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NEw guy needs some help!
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Aqua Barker
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Joined: 21 May 2012

PostPosted: 2012.07.01(Sun)11:21    Post subject: NEw guy needs some help! Reply with quote

OK so I have a few questions as a new person to the fish keeping hobby.

I have a 20 gallon tank that has been running for about 2 or 3 weeks wish a few zebras danios and some fathead minnows in it. I do not currently have a "master test kit" but I do have a pH level test kit. so far the pH level is right around 6.8-7.0. So when is it safe to add fish? I know about the nitrites and the nitrates and all that good stuff. the filter I have is an undergravel filter and a refillable carbon filter. at the top. I had some "cloudiness" issues with it a few days ago and have since changed about 15 gallons of the water and the cloudiness is now gone. I have some Water Wisteria and some Amazon swords in it with a fake plant as well. New guy here just needs a little help from anyone who can provide it! Thanks a heap!
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deborah_claro
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Joined: 11 May 2006
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: 2012.07.02(Mon)8:23    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, Aqua Barker.
Welcome to the hobby!

It's safe to add fish when your ammonia and nitrite levels are reading at zero ppm (0 ppm) and your nitrate levels are reading at <10 ppm. This is measured with a simple test kit (which you do not have) or by taking a sample of your water to your independently owned LFS. For the optimum health of your fish, a safe completion of the nitrogen cycle is necessary.

However, you have already added fish so this complicates things. You still need to get your water tested and find out where you are in the cycle. The live plants you have will uptake ammonia as food so if you can add a few more real plants you will be heading in the right direction. A 20 gallon needs more than a couple of plants anyway or algae will set in and outcompete the plants. Is the tank a 20 long (30"/75 cm long) or a 20 high (24"/60 cm long)?

Add more plants and do frequent, small partial water changes (pwc's) to stay ahead of the possible adverse effects of the nitrogen cycle. I suggest 10% daily for a while. Meantime, arrange to get the test kits for Ammonia (NH3/NH4) Nitrite ((NO2) and Nitrate (NO3) and see where you are in the cycle.

Then post back here.
Welcome to the hobby and good luck!
Very Happy
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Aqua Barker
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Joined: 21 May 2012

PostPosted: 2012.07.02(Mon)15:11    Post subject: Reply with quote

The reason I already have some very small fish is because I was told that it helps the biological cycle begin. I had the water tested at my local store a day or two ago but she used the STRIPS not the liquid test kit. But she said everything in the tank looks fine except the ammonia. She didn't say what the readings were only that everything "looked fine".

The plants I have are more than just a "couple". The variety I have is only a couple. There are about 4 Water Wisteria and 2 Amazon swords. (also a fake plant if that means anything to you)

I will arrange to have the big test kit soon but the only thing I don't like is that it doesn't come with the products to FIX what you are testing for.

Thanks again for all the help!
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deborah_claro
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Joined: 11 May 2006
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: 2012.07.04(Wed)10:36    Post subject: Reply with quote

Understood. This may be a case of conflicting information. You were told one thing and we here at Aquahobby will probably tell you another. When you asked in your first post, "When is it safe to add fish?" the implication to me was that the small fish you are using to cycle the tank were "throwaway fish" and your real question was, "When can I add the fish I really want?" Is that what you meant?

The practice of cycling an aquarium with fish, or indeed any live creature that's not a plant, is unpopular these days. It's considered cruelty to the fish. Cycling a tank with some fish food or "silent" cycling is much more popular and very easy to do. There are also cycle starter bacteria that you can buy in a bottle - many of the major aquarium supply manufacturers have a version of this in their line of products. It's true that when they first came on the market the results were mixed, but now most of these products have good reviews and do what they claim to do.

That said, we have to deal with the situation as is: you have a 20 gallon tank which you are cycling with fish. It's been running only 2-3 weeks, as you said, so any ammonia reading at all places it at the beginning of the nitrogen cycle. The tests performed by the assistant in the LFS showed some ammonia and presumably NO nitrites or nitrates. This makes sense - at the beginning of the cycle only ammonia would be present. There has not been enough time for the other by-products of the cycle to develop. In time, nitrItes will appear, bacteria will develop to consume them, and then nitrates, the final by-product of the cycle, will appear.

As said in my first post, whenever there are fish in the tank you must have zero - 0 ppm - readings of both ammonia and nitrite. Any other reading is dangerous and undesirable. (However, low readings of nitrates are fine.) At this point in the life of your 20 gallon, you are just at the beginning of the cycle and have a positive reading for ammonia.

I don't doubt for a second that you were told to cycle your tank with fish but it's a somewhat outdated practice. I'm surprised that people are still recommending it. Even small fish like the ones you have (although those fathead minnows are not so small - they are quite chubby and put out a lot of waste) are producing far more waste in an uncycled 20 gallon tank than is healthy for any fish or invertebrate. Only the plants are thriving in the presence of ammonia.

