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Changing from gravel to sand seems like a daunting task, but it's really pretty easy. Just make sure that you plan things out in advance. After I did it a few times, I didn't even need I remove the fish or the water.


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Thanks Jaysee, any chance you can quickly outline how you did it? I'd be much obliged.
Since it;s your first time, you should remove the fish. Put them in a 5 gallon bucket. I like to use a lid, as it discourages jumping, prevents startling and will help retain heat. If you have live plants, put them in the bucket too, or in a separate one if you have lots of them. Decor can go in a bucket as well, though doesn't need to be filled with water. Or they can go in a rubbermade bin of some sort, or even on the floor on a towel I suppose. Out of the way of course.

You can drain most of the water, then use something to remove the gravel. I have a big 12 inch wide net that works very well - just be sure to support the bottom with your hand to prevent bending or breaking it when removing it from the water. Whatever you use, get most of it out. You don't have to get it all out - whatever gets left behind will eventually make it's way to the surface after the sand has been put in.

Now that the tank has no substrate, remove the rest of the water - it will be nasty. Once you've removed the water, put some water back in - maybe a quarter of the way. Some say to put the sand in an empty tank, but I prefer there to be water in it. You can then deposit the sand in the tank. The reason I like to have water in the tank when I add the sand it to prevent air pockets. Once you have the sand in the tank, then you can finish filling it up. You should put a piece of decor in the tank, and use that to diffuse the force of the incoming water, otherwise it can whirl up the sand. I would fill it up most of the way, but not all the way, that way you can put the rest of the stuff back in the tank. If you fill it up all the way, and then put stuff in the tank, the water that is displaced by the stuff can overflow. Once everything is back in and where you want it, then you can put the fish back in, and then finish filling the tank. If your source water is very different than the old tank water, then you should acclimate the fish to the new water.

After all that's been said, here is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing....... wash the sand. Wash it and wash it and then wash it again. And then wash it a few more times. And then a couple more. And then one last time. You cannot wash it enough. I don't care if it says prewashed, or it's got this in it or that - if you do not wash the sand well enough, it will cloud up the water. It's not the end of the world if it does, it's just a mild nuisance. Eventually it will clear, especially with the help of micron filter media (very fine - catches very small things, like the dust that's in the water).

To wash the sand, I use a 5 gallon bucket. I put about 10 lbs of sand in it. I fill the bucket with water, either in the bathtub with the faucet or outside with a hose, and as the bucket is filling, I swirl my hand around and around to get as much of the sand in the water as possible. You should be able to get it all in the water, meaning no sand is just sitting on the bottom. Once the bucket is full of water, I stop, give the sand a few moments to settle on the bottom, and then pour out all the water. I do this over and over and over again, until the water pours out clear. Once you stop swirling the sand, and it settles (should take just seconds), if you can immediately put your hand on the sand, and see it clearly through the whole bucket of water, then it's ready to go in the tank. You should be able to stir it up without the water getting cloudy. This will ensure that your water never clouds up from the sand. To add the sand to the tank, I use a brita pitcher and pour it in. I fill the pitcher using a plastic cup. It is washing the sand like this that allows me to add it to a tank that's full of water, and not lose any water clarity.

Washing the sand will take the longest amount of time. Be patient, take the time to do it right, and it will never give you a problem. The less sand you wash at a time, the easier it will be to get clean. You can see in the pics how the water is becoming clearer and clearer.
 

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And here is the final product. Filters are on.
 

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You're very welcome.

Sand at the fish store can be pretty expensive. Many people, myself included, use pool filter sand. Many others use play sand. Aquarium specific sand can be pretty expensive. If you go the expensive route, look at the caribsea supernaturals sunset gold. There's also the Tahitian moon sand. The moonlight sand is beautiful too, but it's extremely fine and is not a good choice with HOBs - it fouls the filter because its easily kicked up into the water column.


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Those are all varieties of one brand - caribsea supernaturals


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