Replace substrate in established tank? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 09:04 PM Thread Starter
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Replace substrate in established tank?

How can I replace my regular gravel with Seachem flourite? I CANNOT dismantle the entire tank because have nowhere to keep my fish as I rebuild the tank. I was thinking that I could put the fish in a bucket and remove a quarter of the water. How can I remove the old substrate and put the new one in without making the water filthy?
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 09:20 PM
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I am guessing the current gravel is inert and so you want to take it out.

Safest way to do this is firstly try to save at least 50% tank water by siphoning it into buckets. Then put fish and plants into a bucket with some tank water (not too little water that the fish quickly pollute it). Then you are free to disturb the current substrate which probably has a lot of toxic nitrogen gas pockets under it. You can either take out the substrate right away if you dont care to clean it. Or you can stir it up in the tank to release the dirtyness and fill it with tap water, siphon the dirty water back out, fill it up again, empty water again, fill it again (repeat until water is clear/not murky), then remove old substrate. Or you could remove substrae and clean out of tank later. Add new substrate (not sure if non-inert substrate is still recommened to be rinsed first). Maybe do another quick water change if water gets murky from new substrate. Once clear/clean enough water, only fill about half way so you can fill the other half with the saved aged tank water. Then replant and then add fish. Walla.

You could do the switch while the fish are in their but that is much messier, takes longer and is much more riskier in exposing the fish to nitrogen gas releases.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 09:54 PM Thread Starter
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The tank will only be a few months old, so do I still have to worry about nitrogen has?

Bump: The tank is also 55 gallons so...
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 11:06 PM
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Firstly, where did "nitrogen" come from? Nitrogen gas is completely safe. There's no such thing as "toxic nitrogen gas". The popular scare about toxic gas pockets in aquarium substrate actually refers to hydrogen sulfide.

Secondly, the "deadly" effects of sudden release of hydrogen sulfide collected in the substrate in freshwater tanks are greatly exaggerated. The evidence of anything ever being killed by such release is anecdotal at best. Common sense says that it is simply impossible.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 11:52 PM Thread Starter
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Any other methods that are efficient?
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 11:56 PM
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The biggest problem is keeping the bio-media alive while you do the swap. I would plan on putting the filter/filters on a bucket of tank water so that they continue to be oxygenated. If this is the same bucket the fish will be in even better so long as the circulation is not too strong for them. Depending on how many fish you have you may find a large Rubbermaid tub to be better and provide plenty of room for fish and filters.

You do not want the filters shut down for an hour or so since you will be removing a bunch of bacteria that is on the existing substrate. That means the bacteria in the filters will have to work even harder. I would also not scrub the tank and decorations or clean the filter if you can help it. Wait to do that until the new substrate has been established for a few weeks. Everything in the tank has bacteria that is currently removing ammonia so you want to keep it doing that until the new substrate is helping to do that also.

Once the fish and water is removed just scoop out the old and put in the new that you have rinsed thoroughly outside in a bucket with a hose. Rinse and stir until the water runs clean no matter how you disturb it. Even then it will probably be cloudy for a few days.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-21-2015, 12:09 AM
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Faith, trust, pixie dust?

I've only ever removed substrate once on a large tank. Was a colossal pain in the patootie. And this was an unoccupied, dryish tank. I was moving it from one room to another and decided I wanted a finer substrate and no UGF. I still have the finer substrate - mixed with flourite to be sure - some 20 years later. If the tank ever springs a leak requiring me to empty it, then I'll replace it. Otherwise... Hahahah! No.

Just an opinion - changing substrates in small tanks is as easy as changing a shirt. Once it requires more than one person just to move the empty tank, it gets complicated, if only because most people don't habitually leave large tanks empty so you're almost guaranteed livestock relocation.

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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-21-2015, 12:16 AM
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Originally Posted by keymastr View Post
You do not want the filters shut down for an hour or so since you will be removing a bunch of bacteria that is on the existing substrate. That means the bacteria in the filters will have to work even harder. I would also not scrub the tank and decorations or clean the filter if you can help it. Wait to do that until the new substrate has been established for a few weeks.
I completely redid one of my tanks and left the canister filter off overnight for around 14-15hrs without any problems. If it's a HOB don't let the pads dry out.

I do agree that you don't want to clean the filter at the same time, and would be best to not clean any hardscape (drift wood and/or other decor) just make sure you also keep such in a bucket of tank water.

You could also keep a sock full of the old substrate and hang it in the tank for a week or so in the filter flow would help.

Otherwise I suggest getting a bottle of safe start from wallymart or the LFS. Your going to have a mini cycle but as long as you leave the filter intact it should be brief.

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Just an opinion - changing substrates in small tanks is as easy as changing a shirt.
Took me a tad better than 1/2 a day to reconfigure a 40b


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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-21-2015, 12:25 AM
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Go to Lowes or Home Depot and to get one of those 18g to 30g tote storage box. About $8 the most. Use it to keep the fish until your tank is ready. Makes sure you put some supports or ledges around the storage box because they will wrap and bow outward by the water volume. Put your filter in there.


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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-21-2015, 02:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FatherLandDescendant View Post


Bump:

Took me a tad better than 1/2 a day to reconfigure a 40b
Hahah! I have one of those things sitting on my kitchen counter. Not exactly a small tank. I remember looking at my daughter as we were negotiating enough space for it and saying, "it looks bigger here than it did in the store." She looked at me like I was nuts and told me that it looked just as big in pest mart as it did in the kitchen.

It's a grow-out tank though so no substrate. If I ever locate untreated 4x4s, it's going to be moved to a less...overwhelming location.

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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-21-2015, 02:42 AM Thread Starter
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I dont want to remove all the water, that is why I am asking this question, how can I replace I be and replace substrate with water in the tank, cause it is a massive pain in the @$$ to re fill that tank
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-21-2015, 02:57 AM
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I dont want to remove all the water, that is why I am asking this question, how can I replace I be and replace substrate with water in the tank, cause it is a massive pain in the @$$ to re fill that tank
You have to remove and to refill your tank water after the substrate swap, period. With my method I mentioned, you can leave the fish in the storage box for few days while waiting for the tank water to cycle. Remember to put a lid on it. You can reuse the water from the storage box. That was I did when I switched to dirt from my existing high tech tank. The swap (substrate to dirt) took one day but I needed about 2 to 3 days to ensure that any possible ammonia from the dirt is totally gone from the water column.

Is good you have 2 filters here while using your primary filter on the tank and the other one on the temp storage box...using your old filter medium.


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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-21-2015, 04:13 AM
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I just did this. I may need to add some quickstart stuff. It took me about 6 hours I think for a 40b.

I put 1/2 the water in a trash can, pulled plants and put most in there, put fish in a 5gl (I didn't think about too many in there for too long) and some plants in their bucket. Took out old sub, rinsed the new and put it in, filled up with the water I removed using a pump, put plants and fish back in and finished adding new water. It wasn't all that bad.

I didn't think about the filters or anything, i ended up with a couple sick fish and one died a day after. I either super stressed them in the bucket or had too many. I'm keeping an eye on the tank parameters but I think I should add some quickstart bacteria.


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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-21-2015, 10:17 AM
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it is a massive pain in the @$$ to re fill that tank
One of the best investments you could ever make, hook it to the sink and fill away

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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-21-2015, 12:02 PM Thread Starter
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Any suggestions for a pump that I can use to pump the water out of the tank, and then use it to pump that water from a trash bin back in?

Bump: Or can I just put the canister filter input in the bin, and the output in the tank?
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