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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK, this may be a silly question, but here goes: my Ecocomplete substrate is about 5-6 years old. Plants are happy, but apart from root tabs, it is probably little more than gravel at this point. I am dreading the process of replacement. Has anyone ever replaced the substrate "in situ" without taking all the plants and fish out? For example 1/2 the tank at a time; or just siphoning out as much as I can without damaging long-established roots. Or is that just a recipe for a muddy mess? 馃槵
 

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I think that's a recipe for a mess. Honestly, Ecocomplete is mostly inert from day 1, and the main advantage comes from the porous nature of the materials which encourage better breakdown of organics by increasing surface area and slightly better access for water to move through the gravel.

If it's been working for you the past several years, then there is no need to change unless you really want to try something that functions differently, like Amazonia, or are trying for a different aesthetic, like BDBS. However, you'll very likely need to tear down the tank to do that.

You could possibly scoop out the top inch of it by hand and cap it with something, but having tried something similar before, I would strongly advise against it. On top of getting water all over my floor, I ended up releasing insane quantities of mulm into the water column, and had to hurriedly remove my livestock. The nitrogen compounds all spiked with the sudden flood of loose organics, and I had to do a 90% water change before putting the fish back. I was able to avoid a complete tear down of the hardscape and plants, but in retrospect I would have had less trouble if I just removed the fish and plants first, drained the tank, and then dealt with the substrate. Hardscape could have stayed in place, though if it's not a lot of stuff it would be easier to just remove it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I like that answer! My plants seem happy with my ecocomplete, root tab and fish poop recipe. I've been doing this a long time, and am definitely in the "don't mess with what's working" camp.
 
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