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29 Gallon Setup Questions; Returning to the Hobby
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C. Schell
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Joined: 08 Jan 2012
Location: Mauston, WI

PostPosted: 2012.01.08(Sun)16:17    Post subject: 29 Gallon Setup Questions; Returning to the Hobby Reply with quote

Greetings everyone-

I'm new to the forum and seeking advice.

When I was younger I had a couple of 29 gallon (109.8 Liter) tanks at my parents place. After graduation college in late 2005 I dispersed my fish and shut them down. The equipment was old and starting to fail, and the tanks were in poor condition due to my limited ability to maintain them while I was gone. I was moving into an apartment and intended to bring them with me, but was not able to do so. In the intervening years I've missed having my aquariums. I want to get back into the hobby and an determined to do it right.

I know I need to rebuild my knowledge of the hobby, and have been researching various sites; as well as looking at the equipment options available to me.

I ultimately want to get a 55 Gal (208.2 L) tank, but my resources are limited to do a recent move. I still have one of my 29 Gal tanks (30"x12.5"x17" or 76.2cm x 31.75cm x 43.18cm) and stand, otherwise I need to replace everything else.

My plans/thoughts so far:

A freshwater tropical community tank is what I'm aiming for. Also, I would like to have a planted tank rather then using plastic plants as I did previously. Not only do I want to give my fish a better environment, but I would like to enjoy the beauty of the plants and fish together. I know that this will impact the equipment choices I make as well.

Filtration:
I had previously used rear hanging power filters, but was thinking of switching to a canister filter (if not in the 29 Gal tank then in the 55 Gal when I get it). For the size of the tank, which would be the better choice and what might the best filter to go with. I have also read that running two smaller filters would be better rather then one large one for backup and cleaning purposes. If I went that route, what would be the best size rating to go with; ie using two filters rated for 10-20 Gal tanks?

Heater:
I had used one large semi-submersible tube heater vertically in a corner of my previous setup. As with the filter system, I've read that two smaller heaters (positioned horizontally at the bottom of the tank) is the better solution. I've also read that an undergravel cable heater would be a good choice in a planted tank, but am unfamiliar with this type of heater. What might be the best choice (and if submersible tube, what power/size ratio would be best when used in a pair)?

Lighting:
My old setup used a standard florescent light bar/hood. While I know it would be the lowest cost option expense-wise, It seems that standard florescent lighting may not be adequate for a planted tank; either Compact Florescent (aka Power Compact) or Metal Halide being the two to choose from. Between the two my preference is Compact Florescent. The type of plants I choose also require different lighting levels, so if I choose low light species would I be able to use a regular florescent fixture, or should I just move onto CF and be done with it?

Substrate:
I know that regular store bought gravel isn't suitable for plants; something like Flourite/Seachem or an in-house brand from an online store instead.

Plants/Decorations:
As I'm new to having real plants in-tank, the easier to grow, hardy species are likely my best bet. There are many different ones to chose from, what might be the best to start off with? While the convex/Island layout looks neat, I don't know if I could pull it off as a "planted newbie"; so I would most likely good with the concave U/V. Natural driftwood and real rocks also seem to be a better choice over the plastic stuff available in most stores. Other then making sure to prepare driftwood properly for use, what other things should I keep in mind?

Fish:
As I said previously, a freshwater tropical tank is my goal. The fish I'm considering include Tetras, Mollies, Rasboras, and Barbs. I really like Gouramis though, so an alternative set might be Gouramis, Barbs, and Loaches (both sets with Cory Catfish and an Otocinclus Catfish). That or a tank of just one type.

Misc:
As the nearest pet store (other then "big box" retailers) are several hours away, I'm looking at purchasing as much as possible online. With the equipment and decorations that shouldn't be an issue, but what about plants and fish? I know that it's possible and done, but would it be the way to go?

Also, do you have any additional tips/advice/suggestions regarding cycling, setup, anything I missed, etc?

