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Cleaning tanks with leaf litter

Discussion in 'General Dwarf Cichlids' started by davidjp1982, Jul 18, 2014.

  1. davidjp1982

    davidjp1982 Donating Member

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    I'm curious how you guys keep on top of your setups with leaf litter. I've gone all out on my latest setup and would say the substrate is 95 percent covered with a couple inches of oak leaves. I'm interested in whether the debris that collects on the substrate is detrimental - my water change technique is to siphon out one bucket of water then pour back into tank to stir up the debris then I net what I can before changing my two buckets of water. However the amount of debris that still floats about before settling is crazy. I've had problems with mini cycles before after disturbing the substrate - does that risk lessen if it is lightly stirred up more often, day twice weekly during water changes? I can imagine that would maybe make sense as opposed to it sitting for months then stirring up old trapped debris which I can see could cause overload of the filter bio load? I'm not concerned aesthetically speaking as the dirt settles soon enough, I'm more concerned about the welfare of the fish.
  2. slimbolen99

    slimbolen99 Active Member 5 Year Member

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    When I had oak leaf litter tanks, I didn't really try to disturb the substrate, but I did do like you did, and kind of stir up some of the leaves to get some of the poop floating -- and then did my usual water change. I think the water in the water column being clean is a bigger deal than getting all the "gunk" off the substrate.
    dw1305 likes this.
  3. davidjp1982

    davidjp1982 Donating Member

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    Thanks I guess if water parameters stay correct the rest is all down to aesthetics
  4. Dano1311

    Dano1311 Member

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    I just stir the substrate a bit with my hand wafting the water and take the water out, i dont always get all the poop out but its changing the water i think is more important than have the tank super clean.

    Ive spent a long time before taking leaves out to clean under then etc but in my opinion (im no expert) it just cause more fluctuations in Ammonia etc trying to make the tank 'clean' i know of one apisto keeper who has black sand who leaves all the muck etc to it, and just changes water and he never had no issues.
  5. dw1305

    dw1305 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Hi all,

    Read this article "All the Leaves are Brown - by Colin Dunlop". If you are worried about small bits of leaf litter building up I use Asellus for "house keeping", you can think of them as aquatic Wood-lice (Sow-bugs to Americans), they are fish and fish egg safe.

    The BOD concept
    It is going to sound a bit of an obscure answer, but stick with it, because it really helps as a concept.

    When you think about anything you add to the tank, you need think about it in terms of the nutrients contained, and particularly how much sugar and protein is present. The rule of thumb is that the more protein, or sugar, rich a substance is the more effect it will have on water quality.

    Scientists have a parameter for this - "Biochemical Oxygen Demand" (BOD), which measures the extra microbial oxygen consumption from added substances. We can't measure BOD, but we can use the concept.

    When a tree gets ready to shed its leaves it removes as much of the nitrogen as it can by breaking down and exporting the chlorophyll, you can see this happening as the leaf changes colour, with the colours of the carotenoids, anthocyanins etc (formerly masked by the green chlorophyll) showing through as reds and yellows. We can't see the same thing happening with the carbohydrates, but it is, any residual sugars and starch are broken down and exported from the leaf.

    When the leaf is shed, all it contains are the tannins and structural carbohydrates that are difficult to decompose. Leaf litter can't have a great effect on water quality, it just doesn't have enough sugars and proteins. How can we tell? Oak and Beech leaf litter takes a long time to decompose in both aquatic and terrestrial environments.

    cheers Darrel
    Ekona, davidjp1982, gerald and 2 others like this.
  6. Duffmanj

    Duffmanj Member

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    Great find cheers Darrel
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  7. davidjp1982

    davidjp1982 Donating Member

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    I guess common sense prevails again in as much as you can have pristine, crystal clear water that pleases you OR you can have a natural tank that mimics the natural habitat of your fishes but not both ;)
  8. Dano1311

    Dano1311 Member

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    where is the best place to buy Asellus and would fish munch on them as i lost a bucket load of cherry shrimp in my apisto tanks i have had before, which is a shame.
  9. dw1305

    dw1305 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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  10. Dano1311

    Dano1311 Member

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    Cheers darrel i will see if i can find any and if i can't i will take you up on your offer you just have to let me know a price :)