View Full Version : cleaning gravel with plants

03-30-2011, 01:47 AM
I am assuming that in order to clean my gravel I need to temporarily remove my plants? My last gravel vac was 2 weeks ago and a lot of gunk came up (from overfeeding which I've been really good about since then). I guess I should do that for only half my tank and then rebury the plants? the last time I also removed a lot of substrate so I have less to dig into now.

03-30-2011, 01:53 AM
I don't remove plants unless I actually want to move their location in the tank. Just poke the vacuum around the plants, being very careful around the roots. Don't worry about getting it all, since they'll be able to use the nutrients that are immediately around their roots.

Once you cut back on the feeding, like you mentioned, you'll have a LOT less gunk. Since you said you have a lot right now, I would vacuum very thoroughly in the areas away from the plants, but not worry so much about right at the plants.

03-30-2011, 02:12 AM
if you really want to get in there with your siphon you can take off the bulky end and just use the hose. It isn't very effective but you can get in those small spaces.

03-30-2011, 02:28 AM
In a planted tank it's best to just vac the area around the plants, but be careful not to crush/cut the roots. It's not good to pull up the plants every time you clean, the plants will never grow properly if you do that.

Every 6-8 months I will pull up all my plants and do a full turnover on the gravel just to make sure it's not too bad. You have to remember that mulm is great fertilizer for the plants and if the gravel ever 'fills up' with the stuff any excess will just get removed by the filter and water changes. In a lot of professional planted tanks they don't ever touch the gravel in an established system.

03-30-2011, 03:12 PM
I only gravel vac in the front of my tank where I feed and where you can see the build up through the glass. I only do that about once every 2 -3 months. I never touch the rest of the tank.

03-30-2011, 03:32 PM
Yep, I do the same pretty much. Vacuuming the gravel is only going to hurt the plants really. You can vacuum the wide open spaces, but even then, you'd be surprised how far the roots on some of your plants go, so it's not really worth it in my opinion.

04-01-2011, 12:14 AM
I realized that I'd never have the time (or interest!) and even if I did, the plant density was so high, I'd vac maybe 20% of the sand volume - as such, I just run a reverse pump down into a UGF body covered with gravel and a top layer of sand. All waste and other debris never gets down into the sand and a simple water surface vacuuming does the job. I don't care if plants grow into the UG plate because it has no function except to blow water up thru the gravel/sand.

My canister provides my bio-filter action (filled with only noodles on a thin glass wool layer in each tray). Any bacteria that grows in the sand is fine but not important this way I get a fine substrate for the plants because it partly mixes down into the gravel for the roots, my liquid ferts are always "pushed up" through the sand so both roots and leaves get all they need, there is no need to vacuum down into the sand, I never need to mess with my plants either moving or replanting, get extra bio-action, never get waste buildup in the sand (a real issue I discovered the hard way) and better overall water turn over in the tank (no dead zones!)

The down side is the electric bill and at some point, replacement of the heads lazy does cost $.