About changing substrate...
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About changing substrate...

This is a discussion on About changing substrate... within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> I have fairly large gravel in my tank, and I want bottom feeders eventually... but in order to get some, I've determined that I ...

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About changing substrate...
Old 01-09-2011, 09:32 AM   #1
 
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About changing substrate...

I have fairly large gravel in my tank, and I want bottom feeders eventually... but in order to get some, I've determined that I will need to change to a substrate with smaller particles. Currently, the substrate is just plain gravel from Home Depot, and I am concerned not only about how big and heavy it is, but it also doesn't have very round edges.

It's a 67g planted tank (see pictures below - the second is just a closer pic to show the gravel size). I probably wouldn't go for sand... I'm thinking stuff that has about a 2mm diameter. Is there a quick/easy way to go about doing this, or will it be as much of a pain in the butt as I've envisioned it to be? And I have heard that it's best to do it a little at a time, but how bad is it if I want to do it all in one shot? I'm picturing it being an all day event, and I don't want to have to do it more than once both for the sake of my sanity, and for the sake of not wanting to stress out the fish by putting them in buckets a billion times.

The way I've been envisioning it is to get some 5g buckets. After cutting power to the filter/heater/light, siphon water from the tank into each one. Put my 10 harlequin rasboras in one, 5 (quarter sized) angelfish in another, mollies and honey gourami in another, and then the rocks, plants, and driftwood into another. How long could the fish stay housed in those temporary quarters without filtration and aeration?

then, drain the tank as low as it can go in order to get the tank lid off... (this is due to the fact that my lid and frame are all one piece, and my tank bows badly without the lid, so it's impossible to remove it while there's much water in the tank).

And then, switch the substrate... refill using water that's close to the temperature of the water in the temporary fish holding buckets (minus the amount that is in the buckets with the fish), and condition the water, replant/redecorate, and put the fish back in with the old tank water.

My question about "is there a quick/easy way to do this" is... can I get away with getting the fish out of the tank into buckets, and putting the smaller substrate on top of the existing substrate? (If your only response is "No, would you expect something involving fish to be easy? don't be so lazy" I won't be upset). :)

Although now that I've typed it all out, I'm thinking I could get away with not having remove the lid... I could feasibly just scoop it through the two openings in the lid (one is the part I open to feed them, and the other opening is where the light sits). hrm... then it wouldn't be so bad...



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Old 01-09-2011, 09:40 AM   #2
 
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I think the concern about doing it all at once is that you upset your bacteria. Any bacteria you have in the substrate will be lost in one swell swoop. I don't know what percentage of your ecosystem bacteria lies in your substrate, but I would think in a tank that size, it could be sufficient to tip you into another cycle if your not carfull, but thats just a guess on my part.

As far as just putting it on top, smaller substrate will sink to the bottom. so if you decide to do that it might be better for the bacteria, but I think it would be a bigger pain to have to pull the large rocks out after they have mixed with the smaller gavel.

unfortunately I don't think there is a super easy way to do this, especially since you have a planted tank. Hopefully someone else will come along with better advice. Or any advice for that matter haha.
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Old 01-09-2011, 09:50 AM   #3
 
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What if... I get some sort of mesh bag and fill it with the current substrate and keep it in the tank for a while after switching the substrate? Would that help avoid cycling issues? Or, do I have enough plants to make it less of an issue? I also still have some of the bacteria supplement that I used when I started the tank.
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Old 01-09-2011, 10:04 AM   #4
 
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Now iamgray, would you expect something involving fish to be easy? Don't be so lazy, I expect more from you!

J/K, What I would do if this was my tank (and we know it's not my tank!) is to purchase the substrate I wanted and wash the heck out of it. At the same time that I was ready to add the new substrate, I would also have a few more plants to add the tank.
I'd scoop out all the old gravel out through the opening of the tank, then once it was all gone, I'd add the new substrate. I woudn't even worry about moving the fish. I've swapped out substrate on tanks before and have left the fish in place.
Granted, most of your bio is living in your current subtrate but I don't see that you have an excessive load of fish. Your existing plants, and the new plants you'll add should cushion the blow should your tank experience a "mini" cycle. If it does I doubt it would be drastic enough to harm your fish.
Just to play it safe you can also take a nylon stocking (don't tell me you don't own a pair?? ), cut off the "foot" and fill it with some of the current substrate and set it on your new substrate. It will act as a seeding source for the new substrate bed. After a few weeks toss the filled nylon sock.
The other thing I'd do after I swapped out the substrate would be do to a nice big water change. All that substrate changing will most likely get the water nice and cloudy and the fish will love having nice, clean fresh water.
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Old 01-09-2011, 10:24 AM   #5
 
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Haha thanks kymmie! Honestly... I don't actually own a pair of nylons. You are talking to one of the least girly girls in the world. but i can buy a cheap pair for the sake of the fish. It's good to know i don'thave to remove the fish... I was thinking about how long it has taken me in the past to net a single rasbora... Let alone ten. Zippy little buggers! I just thought it'd be safer to remove the fish to avoid inflicting any fish concussions from falling rocks. I can just put it in by scoopfuls though rather than dumping it on them. My anxiety over this undertaking is slowly dropping.
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Old 01-09-2011, 10:29 AM   #6
 
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yeah, what she said. :) See I knew some extra smart helpful type person would be along shortly :D
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Old 01-09-2011, 10:45 AM   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamgray View Post
Honestly... I don't actually own a pair of nylons. You are talking to one of the least girly girls in the world.
I knew it!! Me either! A long running joke in my family is my mother getting me to promise to wear nylons to her funeral. I ended up snagging a pair from her lingerie drawer when I needed a "nylon media holder", lol.
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Old 01-09-2011, 01:48 PM   #8
 
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Well now that i know that i don't necessarily have to tear down the whole tank every time, i can change the substrate gradually, thus maintaining my status as a non-nylon-owner. :)

Maybe one third at a time, waiting a week in between each time?
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Old 01-10-2011, 03:53 PM   #9
 
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so I emailed a pool supply place in town because someone recommended pool filter sand for a substrate... I asked about the particle size, and he said he didn't know because it's not in a clear bag and it doesn't say on the bag. Can someone who has used filter sand give me a rough estimate? Or are there different sizes depending on the brand? I'm more wanting small gravel than sand... 1-2mm diameter... or is that small enough to be considered sand anyways? Maybe I'll go to the store and accidentally trip into the bags with an outstretched pen and accidentally poke the bag...
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Old 01-10-2011, 05:09 PM   #10
 
filter sand, at least what I got is generally much smaller than 2mm. Some may make 1mm.

I mad a sieve out of 1/4 mesh and "gold mined" at a local gravel yard for two buckets of pretty small stuff. Yeah 1/4 inch is bigger than 2 mm, but I was pleased with my result in regard to size. Took about an hour to fill two buckets. More than enough for a 55.

I have also found a kitchen spatula works great for changing substrate. Hint: buy your own, don't use one that USED to be used for cooking.

Good Luck

jcinnb
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