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Old 05-15-2016, 11:24 PM   #1
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Gravel to Sand

I have gravel in my tank now. I have a 10 gallon tank and it is currently going through the fish-in nitrogen cycle. I have 4 cory catfish and I don't want their barbels to get hurt when they try to get food. When the nitrogen cycle is done would it be safe to switch from gravel to sand or will all the beneficial bacteria be removed when I get rid of the gravel? If it would be removed, would it start the whole nitrogen cycle over again? If it is safe to switch over without screwing any thing up, what kind of sand would you recommend?

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Old 05-16-2016, 08:29 AM   #2
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Most bacteria is in the filter, but it might have some impact on your cycle. I recommend not changing all of it at one time, though. When I did that, I stirred something up and my fish died.

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Old 05-16-2016, 09:53 AM   #3
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You think I could put the fish in a bucket for the time I change it out?
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Old 05-16-2016, 01:51 PM   #4
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Lots of people have done it. I haven't personally. Search the forums. About a year ago someone posted a step by step on how they did it, involving putting the fish in buckets, turning off the filter, and waiting for the water to clear a bit before reintroducing the fish. I remember thinking I should follow that thread in case I want to do it sometime, but I never did.

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Old 05-16-2016, 02:37 PM   #5
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I just did mine this weekend, however I had a separate tank already set up for the transfer. Mine is a 55g tank, so it's taking a lot longer to settle than your 10g would. There are a few people who have made the change, and have never looked back.
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Old 05-17-2016, 09:31 AM   #6
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I remember once I changed from plain black gravel to two bags of Eco complete. I too was scared of the bacteria going so what I did was put some gravel into a pantyhose and kept in in the corner until I felt it was safe to take out.

Aside from that, while changing the substrate, I took out the fish and invertebrates and put them in a bucket next to me (just in case someone tries to jump out) and I didn't but I highly advise putting some type of heater in there just to keep them warm for the time being and an air stone. You might think of it as a quick process but in the end you will figure out that taking your time is key to making your tank look the way you want it. So don't let your fish suffer during the process with cold water and no air.

I didn't provide heat because I didn't think it would take so long but honestly it took me almost 3 hours, of course it was a very deep and difficult tank to work with full of plants and fish and also a very difficult substrate to prepare but still, a very long time went into it. You want to add the substrate, lay it out how you want, and turn your filter on and let it do some work, maybe 20-30 minutes before you add your fish back in. But in my opinion, you should wait until you're finished with the nitrogen cycle. It'll be easier and less stressful on you and your fish.

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Old 05-17-2016, 05:17 PM   #7
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Thank you all, this is some very useful information, I will take it into account when I plan on switching over.
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Old 05-17-2016, 06:41 PM   #8
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Hi Fox 1,
I would syphon out the gravel with a large bore pipe so it doesn't get stuck. This removes debris in the gravel as well. Do a third a day until bare bottomed, the tank not you 😀. The amount of bacteria in the gravel in these early stages of cycling is minimal. If done carefully the fish can stay in the tank, just test and water change if parameters rise, unlikely, or add a dose of Prime daily as a precaution.
If the sand is REALLY well washed then add it to the tank down a wide tube so the sand reaches the bottom before settling. You could leave your fish in but it would probably be easier to rehome them in a bucket for an hour or so.
No two tanks will react the same as the conditions, equipment, fish, sand quality, amount of gunk in the old gravel etc all vary.
Go with your gut feeling and stress the fish as little as possible.

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Old 05-19-2016, 10:11 AM   #9
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I switched from gravel to sand in two tanks, a 55g and a 75g. Left the fish in both. Lost my catfish in the 55g during the process most likely due to the insane amount of sludge under the filter plates. So if you have filter plates, it might be worth transferring fish to a bucket first. if you have gravel without filter plates you might be ok to leave fish in the tank.

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gravel, sand

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