Total newbie with some Qs! (new freshwater tank)

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carlyod

AC Members
Oct 26, 2016
27
2
1
Philadelphia
Real Name
Carly
Hi everyone!

I'm in the process of cycling my first freshwater tank (yep, google took me down the rabbit hole and I learned alllll about fishless cycling) and I have some questions I hope some more experiences aquarists will be able to help me with.

For starters, I have a 20g high with eco-complete substrate and (currently) 4 plants (which I will eventually be adding to, but not enough to need a high-tech setup). Since I was starting from scratch, I bought tetra's starter kit. So I just have the LED lights that come with it and the Tetra 20 Whisper filter. I also have a 20g rated air stone that's working beautifully, heater, thermometer, etc (pictures attached below). I did my basic setup on 10/22, added the plants 10/23, and then got more gravel/messed around a bit yesterday and added tetra SafeStart. I've been using fish food as my ammonia source which *should* hopefully be sufficient to feed my bacteria. But this brings me to some of my questions:

Today, I did some water testing. My pH read 8.4, Ammonia between 0.5 and 1.0 ppm, nitrite 0, and ***40ppm*** nitrate which seems really high (using API water testing kit and yes, I shook the heck out of the nitrate bottles). My tap water unfortunately also tested 1.0ppm for ammonia (ugh) and had a pH of 7.4.

So should I just keep adding fish food to the tank daily and testing the water to see if my ammonia spikes/nitrites start to show? Is it weird that my pH is so high when my tap water isn't?

Also, once my tank is nicely cycled and safe for the little fishies, I'd like to stock with (hypothetically):

1 x Dwarf Gourami (Colisa lalia)
5 x Panda Cory (Corydoras panda)
3 x Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)
6 x Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) OR Harlequin Rasboras (I really can't decide which I like better--might just come down to what the LFS has in stock that looks good and healthy)

I know that the panda cories and tetras/rasboras need a decent sized school and according to AqAdvisor that should bring me to 87% stocked. BUT clearly (I think?) I'd need a better filter. This brings me to yet another question: Should I just get another filter and run two in my tank, or should I upgrade to something rated for like a 40g tank or something? I've heard pros and cons to both (2 filters means you can change one at a time and reduce the risk of starting up a mini cycle, but the current could be too high) but I'm not sure what I should actually do. If I do end up getting another filter, does anybody have any brand recommendations (preferably something effective and quiet because it's in my bedroom haha). And finally, does my stock look ok? Any tips on how much to stock at once/in which order I should do so? I've done a stupid amount of research (seriously, google has been doing me dirty. There is SO much info out there!) but it's hard to sift through all of the various opinions.

Basically, any tips, tricks, emotional support (LOL), etc. to supplement my own research would be much appreciated! Thanks!!!

IMG_5467.JPG

IMG_5468.JPG
 

dougall

...
Mar 29, 2005
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My personal preference for a filter would be a canister filter... just because, and it gets all the stuff from the top of your tank, and is more flexible when it comes to media... and it's easier to close the top up in case of jumpy fish.,

If you're around Philly, look into local fish clubs - BCAS on the first Thursday of the month and DCAS on the first Friday

They may be options for getting cheaper fish and equipment, both have annual memberships but don't require you to be a member to attend monthly meetings.

Let me know if you might be interested, I'll search for website addresses or facebook pages or whatever.

:)
 

carlyod

AC Members
Oct 26, 2016
27
2
1
Philadelphia
Real Name
Carly
My personal preference for a filter would be a canister filter... just because, and it gets all the stuff from the top of your tank, and is more flexible when it comes to media... and it's easier to close the top up in case of jumpy fish.,

If you're around Philly, look into local fish clubs - BCAS on the first Thursday of the month and DCAS on the first Friday

They may be options for getting cheaper fish and equipment, both have annual memberships but don't require you to be a member to attend monthly meetings.

Let me know if you might be interested, I'll search for website addresses or facebook pages or whatever.

