Overdue for Filter Cleaning

Sorg67

Member
My first tank (40 gallon breeder with canister filter and sponge filter) was set up on October 14 and stocked on November 3. So it has been running for three months and stocked for 2 1/2 months. I have been doing regular water changes but I have not cleaned the filter. I have been reluctant to clean the filter out of worry that I will crash my cycle. But the time has come that I can procrastinate no more.

I have watched a number of youtube videos on cleaning my filter. Heard a variety of opinions about the process. I am planning to err on the side of a gentle cleaning until I gain some experience. I am also coordinating it with a stocking reduction so that if I take my cycle down a few pegs, I will also take the bio-load down a bit so hopefully it will be suitably balanced.

I am not planning to clean the tubes this go around. Thinking I will just turn the filter off. Close the pipes so I do not syphon the tank water. Drain a few gallons of tank water into a bucket. Open the canister put the the media in the bucket with tank water. Give the canister a good scrub (no chemicals, maybe some salt). Rinse canister really well. Give the media some gentle rinses in tank water (I have read differing opinions about whether it is safe to rinse media in tap water, I will go with tank water for now to be conservative).

Put it all back together and hope I do not kill all my fish.....

I will be out of town from February 13 through 27. This is step one of prep for the trip. Planning water change right before I leave then it will go two weeks without a water change. Then will do another filter cleaning late Feb or early March. Then will be out of town for another two weeks in mid March. Thinking a filter cleaning a couple weeks before leaving town to give me a chance to monitor before I leave in case anything bad happens. Some extra water changes in the weeks before I leave to make sure water is extra clean before I leave and can withstand two weeks without a change.

Other tanks have HOB and or sponge filters. Not as nervous about that cleaning process. But I suppose I could practice on the HOB and see if any ammonia appears after the change to get an idea of whether I knocked the cycle back at all.
 

A201

Member
Sounds like you have all bases covered.
Always rinse filter media in used tank water.
Just a good squeeze of the sponges & swish the ceramic media around in the water bucket.
No need to use salt in order to clean the
canister itself, just rinse with water.
 

Cichlidude

Member
Well you know I've changed my tune on filters and media cleaning. Sounds good above and here is some additional info as far as cleaning.

Aquarium Biofiltration - SWISSTROPICALS
 

Morpheus1967

Member
A201 said:
Always rinse filter media in used tank water.
This is not quite necessary. I have two canister filters, and I clean one of them every third week. I literally rinse every tray of bio-media under tap water straight from the faucet, and have had zero issues. If it is an established filter, this will not harm your bacterial colony. Thanks to Cichlidude for this information and these links!

Rinsing Bio-Media in Tap Water
Cichlidude said:
Well you know I've changed my tune on filters and media cleaning. Sounds good above and here is some additional info as far as cleaning.

Aquarium Biofiltration - SWISSTROPICALS
Wait. Are you now advocating against rinsing media in tap water?
 

Cichlidude

Member
Morpheus1967 said:
Wait. Are you now advocating against rinsing media in tap water?
The Swiss link never mentions tap water. ;-). Also nobody mentioned above about killing any bacteria. I said in my link above, you can use either method, just that tap water will not kill your bacteria that's all. Bravo to you for knowing.

The above means using better media and not cleaning thoroughly .
 

sto0ka

Member
Not sure how your filters are set up and what media you have in them.

But I'll explain what I do with my filters and it never caused any problems.

2 x canister filter


Filter one is about 1 year old and weekly with every water change I just disconnect it and clean sponges with aquarium water, just few good squeezes and that's it. Didn't touch bio media so far.

Filter two again, just quick rinse for sponges and check if fine sponge need's to be replaced.
Usually carbon and zeo are not there, just added them this morning to remove (try) tanins.

And in general I never scrub actual canisters, since they don't really look dirty.

Not sure if this is right way, but it works for me
 

A201

Member
I've read articles where authors endorse simply using straight tap water to clean filter media, claiming no damage to the BB.
IMO, Certain area tap waters might be harmless, depending on purification methods, while in other areas water treatment might include a more vigorous chemical purification process that might negatively impact BB.
My R.W.D notifies customers every summer when they up the chlorine volume to deal with reservoir levels & fluxuations in water quality. That warning is a "heads up" for fishkeepers.
To each their own, use straight tap water, maybe things will be fine, but why push your luck?
 

Cichlidude

Member
A201 said:
I've read articles where authors endorse simply using straight tap water to clean filter media, claiming no damage to the BB.
IMO, Certain area tap waters might be harmless, depending on purification methods, while in other areas water treatment might include a more vigorous chemical purification process that might negatively impact BB.
My R.W.D notifies customers every summer when they up the chlorine volume to deal with reservoir levels & fluxuations in water quality. That warning is a "heads up" for fishkeepers.
To each their own, use straight tap water, maybe things will be fine, but why push your luck?
That is great your water company does that! This is called Super Chlorination. Look it up. That's why all dechlorinators can overdose. In fact it is recommended that you always use 2X the dose just to protect from the above unexpected occurrence. But remember chlorine does not kill instantly so that why it takes hours, so it's not an issue for your bacteria, but it is for your fish!
 

