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Old 07-27-2012, 08:14 PM   #1 
Unity
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Smile Changing Substrate

Hello,

I had a few hiccups when starting my first 5gal tank but it has really come into its own and my male (Augustus Pablo) is thriving.

However I would very much like to change the look of my tank and first and foremost this would involve changing the substrate from the current neon gravel to a lighter colored sand.

Amongst other things I had to perform a 'fish-in' cycle and try a few different water conditioners before I now have regularly perfect or near-perfect water parameters (also had to learn a bit about water parameters!).

My big question is that if I decide to change the substrate in order to redesign my tank, will I essentially be starting over again with the cycle?

Do most of the beneficial bacteria live in the substrate?

Does anyone who may have done this in the past have any advice?

I run a 5G, heated 79 - 80 degrees, filtered tank. Conditioned with Prime and every other month or so with API Stress Coat. Fake Plants with a single golf ball sized Marimo Ball (I would consider adding low maintenance aquatic plants during the redesign). Water parameters are perfect or near perfect over the past months weekly tests.

Would love some advice. Thank you.

Of course worse comes to worst I will just leave the tank as is - this redesign is more for my aesthetic pleasure.

Thanks in advance for your help.

EDIT: I also perform weekly 30% - 50% water changes. And bi weekly intense gravel vacuum scrubs.

Last edited by Unity; 07-27-2012 at 08:17 PM. Reason: more info
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Old 07-27-2012, 08:38 PM   #2 
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waiting for answer also, I would love to change my gravel to another color.
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Old 07-27-2012, 08:41 PM   #3 
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Thanks for your reply - being relatively new to fishkeeping I got some VERY ugly substrate and decorations because I bought on impulse.

I am hoping that I can correct this without jeopardizing the health of my fish.
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Old 07-27-2012, 09:52 PM   #4 
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First let me say I'm not an expert but I have done a lot of reading in the last couple of months including reading / researching substrates and cycling tanks.

It is my understanding that while some of the benificial bacteria does live in or under the gravel the majority of it is in your filter (providing you have a filter). Some people even start the cycle on a new tank by using material from a filter on an established (cycled) tank. It is especially helpful if you have a sponge filter as the majority of the benificial bacteria live in the sponge.

So if you have an established cycled tank with a filter, as long as you don't kill the bacteria in the filter by rinsing it in tap water or letting it get dry (keep the filter in a bowl or bucket of the current tank water) you should be OK with changing out the substrate.

I would still test every other day or so after setting up the new tank just to make sure you kept enough benificial bacteria in the filter to avoid a sudden ammonia or nitrite spike.

Hope that helps.

Last edited by Greylady; 07-27-2012 at 09:55 PM.
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Old 07-27-2012, 10:01 PM   #5 
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That sure does help. Thank you.

So perhaps you or someone else can answer this question. If I should change the substrate and keep my filter stable, should the worst thing I should expect be a mini-cycle?

From what I understand a 5g is the absolute lowest level of tank that can be cycled. During my 'fish in' cycle I experienced some short-lived cloudy and parameter off moments that made me nervous (my betta thank god was a trooper and as stated is now thriving). I am truly hoping to avoid this.

If I do go forward with the substrate change, should I as well do a 100% water change or attempt to rid the tank of the substrate with an amount still inside?
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Old 07-27-2012, 10:08 PM   #6 
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Eh, maybe that's the worst that could happen. Almost all the BB you need is in your filter so even if you lose the gravel, it still might work.

You can actually cycle a tank below 5 gallons. Well, you're cycling the filter. It just takes more time and patience for it to fully cycle since a small tank can have ammonia build up very quickly, as well as the nitrites and nitrates. I'm actually starting a cycle in my 3.5 when my sponge filter arrives so all I need is a test kit.

If your Betta is the only one in the tank, it's recommended to have a fish-in cycle. The Betta would be strong enough to withstand the ammonia and you don't have to get any feeders or pure ammonia.

Never do a 100% change on a cycling/cycled tank. It's going to lose the good things from the water. All that hard work will go off.
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Old 07-27-2012, 10:08 PM   #7 
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On a side note... I love the look of sand in a tank and actually had white sand for a while and then changed it to black sand that was specifically made for live plants.

Long story short....after months of my poor Gandalf having swim bladder disease, changing foods, changing amounts, times, types of foods, fasting, feeding peas etc etc.. I finally realized he was injesting some of the sand while exploring his tank. Once I got rid of the sand and went back to gravel his swim bladder issues cleared up.

You may not have issues at all, a lot of people use sand as substrate especially when they want live plants. As we all know each Betta is different with different personalities etc so you may be fine with sand, Gandalf just happens to like to eat sand! Lol

Last edited by Greylady; 07-27-2012 at 10:13 PM.
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Old 07-27-2012, 10:18 PM   #8 
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In my opinion, and again I'm no expert, I think 100. % water change is fine as long as you keep the filter in a bucket of the current tanks water to avoid killing the BB (beneficial bacteria). I don't think there would be enough BB in the substrate or water to bother keeping any of it to add back to the new setup.

Yes you may go through a mini cycle as you stated, that's why it would be a good idea to test your water frequently after the initial change just to make sure, once you see a small amount of nitrates and zero nitrites and ammonia you know your completely cycled again.

Last edited by Greylady; 07-27-2012 at 10:22 PM.
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Old 07-27-2012, 10:19 PM   #9 
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thanks a ton!
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Old 07-27-2012, 10:27 PM   #10 
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You're very welcome. Good luck and let us know how it goes and pics are always good!
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