit. I like it more that method of UV. It is likely less efficent in quality and slow water like green killing machine; however, with less efficiency it likely can make up with it by having lots of quantity of water it handles at a lower efficency and makeup for it not being slow water flow. I like it more than that brand name one, but it is very huge, maybe too much big.

b) I just now moved that filter to the back corner from the notion that it is so big. Now, it is a little better aesthetically.

3) I will have to think more of nitrate and phosphate.
  • #4
I feel such a short comment like this may be a bit minuscule, but have you considered getting a fish or invert to help you with this cleaning duty? When it comes to algae a team of Ottocinclus can work wonders, and in a 40b you could put 10 of them in easily as they have a low bio load. Another thing to consider would be Amano shrimp and nerite snails. Amanos pick up little particles and nerites are another amazing algae eater, better than mystery snails! 3 Nerites could probably keep your glass looking great, and Ottos are little machines when it comes to algae, working all night, and amanos are like a machine eating 24/7 practically. All of these additions are very cheap at less than 5$ each most places and very common. They are all pretty hardy if you QT them and acclimate them well too. Also, have you considered lessening the time your light is on? If you like to see it when you get up, set it to be on from 9 am to 1pm and then on from 6pm to 10 pm so you can see it, I have read of others doing this and their plants did great!
Also, floating plants are great for eating up nitrates in the aquarium, like dwarf water lettuce, frogbit, but I do not reccomend duckweed as it goes everywhere and is impossible to erradicate from the tank.
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  • #5
1) For the problem of my tank being too much maintenance, I think I am settling towards keeping my tank without plants. The additional second big hydro v pro sponge should mitigate or commpensate for the loss of biological filtration that I had with the plants.

Without plants, my lots of cory fish have lots more swimming and floor room. In addition, my harlequin rasboras and cardinal tetras have more open space. However, I think those upper fish might get bored more now.

Recently, my plants became like a unique and totally different pet within the aquarium that required its own individual care and time to take care of them, such as 2 hours a week or every two weeks on their own. This is rather than it being just an aquarium with fish or an aquarium with fish and plants that one doesn't have to tend to as much.

2) I don't want to go back to the same or similar setup i had before with anubias plants. I could fill the tank with lots of eloda densa and also i could get shrimp still. However, I am alleviated from my aqarium being a pain now by eliminating all my bottom plants or anubias plants.

Maybe, anubias or bottom plants could work for others. It likely could if they didn't face an constant algae breakout that it just a pain.

3) Currently, i saw some of 2-3mm snails still lingering in my aquarium. I thought I had eliminated them with dimilin-x. I think i might have to consider traps or an assassin snail.

4) My current tank setup:

2020-08-03 18.35.24.jpg

I just now looked up plants and algae. It looks like my old anubias plants might have been what causes my algae outbreaks. My plants are too beat up and have too many decaying parts, including not closer to 100 percent healthy ribosomes. To make my plants have 100 healthy parts, most of them would become one leaf plants. In addition, my plants are not good even if 10 percent damage on leaf because they are too slow growing and the ribosome is above substrate.
  • #6
The new light could be part of the problem. Not all lights are the same, and typically higher quality lights produce stronger light, with more beneficial properties to the plants. Algae being a plant, it could be increased because of that. So I would suggest adjusting the cycle so the light is on for less time, and if possible adjust the intensity so its not as strong for most of the day. Additionally, you could add floating plants, which limit how much light gets into the tank.

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  • #7
I have left the tank without any live plants. I don't have any algae problems ever again now. The plants were too decaying. If i want live plants, i would have had to replace them with new live plants. However, I am going to use just petco large silk plants I think. That second sponge filter you see instead of just one, should compensate for lack of live plants now.
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
It has been about 40 days since i got rid of my plants because they had too much decay and were giving me constant algae outbreaks.

In addition, since 40 days ago, I added another shrimp cave, another coconut shell hut in the back, and some three way white pcv pipe. This is in addition to the large sponge filter I added around 40 days ago.

