Rescaping advice . . .

Wookii

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I plan to re-scape my tank in the next couple of weeks and will be replacing the actual tank itself, but reusing the plants, filter and Tropica Soil Powder substrate etc.

I assume the soil will be nutrient and bacteria rich given its been in use for the last 9 months, and want to keep it that way and maintain the bacterial population as I need to add the livestock back in within a couple of days. So what is the recommend way to deal with it?

Should I wash the soil in a sieve in tap water, thoroughly treated with Prime of course (or old aquarium water if I have enough) to remove any detritus and dust from broken down soil grains, or just use it as is, and maybe cap it off with half an inch of new Tropica Soil Powder?
 

Geoffrey Rea

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Everyone has their own take on this so hopefully you’ll get a mixture of responses @Wookii

The benefit of the old soil in its matured state is probably lost if it isn’t transferred from well oxygenated tank to well oxygenated tank. At least for the aerobic life. Easily said, but guess it depends when you’re breaking down the old scape and starting the new scape.

These days, inclined to suggest a mug full of the old soil and replace the rest with new if money isn’t a factor. Not for any complicated reasons other than the soil (baked clay balls really) integrity long term and CEC capacity being as high as possible at startup.

I know @Tim Harrison has done well to dry out and reuse though. I’ve ended up with lots of dust seeping out when trying this. Maybe Tim can give some pointers on how to do this successfully (amount of time/temp is required) to keep the aquarium soil intact and how to treat it kindly.
 

Tim Harrison

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It’s pretty straight forward really. Rinse it in a sieve till the water runs clear but don’t agitate it too much or it’ll disappear down the drain as mud.

Then drain it and stick in the oven on the hottest temp to bake for however long it takes to dry it out. Take it out every 30 mins or so and stir gently to ensure it drys evenly. That’s about the full extent of my baking skills...

Then leave to cool and reuse. If you’re worried about nutrient content just add a small handful of osmocote, but water column Fertz dosing will keep your plants happy and probably replenish the soil if it’s eutrophic. It’s clay so it’s CEC should remain intact.

if you want to keep the bacteria don’t bake it and reuse it wet. Just use tepid water to rinse it. All will be fine.
 

Wookii

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Thanks guys - I intend to reuse the soil within a day or two of removing from the tank, or at most the next day if things take longer than expected.

I’ll have the hardscape design ready, so it’ll be a mater of emptying the existing tank, swapping the empty old tank for the empty new tank, and adding in the hardscape and old soil. So I’ll keep it wet, and have a go at rinsing it as Tim suggests to try and get most of the dust and muck out.
 

hogan53

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Hi
You will probably find it's very cloudy with dust/detritus even when being ultra-cautious re-using the soil.
You could try filtering the detritus out in the tank!
Using a large hob filter packed with fine filter floss and multiple water changes!
You just have to stir it up like a big pot of Scotch Broth Soup;):thumbup:
Take the floss out, wash, or replace it with new stuff!
It will take a while, depending on how much soil you have.
hoggie
 

alto

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I assume you’ve likely watched this video (but linking anyway ;))


I don’t know how big sieves are in the UK (though I suspect that Tim is just much more patient and energetic) but I quickly lost interest during my first Soil Sieving attempt - I may’ve done 1%
(and I’ve yet to manage to dry any aqua soil except as a passive process)

Instead I remove livestock, trimmed stem plants - water still clear - then begin lifting rooted plants beginning with the MC carpet which lifts readily and I place this in a shallow bin with small amount of water, just to cover (or lower if suitable lid - MC keeps very well for a month or more depending on care)

If the water gets too cloudy, then a water change or continuous water change to maintain visibility
I keep adding Prime during this process as there are usually shrimp I’ve missed (hiding in MC carpet, stem plant bases etc)

I usually end up removing the last of the stem plant roots etc once the water level is drained as much as possible - again, I’ll find more shrimp at this stage
Note that bin with shallow water and MC carpet is a better place to keep shrimp than in the same bin as fish

I use a deeper bin for fish and add a small flow pump or Eheim Mini Up filter etc, obviously if you have more or bigger fish or fish with higher oxygen requirement, choose a suitable temporary home - it’s worth the effort to establish fish for at least several days so there’s no pressure to rescape as fast as possible and you can settle the newly planted tank for a few days before returning fish

