Restarting the Tank from Scratch?

  • #1

The short and simple story is that when I was first setting up my dirted tank, I accidentally grabbed the un-rinsed sand and added that to cap the soil. about half way through I realized and added the rinsed sand to finish. I did this because I had the first of my plants coming later that day and wanted to get the tank filled. At first, the water never discolored like I normally see with setup videos.
Fast forward, water becomes discolored the day after a change and won't clear up. I suspect the sand. Algae is taking over. It's on everything, sand, rocks, walls. The vals are showing signs of growth but some leaves are getting covered in brown algae and thinning out to wisps. The micro swords are melting a bit but should be okay with time.

What I need help with is the decision or whether or not to scrap the tank and restart. I would remove the plants, remove the soil and sand. Wipe off all the algae, replace rocks, new soil and new sand (all rinsed), replace plants and refill tank. I've already removed the rocks and scrubbed most of the surface algae off. They are drying right now.

Could really use advice from those wiser and with more experience than I,

thank you
  • #2
I've just about had it with sand, personally. I thought it was the super fine stuff in my 10g that was giving me troubles, then I thought it was the height of the tank wasn't giving proper suction. Now that I got rid of the 10g and the sand I realize it's not that particular sand or the height.

I have larger sand in three other tanks. the 45g has it over the black fluorite, and it's mixed with fluorite and smaller gravel from the back - it's fine. The 2 - 15g tanks are not doing well with it, but they don't have anything really below it for plant roots to mix with and the water siphon to pull from.

Sand over substrate, maybe ok. But going forward it will only be an inch or two over good substrate. Hopefully I can get those two 15g redone with that setup - the plants are miserable in sand.

Not sure that's advice, but commiserating on how annoying it can be. I've had issues with fluorite I didn't rinse properly either (that's how it ended up covered in 2 inches of sand!) and the only solution I had was to cover it... I tried doing several full flushes of the 45g before putting fish in and it made no difference, cloudy as can be.

I guess... if you have the time... pull it out and rinse it well is the ideal solution.
  • #3
My super impatient self would just scrap it and redo. But that's me. If you want to clean it up go for it!
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  • #4
One 75% water change and some wall-clad algae removal later I'm going to stay the course and try to recover this tank. The colored water is not as big of a concern as I normally had. I've since learned dirted tanks can discolor for a bit but I still feel mine is past what would be considered normal.

I've added the heater back in (had two but one started taking on, or should I see 'in' water) because I bought a few ghost shrimp to add into the tank to help fight the algae, and produce some minute bioload. My window planter box 'sump' failed because I didn't seal the holes properly. I've since bought another and some silicone. Although I am considering rigging it to where there are no holes, IF that's possible. We'll see. Shrimp are acclimating at the moment and will be added soon. Also time to make a pre-filter for the little guys.

I am going to also add one or two of the shrimp into my 3.5 gallon because the plants in there are picking up some algae and I've just added light so I know thats going to need to be combated and my nerites aren't find of climbing up the plants. Two of the shrimp I bought are prego-sauce so I'm interested in seeing the betta get some live food for a change.
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  • #5
Well... it looks like I'm going to have to scrap the tank and start again. I'm down to one very.. no extremely resilient shrimp that is still braving the tank. I just checked and found a molt I thought was another shrimp but knew there was only one. It's crazy when you consider that some of the bladder snails are dying... good riddance for the bladders, although there are plenty still alive that will make it more difficult when I restart.

The vals in the tank are also doing surprisingly well. Most of the leaves are clear of algae and the ones that aren't will be cut because they are brown and dying. There is new growth on most of them. The micro swords are dying but I'll cut the majority of the dead parts away and save what I can. The hornwort is still in quarantine (I know, ironic/stupid) but I may add some to the betta tank or just chuck it. I'm not crazy about how it grew into big awkward clumps. Maybe it can be cut into manageable pieces and planted in both, still deciding.

So at this point, the last shrimp swimming is nearly worthy of a name. Maybe geodude because his translucent color appears gray'ish and he's as tough as rocks. All the 90's kids will get it.

New Plans:
Pull the plants, clear of bladder snails, cut dead portions
Dump the tank
Dry/clean tank
Check/clear rocks of snails
Add soil/substrate
Add plants and water,
Install Filter?
Let sit, water change when cloudy,
Weekly water changes there after for 1-2 months
2 pinches fish food every other day

The filter I bought (HydroFarm 296) is a bit over-powered because anything worth doing is worth over-doing, except in this case of course. I have the plumbing assembled, so I'll try it but may need to go with a smaller pump or just go simpler. Maybe incorporating the lava rocks into the substrate and using the pump with a pre-filter and calling it good. This is as much a learning experience as it is a fun project.
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  • #6
Surprise surprise, as I began preparing to clean the tank, I noticed stunning improvement in the vals, a few days later I noticed some improvement in the micro swords, I was amazed both times...

The bladder snails have definitely taken the tank but that’s the point, they are hardy and survive and are making a Good fight against the algae which is no longer out of control but still very present.
Today I saw them ‘swimming’ upside-down under the surface of the water... And it’s not just a filmy layer because I’ve seen them do it where there are gaps in the film!
In know I’ll have to deal with removing them in the future but I am thank for them right now and they are kicking butt at their jobs!

The lone shrimp survives! Now 2+ weeks in this uncycled aquarium and still going strong. I can’t tell if he was full from algae or just didn’t care for spinach but I’m going to try cucumber next. Maybe the bladder snails will enjoy it as well.

The vals are growing at an observable rate now, I’ve taken some and transplanted them into the betta tank after checking for eggs.
so the 20gal is still not ‘pretty’ but the improvement is encouraging.


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  • #7
You learn best from experience..

I'll never toy with bladder snails again. Now I know they may help at first but only at first. They started eating the floaters and vals and I was done. I drained the tank, removed and scrapped all the sand and soil and cleaned thoroughly. It's like pressing a Size 20 reset button, if one existed.

And so we begin, Again.. (with a few pictures)

Step 1: Hardscape
After placing the rocks in the same formation I tried before, I went to the back of the tank where low and behold, the design looked better form the back. So now the back of the tank is the 'front'. Pic 'A' was the original plan from the 'front', and 'B' is the new 'front' view I'm going with. I am interested to see what you guys think. Is the 'New Front' better?



Step 2: Add Soil
Due to some planting my wife and I did a few weeks back, I didn't have enough soil for the recommended 1" layer so I used what I did have. Personally I think it's enough but time will tell. The soil dried up a bit between sifting and adding it to the tank so I addede enough water to moisten and am letting it sit to allow the dry soil patches to absorb and moisten.

More to Come...
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  • #8
Step 3: Add Sand
Add a generous amount of 'cap' sand to cover all the soil and keep it down. Now add water...


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