Tropical Fish Forum

Tropical Fish Keeping Help and Advice => Fishtank Filtration and Cycling => Topic started by: Helen on July 23, 2017, 08:39:55 AM

Title: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Helen on July 23, 2017, 08:39:55 AM
So it took me over an hour and a half and 5 buckets of water to clean my filter for the first time in 'ahem' months. I'm now slightly worried about how unhealthy it may have been / continue to be. I am rather amazed that there was still any flow through the filter, so what harmful bacteria could have developed?

I have also removed a considerable amount of organic matter (mud!) from my tank and filter over the last couple days, so I'm concerned that the level of good bacteria will have reduced. I put additional ceramic media in the filter with the thought that the good bacteria might migrate to the better growing conditions for them. Slowly over the coming months, I may gradually replace all the filter media. So if I have more media to start with, when I take some out I will be removing fewer bacteria.

Do I need to change the ceramic media? It looked to me that the small holes in it could be blocked. I gave it a good fit we, a couple of times (in water from the tank), and it was clear that some of the media had crumbled, because it takes up less volumes in the baskets than it used to (and there was definitely 'sand' in with the muck I threw out).

I expected to have to change the sponges, but thought they looked in surprisingly good condition once I'd washed off the muck. I don't have any spares and it'll be a few weeks before I can get to my lfs. But can I save myself the pennies?

Thank you for making it through my hundred questions!
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Sue on July 23, 2017, 09:51:26 AM
The ceramic media should be OK, but it would be worth giving it a very thorough wash. As you have a lot of plants and not many fish, there won't be very many bacteria in the filter as the plants will use the ammonia before it gets to the filter.
Ceramic media does crumble as it gets old, so adding more to top up the basket is a good idea. When you are in a position to get more, then just replace the old media with new. As long as you don't add fish at the same time as replacing media, it will be safe to remove about a quarter of the old media at once.

The main thing for now is to take things slowly. There should not be much nitrate in the water because of the plants but there will be other chemicals (or I should say biochemicals) from the fish, their food and the plants that have built up so you need to dilute these slowly with smallish water changes to allow the remaining fish to adapt. You have a large tank so small water changes won't be that small  :)

Don't forget that any test kit you still have will have gone off, unless you bought some within the last year. The ones to get are just ammonia and nitrite, and perhaps pH, if you don't want to buy a whole set.
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Helen on July 23, 2017, 07:48:04 PM
Thanks Sue. It's nice to know that I'm going in vaguely the right direction.

I started off by taking out about 50-60l, vacuuming. I then refilled and left it about an hour to let the muck I'd disturbed settle and the water to mix. Then I took out another approximately 50-60l vaccuuming. Then about 36hrs later I cleaned the filter and in doing so took out another 50l or so. The substrate is in no way clean at this stage and definitely needs a couple more sessions of vaccuuming. I'm not going to have a chance to do that for a bit (maybe Tuesday night?), but I'm not too worried because, as you say, I don't want to change the water parameters too quickly. Last time I measured the tap water, we had <5ppm nitrates in the water. And with trying to keep so many plants, I was having to add nitrates at water change time. I've not added any fertilisers yet, as I figure I've got quite a bit of sorting to do before I get to that stage.

I've not bothered with trying to test the water parameters yet - there doesn't seem much point when I know they're going to be terrible. But it's good to know that I need to restock testing chemicals. I did notice (when I was putting it away after using it!) that my dechlorinator is somewhat past it's date. How dramatic is that likely to be?
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Sue on July 23, 2017, 09:11:25 PM
Virtually all chemicals in solution will deteriorate once oxygen gets into the bottle. With dechlorinator that means it may not remove all the chlorine rather than poison the fish. If it's only a bit out of date it should be OK but if it's a lot out date I'd get a new bottle.
Test kits that are out of date will give false readings, and as you restock you will need to be able to keep an eye on the ammonia and nitrite levels, just in case.
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Littlefish on July 24, 2017, 07:24:51 AM
Every time I read that someone has <5ppm nitrates from their tap water I have a small moment of water envy.
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Helen on July 24, 2017, 07:13:20 PM
Our tap water has low nitrates and is soft. Which gives me different problems to most people. I really struggled establishing my tank and I eventually learned that it was because I had overstocked on plants and understocked fish. Because my tank was lacking in the macro (?) nutrients that most people have excess of, it took a while to work out why it was not thriving. My tank was at its best when I was regularly dosing with various fertilisers - but again not the usual macro nutrients. At every water change I was adding nitrates, calcium and potassium (I think - it could have been a different p... chemical).

But the up side was that it has survived severe neglect rather well. I had just the right number of fish and plants to balance each other out and create a bit of a micro environment. But unfortunately I now don't have enough fish to support the number of plants I have. (My harlies and cardinals lasted the best part of 5 years, so think/hope it was probably old age that got them)

And I don't want to get any more fish until I'm happy that I'm putting them in a healthy tank. Which is going to take some time to achieve.
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Sue on July 24, 2017, 07:34:37 PM
When a tank is fully stocked, there are usually enough macro nutrients - nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium - from the fish and fish food. Fish make ammonia which is actually preferred by plants over nitrate, and food contains phosphate and potassium.
Micro nutrients are everything else. There are something like 17 micro nutrients needed by plants and the product that contains more of them than any other brand is Seachem Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for the Planted Aquarium.
Seachem also make preparations of the three macro nutrients.

Sorry for saying what you already know, but I wanted to get it down.

Soft water doesn't have many minerals, though large weekly water changes will help replenish them.

