Help Me Switch To Sand

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by pugletfan, Apr 19, 2018.

  1. pugletfanWell Known MemberMember

    Hi Fishlore people,
    I need your guidance switching to sand from gravel. It's a 29, very established, with 5 harlequin raspboras, lots of Java fern and anubias and a little bacopa floating. Parameters are usually 0/0/10. Sometimes lately ammonia is 0.25. I add Prime if I see a little ammonia. Marineland Penguin 330 filter.

    Honestly I have neglected water changes and gravel vacuuming this past year, but parameters were always good (ammonia and nitrite were always 0, nitrates were climbing towards 80). This past month I have done much better with water changes weekly and have vacuumed most of the gravel, doing part of the tank each time. I would say 1/4 of the gravel has still not been vacuumed. I am trying to not go overboard vacuuming too much at once. Fish all look good.

    I need your advice about switching to sand. I don't want to mess up my cycle too much. Thankfully the tank is lightly stocked and the fish are hardy. Should I just go for it at this point, switch to sand, watch water parameters carefully?

    I have 5 panda cories in QT , they have been there almost 2 weeks. I'm definitely not wanting to move them until the 29 has sand. I think the cories will be fine in QT until this tank is ready.

    I welcome your advice!! I hope this post makes sense. I have never noticed ammonia in the 29 until very recently. Maybe because it's lightly stocked, low bioload fish, and I've been working on cleaning up the gravel.
  2. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    I switched from gravel to sand about a year ago. I did experience a mini cycle but that could have been from all the other things I cleaned at the same time. My tank got infested with snails and I wanted them gone. I removed everything but the fish and water so it wasn't surprising that I disrupted the cycle. Fortunately I had strong bacteria so everything was back to normal in a very short period of time.

    I would say go for it but don't deep clean like I did and you should be fine. Just keep a close eye on your perimeters. Your corys are going to love their sand substrate.

  3. FashoogaFishlore VIPMember

    When I switch to pool filter sand I basically did this:

    I drained the tank and put some of the water in a QT system.
    I netted the fish out and put them in the QT along with a stock HOB that the QT came with with media already cycled.
    I scooped all the gravel and disposed them.
    Wash the sand.
    Wash the sand.
    Wash the sand.
    Wash until it's completely clear. I had 50lbs of the stuff, so there was a lot of washing.
    Pour the sand into the tank.
    Fill the tank.
    I started my HOB, stuffed it with poly file and my media.
    Waited a day for my tank to settle.
    Checked water parameters.
    If the parameters check fine after a few test add fish.

    **A mini cycle may happen, so I be on the look out for milky clouds. It should go away but to be safe I kept my fish in the QT until the tank was reestablished. It happens because gravel hold bacteria as well. Some people will put gravel into a mesh bag and put it into the tank to help counteract it. I've never done it but some people say it works

    Enjoy tank.

    Some people leave fish in there during the change. I opted not to because I didn't want to stress them out already. If I had to do it again I probably would have picked up a sponge filter and let that soak in the tank for a month so that can by my QT system.

  4. TeslaValued MemberMember

    I agree with @mattgirl , you can experience a mini cycle but regular water changes and prime would get you back fully cycled soon with filter having good bacteria.
    You can also load a ton on media in your filter for 2-3 weeks before you plan to do the change, this would allow you to have a lot of BB in the filter itself and lower the chances of a mini cycle. I loaded 3 out of the 4 trays in my canister a month before i changed my substrate on the tank and did not face any cycle issues at all on a slightly over stocked 75g (I was very very nervous though :) )

    With your light bio load I think you should be fine soon!

  5. pugletfanWell Known MemberMember

    I was thinking of putting the harlequins into a bucket with a bubbler and then returning them to the tank after switching substrate. Although I could move them to the 10 gallon QT with the cories. I don't want to leave the 29 without fish too long, to keep the bb strong and healthy in my 29 aquarium's filters. Hmmmm.

    I've ordered an AquaClear 50 for additional filtration. Thinking of putting prefilter sponges on both hob filters. Should I cover the intakes with prefilter sponges and pantyhose socks too?

    I will put extra biomedia in both filters.

