10 Gallon Home Aquarium Setup by a Newbie

PurpleFish

Researching how to take care of a 10g with fish I was given has gotten me addicted! That tank is in my classroom. I’m a science teacher and my wildlife class will be caring for it when school starts. So they will make all the decisions (I monitor for safety). Thus, I bought myself a 10g for home where I get to do what I want :) Pic below - I’m crooked, the table is level!

The tank is an Aqueon kit: hood with some LEDs, Aqueon filter, Aqueon heater, net, and Aqueon water conditioner. I also bought Seachem’s Stability for new tanks.

I washed my gravel but am not sure I have enough. I’ve put in 10 pounds of dark brow colors and black. Then I have another 5lbs of dark purple as an accent color. With the first 10 pounds, it’s barely an inch deep. Will adding 5 more be enough? Or should I order more of the dark brown?
Thought of more questions…

Should I use the Aqueon 50 watt, 5-inch long heater or the Aquatop 50watt, 8-inch one? I’m hoping to stock ember tetras once the tank is cycled.

Speaking of cycling, I put a filter cartridge in the classroom tank but it wouldn’t fit in the filter so I put it along the glass and pushed down into the gravel so it would stay put. Will bacteria colonize it that way? I brought some gravel and fake plants from the classroom tank to help with starting this tank’s cycle.
 

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KingOscar

I washed my gravel but am not sure I have enough. I’ve put in 10 pounds of dark brow colors and black. Then I have another 5lbs of dark purple as an accent color. With the first 10 pounds, it’s barely an inch deep. Will adding 5 more be enough? Or should I order more of the dark brown?
Thought of more questions…

Speaking of cycling, I put a filter cartridge in the classroom tank but it wouldn’t fit in the filter so I put it along the glass and pushed down into the gravel so it would stay put. Will bacteria colonize it that way? I brought some gravel and fake plants from the classroom tank to help with starting this tank’s cycle.
Your gravel level is fine as is, or you can add a little more. It's up to you. Less gravel equals less space for trapped wastes, and more space for water and fish. But you do want it deep enough for installing plants, real or artificial.

Is this filter cartridge that "wouldn't fit" in the filter from an established tank? If yes, it is best to have it in your new filter. Maybe you'll need to cut or disassemble it to do this. Leaving some in the tank will help establish the cycle a little, but not as much.
 

FishDin

You want water flowing trough the filter material. You could buy a filter cartridge made for the filter you have, or you could cut a piece of filter sponge to fit. There is no need to ever replace the filter material unless it is falling apart. Manufacturers will tell you to replace the filter cartrige perodically. This is done to fill their bank account. It is not good for your tank, fish or cycle. There is no need for charcoal cartridges in the filter unless you are trying to remove medications.

I would use the shorter heater simply because it is less visually obtrusive.

Check back here when you are ready to start cycling. Stability and other "bacteria in a bottle" sometimes work and sometimes they don't, so don't think you've done something wrong if your tank doesn't cycle as expected. 4-6 weeks to cycle a tank is to be expected. If the Stability gets you there quicker, all the better.

What will you use for the ammonia source? I recommend using pure ammonia and not fish food or live fish. Dr. Tim's (search online) is one good one. It will come with clear cycling instructions as well. You will also need a test kit that will allow you to test ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.

I bet you could use an aquarium to teach many scientific concepts. FUN!
 

PurpleFish

Your gravel level is fine as is, or you can add a little more. It's up to you. Less gravel equals less space for trapped wastes, and more space for water and fish. But you do want it deep enough for installing plants, real or artificial.

Is this filter cartridge that "wouldn't fit" in the filter from an established tank? If yes, it is best to have it in your new filter. Maybe you'll need to cut or disassemble it to do this. Leaving some in the tank will help establish the cycle a little, but not as much.
Good to hear about the gravel level! I’ll add the other 5lbs I have and leave it at that for now.

For the filter cartridge, it’s the one that came with the new Aqueon filter. Thought I’d heard people say to put a new filter in with an established one to seed it with good bacteria. But two don’t fit - at least not the Aqueon ones with the hard frames). Was looking for a way to help with the cycling. Those are the only filter media I have. I’ll just have patience as I feel too overwhelmed (the school year starts soon) to try anything new with the filter.

