A newbie's experience

Dave at cu
  • #1
Two weeks ago, I couldn't name more than 2 or 3 types of tropical fish...

Here was Day 1: Stopped by Big Chain Store with my 3 year old daughter, just to look around. I had thought about getting a fish for her, as a first pet.

I knew that goldfish were big and messy. I give credit to the salesperson for talking me into the 10 gallon, and one with a heater. She told me to let it run for 48 hours, and then come back for a couple of starter fish. OK.

I spent $100 total on the tank kit, decorations my daughter picked out (pink and purple gravel, a castle), and plastic plants (again, horrible colors).

Took it all home, followed directions for treating water, rinsing decorations.

Day 2: Waiting, waiting, waiting....
  • #2
Welcome to Fishlore.

I'm glad you came here before buying fish.
Please check this article out.
It's the opinion of pretty much everyone around here that cycling your tank with fish is an unnecessary stress to the fish. In general, the easiest (cheap) way of cycling the tank is to use pure ammonia.
If you do use fish to cycle the tank, be aware that frequent partial water changes will help keep your daughter's fish alive.
$100 for everything? What did the kit come with? Other than deco, what did the clerk talk you into buying (and did you keep a receipt? we might be able to cut your bill a bit, as Big Chain Stores like selling you stuff you don't need)?
Let us know if you have questions. We live off of them. (Seriously, the last time a day passed without a question, COBettaCouple nearly died of starvation).
Good luck and I hope this breeds one or two new fish lovers (beware MTS; Multi-Tank-Syndrome, in which the number of your aquariums multiplies inexplicably)
Dave at cu
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Day 3: Finally. Back to store. My daughter was checking out all the fish, but they store person suggested platies and mollies. They told me that after a few weeks I could add more.

In hindsight, here's what they did well at the chain store: suggested hardy fish to start, discouraged me from buying a 5 gallon tank, tested my water first, explain compatibility.

Here's what they didn't do well: not enough discussion of the nitrogen cycle (I would have loved to hear about the fishless method), no discussion of bio-spira or similar options, not better explaining capacity.

The last point is my biggest complaint: I walked out of there with 8 inches of fish (when fully grown). We can argue about the exact capacity, but I had just filled roughly 80% of my tank. What's up with that?
Dave at cu
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Oops, sorry. These posts are going back a week. So yeah, I already screwed up by not reading about the fishless cycle first. Why can't they put up a sign at the store? Thanks for the quick reply. I'm going to drop a couple more quick posts to get up to date.
  • #5
That's part of the problem with Big Chain Stores. They don't care how much you overstock your tank. The way they see it, when your fish die, you'll come back for more.
Dave at cu
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
On Day 10 now, here's what happened.

I've learned about the stress I'm putting my fish through, but I'm determined to do what I can.

Purchases in the last week: some plastic plants to float, testing kits, alkalinity tablets, siphon, food, more chlorine treatment.

As of day 7, the ammonia has risen about 0. The colors are hard to read, but I think it's about 0.4 and 0.5. So I switched out 20% of the water, and two days later another 20%.

Now the fish. I've got two sunsets and one balloon molly. Again, I had no idea what I was doing. Again, 8 inches of fish! Must resist...buying another tank. My wife is confused by my obsession.

Despite the ammonia, the fish seem to be happy to explore every inch of the tank. I can see the temptation to overfeed, because they always seem to be begging for food.

Over the last three days though, they are getting more and more aggressive with each other. All three are pretty clearly males. The balloon molly will really go after the platies. But they don't shy away. They will go up and poke at him, and then he'll chase him. It started slowly at first, but now its a chase every 60 seconds are so. I've got several plants, including the floaters. None of the three like to hide, so I guess its good fun all over the tank?

I'll offer one last post with my plans for the next steps....
Dave at cu
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
So now I've made a few trips stopping by pet stores in the Denver area. Mostly the big chain places, except for a place called Fish Den.

I'd eager to buy another fish, but I understand the cycle. Patience. Testing every day, watching NH3 and NO2-. Here's what I'm thinking about adding: one dwarf gourami, and two of the smallest cory cats. But that's crowded. My daughter isn't particular, except she said "No shrimp!" Well OK then.

I also was really taken by some bloodfin tetras I saw in the store. I'd love to have a bigger tank with 7 or 8 of those guys. They were like a roving gang, really displaying what in my rookie mind was cool schooling behavior.

