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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, everyone. I’m making an attempt to convert a 45gal tank to a planted tank. The dimensions are 36 X 13 X 24. I’ve had stock in it for going on nine months now, and there’s a good bit of mulm built up in the substrate. I’m stocked with 2 Rainbowfish, 3 Corys, a CAE, Rainbow Shark, 2 Gouramis, and 2 Mickey Mouse Platys (a little overstocked, I know. I’m on it.) I’m also running a filter at 250 gph and keep the tank heated consistently at 76ºF.

The substrate I’m currently using is your standard LFS gravel (2 in worth), and I’m considering adding some pool sand or another white substrate to compliment the white rocks I have now if I don’t completely swap out substrates (If I do it's all about that black sand). In my research I’ve found that I could use root tablets, though I’d rather not if I can avoid it as I feel it would make upkeep easier. I’ve read you can add a layer on top and let it mix itself in over time, and was wondering if this is advisable.

I know I would for sure like a carpet, most likely DHG, and am willing to make any changes to my substrate as long as I can do it safely. I also plan on running CO2 and upping my lighting to an LED fixture with a PAR/LUX of 83/4810 at 24”. I feel like this setup will work well for my tank, but am extremely worried (mostly) about the change in substrate. Would you good people recommend making a full change or adding to what I have?
 

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I recently converted from blue gravel to flourish substrate. I moved the fish and filters and water to another tank first. Then removed the blue gravel and washed down the tank, etc. Then setup my low tech planted tank. Turns out that most of the beneficial bacteria were in my blue gravel and my tank went through a 3 day re-cycle. I lost 3 of 25 fish. Wasn't that bad but I was disappointed. Looking back I would have put some blue gravel in mesh bags (maybe 2 small ones) and left them in the tank for a couple weeks to avoid the recycle.

I think you need to determine what will look best in the long term and bite the bullet now if you think changing is the way to go. I also think covering up that gravel may force a mini re-cycle. Just something to consider.


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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I've always liked the way white looked in the bottom of the tank. It's easier to see the mess and so forth, and my fish pop against it. Though in a planted tank, the black is sure nice. I would like to move my fish and make a complete transition, but I lack the resources to do so, so I was hoping I could convert with what I have. It just seems risky IMO. My containment options are a 10 gal that would keep them warm enough, though they'd tear each other apart being downgraded like that. I've never had issues cycling a tank (I'll admit I go the easy route with the bottled formula because it served the purpose I needed when I moved.) Thanks for your input on the re-cycle; I'll look more into it.

Edit: I'm also overwhelmed when it comes to substrate. I've spent hours of research on the subject and just can't find anything that doesn't scare me. Fluorite clouds excessively, Aqua-soil melts plants, Miracle Grow causes ammonia spikes, etc. Bleh. It's almost enough to make me not want to go through with this, even after how excited I've been to convert.
 

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You can always buy a large storage bin from Home Depot, Target, etc. and stick your fish along with your filter in there for as long as you need to redo your substrate. Home Depot sells a 45 gallon storage bin for just $22 (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Sterilite-45-gal-Wheeled-Latch-Tote-19481004/202097689), or you could go with the 30 gallon version instead for only $9 (http://www.homedepot.com/p/HDX-30-Gal-Tote-2030-0106/202523604). I'm sure you could find a good use for the storage bin after your done using it to house your fish.

Having a large storage container will allow you to take your time redoing the substrate, and the container should be able to house your filter and heater as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You can always buy a large storage bin from Home Depot, Target, etc. and stick your fish along with your filter in there for as long as you need to redo your substrate.
I hadn't thought about that. Thanks for the info and the link! I'll see what's available in my area and see about making an investment.

The reason I was trying to keep from adding to my regimen with root tabs is I figured it would be best to go low-maintenance as possible. I'm already (most likely) going to have to dose with ferts, and I would like to make my tank as self-sufficient as possible. Though I suppose I could quit being lazy and just mark my calendar. All in all I was hoping to convert to a substrate that would provide adequate nutrients in addition to the mulm that's built up over time, and keep maintenance down to dosing ferts on occasion. If I'm way off don't hesitate to let me know. I've put several hours of research into this conversion, but I'm still a newbie and the info I've gathered that pales in comparison to the wealth of experience this forum has!
 

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I hadn't thought about that. Thanks for the info and the link! I'll see what's available in my area and see about making an investment.
No problem. You might be able to find even cheaper totes at Target or Walmart. The bottom line is that it shouldn't cost much to be able to temporarily house your fish in a large enough container.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I've come to update my progress in converting my tank. Today I removed my fish and placed them in their own water in a rinsed storage tub. The plants I had are floating in the containment chamber as well. There is currently an airstone running and the fish are behaving relatively well.

I broke down the tank, removing the gravel and storing in a large bucket. There was a considerable amount of mulm-water that came with it, which would be used later. I then poured in roughly two inches of MGOCPM that I had sifted through a fine mesh screen. I now had a powder sitting in the bottom of my tank. Without thinking, I poured in the water from the bucket, and the powder turned to a runny muddy mixture. When I poured in my gravel, some of it stayed on top of the mud, so I proceeded to add the rest of the 50lb bag. Much of this sunk.

Thinking if I was careful filling the tank I would at least be able to return my plants to the aquarium and begin the cycling process (the end result being my fish being happier quicker), I filled the tank. There is now a big black box sitting in my living room.

So my question is this: How can I fix this? I plan on leaving the filter pump off and allowing the dirt to settle out of the water, then cap with another bag of gravel once it has settled to the bottom. This will result in my soil being somewhat mixed with the gravel, but it's very fine so I don't see a problem with it. Then the gravel poured on top will simply cap my substrate.

tl;dr Mudbox in the living room
 
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