I'm waiting several months before I get the tank set up and running; just in case I decide to move to a different apartment after the winter (don't want to move a tank after its set up unless absolutely necessary). That way I can build up a better pool of money as well.

I will appreciate any advice and assistance you can provide me; I look forward to your responses.
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nikelodeon79
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Joined: 08 Nov 2007
Location: Wisconsin, U.S.A.

PostPosted: 2012.01.09(Mon)9:51    Post subject: Re: 29 Gallon Setup Questions; Returning to the Hobby Reply with quote

Quote:
Filtration:

I love canister filters and use them in all my tanks, with the exception of my betta tanks, and for those I use Duetto50 in tank filters.

I have both a Rena Filstar XP2 and an Eheim Classic 2215. The Filstar was on a 55g African cichlid setup and is now on a 29g African cichlid setup. The Eheim was previously on a 55g community setup and is now on a 26g community setup. Here are some comparisons:

-Eheim is less expensive than the Filstar.

-Eheim seems more solidly made than the Filster (a friend of mine had parts break on her Filster almost immediately). The Filstar also seems more prone to the tubes popping off when you're messing with it, and that could mean emptying your tank on the floor.

-My Eheim is quieter than my Filstar.

-The Ehiem has stopped working a couple of times inexplicably. It randomly started working again after I'd shut it off for awhile and turned it back on in a last ditch effort to avoid buying a new filter.

-The Filster is easier to prime than the Eheim. I always get a bit of water on the floor when priming the Eheim.

-The directions on the Eheim are impossible to understand, so if you haven't set up a canister before, be prepared to do some online searching on how to set it up.

With all this being said, I would recommend both kinds of filters but if I buy another one, it likely will be an Eheim.

Quote:
Heater:

It generally is a good idea to use two smaller completely submersible heaters, horizontally positioned. If one breaks, you have a backup, and if one malfunctions, you're less likely to fry your fish. I like the Stealth heaters, the ones that are all plastic, but I'm not sure if they make them any more. The only negative to those filters is that there is no indicator light, so the only way to tell if they're on is to practically touch them.

You probably could use two 25W heaters. I generally position a bubble stone underneath the heater to evenly distribute the heat, but if you have fish that dislike current, you probably won't want a bubble stone.

Quote:
Lighting:

I am not the best person to ask about lighting, but I was able to find a nice compact fixture for cheap on ebay. It doesn't have the best construction and mounting it on my tank was a challenge, but it does the trick.

Quote:
Substrate:

If you are going to have corydoras or loaches, sand is a must. You'll want sand with small, rounded grains of a similar size. I use "silica sand" from my local Menards (like Home Depot) or kids playsand. The silica sand is more white, the playsand is more natural looking, but sometimes has a few larger grains/rocks that need to be sifted out. My tanks are all planted, and the plants do fine in unfertilized sand substrate.

Quote:
Plants/Decorations:

I am a bit of a plant dummy, so I tend to stick to easy species like sags, vals, and crypts, as well as low light plants like java fern, anubais, etc. Hopefully, a plant pro steps in and helps you further.

As far as driftwood, I usually do not soak it to leech tannins because I like the more "natural" look for tanks and want the tannins to leech in my tank.

Quote:
Fish:
As I said previously, a freshwater tropical tank is my goal. The fish I'm considering include Tetras, Mollies, Rasboras, and Barbs. I really like Gouramis though, so an alternative set might be Gouramis, Barbs, and Loaches (both sets with Cory Catfish and an Otocinclus Catfish). That or a tank of just one type.

Tetras is a species that vary wildly, and your options for stocking depend on what type of tetra you're looking at: small bodied or larger bodied. I have very little experience with Mollies, so hopefully someone else will chime in. I have kept Cherry Barbs but that's about it... the larger ones like Tigers tend to limit your other stocking options.

