Beginner and Frustrated

scout823

Hello! We bought my daughter a Aqueon 36 gallon bow front aquarium for Christmas. We filled it up on Dec. 26 and let it set for 24 hours. We then added 3 platys and 2 mollys. At this point, we had never heard of cycling. We were extremely new and dumb to this whole thing. I was relying on the people at lps for information. Within two days, 3 of the 5 fish had died. My daughter was upset, so I went to Walmart and bought 3 more Mollys. We have been told that the ph in our tap water is to high. One week later after buying the Molly's at Walmart, we went back to lps and had the water checked again. The ph was still a little high. I wish I had kept the paper that told what it was. Anyway, they told us to try 3 tetras because they are hardy fish. To make a long story short, we now have 3 tetras, 3 mollys, and 2 platys. They seem to be doing great.

It has been 5 weeks now. We were told that we would only have to change the water every 2 months. Wel, after being home with a sick kid, I researched it and found it was time for a water change. The water has been a little cloudy lately. I talked to the store and was told with our tap water, I should try distilled water. So yesterday I used the gravel vacuum and a changed 4 gallon with distilled. Today I did the same only with 5 gallon. I used the Prime water conditioner with each gallon. The tank is looking a little more clear. We live 1 hour away from a pet store, so I am hoping to get there on Sunday with a water sample. I now realize that I should have bought the water tester. I am at a loss on what to do next. We realized Wednesday that we had a dirty filter, so I rinsed it out and ordered new. They have arrived today. Do I change the filter tonite or is that to much change with the water change?

I totally apologize for my lack of knowledge. I wish we had researched it a little more before buying or starting. I need insight on what my next steps are. I will be getting the water tested as soon as I can. Please help!
 

aylad

Welcome to FishLore! I hate that your first experience is going so roughly. In some ways, it resembles the problems I had in my first days.

I can tell you the following things that will help; other members will add more.

First, stop asking store employees for advice. They don't know or, possibly, don't care what is going on with your tank. I know that pet store employees act like experts, but they're just trying to get through the day and bring home a paycheck.

Sooner or later, they will suggest you buy a chemical to alter your pH. Don't. My pH is 8.2 (very high) and my fish are healthy. High pH isn't likely to ever be a problem for you.

Don't waste your money on distilled water. It may not be hurting things in the short term, but in the long term it's actually bad for a freshwater tank.

Keep using Prime! It's exactly what your fish need right now, because it will detox the toxins in the water for 24 hours after you use it.

Cloudiness is probably good. It's probably your nitrogen cycle taking hold, which is what will save the lives of your fish. See how the store has already set you back by telling you to clear the water up?

Don't ever replace your filter. In fact, while the tank is still cycling, don't even rinse it out. You have to let it get icky to get the tank cycled.

Read all of the information you can find on this website (such as the sticky posts here in the Beginners forum) on getting your tank cycled. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

EDIT See where I typed "nitrogen cycle" above and it's underlined in blue? Click on that for more information. You are currently trying to do a fish-in cycle. This is what I did with my first tank, and I wish I hadn't because a lot of awesome fish died in the process. If you want to do a fishless cycle, you'll have to return the fish you have to the store.

If you want to finish the fish-in cycle, members here can help you avoid some of the problems and mistakes that caused me to lose fish. Just be sure to ask us for help when you need it!
 

Disc61

HI Scout, welcome to Fishlore. Aylad has given you some good advise.
some pet store employees actually do know what is going on, but I agree, most are just trying to get thru the day.
A consistent PH is much more important than lowering your PH, they should be fine, but readings on your parameters would certainly help. don't use chemicals other than Prime.
I don't think you need the distilled water either. just keep doing water changes (20-25%) maybe every other day until the water starts clearing up then go to once a week. use prime everytime. I would leave your filter alone for now. when you do put the new one in, leave the old one in the tank until the new one takes hold.
it can be frustrating, but don't think your alone, we have all went thru it at some point or another.
 

scout823

Thank you very much. I wish we had researched it more before we put the fish in. I have read a lot about the nitrogen cycle in the past 2 days. I am just kicking myself for not buying the testing stuff. We were told not to waste our money, just to bring the water in. My fish do not seem happy since this last water change today. They are going up and down the corners. Any suggestions? We had our well water tested and they said it was fine. Should I take 3 gallon out and replace it or wait? It has been sitting in the house for 2 days and is now room temp.

