It's my first cycled tank that I've had for a few months, I normally just have bettas in 3 gallon bowls or 5 gallon unfiltered tanks and just do a lot of water changes. Today I took apart my filter and there was brown nasty stuff in there growing on the filter media and the water looked cloudy and nasty. I know the filter media is where your beneficial bacteria is, but I think I need to be taking apart the filter and rinsing it out more often. How often does everyone else do this?
Would I just take out the filter media sponges, swish them around in the bucket with the old water, only one per cleaning so I don't kill all the good bacteria, and then rinse out the actual plastic parts of filter and put it back together?
Well first, if you haven't already done this, take out the fish and put him/her in a clean tank, if the brown stuff is making the water cloudy it might be toxic for the fish. I am not an expert though. I would clean the tank almost 100% and scrub the gravel. I'm not exactly sure on what to do with the filter, so I would wait for an expert to comment on that. I change my filter once a month btw.
Ok cool thanks! It was actually the water in the bottom of the filter that was cloudy, not the water in the tank.. sorry if I didn't explain well.. I was doing 70% changes every 5 days just not cleaning out the filter... but now I've dumped all the media and everything and cleaned the plastic parts. I did a 70% water change 2 days ago and another 70% one today so I think the water quality is much better. No gravel right now because I was going to do a planted tank and wasn't able to right away...
When I put the filter back I will clean the whole thing out once a month and just keep the filter media with the good bacteria on it.
A lot of beneficial bacteria is also housed in the tank, on the walls, decorations, and even the gravel. Therefor, it's not a very good idea to empty the tank and scrub all this...you'll kill all the beneficial bacteria and start a new cycle again! :(
With a filter, don't replace the media until it's literally falling apart, as this does contain a portion of the bacteria. Just rinse the media in used tank water.
For the filter itself, it's alright to take it a part every once and awhile to clean the tubes and such as they can accumulate a brown slime, but it doesn't usually need to be done more than once a month or so, if that.
As another poster mentioned, the brown gunk is ooogly but it's not the cause for cloudy water. If however there is too much build up that it's clogging / slowing the water down from penetrating the filter media, rinse the gunk off in old TANK water, not under the faucet water.
And yes, don't swap filter media less it's falling apart!!!
Do not EVER clean/swap the filter media unless its no longer function, in that case you need to combine old/new media to transfer the bacteria. if you clean your filter, you remove all your beneficiary bacteria and your cycle will crash, 99% of your colony is in the filter media! the brown stuff on your media is waste breaking down which will be used by your bacteria, unless its overflowing and spitting into the tank, leave it@
if you have too much 'guck' building up in the media and is spitting out brown stuff into the tank, take a bucket of dechlorinated water and gently rinse it. do this sparingly. never scrub, soap or squeeze out the content of your media.
if your water is cloudy looking, do a large water change and clean the tank. test your water for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, sometimes cloudy looking water could be a indication of problems.