Beginner Questions re First Aquarium Set-Up

  • #1
I have yet to purchase an aquarium. Right now I have a little Betta Bowl thing (Marina 360) with one Betta.

I am planning on getting a real aquarium within the month. I was looking at a second hand 35 gallon tank, but am apprehensive about getting something used. I don't really know what to look for.

Today I was at my local pet store and saw a 20 gallon long, and I loved the look of it. I'm short so I think having a shorter tank appeals to me somewhat. It's just the tank, not a kit. I imagine it will end up being twice as expensive as getting a kit. Is this something I shouldn't attempt as a beginner? If it is, what kind of filter should I be looking for? What kind of hood/lights? What kind of heater?

The two fish tank brands that are readily available to me are Marineland and Tetra. Is one better than the other?

My goal is to have a planted tank with driftwood. I want it looking very natural. I would like a school of something tetra sized. I don't really like neon tetras, but I want something that size. That's really all I want in the tank. Maybe a bottom feeder or a snail? Are they recommended? Could a 20 gallon support this type of school or would they be best in a much larger tank.

I am aware of the nitrogen cycle but it is way over my head still. Today I got test strips (I went looking for the API master test kit and couldn't find it locally or on amazon) and my tap water PH was either 6 or 6.5 (matching colours isn't my strong suit). The PH in my bowl was 6.5. The NO3 in my bowl was 40 and the NO2 in my bowl was 0. I didn't get anything to test for ammonia because I didn't read my labels properly. When will I know if this bowl is cycled? Can it even be cycled?

For the new tank I intend to do a fishless cycle.

I'm sorry for the endless questions. I'd appreciate if you answer anything you have the time to answer.
  • #2
Don't apologize for the questions! I'd much rather you ask someone on here than start up clueless. It is good to learn as MUCH as you possibly can about your Betta and his/her needs. I have a 20 gallon long Betta Sorority tank with 2 female Bettas, some Danios, Tetras, and lots and lots of snails. Basically, the more room you give your Betta to live in, the bigger and healthier he will grow to be. So I would for sure go with that 20 gallon long, anything bigger might be overkill unless you're planning to put LOTS of plants and other hideouts. You want to make sure you have the tank heated. Normally anywhere between 75-81 (my females LOVE warmer temps) any good filter will work as long as it is one that is made for that size tank. Given that you'll be upgrading tank size, I'm assuming you will also need to purchase more rocks and deco as well. Betta's love live plants, as some fake plants may have edges that are too sharp. If you are going to add more fish it would be a necessity to include lots of hiding places. Little caves here and there, decorations they can swim in and out of, even plants serve as hiding places. If there aren't enough hideouts/objects in the tank, your Betta and the rest of the fish will have a hard time establishing territory. This will cause lots of stress. Make sure you buy a larger variety of food if you do get the other fish (tropical flakes, bloodworms, pellets, brine shrimp, greens if you do get snails) As of the hood and light, you should be able to find both at the pet store you purchase the 20 gallon. I hope I answered all of your questions, feel free to let me know anything you're still confused on!! And good luck.
  • #3
20g long is a nice choice. I personally prefer buying things separately instead of a kit since you can customize what you need.
For equipment: look for heaters rated for 20 gallon that have an adjustable temperature- I've heard decent this about eheim, but have never used them myself. Get lights that are specifically for growing plants, otherwise they tend to grow fairly slowly. Glass hoods look very nice
As for fish, if you want schooling but don't like neon tetras, there are other types of tetras (bleeding heart, rummy nose, etc) that are still very nice schooling fish with a unique look.
If you want to go cold water route, there are also species like danios (zebra, gold, blue, pearl) and minnows (like white cloud mountains)
You can get bottom feeders as well. I like Cory cats (be sure to check their temperature needs and match it to other fish) and they school pretty nicely too if you have 4+. Just be sure to have a nice sand or rounded gravel substrate for them if you get them.
Test strips are notoriously inaccurate- API master test kit has stuff that'll let you test ammonia, nitrate and nitrite really accurately, so if you can, get it . Basically you know when your tank is cycled if you only have nitrates, and no nitrite or ammonia. It's a bit difficult to cycle anything smaller than a 5 gallon IMO. Just so little water there that a tiny change throws everything out of whack. If you have a filter or a air pump, be sure to have it running- oxygenation is important in helping the BB grow for the nitrification process.

Hope this helped a little?

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  • #4
Welcome to the forum and glad you joined us. I have kept fish on and off for 61 years. My latest foray back into fish again started a couple of years ago with the purchase of three 10 gal startup kits. I ended up having to replace 2 of the heaters when they malfunctioned and killed some of the fish from the drastic rise and fall of the temps, I also had to replace filters. I think you are much better off getting every thing separate. It is cheaper in the long run. I also ended up taking one down and getting a 20 instead and then this week took the other two 10 gal tanks down and combined them into a 30 gal. Make sure the heater is adjustable and not one that can't be raised up or down. The advantage to the 20 gal long is the bigger foot print of the tank which gives the fish more room to swim and will allow you to have more choices of fish to stock. Alison
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  • #5
Thanks so much for all the help. I am going to buy the tank today. It's on sale at my pet store and then piece it together. My goal is to have fish in it by the time I'm off work for the summer (end of June). I'll make sure it get an adjustable heater as my house temperature really fluctuates (I heat with oil). I really appreciate all the help. I'll have a lot more questions soon. I'm really stumped as to what to use on the bottom. My little 3 gallon I keep without gravel or sand so I have no experience with it.
  • #6
If you go to Petco, they should still be having their dollar per gallon sale so tanks should be cheap

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  • #7
I live in Northern Ontario (Canada). I haven't even heard of Petco. I have a Pet Valu. I'll have to order most things online though (hood, test kits, etc.).

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