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    Friendly note from GFK. Please review this beginner guide for your fish.

Guide to Cleaning Filters

Discussion in 'All Questions from Newbies' started by *Ci*, Jan 26, 2014.

  1. NIK0404

    NIK0404 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    Thanks for this page. My current fish I've had for two years after a gap of some years - prior this I had a tank of fair goldfish which I kept for over twenty years without any sort of filtration equipment so this is all very new to me. Up until recently I ran a sponge type filtration in my tank which I cleaned weekly although when I bought it I was advised not to clean it. After a week it became obvious it needed washing out, it was foul! Since then I've swilled it on a weekly basis in discarded tank water and that seeems to keep it decent. However when I got my fish [I adopted him after his original keepers were being evicted] it came with another type of pump which incorporated a cartridge of charcoal/carbon which also had a removeable plastic grid which also needed a regular clean but it recently came to my attention that this filter had space for two of the cartridges which should be replaced monthly. I've been experimenting with this for the last month, changing alternate filter cartridges on alternate fortnights but to be honest, this seems to be less effective than the single cartridge was. The tank cloud far more frequently than it ever did before although it clears quickly and there seems to be far more detritus in the tank when I clean him out.

    What am I doing wrong?
     
  2. *Ci*

    *Ci* Goldie Guru

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Hard to say - can you post a picture of the filter and cartridges or provide a brand name? Could it be that the two cartridges are trapping more waste and when you pull them out some of the debris is falling into the tank? Are you vacuuming the bottom of the tank when you do your weekly cleaning? It doesn't make sense that two cartridges would cause more debris in the tank than one so there must be some other explanation ...
     
  3. Crickettt1976

    Crickettt1976 Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2015
    Location:
    United States
    Hi all, hopefully this is the appropriate place for this question. I've kind of made up my own routine with the snippets that I read here and there off the internet about my tank maintenance and filter cleaning as I haven't had any really knowledgeable person to help. I have a 46 gallon bowfront and run a penguin 350 filter with two bio wheels and four cartridges. Right now there is gravel (I want to switch to sand soon) which I vacuum weekly. I do water changes between 30 and 50% per week, and I rinse out the filter cartridges thoroughly in the water I removed from the tank. I also replace the oldest filter cartridge each week, meaning each of my filter cartridges is never older than 4 weeks old. Should I be waiting longer to discard the cartridges? I often wonder if I should be waiting until the cartridges are disintegrating before I replace them. I never ever touch the bio wheels. Should I be rinsing these too? I have two airstones running and keep three java ferns in the tank. It currently has one goldfish. (I like to keep three but if you have seen my other posts you know I am down to one)
     
    Paddy likes this.
  4. Lou

    Lou Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2015
    Location:
    Western Michigan
    Right, try not to touch the bio wheels.

    You are also replacing these cartridges too often. I was never a fan of these cartridges because there are better ways to modify these cartridges and they are also where the manufacturers make their $. You can wait till the cartridges almost disintegrate and then replace.

    Or better yet, spend very little and buy a sheet of aquarium sponge (like the one linked below). When the cartridges need replacing, you can just rip it apart but keep the frame. Then you cut the sheet sponge to fit the frame. You can actually put a couple layers to increase the bio filtration. Then from this point on, you do not need to buy any more cartridges and these sponges will last a long long time. During water changes, you just alternate the sponges for cleaning. Just squeeze them in the water you removed and put them back. IMHO, this way is more effective, simpler, and much inexpensive.

    Here is the (large) sheet sponge, You can cut into many pieces and they will last a long time. Do not replace the sponges until they fall apart, which takes several years.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MNMFJFE/?tag=amzffny-20
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
  5. Crickettt1976

    Crickettt1976 Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2015
    Location:
    United States
    I like this idea much better!!!! I'm so happy I found this forum because everybody here is so nice and I've learned so much. I kept tropical fish for a while and honestly wasn't very interested in them. My 13 year old begged me to switch to goldfish so I did. Scince then I have fallen in love with goldfish & I'm so happy now to have an aquarium. I just want to give them the best care I possibly can and appreciate all the help and advice I have gotten from this forum!!! Thanks for your response!

    Sent from my LGLS990 using Tapatalk
     
    CaliGold likes this.
  6. Penny

    Penny Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2016
    Location:
    Michigan
    Amazing post with lots of great info! Thanks so much for putting it together... esp for us beginners.
     
