First, is it okay to replace the substrate in an established tank? I realize some of the beneficial bacteria would be removed in the process of removing the current gravel.
If it's not out of the question to do this, how do you do it? I don't currently have a holding tank to transfer my fish to. The way this has played out in my mind would be that I vacuum the current gravel, and then manually remove it from the tank over the course of a few days.
I'd like to replace it with a dark sand (purely for the purpose of easier maintenance), but I'm not sure adding two pounds of sand (gradually, of course) to a tank with fish swimming around in it would be wise...
This is a ten gallon tank with 3 corys, 3 rasboras, and 5 neons.
I'm new to the hobby, so let me know if I'm totally off base, here.
Honestly you are going to find the sand harder to maintain then gravel. With gravel the waste falls down in to the gravel and disinergrates. With sand it will sit on top and float around which will take away from the appeal of your tank. I would honestly just stick with the gravel unless you want to have to clean your tank once a week
if not skip the next paragraph so I can tell you what I would do.
if you plan to get a new tank get like a 20 gallon and set it up just how you want it. when you begin cycling just get the proper filter for the 20 gallon and put a used cartridge from the 10 gallon filter into the 30 gallon filter and run it for a while so the bacteria begin to establish. get a 30 gallon filter for your 20 gallon for better filtration, I would go for a marineland filter those have BIO-wheels that you never have to replace those. After you cycle it add your fish and stuff!!
or if you really dont want to buy a new tank just take the fish out and put them in little containers with tank water and take out your decorations and remove the gravel quickly with a large strainer. do it fast so the water that the fish are in doesnt get too cool or what not.
and about the bacteria that is gone from removing the old gravel just keep an eye on the levels of nitrites and ammonia and if they get high do 50% water changes. dont let them get higher than stress levels though. I would get a master test kit if you dont have one. once the bacteria is back to normal just check the parameters once or twice a week. like I said maybe youd like to get a little bigger tank or something and set it up just how you want it so that your dont have to deal with so much and so that the fish are not at risk...
Thanks guys, great info. Won't go with sand, then. I heard it was easier because waste couldn't penetrate the substrate and you could just vacuum it off, but yeah, if it means it's just going to float around the tank, then I'm not interested. Is gravel the best way to go? I'm really not fond of the substrate I chose when I started, and I'd like to change it eventually.
I think I'm pretty much stuck with the 10 gallon. I have a studio apartment with very little space (the 10 gallon works because it's the exact width of my dresser, which is the only surface I have available)... as soon as that changes, I'd like to upgrade, but for now, it's 10 gallons.
If/when I change the substrate, I'll buy a 5 gallon hospital for what shouldn't be more than ten minutes of holding while I remove the current substrate and add the new stuff. This is a viable plan, I hope?
Just an aside... What's the consensus on the 1-inch-per-gallon adage? Is it a strict rule or just a general guideline? I've heard people argue both, so I kind of went in between when I stocked. AQAdvisor's calculator says I'm fine, but if you use the 1 inch per gallon rule, I'm about 50% over my stock limit. My water tests are consistently good. I vacuum the gravel once a week and replenish about 15% of the water. I'm willing to put the Rasboras up on Craigslist if need be.
I personally love my sand substrate. I don't find it anymore difficult to maintain than gravel. When I changed my substrate, I didn't bother moving the fish out of the tank. I used a scoop to place the sand in the bottom of the tank rather than dumping it in. The fish didn't seem too bothered by it.
The 1 inch per gallon thing is a bit of an old wives tale or a loose guideline at most. You still need to use common sense, and consider the activity level and bioload of the fish as well... when I speak of common sense, I mean that you need to think of this example - if you have a fish that will reach 10", you can't keep it in a 10g tank even though it's still technically 1"/gallon.
The 1 gallon per inch is just a guideline. It all depends on the type of fish, and how big your filter is mainly.
Honestly, every one of my tanks are overstocked according to the inch 'rule' but I have filters double, several triple, the size of aquarium.
With sand I don't think the stuff will float around. I'm planning on eventually switching every one of my tanks except one to sand. The stuff will sit on top of the sand. You just can't plunge the gravel vac directly in, you just skim it over the surface or else it'll suck up the sand.
Also, you can get a 20 gallon tall and I believe it is the same width and length as a 10, just taller. Sand would also be a lot better with the cories and they are a lot happier when kept in groups of 5-6.
What I would do is get a 5 gallon bucket and empty some water and your fish into it. Have another bucket for more water and your decorations, which will hold a good bit of the bacteria as well so you don't want them to get dry. With the tank empty of water, remove the gravel. Keep a few handfuls in a filter bag and keep it wet. Put in your rinsed sand, take the bucket with the decor and water and add that to the tank, along with your filter bag of old gravel (this will help seed the sand with the beneficial bacteria, as well as the decor). Now add your fish back along with the water they were in. Replace any water that needs replacing. Just keep a close eye on the tests as it may go into a small cycle. There you go.
The only thing I would add to this is that whether or not you can plunge the vac directly in would depend on how fine your sand is. With my sand, the particles are about 1-2mm. I skim the vac over the surface to pick up the waste that's sitting on top, and then I stir up as much sand as I can (without disturbing my plants). It sucks the sand up about 3-4" into the tube, and then all the sand falls back down (stirring of sand is recommended to prevent compaction).
I gave a brief overview of the process I used to change my substrate in this thread.
I have one tank with sand and one with gravel. The sand is way easier to maintain than the gravel.
Sand is much easier to maintain than gravel in my opinion for the waste is easily removed from the surface .If filter is rated properly for tank's size,then little waste should be floating about unless one is overfeeding.
Food and waste that falls down into gravel does not break down completely and excess of this,,is what gives rise to dirty tanks and sick fish sooner or later.
All tanks could benefit from once a week cleaning and many hobbyist's do so without much trouble.
Would keep about a cup full of the old gravel in a section of ladies nylon.
Once the well rinsed sand has been placed in the tank,I would place the nylon baggie of old gravel in the tank as well and top off the tank with fresh dechlorinated water close to same temp as the tub holding fish.
After forty five minutes to an hour, for sand to settle,I would net the fish from the tub, and place them back in the tank along with heater and filter and should be little issue.
Ten gal tank shouldn't take too long if sand is washed and ready to go.
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