How Often To “clean” Filters? Or Have I Found A Magic Zone?

ExpertBeginnerHA

PLEASE don’t yell at me for this, this has been more of a “I spent a year losing fish even though I did everything by the book, but now that I’m not, nothing is going wrong” situation.

I used to be ocd about WC’s, master water test kit checking twice a week, everything had to be perfect...and I was driving myself crazy, losing fish left and right and going broke $$.

So obviously the question is, how often should I be “cleaning” (rinsing in tank water) my filters in a 75 gallon tank (two 60 gallonfilters, one at each end) and a for a 20 gallon tank with a 50 gallon filter. I’m going to be COMPLETELY honest... I have not changed nor rinsed any of the total of 6 filters in MONTHS!! I do a 50-66% WC in each tank maybe once a week, more likely every 2 weeks (which I know it should be once a week but again, remember what I said above, “by the book” wasn’t cutting it. I pretty much stopped caring and suddenly everything started living and breeding and I wasn’t having emotional breakdowns.

The 75 gallon is a mbuna african Cichlid tank. The 20 gallon is a South American dwarf Cichlid (and cories) tank.

So... am I a horrible fish fish mommy not following the rules about filter rinsing and changing? Or is there some “magic zone” where the tank has reached some “equilibrium” for a lack of a better term...and its literally just taking care of itself? I mean I have on occasion even gone 3.5 weeks without a water change in the mbuna Africa Cichlid tank...still no deaths or disease. (Smaller 20 gallon never goes more than 2 weeks without WC...not risking them, they are delicate, but again, current routine without WEEKLY doesn’t seem to harm anyone...?)

I don’t want to jinx myself but is a “magic, self sustaining” environment possible where I shouldn’t touch the filters at all unless I start getting water overflow? Don’t rinse, don’t change, don’t touch at all??
 

Demeter

I rinse when the flow has noticeably decreased. I replace when the media is falling apart. Filter floss is my main media and only replace half of it at a time, maybe once a year.

Not gonna lie, I’ve also gone a couple weeks without doing water changes on some tanks. I need to do one on my African tank but I keep making excuses to not do it.
 

ExpertBeginnerHA

I rinse when the flow has noticeably decreased. I replace when the media is falling apart. Filter floss is my main media and only replace half of it at a time, maybe once a year.

Not gonna lie, I’ve also gone a couple weeks without doing water changes on some tanks. I need to do one on my African tank but I keep making excuses to not do it.

First; LOVE your name “Fishlore VIP”. Edited... ahhh, Demeter is your name, VIP is your level... obviously my name is still suitable after close to 1.5-2 years!

Wow, ok so that’s one person that says changing or rinsing the media infrequently is ok! I’ll take it! Would love a few more validations! And if there really is a point where the tank can kind of just sustain itself somehow?

The 75 gallon can technically hold 8 filters. Each can hold 2 floss/charcoal filters and has 2 “media cartridges” that I could fill with whatever I want... but I stopped doing that because 1) I was overdoing it when I was being ocd and 2) it was causing overflow. So the 75 gallon has just the large floss/charcoal filters.

Same with the 20g, but half the filters, so only 2 instead of 4 of the floss filter cartridges with charcoal.

You should get a python for your tank! I can do all three tanks (I also have another 20 gallon hex with a Betta and small school of neon tetras as buddies and 3 cories) in the hour it takes me after I get home, mix two different dinners for a geriatric dog and a new puppy, another different food mixture for a 16yr old Siamese cat, make my own dinner and have a glass of wine! The only trick is making sure to look at the tanks occasionally so you don’t take too much water out OR overfill it which I almost did the other week!

Best $55 I’ve ever spent!
 

WTFish?

