Help Changing Substrate! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-12-2015, 04:10 PM Thread Starter
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Help Changing Substrate!

So my first planted tank is doing well over the last 6-7 months (29g). I have gradually added more light and CO2 to the system, and I randomly add frets. I have had one major trim since the addition of CO2 about 3 months ago and probably will have another one coming up in soon. I do have a little BBA which I trim out as I can and green dust algae (not too bad because I scrub it off). Adding more C02 is not getting rid of the BBA. I used Sand as my substrate and I am thinking of changing it to dirt (well miraclegro organic) capped with sand. I don't have another 29g or larger tank. I have a big tote.

The questions:

1) Can I transfer my livestock in the tote for a little while, until I get the substrate setup.
2) If yes to above, how long would I need to let the new substrate sit before I can add fish back? ( I know I can add plants immediately).

Obviously, I will transfer the established canister from the tank to the tote and then back to the new tank when it's ready for the fish to move it. All help is appreciated. I am adding pictures as a reference. The "after" picture was taken today.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-13-2015, 05:54 PM
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Not sure what tote is but any clean container decent size is ok. Drop few plants and hard scape there for hiding along with filter and heater.

As for q2, if you keep filter and decent amount of hard scape or substrate I'd say few big wc after setting up and you're good to transfer back
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-13-2015, 06:41 PM
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The main problem in this...dirt subs often create an Ammonia spike that can last
for weeks.
I'm a bit surprised that some of the people who have the dirt subs haven't replied.
Since I don't have a dirt sub, I can only related what I have read here.
But this should be easy to "fix" if you have two things.
An ammonia test kit and one of those double sponger filters.
Using Tetra Safe Start will cut the time it takes also.
Just put your canister and the sponge filter in the tote with the fish.
Allow it to have about a week for the sponge filter to get some of the bacteria in it.
Then redo the tank. Then after about 24-48 hrs test the new tank for ammonia and
put the canister tubes in the new tank. After the bacteria catch up to the bio-load
and you have no more ammonia reading you can add the fish.
If you choose to use the TSS and I would think the small bottle would be enough for a 29g tank, put half of it in the tote after you add both filters.
Then, when you put the canister filter back on the tank/w the new sub in it you can put the other half in that tank.
The cheapest place to get those sponge filters is on the Bay. If you filter it by U.S sellers it doesn't take long to get one.
All dirted tank set ups do not leach ammonia. But people who have them would be the place to find out how likely that is.

The shortest distance between any two points is a straight the opposite direction...
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-13-2015, 09:24 PM Thread Starter
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I already have an established tank that I will be "breaking down" to put soil in. So my canister is going strong 6+ months. So I am just moving the same bio-load from one tank to another tank(a tote in this case) with all plants that I guess I will leave without floating or without having any substrate for a few days. My main question is how long before I can transfer everything back. And I am just as surprised as you as to why the dirt tank owners haven't chimed in. Thank you.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-15-2015, 02:35 PM
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I am a dirt user and I have changed runing tank to dirt. You need a nitrite and ammonia test to know for sure when it is safe to transfer back, but expect it to be next day after setting it up and doing few big wc's afterwards in case of well capped topsoil or a month in case of fertile uncapped soil
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 06:03 PM
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Follow the link in my signature below, 75 gallon planted tank link. I recently just drained my 75 gallon tank and pulled all the substrate and plants, and completely started fresh. What you're describing as your proposed method will work. I was able to achieve it on my 75 gallon tank, working alone, in under 4 hours. Zero fish deaths. I reported in my build thread that the clown pleco died in transit, but he did not, he's alive and well. Fresh soil may yield an ammonia spike over the first few weeks, but with a good enough cap, and a mature enough filter, along with enough plant mass it shouldn't be any issue, I'm at the 3 week mark, with no measurable ammonia, and I'm still having to dose nitrate 3x a week. I'm sure the soil is breaking down, because I have large bubbles creep up from the Floramax every now and then, but that's just CO2.

I broke down the process in pretty good detail on step by step how I did it and provided clear pictures. It's pretty easy if you have a plan. First post outlined the whole process

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