I feel like a total idiot! There's so much information out there and not all of it is correct. So frustrating!
 

Jahnikar

I'm still very much a fish newbie myself so I don't really have any advice to add (the more experienced members will do a much better job than I could at this point). But I did want to stop in and say that no matter what mistakes were made at the start, the important thing is that you are here now and doing research.
 

circulita17

Hello and welcome to fishlore!!!
Don’t worry you aren’t the only one that has made that mistake, because I myself did the same thing. I would have loved a bigger tank for Christmas. LOL
I can see that you probably don't know about the cycle. You can read about it hear, nitrogen cycle. It makes a safe environment for your little fishies, by converting ammonia into nitrItes and nitrItes into a non-harmful bacterium called nitrAtes. You will know when you have completely cycled you tank because your readings will be 0 Ammonia, 0 NitrItes, 0-20 NitrAtes.
There are different ways to cycle a tank! You can of course cycle the tank with fishes inside the tank, this way you will have to do water changes daily to keep the fishes alive and of course there are also many deaths this way. You can also cycle with pure ammonia, you can buy this at a hardware store, and this is called fish-less cycle. Or you can buy Tetra SafeStart and it will cycle your tank in about 10 days. I can personally say this product works because I have used it twice and it never failed on me. The bottle can be pricey, but if you think about it you won’t have to be doing water changes daily. Also, when using Tetra Safestart you can stock your tank instantly when you add the bottle.
Don’t rely on people from Wal-mart, Petsmart, Petco, ECT, because they are more likely to give you incorrect information. Don’t get me wrong some people will know what to do but more than likely they don’t have a clue. You are better off asking us here in Fishlore.
Fishes will not mind if the pH is higher or lower, because they can and will adapt to a different pH. It’s better to have a stable pH rather than one that fluctuates. You should leave the pH just as it is, because if it shifts too fast it can kill your fishies. When you use distilled water it can cause the fishies to go into shock because the pH in distilled water usually has a low pH and you say you tap water’s pH is high.
The reason your tank is cloudy is because it’s going through the cycle and it cause a bacteria bloom. The bacteria are trying to convert ammonia into nitrItes, and nitrItes into nitrAtes. I love Prime and I was going to recommend it also but you’re already using it.
Do you have a testing kit to test the water? If you don’t I recommend buying API Master Kit (liquid not strips because strips are inaccurate), its pricey but its lasts a long time. It will also be helpful for you not just for the fishies because now you won’t have to be driving an hour just to get your water tested.
Never rinse your filter cartridges in tap water because chlorine will kill the bacteria and you will have to cycle again. When you have to clean the filter cartridge just take out some water from the fish tank and clean it with the water you took out from the tank. Just swish it, don’t scrub it! NEVER replace the filter cartridge because that is where you bacteria it and it’s what makes the tank a healthy environment for your little fishies. I hope this help!!
 

sirdarksol

First of all, no need to apologize for lack of knowledge. In general, it's better to learn about things before diving in, but almost everyone on Fishlore is here for the same reason: We didn't know what we were getting into before we started keeping aquaria. My first tank was an absolute mess.

Anyway, great information from aylad. To reinforce/add to some of his points:
Pet store employees are generally not all that knowledgeable. What they tend to know is what the store's data sheets (which are written to generate sales, not create stable aquaria) tell them, and what they read on the packages of stuff they sell. At worst, they may think that they know a ton about keeping fish, when they know almost nothing.

