How to Re-Aquascape a tank

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Registered Member
Original poster
Feb 27, 2019
Hello all, a total newbie here. I'm quite pleased by all of the information in the world and especially this forum. I've been reading books, lurking on forums, searching the internet, listening to podcasts and I cannot find the answer to what I assume is a fundamental question:

I have a planted aquarium with wonderful plants and animals (fish and nerites) that I want to take good care of--how do I re-aquascape it? I made some layout mistakes when I first set it up. Some are as fundamental as putting in the substrate incorrectly.

My understanding is that a tank can take 4-6 weeks to cycle sufficiently for adding animals. And then, at that time, I wouldn't want to fully stock it. I'd want to add animal load to this whole new ecosystem gradually to keep everything healthy and happy.

Well, what do people do with their animals and plants during this time? Are the only people who re-aquascape people with a back-up tank to slowly transition their animals into and out of?

I look forward to your suggestions and advice.


AC Members
Jun 28, 2006
SF Bay area, CA
Pics could help us hep you. Can you post some?

Daily water changes can go a long way toward helping your fish make the transition, but adding animals slowly while the cycle catches up is good.

Tell us everything about your tank:, tank size, water parameters, animals, plants, water changes...everything!! & then we'll have more questions...

Do you have a separate tank that can serve as a quarantine/holding tank?

We want to help you! But we need lots more info...


AC Members
Jan 17, 2017
Santa Barbara area.
Real Name
I've rescaped tanks in one day.

First, I remove about 80% of the water along with the hardscape, plants and the fishes, which I place together in a bucket of tank water. A few are often impossible to catch but they usually still survive the rescape just fine.

2nd, removing the substrate. This creates a cloudy mess, of course.
I just scoop most of it out with a plastic cup and then an old net.

3rd, add the new substrate, well rinsed of course, unless you are using ecocomplete or some such.

4rd, add the hardscape and plants and finally, fill with water and then let the filter run for a while.

5th, add the livestock.


When I turn the filter back on, The existing filter media, hardscape and plants already have enough benifical bacteria to prevent an ammonia spike.

This assumes that you don't have a very high bioload. If the stocking level is high you may want to keep some livestock in a holding tank along with some used filter media (or do daily water changes) while waitng for the main tank to gradually increase levels of benefical bacteria.

As fishorama noted, more information on your set up would be handy.


Mar 29, 2005
Keep your plants in with your fish, keep your hardscape submerged in old aquarium water (not tap to avoid chlorine or whatever)

Maybe fast your fish for a couple of days before, and change the water a day or so before you start.

So long as your fish don't get too hot or cold,running the filter on whatever you put them in will keep their water clean, and the bacteria alive. But assuming you can use something like a tote, there shouldn't be too much of an issue,

Once the re-scape has finished, make sure the water is the correct temperature and then move the fish and filter back over,

Test water frequently to make sure you don't go tholrough a mini-cycle, and feed lightly until you are sure.

But honestly it should be pretty easy, if potentially lengthy. Testing your water to make sure you are cycled correctly should be all you need to make sure everything is fine


AC Members
Jun 28, 2006
SF Bay area, CA
Yep, I've done it like usedabe & dougall successfully...but I also lost a tankful of favorite loaches once over a month after doing this "easy" redo...just to move a tank 6 or 8 inches. Even with testing & WCs, all was not without issues, I was heartbroken!!

Do you need to do a total tank teardown? Can you do it gradually?


AC Members
Mar 4, 2019
I like to use Seachem Stability whenever I do something big like tearing down and re-aquascaping a tank. You could also put a couple fish-safe sponges in it for awhile before you plan on redoing the tank and put them in afterwards to help it recover quicker.