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First pre-owned tank - what to do with filter media - tank drained 2
days ago - 02/04/19
First pre-owned tank - what to do with filter media - tank drained 2 days ago /Neale 2/5/19
Hi WWM Crew,
We have decided to upgrade our tank again so that we can have lots more fishes :)
Hubby suggested we swap the TV and tank so we get a 7' wall to play with. After reading conflicting reports about the rounded corner larger Boyu aquariums (liable to crack, hood filter is underpowered and hard to clean) we decided to go with a 72"x24"x30" custom-built tank, starting cost of £1000 + 200 mile delivery costs + heater, filter, lights as extras.
<Yikes! Quite an investment.>
Yesterday just before purchasing one of these I stumbled across a private advert posted yesterday, for the same tank dimensions complete with filter, heater and lights, only 2 miles away. We responded, went to see it, and it seems in good condition (although unknown age - seller is not first owner). It stands on a metal frame rather than a cabinet (easily solved with IKEA doors?) but at only £300 for everything it seemed a steal.
Current owners are moving house next month and have moved the inhabitants (a shoal of red-tailed catfish) into a pond in the office. The tank was drained 2 days ago, but the substrate and 2 external filters were left covered with tank water (probably thought this would keep bacteria alive).
<Might; but probably not in a working, active state. Assume the media will mature relatively quickly, thanks to the encysted bacteria, but probably not "live" as such.>
After not being able to muster enough hands to move the tank today we cannot move the tank until next at least next weekend, maybe 2 weeks, but have brought all the accessories home (some of the water was emptied from the filters at this point to help lift into car).
So I am assuming the bacteria in the filters are already dead as they were starved of oxygen 2 days ago.
<Bacteria don't necessarily die under these conditions, but go dormant. They will come back to life, somewhat, in a few days. As I say above, it'll likely cycle faster than it would from scratch, but won't be instant, so do allow some time to gently build up the bacteria population.>
The media ( 2 sponges, ceramic rings, and plastic spheres in each) look in good condition so I don't really want to throw them.
My main question is - is my best option to take everything out of the water, rinse until clear in tap water and then dry until ready to be used again, or should I soak them in a light bleach solution to get rid of any nasty anaerobic bacteria/mould spores/pathogens that may have been in the previous setup before rinsing with tap water?
<Thorough rinsing under the tap would remove any organic muck. No need for sterilising though.>
Before starting the pre-owned tank I would want to put the pre-owned filter material in my Juwel to encourage some bacteria to grow on it, but don't want to risk the health of my fish and bacteria colony.
<Very unlikely pathogens will survive being neglected this long and without fish hosts to live upon.>
I would put as much of the pre-owned media as possible inside my internal filter, and place the rest inside a mesh bag in the tank.
<A good option.>
Of course at the time of a pwc I could let the pre-owned filter material sit in the dechlorinating water to ensure it is free of chlorine residue before putting it into my Juwel.
When we get the tank my plans are to clean the tank and the accessories thoroughly with dilute bleach, rinse, dry off, then wipe away any residue when completely dry. Next day setup the substrate ready for planting, add the new tank accessories, add some water then plant the new plants, add the old plants from current tank (after a short leaf-dipping in bleach solution (+rinse) to try and kill some of the algae), then fill with water from the garden hose to keep the plants alive and allow whatever to leach out of the substrate. I would get the heaters on asap (ground water currently close to freezing), maybe add a few kettles of hot to help along, and the dechlorinator.
<I think using bleach at all is overkill; would dump irredeemable plants, prune back ones with the odd bad leaf; install plenty of new fast-growing plants (floating Indian Fern ideal, but Hygrophila, Vallisneria, etc do the job well) to minimise algae growth while the specimen plants get established.>
When the tank is up to temperature I would set up one of the filters using the media that has been in the Juwel tank's filter, and maybe a large sponge from the Juwel, then refill the Juwel's filter with more of the pre-owned media that was in the mesh bag. Every couple of days I would take the move the pre-owned filter media out of the Juwel and add it to the external filter and refill the Juwel internal filter with the stuff in the mesh bag, until the new external filter is full, then I will put my sponges back in the Juwel.
<All sounds fine.>
In the new tank I would let the water settle and become less cloudy and would then move the substrate from my original tank across to the new tank. The current top layer would get put in some water with algae killer for an hour or so, then get rinsed with dechlorinated-water before being added to the new tank. I would start testing the water in the new tank for ammonia being leached from the new substrate. If levels are low I would 'feed' the new tank with the left-over food I was given to help with cycling and keeping the bacteria alive.
