Tips for swapping sand for gravel in a cycled tank

DaddysLittleCommie

Member
Hi!

I have a cycled 3.5 gallon tank that currently has gravel. I was going to swap out the gravel for sand sometime soon. There is tons of info on the internet but I thought some of you may have some tips on how to do it the best for a betta. Any collective wisdom out there on this process? Thanks in advance!
 

Sauceboat

Member
You could always just add the sand on top of the gravel, or do the transfer in thirds if you’re worried about the cycle. I swapped all my gravel at once in my 10 gallon and there was a little hiccup in the cycle (bacterial bloom) but it cleared away in a week or so.
 

Nickguy5467

Member
DaddysLittleCommie said:
Hi!

I have a cycled 3.5 gallon tank that currently has gravel. I was going to swap out the gravel for sand sometime soon. There is tons of info on the internet but I thought some of you may have some tips on how to do it the best for a betta. Any collective wisdom out there on this process? Thanks in advance!
Sauceboat said:
You could always just add the sand on top of the gravel, or do the transfer in thirds if you’re worried about the cycle. I swapped all my gravel at once in my 10 gallon and there was a little hiccup in the cycle (bacterial bloom) but it cleared away in a week or so.
from what ive heard back when i started that the sand will just end up at the bottom of the gravel. but i have no experience in this
 

Sauceboat

Member
Nickguy5467 said:
from what ive heard back when i started that the sand will just end up at the bottom of the gravel. but i have no experience in this
Yeah, depends on how deep you want the bed, you can fill all the cracks in between the gravel and create a bed of sand a half inch or so deeper than what it was, or you could take out half the gravel to make it easier to cover up.
 

BluMan1914

Member
Dont make it a big deal.
Just take out the old gravel.
Wash the sand very well.
Put in sand.
No need to take fish out, or worry about losing a cycle.
Worst case scenario, is you go through a mini cycle. That will last only a few days.
 

JuiceBox52

Member
Always remove the fish when changing substrate or you risk poisoning them when the anaerobic pockets are released. I learned this the hard way.

Put some of the old gravel in some pantyhose and leave it in the tank for a few weeks if you want to help with the bacteria. Then remove it
 

ValkyrieLips

Member
BluMan1914 said:
Dont make it a big deal.
Just take out the old gravel.
Wash the sand very well.
Put in sand.
No need to take fish out, or worry about losing a cycle.
Worst case scenario, is you go through a mini cycle. That will last only a few days.
I disagree. She should absolutely remove the fish and place it in a holding tank. The substrate removal process is much more invasive and stressful for the fish than just a simple gravel vac/water change. Also incorrect. Worse case scenario her entire cycle might crash and she has to restart it. We don't even know if the tank is actually cycled she hasn't provided any info or water parameters.

It can be done, but it's really important to keep an eye on your parameters and cycle. Don't mess with your filter media for at least a month after changing the substrate.
 

Wrench

Member
You could try something like this as well.
Just an option :)
20200629_150829.jpg
 

FinalFins

Member
JuiceBox52 said:
Always remove the fish when changing substrate or you risk poisoning them when the anaerobic pockets are released. I learned this the hard way.

Put some of the old gravel in some pantyhose and leave it in the tank for a few weeks if you want to help with the bacteria. Then remove it
If it is gravel there should not be any risk for anerobic pockets anyway.?
 

JuiceBox52

Member
FinalFins said:
If it is gravel there should not be any risk for anerobic pockets anyway.?
For some reason it is not well known that gravel can have just as many anaerobic pockets as sand. :) they dont tend to develop as fast as in sand but if the tank is over a year old there will likely be some
 

BluMan1914

Member
So much I disagree with when it comes to changing substrates.
One is, removing fish. Why put them through the extra stress of chasing them, then chasing them again to put them back. Not just stressful for them, but to myself as well.
I try to keep things as simple, and fast as possible.
But I also realize that everyone has their own opinion on whats the best way of doing something.
 

JuiceBox52

Member
BluMan1914 said:
So much I disagree with when it comes to changing substrates.
One is, removing fish. Why put them through the extra stress of chasing them, then chasing them again to put them back. Not just stressful for them, but to myself as well.
I try to keep things as simple, and fast as possible.
But I also realize that everyone has their own opinion on whats the best way of doing something.
I remove mine now to prevent them from being poisoned like in the past
 

ValkyrieLips

Member
BluMan1914 said:
So much I disagree with when it comes to changing substrates.
One is, removing fish. Why put them through the extra stress of chasing them, then chasing them again to put them back. Not just stressful for them, but to myself as well.
I try to keep things as simple, and fast as possible.
But I also realize that everyone has their own opinion on whats the best way of doing something.
Yeah no. You would put much more stress on them leaving the fish in the tank. Let's remember this is a 3.5 gallon here. That's nothing. The fish would be way more stressed staying in the tank during this process. the fish would have NO WHERE to hide. There would be extremely couldy water, she wants to switch to SAND. It would be less stressful having them in small tank on the side while this happened.
 

