Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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-   -   Help With Substrates Please. (

NaomiiSmith 02-28-2009 04:15 PM

Help With Substrates Please.
Heyy, Im wanting to change my substrate from gravel over to sand as Im getting bored of the blue gravel as it doesnt fit in with the natural look i was wanting.
Can you do this with fish still in the tank, as my brother has borrowed my spare tank?

willow 02-28-2009 05:27 PM

i think to be quite honest if it were me,i would remove the fish and place them
in a large container,drain the tank,then change the substrate.
sand can take a little while to settle.and i think it can agravate the gills of the fish.
( i could be wrong with that last comment)

JohnnyD44 02-28-2009 05:39 PM

You can.....but you're fish will be unhappy until all the sand settles. There's been a lot of talk on the forum lately on people changing from gravel to sand. I just did it in mine and personally...I LOVE IT. It looks great. Several things to keep in mind:

Wash, wash, wash and then wash again. Many people make the mistake of taking the sand and dumping it right into their tank from the bag because the label says "washed and screened".

If you have a spare 5 gallon bucket,fill it with your current tank water, take your fish out and if you have a HOB filter, most can be rigged to sit on the bucket. This will give you a little more time to work and in the long run makes things easier for you and life easier on your fish.

Here's how i did my gravel to sand switch for my 20G Long:

- I bought a 50lb bag of sand from local home depot for like $4.(a 50lb bag will fill about a 40G tank comfortably)
- Took another 5 gallon bucket and filled the bucket with about 20lbs of sand.
- I then filled the bucket with water until it covered the sand by about 4-5 inches.
- once the water was filled....get busy....i churned the sand for about 1 or 2 minutes, you will be able to see all the random crap floating in your water....let it sit for no more than 5 seconds, and slowly dump the water out......what this does is it will remove all the sand and debri that would normally take hours to settle in your tank. Doing this will allow you move decorations around and clean without distubing the sand too much.
- Repeat the above two steps about 15-20 times....I know it sounds like a pain in the rear, but it will make life much easier in the long run. Do this until your water seems about clear.
- Next step, drain your tank and vaccum your gravel.
- remove the gravel and vaccum want to get as much of the detritis out of there as you can
- Take a cup ( i used an old phillies cup from a game, something that won't crack) and scoop the sand from the bucket to the tank.
- Don't worry it's not gonna look pretty right now. Once you get all your sand in you can smooth it out and do what you like.
- To fill you tank up again...i bought a huge glass bowl for this reason alone and I'm glad i disrupt the sand as little as possible, I put the bowl in the middle of the tank and slowly pour into the middle of it....once the bowl is full of water, it will run over the edges and begin filling the tank. This is nice because you're not splashing the sand around.
- Add your dechlorinator or whatever set you use during you're weekly water changes.
- Let the tank settle...mine took about an hour and a half. You did yourself a favor by rinsning the sand and getting all the mini-debri out of there....this is the part where people wonder why it has taken 13 hours for the tank to settle when they didn't wash their sand.
- Once the tank has pretty much settled, throw your filter back on and add fish!!!

Cleaning your sand is alot different than gravel because you can't just jam your vaccum into the sand. It may take you a couple of times to get the hang of it, but all you need to do is get as close to the sand as you can without sucking any of the sand into the gravel...It's ok if you do, but you will get the hang of it.[

That's about all I know....

key points:
be patient with your tank settling
and most importantly....rinse rinse rinse rinse rinse rinse your sand....a timefull and annoying process but well worth it

Any questions, just ask!!

aunt kymmie 03-01-2009 12:30 AM

Another additional step I'd like to add to Johnnyd44's advice. A large portion of your biological filter(bacteria) is living in the gravel. If you remove ALL of your gravel at once you'll be exposing your tank to a possible mini-cycle. Too avoid this you can put a large amount of gravel into a nylon sock (I used the foot of a panty hose) and set it down on the sand. Leave it there for a few weeks until the bacteria can re-establish itself. This is what I did when I went from gravel to sand.

NaomiiSmith 03-01-2009 11:01 AM

thanks for the info guys, thinking about only changing the front half of the gravel to sand as the back half if heavily planted so you cant really see it. that would keep some of the benificial bacteria wouldnt it?

Firefighter337 03-01-2009 11:10 AM

I am thinking of using coral, sand, pebbles and shells for my african cichlid tank I am about to throw together. I might just buy the african ciclid sand mix that the fish store has for sale. Not sure yet. Any ideas?

I need to find a tile or a rock saw to make the "tankscape" that I am wanting to do.

I am going to put the tank together when I finish putting the 1/4 round down. (I just finished the hardwood floors)

aunt kymmie 03-01-2009 11:14 AM


Originally Posted by NaomiiSmith (Post 176777)
thanks for the info guys, thinking about only changing the front half of the gravel to sand as the back half if heavily planted so you cant really see it. that would keep some of the benificial bacteria wouldnt it?

That's exactly what I would do. :-)

NaomiiSmith 03-01-2009 02:16 PM

Thanks aunt kymmie. Think thats what i'll do.
would ask someone in the fish stores but they just tell you anything!! x

willow 03-01-2009 02:22 PM

that's what i did in my tank :)
you may want to silicon a devider,as the two substrates will merge.

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