Switching from gravel to sand
I'm planning to switch from gravel to pool filter sand in the next few weeks. My tank is an established 25 gal with lots of smallish guppies, and no live plants . On other threads with this topic, I noticed that most people usually recommend removing the fish to another aquarium while making the switch. But to be honest I'm not sure that I could ever catch all the guppies with a net. They are really fast! And the largest container I have right now is a 2 gal bucket. So I think I'm going to try to (VERY carefully) switch to sand with the fish still in the tank.
My current game plan - suggestions appreciated:
1) Remove ~25% of water to a couple of buckets
2) Remove decorations from right half of tank to the buckets of aquarium water
3) Remove gravel from right half of tank
4) Slowly lower sand to right half of tank
5) Allow water to clear for an hour or so
6) Move fake plants to the right half of tank so the fish have a place to hide
7) Wait a few minutes for the fish to move to the fake plants at the other side of the tank
8) Add a handful of the remaining gravel to a breeder net and place in the right side of the aquarium to seed the sand with bacteria
9) Remove the rest of the gravel
10) Add sand slowly
11) Allow water to clear
12) Replace aquarium water and fake plants
Does that sound like something that would work? Thanks in advance!
I have to suggest that after you remove the 25% of water, you DO remove the fish. You can use a 5g bucket you can get a good deal on at wallymart. If a couple are left behind, oh well - but they will be very stressed by what comes next.
Now remove all of the gravel, keeping some wet in a mesh bag or stocking.
Then add the WELL WASHED sand, bring the water level up with heater(s) and filter(s) working and put the stock back.
I would treat this as a start over situation. You might think about getting some stem/floating plants to help with the recycling process. Get your sand ready to go. Don't clean the filter unless it's really dirty. If it is, gently swirl it around in water you remove from the tank. Fill a bucket with tank water, then remove most of the remaining water so that it's easier to remove the fish. Put the fish in the bucket of old tank water.Refill and decorate the tank in a careful, timely manner. Making sure that the water temperature is close to the bucket temperature and that you have added conditioner to the tank, net the fish back into the tank. Monitor with a test kit and do appropriate water changes. This is how I would do it...and I'm a slacker. Replacing substrate is a major deal.
I've made the switch without removing the fish - it's not that big a deal IMO and E, especially in a larger tank. In a small tank I would certainly remove the fish though.
The easiest way to get the gravel out is with a big fish net. You can scoop it out, being sure to support the net as you remove it from the tank. You don't have to get ALL the gravel out - whatever is left behind will eventually make it to the surface, where it is easily removed with a net. I agree with removing some water so that you are not splashing. Once the gravel is removed, I would let the filter run to clear the water. Then you can add the sand. I put the cleaned sand in a plastic pitcher, lower it into the tank and pour out the sand.
It seems like a big task, but it's really very easy.
And yes, as fish monger said, it's far easier to catch the fish when you remove the water :)
I know this is after the fact, but just a tip for next time. If you have trouble catching fish, try making a trap using a 2 liter bottle. I had the same issue when trying to remove some zebra danios from a 55 gallon. I bought a couple fry nets to keep them temporarily (jail) as I caught them since I didn't count on getting them all in one day.
Take a 2 liter bottle, cut the top off right before the knuckle. Flip the top and fit it back inside the bottle so the top is pointing towards the bottom. You can poke holes and use toothpicks or hot glue to keep it together. Then put a little food in as bait and sink it in the water. You can also tie some line around it and attach it somewhere if you want to keep it at the surface.
I'm not very good at explaining such, lol, but if you just google "fish trap 2 liter bottle" would probably be easier. Matter of fact, that’s all I really had to type, huh?
Glad it all worked out for ya!
I certainly recommend removing the fish to temporary quarters so you have a bare tank. Drain it completely, remove all the gravel and then put in the washed sand. You may find cloudiness, and the water can be siphoned out to deal with this, something not possible with fish in the tank. Not to mention that the whole process leaving the fish in will be significantly more stressful than getting them out.
On the sand, do not use white pool filter sand, it is too bright for the fish. If you can find the black, fine. Or use playsand or one of the dark aquarium sands.
Ok, ok. I get the message. Take the fish out. I just figured getting netted and then swimming in a bucket for an hour or two would be more stressful than staying in the tank... But I will do as you all suggest. Thanks!
I was planning on getting a few live plants after I switched the substrate to sand, but should I get them before? Would that help bring everything back to normal more quickly? Or should I add some sort of bacterial supplement in addition to leaving a few cups of gravel?
@Absntmind: Not after the fact. I'm not switching till next week at the earliest (I recently changed the filter). That actually looks like a fantastic idea! I have a confession: netting fish stresses me out BIG time. I am definitely going to try the trap. Thanks for the idea!
@Byron - the light color was the one thing that has me worried about pool filter sand, but looking through other threads it seemed to be fairly well-liked. I think I also saw people mention something called Quikrete. Is this Shop QUIKRETE 50 Lb. All-Purpose Sand at Lowes.com a more natural color + safe to use?
I keep hearing about white pool filter sand. I've replaced the sand in my pool filter and it was sandy (brown) color. The thing that makes sand, pool filter sand is that it is screened to a specific size - it's not some special exotic white sand. The somewhat uniform, screened particle size may make washing/rinsing a bit easier, but I found it was still a bit of an outside chore with 5g bucket and garden hose.
For removing gravel, consider the kind of scoop sold for cat litter boxes - it works really well.
And yes, plant the tank at the start. With sufficient plants that are fast growing, and stem plants and particularly floating plants are good for this, you will not have cycling issues. Any decor (wood, rock, etc) from the existing tank that goes into the new tank setup will have bacteria on it provided it is kept wet and not washed. You can use a good bacterial supplement as a back-up, I have done this in the past if I though my plant load was light; Tetra's SafeStart or Seachem's Stability work, just the smallest bottle.
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