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New 20g tank - looking for planted freshwater advice


Registered Member
On a whim, I decided to get some fish yesterday. When I got to the pet store and talked to the fish lady, she taught me a little about what I need to to to get set up. I got a 20 gallon tank that measures about 24"x13"x16",a small bottle of API stress zyme, Seachem Prime. The tank came with a heater, filter, and thermometer. I didn't get any fish, because I learned that I have to run the tank through some cycles. Once the aquarium stand I ordered arrives, I'll get the tank set up.

I also got a blue hygro plant and a vallisnaria plant. I also got some caves and a log with holes. They're made of resin.

I'm looking to set up this 20 g tank for some peaceful schooling fish, and 1 centerpiece fish, along with some plants including the blue hygro and vallisnaria, and the log and caves I got. I want them all to be comfortable and happy fish. I've been reading articles and such this morning, but there's a lot of info to sort through and I'm just looking for some advice.

I was thinking that I could get 5 or 6 neon tetras, 4 zebra danios, and a swordtail. Would this setup allow the fish to be comfortable? Should I get more plants or a specific type? I'm not sure on what the right "centerpiece" fish would be, or if having one is even appropriate. Also, do you have any particular advice regarding getting my tank set up before adding fish? I have a decent idea from what I've read through googling, but this community seems pretty knowledgeable. I just want a pretty aquarium and happy fish! Thank you for any advice!


Global Moderator
Staff member
Welcome! It sounds like the makings of a nice setup. Read up on aquarium nitrogen cycle. It will take some doing on your part as it doesn't happen by setting up a new tank and allowing it to run with just water.

I'm not knocking your fish store lady at all, but keep in mind they are there to sell you things, like any business owner. I have found very few store personnel to understand proper ways to establish and maintain a tank cycle, water changes, etc..

Once you've got a feel for that, you can plan on what to stock with.


Josh Holloway--Be mine!!!
Depending on the amount of plants that you plan on starting with, it maybe quite a while before you can add fish, and have them stay healthy. Not sure what is a blue-hygro, but most hygro are easy to grow.


AC Members
Welcome to AC! I'm glad your fish store didn't send you home with fish, that's good. & that you now know you need to "cycle" the tank. At the top of the newbie forum there's an article called "before you get fish". That will help explain the nitrogen cycle & how to get there. It usually takes 6 weeks or so but it's important to keep your fish healthy.

I like neons, so pretty, they'd be good in your tank! ...But there are better choices than a swordtail, they get a bit too big for your tank, you always need to plan for adult size fish. Look at platys, they come in many different colors. If you get all males you can mix them up...& not have to worry about fry. How many depends on the other fish, say maybe 3 if you choose them.

Danios are very active, your tank is kind of small for them & they may eat all the food before the shyer neons get enough. I like rasboras of several kinds, check them out. You don't have room for every fish species & it's often better to have many of 1 or 2 species than a "minimal" amount of more.

Have you looked at bottom feeder fish? Corydoras catfish are very cute! (ahem, I love bottom feeders, lol). There are even some dwarf species. They'd like a group of 5 or 6 at a minimum of the same species. Just think & look at them.

I love that you want live plants & that, instead of fish, they were what you started out with!! Like tanker, I'm not quite sure what a "blue hygro" is. I'm going to guess an augustifolia (sp?). They are not the easiest of hygros IME but ok. Vals are pretty nice too, unless it's the "jungle" type I have (too big!, lol).

Other easy plants I'd suggest are anubias, cryptocorynes & java ferns. All come in several varieties. Look at those for ideas.

Now, while you cycle your tank, is the time for research; both fish & plants. It's fun to look & ask what may work well for you. We love to help! Sorry to overwhelm you ;)


Registered Member
Thank you guys for the feedback. My stand should show up tomorrow, and I have the day off, so I am looking forward to setting up my tank. I wasn't aware that I need to take some time with just the plants before I add fish, so thank you for that. I think I am going to go get some plants that fishorama suggested tomorrow, and I will keep your fish recommendation in mind. I'd be really happy if all the fish I end up getting stay alive, happy and healthy. I will keep the thread updated with some pictures and notes of progress as the tank gets ready. It is looking like I need some substrate for the plants rather than the gravel I've picked up, so I will get that too. I would like to get some bottom feeders, but I am thinking it might be smart to get them after my initial fish (I'm leaning towards neons and platys now) so that there is actually some food on the ground for them to eat.


AC Members
Your "leaning" toward neons & platys is just right! Corys prefer a more "mature" tank with good beneficial bacteria going strong. If platys are 1 of your "firm" choices, start with 2 or 3 of them, they're pretty much rock solid, very forgiving of slight learning curves. Then neons after your tank is really happy & stable.

If you can tell us, in vague way, where you live. We might be able to suggest clubs or shops near you. There's nothing like a day road trip for fish & plant shopping, lol...an excuse to go to the nearest big city. Maybe awesome lunch spots too, you never know.

But research before you give into an impulse buy. Gratification postponement! That's how I was brought up & it could not be more true in fish tanks. You won't be sorry if you wait for more info ;)...but you might if you don't.


Registered Member
I live around Princeton/Trenton in NJ. Within a 1 hour drive from Philadelphia and an hour train ride from NYC.

I got my stand and got the tank filled up today. I'm using the method with ammonia, but couldn't find any that wasn't scented, but went ahead and filled the tank anyway because I had the day off and won't have time any other time soon. I think I know where to get some for tomorrow though. I uploaded a picture of what I have. I'm going to use the ammonia method to cycle the tank.

I'll keep this thread updated every few days because I'm sure I'm going to run into problems and have questions. Thanks again for your help, all.


the loach

AC Members
Just a couple of hints; remove the rock wool from the plants. The gravel is too large for cories and easy cleaning. Best is a 2mm to 3mm size.
It will look better with a backdrop, or just a black piece of cardboard.