For an in depth Aquarium Cleaning Article:

-A great source for current aquarium information (and pond) that is updated regularly as new research becomes available.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Aquarium Cleaning Tools for Organic Mulm/Sludge Removal

Aquarium Cleaning Tools for Organic Mulm/Sludge Removal

The regular cleaning of your aquarium which generally includes a vacuuming and discharge of water and replacement of this water is in most cases an essential part of aquarium maintenance.

However often there are times when food gets over fed or organic mulm builds up (sludge, detritus, etc.), and a water change is not a viable option (sometimes in the case of a marine aquarium you do not have mixed saltwater readily available).
This is where tools such as the Eheim Quick Vac is a very useful and practical tool to have on hand.
While this product does not replace water changes not is it as thorough as the Aquarium Cleaning Machine (which can also change out water), it is very quick and simple to use, which neither a water change nor the Aquarium Cleaning machine can boast as to quickness of use/procedure.

Here are a few other reasons to use an Eheim Quick Vac:
  • Useful for Freshwater aquariums with high DOC (dissolved organic compounds) where a large water change to remove organic mulm would cause osmotic shock. You can first vacuum with this Eheim Battery Micron Vacuum to remove heavy mulm accumulations, then perform a more "normal" water change (using a gravel vacuum such as Lees or Python)

  • For Nitrate removal in marine or freshwater aquariums, vacuum as much mulm/sludge as possible (under ornaments, rocks, etc), then change 20% or more of your water as you would normally. This lowers the amount of organic material before it can go through the nitrogen cycle resulting in lower Nitrates than just performing water changes.

  • Cleans gravel without removing essential bacteria

  • While not an essential Aquarium maintenance tool, this is still a good investment such as a UV Sterilizer or Reverse Osmosis Water Filter

For further aquarium care information, please see this excellent directory of only the best internet aquatic resources:
Aquarium Information

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Aquarium Gravel Vacuum, Troubleshooting

Aquarium Gravel Vacuum Basics and Siphon Troubleshooting
From this article: “Aquarium Cleaning”

Aquarium vacuum, kinking BASIC:
For cleaning your aquarium (freshwater or saltwater) a Gravel Vacuum attached to a siphon or re-circulating filter works best. These vacuums are quite easy to use; simply push the bell of the vacuum into the gravel and quickly back out. If you are having problems with sucking gravel into the siphon hose, try kinking the hose with your other hand to slow the out flow to keep gravel from being sucked up. Make sure and lift ornaments out of the way and vacuum in as many dead spots as possible. It is important to get as much of this organic mulm/sludge out of the aquarium as possible as this is what leads to higher nitrates, ph crashes (due to nitric acid production during decay), and resulting in poor KH levels.
(Please click on picture to enlarge)

Starting the Gravel Vacuum is usually quite simple (depending upon the brand though). With the Lees or similar Gravel Vac, simply placing the end of the hose (water exhaust) into a bucket, the turning the “bell” of the vacuum into the tank and rotating it to remove air, then moving the vacuum bell up & down with quick actions will allow the quick start valve to start the siphon. If this valve breaks (the valve rarely lasts as long as the vacuum) or you have a vacuum without this feature, a quick “suck” on the end of the tube (below tank level) into the bucket should start the siphon with little effort.

Further Siphon Tips (including attached to hose):

• If your vacuum siphon does not start easily, this may mean that you have some water in the tubing that is blocking the siphon; ANY amount of water in the siphon tube can block the siphon from starting, especially when the tube has less vertical distance and more horizontal distance to where the water is exhausted to (bucket, garden, toilet, etc.). Make sure to evacuate ALL water prior to attempting to start a siphon.

• If your vacuum is connected to a hose or longer tubing, it is even more important to evacuate all water from this hose prior to starting the siphon. I recommend carefully rolling up the hose, keeping the end lower than the rest of the hose while all water is removed. You should store all hoes this way too for quicker siphon start in the future.

• If you fail in the first attempt to start a siphon with a long hose attached, you may end up with water in the hose that will block future attempts, so starting over by making sure all water is evacuated will save you much frustration.
Otherwise another method of starting a siphon with a long hose attached is to attach the female end of the hose to a faucet and turn on the faucet until all “bubbles” are blown out through the vacuum bell into the tank. Once this is done, simply detaching the hose from the faucet will immediately start the siphon.
Caution should be used in this second method that the vacuum bell is securely placed under the water and that you do not turn the hose on with too much force, otherwise this may result in the vacuum bell “jumping” out of the tank and making quite the mess or at the least the bell not staying under the surface of the water resulting in a failed siphon attempt.

