Help With My Rescape/Maintenance Checklist


Doing a rescape and cleaning tomorrow on my 36 gallon established tank. Will be switching out substrates (gravel for sand/flourite mix), removing algae buildup from rocks, driftwood, plants, glass, etc and then reshaping terrain and rearranging decor.

I've made a checklist to help me keep track of what I need to be doing and when. I'd love to hear from all of the many knowledgeable members here as to what I'm doing right, what I'm doing dead wrong and what could simply be done better. Just refer to the step number(s) and leave your comment(s.) Thanks so much in advance.

1) Wash all new substrate.

2) Unplug filter and heater. Fill small spray bottle with tank water. Siphon about 1.5 gallons of tank water into a 3 gallon bucket to be used later for rinsing. Siphon about 2 gallons of tank water into a 20 gallon storage bin. Remove taller, more complex plants and decor (to make fish catching easier) and place in bin.

3) Siphon 10 gallons of tank water into a 10 gallon hotel tank, placed on small table next to established tank. Hang established filter on back of hotel tank and plug in. Place heater on floor of hotel tank and plug in. Net all fish and inverts and place in hotel tank. Cover hotel tank with towel, leaving opening in rear for air to contact water surface.

4) Siphon most of remaining tank water into the 20 gallon storage bin, leaving about an inch above the substrate. Remove remaining plants and decor and place with those already in bin.

5) Clean all plants, rocks and driftwood with algae scrubbing cloth and/or toothbrush as needed, rinsing by dunking into the tank water in the 3 gallon bucket. Return cleaned plants/decor to the 20 gallon storage bin.

6) Remove all gravel, mulm and remaining water from established tank with large plastic cup and clean walls and bottom. Rinse tank and let dry.

7) Pour flourite in corners and shape terrain, placing rocks and driftwood to build shelves. Add more rocks as necessary to prevent possible landsides. Add about a 1" layer of washed pool filter sand to the middle portion of tank and shape. Spray hardscape as needed with spray bottle to keep rocks and driftwood moistened while working.

8) Slowly fill tank about halfway with tank water from 20 gallon storage bin and add plants, more driftwood and any other remaining decor. Use spray bottle as needed while rescaping to keep anything from drying out.

9) When rescape is complete, add remaining tank water from 20 gallon storage bin to tank. Allow any debris to settle, especially that from sand. Net fish/inverts and return to their original tank. Slowly add water from hotel tank back to original tank, allowing debris to settle, if necessary. Top off tank with fresh temperature adjusted water treated with Prime. Return filter and heater back to original tank and plug in.

So, does it sound like my fish and inverts will survive this ordeal? Will enough beneficial bacteria survive to avoid a mini-cycle? Will there be an issue with hanging an AquaClear 50 on the back of a 10 gallon hotel tank? (I can adjust the outflow, but not the intake.) Am I just missing anything?

Man, I'm so nervous right now. Hope I can sleep tonight.


You are beyond prepared! Whenever I do a rescape I just do it as I go (more room for failure) but I'm glad you are planned out! You have covered everything and I wouldn't be nervous at all!

There should be plenty of BB to keep your tank established and avoid minI cycle issues. I wouldn't worry about the AC50 on the 10G since it'll only be for an hour or three. Just making sure though, make sure to hang the filter on the long side of tank and not the short side (how you usually would with any filter on any tank).

Don't be nervous


I think you've got it covered just try to keep the fish in the dark while they're in their temporary holding tank to lessen stress.



Thanks for the encouraging words. I feel tons better.

Getting ready to start in about an hour.


Was doing some reading this morning and came across something. Turns out Eco Complete isn't so good for established tanks with fish (It supposedly raises pH during the first couple of weeks.) So, I spent most of my day hunting down a second bag of Flourite Dark and washing substrate. Washing the gravel and sand was three less hours my fish and inverts would have been displaced from their home, so I'm glad I got the idea to do that first.

Feel like I dodged two bullets today. Fun begins tomorrow.


Rescape went down without a hitch. Edited OP to reflect adjustments made to original checklist.

Here's the before and after:

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