Will adding (or 100% changeout) substrate kill cycle? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2011, 11:40 AM Thread Starter
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Will adding (or 100% changeout) substrate kill cycle?

How important is my sand substrate to cycle vs my Eheim 2213 for a 20 G high? I am adding plants to my tropical community 20 G high tank, and in the process, yesterday measured my sand depth and found it to be less than 1” instead of the recommended 3-4” (going with the lower end of that – 4” is a quarter of my tank’s height!)

I have been washing buckets of sand for use and am almost ready to add. My plan was to remove fish and plants, lower water about halfway, and add in the new sand on top of the old – mixing it all together is less than preferable, as there are old fertilizer tablets in there as well…

Will this choke off a significant amount of my bacteria population and kill my cycle, and my fish?

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2011, 11:48 AM
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The substrate doesn't really offer enough bacteria to help a cycle, nor stall one either. Your filter has much more and will be able to support the tank.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2011, 11:49 AM
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It shouldn't if your filter is well established.


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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2011, 12:19 PM Thread Starter
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Elsewhere I have been told that the aerobic bacteria in my current sand will have a massive die-off if i cover them with that much more sand which may cause other problems besides the one i was previously worried about.

Argh, "re-scapes" are difficult processes eh?
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2011, 12:52 PM
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I personally would do that in stages. Place maybe a third of the sand and then another over the course of a week or so just to be safe. Thats a pretty good size filter for a 20g so as the others have mentioned you'll probably be alright, but everything done slowly usually works out better.

On the flip side, I can tell you on my 72g I left my filter (eheim 2215) off for several days a few times. I plugged it back in and had no ill effects to the tank since I believe the majority of the biofilter was in the substrate, plants, etc. and not in the filter. But were talking about a larger tank with a filter that would be less significant than yours in relation to the tank.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2011, 12:54 PM Thread Starter
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with the safety of my fish and the future impact on having a "nice" planted aquarium, i've decided to get an additional 20 g high tank to store them "bare bottom" while i do a substrate changeout complete with plant-friendlier mix layered with sand. this will be a fun project to do over the next couple of weeks/months and when it's over i'll have a spare tank that i can turn into a shell-dweller or something.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-23-2011, 04:06 AM
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There is a pretty good population of nitrifying bacteria in the upper areas of the substrate. They need oxygen and ammonia, which means good water movement. There just is not that good water flow deeper down.

Your current substrate is pretty shallow, but even so, I would be surprised if there is a significant bacteria population any more than 1/2" deep in a coarse sand. If yours is a fine sand, then even shallower.

If it is a coarse sand, and you want to save the bacteria, then carefully skim the top 1/4" of sand and place it in several nylon stockings. Then remove the rest of the sand, and remnants of fertilizer tablets.

Hang the nylon stockings of sand in an area of good water flow. Once a week remove one. This spreads out the loss of the bacteria over several weeks or longer (however many bags of sand you have set up, or until you get tired looking at them).

That is a most conservative way of doing things.

I would do as you plan: Move the fish and any decorations, current plants and the established filter to a spare tank.
New substrate, plants into the main tank, then move the filter and the fish back.
The new plants will probably take the place of whatever bacteria you are losing.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-24-2011, 03:53 AM
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Hmm...lemme see...September 2010. I took over my wife's 29gallon goldfish tank after they died. I bought some mbuna and they loved it. Now this tank had a gross blue gravel in it that I hated. I decided that I wanted more of a natural rift lake gravel for looks as well as buffering. I saved all the water to refill after I put in the new gravel, used the filter that had been running on it as well as a new Bio-Wheel filter. In less than 2 weeks all fish in the tank died.
I talked with a knowledgeable store owner about this and told him of what I had done prior to the crash. He informed me that there are 3 main supplies of beneficial bacteria in your tank, filter, inside walls, and yes gravel.
Seems weird to me because I can remember taking tanks all the way down and scrubbing them and the filters all scrubbed with tap water and nothing ever happened before. I just thought I'd share my own personal experience.
Another thing, I recently had a beautiful P. Demasoni that I noticed with a mouthful of eggs. I quickly put together a spare 10g I had with an AC20 from the big tank, using all water from the big tank, no gravel. I let it sit for 2 days and figured it would be good since I would also be adding Seachem Stabilty. Well guess what? She was dead 3 days after I put her in. I'm still mad at myself for that!
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-24-2011, 04:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bustah8 View Post
Hmm...lemme see...September 2010. I took over my wife's 29gallon goldfish tank after they died. I bought some mbuna and they loved it. Now this tank had a gross blue gravel in it that I hated. I decided that I wanted more of a natural rift lake gravel for looks as well as buffering. I saved all the water to refill after I put in the new gravel, used the filter that had been running on it as well as a new Bio-Wheel filter. In less than 2 weeks all fish in the tank died.
I talked with a knowledgeable store owner about this and told him of what I had done prior to the crash. He informed me that there are 3 main supplies of beneficial bacteria in your tank, filter, inside walls, and yes gravel.
Seems weird to me because I can remember taking tanks all the way down and scrubbing them and the filters all scrubbed with tap water and nothing ever happened before. I just thought I'd share my own personal experience.
Another thing, I recently had a beautiful P. Demasoni that I noticed with a mouthful of eggs. I quickly put together a spare 10g I had with an AC20 from the big tank, using all water from the big tank, no gravel. I let it sit for 2 days and figured it would be good since I would also be adding Seachem Stabilty. Well guess what? She was dead 3 days after I put her in. I'm still mad at myself for that!
Based on your experiences you can see that used tank water is pretty useless as far as the cycle and nitrifying bacteria goes. Bacteria needs surface area to grow on which is why plants, filter media, substrate, and the tank walls are major sources for them.