• Finally attaching the hose to a “siphon pump” at either a sink or the faucet makes draining the tank (starting a siphon) quite easy, however this also wastes much water (although you can detach the siphon pump after starting the siphon if the exhaust from the hose is below the water level of the tank).

For the full article from which this post came from, please see:
“Aquarium Cleaning”

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Aquarium Cleaning Tips

Aquarium Cleaning Machine Tips;

Aquarium Cleaning MachineThe Aquarium Cleaning Machine is an aquarium cleaning device which is similar to the Vortex filters that were popular a few decades back (& a still used by some), utilizes fine micron filtration (30 microns) with carbon (although it does not need to be used), a powerful motor, and a vacuum bell.
Although I have used a few similar ideas, including rigging some ideas of my own, none have been as effective while at the same time being so extremely simple.
Many popular aquarium cleaning devices such as the Python or even a home made version using Lees aquarium vacuum parts and your own hose are still often practical, however these cannot polish the water in the way this machine can.
This makes the Aquarium Cleaning Machine effective for nitrate control, a more staple pH/KH (by removal of mulm that produces acids, thus destabilizing pH and using KH), and even lowering of Ich Tomites by filtering out many of these Tomites in the micron filter

Combined with other aquarium maintenance procedures and the use of a UV Sterilizer (make sure you change the UV Bulbs in your sterilizer every six months for best results), this aquarium cleaning device can one more tool in keeping a healthy/thriving aquarium

I use this aquarium cleaning device as another tool for proper aquatic husbandry, not as a cure all or magic bullet. I still change 20% + water, the difference is I will use this machine to vacuum and while doing so drain water into a toilet or into the yard (FW). Then after I have changed the desired amount of water, I will then switch the cleaning machine to re-circulate (polish water similar to older Vortex Filters) and continue to clean ALL the mulm and debris that will add to high nitrates if left during a normal cleaning. Please click on the picture to the above/left for a larger view of how I connect a garden hose for easy switching between water changes and then further water polishing
After this I clean the micron cartridge with a bleach solution and I am ready for the next time. All this without the wasted water of Pythons and a vastly cleaner aquarium without the stress to fish of 80% water changes (due to the change in chemistry and other parameters bring) to remove all the mulm.

Aquarium vacuum bell in sandIn freshwater tanks with sand or marine tanks with fine oolite sized aragonite deep sand beds I only thoroughly vacuum the top 1/2" so as to not "aerate" the de-nitrifying bacteria in the sand bed, with occasional “deep” vacuum bell penetrations to prevent mulm buildup or sulfur reducing bacteria buildup.

In these tanks with sand, I will also set the flow valve VERY slow to make it easier to vacuum in sand without pickup by the machine. Once finished in the sandy areas or simply running the machine to polish the water after completion of vacuuming, I generally will turn the valve to a higher flow rate again.

Please see this article for more: "Aquarium Cleaning".

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Cleaning Machine myths, truths

UPDATED 2/27/12

In this short post I will point readers to the Fish as Pets post dealing with this subject (found within

Aquarium Cleaning Machine Review

In this post, I previously discussed anecdotal comments where by persons (often in authority in forums) make statements about the Aquarium Cleaning Machine and what it can and cannot do.
In one case a person (who is likely a very knowledgeable aquarist) attack the messenger (in this case the inventor), without even using this product and using arguments that make no bearing on whether this product would be useful or not. He even notes that the inventor is likely a LFS owner and that his nitrates are likely over 40 ppm, which sadly if he really was honest, the inventor even states his background and as for the nitrates, I myself due not know what they are in his demonstration tank, HOWEVER I can state that in tests, using controlled tanks this device lowered the nitrates by half in many cases.

Since this product is no longer available, much this content has been removed since it is irrelevant now

As just noted, the Aquarium Cleaning Machine is no longer available for reasons I feel of professional conduct should not state.

My suggestion is to utilize the more simple Eheim Sludge Remover Vacuum
This product is much less expensive and much simpler to use.

