Changing substrate out? Freaking out a little - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-02-2012, 11:29 PM Thread Starter
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Changing substrate out? Freaking out a little

I bought a bag of the FSS to replace the aquarium gravel in our small bedroom community tank. I have corys, endlers, a lone zebra danio (I'm going to get him some more friends as soon as they actually get them in -- he was alone in a tank at the pet store. All of his friends had died in shipment because the truck got too hot), and RCS/RCS-yellow cross shrimp in there. There are several plants in there, as well. I'm unsure how to go about doing this whole thing. I assume siphoning the water off into clean buckets would be wise so that they're going back into seasoned water. Do I just put all of them in a holding tank with an airstone and some moss then pull out and put the new substrate in? I would assume I'd want to leave the mulm in the bottom of the tank to help "seed" the substrate? Can I put the fish straight back into the tank after the water has cleared a little? Thanks, everyone! I've only ever "upgraded" fish into a new tank, and often it's been cycling and is on a par with the old one as far as conditions go.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-02-2012, 11:56 PM
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Before the move:
Clean the tank, vacuum, clean the filter. Allow the bacteria a few days to recover.
Assemble tools (see the rest of the instructions for what you might need)
If you prepare the water ahead of time, do so. Enough for a full 100% water change, maybe more.

The day of the move:
1) Turn off, unplug everything.
2) Siphon the best water into enough buckets for the fish. Keep the species separate, especially if they are aggressive or predatory. Keep Loaches separate. (Of your list I would separate out the shrimp and make sure they have some plants to climb on, the others can all go in one bucket, depending on how many there are) Cover all buckets.
3) Remove plants, decor... put the plants in separate buckets from the fish (fish are in dark buckets- plants respire in the dark, using oxygen)
4) Skim the upper layer of substrate, and put it in mesh bags or nylon stockings. This is the maximum population of nitrifying bacteria (after the filter) and you can use this to help the new set up.
5) Use whatever water remains to better clean the substrate in case you ever want to re use it. Scoop it out with as little water as you can, or rinse it later.
6) Drain the rest of the tank, and go ahead and clean the insides of the glass.
7) Put new substrate in, add driftwood, rocks... make hills and valleys...
8) Plant, misting often.
9) Put a plate or plastic bag over the substrate and refill the tank with new water slowly, allowing the water to seep over the edge of the plate or plastic. In a larger tank once you get about a foot deep you can allow the water to enter the tank in a way that it sheets across the top and perhaps turn up the rate. Make sure it does not gouge into the substrate.
10) Add equipment and turn it on when the water level is right. If you think the bacteria population has taken a bad hit add more bacteria from a bottle. Look for Nitrospiros species. Do not waste your money on anything else.
11) Net the fish out of the buckets. Do not use the water in the buckets. Fish under stress produce excess ammonia and stress hormones. Some Loaches produce excess slime coat that appears to be toxic to other species.
12) Set up the mesh bags of reserved substrate in places with high water flow, such as hanging them from the back of the tank. Remove one bag a week.

The rest of that day: Lights off, feed only if the fish are acting OK.
The next day and beyond: Lights on, feed as normal or less than normal. Monitor ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Be ready to do a water change if needed.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 12:17 AM
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Hello!
This is a great question and you will probably get many good answers. I recently set up a new 55 gallon aquarium from scratch and I added my fish the same day. The key factor to keep in mind is that you need to have a good amount of nitrifying bacteria present in your tank. You can sort of naturally cycle a new tank or new substrate two different ways.

The first way is the way I do it, I go ahead and remove as much water as I can store out of the desired aquarium, I keep the siphon high in the tank to try and remove the cleanest water. I personally have a 15 gallon bucket and two 5 gallon buckets that I use when I do something like this. After draining a good portion of the heater your going to want to go ahead and get all your fish,snails,shrimp,etc out of the tank and into your biggest bucket, I personally also put in a few fake plants when I put them in the bucket so they can hide and feel safe, you can put a small powerhead or an air stone if you want in there as well. Then you will want to drain the rest of the water out of the tank and scoop out as much of the substrate as possible, being carful not to scratch the tank. Once you get most of it out I would suggest taking the tank outside and washing it out with a water hose, this will remove all the remaining substrate and will not scratch the tank in the process. This is also a good time to give the interior of the tank a good scrub down. After that, rinse your new substrate, unless it is instant cycle or live substrate, and fill your tank with the desired amount. Then I would add some treated water to the tank and start running my unwashed filter system from the previous set-up, run it about an hour. Then I would add as much of the reserve water from the previous tank as possible, at this point I like to just add some Prime and stress coat, you can also test your water at this point. Now it should be safe to add all your critters.

