Switching Substrate. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-07-2015, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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Switching Substrate.

Hello, I have a 29 gallon. With standard gravel. Soon im planning on switching up from that to maybe florite.( or any recommended..? ) I'm not sure how to go about switching it and not completely ruining my bacterias. Any suggestions? And maybe a recommendation for a better light? Im.running just a normal t5 tube from the pet store I work at.

Thank you very much.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-07-2015, 05:56 PM
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A week before:
Clean the filter. Deep vacuum the gravel really well. This allows the bacteria some recovery time before the major disruption.

Day before: Prep enough water for 100%+ water change (if you need to let it stand or anything). Assemble all the tools and supplies. Rinse the new substrate (if needed).

Day of the change:
1) Turn off all equipment, unplug, disconnect, remove from tank...
2) Run clean water from the tank (before you disturb stuff) into enough buckets to hold the fish. Separate species, separate predators, separate Loaches. You can include plants in the buckets if you have shrimp or other livestock that want to cling to something, otherwise it is better not to put plants in the same buckets. Cover the fish buckets. Plants are better in shallow trays so you can see them when it is time to replant. You can run the filter on a bucket of water if you want, or just dump the filter media into its own bucket. The bacteria need high oxygen, and in an enclosed filter this is OK for maybe an hour or so, but better to open it up. Large decor could go in a plastic garbage bag if you want to keep it wet, but wood will stay wet enough to sink through the short time it is out of the tank. Not a significant amount of bacteria on the wood or large rocks to worry about saving it.
3) Skim out the top layer of gravel, perhaps 2-3 rocks thick. Maximum bacteria are on these upper layers where the maximum oxygen is. Set aside this skimmed layer in a damp location.
4) Siphon the water out of the tank, using this opportunity to wipe the glass, and vacuum the gravel really well in case you want to reuse it some day.
5) Remove the gravel.
6) Wipe out the tank.
7) Install new substrate, creating hills and valleys, add rock, driftwood or other hardscape elements. Slow release fertilizer can be added, too.
8) Plant, misting the plants.
9) Refill. If you suspect there will be a LOT of dust, then partially refill, then siphon out this water. Dig the siphon down deep into a corner, holding the substrate away so you do not siphon it out. Mostly you are pulling the water out through the substrate, giving it a sort of final rinse.
Put a plate or plastic bag over the substrate and pour the new water in slowly, allowing it to seep in over the sides of the bag or plate.
10) While it is filling put the equipment back on/in the tank. When it is full enough, turn on/ plug in the equipment and make sure it is working.
11) Put the reserved gravel in several mesh bags, perhaps a nylon stocking cut into 3 or more pieces. Hang these in a good water flow location, or set them on the floor of the tank. Optional, see step 12.
12) Add some Nitrospira species of bacteria from a bottle. Read the label and do not waste money on anything else.
13) Net the fish out of their buckets and add them to the tank in this order: First shy, peaceful, next a bit boisterous, last the most pushy or predatory fish. Fish under stress produce stress hormones and excess ammonia while they are in the buckets. You do not want this water in the tank.

The rest of the day: Light off. Feed half or less, and only if the fish are acting normal. OK to not feed.

The next day: Light on. Test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, other parameters. Feed half or regular amount.
Be ready to do a water change, just in case, but if you added one of the bacteria in a bottle products do not do a water change unless something is really bad.

The rest of the week: Continue to monitor the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and other parameters. Go ahead with fertilizer, CO2. If the fish are not used to CO2, then increase the rate slowly, perhaps taking a week to do it. If you are using a substrate that comes with fertilizer you may not need to add any right away. Let the plants get established.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-08-2015, 01:19 AM
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Here is a tip if you go with Flourite. It requires lots of rinsing. Go to the dollar store and pick up a couple of those cheap(disposable) aluminum roasting pans. They are pretty flimsy but they work. Fill 2 or 3 pans about 1/2 full of Flourite. I did this in my driveway with a garden hose. Fill slowly with water and let it overflow. You can tilt the pan and stir up as needed.

I did this for Flourite black sand. It took about 20 min of rinsing for each pan.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-08-2015, 05:23 PM
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Diana hit the nail on the head. I pretty much did what she outlined step per step identically minus the bacteria bottle and mesh bags of substrate from the top layer. I have a very very mature canister filter though that hasnt been cleaned in 6 months so it had plenty of bacteria in it. Check out my 75 gallon signature for this process outlined with pics and descriptions pretty much the same as she suggested

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-08-2015, 09:30 PM
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I wasn't expecting the dust cloud with flourite, and having come to the conclusion that rinsing was largely a waste of time (the fines in aquarium gravel are large enough to sink on their own), I just dumped the bag in. Ahhhh... that was impressive. I asked on some forum (which ever one it was that I heard of said substrate) if I was supposed to rinse this first and was told no, it was supposed to do that. Eh?

Now people rinse it.

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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 11:10 PM
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When I decided to use flourite, I did a lot of preliminary reading about rinsing versus not rinsing and the dreaded chocolate milk appearance from dumping it right in the tank from the bag.

I ran across one great article that I wish I had a citation for that provided a different take on the issue. The key, for me, wasn't so much in the rinsing as it was in the drying. Flourite is clay, so rinsing it forever will not result in clear water. This article laid out a simple rinsing and drying process.

After rinsing it for a few minutes, I spread it out on towels on my patio and sun dried it very well. After transferring it to my 55 G, I covered it with a layer of rounded gravel, placed an inverted saucer on the pebbles and let my python dribble slowly onto the plate. It took a few hours to fill the tank, but there were no dust clouds and my water was crystal clear.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-11-2015, 12:02 AM
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I say go the dirt route. Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting Soil, cap with play sand or pool filter sand. Enjoy plant growth and money saved. Some will say to add muriate of potash, organic dolomite, and clay to the dirt. You can do that if you'd like, I've often found members here selling convenient baggies of the mix at more than reasonable prices.


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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-11-2015, 12:08 AM
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When i first did my tank i used MGOC soil also. Cheap and does what it does. I wasnt happy with the lava rocks i used to cap it so tore it up and re did with no dirt and black diamond sand blasting material. Using osmocote tabs. Infact my tabs just got delivered today https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=880681

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