Your tap water is fine. Mine tops out the pH testing chart, and I have two schools of tetras that have lived in it for over two years now, with no deaths. What you need is a balanced nitrogen cycle (really, click on the underlined words in aylad's post. That is the single most important concept in the aquarium hobby). After that, things get a lot easier.

Get a good testing kit (the liquid reagent kits tend to be more accurate. With your high pH, you want to get the API Master Test Kit. The other major brand doesn't work in calcium-rich water). In the long run, you won't have to test all that often, but in the beginning, it's a good way to get a grasp on what's going on, chemically, in your tank.

Definitely don't need to change out the filter media. I haven't changed any filter media in well over a year. If it's dirty, that means that there's lots of nitrifying bacteria in it. That's a good thing. Once the aquarium cycles, you may want to periodically swish it out in the bucket of old aquarium water at water change time, but you generally don't need to change it until the filter media is falling apart.

Water changes. During cycling, you want to do a lot of them in order to keep the nitrogen levels down. Once there is no ammonia or nitrites in the aquarium, you can do weekly changes.

Good luck, and keep up the questions. We're giving you a lot of info here, and some of it may not make sense just yet. It will. Before you know it, you'll be helping out a new aquarist who bought a tank for his child and is trying to figure out how to keep the fish alive. ;D

Edit: Wow. Seriously ninja'd. Like five times over.
Wanted to respond to the "don't use chemicals other than Prime." I would add "or an equivalent product." Prime isn't always easy to find, and sometimes you can find an equivalent product for cheaper. The things you want your water conditioner to do are: Detoxify chlorine, detoxify ammonia (not a necessity, but it's a nice thing to have in an emergency, and if you can get it in something you need to keep around anyway, you don't have to have an extra bottle in your stock), and detoxify heavy metals.
 

Disc61

Thank you very much. I wish we had researched it more before we put the fish in. I have read a lot about the nitrogen cycle in the past 2 days. I am just kicking myself for not buying the testing stuff. We were told not to waste our money, just to bring the water in. My fish do not seem happy since this last water change today. They are going up and down the corners. Any suggestions? We had our well water tested and they said it was fine. Should I take 3 gallon out and replace it or wait? It has been sitting in the house for 2 days and is now room temp.

I feel like a total idiot! There's so much information out there and not all of it is correct. So frustrating!

Yeah, unfortunately they tell you that they will test your water for free to get you back in the store to sell you a bunch of chemicals you don't need. the API master test kit is one of the best investments you can make. if you have already done a water change today, I would probably wait until tomorrow. just do small ones until things start turning around for you. it is just a learning experience on your way to really enjoying this hobby. keep your chin up.

Edit: Wow. Seriously ninja'd. Like five times over.
Wanted to respond to the "don't use chemicals other than Prime." I would add "or an equivalent product." Prime isn't always easy to find, and sometimes you can find an equivalent product for cheaper. The things you want your water conditioner to do are: Detoxify chlorine, detoxify ammonia (not a necessity, but it's a nice thing to have in an emergency, and if you can get it in something you need to keep around anyway, you don't have to have an extra bottle in your stock), and detoxify heavy metals.

Good point Sir, I just take it for granted it is available everywhere.
 

jdhef

Welcome to FishLore!

I got started out on the wrong foot also, so don't feel bad. It was actually my obsession with my "high" ph that lead me to FishLore, so I guess all's well that ends well.

You got a lot of good advice already, but one thing I want to add is that if you plan on continuing with a "fish in" cycle, then I highly recommend that you do larger water changes. More like 35%-50% daily.

The reason for the water changes is to keep the ammonia and nitrites levels low enough so that the Prime will be able to detox them. (There is a limit to how much ammonia/nitrites Prime can detox, but I don't know what it is off the top of my head). I would try to target keeping ammonia and/or nitrites under 1ppm. The only way you will know that you are keeping them there is by testing, so you really will need to splurge for a test kit.

