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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So it looks like from Jeffy's sample testing, if I may generalize a bit, that with TOC levels tested in the average aquarium being 5 or under, there is little chance of BBA. At about 8, you can see some growing on equipment and very old leaves (where I am right now). My fish load is very, very low (though there are many shrimp) and I have no driftwood, the latter being a big contributor to TOC I believe.

How to minimize it? Removing dead and dying leaves has become a hobby of mine; it has a Zen-like quality that I have come to enjoy, and I've become quite adept at plucking out leaves being pushed around the water column with my ADA tweezers.

Also, I'm on top of filter maintenance. I clean canister filters out monthly if I can, and at least every other month using tank water. Aeration at night and a skimmed surface help the bacteria do their job. The pH is quite low, which I think favors the sludge-reducing heterotrophic bacteria. Don't need the autotrophs to break down ammonia to nitrate.

50% water change every other week with reconstituted RO water.

But it still seems like a struggle to keep the TOC down. The crux of the issue I think, is a dirty substrate. I vacuum a TON of silt from it, as far down as I can go, but there's always more. I've had the tank running a few years now and I think the substrate has become a reservoir for organics. I wonder if at some point, it's better to just replace the substrate? At some point, is there just no getting around that?

I've been thinking of buying or building something to let me clean the substrate independent of water changes. I just run out of time when I reach my low water mark. An Eheim sludge extractor? They seem rather pricey. Other method?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I think it would have to be something like those micron filter socks they use for wet/dry filters. Otherwise, you just cloud up the tank and a lot of it gets right back in there. I used to have something that was basically a squeeze bulb at the top of a tube, with an outlet through a bag. I think PennPlax made it. It worked well, but I can't seem to find anything like it now. I'm not really sold on those battery powered ones they sell now. Maybe I could build a squeeze bulb cleaner myself?
 

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With a sump, you can continually vacuum from the display to a sock in the sump. Then just remove/rinse the sock.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
For those without sumps?

And what do you guys think about the importance of really cleaning out the substrate? Lots of people say it's ok to just do a light vacuuming and let the plants get it, but I don't think that's true. You don't see BBA in brand new tanks for a reason.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
What are you using for substrate? I use sand and potting soil most of the time and there is no way I could do a deep vacuuming.
I have a mix of old Soilmaster and Flourite Black. My intention though, has been to provoke a discussion as to HOW it's best to keep a tank clean, now that we more or less know what causes the problems we have.
 

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I recently saw a vid about underwater jets. I'm not sure I'd want to try that, but it sounds interesting.

Basically, the output of the filter if fed through tubing placed underneath the substrate, and the water is shot upward through the substrate. Has anyone tried this?
 

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I was just thinking that perhaps a substrate with a smaller particle size might help reduce the amount of sludge building up in the substrate. I suppose it might help with the anaerobic breakdown in much the same manor. I have mostly always used sand simply because years ago Innes’s suggestion that a sand layer with a slight depression toward one corner would tend to cause the mulm to settle in that spot for easy removal.
 

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Eons ago when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I was just a "tween", I had a hand-pumped gravel vacuum that returned the water to the aquarium though a cloth bag. It so clouded the water with tiny particles that escaped the bag that I only used it twice. Maybe the bags are better now, and we definitely have better filters to remove suspended particles.

How old are the tanks that develop this problem? Do old Walstad tanks grow BBA?
 

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Other than looking at TOC levels in general, did we come to any conclusions on BBA in general? Cavan has certainly provided the most samples for me to analyze but i'm just not sure we can make any conclusions about other people's tanks. The most promising observation, IMHO, was the importance of O2 concentrations, whether through aeration or a sump or whatever.

Personally, i don't know if there is a really good device for cleaning out mulm other than through mechanical filtration (i.e. canister filter) or a water change (through a vacuum graveling). i think mechanical filtration is actually the most important function a canister filter performs (the plants are the biological filter) - i love my ADA Bio Rio. i also think there's no substitute for a good vacuum gravel and in fact do it every time i do a water change.

Cavan - question for you. You are currently using an LED fixture, correct? How long have you had it? Do we have any TOC results from when you were using the T5HO fixture? I think that the amount of light in your aquarium is very important for any discussion of BBA.
 

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Just a thought (and I'm sorry it doesn't apply to canisters), but has anyone tried running a wet/dry in an lights-out cycle?

I've read that many species of heterotrophic bacteria can survive drying, while our nitrifying autotrophs can't. What if a sump pumped water over a wet/dry every night while the lights were out? Each night the heterotrophs would wake up, munch on dissolved organics, and then dry the next morning.

Could this be an easy, low maintenance way to provide a rich high O2 heterotrophic environment for organics mineralization (while not outgassing our CO2)?
 

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Sounds great Tugg, I'm building a new 250 gallon tank with a sump. Am considering a wet/dry. How would you make it work only at night?

And to keep on subject:
Just deep vacuum a quarter of the gravel each week, after a month, your entire substrate is as new. Use a very width mouth and a narrow hose and just let it flow into a bucket. This way it's 100% gone and you don't mess up the entire tank in one day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I recently saw a vid about underwater jets. I'm not sure I'd want to try that, but it sounds interesting.

Basically, the output of the filter if fed through tubing placed underneath the substrate, and the water is shot upward through the substrate. Has anyone tried this?
That would basically be a reverse flow undergravel filter. I'm not totally sure what the implications would be for using targeted root feeding for some plants, as I do with some Eriocaulons, but I think that it certainly could be a good idea if it meant that waste would stay above the substrate/in the filter where it would be easier to remove. That's assuming you could get an even flow over the whole bottom.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I was just thinking that perhaps a substrate with a smaller particle size might help reduce the amount of sludge building up in the substrate.
It might, or if it did get dirty, might it get anaerobic more easily? I think that's always been the warning about very small grain size. I suppose that argument might not really hold water.
 

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I would have the display's drains submerged into the sumps water to help prevent CO2 loss during the day. Then a seperate pump would run during the night cycle to pump water over the wet/dry portion.

During the day, the wet/dry would be unused, preventing excesses outgassing of CO2, and also killing off any autotrophs that managed to make the potscrubbers (balls, biobale or whatnot) their home.

Heterotrophs reproduce so fast, that the few that survive should be very active the the next night when it gets wet again.... in theory.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·

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I looked into that, but am a beet leery because of the bag attached to it. I don't want to just muddy up the tank water. There's always the possibility of replacing the bag or just doing all the cleaning right before a water change.
You can take of the bag, attach a hose and pump the dirty water into a bucket;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Other than looking at TOC levels in general, did we come to any conclusions on BBA in general?
Oxygen is good. I think we have a very basic idea of what TOC levels induce BBA.

Cavan - question for you. You are currently using an LED fixture, correct? How long have you had it? Do we have any TOC results from when you were using the T5HO fixture?
Correct. I've had it for about two years. No TOC sampling from before I had it.

I think that the amount of light in your aquarium is very important for any discussion of BBA.
I have quite a lot of light, but you do see lots of dimly lit tanks with wall to wall BBA. Everything is connected of course, but IMO, light is not one of the things high on the list of BBA causes.
 
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