  7. mikel

    mikel Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2010
    Awesome info on the filters. I was always under the false understanding that leaving the dirty sponges alone was the right thing to do. So I was totally wrong. Thank you so much for giving me such an important new piece of knowledge. Water quality is everything in goldfish keeping.
     
    KimA. likes this.
  8. beeftip

    beeftip New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2016
    Location:
    Lake Mills, Wisconsin
    Where do Hamburg Matten filters fall in your evaluation of filters and cleaning? Particularly, I'm wondering how you explain an HMF going 18 months without any cleaning or rinsing. Yes, I know they can be quite large and take some time to clog enough to become inefficient. But while they are in the process of reaching that point of inefficiency, a whole lot of mulm remains in the filter.

    Isn't it true that feces, uneaten food, decaying plants, etc. only contain so much ammonia? And once that ammonia is converted to nitrate, what further harm does "inert" mulm present to the tank in regard to ammonia toxicity?

    I don't wish to dispute your argument that mulm can be a breeding ground for pathogens. While it may or may not be entirely true, pathogens are everywhere and can be easily introduced into a tank. I think a more prophylactic approach would be to take proper measures to avoid introducing pathogens to the tank in the first place. Quarantine new livestock, don't share equipment across tanks (nets, hoses, etc.), wash your hands between working in tanks, and keep your fish healthy so their immune systems can fight off pathogens.

    If you could point me to some specific scientific studies or sources that back up your claim that mulm is bad and should be removed regularly, I'd love to read them.
     
  9. *Ci*

    *Ci* Goldie Guru

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    It is impossible to keep a sterile environment in a habitat containing living things. Just as beneficial bacteria simply "happen" to populate a filter, so can harmful bacteria. There is no need to over tax the filters with added ammonia, when some simple weekly maintenance will allow for increased stocking level and guarantee of a clean environment. Personally, I consider filter maintenance to be one of the hallmarks of "keeping your fish healthy". For a newcomer to the hobby, this is certainly the best habit to aspire to (hence why this thread is in the Newbies section).
    For someone experienced, like yourself, feel free to experiment with letting harmless mulm accumulate. Let us know how long you can go before problems start to arise.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  10. *Ci*

    *Ci* Goldie Guru

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    I have had a few requests to elaborate on the subject of mulm buildup in a filter, so I will attempt an explanation.
    There are a few things to consider.

    First of all, as mentioned in the original article, the accumulation of mulm clogs the pores and surfaces of bio media intended for aerobic conversion of ammonia and nitrite. As the layer thickens it creates anaerobic conditions from which colonies of beneficial bacteria will retreat and shrink, thus the filter becomes less efficient at conversion, while at the same time, the additional ammonia produced by the decaying material requires extra conversion. While it is true that sometimes the bacteria in anaerobic bed, usually in the substrate, can process nitrate, the management of such a bed, especially with goldfish who like to dig and disturb gravel and sand, is a risky endeavour. Far easier and beneficial to the fish to control nitrate with regular water changes. Allowing mulm to build up in the filter is not the same thing as creating a purposeful anaerobic bed.

    Decaying material in the aquarium is not a harmless 'inert' substance - the process of decay not only contributes extra ammonia, but also can release unwanted minerals, metals, proteins, carbohydrates, skatols, phenols, albumen etc. into the water column. Also, bacteria need large amounts of oxygen to decompose this material, reducing the total oxygen concentration of the system.

    These dissolved organic and inorganic substances contribute to poor water quality above and beyond what we routinely test for, and is the number one reason for stress and immune system breakdowns in fish.

    Anaerobic bacteria utilize fish feces and decaying matter as a food source and produce hydrogen sulfide and methane gas as a byproduct, which can be deadly to goldfish. Aeromonas and psuedomonas can weaken fish and cause ulcers. Mycobacteria can live in mulm and causes all kinds of health problems in fish including organ failure (of which dropsy is a symptom), blood, brain and bone infections, deformities of the spine and ulcers. Mycobacteriosis is potentially infectious to people and can enter through cuts in the skin.

    These types of bacteria cannot be barricaded out of a system. They come in on healthy fish, with no outward symptoms, sometimes living inside the body and organs, and shed into the environment on feces and slimecoat. They can be airborne and might even exist in the foods we feed (salmonella, e.coli, molds and fungus). Like beneficial bacteria and algal spores, they just 'happen' no matter how long you quarantine your fish and how sterile your equipment was to start with, and a buildup of anaerobic deritus is of great benefit to these microbes.