On the brightside, since you have had the tank set up for 5 weeks, with the origonal filter media in the filter, you should be very close to being cycle. Generally cycling takes about 6 weeks.

Good luck, and feel free to ask any additional questions, it's the only way to learn!
 

Moneypenny1967

.From a another newbie.Started my first tropical tank in Sept 11.Was clueless on nitrogen cycle and add zebra danios after letting the tank run empty for a week.Lucky I used some filter media from my daughters goldfish tank AND luckly had no fish die on me.Good Luck with your daughters tank,but be careful because it may lead to you wanting your own like meThank you internet for leading me to FL Site.
 

Fall River

Welcome to Fishlore.
This is worth 10x it's weight in gold!

The absolute LOWEST price for this kit anywhere. They also sell Prime.
Daily water changes, patience, and testing are the best things for your fish at this point.
 

jamus34

Scout...I was also a noob that purchased a 1.7G "Goldfish Tank" for 2 comets my kids won at a carnivale.

It sounds like your doing a pretty good job. Keep it up, pick up a test kit when you get the chance and keep reading here. There is literally months worth of reading of posts and information on here about the hobby of fishkeeping.
 

cletus

One thing I didn't notice mentioned was you need to wait 24 hrs to test the water when using prime. It can give you false readings. Other than that everyone gave you good advice. Good luck!
 

scout823

Thank you everyone. One quick question though...so how much of a water change should I do tomorrow? 10% would be about 3.5 gallons. Is that ok?

Fish seem to be acting a little better than earlier. If any of the these fish die...I am gonna be in big trouble with my daughter!
 

Shine

I would consider doing one much larger then that. As jdhef suggested above--try for 35-50%
 

Moneypenny1967

Bigger water change if you can manage(25% -30%).Do you have a water conditioner to add to the new water going in tank?This is VERY important if you are using tap water as it gets rid of the contaminates in your supply (chlorine etc)Otherwise only chlorine is dispersed by leaving water to sit in container for 24 hours.
 

sirdarksol

Bigger water change if you can manage(25% -30%).Do you have a water conditioner to add to the new water going in tank?This is VERY important if you are using tap water as it gets rid of the contaminates in your supply (chlorine etc)Otherwise only chlorine is dispersed by leaving water to sit in container for 24 hours.

Setting the water out doesn't always work. Many municipal water supplies are now treated with chloramine instead of chlorine. It doesn't evaporate as quickly, which makes it a more efficient sterilizer. However, it also means that many aquarists absolutely have to use dechlorinator.
 

scout823

Does the Prime not take care of that? I thought it was a stabilizer? Gosh, there is ALOT to learn!

Since our inside water was to high in ph, we have a outside hydrant that is connected to a spring. They tested it and it seemed to test much better the readings on it were:
Ammonia 0
Nitrate 10
ph 6.2

I just have to bring it in and let it sit for a couple days if I use it.
 

sirdarksol

Prime's number one purpose is as a dechlorinator. Everything else it does is added bonus.
 

Fall River

I would stick with the tap water, for convenience. I think it was mentioned above, but, having a STABLE ph is much more important than the actual number. You can tailor your stock list to species that do well in higher ph water. Also, I'd let my test results determine the percentage of water changed. Keep us posted and don't give up. It does get much easier when everything gets on track.
Dale
 

aylad

Pouring the water with pH 6.2 into your tank could actually be too drastic of a pH change. I really, really wouldn't do that. Honestly, don't worry about your pH! I keep neon tetras that are supposed to need a nice, low pH in water that any pet store would tell me has too high a pH for almost ANY fish.
 

jdhef

Ph is is really most important when trying to get fish to breed, since some will only do so in a narrow ph range.

