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Old Tank Syndrome question

PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 9:37 pm
by C. Andrew Nelson
A recent issue of TFH Magazine had a great article about "Old Tank Syndrome", but there was one aspect of it that I don't think was covered thoroughly that I was to ask the forum about.

My 20 gallon aquarium most definitely has old tank syndrome. It was set up years and years ago. Clean, clear water, no ammonia, and no nitrites, but the nitrates are always through the roof. Even after massive water changes a few days later the nitrates are off the charts again. So I have decided to break the tank down and rescape it. When I set it back up again I'm going to reuse the same hardscape and put all the rocks back in the same positions. The substrate however, is just gravel so I want to replace it with ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia and ADA La Plata sand. (I'm also going to pull out all the anubias and java fern in favor of South American plant species.)

Here's my question...

My fish have become so accustomed to the nitrate heavy water that they are living in, what do I do about moving them out of it during the rescape? I plan on housing them in an established bare-bottom holding/quarantine tank while I redo their home. What steps should I take to insure they aren't shocked by the water quality difference? The pH, GH, KH, ammonia, nitrites, and temperature will all be the same between the two tanks. Only the nitrates will be different. How much should I worry about it acclimation? (This is for Rummy-Nose Tetras, a Clown Pleco, and a Blue Zebra Angelfish.)

Re: Old Tank Syndrome question

PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 9:43 pm
by lucasgg
I'd just fill the quarantine tank with the old nitrate water and do daily small water changes with fresh water.


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Re: Old Tank Syndrome question

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2017 1:14 am
by dwaink
That's good advice, then do 10% changes for awhile until u get it down to 20 nitrates and let it hold awhile.Also ADA soil has some ammonia spikes associated with it, and is known to drop pH so watch it huh? Shrimp keepers use it for caridina which prefer softer water.

Re: Old Tank Syndrome question

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2017 9:51 am
by Diana
Ditto, though the fish probably won't have much of a problem.
If you fill the temporary tank with the water they are in, and run the filter from their old tank on the new tank that will help a lot.
Then monitor conditions. Their old tank has a lot of nitrifying bacteria on all the surfaces. When you move things, even placing most of the rocks, driftwood and plants into the temporary tank, you will be losing a fair amount of the bacteria. Maybe the plants can make up the difference, but Anubias and Java Fern are not fast growing, not likely to be able to handle much of an increase in ammonia.

Do as many water changes as needed if you see any ammonia or nitrite.
If there are no signs of ammonia or nitrite, then do small, frequent water changes to get the nitrates down.
Allow about a month for this. As noted above most of the ADA products have to go through their own cycle of ammonia production that generally lasts about 3-4 weeks. In this (new) set up do enough water changes to keep the ammonia about 3ppm. This will supply the ammonia for the fishless cycle in this tank. You could share a little of the filter media to jump start the bacteria population, but even if you did not, the beneficial bacteria will find this tank.