How clean do you keep a planted tank?

  • #1
Sorry for the newb questions, but how frequently and how thoroughly should you clean a planted tank? Do you scrub the film off the walls and decorations? Do you stir up the gravel and siphon out all the stuff that floats up? Or is it just better to let it turn into plant food?

My tank is only a 5 gallon. I set it up two months ago, but after various adventures with filters, it is not cycled yet. I now have sponge filter with an air pump I keep turned low. The water is not crystal clear like the carbon pump filter made it, but that's normal with a sponge filter, right?

I have 1 betta. I added 14 panhandle pebble snails to help eat all the filmy gunk. I do a 25% water change every three days unless the ammonia jumps. I treat with Seachem Prime and have been dosing with Stability for 2 weeks now. I have a problem with brown dust (I guess diatoms). And some fuzzy gray-green hair-like algae.

Plants: 2 water willows, 1 golden pothos, 1 anubias, 4 ludwigia, 1 marimo ball, java fern

The java fern in particular gets really dusty/gunky. I tried wiping it off a bit during my last wc, but it gets gross quickly.

*Edit. By water willow, I mean American Water Willow, not hygrophila or amazon willow, or any of the other pet store "willow" plants.
  • #2
hmmm, I have no issues with anything growing in my tanks like that. I NEVER scrub my tank. water changes and parameter test. vacuum the gravel and add water back in. swish and dunk my filters once a month or so.

is your tank in front of a window?
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Erm, there are three windows in the room that has the tank, plus a glass door. So there is lots of indirect light.
  • #4
The diatoms shouldn't be anything to worry about, it's usually just a phase some new tanks go through that generally runs it's course after a couple months. Whether or not you clean it up in the meantime is really up to you, since it doesn't really hurt anything.

It's hard to say without pics, but the other stuff sounds a lot like hair algae, which can be ugly and an annoyance, but isn't inherently bad.

It could also be black beard algae, which is not so great. If that's what it is, prune the leaves it's growing on (don't try to clean it off the plants, you'll just help it spread), reduce the amount of time the lights are on down to 6-8 hours a day, do water changes more often, and cut down on your feeding. It doesn't matter if you aren't overfeeding now, you still need to reduce the available nutrients in the water.
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  • #5
Hmm, so I am probably over cleaning and worrying too much. The snails do seem to eat the diatoms, just not fast enough to clear it away. They mostly focus on the glass and decorations though, and avoid the gravel. But it sounds like I should still keep cleaning up the gravel anyway. I clean up a bit with each wc, every 2-3 days.

The gray/green thready algae I think is probably staghorn. I think it's a result of ammonia spikes while my tank was cycling. I naively let the ammonia levels go up to 4.0 in my first cycling attempt while I tried to follow the TSS+ instructions. It hasn't spread very much since I brought the NH3/NH4 levels down. And it only seems to be attacking the ludwigia, which is always in sad shape.

Thanks, guys. jessakitten Fettuccini
  • #6
my ludwigia is always going nuts. I have to prune and plant the trimmings every other week. I am LITERALLY getting almost 2 inches of growth a week!
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Wow, I'm jealous! I am always accidentally snapping mine in half. They are sort of surviving. But the leaves are spotty and they shed a lot. :/
  • #8
I have a wall of ludwigia in my tank that is roughly a foot in length, planted every 2in, and right now they are about 12 in tall~ they are getting trimmed and replanted this weekend. I bought one solitary bundle with 3 stems in it that were about 5in tall in july...
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  • #9
I really hope mine grow to be like that!

Maybe I'm not cleaning the gravel well enough? Tank's too small for a real gravel vac. But I just noticed some white fuzzy dots under the gravel against the glass. I used the turkey baster to suck them up. I accidentally shot a bunch of water into the gravel and flushed out a lot of brown gack and the water is coming up milky white. Soo, I decided to repeat the process and use the baster to shoot water down into the gravel, and suck water from down inside the gravel instead of just from the top like I normally do.

Man, that made a huge mess! And smelled really, really bad. It made the NH3/NH4 shoot up from .25 before I cleaned to 1.0 after I cleaned. So I ended up doing a wc and treating again with Prime. *sigh* I feel sorry for not knowing to do that sooner.
  • #10
what lighting do you use? LED light? or some standard aquarium hood with t8 bulb? My tank is in a room with windows too, doesn't matter unless it's getting directly hit by sunlight for an extended time.

Do you have a photo of your tank you can share? Fuzzy white dots could be water mold if you have been overfeeding your fish and haven't been picking up the left over food.

Stem plants like ludwigia will grow quickly with ammonia/nitrate in the water and good lighting... they need other nutrients to grow too, but if you have algae then you probably have those nutrients already in the water column.
  • #11
They make tiny gravel vacs. I get the siphon going and just go at it
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
bigdreams The hood came with an LED light. Yeah, the fuzzy dots was probably mold, now that you mention it. The hubs did accidentally spill some food in the tank that we just left there for the snails. But I guess it fell between gravel and neither fish nor snails could get at it, so it just molded. :/ I don't have any good recent pics of my tank. I lost the battery charger to my camera, and my cell phone won't focus on close small objects. I'll work on that.
jessakitten I'll look for a tiny gravel vac. I found out that my town has recently gotten an exotic pet store that has aquariums, fish, snakes, lizards, etc. I'll see if they have one, or if the LPSupply has one.

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