The second natural way is easy but just take some extra time. If you have the extra time all you have to do is clean your new substrate, unless it is live or instant cycling, then put it into a five gallon bucket, I layer in a few air stones as I pour in the substrate, then add about three large handfuls of your current substrate onto of the new stuff and cover with treated water, once it's covered with water you can pump air to the air stones on a low setting. Your new substrate will become "live" in as little as five days.

If you want to make sure you cover your bases I would suggest going to your LFS and picking up a bottle of nitrifying bacteria, they are commonly labeled as instant cycle or something like that. This will ensure you get a large amount of good bacteria in the tank. I hope this helps, keep us posted on what you decide to do.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 03:58 AM
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It often amazes me how such simple things can become such massive operations. I think some forum members are really congress men/women.

Get some buckets or plastic totes. Syphon off 75% of the water. Catch your critters and put them in the the buckets, put your heater(just so you don't step on it LOL) and filter media in the bucket. Pull you hard scape and Plants...you guessed...they go in the buckets too.

Coffee break time.

When you come back the water should have settle a bit. Fill the tank, now syphon out the gravel & water into a bucket. Continue until the all the gravel is out. You might have to fill the tank twice.


DO NOT CLEAN THE GLASS INSIDE THE TANK. The glass has a layer of bacteria on it. Put your new substrate in. Put you hardscape it. Plant your tank. fill your tank with the old water 3/4 of the way. Re-install heater & filter. Some ware in all that mess make sure the fish get back in.

Top-off with new water i.e.. 25%.

Done.

If there's a handful of Mulm, sure leave it in and dump the new substrate in as food for plant roots. There's enough material on the glass, hardscape, heater, filter, filter media and plants to get you going again.

Last feed light for a few days.

Last edited by DogFish; 09-03-2012 at 11:14 AM. Reason: sp.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 04:03 AM
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I forgot - I just did this very operation two months ago. Only I syphoned off the Black Diamond blasting grit Cap, leaving the MTS neatly in place. I then added construction grade sand as a Cap. It made the tank look much brighter.

Of course you can make it as complicated as landing Curiousity on Mars if your want.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 08:18 AM
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I just break down the method into step-by-step instructions and include a few bits of extra info that other people reading this post might want to know. Not everyone has Loaches, for example, but I know about their stress reaction, and catch and store in a bucket is when that reaction is most likely.
I would hope that more people are reading this post. The subject seems to come up at least once a month.

This is not rocket science, but there are a lot of steps, and a little trick to each one can make the overall project a better success.

There are not so many bacteria growing on the glass. The nitrifying bacteria do not grow well in the light, but algae does. I clean the glass at this time because that is the easiest way to do a more complete job, and does not affect the nitrogen cycle.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 09:29 AM
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Hello, I changed substrates from FSS to akadama in about 1 1/2 hrs and nobody died. I had 2 filters running in that tank.

I basically took everything out and back as quick as possible without making a mess. There was no ammonia or no2 readings ever.

I didn't clean anything, just swapped the soil. Figured that all biofilm would help.


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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 11:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pejerrey View Post
Hello, I changed substrates from FSS to akadama in about 1 1/2 hrs and nobody died....I didn't clean anything, just swapped the soil. Figured that all biofilm would help.


There you go, simple, fast effective. You are very correct all bio-film left during a substrate change is going to help. Your procedure, mine keep the true "change" to the absolute min.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 04:16 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you all for the wealth of information and tips! I'm not nearly so freaked out now. I have always moved "people" to different tanks -- not pulled all the stuff and put them back in the same tank. As for my MTS, should I just gently spread the gravel out and pick them out, then keep the gravel in a bucket with water and a stone for a while so any missed ones will survive and I can pick them out as they appear?
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 05:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HighDesert View Post
Thank you all for the wealth of information and tips! I'm not nearly so freaked out now. I have always moved "people" to different tanks -- not pulled all the stuff and put them back in the same tank. As for my MTS, should I just gently spread the gravel out and pick them out, then keep the gravel in a bucket with water and a stone for a while so any missed ones will survive and I can pick them out as they appear?
Don't stress over the snails just put all the old gravel in a bucket. You can put some water in but that it's not important for an hour or so. When your done putting the tank back together, take you bucket outside and dump it on some news paper. Pick out the snails you want to keep. Roll up the newspaper & old substrate and depose as you see fit.

Last edited by DogFish; 09-04-2012 at 02:17 AM. Reason: sp.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-04-2012, 01:22 AM
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MTS in the substrate will survive a LONG time as long as it is at least damp. They sure are survivors! No need to do anything fancy to keep them alive.

Easiest way for me to find them is to spread out the substrate really thin. The snails leave tracks.
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