Last night, I added 6 large imagitarium silk plants from petco. You get two large ones in a three pack that also includes a medium size one.

I might add two more large silk plants. However, this is a better setup. In addition, again, i have an additional large sponge filter to deal with different biology filtration.

Cleaning the silk plants is much easier. I have not figured it out. However, I simply rotate clean 6 plants and take out the old ones. I think i have to soak or maybe dish washer soap my dirty ones. One has a stubborn stain.

I think this setup is much better than when I had live plants. I even saw one of my 8 kuhli loaches come out. I haven't seen any come out in over a year or so. Usually only java loaches would come out.

Thus, because at least one kuhli loach comes out now. This setup is better. 2 more silk plants might be even better for my kuhli loaches.

Here is my setup now:

2020-09-14 15.27.24.jpg
  • #9
It has been about 40 days since i got rid of my plants because they had too much decay and were giving me constant algae outbreaks.

In addition, since 40 days ago, I added another shrimp cave, another coconut shell hut in the back, and some three way white pcv pipe. This is in addition to the large sponge filter I added around 40 days ago.

Last night, I added 6 large imagitarium silk plants from petco. You get two large ones in a three pack that also includes a medium size one.

I might add two more large silk plants. However, this is a better setup. In addition, again, i have an additional large sponge filter to deal with different biology filtration.

Cleaning the silk plants is much easier. I have not figured it out. However, I simply rotate clean 6 plants and take out the old ones. I think i have to soak or maybe dish washer soap my dirty ones. One has a stubborn stain.

I think this setup is much better than when I had live plants. I even saw one of my 8 kuhli loaches come out. I haven't seen any come out in over a year or so. Usually only java loaches would come out.

Thus, because at least one kuhli loach comes out now. This setup is better. 2 more silk plants might be even better for my kuhli loaches.

Here is my setup now:

View attachment 730649
Good Evening AP4,
First things first. Anytime you have algae problems with any kinds of Anubias with the small exception of one or two species of them is going to be to much light with a combination of excess nutrients in your water column. Anubias are extremely slow growing plants that require very low lighting conditions. In your very first post you mention you had your lights on for 13 hours a day; that's way to long, especially for Anubias. Now one thing I have learn that does help to control algae with Anubias is the addition of Carbon Dioxide to your tank. It does speed up their growth rate and their leaves tend to grow bigger and thicker with the addition of CO2 into the water column. Also, if you are going to continue with a planted tank and are not going to use CO2 injection consider utilizing an all in one liquid fertilizer which is gluten free and will provide macro and micro nutrients to your plants. Thus, I would recommend NA NilocG's Thrive C all in one liquid fertilizer. You can either go to www.nilocg.com or go to Amazon and you can purchase it from either website.

As far as your plants go for liquid fertilization I would also recommend using the Estimative Index Method for liquid fertilization of your plants. And under this method for a low energy tank (none Carbon Dioxide Injection) you will have to fertilize everyday for seven days 1mL of liquid fertilizer for every 13 U.S. Gallons of water. On the seventh day you do have to do a 50% water change and restart the dosing cycle all over. Here is the link for the Thrive C fertilizer on Amazon. Amazon.com : ThriveC Aquarium Liquid Plant Fertilizer | All in ONE Fertilizer Designed for Lower TECH Tanks (500ml) : Pet Supplies

If you have sand as your upper layer of substrate then I would also recommend you use NA NilocG's root tabs every three to four months to feed the roots of your plants in conjunction with their liquid fertilizer. As far as algae go to www.nilocg.com and read their article about algae and its causes it is extremely informative and full of good information which should help you with this matter.

I have a 75 gallon tank that is dirted and I do a 50% water change once a week. My plants are healthy and lush and I have very few diatom algae on the corners of the glass. I don't even mess with it so my pleco has some fresh algae to munch on.
Tony M
  • #10
I’ve always kept one or two bristlenose plecos. They are cleaning machines and never get over 4 inches.

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