It's good that you have a few plants more than I thought. If the wisteria is floating, keep it there. As a floater it will draw out more nitrogenous wastes than it will planted in the substrate. If you have some philodendron houseplant that you can cut I would cut a couple of trailers off and hang them over the side of the tank with the cut ends in the aquarium water. This will uptake some more of the wastes and accelerate the cycle to the next stage.

All stages of the nitrogen cycle must be complete before you can say the tank is cycled and safe for fish. It is NOT safe for fish now but you have them in anyway, and they have already been exposed to ammonia. Ammonia is poisonous to fish and they can not tolerate it for long. David Boruchowitz, and other aquarium hobby writers, says that fish can and do die from the effects of ammonia up to seven or eight weeks after exposure, so do not be surprised if you have some kind of unexplained die-offs in the weeks to come. Nitrites, in their turn, can be just as deadly.

Everything I said in my first post still goes. You need to cycle your tank but you also need to ameliorate the effects of the ammonia so I'm afraid the choice is either to take the fish out and switch to fish food to continue the cycle (recommended) OR leave the fish in and do the water changes I suggested (not recommended). That will slow down the cycle but it will be better for the fish.

In any case you will need access to frequent testing in order to know when your cycle goes from some ammonia to zero ammonia -> to some nitrites to zero nitrites -> to some nitrates. With plants in the tank I would be surprised to see a reading over 10 ppm for nitrates, but that would be at the end of the cycle, anyway. You have a ways to go.

The above is somewhat simplified as to how the nitrogen cycle progresses. You may want learn more but it will be important NOT to read old articles which promote out-of-date practices. Look for something up-to-date which talks about using fish food or a piece of cooked or raw shrimp to get the cycle started.

Aqua Barker wrote:
I will arrange to have the big test kit soon but the only thing I don't like is that it doesn't come with the products to FIX what you are testing for.

In this case, the only fix is to let the nitrogen cycle complete naturally. Adding a product to the water to eliminate ammonia, for example, is a short-term fix. Within moments more ammonia will appear, as the fish are constantly producing it. Respiration, btw, is the biggest producer of ammonia in the aquarium water. It might be possible to add some cycle-starter bacteria at this point to help out. I'm not sure if it can be added with fish already in the tank.

Hope this helped some. Keep us posted.
Very Happy
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Aqua Barker
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Joined: 21 May 2012

PostPosted: 2012.07.05(Thu)13:23    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, So. I have read the above post AND found another fish store in my area (the longest running fish store in the county actually, 46 years and counting) He has told me several things to do and here they are

1. Take the undergravel filter out of my tank and leave only my top one running.

2. Take my live plants out.

3. Switch the filter media I am using for my top filter

4. Take the fish out and give them to him for a little in store credit

and finally

5. Buy a heater. (he is selling me one for 15 bucks that looks really nice)

But he was saying to take the undergravel out because it does NOTHING but trap all the waste in the bottom of the tank and to remove the live plants because they will just die very soon. He said not to add plants for about 3 months into the cycling process but to use fake ones instead to give fish somewhere to hide.

The next part I find very odd but it also seems to work for his fish. Feed them ONE FLAKE PER FISH about 20 times per day. He says that the "crumbs" that was in my thing of fish food are to small and the fish will do nothing with them except for hold them in their mouth and not swallow it which will lead to more pollution in the tank.

And the other thing was to quit using the filter media I am using. It's the API Activated Filter Carbon. He showed me in the store that the stuff I am currently using is not very porous and will not soak up any of the gases. He said it is similar to spilling coffee on the floor and using a rock to clean it up instead of a sponge. It simply won't absorb anything. But in the store he took a piece of my API carbon and put it in the tank and it sank. Then he took his carbon and it floated. Thus proving that it was more porous.

He also said to get the heater and put it at 82 degrees to get the water to a more "tropical" feel. The fish he did suggest once the tank is up and running would be something along the lines of 2 Vale Angelfish as the "centerpiece" fish and some platys or guppys or mollies or something alon those lines.

I love the idea of the fish that I have each being from a different part of the world (within reason) but it just seems a lot cooler to me that if someone looks at my tank I can say "oh this guy here is from so and so, this guy is from so and so" and so on and so fourth.

Thanks for all the help, New guy is still getting use to everything in this hobby but really enjoying it so far!
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diademhill
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Joined: 18 Apr 2007

PostPosted: 2012.07.05(Thu)13:49    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like you need to seek out yet another store.
Carbon is not needed in filters except to remove medication at the end of treatment.

Undergravel filters are not brilliant but are effective if you stir the gravel regularly. Many breeders use a version of UGF as they are fry safe.

Your plants can stay. The fish are hardy enough to survive if you do daily water changes. 20% a day for the next six weeks.
Only feed a quantity half the size of the fish's eyes every third day until the cycle is complete.

What a good store should have done is given you some filter gunge -just the dirt you get when you clean a filter in tank water.
This will populate your filter with working bacteria.

Veiltail angelfish grow to the size of your spread hand - no place in a 20 gallon tank!!!
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Aqua Barker
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Joined: 21 May 2012

PostPosted: 2012.07.05(Thu)15:04    Post subject: Reply with quote

diademhill wrote:
Sounds like you need to seek out yet another store.
Carbon is not needed in filters except to remove medication at the end of treatment.

