Changing substrate in an existing tank
I have decided to change the substrate in one of my tanks. I don't yet know how I am going to go about it. The tank has tons of plants which need to be downsized again anyway so... Now is as good of a time as any, right?
Have any of you changed substrate in an exsisting tank while the fish were in it? I am thinking I am nuts for even thinking about it and will likely need the better part of a day to do it but... I am ready for the challange. I am going from red (natural) to black eco. I am also thinking of changing the plant lay out but have no actual plan for that yet either. I have some very large swords in there and a lot of other plants. Any suggestions?
I am not intending to move the fish out, I intend to do this slow and carefully. Scoop and remove the current substrate a scoop at a time and then add the new. Do you think it is possible? I will keep the current filter and re-add the plants so an to not need to recycle the tank. So anyway, I am looking for tips or suggestions from anyone who has done this in the past.
I tend to get sick of looking at the same thing so I do putz with my tanks a lot. I add and remove plants and wood. My thought are, that in nature, the environment changes. Fish should not be stuck in the same old, same old for their whole lives. Again, any tips or suggestions will be appreciated.
I think I would move the fish into a 5g pail, then transfer them back when the work was done.
I would also go ahead and take out the plants first before siphoning out the substrate as you said you are going to re do the layout anyways. Then it will be easier to do any trimming if needed. The plants will be fine in a bucket of water while you are removing the substrate
As for adding new substrate well I don't know how you would do that with water and fish in the tank. If it was me I would put the fish in a bucket just long enough to remove most of the water and then add the new substrate. Then I would add the plants back in the new layout fill with water then the fish.
If removing the fish isn't a option then well ummm I am not sure on how to add new substrate? Hopefully someone else will add their 2 cents. Hope this helps some and Best of luck!!
I suppose it is possible to move the fish out into a rubbermade with the sponge filter (an advantage of the sponge filter) but in my head this doesn't seem it will be that hard. I am sure it will be more work then I am thinking it will. Like I said, I will likely wait until I have the bulk of the day to dedicate to the project. I would rather take it slow and easy then to stress myself and my fish out.
Boredom, yes I have the red Eco-Complete. It does have some larger natural stones in there but I should be able to suck the bulk of them out with the siphon, that is a great idea. I have a strainer that I use only for the fishtank. I could just have it over the drain in the tub and let the sucking begin. As far as how I intended to add the new Eco, I just thought I would dump it in slowly a small bowl at a time. Eco doesn't need to be rinsed first like other gravels and it isn't nearly as dusty as other substrates. The water isn't as messy after adding it. At least it wasn't with the red..
The siphon works great at sucking out eco-complete, does it fast also. LoL. As long as the stones are not bigger then the size of pea gravel it should still work. I have found out that pea gravel just gets stuck in the line sometimes at the beginning of the tube and sometimes half way down (which is a pain in the butt to get out LoL).
I changed from gravel to sand with my fish in the tank, they probably didn't love it but no one died. If your fish get stressed easy I would move them other wise I just work around them.
Yeah, I was thinking my fish would likely be fine as I would work on one half the tank at a time. That way they could simply move to one side or the other to avoid me. They are pretty used to me tinkering around in the tank and never seem overly stressed. Usually they swim calmly right around me in the tank.
Sand had to be rather hard to add with the fish in the tank though, wasn't it? I was thinking if I had the water down to about 1/4 of the normal tank water, they would have enough room and I could lower the bag or a bowl full of the new substrate in at a time without stirring things up to much. I am prepared for a nasty stink as I empty the old substate out.
I know I am nuts but over a year worth of fish poo in the substrate will likely gag me. This is another great reason for replacing the substrate. It will be all fresh and clean again. I LOVE that idea. ha ha
Boredom, I know what you mean about the siphon getting cloged and what a pain in the butt it is to get it cleared out again. I have gotten stuff stuck in there. Plant stuff and it is soft enought to make it hard to move it through but solid enough to clog up. Ugh!
I turned all filters off when I added the sand, it was a little cloudy but the fish didn't seem to care. I did only work on half the tank at a time but I found I had to take out all old substrate before adding any new because other wise the just mixed together no matter how careful I was. I left the filters off maybe 1-2 hrs kicked them back on and everything was fine.
Yeah, I hadn't decided for sure on the filter thing. I only have a sponge filter in there at this time and I intended to drain the water down below the level that the sponge would do any good anyway so I would likely just remove it. I want to do it with the least amount of comotion as there are a bunch of Assassins in there I want to save and I don't want to accidentally scoop anyone I want to save.
I would rather spend the better part of the day doing this slow and easy then to rush and make a huge mess. I know it won't go off as easily as I am hoping but... If I think it out ahead of time, hopefully it won't be that bad.
Set aside a day, and begin early (shortly after tank lights come on) so the fish can be back (if removed) and in either case have time to settle before darkness.
I have done both, but much prefer removing the fish to a spare tank, pail, whatever. The filter can be placed in the tank/pail and left running, with some floating plants on top to calm the fish. Heater won't be needed if this is summer and/or the room is heated. Fish will be better that if left in the tank, depending upon the scope of this, and it means you have an empty tank to aquascape without fear of fish getting caught or trapped. I do not like arranging wood/rock and plants with fish in the way.
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