Rinsing Biomedia In Tap Water

GlennO

Member
I recently read an article which contained this paragraph:

“Biomedia should be cleaned minimally, just enough to remove all visible debris. You can do this under tap water. I know everyone says to rinse it in tank water so that the chlorine doesn’t kill all your bacteria, but I have not found this worry to be justified. I have thoroughly cleaned biomedia in tap water on many occasions, really routinely, and never had this produce a single shred of evidence that it killed any significant amount of bacteria. You can’t take tap water and sterilize your counter tops, it won’t sterilize your biomedia in a couple minutes (which is far longer than the quick rinse to remove visible debris should ever take). In addition, ‘rinsing’ in still tank water in a bucket doesn’t provide the flow and pressure needed to clean the media quickly and effectively. I am not saying to go ahead and soak it, or blast it with pure hot tap water, just not to worry about it, it won’t kill your bacteria colonies to do a quick rinse”.

I agree that rinsing under pressurised flow would be more effective and may help to ensure that porous biomedia doesn't get clogged. Nevertheless I’m hesitant.

Thoughts?
 

LDan

Member
GlennO said:
I recently read an article which contained this paragraph:

“Biomedia should be cleaned minimally, just enough to remove all visible debris. You can do this under tap water. I know everyone says to rinse it in tank water so that the chlorine doesn’t kill all your bacteria, but I have not found this worry to be justified. I have thoroughly cleaned biomedia in tap water on many occasions, really routinely, and never had this produce a single shred of evidence that it killed any significant amount of bacteria. You can’t take tap water and sterilize your counter tops, it won’t sterilize your biomedia in a couple minutes (which is far longer than the quick rinse to remove visible debris should ever take). In addition, ‘rinsing’ in still tank water in a bucket doesn’t provide the flow and pressure needed to clean the media quickly and effectively. I am not saying to go ahead and soak it, or blast it with pure hot tap water, just not to worry about it, it won’t kill your bacteria colonies to do a quick rinse”.

I agree that rinsing under pressurised flow would be more effective and may help to ensure that porous biomedia doesn't get clogged. Nevertheless I’m hesitant.

Thoughts?
I've seen this said in a lot of places. The thing is, what kind of water comes out of the tap? Well water? Filtered water? Depends on where you live and what your water company does to it. I know I can smell chlorine, and even sulfur sometimes, right outta the tap! I always use Prime. I'm not taking any chances. Just MHO.
 
  • Thread Starter

GlennO

Member
LDan said:
I've seen this said in a lot of places. The thing is, what kind of water comes out of the tap? Well water? Filtered water? Depends on where you live and what your water company does to it. I know I can smell chlorine, and even sulfur sometimes, right outta the tap! I always use Prime. I'm not taking any chances. Just MHO.
Yes, well the article refers to chlorinated water. I can smell it in my water too and have never rinsed any media in it straight out of the tap.
 

goldface

Member
Of the myriad of issues I've read on here and elsewhere, clogged media was never one of them.
 

LDan

Member
scarface said:
Of the myriad of issues I've read on here and elsewhere, clogged media was never one of them.
I just squeezed out a sponge filter today, it was disgusting! The water was black when I was done They do work much better with regular cleaning. But still I do it in old tank water.
 
  • Thread Starter

GlennO

Member
scarface said:
Of the myriad of issues I've read on here and elsewhere, clogged media was never one of them.
Yes I haven't personally ever had to replace biomedia because it became ineffective so perhaps it's a non issue.
 

midna

Member
squeeze it reaaaal good in old tank water or dechlorinated water. and keep squeezing. it'll get all the gunk out, you might just need to keep getting new dechlorinated water because it'll turn the water dark brown fast.
 

Cichlidude

Member
Rinsing your filter media in tap water will not kill your bacteria or kill your ‘cycle’. Why? Simple, first there is not enough chlorine in tap water and second there is so little time that the filter media is rinsed it just doesn’t happen.

First, this does not apply to any water changes. Water changes should use de-chlorinated water because your fish are instantly sitting in the water all the time breathing it in and out.

If tap water could kill your bacteria in seconds it would be classified a disinfectant. If you drank it would kill all the good bacteria in your body. You would not need anything but water to rinse your countertops, floors, toilets and all eating utensils. Guess what… it is not a disinfectant. Even Lysol only kills 99.9% of bacteria when sprayed directly on a surface so it can’t kill everything.

