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Substate And Infection Rates


Bender
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As far as I understand it substrate isn't a necessity in a betta tank. I prefer the look of a tank with a substrate, but I've been thinking. In a tank with a UGF the substrate becomes a valuable part of the biological filter, however if we are using other forms of filtration, or just water changes, could the substrate become a liability?

In small unplanted tanks I've noticed that despite regular cleaning (vacuuming at wc) there is a certain amount of biological material that accumulates in most mid size substrates, making it necessary to regularly completely empty the tank to wash out the gravel. Is it possible that in the absence of the circulation provided by a UGF this build up provides a sanctuary to nasty bacteria? Also could this bacteria be ok while it is safe in its hidding spot but, with the stronger currents caused by adding new water, be washed out to prey on our betta's? Could this be a cause of sudden illness immediately following WC despite the water parameters showing normal?

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Hmmm, providing there is no newly introduced fish or disease in the tank I think you should be ok. I would think, personally, illness would pop up because of poor water quality not the substrate, the bacteria is on the glass and substrate as well as in filters. I think the issue for me is that more that Bettas fall ill more then any other species I have kept and it is easier to keep the water clean and medicate them when they have no substrate in with them.

P.S I have successfully kept a 20L aquarium in my kitchen with Sparkling Gouramis, with no filter and not cleaning of the bottom in the tank for years. There is mulm and all sorts on the bottom, which keep the plants thriving as they get the right amount of natural light. I do a 50% WC every month or so and everyone is happy. Not had an issue with any illness. I guess it works because the bioload is not heavy at all and minimal fuss.

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I had 3 (empty but for a seeded sponge filter) 80L tanks that had a high ammonia level that gave not the slightest indication of cycling until I added substrate. And I mean, they were running empty for about 5 months. I speculated that the dechlor broke the chlorine/ammonia bond in chloramine which was where the ammonia came from ... but never really knew what the problem was. Anyway, the substrate definitely seems to have helped the process rather than hindering it. I now have 3 happily populated cycled tanks. So my opinion is that substrate is a useful surface for the colonisation of denitrifying bacteria. But don't have it so deep that you get stagnation.

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Thanks for your input! I had thought that plants may make a difference to the scenario Faewyn, they'd help complete the biological cycle, mulm would make good fertilizer I'd expect. Funnily enough Lilli, I've just encountered a similar problem to yours with my stepdaughters tank. I gave them a filter sponge about 3 months back, and everything should have been ok but the fish kept dying. When I went there yesterday I found the tank wasn't cycling so the last little goldfish was suffering. There was some decorative pebbles, but not a proper substrate, and the bunch plants were long gone, eaten by the first lot of goldfish. They had used the de-chlor from the pet store, so I'm thinking whatever it hadn't been able to neutralise had killed the sponge bacteria and it couldn't re-establish. I put the fish in new water and used my de-chlor from someone, but I'm going back tomorrow to add some plants and more gravel.

So I guess your right, it's about balance more than anything.

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