Advice for an informed newbie - kit or not? Question

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by JSK, Dec 8, 2009.

  1. JSK

    JSKValued MemberMember

    Hello all. Brand new to the forum.
    I want to get an aquarium for my daughter (and me!) for Christmas. I've been reading up and feel ready to do it right. I have always wanted to embark on this hobby with her, and now I have the time and $$ to do it (and she is getting old enough). I've got a PhD in biochemistry and chemistry, so I think I can get through the testing, etc. (yes, the nitrogen cycle is no mystery to me!).

    I'm thinking freshwater to start - no sense in getting in over my head. But, I think we will want to put ome live plants in there sooner than later.

    I'm thinking at least 20 gallon - no bigger than 55.

    Here is my question: should I initially go with a kit (all included) and augment where needed, or buy individual pieces of equipment? To be honest, comparison shopping for each piece is a bit intimidating...but I like doing things right. For example, my impression is that most lamps in kits are weak).

    If the kit components are OK for a while, that would be easier...but I don't want to spend money on junk.

    Also, there are a bewildering array of kits out there...Top Kin...Marineland...Red Sea..Aqueon....whew!

    Advice is welcome!
  2. Meenu

    MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    I like 29 or 30 personally. You can look on craigslist to see what is out there that others are selling, I went with a new acrylic tank and bought each component separately, which worked well for me. decide what kind of filter - i initially set up a hook on back but then changed my mind and put in a canister. usually, the size filter made for your size aquarium is actually too small.

    oh and welcome to fishlore!
  3. redlessi

    redlessiWell Known MemberMember

    Welcome to the Forum:;balloons I would go with the 55 gallon as that gives you more options. I would agree with mommybaby and suggest you take a look on craigslist in your area. You can find some really good deals and get a complete system. The most recommended test kit is the API freshwater master kit. Good Luck

  4. Lucy

    LucyModeratorModerator Member

    Hi Welcome to FishLore :)

    I deleted your duplicate thread.
    Craig's List is a good idea for a used kit but being a Christmas gift, personally, I'd get a new one. :)
    Your next tank can be a used one. Yes, there will be another tank, there usually is. lol

    There's pros and cons to buying separately or buying a kit.
    Some members have bought kits and are very happy with them.
    You can always start with a kit and upgrade the filter and heater at a later date if you want.

    Best of luck and post pics when you're up and running.

  5. nater

    naterNew MemberMember

    Go with the 55. Once you get going all you will think about is, "why didn't I get the 55." And before you know it you will have full blown MTS. That's what happened to me. :)
  6. OP

    JSKValued MemberMember

    Thanks for the information - I'm tempted to get a Top Fin 55 gallon's on sale at PetSmart for $140...even if the components are not top-shelf, it will get us running for a reasonable cost...and we can upgrade later.
  7. Meenu

    MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    sounds good. some members here have enjoyed the top fin kits.
  8. OP

    JSKValued MemberMember

    I'm guessing that if I buy this kit, I will want to upgrade the filter...from what I can tell, it comes with a "Top Fin 60" filter...which appears to be a "Tetra Whisper 60" repackaged . From what I can tell, its a marginal filter...

    Any advice on a solid replacement?
  9. Lucy

    LucyModeratorModerator Member

    I'm sorry, I can't answer you filter question.
    Looks like you're doing some research (that's great!) and may decide not to go with a kit.
    If you decide against a kit I'd like to recommend a Visi-therm Stealth heater. It's made by Marineland. It's fully submersible, has a safety auto shut off, it's unbreakable and guaranteed for life. Some heaters (Top Fin, included, I think) just have a dial that says Low Medium and High.
    The Stealths have the temperature on the dial so you can easily set the temp rather than guess what temp 'medium' will be.
    The one thing I don't like about the Stealth is it doesn't have an indicator light that tells you if it's off or on. However, MarineLand just came out with a Pro-Stealth that does include an indicator light. I haven't tried the Pro Stealth so I can't say if it works as good as it's predecessor.
  10. OP

    JSKValued MemberMember

    Great advice on the heater, thanks!
  11. Tony G.

    Tony G.Fishlore VIPMember

    Welcome to fishlore!
    That's great that you are wanting to get into the hobby! trust me, once you're in, it becomes an obsession :giggle:

    Like lucy suggested i reccomend getting it new being your first tank. It will save you problems like (dirtiness and leaks from used tanks) and it will be brand new. I also heard stealths are great and would totally go for them. As far as the filter, you want about 500GPH or so, at the minimum. So look for something in those ranges for filters. As far as plants i suggest you start out with java moss and java fern. They are easy low-light plants that do great in most tanks :)

    Have fun tank shopping!
  12. Aquarist

    AquaristFishlore LegendMember

    Hello JSK and Welcome to Fish Lore. I think regardless of which you choose, kit or piece by piece you and your daughter will make great aquarists.

