Filtration

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Filtration

Postby FranM » Sun Jan 01, 2017 9:26 pm

I'm suddenly feeling ignorant when it comes to filtration. I've always felt more is better and my goal is always to keep nitrates to a minimum if non- existent.

I have a 55 gallon tank that houses 5 palm-sized silver dollars, 2 medium to small clown loaches, 3 small to medium yoyos and 3 cherry barbs. For filtration I have an Aquaclear 110 ( 500 gph flow rate and up to 110 gallons) and a Fluval C 4. The AquaClear houses a huge foam block, approx two cups of Seachem Matrix and two large Nitrazorb pads. The C 4 has a foam pad, biobeads and a little crushed coral to maintain PH.

I perform 40-50% water changes every 7-10 days, siphoning gravel and rinsing filter media in tap with Prime. I keep the water flow on the low setting on both filters and I have the foam at the bottom, then the Nitrazorbs and the Matrix on top. The Matrix has been in the filter for over two months. Seachem said that the Matrix would still be effective in the AquaClear though a canister was the best bet.

So, I don't overfeed ( in my opinion ) 2-3 Hikari frozen bloodworm or brine shrimp cubes per day (which I hold during consumption to be sure it's devoured), romaine lettuce and occasionally freeze dried shrimp pellets. And when it's time for a water change, the nitrates top out at 40 ppm.

Am I overkilling the filtering? Is a canister really going to make a notable difference? I was preparing to take out my old Fluval 404 again, but even with a new o ring and impeller, It wouldn't keep a suction and I got no output. I began looking up canister filters and now I'm confused about how much filtration. How many filters? Flow rate. GPH.

I want the Matrix to do it's job better. Is it doing it well now?? I would like to go a couple weeks between water changes. I just want lower nitrates. The Nitrazorbs have been great. I don't think the Matrix is doing a damn thing. Please advise.

Thank you!

Fran
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Re: Filtration

Postby Diana » Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:37 pm

Filters do 2 basic jobs.
1 is filtration. The removal of stuff from or addition to the water.
the other is water movement, circulation.

The filters you are currently running are fine for both purposes.
I also run the Aquaclear 110 on tanks from about 45 gallons and up. This creates plenty of water movement when set on high flow. Adding your other filter, and running them slower is OK, too.
Plenty of water movement, and plenty of room for filter media in the boxes.

The media is a reasonable choice.
Coarse foam will remove most of the debris. You could add finer media, if you want (I use quilt batting, and blue and white bonded media). These will also grow nitrifying bacteria. The water flow, bringing in plenty of oxygen, is too high to grow de-nitrifying bacteria.
Seachem Matrix or other media will grow beneficial bacteria. I am not so sure about their claim that de-nitrifiers grow in the center of the pebbles. I suppose they could.

How nitrogen enters the tank:
Protein in the food breaks down to become ammonia, no matter whether fish digest it or microorganisms decompose the food. Nitrifying bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrite, then nitrate.

How to remove nitrogen from the tank:
~Denitrifying organisms are not generally encouraged in an aquarium. These organisms depend on a low oxygen environment, and we generally do not want a low oxygen environment in aquariums. Even if you do not add media that is designed for this use, some areas of the tank (deep under the substrate, for example) there probably are some denitrifying organisms in the aquarium. Not many, and they may not make much of a difference in the nitrogen levels. However, these organisms turn the nitrate (NO3) into N2, the same gas form that is in the atmosphere, and in this form it escapes the tank. This is the principle behind denitrifying media, or a dedicated filter for growing these organisms.
~Nitrate absorbing media. Yup, these will work. Keep on changing them out as needed. (you might compare the cost both in terms of time, and materials, between buying more of these, or doing water changes- obviously you are doing both, so have probably already worked out the balance that works for you)
~Seachem Purigen: Removes the finest organic waste in the water before it breaks down into ammonia, nitrite or nitrate. Can be regenerated many times.
~Keep cleaning the filter media before the coarse waste breaks down.
~Add plants. Live plants can remove so much nitrogen from the tank that people who grow plants seriously in aquariums have to add nitrogen. You can add plants directly to the tank, planting them in the substrate, and floating them at the surface. You need to meet the needs of the plants (CO2, light, other nutrients) for them to thrive and remove nitrogen from the tank. An alternate way of using plants is to run 2 tanks (or a tank and a sump) with the plants in the 2nd tank (or the sump). Then you can keep the conditions optimum for the plants in the one tank, and the fish won't tear up or eat the plants. (Yoyo Loaches are dedicated diggers, and can uproot the plants. Other Loaches might do this, too, but, IME, not as aggressively as Yoyos)