    Some ciliated protazoans like trichodina can thrive in mulm, and the best preventative is to keep the tank and filters clean. There are many links between poor water quality and outbreaks of chilodonella and costia, and the stress of living in poor water subjects fish to invasions of all the more visible parasites as well (which are often present on fish and in their environment but cause no harm to a healthy fish). It is not a solution to treat a fish or tank with chemicals to eradicate every possible parasite as a preventative. This in itself would severely compromise a fish, opening it up to any pathogen that you've missed.

    Just as a captive mammal, bird or reptile would eventually sicken and die when kept in a relatively small environment where it's feces were never removed, so it is with fish. You can say that you've pushed the waste to one side (as into a filter) and that it is inert now because it has composted (the mulm is no longer producing ammonia) and that the animals are healthy because they get fresh air (or fresh water) but that is never the whole story. It behooves us to provide fresh drinking water, a proper diet, unpolluted air or water to live in, enough room to be comfortable and to remove the animals waste products from it's environment, at the very least, for any species of pet in our care.
    I am not going to cite studies to "prove" these concepts because I don't have the time or energy for vetting papers and articles to see if I approve of the methodolgy. As we all know a study can be found to justify pretty much anything. The connection between keeping an environment clean for captive animals to remain healthy is well understood by zoologists, biologists, and advanced hobbyists.

    It is common sense. It is good husbandry.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
    Tanaquil likes this.
  11. Tanaquil

    Tanaquil Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2017
    Location:
    Honolulu, HI
    Thank you so much for taking the time to give us Newbies all of this detailed information
     
  12. SGB

    SGB Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2017
    Location:
    jupiter, fl
    thanks ci for the well written instructions, i have a question my HOB is aqua clear 110 and that sponge is so dense its hard to clean well by using tank water in a bucket and squeezing it, to clean it well ive had to use hose sprayer using tap water- is this wrong?
     
  13. shakaho

    shakaho Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2010
    Location:
    Orlando FL
    Squeezing doesn't work. Dip the sponge in water and slap it against the inside of a bucket. Repeat until no more crud comes out. I'll admit to using a hose sprayer to clean sponges, but I still have to slap sponges to get them clear.
     
  14. SGB

    SGB Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2017
    Location:
    jupiter, fl
    I've tried that and the only way to get the junk out is to use the power sprayer on hose, how often can i do this kind of massive cleaning to the sponge and not mess up my beneficial bacteria
     
  15. Ashish W

    Ashish W Member

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2017
    Location:
    Hyderabad
    I had struggled initially with the nitrogen cycling in my tank. My poor fish used to get red patches all over their body and used to be uneasy after few days of water change. the water change was becoming too much to handle in my busy schedule. This is where I learned about nitrogen cycle in tank. also I learned that bacteria need to have place to grow.

    finally I decided to get rid of all plastic stuff/toys from tank and added earthen wares into the pot. I notices the pots are getting darker by the day and my fish no more get that red spots on the body. ever since I only clean the dirt/decomposed food from the surface of these pots and put them back. I have been able to have fish living happily even if I change water once in 4-5 weeks.
    I have only the normal foam filter which essentially is clearing the poop and other objects in water.
     
  16. shakaho

    shakaho Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2010
    Location:
    Orlando FL
    I clean the pre-filter sponges for my pond pumps every 2-3 days. I can't get them clean with just the hose, but have to slap them on the sidewalk as well. In a fully cycled tank, the nitrifiers live in a biofilm which you can't wash off with a hose.
     
  17. *Ci*

    *Ci* Goldie Guru

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    It depends on the levels of chlorine/chloramines in your tap water. Try spraying your sponges and then do some frequent ammonia and nitrite testing for a day or two and see what happens. Have an ammonia binder and salt handy in case of a spike. The bacteria that convert nitrite to nitrate is usually more fragile and quicker to die off. Also be aware that many cities add extra chlorine to public water in the summer or during line flushing or other maintenance reasons and don not announce the changes - this could easily have an effect on your filters when you are not expecting it.

    For these reasons, the safest option for the health of your filters and fish is to find a better way to rinse the pads or replace them with something else for easier maintenance. Otherwise, diligence is the key.
     

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