Substrate change and how to do it properly.

  • #1
Hello everyone,

I know I am very new with fishkeeping and I'll just get right to the point.

I have a 10G tall tank and was told to also get a couple of real plants to help with the fish but over the past few weeks, I have noticed that my testing always produces 0 ammonia, 1ppm nitrite, 40ppm nitrate.
What is in the tank now is the following and please don't hit me too hard. :)

I have 1 Anubias tied to driftwood, 1 amazon sword, Mopani wood and some rocks with weeping moss along with an additional plant that I don't remember the name of but I had split it into 4 pieces with small leaves. All plants were low-maintenance plants. My substrate is aquarium gravel and this leads me to what I want to do.

I would like to change the gravel to some proper substrate like Tropica aquasoil or Fluval Stratum but would like to do it in a way that doesn't kill my fish.

I don't have a holding tank but I do have buckets that can hold the fish but I am scared of stressing them out too much.

Please help!!!
  • #2
Welcome to Fishlore :)

You will find everyone here pretty easy going. We don't hit, bite or in anyway chew on anyone. Coming here lets us know you only want the best for your water pets.

Since you are seeing nitrites in this tank I have to think it is still going through the cycling process. I will recommend you change out at least half of the water to get them down to .5 This water change will also lower the nitrates to 20ppm. To protect the fish we need to keep both ammonia and nitrites as low as possible. Once we get a constant zero reading for both of them the cycle will be complete.

I really wouldn't change out the substrate at this point. Removing the gravel will be removing the bacteria that is growing on it and can disrupt the cycle you are trying to complete. The strongest colony of bacteria is going to be on your filter media but it is also growing on everything in the tank.

Instead of changing the gravel out for some type of soil you may want to consider adding root tabs instead. Some of the soil will leach ammonia. We don't want to put your fish through that. Root tabs should work well for your Amazon Sword plant. The other plants feed from the water column so you may want to consider getting an all in one liquid fert such as the Thrive line.
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Thank you mattgirl! Here is what I am currently using during water changes. I did a 25% water change yesterday which brought the levels to where they are today.

What I use is the following during each water change:

Seachem Prime - double dosing at the moment 1/2 capful in the bucket.
Seachem Stability - 1/2 capful in the bucket.

For the plants:
Seachem Flourish Tabs under the sword and what I believe is Bacopa caroliniana.
Tropica Specialised Nutrition for fertilizing the Anubis and moss.

I would like to also add some other plants to fill out some space and help the filtering which is an Aquaclear 20 with a white sponge, filter floss, and bio-media at the moment which I have cleaned in old aquarium water 2 weeks ago.

Here is what I currently have.


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  • #4
Very nice looking tank. Plants look very healthy so I think you must be giving them all they need already. I really wouldn't remove and replace the gravel at this point. I wouldn't remove anything right now. Adding more plants will be alright and may even help finish up the cycle.

I do recommend bigger water changes to get the nitrite down much lower than they are right now. I would try to keep them below .5ppm. Keep in mind. The bacteria isn't free floating in the water so water changes are not removing bacteria. Nitrites are nothing but ammonia eating bacteria poop. Once you have grown enough nitrite eating bacteria the number will drop to zero. Since this is a fish in cycle the lower the nitrites the better it is for the fish.

It is good that you are using Prime. It is the one product I highly recommend when doing a fish in cycle. Adding a double dose isn't going to hurt anything but I don't think it is necessary. Adding more than needed is just a waste of Prime.

I am of the opinion that if the ammonia and/or nitrites are high enough to need Prime then they are high enough to do a water change and add Prime. In other words I seldom ever recommend adding Prime in place of a water change. Get and keep ammonia and nitrites as low as possible with water changes. Add Prime to detox the low levels remaining. As long as we do this the cycle will grow and the fish will never be in any danger.
  • #5
Just wanted to add that unless your filter clogs I wouldn't recommend cleaning it at all until the tank is cycled. You want to keep as much BB on your media as possible and cleaning it can remove some of your hard work.
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
I agree ValkyrieLips. I haven't tended to the filter but only the filter sponge where I squeezed the contents as well as changing the filter floss. But I will hold off on everything until I see the levels normalize. Then I'll clean the sponge and replace the floss.
  • #7
Welcome to Fishlore. Nice setup.

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