:)
Thanks for your input! Since I'm just getting into the hobby I think I'm going to hold off for a bit before I join any clubs but I will absolutely consider if for the future!

As far as future fish go, do you think my current plan for stocking looks ok? And do you have any feelings about neon tetras vs. harlequin rasboras?

1 x Dwarf Gourami (Colisa lalia)
5 x Panda Cory (Corydoras panda)
3 x Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)
6 x Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) OR Harlequin Rasboras
 

dougall

...
Mar 29, 2005
2,696
424
92
Thanks for your input! Since I'm just getting into the hobby I think I'm going to hold off for a bit before I join any clubs but I will absolutely consider if for the future!
I wouldn't worry about just getting into the hobby, They are both very welcoming groups, and their talks can be very informative.. I'm normally at the BCAS meetings but won't be there next month. Last Saturday they had a behind the scenes tour of Adventure Aquarium which was free for members (and membership is cheaper than paying for the trip)

As far as future fish go, do you think my current plan for stocking looks ok? And do you have any feelings about neon tetras vs. harlequin rasboras?

1 x Dwarf Gourami (Colisa lalia)
5 x Panda Cory (Corydoras panda)
3 x Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)
6 x Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) OR Harlequin Rasboras
My personal preference is for smaller fish, bigger schools and a lower number of species...

I'm not such a fan of Neon Tetras, But do like Rasboras, Harlequins are OK, I do like the microrasboras more though.

Panda Cories are OK, again I prefer larger numbers of smaller fish, I'd personally go with a larger school of C. Habrosus

For Fancy Guppies, Just be sure to go with all males, females can store sperm once impregnated, and give birth monthly for ~6 months, and they will likely be pregnant when you buy them from the store, and the population is likely to take over your tank unless you have a plan for the offspring.

For the dwarf gourami, there have been lots of reports of them being very fragile, so just be wary when you buy them.


But overall, I think your tank should be fine., once ready, be sure to post pictures, :)
 

myswtsins

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Jun 15, 2008
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So much to talk about here!! First of all congrats on getting into this wonderful hobby and this forum!

Hi everyone!

I'm in the process of cycling my first freshwater tank (yep, google took me down the rabbit hole and I learned alllll about fishless cycling) and I have some questions I hope some more experiences aquarists will be able to help me with.
Hi. :) I'm so please to see how much research you've done before hand!

For starters, I have a 20g high with eco-complete substrate and (currently) 4 plants (which I will eventually be adding to, but not enough to need a high-tech setup). Since I was starting from scratch, I bought tetra's starter kit. So I just have the LED lights that come with it and the Tetra 20 Whisper filter. I also have a 20g rated air stone that's working beautifully, heater, thermometer, etc (pictures attached below). I did my basic setup on 10/22, added the plants 10/23, and then got more gravel/messed around a bit yesterday and added tetra SafeStart. I've been using fish food as my ammonia source which *should* hopefully be sufficient to feed my bacteria. But this brings me to some of my questions:

Today, I did some water testing. My pH read 8.4, Ammonia between 0.5 and 1.0 ppm, nitrite 0, and ***40ppm*** nitrate which seems really high (using API water testing kit and yes, I shook the heck out of the nitrate bottles). My tap water unfortunately also tested 1.0ppm for ammonia (ugh) and had a pH of 7.4.

So should I just keep adding fish food to the tank daily and testing the water to see if my ammonia spikes/nitrites start to show? Is it weird that my pH is so high when my tap water isn't?
Did your tap water have any nitrates? Yes, keep adding food. The difference from the tap to aquarium is due to CO2 trapped in tap water, once it is aerated the CO2 is released into the atmosphere and the ph in the water increase. My water is also 7.4 from tap and 8.2 in aquarium. I use a 55g barrel (for several tanks) to aerate and adjust my water as needed before adding it to the tank. You might want to do something similar, especially to treat that ammonia before hand.

