New To Gravel Vacuum

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by Kalana, Apr 19, 2018.

  1. KalanaNew MemberMember

    I have a 5 gal tank with three fish (2 tetra and 1 bubblebee catfish), and the gravel hasn't been vacuumed since the initial set-up 4 months ago. It desperately needs it. However, there is a snail infestation and the filter needs changing, so there are a few questions I have before diving in.

    First of all, the filter media needs changing. The packaging says to change it every 1-2 months (it hasn't been changed since initial set-up either). How accurate is this timeline? Should I change the media before or after vacuuming? I've seen other responses stating that you don't need to change it at all, but simply rinse it in non-chlorinated water. I want to disrupt my poor fish's ecosystem as little as possible.

    Second of all, we have a pond snail infestation. I've been picking them out as best I can, but those suckers are not easy to get rid of, as you well know. I'm hoping the vacuuming will help, since they'll have less waste to eat, and maybe I can pull loads out as well. (Before you ask, yes, I've been underfeeding my fish in order to combat the snail numbers.) Will the vacuuming rid me of most of the snails? Maybe just the small ones? I'll probably have to clean the plastic tank plants and castle in warm water, without soap, in order to get rid of as many eggs as possible... How do I do that in a way that won't freak my fish out too much, since I don't have a Stress Coat formula? (We're on a tight budget, which is why it's taken me 4 months to get the vacuum and filter media in the first place! It was a Christmas present for my 6yo daughter ... :dead:)

    Lastly, because there's so much waste among my gravel, I'm concerned about how much water it will take from the tank. I'd like to get it all in one go honestly, but, again, I don't need my fish freaking out. Should I do it in stages? i.e. No more than 25% today, and another 25% tomorrow, and on and on until I'm satisfied with the gravel? Is 50% too much at one time? More?

    These probably have easy answers, but I would like to know as much as possible before starting. Thanks in advance to anyone able to help a struggling newbie!
  2. 123Valued MemberMember

    Some people probably won’t agree with me, but what I do in the 8G tank is that I take 50% of water out by vacuuming. Then I put in 25% of new aged water ... water that set still for at least 24 hours at room temperature (I don’t have where to store a lot of water for aging it, that’s why I do it in stages). And then I age more water and add it next day, or if there is too little water left in the aquarium, I wait until the “waste water” settles the dirt on the bottom and put bit of it back. But if your water should have ammonia in it from lot of waste, I think you should not put the old water back in. Rather add more the next day.
  3. jaymethyValued MemberMember

    To start, I'm going to inform you that your fish choices aren't good for a 5 gallon. Unfortunately fish stores give out a lot of misinformation about what can go into small tanks. Bumblebee catfish grow too large for a 5 gallon, and require at least 20 gallons for one fish. And tetra's need to be kept in groups of 6 or more, which there isn't enough space for in a 5 gallon.
    I would suggest swapping them for 2 male guppies or 3 male endlers and a nerite snail or a few red cherry shrimp. Another good option is one male betta and a nerite snail.

    For you filter media, it would depend what type it is. If it has activated carbon, the carbon only lasts about 2 months, which is why it says it needs to be changed. However, then you risk tossing out the majority of the bacteria colony in the tank. There is a lot of debate on if tank's require carbon in the filter or not. My filter bags do have carbon, but I change them less frequently than every two months. In my opinion, I only need the carbon after I've medicated the tank, and want to clear the medication out. That is the only time I put in a new filter. Aside from that, when I feel the filter needs a cleaning, I rinse the bag in dechlorinated water. The majority of the cleaning properties in a filter come from the bacteria anyway.
    If you do decide to change the filter media, do not do it within two weeks of vacuuming the gravel! They must be spaced that far apart to prevent the bacteria in your tank from collapsing completely.

    I would vacuume 1/2 the gravel one day, and the other half a few days after that. Then incorporate vacuuming half the gravel into your regular water changes. For example, I do 25% water changes every week, but once a month I vacuum half the gravel. So my entire gravel bed gets vacuumed every 2 months.

    As for cleaning your castle, it is probably hosting a fair amount of good bacteria as well, so I would again do that a week or two off from changing the filter or cleaning the gravel.

    I'm no expert on getting rid of pond snails, hopefully someone else has a suggestion for you.
  4. KalanaNew MemberMember

    Thank you, this helps loads! The big-name pet store we went to, who shall not be named, didn't give us much advice at all! They didn't even tell me about safely cycling the tank before putting anything in to begin with. So it's been a rough start, and I've been fumbling. The tetra don't seem happy, and the two we have now don't get along. I realize it's because they don't have their school, so they don't feel secure. I wanted to get one more after I got the tank situation under control to see if that helped at all. And I'm not sure how to "swap" them out for other fish. What do you do with the original fish? The pet store who shall not be named won't take returns this far out. However, I will definitely look into the species you mentioned.

    I'll start the vacuum process right away, and wait on the filter and decorations!
  5. jaymethyValued MemberMember

    Most fish stores wont take returns, but will buy the fish off you. My lfs will buy them for up to 30% the original cost. So it will put you out a few bucks, but ultimately your fish will be much better off.
    I wouldn't get another one to try and fix the situation, because your tank is already overstocked, and you would need at least 6 in total for them to be happy (which is way too many fish for a 5 gallon).

    And feel free to post any more question you have on this thread, and I'd be happy to try and help out!