Morpheus1967

Member
I don't see how it is pushing my luck though. If it is safe to drink, it is not going to kill bacteria in your filter in a matter of seconds that you would be rinsing it. Now, if they issued a warning and said don't drink the water until further notice, I would definitely heed that advice.
 

A201

Member
The reason water is safe to drink is due to your water company nukeing the tap with chlorine or other disenfecting chemical to kill harmful bacteria.
I'm skeptical that chlorinated water is harmless to the BB in filter media. That's just my opinion.
What I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty; cleaning filter media in used tank water, which originated from a healthy aquarium, is 100% harmless to the BB.
 

Morpheus1967

Member
Did you read the article I linked to? They actually did tests. Not an opinion. We will just have to agree to disagree. I have done it both ways, and there has been no difference.

From the article linked above:

Any decently clogged filter media will have at least 10 grams of bacteria and organic matter in it capable of reacting with the chlorine and being killed. 0.0181/10 = 0.00181 or 0.18% of the bacteria will be killed. I.e. running filter media under tap water containing chlorine will kill roughly two tenths of one percent of the bacteria in the filter IF CHLORINE KILLED INSTANTLY. Hardly something to get one’s knickers in a bind over.

Chlorine (and all disinfectants), take time to work. The lower the concentration the more time it takes for chlorine to kill ANY bacteria. So the chlorine levels in tap water (0.25 to 1.0 ppm typical) take many hours or even days to kill bacteria. So a rinse done for thirty to sixty seconds does nothing.

If chlorinated water killed bacteria instantly then all hospitals would have to do to sterilize surfaces would be to wipe the surface with tap water. Instead hospitals wipe surfaces with disinfectants in very high concentrations (like 70% isopropyl alcohol).
 

Cichlidude

Member
A201 said:
The reason water is safe to drink is due to your water company nukeing the tap with chlorine or other disenfecting chemical to kill harmful bacteria.
I'm skeptical that chlorinated water is harmless to the BB in filter media. That's just my opinion.
What I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty; cleaning filter media in used tank water, which originated from a healthy aquarium, is 100% harmless to the BB.
And this is just fine. However I don't think one quart of chlorine in one million gallons of water is going to cause any issues. Especially since by the time it gets to your house, it's almost gone. That's why lots of folks have forgotten to add their dechlorinator after a water change and all is well. Of course they don't post here because they never lose any fish, but then others have. You can check your chlorine with a Total Chlorine pool kit to see how much you really have. I have contacted my water company and have their yearly water report and they have never added more than .2 ppm chlorine to the water. They do state maybe .5-1 ppm for extreme circumstances could be added.

Most water companies are moving to Chloramine now. But that has only occurred in about 40% in the US. Will take years for this to move farther.
 

A201

Member
I'm pretty sure we three are on the same team. I'm a little more of a traditionalist, an old school fishkeeper.
I kept Discus back in the late 80's and had the Jack Watley's Discus book as a reference. If I remember correctly, Jack wrote that he didn't bother to dechlorinate the water. In his opinion the miniscule amount of chlorine that made its way into his tanks were harmless and might even be slightly benificial.
It's not that I didn't trust Jack, but I just couldn't follow that bit of advice. It ran completely contrary to all I had learned up to that point.
 

bizaliz3

Member
Morpheus1967 said:
This is not quite necessary. I have two canister filters, and I clean one of them every third week. I literally rinse every tray of bio-media under tap water straight from the faucet, and have had zero issues. If it is an established filter, this will not harm your bacterial colony. Thanks to Cichlidude for this information and these links!

Rinsing Bio-Media in Tap Water

Wait. Are you now advocating against rinsing media in tap water?
You may not be having issues simply because you have more than one filter and are not cleaning them both at once.

Just a thought.

I think tap water varies way too much to tell everyone it's safe to do. Personally.

I'm not saying its false. Just probably not always true.


Edit... I just want to add that there's a lot of talk about it being a very established filter. Would a filter that's been running with fish for only 2 and a 1/2 months be considered thoroughly well established?
 
  • Thread Starter

Sorg67

Member
Wow, great comments and discussion. Thanks!

In view of differing opinions on rinsing media in tap water, I have decided to rinse with tank water for now. Perhaps if I find that to be a pain, I will try tap water. But for now, it seems there is no need to take the risk. I am thinking that it could work fine for years and then one day, I get unlucky that there is an unusually heavy concentration of chlorine and kill my cycle.
 

bizaliz3

Member
Sorg67 said:
Wow, great comments and discussion. Thanks!

In view of differing opinions on rinsing media in tap water, I have decided to rinse with tank water for now. Perhaps if I find that to be a pain, I will try tap water. But for now, it seems there is no need to take the risk. I am thinking that it could work fine for years and then one day, I get unlucky that there is an unusually heavy concentration of chlorine and kill my cycle.
My thought exactly. Why risk it??? It's not like its extra work to use tank water.
 