Other concepts:
The less nitrogen you add to the tank, then the less you need to remove.
Since the main source is the protein in fish food, you can feed less. If you are already feeding just a little bit, then you can remove fish. Fewer fish means you would add less food, thus, less nitrogen enters the tank.
If you set up another tank and separate the fish you would have the same number of fish, but they would be in more gallons of water. Then, when you feed each tank you are feeding less per tank, so the nitrate builds up more slowly.
To figure out if you want to do this, have a look at the needs of each of the fish you are keeping. Optimum water parameters, including temperature, mineral levels and water movement. Social elements including school size, and the right tank mates.
If you find that your fish might be happier under different conditions, then perhaps you could set up 2 tanks which better suit their different needs.
38 tanks, 2 ponds over 4000 liters of water to keep clean and fresh.

Happy fish keeping!
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Re: Filtration

Postby FranM » Mon Jan 02, 2017 12:04 am

Thanks, Diana. Lots to think about. Any opinion on canister filters for biological filtration? Particular where Matrix is concerned. I was debating on Purigen and the Seachem people didn't encourage it after hearing my situation. Sighhhhh.

Thank you again.

Fran
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Re: Filtration

Postby Diana » Mon Jan 02, 2017 3:44 am

The nitrifying bacteria need LOTS of oxygen.
It will grow on all the media in a filter- the sponges, floss as well as in the bio media.

The best way to ensure optimum oxygen in all the media is to keep the filter clean. It does not matter what kind of filter (can or HOB). Clean the media in water removed from the tank.
The large, deep bed sort of HOB (Aquaclears) are the best HOB for filtration, and compare well to canisters.
The volume for media is similar, too, so you can use several types of media to best trap debris, and encourage beneficial bacteria. A high quality bio media will work well in either sort of filter.

HOB filters that use throw away cartridges are not very good at filtration. The media is so thin the debris gets knocked off too easily. There is nowhere near as much volume in these filters for holding different media, and the smaller volume means less lodging sites for beneficial bacteria. The biowheel is a good way to grow bacteria, when it is well maintained. Maintenance is simple: Keep the path clear so it can keep turning. Usually these are added to a cartridge filter, though, so the overall combo is not so good.

http://www.seachem.com/downloads/articl ... ration.pdf

I run a lot of Aquaclears. Easy to clean, best filtration of HOB filters.
I have the large sponge that comes with them, a finer media, and a bag of ceramic biomedia. Some also have peat moss or coral sand to add either tannic acids or minerals to the tanks. Since all my tanks are planted, the amount of biomedia in these filters are plenty. No need to add more.
I have several canisters of each Filstar, Fluval and Eheim. I am not fond of them. Too many break downs, too much work to clean. I generally run these with media similar to the Aquaclears: Coarse sponge, medium and finer media, peat moss or coral sand if needed, and bio media.
38 tanks, 2 ponds over 4000 liters of water to keep clean and fresh.

Happy fish keeping!
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Re: Filtration

Postby redshark1 » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:20 am

I undestand that you want to reduce nitrates.

To me its all about input and output.

1. The input includes the nitrates in the water change. What is in your tap water?

2. The other input, feeding, can be reduced in most cases. You will notice the fish condition does not change. You could potentially find the limit if the fish start to slim down appreciably.

