Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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JohnnyD44 01-21-2009 01:31 PM

Switching Subtrate: Gravel to Sand
Hey Everyone,

I was reading the post a few spots down about sand and I think i'm ready to make the switch to brother took care of my tank for me till I was ready for it in my new house and he went overkill with the lights and all my gravel is very green. So, I figured that'll give me a reason to switch it over!!

I was wondering what would be the process for making the switch? If I just remove the gravel, won't that remove the beneficial bacteria ? or can I just go ahead and do it??

thanks for your help!

WisFish 01-21-2009 01:49 PM

Depends on what your current filter is. If it's Under Gravel, then youd' ahve a problem for sure. What size tank? How many fish and what are you using for filters right now?

Twistersmom 01-21-2009 02:42 PM

Its recommended to replace a little at a time. Remove some gravel then add some sand. I would leave the new sand in a bucket of water for a while. Sand has a tendency to float. If you are not careful the sand can burn up your filter. Might not be a bad idea to turn the filter off for a while when adding sand to give it a chance to settle.

Amphitrite 01-21-2009 03:31 PM

I've changed from gravel to sand in a couple of tanks without any problems. What I did was replace the gravel section at a time, and I also filled a mesh bag with gravel and left it in the tank to help prevent a mini cycle, since the gravel holds a lot of the 'good bacteria' you need in your tank.

Cleaning sand is a different process from cleaning gravel - rather than dig deep with the gravel vac, simply hover over the surface of the sand and that should lift any waste. It's also a good idea to stir the sand on a regular basis to prevent any gas pockets from building up - I do this with a plastic fork during each water change - simple rake the fork through the sand.

Is your tank planted at all?

JohnnyD44 01-21-2009 05:46 PM

thanks for all the help so far to answer the 2 questions here's what I got:
29g Long tank
Pengiun Bio-Wheel 200 filter\
2 sailfin mollys
3 black skirt tetras
2 small silver dollar fish
1 blue gourami

WisFish 01-22-2009 07:34 AM

Although I've never switched over a tank fram gravel to sand, I would think that you should have plenty of bio in the filter itself. If you changed the substrate all at once you may get a mini cycle but it shouldn't be that much. Your tank doesn't look like it's heavily stocked. If you do switch it over all at once, make sure you declorinate the water in the tank before you add the filter to avoid killing the bacteria in the filter.

JohnnyD44 01-22-2009 08:13 AM


Originally Posted by WisFish (Post 165733)
If you do switch it over all at once, make sure you declorinate the water in the tank before you add the filter to avoid killing the bacteria in the filter.

I am not switching filters, just the subtrate. It's the same tank, just new subtrate. I also use RO water for my water changes because of the horrible tap water at my current house.

I plan on doing partial changes to sand throughout the next few water changes over several weeks.

If I am to make the change to sand, how long should i let my sand sit in water before putting it in the tank? Also, is there a cleaning process for the sand before putting it in the tank?

thanks for all your help so far guys!!!!

occram 01-22-2009 08:56 AM

I would recommend switching a little at a time unless your Bio-wheel is fairly old. I recently switched my stock over from my 55 gallon to a new 30 gallon (neither of which are over-stocked) and relied on my 2 Bio-wheels from my 2 Penguin 200's and I noticed a rise in ammonia over the next 2 days.

I was actually in the process of doing exactly what you want to do. I wanted to switch my 55 gallon from gravel to sand/aragonite substrate. My Bio-wheels have been in a cycled tank since August but they just couldn't keep up with my fish on their own. In my 55 gallon there is 0 ammonia / 0 nitrite with the same equipment. This leads me to believe that the Bio-wheels just didn't have a strong enough colony of bene. bacteria to support my stock by themselves. Don't underestimate the level of bacteria living in your substrate.


Twistersmom 01-22-2009 09:15 AM

Im not the best to give advice on this. I have two tanks with sand, but have never switched out. I did not really clean my sand other than letting it soak in water. The longer it sits in water, the better, it has less tendency to float. I would let the first new batch of sand sit in water overnight. Stirring it up a little will help the water get to the sand at the bottom of the bucket. I used a large fish net to remove the wet sand from the bucket.

JohnnyD44 01-22-2009 09:33 AM

so you think i should do the sand changes with the water changes and add some ammonia remover?

i just want to try and do everything possible do not create a mini-cycle. If I stick with RO water, do you think i will be ok? or just to be safe give the water some ammonia remover before I do the water change with the new sand?

I will probably break up the gravel to sand switch over 3 or 4 water changes

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