Transferring fish to new tank - what kind of cycling is needed?
I've got a 60 gallon rectangle tank that is going to be swapped out for a 90 or 110 gallon tank in the next few weeks. This was my starter tank, and like many other newbies, I made some not so ideal choices of fish to stock it with, including some Balas that are growing fast. The Balas are getting sold, unfortunately, but it's for the best because even 110 gallons won't be enough for them eventually. At any rate, I'm looking to transfer all my remaining fish to the new tank but wanted to stop by the forum first and get some advice.
Problem 1 - Transferring contents. It's impossible to move the current tank out of its location until all the water and gravel is removed, because it's positioned on top of a breakfast bar-type area in my kitchen, with its back against a wall, and not on a normal stand (also the reason I have to use HOB filters for it). I know I will need to transfer fish and water to a temporary location. All I have is a 55 gallon recyclables bin, and really don't want to buy a 3rd tank just to get the fish into the new tank.
Problem 2 - Changing the environment. I want to migrate from the 60 gallon's basic gravel, plastic plant & lava rock environment to a planted one in the new tank, with new filters, too (2x Fluval C4's instead of the Emperor 400 I have now). I know this means I can't just throw the water and fish from the old tank into the new one and expect everything to be rosy.
Any input on this situation would be greatly appreciated. I'm sure someone will say to just start completely over rather than go through the hassle of transferring all these fish, but I don't want to give up on my fish community just because it's convenient. Hopefully there is a reasonable alternative!
For number 1, transferring. Test your tanks water parameters, if Nitrates are low, sub 20 ppm, and your pH is similar to your tap water (let the tap water sit for a day before testing) you don't need to save any of your old tanks water. The only reason to do that would be if the water parameters would change drastically. There is no beneficial bacteria in the water itself, so all you are saving is nitrates and dissolved solids. Keep the gravel wet in a bucket. Is the recycling bin new? If not, you may want to get a storage tote. It's okay if it's smaller than your old tank, the fish should only be in it for 2-4 hours at most. Put your old tanks heater in with them, and run the old HOB if you can, if not an air stone to keep oxygen.
For number 2, use your old HOB on the new tank in addition to one of the new HOBs. Do that for 4 weeks, then replace your old HOB with the second new HOB. Alternatively, if the media from the old HOB will fit in the new HOB you can just transfer the media. Keep all your old decorations wet during the process, and put them in the tank at least temporarily. Every hard surface in the tank will have beneficial bacteria.
However, any reason for going with 2 HOBs? You can get a single one for that size tank, the Aquaclear 110 for example which is similar to the Fluval C series.
Am I understand correctly that the new tank will be positioned where the existing tank now is? If yes, then you will need some sort of temporary holding tank, either a small tank like a 20g [it is handy to have one around for such times] or a suitable container provided it is safe for fish.
I can go through the transfer process if asked, I've done it dozens of times when changing out substrates.
@Geomancer - thanks for the suggestions. I didn't think to reuse the old HOB in the new tank, that's a great idea. The reason I was considering 2 Fluval C4's is because of its 5 step filtration process which seems to get fantastic reviews, plus I know I'll need stronger filtration when moving up to a larger tank. But looking at the Aquaclear 110, it pushes almost as much water as two C4's, and the removable media is cheaper too. I'll have to give that a serious look. I like saving money that's for sure :)
As for the container I have, it's a big rubber trash bin that I've been using for dumping tank water for the last year or so. Do you think it's better to get a cheap 20gal aquarium like Byron recommends instead of using a bin like this?
@Byron - correct, the new tank needs to go where the old one is now. If you have any insight about preparing a planted tank I'd love to hear it, as that will be the biggest change to the fish, other than the increased size of the new tank.
What substrate are you using?
You don't want too much filtration in a planted tank, so in my estimation for a 75g planted I would go with a canister rated for the tank. If an existing filter has to be used, fine, it can work too. I'm just not a fan of HOB filters.
As long as the bin is clean, as in hasn't been used to store actual trash/recycling, it's fine. A lot of people have used the plastic storage totes before, or even large coolers.
Basically you don't want anything that could contaminate the water.
The aquaclear's have a media basket, stock it comes with a sponge, ceramic rings, and carbon. In a planted tank you do not use carbon, so you could instead put in some finer filter media (filter floss for example) in its place.
Something to keep in mind, both Aquaclear and Fluval are made by Hagen, they are the same company just different brand names.
Having both an aquaclear 20 and a fluval C3 (basically smaller versions of aquaclear 110 and fluval c4), I would go with an aquaclear. It's true that in it's intended configuration (as in, how they sel it to you) the fluval will produce a clearer water. But you are stuck using their cartridges, and even replacing the carbon by bio-rings is pretty hard, it's simply not made to be customizable. The aquaclear, you can do what you want in it. I currently have (from top to bottom) bio rings, filter floss, filter sponge and it produces very clear water. Filter floss is the key here to get great looking water out of this. If you end up getting the aquaclear, I suggest getting more bio-material than they sell for you filter's size. I find I can put the aquaclear 50 bio-rings pouch in my aquaclear 20. That still leaves not that much bio-filtration, but it may not matter much if your tank is planted.
I would still recommend a canister, if you can get creative and find a place for it. Since I've got my fluval 106, I'm thinking of replacing my fluval C3. In a planted tank, the current from an HOB is really disturbing the plants. Also, noise is minimal to inexistent with a canister.
I don't think any internal filter would be suitable for such a large tank, but Byron would know better than me.
Boise - thanks for the information. On the lowest water flow setting for either the Fluval or Aquaclear, you think it would still be too disruptive to plants? Again, there's really nowhere reasonable to place a canister in my set up. What it comes down to for me is I don't want to spend a lot of time and money redesigning this part of my house to accommodate a new system, I'd rather get items that compliment the space I have. My 4' wide, 60g tank with Emperor 400 has done great in this space, it's just getting to be too cramped for my larger fish, and I really want to go planted for the next setup.
As it is planted, we have some options. If the canister can't work due to the placement, there is an internal filter made by Fluval in the "U" series [presumably U stands for underwater;-)]. The larger models (not sure off the top of my head the max tank size) are basically a canister in design (filter pads, ceramic disks, bio media) but they go inside. In a larger tank they can be placed in a rear corner. The outflow is directional, and I believe they have a flow adjustment too.
On the sand, unless you can find black pool filter sand, i would not use this; the white is too bright for forest fish. A less expensive alternative is playsand, the tan/gray mix by Quikrete that I got at Home Depot. You can see it in several of my tanks [under "Aquariums" tab below my name on the left], I've been switching all my tanks over to this during the past year so i now have it in 5 of 7 tanks. I like it a lot. Takes lots of initial rinsing, but worth it. Corys and loaches do well over it, and plants are fine. You only want about 2-3 inches max overall, so two 50-pound bags would do a 5-foot tank for a few dollars (cost me $14 CDN for my 5-foot tank).
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