Substrate change out risk - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-11-2014, 05:23 PM Thread Starter
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Substrate change out risk

Hi guys, got the 90 gall up and running great with CO2 and the canister filters. It has relatively fine gravel in it, however (no intention of planting initially). Was thinking of taking some time in one of my weeks off in a few months of swapping out the substrate to aquasand. I figure the fish would be ok for a few hours in a 5 gal bucket with tank water and an airstone. However, would it be too much disruption to the plants to uproot them, place in a bucket, then replant? I have several swords, moneywort, water sprite, wysteria, and some microswords (which have done nothing so far). Is there another method other than tearing it down that would work? Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-11-2014, 05:29 PM
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You could just do a total teardown. As long as your filter is well established the tank will probably go through a minicycle anyway for a few days once you change the substrate. I recently did this and it lasted about 4 days and I kept my fish in a bucket for a few of them. Just keep some of the old substrate as a bottom layer since it's good seeding material.

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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2014, 01:28 AM
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To me the easiest thing to do is take most of the water and put your new substrate on top of the grave. Test in a small container 1st to see if it works. Also put some of the old substrate and put it in a stocking in the tank. The stem plants won't go in shock from the ove. The microsword might so take a lot of dirt out with it.

Are you going to use ADA aquasand? That seems expensive to use just that. Would save if you put Scott's top soil in first then the fine gravel and then the ADA aquasand.
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2014, 03:04 AM
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I feel your over thinking this. Tear it down & rebuild and just get it done.

Your plants will shock a bit them bounce back. Keep your canister filters running using a bucket or tote tube. Toss the plants & fish in the bucket/tub while you work.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2014, 05:34 PM
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You can keep more bacteria and boost the population in several ways.

1) Most bacteria is on the top layer of gravel. You can skim this off, put it back as a cap, or put it in mesh bags and hang them in a good water flow area. Use several mesh bags and remove one per week for about 3 weeks. This will ease the transition.

2) Keep the bacteria alive in the filter by running the filter as suggested above, or remove the media (all of it) and put it in a bucket with some water so it stays damp. The bacteria will die in a low oxygen situation.

3) Add to the bacteria population with bottled bacteria that contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
You could grow your own nitrifying bacteria, if you know you have the time. The fishless cycle will work in a bucket with some sponges or whatever and some water movement. When you are reassembling the filter add these media to the filter.
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2014, 05:38 PM
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Compared to the filters the gravel has very little bacteria in it.

I agree with the others, take a tote, empty the water into it, put the filters on the tote and use the heater, put the fish in the tote.

Empty the tank, take out old substrate, put new in, re-scape, re-fill and acclimate the fish.

I've done it a few times on my 75, its a pain but well worth it
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2014, 08:07 PM
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I recently did this on a low tech 29 gal to get rid of some old gravel. Has Bacopa, a ton of swords, Java ferns and Camboba. Plants had no issue in the 4hrs it took me to complete and my fishes/frogs were just fine. I was worried as it was the first time I have done it, but worked out great!
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2014, 08:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DogFish View Post
I feel your over thinking this. Tear it down & rebuild and just get it done.

Your plants will shock a bit them bounce back. Keep your canister filters running using a bucket or tote tube. Toss the plants & fish in the bucket/tub while you work.
+1 Personally, I just keep my filter media wet and do a couple extra water changes during the next week or so (usually needed to clear up any lingering cloudiness from the new substrate and/or debris kicked up while replanting anyway) to ensure stable water conditions. I've found giving the plants a good pruning in the process--including pruning back roots and old leaves, trimming down stem plants to the healthiest growth, pulling excess plants and off-shoots etc--helps reduce the amount of decaying material resulting from transplant shock and typically find plants bouncing back with new vigor after a short transition period.

Last edited by Knotyoureality; 02-13-2014 at 08:35 PM. Reason: ghbrl
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2014, 09:02 PM
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I would suggest if you keeping some (25% ?) of the water when you take the livestock out. Use that when you refill the tank. That should reduce some of the stress putting the fish back in. They still will need to be acclimated to the new water.

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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-14-2014, 03:03 AM
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I just did this 6 months ago on my 75. Put all the fish water and plants (minus a few) in a plexi 55 with a 100 gallon sponge filter from my 125 dropped a heater in. Got rid of all the eco complete and put in aquariumplants.com soft belly substrate (Cory's were loosing there barbels).

Had 35 gallon of dechlorinated water in a 45 gallon tub put that into the 75 put all plants in took about 20 gallons out of the 55 turned on filter let it run for a few hours to clear it up, added co2 until the ph was were I wanted it, topped off the tank put fish in DONE.

I run a fx5.
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-14-2014, 05:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Knotyoureality View Post
+1 Personally, I just keep my filter media wet and do a couple extra water changes during the next week or so (usually needed to clear up any lingering cloudiness from the new substrate and/or debris kicked up while replanting anyway) to ensure stable water conditions. I've found giving the plants a good pruning in the process--including pruning back roots and old leaves, trimming down stem plants to the healthiest growth, pulling excess plants and off-shoots etc--helps reduce the amount of decaying material resulting from transplant shock and typically find plants bouncing back with new vigor after a short transition period.
+1

I just tore down my 55 that had flora max in it, used a substrate scoop that is used for reptiles so the inch of water would drain down. Leaving an inch of water I put a fine dusting of kou yin powder in. Amazonia on top. Hard scape, trimmed the plants back a bit, planted and flooded. Have done a few water changes since, all my livestock and plants are doing just fine. Ammonia rises to the lowest testable degree every four days so I just keep with the water changes.

It's easiest to tear it down and redo it faster than it is to over think it and do a whole bunch of extra work

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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-14-2014, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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Great ideas here, thanks! I'm sure I'm overthinking it (as always lol). I do have a couple extra 20's hanging around from Petco sales, never thought about just hooking them up as interim storage. Now to figure out the substrate, gonna need a dumptruck's worth for a tank that big! Appreciate all your help.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-14-2014, 01:13 PM
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Would run a sponge filter for a couple week's in the tank before tear down.
Then as mentioned above,drain some of the water into a tub/tote,place the heater and the sponge filter in the tub /tote with fish, and remove old substrate while leaving some mulm in the bottom to help with bacterial activity in new substrate.
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-14-2014, 08:44 PM
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Quote:
Compared to the filters the gravel has very little bacteria in it.
This is absolutely right. Approximately half the bacteria is in the filter. The other half is on all the surfaces in the tank. Leaves, driftwood, rocks and substrate. They need high oxygen levels, but do not like the light.

The top layer of gravel is where the bacteria live. They need the water movement and oxygen, and do not grow very well deeper in the gravel unless you are running an under gravel filter.

In a non-planted tank it may be worthwhile salvaging all the bacteria you can, including the bacteria on the top layer of gravel.
In a planted tank the plants will provide a good cushion and help remove the ammonia that might be present when some of the bacteria is lost.
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-15-2014, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Racedoc View Post
Great ideas here, thanks! I'm sure I'm overthinking it (as always lol). I do have a couple extra 20's hanging around from Petco sales, never thought about just hooking them up as interim storage. Now to figure out the substrate, gonna need a dumptruck's worth for a tank that big! Appreciate all your help.

Have you looked into Turface? It's really cheap and works great for me, just put in root tabs and your set, all other substrate only last a year or so anyway then all nutrients are gone.

So a year and a half down the road you will be changing your substrate again or just adding root tabs to feed the plants.

Turface only comes in light and dark brown. The pic to the left is my 125 with light brown turface as a substrate
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