Changing Substrate in a Tank (return post!) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-19-2017, 11:22 PM Thread Starter
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Changing Substrate in a Tank (return post!)

Hello everyone! This is my first post in a while as I've just recently re-kindled my love for the hobby. So currently all of my tanks are dirted with a sand or fine gravel cap, except one. It's a 56 tall but factoring in the scape and all sand bottom it's closer to 50. Since the bottom is only sand you'd image growing much else then simple plants is difficult. My plan would to be to drain water and keep fish in tank water with a bubbler while I scoop out sand, put in a bottom layer of dirt, put the sand back in to cap and then fish and plants. Now I've never done a complete substrate change with out saving most if not all of the water, but I don't have 10 5 gallon buckets for this project. So my question is, is it safe to do this and keep only about 25% of the water? With the filters, plants and sand have enough Bio to put a fully stocked tank back in? I do 50% water changes weekly so it'd essentially just be another 25% for that week. Thanks is advance.


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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-19-2017, 11:27 PM
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If your saving the sand that was in it to put back in I'd think you'd be fine as long as you keep the sand submerged and bacteria alive, if done all in the same day it should be fine. You'll likely want to re acclimate the fish to the new water's temp and everything.

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-19-2017, 11:53 PM Thread Starter
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If your saving the sand that was in it to put back in I'd think you'd be fine as long as you keep the sand submerged and bacteria alive, if done all in the same day it should be fine. You'll likely want to re acclimate the fish to the new water's temp and everything.

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Yep, keeping the sand is a no-brainer. Plan is to do it all with in the course of an hour and obviously I'll prep the dirt prior to draining that way it's efficient as possible.


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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-20-2017, 12:48 AM
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Yep, keeping the sand is a no-brainer. Plan is to do it all with in the course of an hour and obviously I'll prep the dirt prior to draining that way it's efficient as possible.


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Yeah with all that you should be fine might have a small spike from disrupting the bacteria and anything the soil leeches, but a water change over the next couple days should solve that.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-20-2017, 11:48 AM
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I don't see the need to save the water if your tap is of similar parameters. There is very little bacteria or anything of much substantial importance in the old tank water. It's all on substrate and other media. You may have a decent ammonia spike from the soil though.. Might work... then again you may have some problems.. just test and be prepared with Prime and water changes.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-20-2017, 01:00 PM
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If you REALLY wanted to save the water, you can tear apart a garbage bags and use it like a condom for your sink. (Store your water in the sink temporarily)


But I don't think the water is as important as people think. It's just a medium for delivery. It doesn't gain special abilities once its in the tank.

I think you've got a good/basic plan
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-20-2017, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by RugburnTanks View Post
Hello everyone! This is my first post in a while as I've just recently re-kindled my love for the hobby. So currently all of my tanks are dirted with a sand or fine gravel cap, except one. It's a 56 tall but factoring in the scape and all sand bottom it's closer to 50. Since the bottom is only sand you'd image growing much else then simple plants is difficult. My plan would to be to drain water and keep fish in tank water with a bubbler while I scoop out sand, put in a bottom layer of dirt, put the sand back in to cap and then fish and plants. Now I've never done a complete substrate change with out saving most if not all of the water, but I don't have 10 5 gallon buckets for this project. So my question is, is it safe to do this and keep only about 25% of the water? With the filters, plants and sand have enough Bio to put a fully stocked tank back in? I do 50% water changes weekly so it'd essentially just be another 25% for that week. Thanks is advance.


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My advice, if you are dirting the tank, take the fish out in a large bucket of tank water, empty the tank, dirt it, put a 1" sand cap and refill the tank.

If you try to put soil into a tank with water, you will create mud everywhere.

If you need more buckets, buy a cheap 10 or 20g trashcan from Home Depot.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-20-2017, 03:45 PM Thread Starter
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I don't see the need to save the water if your tap is of similar parameters. There is very little bacteria or anything of much substantial importance in the old tank water. It's all on substrate and other media. You may have a decent ammonia spike from the soil though.. Might work... then again you may have some problems.. just test and be prepared with Prime and water changes.


I thought this was the case but I've heard so many different things I always save what I know is safe.


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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-20-2017, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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My advice, if you are dirting the tank, take the fish out in a large bucket of tank water, empty the tank, dirt it, put a 1" sand cap and refill the tank.



If you try to put soil into a tank with water, you will create mud everywhere.



If you need more buckets, buy a cheap 10 or 20g trashcan from Home Depot.


Yeah I knew that! . I'm sure the fish would LOVE chocking on chunks of dirt and mud water!


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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-30-2017, 10:53 PM Thread Starter
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Changing Substrate in a Tank (return post!)

Well Ive done it. Followed all steps of my plan with no mishaps. So far no deaths or unhealthy fish, but Ill be watching with siphon in hand for a while. Water was a bit murky but that was likely because of me adding some new sand in addition to my current sand to make a good cap. Only thing Im worried for are my apistos... them being sensitive and all. I have a tank I could put them in temporarily but now that theyre in there would the additional change just mean more stress? Better of where they are? Thanks.


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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-30-2017, 11:34 PM
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I've done it before, but I put the fish into buckets so that I was able to drain all of the water, add dirt, cap it, and then refill. It worked for me, but I can see the possibility of an ammonia spike. I literally killed and entire tank a couple months ago just draining and refilling a tank after moving it. Had a huge ammonia spike and everyone was dead in 10 minutes. Is the water reasonably clear?

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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-03-2017, 10:08 AM Thread Starter
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Now that i did a water change and filter cartridge Chang water is crystal clear. No algae blooms, no weird tints, none of that. I think the cloudiness was from the small amount of sand I put in. But so far all is well


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