Switching to sand

Eaton

Hey I just want to ask a quick question when switching from gravel to sand can I just take every thing out drain the water and switch the substrate then put everything back and ill be good? It’s a cycle tank that’s been up for about 4years

oh and does Caribsea sand change the water ph at all?
 

Wouldratherwatchaquarium

With a 4 year cycled filter you should have enough good bacteria in there to carry on the cycle. You will loose a high amount of the good bacteria in the gravel however so check your water afterwards closely. To be on safe side, keep the filter wet with tank water whilst the tank is empty and don't clean it out or clean anything else in the tank like the glass as the bacteria colonies will be on all surfaces and you will want to preserve them.

Im not sure on the caribsea sand, I think it will raise PH and KH as it has crushed coral?
 

ValkyrieLips

Depends on the caribsea sand, some of them don't have crushed coral. The "river" sands they make have no coral. Check the bag it should say.
 

StarGirl

I am switching over to sand right now and I am just sucking the gravel out with my vacuum tube as Im doing my water change. You can only do as much as your water change amount. It takes all of the gook and garbage from the gravel right with it. It may take a few weeks that way but at least you are not turning up any garbage into the water, and having to take your fish out. The water only got stuff in it from where the plant roots were. Plus you are only taking out a little gravel at a time.
 

Chris1212

I switched from gravel to sand in my 20g last year. I did half and then a couple weeks later the rest. I did not drain the tank or take the fish out. It was a bit messy (gravel hides a lot of gross stuff) but worked out in the end.
 

StarGirl

I switched from gravel to sand in my 20g last year. I did half and then a couple weeks later the rest. I did not drain the tank or take the fish out. It was a bit messy (gravel hides a lot of gross stuff) but worked out in the end.
I have done this before too and 1/2 of my fish died from something in the gravel probably. Sucking it out takes the gross stuff with it. It really works! I have the large size gravel and the bigger siphon hose but it does work.
 

Pfrozen

Beneficial bacteria doesn't colonize substrate unless there's constant water flow through it. Even if it did, its not like you run an undergravel filter. 99.99% of your cycle will take place in your filter unless you have a very specific setup like a true blackwater tank where beneficial microbes pull some of the weight

Anyways, ymmv but I just switched out all my gravel with sand and got rid of about half of my filter media a couple weeks ago. No spikes whatsoever. IMO with a 4-year cycle you have nothing to worry about.

Keep in mind that many things can impact this process. If you use black diamond blasting sand or use sand-blasted driftwood without boiling it sometimes you can introduce blasting lubricants. Not likely but it does happen. Its also very easy to contaminate your tank while switching out gravel if you aren't extremely meticulous about it. And, there's always a chance that your cycle was weak for 4 years to begin with, in which case my advice is moot :D
 

Wouldratherwatchaquarium

Oh I've always been told that substrate holds a fair amount of beneficial bacteria. Allong with glass, wood E. C. T

There's lots of people who use gravel to seed new tanks so they are wasting their time?

Interesting.
 

Pfrozen

Oh I've always been told that substrate holds a fair amount of beneficial bacteria. Allong with glass, wood E. C. T

There's lots of people who use gravel to seed new tanks so they are wasting their time?

Interesting.

For the most part. Regular rocks, crystalline sand granules, etc. are not overly porous. The potential for growing bacteria is limited to begin with. Remember that without water moving through your media it loses effectiveness. For example, if you turned off your HOB or canister filter completely and just poured a cup of water into it every now and then it wouldn't do much, right? If you put gravel or sand directly into a filter and waited long enough I'm sure it would eventually colonize some nitrifying bacteria for you but it would not be an efficient process.

Transferring gravel does help, but only with biofilm and other heterotrophic bacteria that help breakdown organic waste. These organisms live on hardscape, in substrate, on the glass, etc. and perform many useful functions but do not directly participate in the nitrogen cycle. Biological balance is definitely important, but I find it absolutely acceptable to just move a piece of hardscape or two over to a new tank to avoid cloudiness and other issues after filling. You don't really need to move all the gravel over. Plus, old gravel is typically full of mulm and other organic solids that slowly dissolve into the water column. The last time I did a substrate switch it was more fish poop mud than it was gravel. Better off just switching it out completely imo
 

Ksway

The substrate will definitely hold beneficial bacteria especially if it is a thick layer. People set up unfiltered tanks with plants and a deep layer of substrate and tanks perform excellent. Although takes a longer process to get there. Certainly not as efficient as a filter. I would say a filter that has been running for 4 years would work to switch out all the substrate with out issue. As post said above just watch out for all the waste that will get lifted when you are taking it out and keep the filter wet and off for the shortest amount of time possible.
 

Tankseeker

When changing sand do it bit by bit to prevent the whole tank clouding up
 

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