Of the gourami species, the only one suitable for a 29g tank are Dwarf (Colisa lalia) and Honey (Colisa chuna). With the Dwarf Gourami, you are limited to a single Gourami because the males are territorial and the females are rarely available in stores. Many stores will TELL you they're selling you a female when in actuality, it's a male. Males are flashy, females are considerably duller and smaller. Surprisingly enough, the only females I've found have been at Wal-mart. Dwarf Gouramis tend to be quite sickly (particularly Wal-mart ones), so that's a challenge in itself. If you do manage to get your hands on females, you'll need at least two females with one male. A single male (without females) will do just fine, provided you can find a healthy one.

I've never kept Honey gouramis, but I'm told they can be kept in multiples.

What is the footprint of your tank? If it's a 29g "tall" (most are), you may not have room for both corydoras and loaches. Cories are a social species, and to keep them happy, you'll need at least six individuals of one species. You are going to want to select smaller species of cories (pandas, leucomelas, schwartzi, etc.) and avoid the larger bodied ones like bronze/albino.

Otos also prefer others of their kind, and as the algae in a 29g won't be enough to satisfy multiple otos, you'll need to supplement their diet. Also keep in mind that if you're getting otos purely for algae eating purposes, you are going to be sorely disappointed, as they are quite picky on what type of algae they eat. They also are quite sensitive and should not be added to a tank less than 3 months old, and the tank should be completely stable.

Personally, I prefer setups with a lot of little fish and no "centerpiece." Harlequin rasboras are great little fish because they are active and visible. A tank with a school of rasboras, a school of small tetras or cherry barbs and a school of corydoras could be a lot of fun. Smile Alternatively, eliminate either the rasboras or the tetras/barbs and add a single dwarf gourami.

Quote:
Misc:
As the nearest pet store (other then "big box" retailers) are several hours away, I'm looking at purchasing as much as possible online. With the equipment and decorations that shouldn't be an issue, but what about plants and fish? I know that it's possible and done, but would it be the way to go?

www.aquabid.com. Careful, it's addicting! I like www.sweetaquatics.com for plants. AZgardens has a nice selection, but I had a really bad experience with them so I won't order there any more. You can also check out www.liveaquaria.com.

Quote:
Also, do you have any additional tips/advice/suggestions regarding cycling, setup, anything I missed, etc?

Definitely do a fishless cycle (I use the fish food method.. tried the pure ammonia method but accidentally got ammonia with surfactants and had to scrub down the tank and start over). Add fish slowly, over an extended period of time so your tank doesn't get overwhelmed. Add your catfish species last, as they tend to be very sensitive. Use the "drip method" (knotted airline tubing run from your tank into a bucket with your new fish) to acclimate your fish to your new water conditions.

Don't worry too much about pH... a stable pH is better than a fluctuating one so don't try to alter it. Most fish, except the most sensitive ones like German Blue Rams and Discus, can adapt to a wide variety of pH levels.

Get a liquid test kit: I like the one from API.
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unissuh
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Joined: 29 Mar 2005
Location: Melbourne, Australia

PostPosted: 2012.01.09(Mon)21:03    Post subject: Re: 29 Gallon Setup Questions; Returning to the Hobby Reply with quote

I think Nik has covered most of it, but a few more comments for you:

C. Schell wrote:

Heater:
I've also read that an undergravel cable heater would be a good choice in a planted tank, but am unfamiliar with this type of heater. What might be the best choice (and if submersible tube, what power/size ratio would be best when used in a pair)?


Given you don't sit the heater in a dead spot (which you really shouldn't anyway), I don't think the orientation of the heater really matters. I always position mine upright, makes them easier to conceal.

Forget the undergravel heaters - they're more expense than they're worth.

The heating power you need depends on where the tank is, but a general rule of thumb is about 50w per 10 gal. I'd probably just start off with a 100w heater now and get another 100w heater when you upgrade to the 55 gal. Not much point buying multiple heaters now that will not be useful later on.

I'm a fan of the Fluval Tronics now - nice heaters and not too expensive.