Thanks for the advice!
You want water flowing trough the filter material. You could buy a filter cartridge made for the filter you have, or you could cut a piece of filter sponge to fit. There is no need to ever replace the filter material unless it is falling apart. Manufacturers will tell you to replace the filter cartrige perodically. This is done to fill their bank account. It is not good for your tank, fish or cycle. There is no need for charcoal cartridges in the filter unless you are trying to remove medications.

I would use the shorter heater simply because it is less visually obtrusive.

Check back here when you are ready to start cycling. Stability and other "bacteria in a bottle" sometimes work and sometimes they don't, so don't think you've done something wrong if your tank doesn't cycle as expected. 4-6 weeks to cycle a tank is to be expected. If the Stability gets you there quicker, all the better.

What will you use for the ammonia source? I recommend using pure ammonia and not fish food or live fish. Dr. Tim's (search online) is one good one. It will come with clear cycling instructions as well. You will also need a test kit that will allow you to test ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.

I bet you could use an aquarium to teach many scientific concepts. FUN!
I was being impatient with the filter. Gonna just use the one that came with the filter as that’s working great in my classroom tank. I have learned, the hard way unfortunately, to not change the filters. I just rinse them of any debris when I do a water change (using the water I took from the tank).

I did order the Dr Tim’s ammonia. It’ll be here in a couple days. I like that it comes with clear instructions. I’ve done so much research that I’m having trouble assimilating it all - thus I’m so glad to have y’all!

Good point that the shorter heater will be less obtrusive! It says it is a “preset” heater. There is no way to adjust the temp. So far it’s keeping the tank at 75F. Is that ok? I suppose as long as the fish I get don’t need warmer???

Yeah the aquarium is going to be great as a reference and/or hands on experience on all kinds of topics! I teach 7-12th, mostly life science. It will be fun :) Most of our students don’t have pets so classroom pets fascinate them!
 

FishDin

Yes, you are correct about seeding the new filter with established filter material. You'll be fine the way you are doing it.

Yes, 75F will be good for Embers. Just research the fish you are getting. There are some that do want warmer or cooler.temps.
 

PurpleFish

Yes, you are correct about seeding the new filter with established filter material. You'll be fine the way you are doing it.

Yes, 75F will be good for Embers. Just research the fish you are getting. There are some that do want warmer or cooler.temps.
Last part first… I’m researching a ton with the last week mostly dedicated to carindals and embers. I have an extra heater that can go up to 80+ if needed.

First part… I think I gave the wrong impression… I am starting this tank with a brand new filter cartridge. As I’m using the ones that Aqueon makes for the filter, I don’t know how to seed it. They are made of tough plastic and sewn crosswise. And two don’t fit together in the filter. It will take longer but. Unless there’s something I’m figuring out…? Could I bring some gravel, fake plants or decorations from the classroom/cycled tank to the home one to help bring bacteria in? I just got a couple taller fake plants and could swap those with two shorts ones. Do the bacteria live on those things too? I can’t remember.

Also, my dr Tim’s ammonia and master test kit arrived today!!! So I can start cycling! I’ve read thru dr Tim’s directions and wrote up notes for myself. Also have a pad of paper by the tank to record all the ammonia added and test results- my science geek side is so happy :).
 

Cawafuoshi

At the risk of sounding rude, but "science class", "fish", and "fake plants" do not match up well imho :D
 

FishDin

Yes, you can help seed the new tank with any hardscape / decorations etc. from an established tank.



At the risk of sounding rude, but "science class", "fish", and "fake plants" do not match up well imho :D
Perhaps it could lead to a good scientific discussion with students.
 

KingOscar

Based on what you wrote my understanding is that you have a filter cartridge/pad from an established aquarium that you would like to use to seed the new filter but it doesn't fit. Depending on the design of the filter I suggest dismantling or cutting it into pieces that will fit. Getting this seeded material into your filter along with the new pad and flowing water is the best way to transfer the beneficial bacteria.
 

FishDin

Based on what you wrote my understanding is that you have a filter cartridge/pad from an established aquarium that you would like to use to seed the new filter but it doesn't fit. Depending on the design of the filter I suggest dismantling or cutting it into pieces that will fit. Getting this seeded material into your filter along with the new pad and flowing water is the best way to transfer the beneficial bacteria.
I don't recommend removing the filter from your other tank unless you monitor that tank in case its cycle crashes after you have removed it's cycled filter. I think it would be safer to simply use the fake plants and a some of the substrate than to entirely remove it's filter. The new tank will cycle either way. In fact it will cycle if you add nothing from the established tank. You're just trying to speed it up by using the stuff from the established tank.
 