I have searched the web for scientific proof and evidence that rinsing in tap water kills your beneficial bacteria instantly. I cannot find any. However I can find scientific evidence that it does NOT kill your bacteria. Now I’m not talking about discussion boards, other hobbyists or other professionals that have no proof, that have come to the conclusion that since they must use a de-chlorinator when changing water that you must use the same when rinsing your filter media. That information started decades ago. However I have found plenty of discussion boards that state they have only used tap water for years and that it is a myth that you must use a de-chlorinator. The bottom line here is that some use tank water and some don’t. They both have the same outcome, no problems.

How this came about was again, decades ago when you performed your water change and cleaned your filter, you would take out your media and let it sit in a bucket of tap water. This would take a long time and yes, this would harm your bacteria. Hence the notion ‘don’t use tap water’.

Today millions of aquarium filters are cleaned every day using tap water all around the world. If we say that 10% have killed all their bacteria by doing so then that would mean over 100,000 tanks per day would have dead fish, bacteria problems or whatever. People would notice this and all the fish forums in the world would be flooded with thousands of post of aquarium water problems. Guess what… there aren’t any. Given the above example over 3 millions tanks would be destroyed in a month. Again… this is not happening in the less than 30 seconds to a minute it takes to rinse your media.

I had a discussion with Seachem phone support and they could not give a definitive answer but basically they said it would take hours sitting in tap water to start to kill any bacteria on or in your media.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I have been using tap water to clean my filters for over 15 years. First was a 29 gallon (now gone), next is my 75 gallon for almost 10 years and now my new 10 gallon which is 10 months.

If tap water would kill your bacteria in seconds then all filter manufacturers would have a warning label on the outside of the filters and in their instructions saying… “Warning Will Robinson, Danger Doctor Smith. Rinsing your media in tap water or non de-chlorinated water will kill your bacteria instantly” and they don’t. What some manufactures do state is that it is recommended that you use tank water to clean your media. They never say it will kill your bacteria.

Here are just a few of the many statements I’ve found on the web from foam and filter manufactures with their statements.

***

From the Swisstropical FAQ – OMG! From the premier foam manufacture in the world!
Q: how do rinse Poret® foam sheets?

A: the easiest way is outside in the yard or driveway using a garden hose. Simply bang the sheet flat on the ground several times (Note: I recommend not wearing your best outfit doing this) to shake out the filter sludge, then rinse with the hose; repeat until the water coming out is relatively clean. Don’t overdo it! Sufficient microorganisms will survive this procedure to quickly re-establish the biology of the filter. It does not matter if you use cold or chlorine-treated water! The often repeated notion that this process would kill all the filter organisms is complete nonsense, because the residual chlorine concentration in drinking water is way too low to kill them all.


From Aqueon Quiet Flow Canister filters:




2. Many hobbyists will recommend cleaning the media only in non-chlorinated aquarium water vs. chlorinated tap water. There is nothing wrong with this other than you lose water pressure which makes cleaning more difficult. Cleaning the media with chlorinated tap water will kill off some of the beneficial bacteria in the biological filter. However, the surfaces within an established aquarium are so heavily colonized with beneficial bacteria, that even a completely sterilized canister filter will recolonize with beneficial bacteria within hours and any effect on water quality will be negligible if at all.

That bacteria will recolonize in 7-20 hours. Yes, it’s that fast.

Tank Maintenance

But what about the impact of tank maintenance itself on aquarium bacteria? Bacteria grow on surfaces such as aquarium glass and gravel, so what happens when we scour the sides of a tank with an algae magnet, or clean the bottom with a gravel vacuum? I’ve been told on a number of occasions that vacuuming more than half the tank bottom at a time could remove so many bacteria that the system could go into a secondary cycle.

Dr. Peter Strom, a professor of environmental sciences at Cook College in New Jersey.

Nonsense, says Strom. He explained that within hours of the time the bacteria begin growing, they lay down what’s known as a biofilm (“we used to call it a slime, but ‘biofilm’ sounds much more scientific!” Strom jokes) essentially gluing themselves to whatever surface they’re growing on. Over time, this biofilm can get quite thick, and in streams and other fast-moving bodies of water, its outer layers are sometimes peeled away by the force of water passing over them. But the tug of water through an aquarium siphon is too weak to have that effect, and even if it did, there would still be plenty of bacteria left behind to handle the tank waste. “Powerwashing wouldn’t get them all off!” Strom assured me.

There are numerous other sites from chemists and biologists that you can search for yourself. I just take with a grain of salt forum discussions and other individuals that just quote what they were told over the years that tap water will kill your bacteria.