    The QT tank has a AquaClear 20 with an extra bag of biomedia moved there from the 29 to quickly cycle the QT tank. It also has a sponge filter running in it. I guess I could move that sponge filter back to the 29 when I move the cories, although I guess that's kinda risky to move it from QT to main tank. The cories all look healthy so far.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018
  6. FanaticFishlore VIPMember

    I have switched many times before, never had any mini-cycles or buildups.
    You just scoop the sand (or gravel) right out of the tank, and replace with new.

    Usually, with my smaller tanks, I will take them outside to hose down and rinse the excess out, I normally do that when I am changing from sand to gravel, but never really do that.
    I just rinse to get the tank as clean as possible.
  7. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    Be sure to rinse the sand really really good and once you think it is rinsed well enough, rinse it some more. You want the water you pour off of it to run as clear as possible. If you don't get it as clean as possible before putting it in the tank your filters will have to work over time to clear it up.

    If the uptake tubes on your HOB filters are close to the bottom of the tank you may need to shorten them to prevent them from pulling sand into your filters impeller. It wouldn't be a problem having the bottom of them right down to the bottom of the tank with gravel but with sand they need to be 2 or 3 inches at least from the bottom.

    You can move your fish if you want to and it would probably be best to do so. It really shouldn't take long to make the switch if you have everything ready before you start. Your media (cycle) should be fine for an hour or so as long as you keep it wet
  8. pugletfanWell Known MemberMember

    Ok! My filter intake is not very close to the substrate, so I think it will be ok. I will still cover it with sponge or something.

    I plan to use National Geographic black sand. I will wash it well, maybe a day or two ahead of time, so it's clean and ready.

    I know the bb will be fine for a few hours, but I would hesitate to move the fish to QT for a few days as someone suggested. Seems like you would have to add ammonia drops in that case, to keep the bb fed. I admit I haven't done that before and would have to learn how to do that first. I do have Dr Tim's ammonium chloride solution on hand, but have not used it.

    I will probably wash my sand ahead of time (outside with a hose? Or in a bathtub??) , move the harlequins to a bucket with a bubbler, empty tank, switch substrate, refill slowly, add back plants (only one crypt is rooted in substrate, others are tied to rocks and driftwood), then add harlequins back.
  9. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    It sounds like you've got a plan. I actually didn't move any of my fish when I changed mine out. They are so used to me messin' with their tank they just move out of my way :D

    I washed mine outside with a water hose and a 5 gallon bucket. It was a lot of work but well worth it. I used pool filter sand. Once you finish washing it you may want to rinse it a final time with water dosed with prime (or your dechlorinator of choice) as one last precaution.

    Edited to add: You may want to keep at least half of the original water in the tank. The water doesn't have the BB in it but it is what your fish and bacteria are used to so to keep from shocking them it would be best to keep some of it. It would just seem to them like a really big water change.
  10. pugletfanWell Known MemberMember

    All good ideas! Thanks! Yes I will save about half my tank's water. And add Prime to the last rinse of the sand. Hmmmm I had considered leaving my fish in the tank during gravel removal..... that's a thought. I have a new small dustpan and little broom to help with removing gravel. Is that a good thing to scoop with?

    @mattgirl you can come visit me and hold my hand through this process!! . I live in NC, so not too far from you, right? Road trip! Just kidding.
  11. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    The little dust pan should work well as long as it is all plastic and cleaned really really well first. Even brand new isn't clean enough when it comes to my tank. I actually used my biggest fish net for mine but it probably would have been easier had I had a dustpan.

    We will have to do a virtual road trip and I will be glad to virtually hold your hand throughout the process. Maybe I can convince hubby to take a road trip to the place he was born or maybe not :D
  12. pugletfanWell Known MemberMember

    The dustpan is plastic with a rubber edge.

    How much sand do I need for a 29? I have two 25 lb bags. I'm thinking I'll need 30 or 40 lbs?
  13. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    That should work fine. I bought a 50# bag of sand. I am sure some of it was lost while washing it but still ended up with just a little bit of it left once I figured I had all I needed in my 55 gallon tank. Mine is about 1 1/2 inches deep. I could have added all of it to the tank but was concerned about getting it too deep. Since I don't have any plants planted in it 1 1/2" is plenty for my tank. A planted tank may need to be deeper.

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