Quote:
Lighting:
My old setup used a standard florescent light bar/hood. While I know it would be the lowest cost option expense-wise, It seems that standard florescent lighting may not be adequate for a planted tank; either Compact Florescent (aka Power Compact) or Metal Halide being the two to choose from. Between the two my preference is Compact Florescent. The type of plants I choose also require different lighting levels, so if I choose low light species would I be able to use a regular florescent fixture, or should I just move onto CF and be done with it?


I'm going to assume you don't want to dabble in pressurised CO2, which is the real question as opposed to the light requirements of the plants you want. You need this before you step up to high powered lighting.

A good benchmark for a "low tech" (no CO2) style tank is two standard fluorescent tubes that are the same length as your tank or similar equivalent.

Sorry, I can't help with finding a fixture where you are but I hope that gave you an idea of the approximate power you need.

Quote:
Substrate:
I know that regular store bought gravel isn't suitable for plants; something like Flourite/Seachem or an in-house brand from an online store instead.


Actually one can use this with a few root tabs. Flourite has bugger all "fertility" over regular gravel, just basically acts as a "depot" of nutrients that it absorbs from the water column.

Like Nik has said though, many bottom dwellers like sand to play in. One can do much the same thing with root tabs, I place mine under a rock near the plants to make sure they don't get dug up.

Quote:
Plants/Decorations:
As I'm new to having real plants in-tank, the easier to grow, hardy species are likely my best bet. There are many different ones to chose from, what might be the best to start off with? Other then making sure to prepare driftwood properly for use, what other things should I keep in mind?


Yep just stick to the classics for now - add Helanthiums, lotuses and bolbitus to the list that Nik has already posted.

Just a tip - don't buy regular lumpy bogwood or mopani that is usually available. After a while, one realizes that it's very difficult to get that stuff to look good in an aquascape. Go for the stuff that is branchy. In general, the more branches a piece has the better.

Quote:
Fish:
As I said previously, a freshwater tropical tank is my goal. The fish I'm considering include Tetras, Mollies, Rasboras, and Barbs. I really like Gouramis though, so an alternative set might be Gouramis, Barbs, and Loaches (both sets with Cory Catfish and an Otocinclus Catfish). That or a tank of just one type.


Another tip - you can play with stocking plans on aqadvisor.com. Some mixed opinions about this site but I think it's a good idea for less experienced people to fiddle with stocking plans on there then come back to a forum to check that it's all good (program isn't absolutely perfect). Saves a lot of back and forth and waiting when you just want to toss ideas at something.

Quote:
Also, do you have any additional tips/advice/suggestions regarding cycling, setup, anything I missed, etc?


Get the filter, start it running on a bucket and start it cycling a month or two before you get the tank. Saves you some weeks/months of impatience later on down the track.

Hope some of that helped.
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Olorin
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Joined: 28 Aug 2007
Location: Vienna, Austria

PostPosted: 2012.02.08(Wed)17:25    Post subject: substrate Reply with quote

hi, sand, sand, sand... really a must if you are looking to enjoy Cory's and their crazy antics. They are some of the most fun things to have occupying the lower levels of your tank. Or even something strange like a banjo catfish - rarely seen but they need to dig themselves into sand. I just got a requisite number of bags of sand from my aquarium shop. I had previously covered the bottom with DeponitMix from Dennerle. This seems to have worked very well and my plants thrive with regular additions of trace element fertilisers and DIY CO2. One small thought is the colour of sand. My fish shop person recommended white sand and so I bought that. I think it looks fantastic... but if the truth be told tropical fresh water fish look better with a dark and murky backdrop. You will always read recommendations for a black background or dark and it does bring out the colours in the fish - just a thought to bear in mind. You might even enjoy dabbling with a mixture. When gathering ideas for aquascaping I found amazing pictures where paths of sand had been created with 3mm gravel to left and right using rocks/slate as separators... Anyway just a few thoughts from someone who has not posted here for a long time.
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