Why Does My Tank Get So Dirty?

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Betta02

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Hi all,

I have four cycled tanks, two of which are 40B's. My betta and my 20 gallon tanks don't have much of an issue here, but my 40's just seem to get filthy after just a day or two. I know I tend to overfeed a bit, but it seems to me there is just too much gunk in my filters and under my plants/decor that builds up very quickly. Looking for a solution, way to fix this.
Tank #1 - 40B
Stocking - 2 Black Moor Fish
Filtration: 1 Penguin Pro 275 - Rated for 275 GPH
1 Penguin Pro 200 - Rated for 200 GPH
I do weekly water changes of 50 %, have to move/take out plants (plastic)/decor to clean underneath them when I clean the substrate. There is always a huge amount of mulm under everything. I rinse plants in tank water buckets, and put everything back. By the next week it's just as dirty. I clean my filter cartridges about twice a month in tank water, and clean the filters themselves about once every two months. The filters aren't ever that dirty, but the cartridges get clogged really fast. The water stays clear between water changes.
I feed Repashy Gold Formula twice a day, and then give veggies mid day (usually spinach or leaf lettuce) in a clip.
Tank #2 - 40B
Stocking - 6 Bronze Cories
2 Bristlenose Pleco
2 Itty Bitty Blood Parrot juveniles
Filtration: 1 Penguin Pro 275 - 275 GPH
1 Penn Plax Cascade 300 - 300 GPH
I just moved everything over from my 65 to this 40. Tank is cycled, has been running for about a month now. Doing weekly water changes of 40 - 50%, I'm noticing the same thing with this one, mulm and yuck build up underneath plants etc.
Nitrates in my goldfish tank run around 30 just before a water change, and around 10-20 in my other tank just before a water change. Seems that these tanks are taking a lot of cleaning that I don't notice that other people have to mess with. What could be the issue? I am not really happy with my filters, but have just purchased some filter foam, pre filters, bio rings, and filter floss to hopefully upgrade my existing filters one at a time. I will post another thread about the best way to set these up.
I would sure appreciate any suggestions here, not sure if what I'm seeing is normal or not, but it seems that these tanks are much dirtier than they should be. I want the best for my fish. Thanks!
 
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MacZ

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For the Goldfish tank: You're feeding the tank twice daily plus veggies. Every day? No fast day? That alone makes a lot of detritus.
I also get the feeling you want the tank cleaned at all times. That tends to be detrimental for the stability. Filters are also not there to prevent detritus. Even with more or stronger/better filters there would still be a lot of detritus with that. Feeding schedule.
So you might want to consider feeding far less.

On the other tank you only give stocking and cleaning routine. Only thing I can tell: BN plecos poop at least as much as same sized goldfish.
 
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Betta02

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MacZ said:
For the Goldfish tank: You're feeding the tank twice daily plus veggies. Every day? No fast day? That alone makes a lot of detritus.
I also get the feeling you want the tank cleaned at all times. That tends to be detrimental for the stability. Filters are also not there to prevent detritus. Even with more or stronger/better filters there would still be a lot of detritus with that. Feeding schedule.
So you might want to consider feeding far less.

On the other tank you only give stocking and cleaning routine. Only thing I can tell: BN plecos poop at least as much as same sized goldfish.
My second tank gets fed twice a day, small amount of flake in the morning, and in the evening I feed flakes, shrimp pellets for the Cories (1 each or so), and every other day the Plecos get a wafer. My Parrots also have Cichlid pellets, but they are too small to eat them yet, so occasionally I'll break up a small one and feed that in the evening.
 
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MacZ

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Cut down on the food for the second tank, too. You can leave the flakes completely. The cories only get those by chance when it's on the bottom, the BN won't eat it and the parrots might also only get a fraction of what you put in. Stick to the pellets and maybe offer some veggies to the plecos. For the catfish you can do a fast day a week easily.

Can you post a picture of each tank? I'd like to see what you call dirty, just so we're on the same page.
 
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I will get pictures shortly.
 
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AcornTheBetta

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Betta02 said:
Hi all,

I have four cycled tanks, two of which are 40B's. My betta and my 20 gallon tanks don't have much of an issue here, but my 40's just seem to get filthy after just a day or two. I know I tend to overfeed a bit, but it seems to me there is just too much gunk in my filters and under my plants/decor that builds up very quickly. Looking for a solution, way to fix this.
Tank #1 - 40B
Stocking - 2 Black Moor Fish
Filtration: 1 Penguin Pro 275 - Rated for 275 GPH
1 Penguin Pro 200 - Rated for 200 GPH
I do weekly water changes of 50 %, have to move/take out plants (plastic)/decor to clean underneath them when I clean the substrate. There is always a huge amount of mulm under everything. I rinse plants in tank water buckets, and put everything back. By the next week it's just as dirty. I clean my filter cartridges about twice a month in tank water, and clean the filters themselves about once every two months. The filters aren't ever that dirty, but the cartridges get clogged really fast. The water stays clear between water changes.
I feed Repashy Gold Formula twice a day, and then give veggies mid day (usually spinach or leaf lettuce) in a clip.
Tank #2 - 40B
Stocking - 6 Bronze Cories
2 Bristlenose Pleco
2 Itty Bitty Blood Parrot juveniles
Filtration: 1 Penguin Pro 275 - 275 GPH
1 Penn Plax Cascade 300 - 300 GPH
I just moved everything over from my 65 to this 40. Tank is cycled, has been running for about a month now. Doing weekly water changes of 40 - 50%, I'm noticing the same thing with this one, mulm and yuck build up underneath plants etc.
Nitrates in my goldfish tank run around 30 just before a water change, and around 10-20 in my other tank just before a water change. Seems that these tanks are taking a lot of cleaning that I don't notice that other people have to mess with. What could be the issue? I am not really happy with my filters, but have just purchased some filter foam, pre filters, bio rings, and filter floss to hopefully upgrade my existing filters one at a time. I will post another thread about the best way to set these up.
I would sure appreciate any suggestions here, not sure if what I'm seeing is normal or not, but it seems that these tanks are much dirtier than they should be. I want the best for my fish. Thanks!
I think that feeding less per sitting and once a day would help a ton! Fasting them once a week would also help.
 