I'm not in any hurry to get anything too aggressive.

So I'll need a bigger tank eventually. Everyone on this site is crazy, and it turns out that I am too. Who knew? Everyone talks about acclimating the fish, I need to acclimate my wife. And there's the cost. I will get a larger tank at some point, but the cost of buying a new tank/setup seems to be about $10 per gallon. Yikes.

I don't want to be too down on my platies, despite their constant strings of waste trailing behind them. I may go with a small 5 or 8 gallon tank in my daughter's room, and move the platies in there. Get them away from the molly at least.

My tank is an all boys club right now. Breeding sounds very interesting, but I'll stay away for now. What am I going to do with all the surviving offspring?

A couple of final questions:
- Any use in adding bio-spira, or similar product, now? I don't want to add to the stress of my three fish. But I wouldn't mind speeding things up.

- Natural plants? All I've got is pink/purple gravel, so I thought - why not add some kind of floating natural plant. No substrate worries, right, as long as I add necessary nutrients? Just throw it there? But I can't find any at the stores here.

- When I'm going through the cycle, and doing my partial water changes, should I be siphoning the gravel like I would in a weekly cleaning? Or will that decrease the bacteria unnecessarily?
  • #8
Whose fish was this? Sorry, I couldn't resist, but I see you went from " getting a fish for her, as a first pet" to "My tank is an all boys club right now".
I'll leave the advice the wonderful people here, good luck with your, I mean your daughter's fish.
Dave at cu
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
Whose fish was this?

Ha, seriously. I'm a little obsessed by them, but my daughter and I enjoy them together. And they are named Sydney, Goldie Gold, and (of course) Molly, so she has her say in things.
  • #10
To answer your questions:
Yes, you can use bio-spira. Anywhere in the cycle, it should complete the cycle in 24 hours. There are no similar products. The other ones use terrestrial bacteria, which will temporarily lower your ammonia, then die off and release it all back into the water.

You can get floating plants. Your pet store likely has a couple. Anacharis is good (head toplant geek to find a picture). They keep them in bundles that are weighted to the ground. Java moss, which you might not be able to find at a pet store, also does well floating and doesn't need all that much light.

You could also get a low light rooted plant and buy fertilizer spikes or root tabs made specifically for aquariums.

The gravel thing is a matter of personal preference. Many people around here feel that vacuuming slows the cycle down too much. In my opinion, reducing the fish's stress is more important than hurrying the cycle along, but there is also merit in the argument that hurrying the cycle along does reduce the fish's stress.
It really comes down to a decision between a low amount of stress over a slightly longer amount of time or a slightly higher amount of stress over a slightly shorter amount of time. Probably little difference in the end.
  • #11
And if the cost is the only problem with getting a bigger tank...search craigs list. You should be able to find a 55 gal with all the equipment for less then $100. I have bought 3 tanks off there so far, a 10 gal for $10, a 55 gal for $50 and a 50 gal with stand for $35. All three came with all the equipment and gravel and some decor. Good deals go fast though on craigs list so it might take some time to wait and find a good deal but it is a lot cheaper then buying new.
Dave at cu
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
Great. Thanks to sirdarksol and greenman13 for the suggestions. I will check out craig's list. Greenman, any thoughts on the best stores in your area?
  • #13
Welcome to FishLore

I'd recommend either 1) returning the fish and cycling fishless or 2) Using Prime to treat the water and do 25% water changes every 2-3 days.

You can get empty dropper bottles in the travel section at Target and use it to measure 1 drop of Prime per gallon of water. It will help protect the fish while the tank cycles.

I'd recommend the API master freshwater testing kit. The best time to test the water would be right before each water change.

Have you heard of the Colorado Aquarium Society? We meet once a month near 44th & Wads and we joined after moving here in Sept.

The best LFS that I've found so far is The Fish Den. It's a block east of 44th & Sheridan, on the north side of 44th. They have room after room of fish and a 10% discount to CAS members.
  • #14
Store wise...the only good one I have been to is Pet World. It's pretty good. It has various pet supplies and a very knowledgeable staff. It's located on the north east corner of Wads and 10th. They close at 7:30 weekdays.

The one COBettaCouple mentioned I have not been to yet. Hope to go there this week when it's open, went on Monday but got there at 7:05 and found out they close at 7pm. It looks like they have a lot more fish since it is only fish and a bigger building too.
Dave at cu
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
Thanks to both.

