Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
Prepare the MTS, then submerge it in a shallow tray, sort of like the plastic storage bins that fit under a bed.
Test that for ammonia, perhaps let it be submerged for several days or a week.
If it starts showing ammonia, then leave it in that container and keep doing enough water changes to keep the ammonia low.
If it shows no ammonia then it is ready to put in the tank.
A) Before the switch:
Do some extra water changes in the current tank, and clean the filter at least a week before the switch. Make sure to vacuum the substrate as well as you can.
B) Get together the equipment needed (read through these instructions and make a list)
C) Prepare enough new water to fill the new tank, as if you are not going to save any old water.
1) Day of the switch: Assemble all the equipment, rinse whatever needs rinsing.
2) Have the plants laid out but under water (perhaps several shallow trays, or shoe-box sized plastic containers.
3) Turn off and unplug everything. The bacteria in the filter need oxygen. Drain the filter. If it is too well enclosed and you think the air will not circulate remove the filter media and put it in a more open container with just enough water to keep it damp.
4) Drain the best water into enough buckets for the fish, and start catching fish. Keep the species separate, and keep predators separate, and keep Loaches separate. Put lids on the buckets. You can save more water, in a container that is not used for the fish.
5) Remove all the decor. If anything is going into the new set up keep it damp. You are keeping the bacteria alive. The removal of the decor should make it easier to catch the fish.
6) Skim the upper 1/4" or so of the substrate, and keep that damp and exposed to the air. Maximum bacteria population in this upper layer of sand.
7) If the substrate is kicking up debris (in spite of the cleaning you gave it last week) then use the draining of the remaining water as a chance to really deep clean the substrate. Scoop out the remaining substrate.
8) Get help to move the aquariums and stands. Have this planned out, and do not put things (like buckets of fish) in your way. Make sure the new tank and stand are plumb, level and square. Make sure the filter tubing fits behind it.
9) Put things in the tank in this order:
a) MTS (make hills and valleys)
b) Driftwood or rocks to support the hills and valleys.
c) Plant the tank, misting the plants often.
d) Use the sand as a cap. Use the special reserved sand (with maximum bacteria) on the top, next to the water.
e) To fill the tank put a plate or plastic bag over the substrate and fill it slowly (no faster than 1 gallon per minute) allowing the water to seep over the edge of the plate and soak into the substrate. This minimizes clouding. In deeper tanks you can run the water faster after it is about a foot deep, but keep the water entering horizontally. Let it run the length of the tank, and not hit the substrate.
f) For added insurance about the nitrifying bacteria add a product that contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label. If you need to order it on line make sure you do it ahead of time. You do not need to use it all, you can store it in the fridge and add some more each time you add fish.
10) Set up the equipment while the tank is filling, and turn on the equipment when the tank is full.
11) Add the fish to the tank. Do not add the water from the fish buckets. Fish under stress may produce excess ammonia and stress hormones. Loaches under stress produce excess slime coat and this seems to be toxic to other species.
12) The rest of the day: Lights out. Feed only if the fish are acting normal. Half rations are fine.
13) Next day and the rest of the first week: Check for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Feed normally, lights on. Be ready to do water changes if needed for ammonia or nitrite.