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Looking for advice about changing to an active substrate

Jellopuddinpop

Active Member
Jan 23, 2023
115
168
CT, USA
Hi Everyone!

I’m going to be doing a full re-scape in the spring, and will be changing my tank over from BDBS to a more active substrate. My biggest concern is being able to add my livestock back into the tank after re-scaping.

My 125G tank has been running for a couple of years at this point, and the filters are both very mature. I’m running both a Fluval FX6 and Oase 850, and both filters will be transferred to the new tank. It’s going to have roughly 38’ish fish, with 18 Rainbows, 5 Torpedo Barbs, 5 SAE, and 10 Congo Tetras.

I really want to switch the tank over to an active substrate, but I know that Amazonia is going to be a no-go because of the ammonia. I was thinking of either UNS Controsoil or Landen Aquasoil, but I’m looking for feedback on the ammonia leech.

If I were to re-scape using either of these soils, will my filters be able to handle the ammonia immediately?
If not, would it be quick enough that I could just do a daily dose of Prime until they catch up?
Would one of them be a better choice than the other?

If anyone has any feedback on either of these aquasoils in general, I would love to hear it!
 
Hey Jello I have experience with this. If you recall several years ago I replaced my BDBS with Landen Aquasoil.

I can tell you what I did, but keep in mind that I’ve been keeping tanks for a LONG time and don’t have much fear. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my method, especially to someone newer to the hobby, but someone with experience like yourself might consider it. But as usual I can only tell you what happened in MY tank, and what you do is up to you.

When I switched over my plan was to remove all of the plants and wrap them in paper towel and put them in a cooler. Then I was going to bring in another cooler and fill it with tank water, add an air stone, and remove all the fish. Then I was going to hook up a filter and run it in the cooler. I also brought up a bunch of 5 gallon buckets that I had and was going to save as much tank water as I could. Next I was going to remove the old gravel, drain the tank, then add the new soil. Well, that was the plan at the time.

But at the last minute I changed my mind and this is what I actually did.

Here’s with all battle stations ready to go.

20200318_085219.jpg

First step all plants out, wrapped, and loaded in a cooler.

20200318_090630.jpg

Here’s the tank with all the plants removed with the old BDBS still in the tank.

20200318_090640.jpg

Here’s where things took a twist. I decided to make the swap with the fish still in the tank. Yes I know I can still hear “gasps” to this day but it’s what I ended up doing.

I kept the filters running and removed all of the old substrate.

BDBS out and pretty cloudy and murky.

20200318_095241.jpg

About an hour later all pretty much cleared up.

20200318_111737.jpg

Next came the Landen

20200318_165834.jpg


Now things did get even more murky and cloudy but it did clear up much faster than I thought it would.

20200318_171949.jpg

Then later that day put the plants back in.

20200318_195218.jpg

Now that’s a brief description of something that took pretty much the entire day.

I monitored ammonia and it never got much above 0.50. If it did I performed a large water change. And with my low/no dKH water and low pH ammonia is not very toxic, so I wasn’t really too concerned. The fish did just fine and showed no signs of stress or sickness. At higher pH levels you may have to be a bit more careful about the ammonia levels, but like I said mine never really spiked that high that it was a concern.

20200318_095805.jpg

So take from that what you will. Like I said I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this method to people, especially those with little experience. But for me it went super smoothly and all in all it was a blip on the radar and was much less work than I originally planned on.

I hope that helps.
 
Hey Jello I have experience with this. If you recall several years ago I replaced my BDBS with Landen Aquasoil.

I can tell you what I did, but keep in mind that I’ve been keeping tanks for a LONG time and don’t have much fear. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my method, especially to someone newer to the hobby, but someone with experience like yourself might consider it. But as usual I can only tell you what happened in MY tank, and what you do is up to you.

When I switched over my plan was to remove all of the plants and wrap them in paper towel and put them in a cooler. Then I was going to bring in another cooler and fill it with tank water, add an air stone, and remove all the fish. Then I was going to hook up a filter and run it in the cooler. I also brought up a bunch of 5 gallon buckets that I had and was going to save as much tank water as I could. Next I was going to remove the old gravel, drain the tank, then add the new soil. Well, that was the plan at the time.

But at the last minute I changed my mind and this is what I actually did.

Here’s with all battle stations ready to go.

View attachment 1467

First step all plants out, wrapped, and loaded in a cooler.

View attachment 1468

Here’s the tank with all the plants removed with the old BDBS still in the tank.

View attachment 1469

Here’s where things took a twist. I decided to make the swap with the fish still in the tank. Yes I know I can still hear “gasps” to this day but it’s what I ended up doing.

I kept the filters running and removed all of the old substrate.

BDBS out and pretty cloudy and murky.

View attachment 1477

About an hour later all pretty much cleared up.

View attachment 1476

Next came the Landen

View attachment 1471


Now things did get even more murky and cloudy but it did clear up much faster than I thought it would.

View attachment 1472

Then later that day put the plants back in.

View attachment 1473

Now that’s a brief description of something that took pretty much the entire day.

I monitored ammonia and it never got much above 0.50. If it did I performed a large water change. And with my low/no dKH water and low pH ammonia is not very toxic, so I wasn’t really too concerned. The fish did just fine and showed no signs of stress or sickness. At higher pH levels you may have to be a bit more careful about the ammonia levels, but like I said mine never really spiked that high that it was a concern.

View attachment 1474

So take from that what you will. Like I said I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this method to people, especially those with little experience. But for me it went super smoothly and all in all it was a blip on the radar and was much less work than I originally planned on.

