Well, do you mean when you take out the water? it shouldn't be running with no water in the tank XD I always take mine out and clean it, that way you won't have to change the cartridge every month, only every 6 months or something, as long as you clean it regularly!
Depends on how much water you are changing and if your tank is cycled. But as far as cleaning the filter itself, unless it looks covered in algae, I leave it alone. The water is a bit more complicated because I change water 3 different ways. I'm a bit of a "water quality but" when it comes to my tanks. XD
If the tank is cycled, I never have to do a 100% water change unless something goes horribly wrong (which is why I love cycled tanks XD). When I'm only doing partial water changes, with or without sand cleaning, I leave everything running while I remove the 25-50% water I need to keep my water clean. I do very little to the actual filter because that houses my beneficial bacteria, so unless it looks dirty to the point that flow is too weak, I just leave it dirty. Normally, rinsing gunk off the cartridge is enough cleaning for a cycled filter.
If the tank is un-cycled and I'm doing a partial water change, with or without sand or gravel clean, I still leave everything running just like a cycled tank. However, while I use a filter cartridge in a cycled tank until it's literally falling apart, I only use a filter cartridge in an un-cycled tank for about a month. If the filter is less than a month old, I just swish it in old tank water to get big particles off and put it back into the filter. The filter can't run dry, but it can run without a cartridge while you rinse it. I will also unplug the filter for an un-cycled tank and clean it once a month. Since there are no beneficial bacteria or not enough to matter you can cycle the filter I rinse off anything I see growing on the filter since it can trigger an unstable mini cycle.
If the tank is un-cycled and I’m doing a 100% water change I turn everything off. Neither the heater nor filter can run dry so once the tank is 100% empty, the entire setup has to be turned off. Once a month I clean the filter and change the cartridge when I put everything back together. If the filter has been cleaned in the past month and the cartridge is less than a month old, I just store the filter and cartridge in a tub of old water until I’m done with the water change.
There is no one way to change water, but these 3 basic plans have worked for me with 1, 2.5, and 5 gallon set ups (whether they be cycled or un-cycled) for the past 5 years. :)
Note: I've been caring for bettas for 9-10 years now. But the first 4 years were...learning experiences for lack of a better word. As basic as these steps seem, it took a while for me to get the hang of it. ^_^;
Last edited by SnowySurface; 03-15-2013 at 08:04 AM.
Thank you for your input, it was really helpful. My tank is not cycled and I usually do 75% water changes and I was only asking because I did't want to break my filter by not unplugging it while I do water changes. It just started making gurgling sounds so I was a little unsure. I do change the filter cartdridge once a month because if I don't I get no water flow. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't breaking the filter by not turning it off every water change.
For me, It depends on how much water I am removing. One of the filters is an aquateck and whenever its turned off, you have to dump water into it for like 5 minutes to "prime" it before it starts pumping on its own. For that stupid filter, I usually don't make as big of water changes as I do with the others, simply because it pisses me off
For my 20G - I have live plants, a giant sponge filter and an aqueon filter. The aqueon filter, I have to remove the tube with the intake and run it under water for about 5-10 minutes every 2 or so weeks because it gets so gunked up with...stuff that the water hardly flows through. Not sure if this is from the plants or the fact that i have some heavy duty poopers in that tank - 5 bettas, 2 clown plecos and a buttload of trapdoor snails.
If by cleaning, you mean the acutal cartridge - for that I suggest just swishing it around in old tank water 2 or so times a month and put it back. The majority of the bacteria you want are gonna be in the filter media (assuming the tank is cycled).
what type of filter do you have? Most of the HOB ones and the terta internal filters, you can do away with the cartridge completly and stuff the filter with foam/sponge. The carbon, IMO is not really needed unless you are removing meds or something like that from the water. You'll still get the mechanical filtration and biological filtration - just not the chemical because there is no carbon but IMO, chemical isn't really needed unless you want to remove meds from the tank or something like that. Its cheaper in the long run since the sponge, depending on the brand, is only about $2-5 dollars.
This stuff, although now I think aquaclear is being sold under the fluvial name
If a tank is cycled, the 100% water change can disrupt your cycle and cause a mini-cycle that can be stressful to fish. In an uncycled tank, you will have ammonia spikes that can be harmful to fish if you don't do a 100% water change. So uncycled tanks get weekly 100% water changes while cycled tanks never get 100% water changes ever.
The long answer is:
Cycling is taking advatage of the ammonia to nitrITE to nitrATE formation that happens during the nitrogen cycle. The filter cartridge in a 5 gallon or more set up has enough room for a colony of beneficial bacteria to grow. An ammonia source (whether it be fish food, ammonia, live hearty fish) spike the water with ammonia so the bacteria can turn ammonia into nitrITEs (this is the fast part). Then slowly over time, as the bacteria colony grows, it will turn ammonia into nitrITEs and then nitrITEs into nitrATES (this is the very slow part).
You need a lot of bacteria to turn nirITEs into nitrATEs so filters as small as the Whisper 3i usually don't have the surface area for this. So the benefical bacteria won't get much further than turning ammonia into nitrITEs, if they grow at all, which is bad. If you don't do the 100% water changes at all then you'll end up with a tank full of ammonia and nitrITEs instead of a tank with 0 ammonia, 0 nitrITEs, and 10-50 nitrATEs. That's why most people agree that 1-3 gallon tanks can't be properly cycled. It's not because bacteria can't grow in any tank smaller than 5 gallons. It's there isn't enough room for enough bacteria to grow in a 1-3 gallon set up to hold the cycle the cycle steady. Any cycle you see in a 1-3 gallon is unstable and should be stopped with a 100% water change before the inevitable ammonia spike occurs.
That's the same reason why you don't do 100% water changes on cycled tanks. If you kill too much of your bacteria by making the tank too clean you can bring the number of bacteria present below the level needed for the 0 ammonia, 0 nitrITEs, and 10-50 nitrATEs range. In tanks that can be cycled, the tank will correct itself with a mini-cycle because the bacteria that does survive "seeds" the overly cleaned tank. The mini-cycle does not take as long as the original full cycle, but it's equally stressful on fish. It's best to prevent mini-cycles in tanks that can hold a stable cycle by limiting water changes to partial water changes only.