Swapping out sand for better planted sub

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cynic

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Hey, I have read substrate change threads from search till i.m cross eyed and its just gravel to sand or vice versa.
I'm looking at changing from sand to something better for planting, maybe even re using the sand as a top out. Had a few issues lately and BBA got a foot in the door so I'm getting rid of one of the chief villains and cutting others back but the tank now looks so sorry for its self I'm going to go for a proper switch up.
I have some wood at one end that with hindsight was poorly sited and caused a bit of a poo trap in the tank flow.
So that will move, plants may come and go. The hardware will also move a little too. Its a long tank and everything was kept at one end. Now I know better and will move the heater and feed and return piping for better tank water flow.

Livestock wise there is around 10 shrimp, an unknown number of assassin snails, 15 harlequins (getting old now, they went in first at the start), a bn plec and a rtbs. The chances of catching and moving them in a tank over 5ft long is quite daunting. I'm thinking it would be better and less stressful to do bigger general water changes swapping out the substrate in stages over time.

I'm picturing just syphoning the sand out with the water change then add the replacement back in at 'low tide' and then refill as normal. This would reduce the fall out from any nasties that may be trapped in the sand?
Will look a bit work in process for a while I suppose but none of the good stuff in a tank happens fast eh?

Any recommendations for the substrate, there are so many internet and fish store 'experts' out there but this forum general comes up with a good path through the many options. I'm thinking low Tec plants in the main, I have strong lighting (2x4ft HF flouresants). I currently use liquid frets and liquid carbon but life gets in the way often enough so I like to keep it simple to keep everything sweet.

Thanks for reading.
 

Colin_T

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Black beard algae is spread to new aquariums through spores or contaminated plants and water. It doesn't have anything to do with the substrate.

If you do want to change the substrate you can scoop the sand out with a plastic bucket or fine mesh aquarium fish net. When most of the sand has been taken out you can use a syphon hose to suck the last little bits out. The fish can remain in the tank while you do this. After you have removed the sand, add the new substrate. Make sure you clean the new substrate before adding it to the tank.

You can use sand or gravel for plants to grow in, the choice is purely yours. In the wild they grow in sand but they grow just as well in gravel. Sand is better for Corydoras and other bottom dwellers. If you put down another substrate and spread sand over top, the sand usually works its way into the other substrate and it looks like crap. You are better off using a single type of substrate only.

In a basic low tech plant tank you don't need to add carbon. There is plenty from the carbon dioxide in the air that gets into the water, and more produced by the fish and bacteria in the tank. A liquid iron based fertiliser is usually sufficient for low tech plant tanks. :)
 

Byron

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The sand is about the best substrate so I would leave it. From your description, plants will not do better with any new substrate, and algae has nothing to do with the substrate as Colin noted.

Problem black beard/brush algae is due to the imbalance of light and nutrients, nothing else. If your lighting really is "strong" then that is your problem. When live plants are present, the light must be sufficient to derive photosynthesis (this varies from species to species) and nutrients must be available to balance.

The sand is not the issue.
 
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cynic

cynic

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I know the sand is not causing the algae, that was down to a couple of things affecting the flow in the tank and, being honest. Some inattentiveness from me re ferts.

Im removing the leaves etc that are affected the most but with some of the plants dying back a little it has left the tank looking sad.

Because of that im going to take the opportunity to remodel , the sand has always been the substrate but I want to improve the plant environment in the tank. To that end a darker base would also highlight the colours better so 2 birds with one stone.
I can also correct earlier setup mistakes I made initially, things like the pumps plumbing etc.
 

Byron

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I know the sand is not causing the algae, that was down to a couple of things affecting the flow in the tank and, being honest. Some inattentiveness from me re ferts.

Im removing the leaves etc that are affected the most but with some of the plants dying back a little it has left the tank looking sad.

Because of that im going to take the opportunity to remodel , the sand has always been the substrate but I want to improve the plant environment in the tank. To that end a darker base would also highlight the colours better so 2 birds with one stone.
I can also correct earlier setup mistakes I made initially, things like the pumps plumbing etc.

The so-called plant substrates are not going to improve plant growth here. These may (I say, "may") have some benefit in high-tech systems with CO2 diffusion and daily fertilization but not in what you have described as intending which is basically a low-tech or natural planted tank.

As for the colour of the sand, that is a valid point as all fish prefer a darker substrate, but "darker" need not be black or similar. I use dark grey mix of play sand with very good success with plants and fish. However, if you have white sand, I agree, get rid of it; the fish will not be settled over a white substrate.

Algae is not problematic due to flow, that is another myth in this hobby. In planted tanks there is only one thing affecting algae, and that is the light/nutrient balance. Algae will always be present due to the nutrients from the fish (if nothing else) and light; keeping it in check in planted tanks means finding the balance for the plants you have. Light intensity, spectrum and duration are all components of the light aspect.
 

Colin_T

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You could try growing your plants in pots. I used 1 litre plastic icecream containers for most plants. I put an inch of gravel in the bottom, then a thin layer of granulated terrestrial plant fertiliser. I cover that with 1/4 inch of red clay that has been dried and powdered. Cover that with gravel and put the plants in it.

The plant roots grow into the clay and fertiliser and they take off. The clay traps the nutrients under it so they don't leech into the water.

You can put some silicon on the outside of the containers and cover them in gravel or sand, or just let algae grow over them. Then just have a think layer of substrate on the bottom of the tank and put rocks or wood in front of the pots.

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If you have a lot of plants with black beard algae on the leaves, you can dip the plants into bleach for few minutes and then wash them down really well under tap water. After that soak them in a bucket of tap water and double dose with a dechlorinator. Wait an hour or so and then rinse them again before putting them back into a clean tank.
 

NickAu

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Add some floating plants, Water sprite is the best it will cut down the light and suck up all the nutrients.
 

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