The filter media should never be replaced as this is where the cycle bacteria that break down the fish waste are found. All you need to do is give the mechanical pre-filter (typically a floss or fine cotton-type pad) a rinse each week in old tank water to avoid it getting blocked and hindering the flow of water through the filter. The other parts of the filter can get a similar treatment every 2-3 months, but only using old tank water and never tap water.
As regards the problem of keeping the gravel clean, I'd start by reducing the depth to only a couple of centimetres/one inch. You can then stir the gravel at each change to disturb the trapped crud and get this into the water column where you can vac it out as part of your change. You'll need to watch how much you feed to avoid building up excess waste collecting in the gravel.
The plants and rocks can be cleaned weekly if they're easy to remove so that you keep on top of the job, or only when they start to look dirty. Again, I'd use old tank water as a matter of routine for this.
Lastly although the tank is 15G there is no issue with you doing a weekly change of seven gallons rather than four, and the larger change will make it easier to collect that disturbed crud I mentioned earlier. The main concern with larger changes is a sudden alteration of the water chemistry, but providing you are doing the changes weekly then the tank and tap water will be sufficiently similar for this not to be an issue.
Thank you Eyrie. I'm a bit confused though as to what certain things are called. I replaced the what you call mechanical pre-filter. It looked very dirty and had brown slime all over it. I rinsed it in the old tank water but it didn't seem to make a difference. What do you call the media filter? I call it what you seem to call the mechanical pre-filter. I attached a pic of what I changed and call filter media.
So you think I can do a almost 50% weekly change and that will be okay for the fish? Do you recommend me getting a bigger filter? I have a quietflow 10 now, it's cycles 100 GPH, which is 6 times the tank an hour. I can get a quietflow 30 for $24.00 and it does 200 GPH. Would that help? I don't mind spending the $24 if it helps the tank. Thank you.
The mechanical part of the filter is the first part that collects the crud. It will turn grey or brown over time but as long as it is free from obstructions it will continue to do the job. A three pack will last you well over a year as you only need to replace the cartridge when there are holes present.
Having googled the Aqueon Quietflow, it's the bit the manual refers to as stage one dense floss. The activated carbon at stage two can be removed and replaced with a sponge and the main part of the filtration takes place at stage three "Patented Bio-holster". Parts two and three should be washed only in old tank water to preserve the bacteria.
A 25% change each week would be fine, but I suggested a 50% weekly change because this will make it easier to collect the disturbed crud. There is no issue here providing it is done every week. If not, then two 30% changes on consecutive days will have a similar end effect and allow you to return to the 50% changes.
As regards the filter, I'd stick with the 100GPH which you have at present. Just make sure that it circulates all of the water and not just the upper part of the tank.
May 2, 2012
As to syphoning your tank.
Get yourself a 70 cm length of 10 or 12mm plastic pipe. Take a 0.5 liter plasic bottle and cut the top off so that it resembles a gloche / bell. Drill a hole into the cap to snugly fit the pipe. Hot glue the pipe into the lid and screw the lid back onto the bottle off-cut. All you need now is a tube / hose pipe to fit the pvc pipe and bob's your uncle. You can easily reach the bottom of your odd shape tank and it is certainly even cheaper than the one you bought. Admittedly no facy "self start" but with a bit of suction to get it started, it'll work like a dream.
Oh yeah, by the way, make sure your bucket is well below the tank to get a sufficient suction going.
The hose I use works incredibly. It was only like $8. It reaches the bottom, but it's a lot tougher due to my tank shape. I really want to reset up my tank. Take out the rocks and add less back and reposition my plants and decorations. What is the best way? Leave the fish in or take some tank water and put in a bucket and move fish to it while cleaning?
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