Dunk2

Member
Sorg67 said:
My first tank (40 gallon breeder with canister filter and sponge filter) was set up on October 14 and stocked on November 3. So it has been running for three months and stocked for 2 1/2 months. I have been doing regular water changes but I have not cleaned the filter. I have been reluctant to clean the filter out of worry that I will crash my cycle. But the time has come that I can procrastinate no more.

I have watched a number of youtube videos on cleaning my filter. Heard a variety of opinions about the process. I am planning to err on the side of a gentle cleaning until I gain some experience. I am also coordinating it with a stocking reduction so that if I take my cycle down a few pegs, I will also take the bio-load down a bit so hopefully it will be suitably balanced.

I am not planning to clean the tubes this go around. Thinking I will just turn the filter off. Close the pipes so I do not syphon the tank water. Drain a few gallons of tank water into a bucket. Open the canister put the the media in the bucket with tank water. Give the canister a good scrub (no chemicals, maybe some salt). Rinse canister really well. Give the media some gentle rinses in tank water (I have read differing opinions about whether it is safe to rinse media in tap water, I will go with tank water for now to be conservative).

Put it all back together and hope I do not kill all my fish.....

I will be out of town from February 13 through 27. This is step one of prep for the trip. Planning water change right before I leave then it will go two weeks without a water change. Then will do another filter cleaning late Feb or early March. Then will be out of town for another two weeks in mid March. Thinking a filter cleaning a couple weeks before leaving town to give me a chance to monitor before I leave in case anything bad happens. Some extra water changes in the weeks before I leave to make sure water is extra clean before I leave and can withstand two weeks without a change.

Other tanks have HOB and or sponge filters. Not as nervous about that cleaning process. But I suppose I could practice on the HOB and see if any ammonia appears after the change to get an idea of whether I knocked the cycle back at all.
I recall feeling the same way when I cleaned my canister filter for the first time.

Like many things, it becomes second nature after you’ve done it a couple times. You’ll reach a point where you’ll wonder why you were hesitant or stressed in the first place.

As for cleaning the tubing, I had posed that question on FL a while back. The general consensus was that it’s not necessary. I think one person said it had been 9 years that their canister filter had been running and they never cleaned the tubing.
 
  • Thread Starter

Sorg67

Member
Well, that was easy.....

I may have been a bit too gentle with rinsing the media though. A bunch of nasty crud came out when I turned it back on.

It was so easy, I may do it again in a week or two. Crud might also have been due to the long time without cleaning.

Anyway, thanks for all the tips. Very helpful.
 

A201

Member
Its not unusual for bio gunk to be expelled from any variety of filter after cleaning. Its harmless.
All I do to clean out my AC's is squeeze out the sponges once a month. Gunk always spews out the filters afterwards.
 

erinw347

Member
A201 said:
I've read articles where authors endorse simply using straight tap water to clean filter media, claiming no damage to the BB.
IMO, Certain area tap waters might be harmless, depending on purification methods, while in other areas water treatment might include a more vigorous chemical purification process that might negatively impact BB.
My R.W.D notifies customers every summer when they up the chlorine volume to deal with reservoir levels & fluxuations in water quality. That warning is a "heads up" for fishkeepers.
To each their own, use straight tap water, maybe things will be fine, but why push your luck?
I agree with this. I’ve tested my tap water before and it barely has anything in it. It is the cause of my low pH issue though

When I tested it last year it didn’t even have chlorine!!!
 
  • Thread Starter

Sorg67

Member
My tap water tests negative for chlorine. But I wonder if the chlorine test picks up chloramine. And I wonder if the chlorine level is consistent.
 

Cichlidude

Member
Sorg67 said:
My tap water tests negative for chlorine. But I wonder if the chlorine test picks up chloramine. And I wonder if the chlorine level is consistent.
No it does not, it should state that it does or does not check for chloramine. You need a separate test for that. What does you water company state they use?
 

KinderScout

Member
To add to the discussion is it necessary to clean filter media so often? We have a strict schedule to swap out one of six different elements in our filter stack (five biological and one mechanical) based on the manufacturers recommendations. We never do two sponges at once (always at least a week apart). The only filter we swap out often (bi-weekly) is the mechanical polypad as we notice a significant reduction in water flow after about three days. The two coarse bio sponges are swapped out every three months, the two fine sponges in the low-flow section of the filter every nine months. Ceramic media rinsed every four months and changed every year. Is there any other reason to clean filter media other than to maintain water-flow?
 

A201

Member
Don't discard filter sponges until they begin to decompose. Just squeeze them out when clogged.
Dispite all the hype about ceramic media & floss, they fall way short in filtering capacity as compared to foam sponges.
 

KinderScout

Member
A201 said:
Don't discard filter sponges until they begin to decompose. Just squeeze them out when clogged.
Dispite all the hype about ceramic media & floss, they fall way short in filtering capacity as compared to foam sponges.
Indeed - we've been running the same set of sponges for over two years now. We even alternate a pair of polypads which are changed very often - they still last two or three months. In todays current climate of trying to decrease plastic waste (not sure if it's seen as an issue in the US) the less plastic that goes out in the bins the better. Of course our filter manufacturer would have us believe otherwise - they need to sell more media!
 

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