I might join you! I’m super ocd about everything and I feel like I always have problems somewhere. I do weekly changes of 20-30%, vacuum every other time, squish filter media every two weeks etc. I might go a bit longer and hope I get your luck. Lol. I honestly don’t think filter cleaning is all that important if it doesn’t interfere with the flow. I have an intake spong that I have to clean every two days and it drives me mad. I’m debating on saying “may the lucky shrimp survive” and take it off. Lol.
 

rainbowsprinkles

I think most people keep their tanks and filters too clean and sterile to maintain a healthy microbiome that is needed for healthy long lived fish. I believe that you need a healthy amount of mulm and “good bacteria “ to outcompete pathogenic bacteria.. just like your gut..
 

AvalancheDave

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0144860900000315

Solids removal is very important. That's why some fish farms use drum filters that remove solids from the water 24/7. Some miniaturized versions have appeared for reef tanks. If you simply trap debris in a filter and expose it to flowing water it's going to turn into ammonia faster. Ideally, you would remove it from the water completely before it has a chance to break down.
 

Islandvic

I found that I was cleaning my filters way too often. I have cut back a lot, and keep to my PWC's and substrate vacs.

Routine water changes and substrate vacs can be more beneficial than cleaning the filters.

Many times it is tempting to clean the filter when it is not neccessary.

You mentioned how your 75 gallon has 2x 60 gallonfilters and the 20 gallon has a 50 gallon filter.

What brand/model? The Penguins with the Bio-Wheel?
 

rainbowsprinkles


I'm not talking about a disgusting dirty looking tank that is overstocked but a healthy tank microbiome. We need to think about the ecology of the system. Forever we have ignored the role of microbiome (beyond nitrifiers) in fish stress longevity and health. Over 30 yrs of fish keeping and I rarely lose a fish that isn’t already at the edge of its lifespan ..except for a period when I took the common advice I read on line about super high maintenance fish keeping..
 

ExpertBeginnerHA

I found that I was cleaning my filters way too often. I have cut back a lot, and keep to my PWC's and substrate vacs.

Routine water changes and substrate vacs can be more beneficial than cleaning the filters.

Many times it is tempting to clean the filter when it is not neccessary.

You mentioned how your 75 gallon has 2x 60 gallonfilters and the 20 gallon has a 50 gallon filter.

What brand/model? The Penguins with the Bio-Wheel?
Yep! I’ve never changed ANY of the biowheels nor cleaned them. I just use the little bristle brush to clean the tubes out that let water flow through to keep the wheels wet and rotating.
 

ExpertBeginnerHA

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0144860900000315

Solids removal is very important. That's why some fish farms use drum filters that remove solids from the water 24/7. Some miniaturized versions have appeared for reef tanks. If you simply trap debris in a filter and expose it to flowing water it's going to turn into ammonia faster. Ideally, you would remove it from the water completely before it has a chance to break down.
hmmm that makes sense. I DO vacuum the sand probably weekly to remove stuff that has settled on the substrate... does that count as “removal of solids” or are you talking about some other method. Cleaning the substrate is one thing I am still OCD about... I don’t like how easily yucky stuff shows up on the bottom...I take care to move all the decor since I know and see that lots of it seems to congregate around decor. I bought a pair of those crazy long, shoulder length yellow gloves almost a year ago (think of the gloves you would probably see in chemical labs...or in the intro of the Simpsons, lol) because I hated sticking my arms in water filled with chemicals that almost all have “may be known to cause cancer” warnings... so since I got those gloves I can take my sweet time and keep the sand very clean from solids.

ETA: and actually now, and for a very long time, I’ve only needed to use Prime. Before that I used an arsenal of chemicals to have “perfect water” plus stuff like accuclear, algaegone, etc., plus constantly medicating tanks because fish were getting sick left and right before I took the “I don’t care anymore...doing it by the book is NOT WORKING, so I’m done” approach. Then stuff stopped dying, water has been consistently stable, and no one dies (except fry that get eaten ☹️) But still, I prefer cleaning with the long gloves anyway.
 

Islandvic

Sounds like you're on the right track!

Check out the YouTube video where he does some DIY mods for adding extra media to those Penguin filters.

He omits the cartridges by using sponges from Aquaclear filters instead! 3-packs of those are $3-7 depending on size. Better filtration and reusable, saving $ in the long run.
 

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