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I don't know the best way, but I did do this once.

I fished out as many critters as I could with a net and put them in a bucket with tank water (there were a lot of cherry shrimp)

I gently pulled the plants out of the substrate and swished their roots off in a second bucket and then put the cleaned plants in the bucket with the fish.

The tank got very muddy - I siphoned the rest of the water out and was able to catch more shrimp that were flopping around on the mud. I carried the 10g. tank outside and dumped it in the garden and hosed off.

Quickly reassembled my substrate and gravel, which were both prepared and ready to go. The reason I did all this was to remove a piece of driftwood that I thought might be causing an anaerobic pocket and because I though my original substrate was a bit too deep.

Then I planted all the plants back which was difficult because they had very long roots. It was hard to get all the roots tucked in without disturbing the gravel cap too much - maybe try planting first then adding the cap?

Added all the fish back within 2 hours of the start of the process. Checked parameters daily after that and found that there was no mini cycle. There was a harmless bacterial bloom for a few weeks, but no ammonia or Nitrite spike. All plants and fish survived and thrived and the tank has been beautiful ever since.

Hope this helps, good luck!

Cheers,
Ci
 

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dymndgyrl, don't try to plant long roots into a substrate. You should trim the root to few inches or less. This will promote new root growth and not accidentally kill the long roots when trying to bury them.
 

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Then I planted all the plants back which was difficult because they had very long roots. It was hard to get all the roots tucked in
I know what you mean. :)

I just removed a big Amazon Sword from my 50 gal. I gently pulled plant up with one hand. As I was bringing plant up, I cut its roots to 2-3 inches from the plant's crown with a razor blade. That way, I didn't have the mess of pulling up the entire root/substrate bundle. I had to cut the roots anyway to fit in a pot, so it worked out pretty well.
 

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whats the best way to tear down a NPT and then reassemble and change substrate?
I recently moved into a bigger place, and had to do a tear-down and rebuild on my 30 gallon.

First step, of course, is getting as much of the critters out as you can.

Then I actually drained my tank before uprooting any plants, and saved the water in 1-gallon jugs (about 20 of them). Then, I removed the plants to a second bucket of tank water for transport. I finished draining off the water, then saved some of the soil from the tank (with a little bit of water) in a third bucket.

When setting the tank back up, I used new soil, then capped it with about half an inch of the soil from the original tank, then the gravel. Planted and filled with the 20 or so jugs I had, then added fish and topped with treated tapwater.

I had no cycle in the new tank, just a small bacterial bloom, and no critter loss. I was quite pleased with myself. :D
 
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