Starting new tank, quick question
I am setting up a 55 gallon aquarium, and currently have a 37 gallon set up. We have a lack of space at the moment, so I was wondering, if I could set up the 55 gallon with all the water from the 37 and an additional amount of water to fill the tank, if that would be ok to start adding the fish from the 37 right away. Really, then there should only be around 18 or so gallons of new water, and shouldn't be too much different than doing a water change is what I was thinking. The only difference is that we are using new sand in the bottom of the 55. We are adding a few new decorations, but are using all the ones that were in the 37 as well.
Using the old water is good for making the transition less shocking to the fish, since it's the water that they are already used to. But if you are concerned about bacterial colonies, the water isn't the main contributing factor - it's things like rocks, filter media, and decorations that hold the most bacteria. So you can use the old filter media in the new tank, and you already said you are using all of the old decorations in the new tank so that's good. Another thing you can do is put some of the old substrate in pantyhose and tie it shut, and leave that sitting in the new tank for awhile. Make sure you don't allow any of those things to dry out though, or the bacterial colonies will die.
The detriments of using "old" water outweigh the benefits. I agree that moving fish between identical water is probably less stressful, but there is no other possible benefit. I just completed rebuilding 5 of my tanks during the past 3 weeks, and in every case the "new" tank was filled with fresh tap water, dechlorinated, and the fish went in within a couple hours. Wood, rock and plants were moved from the existing tank to the new tank with the fish. Ammonia and nitrite remained undetectable, not one fish loss. Within minutes of being netted into the new tank, many of them were acting as if nothing had happened.
The downside of transferring water is that you are moving bad stuff into the new tank--more ammonia, pathogens, pheromones, waste...things that will naturally accumulate on their own in the new tank without having extra added, especially when there is insufficient bacteria to handle any of the ammonia (if you don't seed it somehow). Somewhat akin to never using the water from the bag in which you bring home the fish.
Seeding the new tank with bacteria is positive, and essential if fish are to go in. Hard objects like wood, rocks, decor, substrate, filter media and plants from an established tank will carry nitrifying bacteria with them to the new tank. Keep them wet, don't wash them, and once in the new tank add some ammonia source immediately, like a fish or two, or else the bacteria will die off for lack of "food."
Live plants also work wonders, provided there are enough of them. They assimilate most of the ammonia/ammonium before even the bacteria can get it.
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