Since you have very few fish left, to start with I would concentrate on getting the plants sorted as they will make it much easier to restock with fish. With very few fish they will probably need both macro and micro nutrients.
Since you were last on the forum, I have put a lot more live plants in my tank. I have mainly slow growing plants like java fern, anubias, hornwort, but also water sprite as a floating plant. I am also rather overstocked as I had to close a tank and move the fish and shrimps into my main tank. A few months ago I turned the filter off to adjust the outflow angle shortly after I fed the fish and forgot to turn it back on. I only discovered this next day when I went to feed the fish. The filter had been off for 24 hours. I was most surprised to find there was zero ammonia and zero nitrite despite being overstocked. This can only be due to the plants, and slow growing plants at that - except for the water sprite.
This is why I say get the plants growing well, then you can add fish more quickly that would be possible without them.
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Littlefish on July 24, 2017, 07:49:42 PM
My tap water has 40ppm nitrate and is 17dh.
Luckily I have found that I like weird fish, and a lot of them do well in hard water. For the rest of them tank maintenance takes a bit more effort and involves mixing tap & RO water, but it's totally worth it.  ;D
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Matt on July 24, 2017, 07:59:06 PM
Just tested my tap water for the first time... I'm pretty low on nitrates too... in fact the test was basically the same as the tank water with a bit more GH (test strips so not hugely accurate though). I think I found an excuse for struggling to grow plants in the past!!!

Water too clean  :isay:
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Helen on July 24, 2017, 09:47:19 PM
Definitely focussing on the plants first (well, second after cleaning!). But as you said in a previous post, Sue, it won't do my remaining fish any good to rush it. I've made the decision to hold off from dosing until I have a blank slate (clean tank) and can work out what I need to dose. I have changed some of my plants over the last couple years and I don't know how that might have affected the water chemistry. The anubias is absolutely thriving, so I don't want to damage that as I bring everything else back in line.

But it is exciting thinking about restocking fish. It's probably a good thing I can't get to my lfs for a while - it is forcing me to take it slow and do things in the right order!

It's not so much about having tank water that is too clean (if you have fish in it that'll never be the case!), but plants like balance. Algae thrive when there is a loss of balance. So solving algae problems and plants not growing is all about working out which of the many nutrients is too high or too low. And it can be more than one. I am a science geek so really enjoyed finding out what was wrong in my tank.

One of the methods for solving algae problems is to overdose with general fertilisers, then you know the plants are getting what they need. But that method doesn't suit me as you have to be really on the water changes to remove the excess nutrients that your plants don't need (and avoid causing other problems).

I noticed Sue, that you seemed to have mentioned more plants than I remembered. I haven't had as much of a nosey through the gallery yet, as I plan to!  ;)

And once I got my tank established, I definitely think it's size and the plants have meant that it is far more resilient to the effects of mistakes.

And the plants also provide shelter for the fish, because my tank has rather a lot of little fingerprints on the front! 😋
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Matt on July 24, 2017, 10:27:23 PM
You can be pretty rough with anubias in my experience. I have previously broken the rhizome into small pieces trimmed the roots and taken all the leaves bar one off and the plant has regrown no problems so don't be afraid to split what you've got and spread around the tank for example.

I started dosing micronutrients a while ago and this is pretty much as far as I'm willing to go. I dosed liquid carbon for a period but couldn't do it regularly each morning so it wasn't effective. Micronutrients (one bottle) at a water change plus a bit of denominator I can manage though. I seem to be able to get plants growing now. I have noticed holes in the leaves of the Hygrophila recently which I believe indicates a potassium deficiency which is something I will monitor in any new growth.
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Helen on July 24, 2017, 11:09:18 PM
Thanks for the tip about redistributing the anubias, Matt. I rather like the contrast of the big leaves against my crypts and was starting to research variants. I will definitely consider breaking bits off and relocating them. Though I do also like the way it's filling it's space. It is in what I used to consider as a dead part of my tank, behind my giant bit of wood. Which now looks great. And the anubias roots make a great kuhli cave (as I discovered this evening).  :D
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Sue on July 25, 2017, 11:17:11 AM
@Matt Add the plant fertiliser the day after a water change. The dechlorinator will contain a chemical to bind metals so it is better not to add both at the same time.
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Matt on July 25, 2017, 05:29:56 PM
A great tip Sue. I always thought this was a problem but never thought to just add them the day after... or later the same day at a push I suppose.  Obvious now I think about it!!!  :vcross:
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: fcmf on August 11, 2017, 07:51:23 PM
Title: Re: Rejuvenating neglected tank
Post by: Helen on November 11, 2017, 01:45:26 AM
Having reduced the level of the substrate in a third of my tank and bought some additional plants, I keep looking at my tank planning the aquascaping.

The new plants that I bought were some tall crypts (usteriana), a Nymphaea Lotus bulb, Microsorum narrow, monoselenium tenerum and bolbitus heudelotii. These are to join a variety of crypts, Vallis, anubias, Microsorum pteropus "windolev" and  a slow growing stem like plant , a bit like cambobia, which has pinks tips, that I  can't remember the name of. Apologies for my spelling. 

I'm a bit of a fan of crypts (I'm not quite sure why) and wanted more variation in height in the tank, so also went for a tall java fern. I thought I'd try a liverwort instead of the usual moss, which I've never been able to control in my tank and the bolbitus is 100% inspired by @Sue  - I thought it looked so beautiful in your tank and I loved that the leaves are a completely different shape to anything else in mine.

So the lotus has been planted in it's final place and everything else (except the crypts) are attached to wood or stones, so will be moved around when I've finished lowering the substrate and aquascaping. I just hope that the crypts are ok. I've just planted them in spaces in the last third of the tank, so they'll get as long as possible before they are disturbed again. So far there's no sign of melt, but it hasn't been a week yet, so fingers crossed...

It is going to be a long time before I get any more fish....  :yikes: