brand new, lost and confused

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by tremblingturtle, Jun 3, 2016.

  1. tremblingturtleNew MemberMember

    Ok, so I have a new (used) tank. It is 65 gallons, and it is just sitting there empty. We have a Marineland, penguin 350 filter for it. No lights, substrate, or heater yet.

    I would like to plant it, what substrate do I need to get, and what type of lights do I need?

    I have read up on cycling, but I am not catching on. I want to do a fishless cycle, because we have not agreed on what fish we will be getting yet.

    Also, I have tested the water in the past. We have a well, which is a shallow well. The water is unsuitable to drink because it contains higher amounts of nitrates, as well as ammonia. Should I buy water elsewhere to use in the tank, or try and treat my well water to make it safe?
  2. tyguy7760

    tyguy7760Fishlore VIPMember

    Welcome to fishlore!

    First you will probably want to buy an additional penguin 350 as that alone will not be enough to filter a 65 gallon. You could also go with a canister filter instead like a sunsun 403/303. THat's probably what I would do.

    Substrate will depend on what type of fish you want to go in there. If you are thinking bottom dwellers like loaches or cory cats, it's best to do some sort of sand. Unless you are going with really high maintenance plants, any sand will do. The cheap alternatives are pool filter sand and black diamond blasting sand. Both can be had for about 8 bucks for 50 lbs. Just depends on what color you want. Natural (pool filter) or black (black diamond).

    As far as fishless cycling, basically what you want to do is go get some pure ammonia. I believe members here have used this*Version*=1&*entries*=0

    You'll also want to invest in an api master test kit so you can keep track of your progress. You can also purchase bacteria additives to speed things along like TSS+

    As far as your well water, I've never had this problem so I'll let some of the other users chime in.
  3. WildsideValued MemberMember

    Hi! Welcome to the forum,

    I found cycling to be a complicated business when I started out too. The following explanation is incredibly simplified:

    Basically, things breaking down in your water (fish food, fish waste...) will end up producing ammonia and nitrates. These are very bad for fish and can easily kill them. I had a spike once, it killed all three of my fish in a little over a day. Luckily, in your tank, there's a bacteria which will change the nitrates into nitrite. Nitrite is harmless to fish but food for plants. Basically, you want nitrites but no ammonia or nitrates.

    Cycling is basically finding a balance between the good bacteria and the ammonia and nitrates. Sometimes there will be too much good bacteria and it won't have any ammonia and nitrates to 'eat' and will die off. With no bacteria, you'll get ammonia spikes which if there were fish would kill them. Eventually, the two will balance themselves and your tank will be stable and ready for fish.

    To get your cycle going. There are several solutions. Since you don't want to use fish, which I understand, you can either simply drop some fish food in your tank every day and take the readings or you can buy both the bacteria and ammonia and try to balance it yourself. Personally, I'd chose the first option especially if you're not in a rush, it's cheaper but requires patience. You need to check the ammonia and nitrate levels every day to make sure there are no spikes.

    You can add plants during this process but I really wouldn't put in anything living like snails or shrimp because even if it doesn't kill them, they'll likely be in poor condition afterwards. It can take some time, I know my 40 gallon, it took about a month. The good news is, that can give your plants a change to get their roots anchored into the substrate before any fish arrive. Cycling will work faster with warmer water so getting a heater might be advisable.

    Concerning substrate and lighting. It really depends on what kind of tank you're aiming for. If you want one which is considered 'low-tech' and requires little maintenance (as far as plants are concerned), then I'd go for some really fine gravel (I use it in my tank). A lot of plants will do well in fine gravel. Some plants don't actually need a light (it can actually be detrimental for their health) such as java moss and java ferns, others will die if they don't have a very powerful one overhead. It really depends what you're going for.

    Bare in mind that plants can also influence what fish you can have. Some fish require sandy bottoms others need gravel. Also, fish like bristlenose plecos will eat softer leaved plants, some are diggers and will uproot them.

    I've never heard of using water from a well. Personally, I wouldn't use it just in case of traces of pesticides and stuff like that. Is the tap water in your area okay to use?

    Hope this helps...

  4. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Welome to FishLore!

    I think if it were me, I would not use any water that I couldn't drink in my aquarium. So I would be looking for an alternate water source.

    Cycling seems confusing, but it's really pretty easy. It goes like this:
    Fish release toxic ammonia into the water constantly
    In a cycled tank your filter media has a colony of bacteria that consumes the ammonia as it passes thru the filter and then releases toxic nitrites into the water
    In a cycled tank there is a second bacteria colony living in your filter media which consumes the nitrite in the water as it passes thru the filter media and releases much less toxic nitrates.

    So when your tank is cycled you have large enough bacteria colonies to "convert" all ammonia being produced into nitrites and all nitrites into nitrates. You will know your colonies are large enough (i.e. you're cycle) because you will have 0ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrite and some nitrates.

