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Hi there everyone!

I have a 5 gallon tank someone gave to me (sponge filter, low light and heated to about 73). There are 2 mystery snails, 2 nerites, and 3 ember tetras and lots of plants. I'd really like to remove the white gravel and replace with Eco Complete aqua soil. I'm planning on taking everything out, replacing that ugly white substrate, and putting in the new black aqua soil.

I know this could create a problem, and I know that I'll have to do daily water changes for a while till cycled again. Am I missing anything? Any tips or cautions greatly appreciated.
 

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Has the sponge filter been kept wet? If so, the bacterial cultures may still be viable and jumpstart the cycle. I frequently have done this with mature filters. Otherwise monitor very closely and be prepared for large water changes. Dosing with Prime will also neutralize NH3 & NO2. You would probably have to do this daily and triple the dosage. Some fast growing plants like hornwort will definitely help too.
 

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Yes, do have sponge filter in with new black gravel--and all rocks and wood. Put all the plants back in. Should I do water changes every day? And for how long?
 

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Prime is SeaChem's water conditioner and it's what most people use. It inactivates chlorine & chloramines from tap water and also neutralizes some toxins and also ammonia and nitrites. Highly recommend!

Do you have a test kit to measure NH4, NO2 & NO3? I would recommend API's test kit as you will need to monitor daily if adding fish right way.
 

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There is great danger in taking info from the internet without checking!!
That should certainly be obvious to folks after the Washington stunt but it really does apply to almost everything we read.
One point is about using Prime at triple levels. Check the directions before going wild with treatment of any sort. Even a good dose of aspirin is not something we should triple, right?
Where did the idea of triple dosing Prime come from? Likely the internet!

To cut the risk, have you considered doing this change in a far less drastic move, rather than all at once? I find risk of this sort is easier to handle and keep from becoming a total disaster if I do not "rock the boat" too hard all at once.

Some thought needs to be given to the details like how long the filter and tank were running so that bacteria may have built on all the surfaces, how much is left in the filter media, etc. as it may make it easier or not! If the change/move was made some time ago and things have had time to rebuild the bacteria, changing a bit of the sub can be done easily but if it is a situation where the tank walls were scrubbed down to remove any bacteria there, while the media was left to dry out and you change out the whole sub, it is likely to be a very difficult drama.

A better move would be to give the whole tank time to "reset/regrow" after any major change before doing more to damage the bacteria. Then when things have settled and you have moved past the mini-spike expected, you can then do a bit more without pushing it over into fighting fire to avoid total disaster.
One way to deal with changing the sub that is far less trouble is to do it a bit at a times.

Consider using a siphon tube to remove part of the current gravel, lower the water level and use a soda bottle to add the new in that spot. Cut the bottom off the soda bottle, clamp a thumb over the top and fill from the bottom with the new, push the bottle down very near the tank bottom and slowly release the new while slowly moving around the tank. If you begin to get a dirtstorm, stop for an hour or so to let the water clear.

Don't do any big cleaning like wiping down anything while the crisis is going on! The good bacteria are your friends and they will take care of you if you treat them with care.
 
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