If I’ve planned the rescape well, then the filter will have been cleaned (and all media rinsed etc) a couple days before I begin breaking down the tank - then filter can be moved over to the fish bin if needed - pull filter before water begins clouding so filter remain debris free

Or I just drain filter, leaving a few cm’s of water, and store filter for several days/weeks - filter is closed etc but inlet/outlet open for air movement (hoses stored separately) - active media should be kept damp and oxygenated
I find this “dry” storage more convenient than having the filter running in a bucket, as you’re upgrading your tank, I suspect you’ll be changing to a larger filter as well

Now that the tank is clear but for soil, begin deep siphon cleaning of the soil - this step will remove a lot of fines and can substitute for Filipe Oliveira’s method, though I now do a mix of the two
Once the soil is reasonably cleaned - water will not be clear, but should only have slight clouding (heavier fines that settle within a few minutes of being disturbed are fine to leave in the soil) - I drain the water thoroughly

At this time, I will have created a soil free zone along the front/side of the tank, gently heaping soil up into a “mountain”
Place a towel in these glass zones to wick out the last of the water - most water will have drained in an hour or so, then I switch to clean dry towels (these are fish tank towels) and leave overnight for almost dry soil

The soil levels are careful scooped into bins, varying from most to least dry - I use a flat bench scraper for lifting the soil as this limits soil damage/breakdown

Then return soil to new tank, in order of wettest soil first (even this is only “more damp”), carefully spread this over the middle/back area of the tank, keeping any areas where you plan shallow substrate, clear
Continue to layer soil back, ending with that first bucket of driest soil

Add any roots tabs etc as you layer the soil, fertilizers should be cover by a few cm’s of soil (as you don’t want them leaching directly into the water column)

In the areas where I plan very shallow substrate and carpeting plants, I use mostly new soil (dense growing carpet plants use more localized soil nutrients, than plants with longer roots)
I often add a (thin) new soil layer over most of the soil, or will use new soil for finalizing hardscape as it is much more resilient

Plant, fill tank with care, minimal to zero clouding
Return livestock a day or few days later, I always return shrimp first
 

Wookii

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Thanks @alto thats a great explanation. I did plan to move the fish and shrimp to a separate container (or containers) that are a similar size to the tank, and hook the existing filter onto that. The container can house all the existing plants too.

The new aquarium will be a similar size, just slightly larger (60 x 40 x 40 vs 60 x 30 x 35) - and a rimless opti-white affair rather than my 20 year old plastic rimmed black silicone job - so the filter (Oase 600) will continue in service for both tanks.

I have a spare canister filter that I use currently for siphoning/cleaning duties, so I could use that, stuff it with filter floss, and siphon the soil thoroughly once everything is removed, and then do a few water changes on it and renew the floss until it’s running clean - that’s a good idea, thanks.

I’ll also cap off the old soil with a bit of new stuff when I rescape I think, to stop excess nutrient leaching, as there will be some root tabs mixed in there too that I added some time ago.
 

alto

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I’ll also cap off the old soil with a bit of new stuff when I rescape I think, to stop excess nutrient leaching, as there will be some root tabs mixed in there too that I added some time ago.
If you followed Filipe Oliveira new kitchen tank set up - he had loads of algae issues, first as he was feeding the M ramirezi fry, but then he remembered he’d not capped the transferred soil (full of root tabs from the previous scape) with new soil
(He was doing 75% daily water changes so fish babies were fine)


I have a spare canister filter that I use currently for siphoning/cleaning duties, so I could use that, stuff it with filter floss, and siphon the soil thoroughly once everything is removed, and then do a few water changes on it and renew the floss until it’s running clean - that’s a good idea, thanks.
I wasn’t very clear, I have a Python System so siphon and drain mucky water to the garden (toilet if you must but flush intermittently to keep debris moving)
I don’t know how well the filter method will work as you’re returning same water (I expect it will be a slower process), but then 60 x 30 is pretty manageable


Congratulations on the new Optiwhite :)
 

Andrew Butler

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Hey @Wookii - I tried a few times with ADA Amazonia soil and powders, I haven't tried it with Tropica so unsure whether it would behave the same.
If I dried it outside on a hot day then I had dust clouds (and quite a dark tissue) and still left the water murky, despite me giving it a good clean in the tank first and a gentle tap on a very fine, large flour sieve. I had the same kind of problems using wet soil I'd cleaned, upon refill water was quite murky maybe I didn't clean it as well as I thought.