<A good approach. In honesty, a tank this side would handle a school of small fish, like Danios or Limia, without any real problems even from scratch. The sheer volume of water will dilute ammonia, and alongside regular water changes, such hardy species should sail through.>
I know I should drain the old tank to help with fishing out my babies, but I am thinking it would be less of a bioload shock to move them a few at a time over a couple of days.
<Agree 100%, but remember truly schooling species, such as Neons or Corydoras, won't be happy moved across in ones and twos, so move them as groups.>
So, I perhaps start with the peaceful platies, maybe the babies, then a few days later a few more, then move onto the guppies, then the Danios...?
The remaining decorations in the Juwel could stay until I drain the tank to give the fish hiding spots. I would move the Juwel filter and media into the new tank, then drain the water, catch the remaining fish, then add algae killer into the tank to clean the remaining decorations before moving them across to the new tank (again after rinsing in dechlorinated water).
<All sounds good too.>
This is my first pre-owned tank. I'm thinking slow and steady wins the race as 1. I don't know the history of the tank I am purchasing, so want to be careful to ensure it is clean; 2. my Juwel is plagued with hair algae - I am not sure if it comes from the water supply, or came in with a plant or bogwood years ago.
<If at all possible, test the tank for leaks immediately after you get it home. Ideally, outdoors or in the garage, so that if it does leak, you don't ruin the carpet. Glass tanks are pretty robust, but twisting is the big killer, pulling the silicone away from the glass, and it's that which'll cause a sneaky leak, rather than obvious cracks or bumps, which most folk manage to avoid.>
I now know better, hence why I want to bleach-dip the plants before moving across, and kill the algae on all the décor.
<If you want to. Hot water and a good scrub probably just as good, since the algae can/will return if conditions suit: their spores are in the air and water, and they get into the tank no matter what.>
This is also why I don't want to move the tank water across. If it comes back I'll know it's in the water supply and there's nothing I can do to eradicate it, only control it. Sorry this is so long. Do you think all of the above is sensible - is there anything that is unnecessary or something important I have missed?
Thanks for your help, you guys are awesome!
<Good luck, and hope this helps! Neale.>
Re: First pre-owned tank - what to do with filter media - tank 2/5/19
drained 2 days ago Thanks for all the suggestions Neale, much appreciated!
Don't know why I've never thought of using fast growing plants to out compete algae, maybe this is why we didn't have problems with the Fluval Edge 23 l... The elodea went rampant and other plants were happy, but most other plants died off when put into the Juwel 180 l.
<Quite so; the badness of the algae is usually proportional to the unhappiness of the plants. When plants grow fast, algae generally doesn't.
There are some biology reasons for that we don't need to worry about here.>
Do you think that planting the back 6" wall with elodea will be helpful in combating the hair algae? I don't care about the short algae it's a snack for the platys but they don't touch the hair algae and it traps fish.
<Indeed. Hair Algae tends to be a pest in tanks with sluggish plant growth and indifferent lighting levels. Rather than writing out my thoughts, I'm going to direct you to an earlier scribbling on the topic:
Should cover the basics!>
On another note... Any idea why female fish get aggressive in their old age? Currently my 6 year old female Danio choprai is a menace.
<My Danio choprae were as well, to the degree I ended up with just a single male from a group of six. My feeling here is that Danios (or schooling fish generally) become aggressive as the size of the group declines, rather than it being an age thing. So if you have just a few Danios left, aggression will become more noticeable than when you had lots of them. Remember, schooling fish *are* aggressive, and within the group there's background level of bullying that maintains the social hierarchy. In a big group, no
one fish deals out, or receives, too much aggro, so the fish are all, broadly, happy. But as the fish age, and some of them die, you end up concentrating this bad behaviour on smaller numbers of fish, and the result can be unpleasant. Some schooling fish become frustrated, too. These will attack dissimilar fish for want of anything else.>
The 6 year old male is fine. Until a few months ago both Danios were peaceful, swam around the base of objects and occasionally spawned. She now seems to set up large territories at the surface and charges at anything that swims into it (seeing fin damage on the light coloured platys who she seems to chase off more than the dark colours). Last time i saw this was 6 years ago when an elderly female Variatus play started beating up the other 3 platys (maculatus). I got her more tank mates (more platys and mixed school of Danio) and she calmed down until her death. Likewise I got more Danio choprae a few months ago. The male schools with them often, she only occasionally joins in, but they've all been schooling a lot all weekend (along with one guppy). Yesterday she allowed a small male to court her....
Then tonight she has claimed half the surface (cleaned the tank Saturday and removed a lot of algae at the surface).
<More than likely adding substantially more Danio choprae should fix the problem. Cheers, Neale.>
Bio Balls or ceramic rings, 3/14/11