3. The output is what you take out in the water changes. I do 25% twice a week, so 50%. I'd recommend little and often.

4. Your stocking sounds highish to me so could be reduced then feeding will be reduced. But hopefully you can achieve it in the three other ways above.

I rely on my undergravel filtration which is almost universally said to be rubbish compared to other types. But I'm not sure about that. Turnover is 7.25. Tap water is 5ppm, aquarium is 10ppm so I don't feel any need to reduce nitrates.
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Re: Filtration

Postby FranM » Mon Jan 02, 2017 8:38 am

Redshark, I've tested tap water twice over the last three years in this new home, and of those two times the water tested zero for nitrates.

Why would a canister filter be recommended for Seachem Matrix over an HOB? Aren't flow rates still high in both?

Yes, I feel the 55 is overstocked, but that is why I'm using nitrate reducing media between water changes. I would've expected 2 cups of Matrix and 2 largest sized API Nitrazorbs would keep the tank well under 20 ppm between water changes (of 40-50% every 7-10 days).

Diana, I cannot get into plants. If it weren't for the need of yet another gadget, CO2, I would do it (although I'd expect the silver dollars to clean them down to stems only). I've had about 5 good rooted stems of golden pothos in the tank (actually had them in the filter) but I had no result in lower nitrates. The leaves continued to grow and the stem grew.

Thank you for the replies.
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Re: Filtration

Postby redshark1 » Mon Jan 02, 2017 12:32 pm

Yes growing and removing excess plants in order to help reduce nitrate would probably be impossible with Silver Dollars present.

But plants are not necessary for low nitrates.

Is the zero reading obtained with the reliable API test ? In my country there is always nitrate in tap water so I am surprised you have none. I'm just lucky I don't have 40ppm in my tap like many people do.

If the tapwater is zero it means all your nitrate is from the fish food so its time to start gradually feeding less. Over time your fish will show if they are being underfed and then you can tweek things.

All filters I have tried have seemed to work well so I don't criticise filters or recommend ones over others.

Fish produce toxic ammonia all the time.

Filters don't reduce nitrate but convert ammonia into nitrate.

I expect you've tested the ammonia in your tapwater and aquarium?

The beneficial bacteria which convert toxic ammonia into less toxic nitrate live in the filter.

So you just need enough filtration / beneficial bacteria to process the available ammonia being produced by the fish.

To me, filtration is different to flow rate. I use the current to suit my fish.

Clown Loaches like a moderate current, enough to oxygenate and circulate the water but not so much that they are washed away when resting on the bottom.

By experimenting, I have found that turnover of 7.25 times the tank volume per hour (as stated on the filters) suits my fish best. Any higher and they do not sit in the open but retreat to their hiding places.
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Re: Filtration

Postby FranM » Mon Jan 02, 2017 1:38 pm

Hi Redshark.

So I have city water, chlorinated, and I do use API nitrate kit. I have for the last few years. I will check tap again for the hell of it because we keep talking about it. :? (Presently testing). In my old house our water had no added chlorine and nitrates were between 5-10 ppm out of tap. Soooo, the latest outcome of the API test from the tap is (pee) yellow ZERO! LOL

The reason I mention flow rate is because the Matrix supposedly works better under a slower rate. Is that the reason why canisters are recommended I wonder? Because they work harder being below level? Plus the trays offer lots of biological media space. I'm considering Purigen and doubling the Matrix.

SO anyway, that's the latest.
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Re: Filtration

Postby Diana » Mon Jan 02, 2017 3:28 pm

Lets break it down into simplest concepts:

Nitrogen enters the tank, mostly from food.

One form of nitrogen molecule is ammonia. This gets turned into nitrite, then nitrate by microorganisms.

If the microorganisms are thriving, then water tests will show 0 ppm ammonia and 0 ppm nitrite, and rising nitrate.

A different sort of organism can turn nitrate into nitrogen gas (N2). This leaves the system. Matrix supports these organisms. These organisms thrive in a low oxygen setting.

