This is the big update post! LOTS of pics to follow.
Here is my old Fluval Edge tank, (which I have now broken down completely). The new one is going in the same location.
I bought a fabulous piece of twisted root wood at Nature Aquarium in Santa Monica, and that will be the new focal point of this tank, instead of the Manzanita I had in my Edge.
The challenge, as step one, was simple: How to get the new tank up and running as quickly as possible, to get the new inhabitants in place as soon as possible without cycling issues?
Generally, beneficial bacteria primarily live in the filter media. My thinking is the second largest population is likely in the substrate. Obviously the canister filter is moving to the new tank. Frankly, I need the extra substrate, too, so I don't have to buy too much and don't waste what I have. The problem, of course, is disturbing established tank substrate unleashes a world of ickyness (not ich-iness, one hopes, but who knows!). If not handled correctly, it can unleash a massive bacterial bloom, or a huge algae infestation, or a massive ammonia spike as the cycle tries to reestablish.
So here's what I did:
I dumped one new bag of Activ-Flora to set the base layer in the new tank.
Moved all old tank fauna to a 5 gal bucket with a heater and an airstone, with a mix of old tank water and new (treated) water. Moved all old tank plants to another bucket with a mix of old tank water and new (treated) water. Pulled all old hard scape items that weren't transferring to the new tank. Filter was turned off and moved to the tank (still off for now, since it hadn't been flooded yet). I set up a temp HOB filter on the old tank to try to keep the water clean while I worked.
Once all that was left in the tank was water and gravel, the work started. I topped up the old tank with clean treated water. Then I filled yet another 5 gal bucket (good thing I have about 5!) with fresh treated water, and started cleaning gravel. I swished everything thoroughly inside the old tank, then handful by handful, started bringing gravel and into the bucket with the clean water. Once I had 10-15 handfuls in the bucket, I swished it thoroughly in there, too, and then started transferring to the new tank. It was pretty clean by the time it reached the new tank. I dumped the old water and put new clean water in the bucket 3 times during the process, and continued until all the gravel had been transferred.
Time to start the scape!
Add some water from the bucket with the plants:
Time to start placing the fauna:
The old tank was pretty gross, even with the HOB filter running, but the double rinse seemed to do a good job, because the new tank flooded great, with the mix of water from old tank (the clean stuff from plant bucket) and new treated water.
Here are a couple of shots from during the flood:
Barely hazy, and once I kicked on the canister filter, that cleared up quickly, too.
Only issue is the root was really floaty. I had a rock from an old setup on hand that did a decent job of holding it down, until it's soaked enough to stay put on its own.
I tested the water the next morning and the parameters were nearly perfect... pH 7.4, ammonia .25, nitrite 0, nitrate 20 (tap water tests at 5).
I added neon tetras and let them spend the day in the tank. That evening, parameters were even better, with ammonia down to zero. I added the rest of the critters and continued to monitor water conditions every 12 hours.
This afternoon, water parameters are pH 7.4. Ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 15, dead normal for my old tank.
I'm going to give it the rest of the week, and continue daily water tests, but by the time I have a chance to hit my LFS next weekend to pick up some new fish, I'd say this tank is done. There really was barely any cycle change. Success! (Ok, success for sure by the end of the week, but things are looking so good I'm willing to risk a little Mission Accomplished sign with reasonable confidence! )