It depends on whether time is money or money is time, I vote it's easier to just replace it on a scale that size.

That's my vote and experience.
 

Wookii

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If you followed Filipe Oliveira new kitchen tank set up - he had loads of algae issues, first as he was feeding the M ramirezi fry, but then he remembered he’d not capped the transferred soil (full of root tabs from the previous scape) with new soil
(He was doing 75% daily water changes so fish babies were fine)

Thanks Alto - that a definite for capping off then.

I wasn’t very clear, I have a Python System so siphon and drain mucky water to the garden (toilet if you must but flush intermittently to keep debris moving)
I don’t know how well the filter method will work as you’re returning same water (I expect it will be a slower process), but then 60 x 30 is pretty manageable

It's fine, I understood what you meant - I just want to avoid direct exposure to untreated tap water maintaining the bacterial load is the main thing I'm trying to achieve with this.

Congratulations on the new Optiwhite :)

Lol thanks - I got it from All Pond Solutions, they have a bit of discount on currently. https://www.allpondsolutions.co.uk/ultra-clear-90l/ (I probabaly shouldn't have referred to it as 'Opti-white' as its probably a different Chinese brand of glass).

The 60 x 40 x 40 I've bought has 8mm low iron glass, and was £68 including next day delivery, which I thought was a bit of a bargain. Even the 'cheapo' NACD eBay jobs are only 6mm glass, and three times that price.
 

Wookii

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Hey @Wookii - I tried a few times with ADA Amazonia soil and powders, I haven't tried it with Tropica so unsure whether it would behave the same.
If I dried it outside on a hot day then I had dust clouds (and quite a dark tissue) and still left the water murky, despite me giving it a good clean in the tank first and a gentle tap on a very fine, large flour sieve. I had the same kind of problems using wet soil I'd cleaned, upon refill water was quite murky maybe I didn't clean it as well as I thought.

It depends on whether time is money or money is time, I vote it's easier to just replace it on a scale that size.

That's my vote and experience.

Thanks Andrew,

Hopefully I'll have a little more success with the Tropica stuff - I have read it holds together a bit better than Amazonia. Plus it is only 9 months old - if it was a couple of years old, I probably wouldn't be attempting it on the basis it might have broken down a lot more.

It's not so much the money, it's more that a) I want to maintain the bacterial loading of the soil so I can add the livestock back in in short order, and b) want to to avoid the ammonia spike from using fresh soil for the same reason.
 

Wookii

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Well the new tank just turned up from APS - I’m incredibly impressed.

It came double boxed, with polystyrene inserts between the tank and the inner box, and between the inner and outer boxes, and 10mm MDF panels at the top and bottom of the inner box, and the tank itself shrink wrapped. Incredibly well wrapped:

344EB941-9DB3-4E88-BDCA-DA1150869DAC.jpeg


The silicone work on the side panels is superb, really clean - and the 8mm glass makes the tank feel really substantial (compared to the 4-6mm you usually get on tanks this size).

1600343913728.jpeg


1600343941333.jpeg



The silicone on the base isn’t quite as tidy, but then you won’t see that.

Overall I’ve very impressed - for £67 including Parcel Force next day delivery, I really don’t know how they manage to do it!
 
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alto

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It came double boxed, with polystyrene inserts between the tank and the inner box, and between the inner and outer boxes, and 10mm MDF panels at the top and bottom of the inner box, and the tank itself shrink wrapped. Incredibly well wrapped:
They should develop a box return/reuse program - this must cost them a good percentage
(and it’s a shame to see this only have “single use”)
 

Wookii

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They should develop a box return/reuse program - this must cost them a good percentage
(and it’s a shame to see this only have “single use”)

Oh don’t worry, it’ll all get reused at least once - almost every box I receive gets reused in our factory to repack our own products for shipping. We’ll be able to fit some decent sized items in these two.
 

Wookii

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Lol we make bespoke stainless steel products. These are big enough to take a sink bowl or wash hand basin each. Even most of my Amazon boxes get reused to pack ancillary parts for orders, or used as stacking deterrents on flat pallets.
 

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