The organisms that turn ammonia into nitrite, then nitrite into nitrate need a high oxygen setting.

These 2 requirements are not very compatible. Either the system has good water movement bringing oxygen to the microorganisms, or else it has poor oxygenation. Seachem Matrix and denitrifying filters will grow the anaerobic organisms. They are grown in areas with lower oxygenation. All I have heard about growing these organisms is that it is of limited benefit.

The more common way to control rising nitrates is as already stated:
Less input. Checking the tap water is a good idea. If it contains chloramine, then the ammonia in chloramine will get turned into nitrate. This is a very low level source of nitrate. Food is much larger source. Feed as little as you can get away with. Feed low protein foods if your fish are OK with this. Plant eating fish certainly will eat vegetables and algae for at least some of their meals.
More removal. Faster, sooner. The media you are using are good. As long as the nitrogen entering the tank is not lingering as ammonia or nitrite, the biological filtration is working. You just need to stay on top of the water changes to keep on removing the nitrate.

Before I switched to planted tanks I had quite a few heavily stocked tanks, and the only way I could keep the NO3 levels low was 50% weekly water changes. I tried the nitrate removing inserts and found they did not really make much difference. Fewer fish per gallon or more gallons per fish (that is, get rid of some fish, or move existing fish to a larger tank) does not alter the production of nitrate, but does dilute it better so it might not rise quite so high between water changes.
You are right that a planted tank is pretty much impossible with Silver Dollars. A planted sump is possible, and floating plants do not need CO2 added. Their leaves are in the air, and get their CO2 that way. Running the tank water through a bed of water hyacinths or water lettuce or other floater is a possibility. This option is more often used in ponds, though, not indoor aquariums.

redshark: 2 water changes of 25% each do not make a 50% water change. More like 35% if done back-to-back.
UGF are good bio filters if they are kept clean. They support a LOT of beneficial microorganisms. They should not be relied on as mechanical or chemical filters, though.
38 tanks, 2 ponds over 4000 liters of water to keep clean and fresh.

Happy fish keeping!
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Re: Filtration

Postby redshark1 » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:08 pm

That's great news FranM and can only help in controlling nitrate in the tank.

I hope you can get it down.

Mine will rise to 40ppm if I neglect my water changes. That's why I make them a priority. It's not much to ask to keep the fish healthy so I never minded doing them and I think I actually enjoy and need to do them now!
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Re: Filtration

Postby BlueLoach » Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:53 pm

I have tried canisters, hob's, and sponge filters. I don't like the issues involved with the canisters so I have switched all 10 of my tanks to sponges and hob's.

The sponges are the main biological media and the hob's are for stuff like Matrix, Purigen, Chemipure, floss, etc. The sponges are really easy to clean in a bucket of Prime'd water (or tank water). I just lift them out, squeeze until clean, then put them back in the tank. I don't unhook them from the air hose or anything. If needed, I use a brush to clean the inside of the uptake tube.

I keep some Matrix in the bottom of each side of the hob's then put floss and whatever chemical filter media I want to use at the time on top of it.

Good luck!!
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Re: Filtration

Postby Loachloach » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:04 am

Hey FranM. I'd like to put my 2 cents into the topic.

I use canister filters. I can't beat that with anything when it comes to filtration. The more filtration, the better, especially if the tank is on the overstocked size.

In terms of nitrates, filtration won't reduce it. However, if you open any scientific paper on nitrate toxicity, you'll find out that in order for nitrates to affect most fish, if not all we keep in aquariums, the nitrates need to be in the hundreds and thousands of ppm.

The issue with nitrates is not the actual ppm reading(a nitrate test also being very inaccurate to test in the first place). The issue is that high nitrates are indication of heavy bioload....High nitrates are the product of high ammonia going through the system, and as it does so, a ton of chemical processes involved that also reduce the oxygen content of the water and affecting different stats, not just nitrates....Having said that, I use a TDS meter...As long as tap and tank don't differ much, I am doing enough water changes.