***

The only time in 10 years I’ve had an issue was when I totally disinfected my tank (75 gallon), and cleaned the filter, yes in tap water, with a 75%+ water change. I took out all fake plants and ornaments and put them in the dishwater, with soap. Fully vacuumed the gravel so it was totally clean everywhere, scrubbed all sides of the glass down and install everything back into the tank. I then had a that lasted about 4 weeks or so. I did have a nitrate spike (over 160ppm for weeks) that was resolved with water changes. During this time ammonia and nitrite where both 0. All fish were just fine during this entire episode.

If anyone can find a scientific web site with chemists or biologists that state with proof of killing all aquarium bacteria in your filter by being rinsed in tap water, I would certainly like to see it. I don’t want any site or Youtube videos from fish keepers with their opinions that have no scientific proof and just say use de-chlorinated or tank water because that’s what they have been told over the years.

Some folks are paranoid about this, so what I’m saying is don’t change the way you are cleaning your filter. If you are using tank water, fine. Just that using tap water to rinse your filter media doesn’t kill the bacteria that you may have been told. Folks try to justify this as getting to the root of the problem with water quality when most of the time it is a non issue.

And now you know the rest of the story.
 
  • Thread Starter

GlennO

Member
midna said:
squeeze it reaaaal good in old tank water or dechlorinated water. and keep squeezing. it'll get all the gunk out, you might just need to keep getting new dechlorinated water because it'll turn the water dark brown fast.
Agreed, I do that with sponges I'm more curious about any advantage that pressurised flow might have for porous biomedia like ceramic rings, sintered glass, pumice stone etc.
 

midna

Member
GlennO said:
Agreed, I do that with sponges I'm more curious about any advantage that pressurised flow might have for porous biomedia like ceramic rings, sintered glass, pumice stone etc.
oh yeah, I only use sponge biomedia, so. forgot about the other stuff. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 

A201

Member
You mean I'm supposed to clean my ceramic bio media?
Yikes, Its been in my AC's four years now. Probably dirty. Lol.
 

imba

Member
I just my old tank water to rinse my media, just to save water. It's always clean enough after the rinse so never found the need to use tap water.
 

LDan

Member
A201 said:
You mean I'm supposed to clean my ceramic bio media?
Yikes, Its been in my AC's four years now. Probably dirty. Lol.
Yea, I never do this. The bag gets a little dirty so I swish it some but I don't ever touch the media itself. That's where all the good stuff is!
 

A201

Member
IMO, the ceramic media is a very distant second place to Sponges. I have several media bags of the ceramic stuff stacked on top of the sponges in my Aqua Clear 110's.
Sadly, Its main purpose is to weigh down the sponges in between cleanings. I'm not knocking ceramic media, its benificial, but its really lacking as compared to sponge filtration.
 

flyin-lowe

Member
I also assume there is a lot more BB in your tank then what was on the bio media that you rinsed. It could have very well killed the BB on that stuff but between the substrate, other media, plants etc. there is like enough BB to keep up with the tank. If you took everything in your tank at once and washed it with chlorinated water then you might see the I’ll affects.
 

Dechi

Member
Cichlidude said:
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I have been using tap water to clean my filters for over 15 years. First was a 29 gallon (now gone), next is my 75 gallon for almost 10 years and now my new 10 gallon which is 10 months.
Same here. Agreed 100%.
 
  • Moderator

smee82

Moderator
Member
If I just need to rinse it off I give it a quick swirl in old tank water but for my foam and filter floss they go under a tap till they run clearish.
 

Thor555

Member
There seems to be some "evangelistic" movement online to convert everyone into using chlorinated tap water right out of the tap to clean filter media. Many say it doesn't kill the beneficial bacteria.

I'm not going to rain on anyone's parade ... if you wash in chlorinated water and it works ... GOOD FOR YOU.

But I will also assure people that tank water, or DE-chlorinated tap water won't kill your bacteria either!

So I'm not really sure what I'd GAIN from using untreated water right out of my tap. I don't have a problem currently with DE-chlorinated water killing my bacteria. Why fix if not broken?
 
  • Thread Starter

GlennO

Member
Thor555 said:
So I'm not really sure what I'd GAIN from using untreated water right out of my tap. I don't have a problem currently with DE-chlorinated water killing my bacteria. Why fix if not broken?
The gain is apparently the flow and pressure benefits. Check the original post and linked article.
 

AvalancheDave

Member
Nitrifying bacteria have been found living happily in drinking water distribution systems with 8 mg/L chloramine. Their tolerance of chlorine is lower but not insignificant.

It's a non-issue for me because foam is my mechanical filter only. I need high pressure from my garden hose to blast it clean. My biological media is bioballs and Kaldnes-like stuff which doesn't require the garden hose to clean.
 

