Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
It will take longer than overnight for the silicone to properly cure, so a temporary tank for the fish is going to be needed. Here is how I would do this:
1) Do several good vacuumings in the week or so before you start. Clean the filters a week or two ahead so the bacteria population can recover a bit.
2) Assemble all the tools, and prepare some new water the same way you prepare it for a water change. Get one or more plastic storage bins as temporary tanks, or buy a tank or two. (good quarantine tank, afterwards)
3) turn off, unplug everything.
4) Drain the best water into one or two storage bins, and put the fish in these bins, plants, one filter each, a heater, any decor you want to reuse, and skim the top layer of gravel. When the UGF was running the bacteria grew pretty much all through it. If it has not been in use for a while then the bacteria will only grow where the best water movement is, on the top layer or so of gravel. Top off these bins with the new water you have prepared. Cover them with something light can get through (glass tank lid, sheet of acrylic... ) and set some lights on top. A drop light is fine if you have only one aquarium light, but are using 2 bins.
5) continue draining the water, using this as an opportunity for one last deep vacuum of the gravel. (who knows, you might want to use it some day). Scoop out the gravel, remove the plates.
6) dry the tank, and clean up the area that needs repair. New silicone will not stick to old, so most of the time this means redoing the tank to fix a leak. (I am not including instructions on how to reseal a tank)
7) After the silicone has set up...
Make more new water. Rinse the new substrate, if it needs it.
Place the tank on the stand, make sure it is plumb, level and square.
8) put the new substrate in the tank, add rocks, driftwood, make hills and valleys.
9) Plant, misting often. (don't forget to put the cover back over the bins- fish can jump!)
10) Put a plate or plastic bag over the substrate, and refill, running the water in slowly over the plate so it seeps into the substrate. This minimizes clouding. As it is filling you can be setting up the equipment. If you want to be extra sure about the nitrifying bacteria add a bottle that includes Nitrospira species of bacteria. Do not waste your money on anything else, the other 'cycle in a bottle' products have the wrong species of bacteria.
11) When the tank is full enough, turn on the equipment.
12) Add the fish. If you have been keeping the fish in their bins for several days, and have done a water change on the bins, then it is probably OK to use this water as part of the refill water. However, fish when stressed produce more ammonia and stress hormones. If you are refilling the same day, do not use this water.