Best way to change substrate in fully stocked aquascape

JLAquatics

Greetings everyone! As many of you are aware I currently have a 29 gallon nature styled aquarium stocked with various schooling fish (Tetras, Rasboras, a few Honey Gouramis) as well as a colony of shrimp. I have had this same scape for a year and the substrate is inert so the plants are beginning to look scrappy. I have tried root tabs to no avail, so I just want to change over to soil which I have had much better success with in my smaller aquascapes. However, I also want to completely revamp this tank and change a bunch of things about it for the better.

My first thought was that I do not want to stress out the fish or other inhabitants. I want them to be happy and content and the cycle to remain mostly established during the transitional period, but I really want to improve this design as it is my largest aquarium currently in operation, I have learned a a lot more tricks to improve this nature styled aquascape.

Here are things I plan on doing with this tank spaced out over the next few months;

1. Upgrade the co2 system to high tech with a pressurized canister (the last step, not doing this for a little while)

2. Change the substrate to soil (that does not leech ammonia) suggestions on good brands that don't have a ton of ammonia would be appreciated.

3. Get more hardscape and completely revamp the current hardscape inside the tank

4. Get more species of plants for the (high tech) aquarium to grow healthy

5. Change the filter out for either a canister or quiet hang on back filter. Suggestions here is also appreciated


Here is the most important question I ask; How will I ensure the fish are okay until the aquarium is changed over to soil from the current substrate and what is the best way to achieve a seamless transition? Here is a pic of the tank for reference;


1021211954 (1).jpg

I know many members have changed their established tanks before so I would especially appreciate hearing from them and what they did to ensure a successful transition.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Fishlore is one of the main reasons why I enjoy the aquarium hobby so much! Stay awesome!
 

Rye3434

I rescaped one of my tanks recently (changing substrate and scape completely) and imo its best and easiest to just set up a temporary tank for them and run the filter on that tank to keep the bacteria alive. I had two filters (the canister from the scape and an HOB with some media from the canister) set up on a 10 gallon for them while I rescaped and put the canister back on the scape after I was happy with it. This took about a week before I had filled the rescape because I had to wait on plants. I then had the fish just in a 10 with a weakly cycled HOB but I wasn't feeding much so it was fine. I had to wait about another week or two because I had a small ammonia spike from the new soil (even w/ an established canister) and then I finally added them back.
 
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JLAquatics

I rescaped one of my tanks recently (changing substrate and scape completely) and imo its best and easiest to just set up a temporary tank for them and run the filter on that tank to keep the bacteria alive. I had two filters (the canister from the scape and an HOB with some media from the canister) set up on a 10 gallon for them while I rescaped and put the canister back on the scape after I was happy with it. This took about a week before I had filled the rescape because I had to wait on plants. I then had the fish just in a 10 with a weakly cycled HOB but I wasn't feeding much so it was fine. I had to wait about another week or two because I had a small ammonia spike from the new soil (even w/ an established canister) and then I finally added them back.
I was thinking about doing a similar process, but slightly different as I have no extra tank to place the fish in at this time. However, I am thinking I could just use a 15-20 gallon cooler container instead. I can place the internal power heater and filter in there and have it running temporarily while the existing tank gets rescaped. I could have the new filter on hand during this process and get the new filter seeded with bacteria as well. I am even getting a more powerful light for the tank as well, so I could just place the old light on the cooler for some plants while the new tank gets setup.

One last thing, which soil did you use for your rescape? I ask because you said you only had a small spike in ammonia in your new setup so I doubt you used ADA Amazonia and I am getting all my materials gathered now.

Thanks for the advice friend!
 
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Rye3434

Yea I used UNS controsoil. Much easier to work with than Amazonia for me although I still did the big water changes at the start.
 
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