The Planted Tank Forum banner
1 - 19 of 19 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
43 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 55 that's been up and running for about 9 years now. It has the same substrate from day 1. The substrate is organic soil topped with eco complete. I feel like it's time to replace it. My plants have been not getting sufficient nutrients lately as they have been browning. I recently starting adding some fertilizers in the water column and that has helped a lot. This is the first time I have added any kind of fertilizer since I began the tank.

For those of you who have replaced substrates ... what are your thoughts about the steps needed to do this? I do have a few fish ... angel, 2 corys, 5 otos. I do have a 10 gallon I was planning on keeping the fish in while I did the change. I know a 10 is small but it would only be very short term. I plan to do this in one day and I will keep a lot of the existing tank water to put back in with the new substrate.

My plan is to use the same kind of substrate design as I have with organic soil topped by eco complete.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,429 Posts
I have a 55 that's been up and running for about 9 years now. It has the same substrate from day 1. The substrate is organic soil topped with eco complete. I feel like it's time to replace it. My plants have been not getting sufficient nutrients lately as they have been browning. I recently starting adding some fertilizers in the water column and that has helped a lot. This is the first time I have added any kind of fertilizer since I began the tank.

For those of you who have replaced substrates ... what are your thoughts about the steps needed to do this? I do have a few fish ... angel, 2 corys, 5 otos. I do have a 10 gallon I was planning on keeping the fish in while I did the change. I know a 10 is small but it would only be very short term. I plan to do this in one day and I will keep a lot of the existing tank water to put back in with the new substrate.

My plan is to use the same kind of substrate design as I have with organic soil topped by eco complete.
Definitely wait for someone with more experience to answer, but from what I've read here on TPT, the nutrients in your soil are used up fairly quickly (a few months or less). I'm not sure if the soil reabsorbs nutrients when organics and such break down as I haven't done a dirted tank, but I'm sure someone else would know.

I do know changing substrate can wreak havoc since so much of your biological filtration lives in and on the substrate. So trying to do this in one day is a bad idea as you will be doing a mini-cycle on your tank. You'll need more time for everything to cycle, though not as long as a new tank since you still have other surfaces.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,653 Posts
@matt11390 Have you tried any root tabs?

Edit: Unless you just want to change for the sake of changing. If it was me and I had no other reason to swap I think I might try root tabs first. Others may have some other suggestions.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,916 Posts
from what I've read here on TPT, the nutrients in your soil are used up fairly quickly (a few months or less).
A few months or less is a bit of an exaggeration. Now the 9 years that the OP has had this substrate in the tank is certainly long enough for the nutrients to have been used up by now for sure.

I think the OP has the right idea though (unless you choose to try some root tabs first as recommended above). Use that 10 gallon as a temporary storage container for the fish (even buckets would work in a pinch). Drain the 55. Scoop out the old substrate and add in the new as if you were setting this up for the very first time. Refill the tank and anticipate a cloudy mess that might require a few more drain and refills. Wait for the cloudiness to settle and add your fish back in.

Dont worry about keeping the old tank water. Really no benefit to doing so. Just treat it like a 100% water change and make sure to use dechlor if needed.

Sure there is a chance you'll lose some of the beneficial bacteria that has colonized on the substrate; but it sounds like your tank is not heavily stocked and whatever bacteria has colonized on your filter should not be affected at all by this process. If you're concerned I suppose you could try to scoop the eco complete off of the dirt and re use that as a cap on your new substrate.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
43 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
A few months or less is a bit of an exaggeration. Now the 9 years that the OP has had this substrate in the tank is certainly long enough for the nutrients to have been used up by now for sure.

I think the OP has the right idea though (unless you choose to try some root tabs first as recommended above). Use that 10 gallon as a temporary storage container for the fish (even buckets would work in a pinch). Drain the 55. Scoop out the old substrate and add in the new as if you were setting this up for the very first time. Refill the tank and anticipate a cloudy mess that might require a few more drain and refills. Wait for the cloudiness to settle and add your fish back in.

Dont worry about keeping the old tank water. Really no benefit to doing so. Just treat it like a 100% water change and make sure to use dechlor if needed.

Sure there is a chance you'll lose some of the beneficial bacteria that has colonized on the substrate; but it sounds like your tank is not heavily stocked and whatever bacteria has colonized on your filter should not be affected at all by this process. If you're concerned I suppose you could try to scoop the eco complete off of the dirt and re use that as a cap on your new substrate.
Some great points. I didn't know about the old tank water not being beneficial. I do like the idea of taking the old eco complete and adding it to the new substrate. Doing this will most certainly add lots of good bacteria quickly ... also some unwanted snails.