Also, once my tank is nicely cycled and safe for the little fishies, I'd like to stock with (hypothetically):

1 x Dwarf Gourami (Colisa lalia)
5 x Panda Cory (Corydoras panda)
3 x Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)
6 x Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) OR Harlequin Rasboras (I really can't decide which I like better--might just come down to what the LFS has in stock that looks good and healthy)

I know that the panda cories and tetras/rasboras need a decent sized school and according to AqAdvisor that should bring me to 87% stocked. BUT clearly (I think?) I'd need a better filter. This brings me to yet another question: Should I just get another filter and run two in my tank, or should I upgrade to something rated for like a 40g tank or something? I've heard pros and cons to both (2 filters means you can change one at a time and reduce the risk of starting up a mini cycle, but the current could be too high) but I'm not sure what I should actually do. If I do end up getting another filter, does anybody have any brand recommendations (preferably something effective and quiet because it's in my bedroom haha). Or just get a bigger canister in the future.
I agree with dougall, I prefer a canister filter. If you want quiet definitely ditch the HOB and yes go for something rated for about 40gs. Planted tanks are messy and the plants like the flow. I go for about 10x turnover but 6x times is sufficient. I haven't bought a filter in many years cause they last a long time. :) I love Rena filters but they are now API Filstar. From what I've read they are still good filters. If I bought a new filter though I would buy a Sunsun. Always wanted one but never "needed" a new filter.

And finally, does my stock look ok? Any tips on how much to stock at once/in which order I should do so? I've done a stupid amount of research (seriously, google has been doing me dirty. There is SO much info out there!) but it's hard to sift through all of the various opinions.

Basically, any tips, tricks, emotional support (LOL), etc. to supplement my own research would be much appreciated! Thanks!!!

View attachment 218762

View attachment 218763
Again I agree with dougall!
My personal preference is for smaller fish, bigger schools and a lower number of species...
But that is all just personal preference, for the most part. Schooling fish do better in bigger schools and with less other competing species. Biggest problem I see is the mix of hard water and soft water species and no mention of your water hardness. I know with my 8.2 pH and ~10 GH and KH I have not had great luck with cories or most tetras. I had to use some RO water to make those guys happiest.

With a fishless cycle you will grow more bacteria then needed and can add all the fish at once, once the cycle is complete and a couple water changes are done of course.

There is SO much info out there and it IS so hard to sift through it all. This hobby will always give you multiple ways to do anything, get used to that. lol I'm a lot like you, I research till my head is going to explode and then I research some more! Then I ask my slightly educated questions.

Tips and tricks? We could be here all day! lol Biggest piece of advice...Patience. :)
 
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Rbishop

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Those pH samples...done on a sample that set out over night in a shallow dish to gas off?
 

carlyod

AC Members
Oct 26, 2016
27
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Philadelphia
Real Name
Carly
So much to talk about here!! First of all congrats on getting into this wonderful hobby and this forum!







Hi. :) I'm so please to see how much research you've done before hand!







Did your tap water have any nitrates? Yes, keep adding food. The difference from the tap to aquarium is due to CO2 trapped in tap water, once it is aerated the CO2 is released into the atmosphere and the ph in the water increase. My water is also 7.4 from tap and 8.2 in aquarium. I use a 55g barrel (for several tanks) to aerate and adjust my water as needed before adding it to the tank. You might want to do something similar, especially to treat that ammonia before hand.







I agree with dougall, I prefer a canister filter. If you want quiet definitely ditch the HOB and yes go for something rated for about 40gs. Planted tanks are messy and the plants like the flow. I go for about 10x turnover but 6x times is sufficient. I haven't bought a filter in many years cause they last a long time. :) I love Rena filters but they are now API Filstar. From what I've read they are still good filters. If I bought a new filter though I would buy a Sunsun. Always wanted one but never "needed" a new filter.




Again I agree with dougall!



But that is all just personal preference, for the most part. Schooling fish do better in bigger schools and with less other competing species. Biggest problem I see is the mix of hard water and soft water species and no mention of your water hardness. I know with my 8.2 pH and ~10 GH and KH I have not had great luck with cories or most tetras. I had to use some RO water to make those guys happiest.