PurpleFish

Based on what you wrote my understanding is that you have a filter cartridge/pad from an established aquarium that you would like to use to seed the new filter but it doesn't fit. Depending on the design of the filter I suggest dismantling or cutting it into pieces that will fit. Getting this seeded material into your filter along with the new pad and flowing water is the best way to transfer the beneficial bacteria.
I think that’s just a little too much for me right now - time wise and too much of a newbie. Something to try in the future :)
I don't recommend removing the filter from your other tank unless you monitor that tank in case its cycle crashes after you have removed it's cycled filter. I think it would be safer to simply use the fake plants and a some of the substrate than to entirely remove it's filter. The new tank will cycle either way. In fact it will cycle if you add nothing from the established tank. You're just trying to speed it up by using the stuff from the established tank.
Using decor and plants is easiest for me right now. I seem to need to learn more about filters, cartridges, and filter media before trying that :)
At the risk of sounding rude, but "science class", "fish", and "fake plants" do not match up well imho :D
Very good point! And it actually is the point, my wildlife class will be tasked with making the tank more of a true ecosystem than what I’ve set up. Lots of good discussions that all my classes can benefit from too :)

Thanks to y’all for helping me this far!! Tonight I’ll start cycling this home tank :)
 

Cinabar

The “replaceable” cartridge is meant to be mechanical filtration (it collects poop and debris). A lot of filters also come with a second insert that is meant for biological filtration (might be a coarse sponge or hard plastic insert), this houses a lot of bacteria. If your filter doesn’t come with any, you might wanna get some for your own convenience.

As for seeding, the old cartridge doesn’t have to go into the filter. You can plop it right into the tank. Or better yet, when you’re rinsing the old cartridge during maintenance, save the gunky brown water and pour that into your new tank. It looks disgusting but works amazing, that’s how I jump start any new tank of mine.
 

Swishy

A lot of filters also come with a second insert that is meant for biological filtration (might be a coarse sponge or hard plastic insert), this houses a lot of bacteria.
Thanks for this! I bought a 5 gallon tank with filter this weekend from Facebook Marketplace and I had no idea what the blue plastic insert with little nubby things was supposed to be. So this is what they mean by “biological filtration”?
 

PurpleFish

Update: The tank is almost cycled! It got a little ignored tho during the first couple weeks of the school year starting. But I had been getting zero on ammonia for 10 days and lowering nitrites. Didn’t have time to test nitrates so been doing daily water changes for a few days and have gotten it down to 10-20ppm.

Last night I had to move the tank - took 90% of water out, moved tank, put 60% of water back in and then added new water, added ammonia and some Stability. That helped get the nitrates to 10-20ppm but today there was .25-.5 ppm ammonia tho zero nitrites. Maybe the move killed off some of the bacteria??? Fish are arriving tomorrow or Friday but I will quarantine them with a sponge filter that’s been in my cycled-with-fish-in-it tank from my classroom. So I’m thinking I have time to let my home tank recover from the move??? Thoughts?

After quarantine, I’ll be adding ember tetras to this home tank. I had to order 10. I know that makes the home tank full (assuming all of them make it after shipping and quarantine). Any advice for adding as many as 10 at the same time?
 

FishDin

There is no need to quarantene the fish if they are going into a new tank that is not inhabited by other fish. The point of quaranteing is to prevent new fish from infecting your existing stock, as well as to provide the new fish a chance to recover from being shipped.

To test your cycle, dose the tank to 1ppm ammonia. If ammonia and nitrite are zero in 24 hours, you are good to go. That will be enough to handle 10 embers. Be sure to monitor the water daily (ammonia and nitrite) after adding fish for a week or so just to be sure all is good.
Thanks for this! I bought a 5 gallon tank with filter this weekend from Facebook Marketplace and I had no idea what the blue plastic insert with little nubby things was supposed to be. So this is what they mean by “biological filtration”?
Biological filtration refers to the bacteria that "filter" (consume) ammonia and nitrite. The blue plastic insert is there to provide surface area for the bacteria to live on.
 

PurpleFish

Right, no need to quarantine! I keep forgetting that as I’m also getting shrimp for my established tank in my classroom that has a few fish in it. Yes, I’ll keep testing the water daily once the fish are in at home. Except for yesterday’s non-zero ammonia, the tank at home has been taking care of 2ppm ammonia each day, all the way to nitrate. I’ll test today in about 15min and will post the results.
Thanks for answering that other posts’ question too!