Undergravel filters are not brilliant but are effective if you stir the gravel regularly. Many breeders use a version of UGF as they are fry safe.

Your plants can stay. The fish are hardy enough to survive if you do daily water changes. 20% a day for the next six weeks.
Only feed a quantity half the size of the fish's eyes every third day until the cycle is complete.

What a good store should have done is given you some filter gunge -just the dirt you get when you clean a filter in tank water.
This will populate your filter with working bacteria.

Veiltail angelfish grow to the size of your spread hand - no place in a 20 gallon tank!!!



Well I know the Angelfish are BEAUTIFUL fish but he just called them a Vale Angelfish. (he even spelled it out for me lol)

There are only about 3 pet stores around here. One is Petsmart the other is a small community pet store and the other is the one I just described in my other post. I have to admit, All of his fish did look good. My plants are alive and seem to be fine so why he wants me to take them out I will never know. Is a heater 100% necessary for a community tank? I want an oddity of two as well like a Ghost Shrimp or something. Just looking to make a cool community tank and all of this info is driving me nuts because I don't know who to believe or really where to start other than what I have already done!!! Crying or Very sad

I have had a couple more minnows die so now I am down to 4 fish. 2 Zebras and 2 fathead minnows. I am going to leave my undergravel filter in but leave it turned off.

Do I really need to change what I am using in my filter? It's API Activated Filter Carbon. (it's what the guy at Petsmart told me to use before I went to all the other stores)

I meant to add into my last post that the guy at the petstore (that one that told me all the weird stuff such as feeding one flake 20 times per day) To not buy the Master Test Kit from API because if the chemicals sit in the bottle for to long (over 30 days he said) they will go bad and skew the results.

So far I think I am doing OK seeing as how everyone is telling me that everyone is wrong. Lol

Thanks again for all the help! New guy is loving it!!
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diademhill
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Joined: 18 Apr 2007

PostPosted: 2012.07.06(Fri)2:04    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fathead minnows don't need a heater but danios may do if the room they are in drops below 68F and the fatheads should really be rehomed as they will outgrow a 20g tank.
A heater will allow a lot more stocking options but it is possible to have a room temperature tank with care.
Liquid kits last about 6 months once opened unless you make the rookie mistake of storing on top of the hood - above the hot lights.
You can get just a nitrite kit - test every other day and water change whenever nitrite shows up. When no nitrite is seen for a week the tank is cycled.

What do you have besides carbon in the filter?
Keep the UG filter working, for a long time they were the mainstay of the hobby and it will help. If you have a pump that can cause a reverse flow ( down the uplift and out through the gravel) they are excellent filters.
Shops don't like selling them as they don't get to sell consumables to go with them.

Some people can't spell Very Happy
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Aqua Barker
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Joined: 21 May 2012

PostPosted: 2012.07.06(Fri)2:19    Post subject: Reply with quote

diademhill wrote:
Fathead minnows don't need a heater but danios may do if the room they are in drops below 68F and the fatheads should really be rehomed as they will outgrow a 20g tank.
A heater will allow a lot more stocking options but it is possible to have a room temperature tank with care.
Liquid kits last about 6 months once opened unless you make the rookie mistake of storing on top of the hood - above the hot lights.
You can get just a nitrite kit - test every other day and water change whenever nitrite shows up. When no nitrite is seen for a week the tank is cycled.

What do you have besides carbon in the filter?
Keep the UG filter working, for a long time they were the mainstay of the hobby and it will help. If you have a pump that can cause a reverse flow ( down the uplift and out through the gravel) they are excellent filters.
Shops don't like selling them as they don't get to sell consumables to go with them.

Some people can't spell Very Happy



Nothing is in the filter besides that API Activated Filter Carbon. It is just inside of a refillable filter bag. Instead of changing the filter, you just dump out the used carbon and put new carbon inside. I was just wondering if I needed to change the kind of carbon because of the way the guy at the petshop told me its like trying to clean up spilled coffee with a rock or a sponge.

I have had 2 more minnows die so now I am down to 3 fish.

The guy at the pet store also threw away my food because he said they were all crumbs inside it. (and it sorta was) he says the food HAS to be an entire flake. He said to leave the light off and fish are fine without food for about 10 days. Is this true? My fish are sorta starting to nibble at my plants a little making me think they are hungry. I will buy new food today, Does it need to be super fresh and stuff?

The real question here is weather or not I need to dole out the cash for the Master Test Kit or not.
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diademhill
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Joined: 18 Apr 2007

PostPosted: 2012.07.06(Fri)2:55    Post subject: Reply with quote

What make is your filter?
No filter I know of apart from the Biorb junk has just carbon? ( & that is used in conjunction with an undergravel to provide space for the bacteria to colonise.)

Does the filter have a wheel?

Food does go off with time but some food comes as a powder.

You can get by without a master test kit but you'll spend more on dechlorinator and time on water changes without one. If you are on a tight budget just get a nitrite kit.
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