With a fishless cycle you will grow more bacteria then needed and can add all the fish at once, once the cycle is complete and a couple water changes are done of course.



There is SO much info out there and it IS so hard to sift through it all. This hobby will always give you multiple ways to do anything, get used to that. lol I'm a lot like you, I research till my head is going to explode and then I research some more! Then I ask my slightly educated questions.



Tips and tricks? We could be here all day! lol Biggest piece of advice...Patience. :)
Ahhh thank you so much for all of the advice!!! I'm absolutely one of those mildly obsessive compulsive people who wants to know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING so that I do it the "right way" from the start. But as you said, it looks like there really are many ways to approach all of this and I need to be ok with a little bit of trial and error :).

I love the idea of a canister filter but honestly, the cleaning and upkeep is a little daunting. I decided instead to go ahead and buy an AquaClear 50 HOB which should do the trick for now!

I *believe* my tap water does actually have nitrates, but I'm not 100% sure my test was accurate (it said 40 ppm as well which seems kind of crazy!). I'm going to re-do that tomorrow at some point when I have a little extra time (exam in the morning) and I'll let it sit out first to aerate/gas off/etc.

How exactly do you go about treating your tap water? Do you let it sit overnight with prime/some other dechlorinator, or do you do something else to adjust/aerate it? Since all of the fish I'm interested in definitely prefer a much lower pH (seems like 7.0 + or - a bit is the magic number) I'm a bit concerned about my tap water. I'd like to avoid using RO if at all possible because I'm on a college student budget and obviously tap water is much more convenient/cheap. I'm also going to get a GH kit soon but I don't have one yet. I've heard that Philly water is considered "moderately hard" and is between 5.6 and 8.4 dH (this is just according to the county website haha). Should I just add a lot of natural wood to the tank or is their a better way I could go about fixing my pH/potential GH situation? Is it true that with slow acclimation these fish will be just fine in a 8.2 pH tank?

Also ammonia levels are now between 0.25 and 0.5 ppm even after adding LOADS of fish flakes last night. Just added a bunch more so we'll see if this means my cycle is moving along nicely soon enough! (or not soon enough because I have zero patience but I'm trying hahaha). Thank you all again SO MUCH for the help and patience with my newbie questions!! (I'll definitely post pictures when this is all said and done)
 

qwe123

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Jul 30, 2008
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IMO, those fish (except the guppies) will definitely not be happy in the long term with a pH that high... The problem with high pH is not only that fish prefer a certain level, but as it gets higher, total ammonia in the water becomes more toxic (more of it converting from ammonium to free ammonia).
I would just stick with fish that prefer those parameters to make it easier on you, rather than trying to adjust pH to what your fish would prefer. Livebearers are great beginner fish, and prefer high pH.
 
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myswtsins

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That is a common complaint of canisters, although I never found cleaning to be a big deal. Aquaclear is the way to go for HOB IMO.

My water situation is unique (I literally have not found one case like mine). So my pre-treatment wouldn't work for you. Since you have a higher pH than you want and ammonia and nitrates in your tap water there is one very clear answer....you know what it is....RO unit! It is a big investment, I get that. I struggled with the initial cost at first too but it is SO worth it. The way I look at it I don't miss that money I spent but I would miss my RODI unit! If you can't buy one now I'd advise you to find a local fish store (LFS) that sells RO water and use that while you save for your own unit. Prime water conditioner can take care of the ammonia but with 40 nitrates (if that's right) RO is the only sensible solution I know of, maybe someone else knows of something else? I recommend Air, Water & Ice and if you decide to go with them I can get you a small discount, just pm me. There are other good places for RODI units too though.

Low pH fish can be acclimated to high pH but IME they are just not as happy or healthy. Having seen the difference first hand I am a big advocate of getting fish that are meant for your water conditions.

What was my one big tip!? Patience! lol Sounds like the ammonia is starting to be broken down though. That's just the beginning of a long process, nitrites is the worst part, they seem to take forever. :)
 
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