MomeWrath

Member
Cichlidude said:
Rinsing your filter media in tap water will not kill your bacteria or kill your ‘cycle’. Why? Simple, first there is not enough chlorine in tap water and second there is so little time that the filter media is rinsed it just doesn’t happen.

First, this does not apply to any water changes. Water changes should use de-chlorinated water because your fish are instantly sitting in the water all the time breathing it in and out.

If tap water could kill your bacteria in seconds it would be classified a disinfectant. If you drank it would kill all the good bacteria in your body. You would not need anything but water to rinse your countertops, floors, toilets and all eating utensils. Guess what… it is not a disinfectant. Even Lysol only kills 99.9% of bacteria when sprayed directly on a surface so it can’t kill everything.

I have searched the web for scientific proof and evidence that rinsing in tap water kills your beneficial bacteria instantly. I cannot find any. However I can find scientific evidence that it does NOT kill your bacteria. Now I’m not talking about discussion boards, other hobbyists or other professionals that have no proof, that have come to the conclusion that since they must use a de-chlorinator when changing water that you must use the same when rinsing your filter media. That information started decades ago. However I have found plenty of discussion boards that state they have only used tap water for years and that it is a myth that you must use a de-chlorinator. The bottom line here is that some use tank water and some don’t. They both have the same outcome, no problems.

How this came about was again, decades ago when you performed your water change and cleaned your filter, you would take out your media and let it sit in a bucket of tap water. This would take a long time and yes, this would harm your bacteria. Hence the notion ‘don’t use tap water’.

Today millions of aquarium filters are cleaned every day using tap water all around the world. If we say that 10% have killed all their bacteria by doing so then that would mean over 100,000 tanks per day would have dead fish, bacteria problems or whatever. People would notice this and all the fish forums in the world would be flooded with thousands of post of aquarium water problems. Guess what… there aren’t any. Given the above example over 3 millions tanks would be destroyed in a month. Again… this is not happening in the less than 30 seconds to a minute it takes to rinse your media.

I had a discussion with Seachem phone support and they could not give a definitive answer but basically they said it would take hours sitting in tap water to start to kill any bacteria on or in your media.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I have been using tap water to clean my filters for over 15 years. First was a 29 gallon (now gone), next is my 75 gallon for almost 10 years and now my new 10 gallon which is 10 months.

If tap water would kill your bacteria in seconds then all filter manufacturers would have a warning label on the outside of the filters and in their instructions saying… “Warning Will Robinson, Danger Doctor Smith. Rinsing your media in tap water or non de-chlorinated water will kill your bacteria instantly” and they don’t. What some manufactures do state is that it is recommended that you use tank water to clean your media. They never say it will kill your bacteria.

Here are just a few of the many statements I’ve found on the web from foam and filter manufactures with their statements.

***

From the Swisstropical FAQ – OMG! From the premier foam manufacture in the world!

FAQ - SWISSTROPICALS

Q: how do rinse Poret® foam sheets?

A: the easiest way is outside in the yard or driveway using a garden hose. Simply bang the sheet flat on the ground several times (Note: I recommend not wearing your best outfit doing this) to shake out the filter sludge, then rinse with the hose; repeat until the water coming out is relatively clean. Don’t overdo it! Sufficient microorganisms will survive this procedure to quickly re-establish the biology of the filter. It does not matter if you use cold or chlorine-treated water! The often repeated notion that this process would kill all the filter organisms is complete nonsense, because the residual chlorine concentration in drinking water is way too low to kill them all.


From Aqueon Quiet Flow Canister filters:


QuietFlow® Canister Filters – Aqueon(PDF) Page 8

2. Many hobbyists will recommend cleaning the media only in non-chlorinated aquarium water vs. chlorinated tap water. There is nothing wrong with this other than you lose water pressure which makes cleaning more difficult. Cleaning the media with chlorinated tap water will kill off some of the beneficial bacteria in the biological filter. However, the surfaces within an established aquarium are so heavily colonized with beneficial bacteria, that even a completely sterilized canister filter will recolonize with beneficial bacteria within hours and any effect on water quality will be negligible if at all.

That bacteria will recolonize in 7-20 hours. Yes, it’s that fast.

More information here: Nitrifying Bacteria | Aquarium Basics | Columns |

Tank Maintenance

But what about the impact of tank maintenance itself on aquarium bacteria? Bacteria grow on surfaces such as aquarium glass and gravel, so what happens when we scour the sides of a tank with an algae magnet, or clean the bottom with a gravel vacuum? I’ve been told on a number of occasions that vacuuming more than half the tank bottom at a time could remove so many bacteria that the system could go into a secondary cycle.

