You need to decide whether it will be more disturbing for the fish to be moved to a large container (e.g. buy a 100L 'really useful box' from staples - they are food grade plastic and very useful for this sort of thing) for a couple of hours then moved back, or to try and do it with fish in situ. Or a mixture of both. If they were goldfish for example, much easier just to move them to container as that would not disturb them. It may be a different call for territorial and/or substrate dwelling cichlids! Also are the cyprichromis leptosoma prone to jumping? YOu wouldn't want them leaping out while you are working on the tank, and if in a container you would have to cover with mesh or towel. Also move tank heater into box to prevent chilling. I think on balance I would probably get a one or two of the really useful boxes and move the fish out. Your tank will be down below half water level so it is easy enough to scoop gravel out into buckets without removing any more water(try and keep enough in to allow filter to continue to run as it is too big to transfer it to one of the fish boxes), and make sure sand has been well washed - the day before - before adding it. A few bits of gravel mixed in with the sand won't be the end of the world, as you can't remove it completely without draining the tank. This does need a lot of containers - tesco value buckets are fortunately 89p ... Anyone else any ideas?
Having undertaken a full substrate change a few years ago, personally, I would suggest removing the fish into holding crates (see 'Really Useful Storage Boxes' from Staples that all come with lids ) Filtration can be moved over too to the box holding the fish at this point.
Move as much of the water as you can into buckets/more crates and save.
Once you get to the last few inches of water in the tank, the process of scooping out the gravel (use fish nets as they don't scratch the glass) gets very mucky indeed, no matter how handy you think you are with the gravel cleaner each week lol
Netting out the gravel is quite quick, syphon out the last few inches of cruddy water. Add new sand, add all the existing water saved, add the filtration and fish and then top up with fresh dechlorinated water to bring you back up to the original level.
It also helps to have someone on hand for making cups of tea, as you want to work as quickly as you can
You can then fiddle with the decor after without having to clock watch.
Please fill in your personal profile if you are posti
My tool of choice for removing gravel is a clean dustpan with a rubber strip along the front of the pan, comme ca:
As you shovel out the gravel you can tip the water out of the back of the dustpan - think panning for gold sort of move. I tried the fish net method but it took forever with my tank and I couldn't get at the edges or corners too well.
If you do a water change at the same time you can use a hose or bit of wide filter tubing to siphon up a lot of gravel while siphoning out the water.
Not a job i would fancy doing. It?s handy with fish that live in shells as they usually dart for cover if spooked, so removing them from the tank should be just a case of picking up the shell (fish insitu). Try and keep them in the dark too, it will settle them down. That said if/when you do it, do it as fast and as carefully as you can, have a system all worked out and don?t get distracted by the phone, someone knocking at the door, they can wait, your fish cant. With shell dwellers, try and place the shells back as near as damnit where you found them, they spend alot of time fussing over territory so let them have it back without too much agro. Good Luck.