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AcornTheBetta said:
I think that feeding less per sitting and once a day would help a ton! Fasting them once a week would also help.
I over feed everything. When I sold my goats, they asked my husband if the goats were pregnant. He told the guy, 'no she just feeds everything around here too much!'
 
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40.jpg
 
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Goldies.jpg
 
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MacZ

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Betta02 said:
I over feed everything. When I sold my goats, they asked my husband if the goats were pregnant. He told the guy, 'no she just feeds everything around here too much!'
Oy... that can become a problem.
I feed only once every other day. I alternate frozen and dry foods. On frozen food days the tetras stuff themselves, as the Apisto is often a bit slow. I usually feed 1/6 of a cube to the whole tank. On dry food days, they get a pellet each, the Apisto gets 1/8 of a bottomfeeder tab. 1-3x a week they all get something freeze dried as a treat and only twice a month they get frozen bloodworms. But overall we talk miligrams of food per fish per feeding.

Betta02 said:
The tank looks frighteningly clean... No visible detritus, no algae (unusual for a tank without real plants) and no biofilm... Would be great as a hospital tank, but makes for a very unstable permanent tank.
 
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Betta02

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MacZ said:
The tank looks frighteningly clean... No visible detritus, no algae (unusual for a tank without real plants) and no biofilm... Would be great as a hospital tank, but makes for a very unstable permanent tank.
The Pleco tank has only been up and running for about 4 weeks, I moved everything from my 65 gallon when I set it up. I do work to keep my tanks as clean as I can within reason, and my water parameters are always good. Can you explain why this would create an unstable permanent tank? I'm still fairly new to fish keeping and have a lot to learn.
 
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MacZ

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Betta02 said:
The Pleco tank has only been up and running for about 4 weeks, I moved everything from my 65 gallon when I set it up. I do work to keep my tanks as clean as I can within reason, and my water parameters are always good. Can you explain why this would create an unstable permanent tank? I'm still fairly new to fish keeping and have a lot to learn.
Sure. The beneficial bacteria are on every surface in a tank and besides the filter media most are in the substrate. Scrubbing all surfaces and gravel vacuuming too much keeps the population of bacteria very low. Should you then e.g. switch the filter or accidently clean the media too thoroughly the cycle might crash. It is also bad for the health of the fish if everything is scrupolously clean, as they aren't confronted with challenges to their immune systems much. Should you for example add a sick fish to such a tank, the chance the whole stock dies is higher than in a somewhat "healthily grimey" tank. An established tank should have biofilm, maybe some (not much) algae and some aufwuchs. Water parameters alone don't do the trick.
 
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MacZ said:
Sure. The beneficial bacteria are on every surface in a tank and besides the filter media most are in the substrate. Scrubbing all surfaces and gravel vacuuming too much keeps the population of bacteria very low. Should you then e.g. switch the filter or accidently clean the media too thoroughly the cycle might crash. It is also bad for the health of the fish if everything is scrupolously clean, as they aren't confronted with challenges to their immune systems much. Should you for example add a sick fish to such a tank, the chance the whole stock dies is higher than in a somewhat "healthily grimey" tank. An established tank should have biofilm, maybe some (not much) algae and some aufwuchs. Water parameters alone don't do the trick.
So aside from feeding less, what do you recommend as far as cleaning/not cleaning my tanks? I typically clean the glass at each water change, my goldfish tank gets quite a bit of algae as it's next to a window, so I always clean that off. I just hover over the sand and vaccume the visible junk off the substrate at water change time. Like I mentioned before, I do pull all the plants and vaccume underneath them as well, and typically rinse them off twice a month.
In my second tank, I have not done a good gravel vac yet, as the substrate is new, and I want to give it time to build some BB. My cleaning regimen would be about the same as my other tank as far as cleaning under stuff etc.
If I am cleaning too much, I'm more than happy to not do so much. My tank maintenance does take a long time.
 
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MacZ

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I'd only clean the front glass and maybe the sides if you have a usual point of view through those. The algae are the only thing that uses nitrates as you don't have any life plants. Leave the plants in and only hover around and over them. Gravel vac maybe once every month for the next 3 months and only every two weeks after that.

Otherwise my advice would be changing to life plants. Not all at once. But one by one. It will make everything easier on the long run. :)
 
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MacZ said:
I'd only clean the front glass and maybe the sides if you have a usual point of view through those. The algae are the only thing that uses nitrates as you don't have any life plants. Leave the plants in and only hover around and over them. Gravel vac maybe once every month for the next 3 months and only every two weeks after that.

Otherwise my advice would be changing to life plants. Not all at once. But one by one. It will make everything easier on the long run. :)
Thanks so much. So, algae is good! I do want to try live plants as my next adventure in fish keeping, but know nothing about it. Will do my research.
One more question: Mulm. Is it good, bad, or indifferent? I know there are a lot of differing opinions out there on the subject. I've always wondered if it causes an increase in nitrates if not cleaned out.
 
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MacZ

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Depends on the type of mulm and whether there are microorganisms that decompose it or not. There is no absolute answer. In my tank most of it is decomposing plant matter from leaves and pinecones and just a small amount of fish waste. Also I have limpets, snails and detritus worms that break the stuff down. So I'm safe with it.
 
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