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build my tank into the wall with its own maintenance room behind the tank; I want it to once again be the showpiece that it was, which means getting rid of this algae. If you had the flexibility of a 180-gallon tank, how would you set it up, and how much substrate would be in the tank itself?

Would you put the plenum on its own in the sump? How large should this sump be? What is the proper maintenance of the plenum? If I put it at floor level, I won't be able to create a siphon to do any vacuuming. Is that required if it is just an open plenum? I assume you would recommend I continue using a protein skimmer, but should I add a calcium reactor? I'm currently using a two-part product.

I'm looking for any help or insight that you can offer. I'd rather not dump all the substrate and rock that I have now, but I'm willing to listen to any suggestions that you may have.

Plenum systems are marvelous when properly set up anMS^^tained-Thanks for your lettel and the photos, as they helped with my detective Work on this end.

OK, let's back up five years when you first set up the aquarium. It seems that the plenum worked efficiently,

This nuisance algae (Valonia sp.) can harm the overall look of a setup. Getting rid of it is not easy and may required that the sandbed and live rock be completely reestablished.

and water quality and animal growth W||e excellenLuntil about three years Ster when a failed pump and a lost cucumber caused the system to turn around and go downhill. What's missing from your letter fiuymr general maintenance of the sandbed during those first three years.

I've had readers contact me and say their local fish store has told them never to vacuum the bed (in any aquarium), as that removes too much food for the infauna and kills some of

Algae blooms may become such a recurring problem that the aquarist's only choice is to break down their entire system and start fresh.

the bacteria living on the substrate. Of course, that's bad information, as the build-ul of detritus is steady and must be reduced through monthly vacuuming of all accessible sandbed areas.

Keep in mind these are closed systems. Furthermore, when a plenum is used in the main aquarium, 75 percent of the bed should remain exposed for maintenance. Not only does the bed need vacuuming monthly, but since the bed above the plenum grid has exceptionally fast-growing bacteria, they tend to occasionally form cementlike chunks of sand that have to be broken up when found. Add to this some possible calcium precipitation, and these chunks of sand need to be broken up, as they block diffusion, reducing bed efficiency.

Besides vacuuming monthly, the bed needs to be surveyed with a dull knife blade in a criss-cross pattern, and when chunks are found they must be broken up with your fingers. If the bed is maintained like this, then the plenum sandbed is unbeatable when compared to other forms of sandbeds.

So, let's say your bed maintenance did not go down this road, and after three years of lacking proper maintenance and an incident that triggered an organic nightmare, the overall system was ripe for takeover by unwanted algae. If so, I'm thinking you will

Hobby Vissen

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