Yesterday I made the decision to begin testing out the sponge-free theory. After my post, I took to the tanks. I cleaned out my 20gal Long’s AquaClear 50 and my 40gal Breeder’s AquaClear 70. The 50 was pretty clean, as I had just cleaned it out last week, but the 70 had a nice colony of pond snails developing in there, in addition to a ton of detritus and decaying plant matter. There was also a random red cherry shrimp that got stuck to the intake tube (on the inside). That was a lovely revelation. As I took him off, he flopped around, but when I replaced him in the 40B, he kind of went limp and was hastily eaten by one of my angelfish. It’s a dog eat dog world out there!
Now that the filters were clean, I took out the sponges and floss and replaced them with a good assortment of lava rock (most were about marble to golf-ball size pieces). I’m leaving the bigger pieces to my canisters. Now for the intake tubes…
The 50 has had a pre-filter sponge on it for quite some time, but I had a difficult time finding a pre-filter sponge for the 70. That and my canister filters have been too strong for the finer sponges from the likes of fluval, and they would literally suck the previous AC20 sponge I was using right into the intake tube’s strainer, causing the sponge to clog the tube, restricting flow. It was too flimsy and not porous enough for the strength of the motor.
As was suggested by a friend, I purchased an AC110 sponge, which is a huge block of very porous and relatively stiff sponge. I was able to cut two pre-filter sponges from this for the 40 gallon Breeder filters and I still have enough of the block left to create two more for the 75gal’s filters. So far, I haven’t seen any flow restriction, which is great news, but it’s only been half a day. I’ll check tonight to see if there’s any change. I expect that it’ll be fine.
With the pre-filter sponges in place, I should no longer have any problems with snails (or shrimp) creeping into the filter (which is a big concern for me). First, I don’t want my treasured RCS to get killed in the filter or intake tube, and second… snails and shrimp eat/poop and repopulate in the filter, which can cause issue by increasing bio-load right in the filter, causing nitrate spikes and another nitrate trap. Plus, when they’re doing all of this in the filter, they’re out of sight, so I’m unaware of what’s going on. I like to know what I’m dealing with.
So, with pre-filters in place and the lava rock in the HOB filters, I’m well on my way to knocking nitrates out (hopefully). The pre-filter sponges should trap the larger debris and there’s no way for a nitrate trap to develop inside the filter. Tonight, I’ll be replacing the sponges/floss in my Rena XP-M canister filter with lava rock, then my sponge-free transition in the 20gal Long and 40gal Breeder will be complete. That’s when the true test begins.
I’m going to create the pre-filter sponges for my 75gal tank tonight, but I’m going to hold off on replacing the filter media in the canisters until Thursday. I’m treating Dropsy for one of my Black Ruby Barbs right now, so I don’t want to disturb the medication and give the fish plenty of time for recovery.
I’m hoping he pulls through and I can kill this gram-negative bacteria. ;/ I have a feeling that rising nitrates has become a problem and has caused stress on these fish, making them susceptible to disease, like Dropsy. The fault, it would seem, would then be mine. So, I’m doing all I can to fix the situation and I’m very hopeful that going sponge-free and using only pre-filter sponges will result in less nitrates.
The 75gal will act as a different type of test though, or maybe even a control, due to my fully planting the tank using nitrate busting plants. Either way, a 0ppm nitrate reading will be welcome news and certainly worthy of documenting. If anything, it proves the point that plants can aid in creating a very healthy environment for your fish friends.
Anyway, take care and thanks for stopping by. I’ll keep you posted!
Update: 2/17/2014 @ 8:40pm
I tested my water parameters when I got home from work today. I figured I should do this so I have a control.
75gal (no pre-filter sponges with sponges in the canister filter):
20gal Long (pre-filter sponge w/ no sponges/floss in the HOB filter – no other filters on this tank):
40gal Breeder (pre-filter sponge w/ no sponge/floss in the HOB filter, but sponges/floss still present in canister):
I’ll continue to take readings every few days, so we can keep an eye on the progress of this experiment.