Also I have no filter on my tank. I haven't for about 2 years now. All I use is a small blower for water movement but my tank with all its plants has been its own eco system. The simpler the better to me.

I will use the 10 gallon and give my 55 several days to rest. Then test it and maybe move my fish in 5 to 7 days. I will be stocking the tank with new plants along with a select few of my old plants.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,429 Posts
A few months or less is a bit of an exaggeration. Now the 9 years that the OP has had this substrate in the tank is certainly long enough for the nutrients to have been used up by now for sure.
Thanks for the correction there lksdrinker! Not questioning you - just looking to understand better (disregard the fact that he doesn't use a filter):

I always thought the substrate contained a decent amount of your bacteria. Is that wrong, or do we not worry quite as much since the plants and other surfaces will compensate quickly enough to prevent ammonia spikes and such while it moves into the new substrate?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,916 Posts
Some great points. I didn't know about the old tank water not being beneficial. I do like the idea of taking the old eco complete and adding it to the new substrate. Doing this will most certainly add lots of good bacteria quickly ... also some unwanted snails.

Also I have no filter on my tank. I haven't for about 2 years now. All I use is a small blower for water movement but my tank with all its plants has been its own eco system. The simpler the better to me.

I will use the 10 gallon and give my 55 several days to rest. Then test it and maybe move my fish in 5 to 7 days. I will be stocking the tank with new plants along with a select few of my old plants.
Well running a tank with no filter definitely changes my answer a bit as the majority of YOUR beneficial bacteria will certainly be in the substrate. If it were me; I'd add a filter to the tank now so some of the bacteria can start colonizing there. Then I'd wait a few weeks/months before swapping out the substrate; then slowly remove some of the bio media in that filter until you can safely remove it again altogether.

Thanks for the correction there lksdrinker! Not questioning you - just looking to understand better (disregard the fact that he doesn't use a filter):

I always thought the substrate contained a decent amount of your bacteria. Is that wrong, or do we not worry quite as much since the plants and other surfaces will compensate quickly enough to prevent ammonia spikes and such while it moves into the new substrate?
You're correct. There can be a decent amount of bacteria in the substrate. I incorrectly assumed the OP had a filter on the tank; and more often than not the bio media within a filter should contain the majority of that beneficial bacteria.
 
  • Like
Reactions: natemcnutty

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,429 Posts
You're correct. There can be a decent amount of bacteria in the substrate. I incorrectly assumed the OP had a filter on the tank; and more often than not the bio media within a filter should contain the majority of that beneficial bacteria.
Thanks! I've always avoided changing my own substrate believing the filter did not contain enough beneficial bacteria to prevent ammonia spikes. I also read that if you are planted heavily enough, the plants can fully cover for your biological filtration. I'm moderately planted in my 6g nano, but I'm getting ready to try my first dirted 40b here next month where I'm going heavily planted with medium light and DIY CO2 as a starting point to learn from :)

Thanks again for the knowledge share!



Sent from my Nexus 6 using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
43 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks! I've always avoided changing my own substrate believing the filter did not contain enough beneficial bacteria to prevent ammonia spikes. I also read that if you are planted heavily enough, the plants can fully cover for your biological filtration. I'm moderately planted in my 6g nano, but I'm getting ready to try my first dirted 40b here next month where I'm going heavily planted with medium light and DIY CO2 as a starting point to learn from :)

Thanks again for the knowledge share!

Sent from my Nexus 6 using Tapatalk
My substrate and plants are all I've ever needed really as far as filtration and bacteria. Like you said about a heavily planted tank, which mine has always been, the plants do a great job at this. I finally got to the point of just using a small pump for water flow. The way the tank has been is it's been like looking a 55g snapshot of an eco system in my house. Everything in the tank performs a function from the fish to the water flow to the plants to the substrate to the snails.

I wish I didn't have to replace the substrate but I feel I have no choice now for the plants to be healthy and functional. I don't want to have to dose to keep things working ... which I currently am. Replacing the substrate will be starting over again but I guess I have always known that this day would come.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
5,942 Posts
..and more often than not the bio media within a filter should contain the majority of that beneficial bacteria.
Just my opinion, but I do not believe that is true, especially in a fairly large planted tank.

Even if OP had a canister filter, what's the volume of the canister (maybe 2-3 gallons) if that much. The volume of the biomedia is far less. You have substrate that is far greater in volume, plus your have plants, maybe rock/wood. I've accidently shut my filters off on my big tanks for days (all bacteria died) and the tank had no ill effects. Now if you have a 10G with a Canister that could be another story.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,916 Posts
Just my opinion, but I do not believe that is true, especially in a fairly large planted tank.

