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Hello everyone, im going to be changing my substrate from big blue gravel that's not very root friendly to some eco complete. What is the best way to go about this? I have a 46 gallon bow front with 40lbs of substrate in the bottom, the tank is fully established and has been for 6 months. Can I just bucket the fish and existing water and run my filters in them till I get the new substrate in? Or can I just keep enough water for the fish and filters?
 

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The problem with leaving the fish in, is that you are going to stir up all kinds of settles food and poop in the current gravel and you're trying to scoop it out, and if you drain out 80% of the water, that decaying food and poop is going to cause a huge ammonia spike, even more so because now your water is 80% less and therefore more concentrated. I would take out the fish, drain most of the water, take out the old gravel (and have fun, its fun to get every last piece of gravel out of a tank unless you take it and rinse it right out, etc, thats why my nice black eco-complete has small white and blue stones here and there). bucket the fish, put in an air stone, switch the gravel, fill slowly with water, run the filter for a while to clean out the cloudyness, then slowly put a fish or two back and see how they do first, then start to add the rest. Myself, I would even test the water after I put it back in first to make sure I didn't have a big spike
 

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Yes, put the fish in as large a bucket as you can with the filter. Be sure to have a lot of surface agitation as there is a lot less surface area in your temporary tank, lack of oxygen will kill fish much faster than ammonia burn.

The gunk in the gravel is good stuff, mulm. Take out the gravel, let the mulm settle a bit and siphon out the rest of the water then place the new substrate. That will trap the mulm under the substrate and the bacterial colony in it is ready to deal with fish poop and dead leaves and all that without clouding your tank up.

Putting a bit of bubble wrap under the hose really works to keep the water clear when you refill the tank. I was amazed.
 
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