I hope that helps.
Hey Gregg, thanks for the response. I’ve actually changed to RO water since you’ve been gone, and am going to “world famous” Greggz 0 dKh planted tank method. With BDBS substrate and about 200 lbs of Seiryu Stone in the tank, I fluctuate between 2-4 dkH during the week. The new tank won’t have any Seiryu Stone at all, so I’m planning on keeping the pH <6 after CO2.



How do you like the Landen? Have you ever used Controsoil, and can you compare the two?
 
Hey Gregg, thanks for the response. I’ve actually changed to RO water since you’ve been gone, and am going to “world famous” Greggz 0 dKh planted tank method. With BDBS substrate and about 200 lbs of Seiryu Stone in the tank, I fluctuate between 2-4 dkH during the week. The new tank won’t have any Seiryu Stone at all, so I’m planning on keeping the pH <6 after CO2.



How do you like the Landen? Have you ever used Controsoil, and can you compare the two?
LOL "world famous GreggZ 0 dKH planted tank method.............that was how the nonsense at TPT got started!!:D:D

I very much like the Landen. Mine is three years old now and it's held up very well. I have heard that some aquasoils tend to turn to mush by that time, but the Landen looks pretty much like new.

I've never tried Controsoil so have no frame of reference. Maybe others who use it can chime in???
 
Hey Gregg, thanks for the response. I’ve actually changed to RO water since you’ve been gone, and am going to “world famous” Greggz 0 dKh planted tank method. With BDBS substrate and about 200 lbs of Seiryu Stone in the tank, I fluctuate between 2-4 dkH during the week. The new tank won’t have any Seiryu Stone at all, so I’m planning on keeping the pH <6 after CO2.



How do you like the Landen? Have you ever used Controsoil, and can you compare the two?
I’m following this with great interest. Planning on a rescape sometime this summer. Problem I’ve run into is every time I’ve done major replanting (pull up replant) I’ve killed fish and they were always the expensive ones. Cheap ones were good. Couldn’t change water fast enough. Die off occurred about 24 to 48 hrs later. I’m supposing it was Ammonia or bacteria or both. Anyway to avoid this. It sure sounded a lot easier to keep the fish in the tank. Is there a reliable ammonia killer? Still have to deal with bacteria though
 
Seachem Prime will bind up ammonia to a point. .5 - 2ppm can probably be handled by Prime for a short time. It needs to get dosed every 24 hours at a minimum whenever ammonia is present.
 
I’m following this with great interest. Planning on a rescape sometime this summer. Problem I’ve run into is every time I’ve done major replanting (pull up replant) I’ve killed fish and they were always the expensive ones. Cheap ones were good. Couldn’t change water fast enough. Die off occurred about 24 to 48 hrs later. I’m supposing it was Ammonia or bacteria or both. Anyway to avoid this. It sure sounded a lot easier to keep the fish in the tank. Is there a reliable ammonia killer? Still have to deal with bacteria though
This sounds odd. You are just uprooting and replanting? Even uprooting the and replanting the entire tank should not cause you to lose fish.

Did you measure for ammonia when this happened? Is there anything else that could be going on?

Without knowing more about the tank it's really hard to say, but I can tell you I know loads of people who did this on a fairly regular basis and have no issues with fish.
 
This sounds odd. You are just uprooting and replanting? Even uprooting the and replanting the entire tank should not cause you to lose fish.

Did you measure for ammonia when this happened? Is there anything else that could be going on?

Without knowing more about the tank it's really hard to say, but I can tell you I know loads of people who did this on a fairly regular basis and have no issues with fish.
No, a little more. I was working with Vin on correcting my tank issues. I pulled plants and did a deep vaccum all over the tank, did a water change, repeated the process next day. Algae problems fixed. Doing consistent vac now. In the process, I lost all 5 angels, no others. Before this last cleaning, I would do the following: pull Up a lot of plants and replant only vac residue mulm. Usually changed filter not always. I would lose fish randomly most times. Happened active soul and inert. It was probably due to my tank negligence. My main point here is whether to follow your plan on a reset or pull my fish. With my history I think I’ll pull fish. That said, is there a rec time for letting Landonsoil leach ? Otherwise I’ll go with Ada and deal with it. Thank you
 
I actually sent an email to Ultam Nature Systems and asked them about the Ammonia Leech, and they said it's minimal in Controsoil. They said as long as I had a mature filter, it should be able to keep up just fine.
 
I have always been an advocate of changing out 1/3 of the substrate at a time especially if you have livestock in the tank. Wait a few days week and change the next section and so forth. Now Ive had tanks do well doing the entire thing at one but Ive also had tanks crash hard so its a toss up for sure.
 
It's going to be a full re-scape. All of the hardscape is coming out, and I'm changing from rocks to driftwood. I'm also changing most of the plants out as well.
 
Last edited:
Hi Everyone!

I’m going to be doing a full re-scape in the spring, and will be changing my tank over from BDBS to a more active substrate. My biggest concern is being able to add my livestock back into the tank after re-scaping.

My 125G tank has been running for a couple of years at this point, and the filters are both very mature. I’m running both a Fluval FX6 and Oase 850, and both filters will be transferred to the new tank. It’s going to have roughly 38’ish fish, with 18 Rainbows, 5 Torpedo Barbs, 5 SAE, and 10 Congo Tetras.

I really want to switch the tank over to an active substrate, but I know that Amazonia is going to be a no-go because of the ammonia. I was thinking of either UNS Controsoil or Landen Aquasoil, but I’m looking for feedback on the ammonia leech.

If I were to re-scape using either of these soils, will my filters be able to handle the ammonia immediately?
If not, would it be quick enough that I could just do a daily dose of Prime until they catch up?
Would one of them be a better choice than the other?

If anyone has any feedback on either of these aquasoils in general, I would love to hear it!
I seasoned Landen aquasoil in 5 gallon pails until the ammonia dropped. Then changed out 1\4 of the substrate at a time.
 
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