I've been to Fish Den, just a few days ago. It was actually pretty busy, I guess I'm not the only one who wanted to browse fish over lunch. It was fun to walk through, like an endless dark maze of tanks. I'm planning on trying a couple of the Boulder shops soon, to see how they compare.

I think beginners like myself get confused when we see 40 fish in 10 gallon tank at a store. After seeing that, even if it's not surprising that 40 is too many, it's still confusing to learn that 10 probably is. I don't know how they survive in the store.

The CAS sounds interesting. I think I need a few months to get going first, but I could see checking it out.
Dave at cu
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
And I see know that there's a thread for Denver areas stores by Greenman and COBettaCouple. I'll keep an eye on that.
  • #17
I'd love to hear of them if you find some good ones there. We're up in Westminster, so not too much of a drive to Boulder.
  • #18
I'd love to hear of them if you find some good ones there.

Same here. I have friends in boulder and I never mind stopping by pet stores while I'm in the area.
  • #19
I think beginners like myself get confused when we see 40 fish in 10 gallon tank at a store. After seeing that, even if it's not surprising that 40 is too many, it's still confusing to learn that 10 probably is. I don't know how they survive in the store.

I think it's because they have more water cycling in each tank that you can't see and they have higher turn over so the fish are not cramped there for months or years only days.
  • #20
Buy a Rio 180 if you have the space and money
Then your DAUGHTER and partly you can have loads of colourful fish.

But I suggest you choose the, substrate, decorations and live plants

And show your daughter guppies and endlers, she'll love the bright/pretty colours.
Dave at cu
  • Thread Starter
  • #21
Thanks Slakey.

Still probably 6 months off from buying a big tank.

I added Bio Spira a few weeks ago, and I thought my tank had cycled. So after I moved the molly out (into a 5 g), I immediately put in two fantastic cories (so we went from 3 fish in the 10 g to 4). We love the cories, and they seem to be doing great.

But even though I saw the nitrites rising, my ammonia has come back and hasn't disappeared. I've been doing regular water changes to keep the levels down somewhat, but finally I bought a 2nd pack of BioSpira and just added it. A day later still have 0.5-1.0 ppm NH3, but I'm going to hold off on water changes for a couple days. Fish seem to be behaving fine. I still can't believe that after a month and two packets of BioSpira that the NH3 is still present.

Early on when I changed the water, I would vacuum the rocks, and there would always be stuff down there. Then I started only taking water from the top, to not disturb that bacteria. But I stopped using the sinking shrimp pellets for the cories, because they seemed to always leave a lot of gunk down there, even if I just added one pellet a day. Now I just make sure to drop a small pinch of flakes deep in the tank, which then drop to the bottom for the cories. Maybe once it is cycled I'll go back to occasionally using a shrimp pellet.
  • #22
Ahhhhhh it is so cute to see a grown man with pink/purple gravel & a little girl with a smile! ALL kids need to have a say.

I agree you will probably be able to find a deal on craigslist, this will keep your wife happy, if she knows you are keeping the budget in mind. I HOPE she falls in love with fish also. Believe me your daughter will love all your tanks, even if you have black gravel. You might find that a betta in a 5 gal tank in the kitchen might just be the thing that would get your wife involved!

As for using Bio-spira, I would say it is up to you. It will cycle your tank for sure, but the makers say you SHOULD NOT use PRIME if you use Bio-Spira, as it stalls the bacteria in the nitrite stage. There is a whole thread on here about that including the e-mail from the company explaining the problem. This is entitled "Don't use P Bio-Spira" by calinb, it goes from me suggesting he do just that, all the way through the explanation of the company and his own experiments. It sounds like you may be having some of these problems, thus your nitrite that persists....

The strings coming from your platties, may be a parasite, OR like you say, you are probably overfeeding. Skip a feeding every few days, feed a good variety of foods, like frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms, tropical flakes, shrimp pellets, and for the molly algae wafers. Just feed enough for them to clean up in 2-3 minutes twice a day. If the string is white it suggests internal parasites, and you need to get some medication. You can find something at . While there you may also want to get vitachem, a vitamin supplement. It is good to add once a week or if you have stressed fish for any reason. Good Luck and let us know how your tanks go.......

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