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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-24-2011, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by tuffgong View Post
Based on your experiences you can see that used tank water is pretty useless as far as the cycle and nitrifying bacteria goes. Bacteria needs surface area to grow on which is why plants, filter media, substrate, and the tank walls are major sources for them.
I still have the 10g set up, it's been set up for about 4 weeks. I have been using Stability and the API stress zyme to help detoxify the ammo spikes. The reading for ammo last night was at least 8 ppm (darkest color on the chart in about 3 minutes) I have had a beat up P. Polit in there for about 2 weeks (it was either that or leave it in "general population" and for sure would've been molested to death) I thought for sure he was a goner when I saw him listing and swimming upside down about 4 days after I put him in there, but when I got home from work he was ok.

I just wanted to let the OP know of my problems, hopefully, everything will work out for him. I am planning on upgrading from my 5g shrimp to a 10g rimless soon, but I for one will wait several weeks before adding anything but plants.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-26-2011, 04:17 AM
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Do more and larger water changes to get the ammonia to .25 ppm or less.
Yes, this will mean a couple of 100% water changes.

Run, do not walk and get a bacterial supplement that includes Nitrospira species of bacteria. Do not waste your money on anything else.
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-27-2011, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by bustah8 View Post
I still have the 10g set up, it's been set up for about 4 weeks. I have been using Stability and the API stress zyme to help detoxify the ammo spikes. The reading for ammo last night was at least 8 ppm (darkest color on the chart in about 3 minutes) I have had a beat up P. Polit in there for about 2 weeks (it was either that or leave it in "general population" and for sure would've been molested to death) I thought for sure he was a goner when I saw him listing and swimming upside down about 4 days after I put him in there, but when I got home from work he was ok.

I just wanted to let the OP know of my problems, hopefully, everything will work out for him. I am planning on upgrading from my 5g shrimp to a 10g rimless soon, but I for one will wait several weeks before adding anything but plants.

I have had 0 ammonia issues in my tank since doing the aforementioned substrate addition.

It sounds like your tank has additional filtration issues...
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-29-2011, 05:47 AM
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FYI : I did test ammonia again today and lo and behold the indicator solution turned very slight shade greener than tap. I immediately performed a 50% water change and will check it again when I get home in 5 hours. I do have cardinal tetras which are quite sensitive to ammonia so I will have to keep an eye out and be extra vigiliant.
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-30-2011, 04:55 AM
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That's the cycle starting. It seems that the ammonia stage of the cycle is the nastiest part. I haven't tested mine for 2 days, but I doubt it has improved much yet. I even put on the other AC20 from my main tank for the last 5 days, a few water changes, added an air driven bubble filter filled with ammonia chips. I was planning on doing another test and partial water change tomorrow morning.
More important than the test results IMO is the fishes behavior/actions, gill function and color. If you use items that "detoxify" ammonia, keep in mind that most of them don't remove the ammonia,they claim to make it safe for fish, but the ammonia is still in the tank and will still register accurately on your test.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-30-2011, 05:21 AM
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My water quality is back to 0/0 now after that brief spike and water change over 24 hours ago, the snails and fish all are acting normal and active.


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