I don't know why beginners get so hung up on ph when it is really so unimportant. And one would think I would know why since I suffered with that same obsession when I started out!
 

cletus

I think some people missed where you said you had well water. You shouldn't have any chlorine if you have a well and not city water. However, you still want to use Prime, which you can either add the amount for the whole tank or per bucket. I treat my whole tank when I do water changes since I use a python water changer instead of buckets.

Edit: As far as your PH, don't worry about it so much. As long as it stays stable you wil be fine. Mine is 8.2 out of the tap. I don't have any problems. Use your tap water. Don't make things even more difficult for you. Your fish will adapt to your water parameters. Just make sure you acclimate any new fish you add in the future.
 

sirdarksol

I don't know why beginners get so hung up on ph when it is really so unimportant. And one would think I would know why since I suffered with that same obsession when I started out!

Because the stores and the stuff we can buy at the stores tell us that it's a big deal. I mean, why would pH Up and pH Down exist if it wasn't important to adjust your pH?
 

scout823

My latest update: Went to the pet store yesterday after my doctor appointment and had them test the water. She said there was 0 ammonia but my alkalines were high. I asked about the nitrates and nitrites and she just looked at me like I was crazy. So I thought, well...I will just buy the API test kit that you all reccomend. Believe it or not, they didn't carry it. So I went home and ordered one. Should be here next week.

My water is still cloudy and filter is yucky, but I keep rinsing the filter out when I do the water changes in the old water I changed out. I am very anxious to get the test so we can see where I am at. The fish seem to be doing ok. Hopefully this will clear up soon. Oh one more thing, they did have me buy another live plant which is a marimo moss..ball plant grab n go.

One quick question? We have a water softner, will that matter in using tap water?
 

fishnob

Welcome, and great advice above.

I do believe that a water softner is not a good idea. I hope someone else can clarify this?

My folks have a softner in their house, but they have one sink that has water that does not go through the softner. Any chance you have a source inside that does not go through the softner?

Good luck, and until you can get a test kit, keep up on the 40-50 % water changes daily. It does get easier!!!

Also don't want to add a lot, as you are just learning, but there is a product called the Python that hooks to your faucet and has a hose that will drain and refill your tank. (Sorry not that great of an explanation)Also used to vacum(you will be doing this after the cycle has completed) This would greatly help you out during these daily changes. I have one myself and I can't believe I ever lived with out it!
 

slade

Scout, you're getting a lot of good advice here. I just want to add that you should match the temperature of the tank when doing a water change. Once the tank is cycled, once a week PWC will be ok.
 

scout823

Thank you. I can run water outside and it will not go thru the softner. I will just have to wait till it warms up which shouldn't be a problem. I can always set the bucket in the bathtub with warm water around it.

I have used the vacuum several times already. I am glad we purchased it.
 

Brolly2244

I made mistakes like this and worst you cannot imagine. the fact that your water is cloudy sometimes is good, I have two 10G, or at least I take care of them. I cycled them with fish in it (no ideal if possible) but as you did, I did not know anything about it, after researching I got Tetra Safe Start, I made 50% wc and added my 2 platties and my betta in it. I agreed with not changing the filter (it may look nasty but if you do, you will start the cycle again, I used to be a clean freak and I changed the caltridge every 3 weeks not knowing that the beneficial bacteria is in it) today I tested my water and my tank is cycled 5.0 Nitrates.

And I do not know is someone mentioned b4, but get a baby thermometer, the ones for testing the water temp for their baths, and try to age the water ( leave it at night) and next day put some in the microwave, so when you add it to the tank is the same or almost the same temp the fish are used to.

I also have well water, my ph is 7.8 and my fish are doing great. Now I am cyclinng 5 gallon and people here are being very helpful. good luck
 

Brolly2244

Other thing that will help for growing more bacteria, get Aqua clear foam (size according to your tank, cut the foam in 2, so when you change the caltridge the foam will have more bacteria and it will compensate, to replace or rinse the foam ( with tank water) just do one half at the time it will avoid to lose a lot of bacteria.
 

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