Dr. Peter Strom, a professor of environmental sciences at Cook College in New Jersey.

Nonsense, says Strom. He explained that within hours of the time the bacteria begin growing, they lay down what’s known as a biofilm (“we used to call it a slime, but ‘biofilm’ sounds much more scientific!” Strom jokes) essentially gluing themselves to whatever surface they’re growing on. Over time, this biofilm can get quite thick, and in streams and other fast-moving bodies of water, its outer layers are sometimes peeled away by the force of water passing over them. But the tug of water through an aquarium siphon is too weak to have that effect, and even if it did, there would still be plenty of bacteria left behind to handle the tank waste. “Powerwashing wouldn’t get them all off!” Strom assured me.

There are numerous other sites from chemists and biologists that you can search for yourself. I just take with a grain of salt forum discussions and other individuals that just quote what they were told over the years that tap water will kill your bacteria.

***

The only time in 10 years I’ve had an issue was when I totally disinfected my tank (75 gallon), and cleaned the filter, yes in tap water, with a 75%+ water change. I took out all fake plants and ornaments and put them in the dishwater, with soap. Fully vacuumed the gravel so it was totally clean everywhere, scrubbed all sides of the glass down and install everything back into the tank. I then had a that lasted about 4 weeks or so. I did have a nitrate spike (over 160ppm for weeks) that was resolved with water changes. During this time ammonia and nitrite where both 0. All fish were just fine during this entire episode.

If anyone can find a scientific web site with chemists or biologists that state with proof of killing all aquarium bacteria in your filter by being rinsed in tap water, I would certainly like to see it. I don’t want any site or Youtube videos from fish keepers with their opinions that have no scientific proof and just say use de-chlorinated or tank water because that’s what they have been told over the years.

Some folks are paranoid about this, so what I’m saying is don’t change the way you are cleaning your filter. If you are using tank water, fine. Just that using tap water to rinse your filter media doesn’t kill the bacteria that you may have been told. Folks try to justify this as getting to the root of the problem with water quality when most of the time it is a non issue.

And now you know the rest of the story.
I wish I could multiple-like/-rate this. Compounded on the fact that the "gunk" in the filter, as long as it is not impeding the flow of water, is a good thing!!!!! You're my hero. Thank you for taking the time to post, nicely, what would have sent me into a middle-aged woman rant of ban-hammer proportions.
 

AvalancheDave

Member
Magicpenny75 said:
I wish I could multiple-like/-rate this. Compounded on the fact that the "gunk" in the filter, as long as it is not impeding the flow of water, is a good thing!!!!! You're my hero. Thank you for taking the time to post, nicely, what would have sent me into a middle-aged woman rant of ban-hammer proportions.
The "gunk" isn't a good thing. It's feeding an overpopulation of opportunistic pathogens. It lowers dissolved oxygen and increases dissolved organics. All of these things contribute to disease.
 

MomeWrath

Member
AvalancheDave said:
The "gunk" isn't a good thing. It's feeding an overpopulation of opportunistic pathogens. It lowers dissolved oxygen and increases dissolved organics. All of these things contribute to disease.
Have to disagree with you. My most successful (in terms of population density, longevity, and ease of maintenance) aquarium was one I took the cube filter out once a year and cleaned it. I did 30% water changes monthly and kept it full of hornwort and water wisteria. Ever since I started trying to keep up with the Jones' in this hobby it's been a headache.

Poret® acts as a habitat for filter microorganisms that clean the water. Like all other filter media (with the exception of diatom filters, which are the only purely mechanical filters) the filtration efficiency of clean Poret® foam alone is really not that great. The highest efficiency is reached after several months, when some of the pore volume is filled with a flaky brown mud that smells much like moist garden soil. That mud is what cleans your water! The mud consists of more than 50% living organisms that depend on your fish waste. It is a whole zoo of little critters that form a microbial community, including aerobic bacteria and archaea that oxidize ammonia and nitrite, anaerobic bacteria and archaea that reduce nitrate, and protozoa, rotifers, and worms that consume bacteria and serve as fish food.

For aquarium biofiltration to be most effective, filters should be running undisturbed for as long as possible. Filter media that remain passable and have a variety of pore sizes are best. Given that we like to influence the water parameters depending on the species we keep, and thus make water soft, hard, etc, the filter media should be chemically inert, so that it does not affect the water chemistry by itself.

Author © Stephan M. Tanner, PhD

Aquarium Biofiltration - SWISSTROPICALS
 

Snarbleglarf

Member
CichlidJynx
 

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