In terms for what external filtration, what filter, on a 55G tank I'd use large filters. A cheap option one can get here is All Pond Solution filters, also called Sun Sun in other parts of the world. Mine have been working flowlessly for years...I use the 2000l/h versions. In a 55G tank that's what I'd get, as an addition to what you already have...

External filters need their filter media to be as clean as possible. They are more powerful and will suck up majority of detritus. To keep the filter media as clean as possible. I use pre-filters, such as in the picture below. It's not that pleasing to the eye, but its a very functional solution and I rather have a healthy tank than a good looking tank with unhealthy fish....

Image


The limitation to filtration in aquariums is oxygen. Oxygen is used by fish, by micro-organisms, by nitrifying bacteria. Clogged filters and overstocked tanks are low on oxygen...So improving that side is what matters...The more surface agitation in a tank, the better. All bacteria, nitrifying and decomposing bacteria will work better in a well oxygenated tank and one would notice that when more oxygen is supplied, because the water becomes crystal clear...

If you want a natural and easy way to reduce nitrates and actually ammonia before its converted to nitrates, without having to deal with submersed plants limited on CO2 normally in non-co2 injected tank, or having to use chemical media that probably has other side effects, I'd try the emersed plant route...and floating plants...It works really well for me...Here's a picture of my latest setup...They have unlimited access to CO2, all they'd be limited on is light and nutrients, majority of which is produced in the tank...Once you keep emersed plants, you'd notice how often they get nitrogen deficiencies...meaning they mop ammonia, nitrites and nitrates faster than the tank can produce...which is the best indicator of how the tank is doing...

A nitrate test reading will never be able to give you such an accurate result...They can't be tested for accurately in lab conditions either..And I personally think you're inputting too much effort int the nitrate reading itself....A TDS meter will also tell you better. It detects increase in all minerals, not just nitrates...Its cheap enough to buy a TDS meter and they last years..Takes 2 seconds to test the water too..

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Re: Filtration

Postby NancyD » Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:08 pm

Fran, I have opinions too on your tank & nitrate issues. IMO the only ways to lower them are water changes & plants. I don't believe Matrix or other nitrate lowing media is the cure-all. As Diana said, they only work in low oxygen, not what our loaches tend to like.

On my 55g "river-ish" sewellia/gastro tank I use 2 Aqua Clear 70's & a powerhead with a fairly heavy plant load. On a 75g I have a AC 70 & a Fluval 404....& a lot of plants (Diana & I belong to a plant club). My tap water is pretty low in TDS but a bit higher in pH than I was used to on the east coast. I used to be almost religious on weekly water changes but with our drought & laziness, I'm down to 10-14 days often. Not that that seems to matter, I "should" dose nitrate (KNO3) more than fish food supplies...& maybe phosphates as well.

I would suggest feeding a bit less as redshark said & upping WCs, shoot for under 40 ppm nitrate (20ppm or less is much better). We test for what we can easily & cheaply test for, but that doesn't cover everything, I also use a cheap TDS meter to help understand tank problems. Have you tested GH & KH? Diana was very helpful when I moved to a soft water area & didn't understand the issues & after moving to CA too.
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Re: Filtration

Postby FranM » Mon Jan 09, 2017 10:36 pm

BlueLoach, LoachLoach and Nancy D, thank you for your input and suggestions. I used to have a couple bunches of golden pothos dangling in the tank. The leaves grew but the roots didn't seem to thrive. Which is a good floating plant that does not require Co2? The last thing I need to deal with is live plants.
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Re: Filtration

Postby Loachloach » Tue Jan 10, 2017 3:41 am

All floating and emersed plants have access to aerial CO2. I would suggest peace lily. Its a very easy plant and adapts really well to have its roots in the water but can grow rather big. It would prefer its roots in media. I use hydroton clay pebbles. It may need extra light or at least adequate day light
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