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Jason asked about moving his tank when he moves to a new apartment and he
outlined the steps he plans to take:
"1) Drop extra filter pad in tank (does it need to really go in the
filter? I don't think so) to establish it.
2) Move my whole place other than fishtank. (sounds easy.. :) )
3) Set up new tank at new place.. New substrate, new filter.
4) Transport some plants and the extra filter pad to new tank.
5) Wait a week or so (?)
6) Transport rest of plants and fish (Krib, CAE, cories, rasboras)."
This is a very workable solution to your problem with one minor adjustment -
do not move the extra filter pad until you are ready to move the fish into
the new tank. I'd advise giving the extra pad a few weeks in your
established tank to develop a population of bacteria - it will happen, just
not overnight. There is no need to place that pad in the old filter itself,
anywhere within the tank that has good circulation should be O.K.
After you set the new tank up, move as many of the plants as you want to -
it would help to take a few handfuls of the old substrate as well - this
will give the tank an innoculation of bacteria. If you have (or can borrow)
a relatively "hardy" fish like a guppy or swordtail it could help to place
one or two of these in the new tank at this time as well to act as ammonia
sources to keep whatever bacterial population you transfer (attached to the
plants and/or gravel) alive and active in the new tank until you are ready
to put in the rest of the fish.
If you place the extra filter pad in the new tank with too long a time lag
before you introduce the fish (ammonia source), you run the risk of the
bacterial population on the pad dropping and being unable to handle the load
Your new tank will still take a while to settle down, so watch the ammonia
and nitrite levels closely for the first month, but I've moved many tanks
using this exact procedure with no problems.
Regardless of bacteria's reported abilities to adjust their metabolism to
meet available nutrient levesl, they are just as likely to die off if
starved for a protracted period of time.