While it cannot perform the level of micron removal as the Aquarium Cleaning Machine (by Ancient Mariner), its simplicity often more than makes up for this assuming correctly preformed and regular water changes.
Eheim is also a well known company with excellent customer service, which is an aspect of the manufacturer of the Aquarium Cleaning Machine that I will state where I cannot in good conscience recommend this product anymore

PLEASE read this article from "Fish as Pets Aquatic News":
Fish as Pets; Aquarium Cleaning Machine, Forum Hall of Shame part 3

Here is another excellent article from "Fish as Pets":
Common Aquarium Keeping Myths

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Reasons for aquarium cleaning

Reasons for Aquarium Cleaning (Freshwater OR marine):

* Nitrate control- A nitrate level of 20 ppm or less is best saltwater, 50 ppm or less for FW (you want a Nitrate level of at least 15 ppm for planted FW aquariums).
Please note; an average protein skimmer can NOT keep up with the organic waste output of an average stocked marine aquarium, and water changes for organic removal and nitrate control is still necessary in marine aquarium with a protein skimmer (there of coarse are exceptions in a reef aquarium with large amounts of live rock and live sand, heavy plant or green algae growth, and light animal load- even then added elements need to be replaced in a closed system).

I often have told my customers that Nitrate removal was a ONE (not the only) reason for water changes WITH vacuuming, and it is an important reason.
Also as for Nitrates, especially in marine aquariums, removing organic debris before it "cycles" via vacuuming is in my opinion the main focus of nitrate removal via water change.

* Ph and KH control- Maintaining a proper ph (ph levels have a tendency to drop from biological activity), KH is the buffering abilty of the water and that too can decrease. KH is VERY important and a major problem I have seen over the years in my maintenance business when calling on customers who seemed to always have problems with their aquariums and claimed cleaning their aquarium caused their problems, which of coarse is not true. Maintaining a proper KH between cleanings is important. Wonder Shells are one way, arogonite, SeaChem Replenish, are other methods.

* Removal of harmful elements. There are many toxins that can be introduced, airborne or in other ways enter the aquarium that are not easily measured.

* Rinsing of bio-sponges, media, ect in used aquarium water (not tap water). This includes sponge filters, bio balls, ceramic media in canister filters (canister filters need to be cleaned more often than many aquarists think)

* Removal of waste before it can go thru the nitrogen cycle

* Control of algae growth

* All these reasons are based on 32+ years of professional aquarium maintenance with some of the largest accounts in Los Angeles, CA

*Replacement of of your UV Bulbs inside operating UV Sterilizers every six months should also be part of regular maintenance

For more information and methods for aquarium cleaning, please see this more complete article article:
AQUARIUM CLEANING; Reasons and methods for water changes

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Aquarium Cleaning


For cleaning your aquarium (freshwater or saltwater) a Gravel Vacuum attached to a siphon or recirculating filter works best. If you have a planted aquarium, I recommend #00 sand (3-5 cm) mixed with laterite or conditioned soil with #3 gravel (2-3 cm) on top. You should NOT vacuum the sand, as this will tend to be sucked all the way thru the vacuum, and this will also disturb the natural aerobic and anaerobic filtration going on in the substrate being performed by the bacteria and plant roots.
A relatively new device that performs both water removal and recirculation thru a micron filter cartridge that is easily cleaned is the Aquarium Cleaning Machine. This new device uses a protected mag drive motor to remove or recirculate your water thru a filter (or both). For saltwater changes, this device is a money saver and fish saver. You can change 20% of your water, then keep re-filtering it thru the micron cartridge using the gravel vacuum do pick up debris. This saves having to use more salt for larger water changes and keeps a healthier aquarium with lower nitrates, as much of the debris is removed from your system before it can go thru the nitrogen cycle (adding to the Nitrate levels).

A similar device is the
Eheim Sludge Remover Vacuum. This is a more simple and easy to use device than the cleaning machine, not to mention less expensive.
However it also is not as effective, especially for larger aquariums (over 75 gallons). The Sludge Remover also is only for vacuuming out larger sludge, not true micron filtration and water changes.

For more information and methods for aquarium cleaning, please see this more complete article article:
AQUARIUM CLEANING; Reasons and methods for water changes

Other Useful Products
For replacement UV Bulbs for your Aquarium UV Sterilizer

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