Cleaning Substrate

omarfarhat

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Hi. I have read a lot about various issues with maintaining an aquarium. On the topic of substrate vacuuming, many say you should do it, but others say it is not necessary (in a mature tank with no overfeeding). One concern is disrupting the beneficial bacteria. The advice is to do small sections each time. My substrate consists of pebbles. I am having difficulty with this issue because I have many resin caves, plastic plants..etc all over my tank, which I spent many many hours shifting around to get them in the ideal positions for controlling current and for aesthetics of the tank. So it is very annoying trying to vacuum without disrupting the whole decor and I'm worried about disrupting the beneficial bacteria. A much easier way (which I tried) is to use a spare pump to spray a jet of water on the substrate and blow up the detritus/gunk into the water column and then proceed with a partial water change (which will remove part of the suspended detritus/gunk, then just let my two canister filters suck up the remaining debris out of the water column (mechanically filter). Then after everything clears up, I could just clean my mechanical filters (my canisters). Of course while following the proper technique so as not to kill the bacteria in the mechanical filter. My question is the following: is there any problem with using this technique instead of vacuuming? (Blowing up the debris into the water column). Wouldn't this technique be less likely to disrupt the beneficial bacteria? I would appreciate any advice on this topic. Thank you.
 

Zigi Zig

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The bacteria are happy to grow on any surface, but they do not simply spread out evenly throughout the aquarium. Although any surface area in the tank (decor, glass, substrate, etc.) are otherwise perfectly acceptable, they do not have the same flow as the filter and therefore will not house significant colonies of bacteria. This isn’t to say they were sterile, just that if adequate filtration is provided effectively all the bacteria will be in the filter. All I could suggest here is try to setup your decorations in one place that doesn't have to be moved and just vacuum around...
 

Morpheus1967

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You are not going to do any harm whatsoever to the small amount of bacteria in your substrate. The vast majority of it lives in your filter anyways. As long as it stays wet, you are fine. A lot of folks use a turkey baster to blow detritus out from under caves, decorations, etc. Perhaps give that a try.
 

Rehanan

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Morpheus1967 said:
You are not going to do any harm whatsoever to the small amount of bacteria in your substrate. The vast majority of it lives in your filter anyways. As long as it stays wet, you are fine. A lot of folks use a turkey baster to blow detritus out from under caves, decorations, etc. Perhaps give that a try.
When you say you use a turkey baster to blow detritus out from under caves, do you do it to move it to a particular section and vacuum or is it just for the sole purpose of getting the gunk out without disturbing the ornaments ect.

omarfarhat said:
Hi. I have read a lot about various issues with maintaining an aquarium. On the topic of substrate vacuuming, many say you should do it, but others say it is not necessary (in a mature tank with no overfeeding). One concern is disrupting the beneficial bacteria. The advice is to do small sections each time. My substrate consists of pebbles. I am having difficulty with this issue because I have many resin caves, plastic plants..etc all over my tank, which I spent many many hours shifting around to get them in the ideal positions for controlling current and for aesthetics of the tank. So it is very annoying trying to vacuum without disrupting the whole decor and I'm worried about disrupting the beneficial bacteria. A much easier way (which I tried) is to use a spare pump to spray a jet of water on the substrate and blow up the detritus/gunk into the water column and then proceed with a partial water change (which will remove part of the suspended detritus/gunk, then just let my two canister filters suck up the remaining debris out of the water column (mechanically filter). Then after everything clears up, I could just clean my mechanical filters (my canisters). Of course while following the proper technique so as not to kill the bacteria in the mechanical filter. My question is the following: is there any problem with using this technique instead of vacuuming? (Blowing up the debris into the water column). Wouldn't this technique be less likely to disrupt the beneficial bacteria? I would appreciate any advice on this topic. Thank you.
I personally, vacuum every time I do a water change obviously as part of the syphoning process. Although I consider myself to heavily vacuum the gravel, there is always so much more that 'could' be cleaned if I really got in there, which isn't necessary. I guess what I am saying is, you won't be really disturbing the the beneficial bacteria all to much at all. I haven't had any issues with doing it thus far.
 

Morpheus1967

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Rehanan said:
When you say you use a turkey baster to blow detritus out from under caves, do you do it to move it to a particular section and vacuum or is it just for the sole purpose of getting the gunk out without disturbing the ornaments ect.
Either or. Blow it over to the intake of your filter, or just blow it into a corner when you are doing your water change/vacuuming, and then suck it right up.
 

mattgirl

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The main thing is keeping the detritus/waste from building up to massive amounts. How you remove it is up to you. Stirring up and allowing your filtration to pull it out would work but you would have to be even more diligent at cleaning your filter media.

Some waste is going to build up under your deco but as long as you vacuum all the deco free areas you will be removing some of the build-up and then occasionally you can lift one piece of deco and vacuum that area one week and another one the next. There is no need to vacuum all of the substrate each week.

You are not removing bacteria when you gravel vac. You are removing a build up of waste. The bacteria clings to all of the surfaces in the tank so the little bit you might siphon out is not a problem.
 

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