Even if OP had a canister filter, what's the volume of the canister (maybe 2-3 gallons) if that much. The volume of the biomedia is far less. You have substrate that is far greater in volume, plus your have plants, maybe rock/wood. I've accidently shut my filters off on my big tanks for days (all bacteria died) and the tank had no ill effects. Now if you have a 10G with a Canister that could be another story.

Well if your tank had no ill effects how can you say for sure the bacteria within the filter died?

Not really sure how one could ever test something like this. Sure the volume of the biomedia is far less than the volume of substrate, plants etc. But its surface area that matters for the colonization of bacteria; not volume. If volume mattered we could throw a brick or two into the tank and call it a day. Instead, we've learned to use things with large surface areas. The idea of bio media is that the surface area of each individual piece (be it store bought bio media, pumice, bio balls, k1, sponge filters, pot scrubbies, etc) is far greater than meets the eye. The various cracks, crevices and almost infinite surface area is what makes bio media (of any sort/type) effective.

I think people often confuse the idea of plants absorbing things through the water column (like nitrates) with the idea that the surface of plants allows huge colonies of BB to grow. If it was just that bacteria colonizes on the surface of the plants it wouldn't matter if those plants were live, plastic, silk, etc; and clearly this is an idea specific to live plants only.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
5,942 Posts
I could smell death.

As I mentioned in small tanks with canisters yes it would have a larger effect, but there's a ton of surface area on gravel/sand, plant leaves, etc, etc. How would you explain the OP not having a filter for years.

Initially the filter is a place to house media since the the plants aren't growing and you need mechanical, chemical removal. But once the bacteria develops in the the tank the filter on a tank to me is primarily a flow device and takes a back set to the biological filtration within the tank. How do you explain the OP didn't have a filter for 2 years?

Again it's not the dynamic in every tank, but in a big planted tank, I do believe this is true.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,916 Posts
I could smell death.

As I mentioned in small tanks with canisters yes it would have a larger effect, but there's a ton of surface area on gravel/sand, plant leaves, etc, etc. How would you explain the OP not having a filter for years.

Initially the filter is a place to house media since the the plants aren't growing and you need mechanical, chemical removal. But once the bacteria develops in the the tank the filter on a tank to me is primarily a flow device and takes a back set to the biological filtration within the tank. How do you explain the OP didn't have a filter for 2 years?

Again it's not the dynamic in every tank, but in a big planted tank, I do believe this is true.
smell death? You're like those cats in the nursing homes lol!

You're correct. there is a ton of surface area on the gravel, sand etc.; but not as much surface area as any biomedia might offer. the BB will colonize on any surface it can find whether a tank has a filter or not; whether that tank has substrate or not; whether that tank has plants (live, or fake) or not, etc. I'd credit running a tank for years with no filter on the plants' ability to consume the pollutants and act as a natural filter more than their surface area offering space for a large colony of bacteria to thrive (and I'm not denying that bacteria will colonize on those surfaces along with any/every other surface in the tank).

My point/outlook on it is that biomedia offers far more surface area than anything else in a tank (except when that tank has no formal bio media lol). I suppose any surface in a tank could be considered bio media once beneficial bacteria is growing there.

I'd be willing to run a planted tank with no filter; but I wouldnt attempt the same in a tank with only fake plants. Would you? In theory the surface area of a fake plant is the same as a live plant but I've not heard of anyone having luck running a non filtered tank without live plants.

I personally view the purpose of almost any filter as a huge stomping grounds for bacteria. I imagine the majority of the biological filtration is happening in there vs anywhere else in a tank. A nice side effect of a filter is that it can mechanically remove particulate as well (and/or be used a place to store chemical media should you feel the need to do so).
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
5,942 Posts
You're correct. there is a ton of surface area on the gravel, sand etc.; but not as much surface area as any biomedia might offer. .
Well again, you can't make that general statement. It depends on tank size and other dynamics. On a big tank with a typical canister I don't believe that is true. There have been other times I've removed most of the bio-media and added more mechanical and nothing happened.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,916 Posts
Well again, you can't make that general statement. It depends on tank size and other dynamics. On a big tank with a typical canister I don't believe that is true. There have been other times I've removed most of the bio-media and added more mechanical and nothing happened.