    Of course since there is a constant stream of ammonia, you end up with a constant stream of nitrates building in the water. At high levels, nitrates become toxic, so you keep the nitrate levels low thru weekly partial water changes (usually somewhere between 35% and 50%).

    This bacteria somehow magically appears when you have ammonia and/or nitrite in your water, But it takes several weeks of elevated ammonia and nitrite levels before it does appear. And having fish be exposed to these elevated levels can kill them.

    So with a fishless cycle, you add ammonia to the water to simulate the ammonia the fish would be releasing. In time, your bacteria colonies develop and you get cycled. But it can take about 3 weeks from the time ammonia is added to the tank for the ammonia converting bacteria to develop and start pumping out nitrites. Then it can take about 3 more weeks after nitrites are released into the water for the nitrite converting bacteria to develop.

    You can speed this up by using a bacteria additive, which basically is the bacteria that will develop naturally in a bottle. A couple bacteria products that do actually work as advertised (many do not work) are Tetra SafeStart, Dr, Tim's One & Only and Stability.

    You'll probably have more questions, so feel free to ask away.

    BTW, all my plants are plastic, so I can't help with you substrate question

  5. maggie thecat

    maggie thecatWell Known MemberMember

    Hi! Welcome to Fishlore!

    What do you use for drinking water? If it's safe for you to drink, then that would likely be safe for your fish. Otherwise, you would need to purify your well water by chemically treat it to make it fish safe.

    Substrate for plants. There are many options. Sand. Gravel. Aquarium potting soil capped with sand or gravel. It just depends on what you want to do. If you use 'easy' plants, then you don't have to use special lights or CO2 injectors. Or special substrate. There is an entire subforum dedicated to planted tanks. Plan on losing hours reading

    Lighting, again you can go as cheap or fancy as you want. The old fashioned way was a hood with a fluorescent tube in it. Many people still use them. You can buy new aquarium tubes at most hardware stores or online.

    I've been switching over to cool white LED strips over the last year. They can be dead cheap strips that use a 12 volt power supply that you fix in place with tape or screws (Yay!) or really expensive, programmable models. Both have their fans. Again, there's an entire sub forum filled with information.

    Hoods are something else again. They aren't what they were, and you can spend a fair amount on flimsy, injected molded plastic. Better are the ones made of glass panes.
    On this one I would say start with glass and don't waste your time.

    Have fun. Go slow. Figure out what you want in your tank. And above all, don't be afraid to ask lots of questions as you get into things.
  6. OP

    tremblingturtleNew MemberMember

    we buy water for drinking. We use five gallon jugs and buy it from a reverse osmosis system

    Thank you everyone for your input!
  7. aliray

    alirayFishlore VIPMember

    Welcome to the forum and glad you joined us. Alison:;hi2
  8. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    If you yse RO water for your tank, you'll need to add some chemicals to it, since the RO process removes them all and the fish need them. I've never used RO water, but hopefully someone who has will chime in soon.
  9. maggie thecat

    maggie thecatWell Known MemberMember

  10. Mom2some

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    Welcome to the forum! Believe it or not what fish you want to keep will affect a lot of answers. I will page CindiL for you as something of a forum water specialist. You have come to a great place and may I say Bravo for researching first. It will hopefully save you heartache & money!
  11. CindiL

    CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    Hi, welcome to fishlore :;hi2

    I am on a well too and though I wouldn't drink it because of (sometimes) high nitrates I would use it for my fish. We have an RO system that we use in our kitchen for all of our drinking and ice etc. I would say to use your well water. It's a pain to use RO or Distilled for aquariums because you have to re-mineralize the water with carbonates, trace minerals and hardness salts such as calcium and magnesium chloride. I actually do use RO in my aquarium but will be using plain ol well water in my pond. If you want to pursue RO I'd be happy to help but my advice would be to first try your regular tap water.

    Have you purchased an API Master Test Kit yet? If not, I would buy one, probably one of the most important purchases you'll make as an aquarium owner. Test your tap for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and ph and post them back here and we can go from there.

    Lots of people who are not on wells have ammonia in their water and the bio-filter will grow to accommodate the levels that are there. I'd also recommend picking up Seachem Prime for you water conditioner as it will not only remove chlorine, chloramines, heavy metals but will also detoxify ammonia to ammonium giving your (eventually) cycled tank the ability to convert the ammonia to nitrates. It goes ammonia- nitrites-nitrates. Someone up above referred to them incorrectly and I don't want you to be confused lol. Nitrates are removed via water changes or with special media that helps convert the nitrates to nitrogen gas which leaves your tank.

    Here is a very helpful link on starting/setting up a low light/low tech planted tank:

    A brief link on the nitrogen cycle:

    As far as fishless cycling, I would definitely do ammonia vs fish food:

    The only think I would change would be if you decide to use a bacterial additive to seed your tank then only dose ammonia to 2.0.

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