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Hi all, I have a 20 long and it currently only has sand, I’m wanting to tear down the current scape, remove the sand, and move the fish into a tote with filter and heater.
My question is, should I be okay adding a new organic soil with a nice layer of sand cap over it and not face any cycle disruptions?
Or should I go with an aqua soil to avoid this drama?
Thank you!
 

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You'll have to do more water changes with dirt than aquasoil. From my experience, dirt and Ada soil/gravel, changes your water parameters a lot and since you already have fish, you'll have to acclimate them back to the tank and also monitor your water parameters often till it stabilizes.

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There's always a possibility of a cycle but you're definitely more likely to run acrossed issues with soil. If you're comfortable enough with soil and understand the headaches that can come with it should the cap leak it's definitely a way cheaper method than aquasoil. Aquasoil shouldn't disturb anything, just keep an eye on the ammonia just in case, just costs quite a bit more.
 

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Personally, even with the dirt coming through the cap, I have not ran into ammonia problems or extreme parameter changes. Of course, though, my tank is very heavily planted and I presume the plants take advantage and suck it up. It's a wonderful thing if you know what you're doing, but emphasis on that, you really do have to put time into research and even then, most of the time you can only gain that knowledge through personal experience.
 

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If you're adding Aquasoil to an already established tank, you're going to have to keep your fish in a tote for quite some time. It could take weeks (plural) for the ammonia/ammonium to stop being released from the substrate. People who make this switch typically 'cycle' the substrate in a bucket or tote before moving it to their tank a few weeks later. And as others have said, it's likely to alter your water parameters quite a bit, so you'll need to slowly acclimate your livestock. That comes, of course, after first making sure your livestock will be able to handle the new water parameters.
 

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The advantage of sand + soil is it provides much more surface area for beneficial bacteria and will prevent excess nutrients from leaching. This mean you can put much richer material into the soil. For example mine has manure and red clay which would not normally be possible without a cap. Also it creates anoxic layers which I think is beneficial and there is much more going on in the substrate compared to aquasoil.

But it does take longer to 'cycle' because all that takes time to establish so water changes are still required just like for any new tank.

Such a substrate can provide nutrients for years if not indefinitely.
 

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If you're adding Aquasoil to an already established tank, you're going to have to keep your fish in a tote for quite some time. It could take weeks (plural) for the ammonia/ammonium to stop being released from the substrate. People who make this switch typically 'cycle' the substrate in a bucket or tote before moving it to their tank a few weeks later. And as others have said, it's likely to alter your water parameters quite a bit, so you'll need to slowly acclimate your livestock. That comes, of course, after first making sure your livestock will be able to handle the new water parameters.
This takes a lot of patience. I've been dealing with a side cycle since the beginning of March. I thought it was done but last week I found some Ammonia in the main tank so now I'm back to cycling in a separate basin again. I think the substrate will be excellent and worth the wait. But in the meantime, the animals must be protected.
 
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