BluMan1914

Member
ValkyrieLips said:
Yeah no. You would put much more stress on them leaving the fish in the tank. Let's remember this is a 3.5 gallon here. That's nothing. The fish would be way more stressed staying in the tank during this process. the fish would have NO WHERE to hide. There would be extremely couldy water, she wants to switch to SAND. It would be less stressful having them in small tank on the side while this happened.
I would have to disagree. But I will not go back and forth on this. But with a 3.5 gallon, and the sand washed, it should only take about 20 minutes or less to do the switch.
As far as cloudy water, so what. It will clear up.
Dont get me wrong, I understand the extra precaution people take for their fish, but I believe people go waaayyyy to the extreme with it, especially on this forum. Fish are more durable than most people give them.
As I stated earlier, people have their own way f doing whats best for them.
 

emilymg

Member
DaddysLittleCommie said:
Hi!

I have a cycled 3.5 gallon tank that currently has gravel. I was going to swap out the gravel for sand sometime soon. There is tons of info on the internet but I thought some of you may have some tips on how to do it the best for a betta. Any collective wisdom out there on this process? Thanks in advance!
I have never done this, but my advice would to be swapping it in thirds. This ensures that the bacteria on the gravel can transfer over to the sand. Since this process can take a while, it’s probably best to make a holding tank for the fish in the meantime. That way this won’t stress it out as much as it would leaving the fish in there or taking it out multiple times, and it would give the water time to clear up.
 

mattgirl

Member
When I removed the gravel from my 55 and replaced it with sand I didn't remove the fish but I had a lot of fish in there instead of just one. I would have been chasing fish longer than it took me to make the switch. Too much stress for both me and the fish.

If I were doing it in a tiny tank with just one fish I would go ahead and remove the little guy. Use a clear plastic cup instead of a net to remove him. Make sure whatever you put him in while making the switch is covered. He will most likely jump out if you don't cover it.

Be sure the sand is well rinsed before you start the process. If it is cleaned well it shouldn't cloud the water. Remove all decor along with at least half of the water. Instead of pouring the sand through the water lower a small container filled with sand down to the bottom of the tank and tip it over. Continue doing this until all the sand is in there. Once done replace decor, fill the tank back up and put your little guy back in his home.
 

BluMan1914

Member
As far as anaerobic gases goes, that is something that should never ever happen in an aquarium. If it does happen, that fault lies on the person, and no other reason.
 
  • Thread Starter

DaddysLittleCommie

Member
Thank you everyone. I wound up giving in to the PetSmart sale and purchased a new 5.5 gallon tank. I moved my boy, all the plants (live and silk), and all the filter media from his 3.5 tank to the new tank and HOB filter. I'm testing his water daily and so far his cycle seems to have moved with him . I will continue to check daily for quite some time to make sure and do any water changes accordingly. Thanks so much for your advice. I will put it to use when I change out some gravel in a different tank later on. It's newer and I want it to be cycled with the fish in it for a while before I go messing with anything. I use the API water tests on all my tanks pretty much daily right now to keep the habit up and make sure all is going well. Thanks so much!
 

BluMan1914

Member
DaddysLittleCommie said:
I use the API water tests on all my tanks pretty much daily right now to keep the habit up and make sure all is going well
Funny thing is that, once you get into a routine with your water changes, and you have a fully cycles tank, along with experience. You will actually do less water testing.
Matter of fact, I only test my water 2-3 times a year. Out of those, 2 of them is the tap water.
But right now I don't blame you for how often you are testing, but think you can cut it down to once a week.
 
  • Thread Starter

DaddysLittleCommie

Member
BluMan1914 said:
Funny thing is that, once you get into a routine with your water changes, and you have a fully cycles tank, along with experience. You will actually do less water testing.
Matter of fact, I only test my water 2-3 times a year. Out of those, 2 of them is the tap water.
But right now I don't blame you for how often you are testing, but think you can cut it down to once a week.
Thanks for the heads up! I will probably cut back soon.
 
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