    Kit: Absolutely nothing wrong with getting a kit. I think they make great starter places for any tank. As stated you can always upgrade later (or at the same time) as you get more familiar with the hobby. You already have a wonderful start! lol

    If you do decide to get a kit, you could go ahead and upgrade the filter,and heater both. What comes with the kit you can keep as spares. Lucy pointed out some very good heaters. I'm upgrading my Visa Therm Stealths now to the Marineland Stealth Pro simply because of the lights she mentioned. By having the indicator light lets you know more about what is going on with the heater. I have 3 heaters in my 265g and should one malfunction it may take a while to notice it. (indicator lights give me security and peace of mind ) :) For a 55g tank I would recommend having 2 heaters in the tank at all times. This will help to eliminate cold spots in the tank.

    Filters: I love the Aqua Clear (AC) hang on back (HOB). Depending on the fish you have, a good guide line is that your filtration should have the gallons per hour (gph) 8 to 10 x the tank volume. I suggest the AC 110 @ 500gph. I'm sure you'll get more suggestions on this. The AC has so much room for your good bio filtration and are so quiet I have to check to make sure they are running. I use them on all of my tanks and all different sizes.

    Have fun and keep us posted on your progress please!
  13. DigglyWell Known MemberMember

    Bigger is always better when it comes to tanks, especially when you see the fish options available and how happier the fish are in a bigger tank!

    I would also suggest asking on here for stocking options once you have sourced fish that you like the look of as unfortunatly pet shops are just out to make a sale and though you do get some genuine pet shop owners /workers they are rare!

    Oh and I would recommend you stay away from the betta section of the forum :( that blew my MTS out of proportion.

    I cant wait to see pics of the set up you decide on!
  14. flyin-loweWell Known MemberMember

    It is recommended to get filtration that will circulate your entire tank 8-10 times per hour. If you get the 55 g look for something that pumps around 500 GPH. I have an Aqua Clear 110 on a 75 G tank and I love it. Many people recommended it to me and I am not disappointed. I think it is rated at 500 GPH and you can find them for between $79-$89 at most LFS. It has most of the same features as a canister but it is a hang on back filter.
  15. Meenu

    MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    I have a fluval 305 canister and am very happy with it. You first should decide if you prefer a HOB or a canister, and go from there. I started with a Marineland Penguin HOB, but changed to a canister because my tank is in a window between 2 rooms, and the HOB was blocking the view. Switching to a canister worked like a charm. The most important thing is to have enough filtration. (I think the necessary flow rate is different for canisters - 5x, not 10x like HOBs).

    The filters are rated for certain size tanks. For example, the Penguin 150 is rated for a 30gallon tank. That's 5x flow rate. But here, since it is a HOB, this isn't enough filtration. I have no idea why the companies do this. My Fluval 305 canister has a 185 flow rate, and for my 30g tank, this is about 5x, which is perfect.

    I think the decision to go HOB or canister is a personal one - they are both good. Keep in mind that a canister will have a (VERY) faint humming. The HOB will have a waterfall sound.
  16. bolivianbaby

    bolivianbabyFishlore LegendMember

    Welcome to Fishlore, JSK! I also share this hobby with my daughter. She's 11 and it's a great bonding experience.

    If you decide to do the 55g kit and upgrade the filter and heater, maybe you could consider running both filters in the tank. More filters means more room for the bacteria to grow. That will give you a stronger cycled tank. Some might also suggest running two heaters in the tank. Another great idea to prevent "cold spots".

    Hope this helps and enjoy this wonderful experience and hobby with your daughter! Nothing better than animals to help us bond with our children.
  17. Llama

    LlamaWell Known MemberMember

    I've got a canister myself (its an Eheim), it makes so little sound that you won't hear it unless you're actually listening for one. Canisters I'd say clean better, because they're bigger and can therefore take more volume.

    Their downside is that cleaning them is a bit irritating (though that only happens every few months) - also if your filter doesn't come with double tap valves (which are a brilliant idea) you'll need to stay priming it every time.

    As for the aquarium size, bigger is better - more space for fish, more space for plants, decorations, and its much less sensitive to changes.
  18. OP

    JSKValued MemberMember

    Wow, absolutely fantasic answers. I'm going to hit the LFS this weekend and do some more research, etc. I can't wait to get started and I know my daugher (9 and an animal nut) is going to have so much fun with this.

    But shhhhhhhhhh....don't tell my wife I'm going to get a 55 gallon. :)
  19. Elvishswimmer

    ElvishswimmerValued MemberMember

    I got the Top Fin 37G kit.

    Had to replace the Filter and Heater. Filter wasn't near enough, especially with goldfish like I have, and the heater I just didn't trust, couldn't tell what temp I was setting it to.

    I have a Marinelad Visi-Therm heater and its working good for me so far. As well as a Cascade 300 filter that is looking good as well! Very quiet too.

    It is nice to have those spare filter/heater around though, because I am now using them in my hospital tank!
    Overall it seems like a nice tank set up though! Good luck with your purchases!
  20. Tony G.

    Tony G.Fishlore VIPMember

    Good morning! Also, i reccomend you check walmart too, they sometimes have the 55g's cheaper than at a LFS...


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