Bummer… Home tank is 0.25-0.5 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 10-20 nitrates. Must have killed off some bacteria when I emptied, moved, and refilled the tank. Thought I did it fast enough (just moving it from a small table to the new, sturdier cabinet) but must not have. The embers arrive tomorrow! I just added a capful of Seachem’s Stability and 15 drops of ammonia (a lower dose of ammonia than previous days). I’ll test again tomorrow before putting the fish in. If ammonia hasn’t decreased, should I treat it like a fish-in cycle? Or just keep a really close eye on the water parameters? Maybe eve test twice a day? Oh, I do have Seachem’s Stress Guard. Would that help?
 

bored411

Right, no need to quarantine! I keep forgetting that as I’m also getting shrimp for my established tank in my classroom that has a few fish in it. Yes, I’ll keep testing the water daily once the fish are in at home. Except for yesterday’s non-zero ammonia, the tank at home has been taking care of 2ppm ammonia each day, all the way to nitrate. I’ll test today in about 15min and will post the results.
Thanks for answering that other posts’ question too!

Bummer… Home tank is 0.25-0.5 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 10-20 nitrates. Must have killed off some bacteria when I emptied, moved, and refilled the tank. Thought I did it fast enough (just moving it from a small table to the new, sturdier cabinet) but must not have. The embers arrive tomorrow! I just added a capful of Seachem’s Stability and 15 drops of ammonia (a lower dose of ammonia than previous days). I’ll test again tomorrow before putting the fish in. If ammonia hasn’t decreased, should I treat it like a fish-in cycle? Or just keep a really close eye on the water parameters? Maybe eve test twice a day? Oh, I do have Seachem’s Stress Guard. Would that help?
If you can get your hands on some seachem prime that will keep your fish from getting harmed by the ammonia and you can do a fish in cycle at that point. So stop dosing ammonia and just do water changes as long as ammonia and nitrite are present while dosing prime to keep fish safe. The fish will become the ammonia source and you just need to keep the levels down with water changes until the bacteria is settled with 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites.
 

PurpleFish

Ok, thanks for the advice! I changed out 2g this morning and will test when I get home. Don’t have any access to Prime. Put in a capful of Stability. Will see what test is like later. If it’s not good then I guess I’ll set up a quarantine bucket with the sponge filter and heater from the tank. Would the embers be okay for a couple days that way? I do also have a clump of Java moss I’ll be adding to this tank. Will do that when I get home also. What do y’all think?
 

PurpleFish

Turns out I did order some Prime. Package tracking says it was delivered yesterday... Hopefully it's on my neighbor's porch (they are out of town) - Fingers crossed!

The fish and shrimp arrived! The tetras are colorless but moving around. The shrimp look blue but most are hiding around the sponge they shipped with. I'll start up their acclimation process during my 9th grade health class, who can work on their own quite well - can't wait!
 

PurpleFish

Here’s a pic of the tank at home! Ammonia was down to a clear 0.25, making me realize it was definitely 0.5 last night, so it had halved. I changed 2g of water and dosed with Stability and Stress Guard. Added some Java moss also. Ran into issues trying to do a quarantine bucket so best choice (for aeration and warmth, and that 2 died before I got home despite starting to acclimate them) was to put the embers in the tank. I’ll test the water again in the morning.

The embers have been schooling around behind the decorations with a few exploring just a little. Now that I turned out the lights near the tank I can see they are exploring more :) Hopefully they will make it. My order with Prime in it was supposedly delivered yesterday but it’s nowhere to be found. Will check PO tomorrow and hope they just hadn’t processed it yet when I ran over there at 10am this morning. And hopefully I’ll also find the 7 shrimp still alive in the classroom quarantine. I did a very slow acclimation for them. Did end up finding a dead one (it had no color at all); had thought they just messed up counting them when they were packaged but no. The others seem nicely active and loved the soaked oak leaves I gave them :). Will do a thread about them tomorrow.

Would love any suggestions moving forward, especially if the Seachem’s Prime isn’t at the post office.
 

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bored411

Here’s a pic of the tank at home! Ammonia was down to a clear 0.25, making me realize it was definitely 0.5 last night, so it had halved. I changed 2g of water and dosed with Stability and Stress Guard. Added some Java moss also. Ran into issues trying to do a quarantine bucket so best choice (for aeration and warmth, and that 2 died before I got home despite starting to acclimate them) was to put the embers in the tank. I’ll test the water again in the morning.

