Filter Maintenance Along With Water Change
Can We Do Filter Maintenance Along With Water Change?
Contrary to popular practice, some hobbyists will say that you cannot perform filter maintenance along with your water change schedule. This happened to me on some occasions due to scheduling conflicts or unforeseen circumstances. That you may kill or wash away a significant amount of your beneficial bacteria when doing so. The only way for this to happen is by using chlorinated tap water or drying out your biological media, or your primary filter is just a sponge filter. Those are sure-fire ways to kill or wash away a lot of your good bacteria.
You have the resource that you can use to clean your filter and media without killing your good bacteria and keep them wet and submerged, and that is your old tank water. So in this article, we will shed light on this topic and guide you on how to properly do this series of tasks.
While the most obvious disadvantage is you have many tasks to do, you can still do both subsequently in just under an hour. One advantage of this is you can use the old tank water extracted from your water change to rinse/clean your filter, filter media, and its accessories/parts, not compromising your good bacteria.
In my case, I have a canister filter. I usually do my filter maintenance every 1-2 months especially when I noticed that the flow rate starts to decrease and my inline CO2 diffuser is producing big bubbles already.
My Canister Filter
Just keep in mind that you keep your filter media wet and submerge using old tank water extracted during your water change. Wash and rinse your mechanical media (foams, filter floss, polyester pillow stuffings, etc.) with old tank water.
Clean your filter and hoses, in my case, my Canister filter with the same old tank water. Arrange your filter media back and quickly to avoid drying them out.
Note, this applies to HOB, internal, and Canister filters only. Trickle and sump filters have a different kind of maintenance and are very far apart in between schedules. They typically have easy access to their mechanical filtration part and those media are the only ones that you need to wash or replace (foams, filter floss, polyester pillow stuffing, etc.), leaving your biological media alone for many months to years.
The different types of filters that we can use in our planted aquariums are discussed in this series of articles, go here.
Let me share with you my routine and how I do both (usually I do this near the end of the photoperiod and the CO2 injection is already off):
1. Turn off your filter, CO2 injection/solenoid, surface skimmer, and internal pumps if there are any.
Front View During Water Change 25 % of approximately 35 gallons
Top View During Water Change 25 %
2. Perform your water siphoning according to how much percentage of water volume you want to change. While you are at it, vacuum your substrate as well. You may want to vacuum your mosses as well. You will be surprised how much debris, detritus, etc. are in your mosses (try to disturb the water around them, and you will see what I mean). They act as mechanical filters for small to medium particulates, dead organic matter, fish food, etc., in our planted aquariums.
3. Put the extracted water into pails or a big water basin.
Siphoning my Substrate and Carpet Plants
Trimming my Mosses while siphoning them
Extracted water from a Water Change into a Basin
4. I don’t fill up the tank yet with new water usually, but I turn on my aquarium fan to provide water surface agitation for my faunas. Depending on your filter type, this may take considerably more time compared to just a water change schedule. You can also choose to fill up your tank with new chlorine-free water. It is totally up to you.
5. Next, dismantle your filter. Only rinse your biological filter media and submerged them in the extracted water earlier. Do not use your fingers, or any abrasives, toothbrush, just rinse them with old tank water. Please watch the video below for more details.
6. Wash, squeeze, and rinse your mechanical media (foams, filter floss, polyester pillow stuffings, etc.) with old tank water. Do this in a dipper or separate basin to avoid clouding the water in the big basin where your biological media are and avoid the nasties getting into your biological media.
7. Clean the inside walls of your filter and hoses with the same old tank water. For hoses, you can use hose brush cleaners.
8. Assemble your filter media back into the filter quickly to avoid drying them out.
Keeping my Mechanical and Biological media wet using old tank water during a water change
My Filter Tubings starting to get dirty
My Tube Cleaning Brush
After cleaning the inside walls of my Canister Filter
9. I added more water from my tank, not from the water basin, to submerge my filter media during assembly. The old tank water in the basin is too disturbed with all the nasties floating around from the earlier tasks. Set it aside for now. If you have a HOB filter, Overhead filter, sponge filter, internal filter, etc., you can already set them up in the tank.
10. I fill my tank with new water. I remineralize it beforehand because I am using RO/DI water. Skip this if you’d fill up your tank in step # 4.
11. Next is to set up my Canister filter in its original position, insert the hoses, and then position the intake and outtake.
12. Turn on the filter, surface skimmer, and pumps if there’re any, and enjoy your hard work.
Assembling My Canister Filter and its Media Trays
Others may say that you still might wash away a lot of your beneficial bacteria when you rinse or squeeze your mechanical media (foams, filter floss, etc.) with old tank water. That makes sense if you only have sponge filters as your primary filtration. Where the meager turnover rates, and only occurs in the sponge part, ensures that your good bacteria only colonize in the sponge part.
For other filters, most of your good bacteria are living in your biological media, hardscape, substrate, etc. Basically, everything that is submerged in your tank can be home to your beneficial bacteria, as long as there is sufficient flow and oxygen.
Another important question is: How about those small/nano tanks where you don’t have enough old tank water to maintain your filter? Just use non-chlorinated water sources like deep-well or stock tap water that you let the chlorine evaporate for days.
You can do your filter maintenance along with your water change with little to no compromise of your beneficial bacteria. In this article, we discussed the subsequent tasks on how to properly perform both your filter maintenance and water change. This applies to most of the filter types except trickle and sump filters.
Always, keep in mind that you keep your filter media wet and submerge using old tank water extracted during your water change. Wash and rinse your mechanical media (foams, filter floss, polyester pillow stuffings, etc.) with old tank water.