Really? But you confirmed a bacterial die off by smell alone?! :grin2:

I've removed tons of plants from tanks with no ill effect too; but I couldn't use that as confirmation as to the amount of bacteria that might have colonized there. I think the only fact in this conversation that could actually be proven is the amount of surface area on one particular thing vs another. I'd still bet the surface area of bio media (when used at the typical suggested rate for a particular sized tank anyway) is far greater than anything else within a tank.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
5,942 Posts
Really? But you confirmed a bacterial die off by smell alone?! :grin2:
.
I also stated that it was off for days. (Most bacteria without o2 will be dead in 72-96 hrs), plus the smell. You see where I'm going? Look no need to debate. Anyone reading this can make up their own mind. I know what I've experienced with all the tanks I've done over the years. If you want to believe there is more bacteria in probably 1/2 gallon of volume vs the entire plant load, hardscape and substrate load of a 4 foot tank that's up to you as well you believing the Mets will win the World Series this year.
:laugh2:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,273 Posts
For the OP question, if I was changing the substrate of a tank I would approach it as a newly established tank ( with a seeded filter). Check for ammonia and nitrite, check if the cycle is ok and only after I am sure of it add fish slowly.


.....
My point/outlook on it is that biomedia offers far more surface area than anything else in a tank (except when that tank has no formal bio media lol).

I'd be willing to run a planted tank with no filter; but I wouldnt attempt the same in a tank with only fake plants. Would you?
I would and have for years run my tanks with no biomedia as filtration. I remember in the early 90's went in a petshop and all the aquariums had a air-run filter in it. As a child, I had an overstocked aquarium with sand and only a sponge attached to a powerhead. Sponges are not marketed as biomedia but mechanical and have little surface compared to what is claimed for biomedia. No plants, no algae, fish healthy.

Are you really suggesting that 18L of AquaSoil has less bacteria than 1L of Eheim Substrate for example ? AS is porous as well but marketed as a substrate not labeled biomedia...As you say, bacteria do not care about our labels, they will colonize any space where conditions are suitable. On other forums the majority run their planted filter tanks with only mechanical media.

In theory the surface area of a fake plant is the same as a live plant but I've not heard of anyone having luck running a non filtered tank without live plants.
Now you have... innocence taken.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,916 Posts
I also stated that it was off for days. (Most bacteria without o2 will be dead in 72-96 hrs), plus the smell. You see where I'm going? Look no need to debate. Anyone reading this can make up their own mind. I know what I've experienced with all the tanks I've done over the years. If you want to believe there is more bacteria in probably 1/2 gallon of volume vs the entire plant load, hardscape and substrate load of a 4 foot tank that's up to you as well you believing the Mets will win the World Series this year.
:laugh2:
LOL....no need to get personal and bring my mets into this! Isnt the whole point of a forum to debate and talk about these things? This is one of those that cant easily be tested/proven. We've all got our experiences and base what we do on that; but in all honesty who can say they always understand the real reason why?

Another factor I think often overlooked in these types of debates is how much of the substrate has enough oxygen and/or flow for the bacteria to thrive? Does that only occur on the surface or does it truly happen throughout the entire depth of the substrate? If the bacteria in the filter dies off so easily with no flow and a lack of oxygen why is the bacteria in the substrate immune from that?

For the OP question, if I was changing the substrate of a tank I would approach it as a newly established tank ( with a seeded filter). Check for ammonia and nitrite, check if the cycle is ok and only after I am sure of it add fish slowly.




I would and have for years run my tanks with no biomedia as filtration. I remember in the early 90's went in a petshop and all the aquariums had a air-run filter in it. As a child, I had an overstocked aquarium with sand and only a sponge attached to a powerhead. Sponges are not marketed as biomedia but mechanical and have little surface compared to what is claimed for biomedia. No plants, no algae, fish healthy.

Are you really suggesting that 18L of AquaSoil has less bacteria than 1L of Eheim Substrate for example ? AS is porous as well but marketed as a substrate not labeled biomedia...As you say, bacteria do not care about our labels, they will colonize any space where conditions are suitable. On other forums the majority run their planted filter tanks with only mechanical media.



Now you have... innocence taken.
Fair enough; but a sponge attached to a powerhead is a form of a filter. I personally run at least 10 tanks right now with nothing other than air driven sponge filters. Some planted, some bare bottom. I've always just considered those biological filtration due to the large surface area and the fact that they really dont do a great job of mechanical filtration. Pretty sure they're often sold as "bio sponges" and other similar names. Like I said before, any surface in a tank where that bacteria colonizes could really be considered bio media in my book.
 
1 - 19 of 19 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top