The embers have been schooling around behind the decorations with a few exploring just a little. Now that I turned out the lights near the tank I can see they are exploring more :) Hopefully they will make it. My order with Prime in it was supposedly delivered yesterday but it’s nowhere to be found. Will check PO tomorrow and hope they just hadn’t processed it yet when I ran over there at 10am this morning. And hopefully I’ll also find the 7 shrimp still alive in the classroom quarantine. I did a very slow acclimation for them. Did end up finding a dead one (it had no color at all); had thought they just messed up counting them when they were packaged but no. The others seem nicely active and loved the soaked oak leaves I gave them :). Will do a thread about them tomorrow.

Would love any suggestions moving forward, especially if the Seachem’s Prime isn’t at the post office.
Keep doing water changes as long as you see ammonia in the tank. At lease once a day 1/3-1/2 the tank. Check your tap water as well. All my tanks have a false positive test for ammonia at 0.25 because that is what my tap is. But as long as you keep up the water changes to keep the ammonia low you should be okay. Keep an eye on the fish for any changes though too.
 

ruud

Just a few comments. If those are fake plants, I would immediately take out a lot of substrate. You hardly need any substrate in case of not having live plants. A thick layer will only cause problems.

You can simply use a net and take 80% of stones/gravel out.

The rationale:
  • Because there are no plant roots, oxygen levels will be very low in your substrate.
  • Because of the type of substrate you are using, waste will be trapped.
  • In healthy substrates with plant roots, a diverse microbe community will appear that will take care of waste.
  • Decomposing microbes, including those converting ammonia, require oxygen.
  • Because your oxygen levels will be very low in your substrate, microbes will have a hard time and issues might appear: algae and bacterial toxins.
Also, what is the room temperature, day and year round? Do you really need a heater for ember tetra's. Suggested temperatures are often based on breeding conditions. If not really needed, never use a heater.
 

PurpleFish

The embers, all 8, are doing great! They did a lot of schooling at first which was fun to watch. After lots of exploring the tank as a school, mixed with hiding if I came close, they began to explore in smaller groups. Tested the water just now, and they are no longer running from me! Water is 0, 0, and then nitrates at 5-10. Been doing 20% water changes daily so nitrates are decreasing. Will keep doing that for a bit more. Will also research if there is anything else I can do to control them (can’t recall right now). The embers’ color is coming back also! It’s just a salmon color with the back fin being darker so far. But they were totally clear when I got them.

ruud - Thanks for the advice on substrate. I’ll take a bunch out. Also, your tanks are amazing! Hopefully I get close to that level some day.

Swishy - Thanks :) Calm and relaxing was my goal!

Per my nitrates comment, I want to learn to keep them ow so I can eventually bring a couple cherry shrimp home from my classroom tank.

Just remembered the heater question from ruud… Summer temps are usually 50-95F with occasional bouts of over 100. Winter is 30s-70. The house I live in has no insulation at all though so the temp in the house varies a lot. The tank is in the room with my larger window AC and the propane heater. I have the tank heater set to 77.
 

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ruud

The embers, all 8, are doing great! They did a lot of schooling at first which was fun to watch. After lots of exploring the tank as a school, mixed with hiding if I came close, they began to explore in smaller groups. Tested the water just now, and they are no longer running from me! Water is 0, 0, and then nitrates at 5-10. Been doing 20% water changes daily so nitrates are decreasing. Will keep doing that for a bit more. Will also research if there is anything else I can do to control them (can’t recall right now). The embers’ color is coming back also! It’s just a salmon color with the back fin being darker so far. But they were totally clear when I got them.

ruud - Thanks for the advice on substrate. I’ll take a bunch out. Also, your tanks are amazing! Hopefully I get close to that level some day.

Swishy - Thanks :) Calm and relaxing was my goal!

Per my nitrates comment, I want to learn to keep them ow so I can eventually bring a couple cherry shrimp home from my classroom tank.

Just remembered the heater question from ruud… Summer temps are usually 50-95F with occasional bouts of over 100. Winter is 30s-70. The house I live in has no insulation at all though so the temp in the house varies a lot. The tank is in the room with my larger window AC and the propane heater. I have the tank heater set to 77.

I would seriously consider setting your heater to 70F as your year-round minimum and allow the water temperature to increase naturally when spring or summer kicks in. For the health benefit of fish, shrimp and your wallet. Also, you might appreciate it when they'll breed in summer only. Something to look forward to.
 

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