Can I Just Put A New Filter System In An Established Tank?

Discussion in 'Freshwater Tank Equipment' started by PeachesPanTao, Jul 17, 2019.

  1. PeachesPanTao

    PeachesPanTaoNew MemberMember

    Hi, I recently decided to start a tropical freshwater aquarium using a 20 gallon starter kit from Petsmart. The aquarium filter, a TopFin Silentstream 20, is already backing up after only 8 days of use. I'm realizing this filter is cheap, and probably not the best option for my aquarium. As of today, my tank has been set up for about 9 days. I added fish on the 5th day, after following Petsmart's advice to allow 5 days without fish to let the bacteria cycle establish. I've done things backward, and started doing research into keeping an aquarium after setting things up. My blunder.

    I've learned that a filtration system's filter allows colonies of beneficial bacteria to form, which is essential to the nitrogen cycle. Now that I want to replace my filter with a better system, what are the method(s) I should follow to ensure my aquarium doesn't loose its beneficial bacteria? I assume I cannot simply swap filters.

    Also, can anyone recommend a good external filter ideal for a 20 gallon aquarium? I'm currently looking into this AquaClear, but I'm not certain its a good choice. Thank you in advance for any feedback. I apologize if I've misused the forum in some way, I'm new here and still finding my way around. :)
  2. johnbirg

    johnbirgValued MemberMember

    Hi and welcome!
    Like many of us did when we first got into this hobby and were impatient to get things happening too quickly you have charged in. However, let's go back a step. As you have already added some fish you will need to do a fish in cycle. Your tank will not be cycled after 5 days and you are sure to get ammonia and nitrite spikes. I will post the link so you can follow what to do. The filter should be okay for a 20 gallon. I would run both together until your tank is cycled then dispose of the current one. Please follow the instructions carefully on doing the cycle for the sake of your fish.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
  3. johnbirg

    johnbirgValued MemberMember

    You should also look at the following!
  4. Cichlidude

    CichlidudeWell Known MemberMember

    Just to add to the good information above, your nitrogen cycle will take about 3-8 weeks to complete.
  5. CindyVBPets

    CindyVBPetsValued MemberMember

    You can use a bunch of filters concurrently. Then you have two sources of biological. Right now I have two inside a 5 gallon bucket I'm cycling.

    First ,make sure you pushed that TopFin intake tube down on top of the impeller until it clicks - it's misleading sometimes and a lot of people have that problem. You have to push rather hard. I'm wondering why it's "backed up" after only 8 days and hopefully that's why. You're just not getting enough flow with the tube not being in there completely right hopefully. What fish do you have in there? Let me guess...they sold you a pleco for "algae eating"? They create a LOT of waste and I'd return it.

    Yes Aqua Clear is a good choice. I use them. (also need to "click" intake tube "down"). In fact I have a 20 on my 20 long tank in my icon. It houses one Betta and I don't want a lot of flow but if I had it heavily stocked with fish who like flow I may have chosen an Aqua Clear 30.

    Under perfect conditions, I'd use my external canister because I hate noise, leave more space inside the tank, can be customized, and they are very effective, too, ....BUT I live on the second floor of a condo and am paranoid of a flood if it were to siphon out. I already flooded my downstairs BFF last year! (not fish related LOL)

    Depending on your choice of fish, you can use the AC 20 or even larger. They are quiet, have an adjustable flow, and can be altered to add different types of media on top of the sponge which soups them up. So meanwhile, I agree, just add it and run both.

    My tanks are established but for future reference, I have "customized" mine. Right now you can add what you'd call a "pre filter" on the intake stem which traps debris before it goes up into the filter(s) :Also gives you another biological source.


    Then I have inside the basket: the sponge it came with , then on top of that I have a bag of Seachem Matrix for biological, then on top of that I have a bag of Seachem Purigen (I don't use carbon). Purigen is a resin that controls ammonia, nitrites and nitrates by removing nitrogenous organic waste (but I'd say using that would make a tank take longer to cycle so it may be something you'd use only if you had trouble controlling your water right now).

    Just yesterday I added a small chunk of crushed coral over the Matrix as an experiment to see if I can slightly alter the PH as I have a war with that here.

    You can also add a BUNCH of live plants that will help you. Even if you just float them around. They are nature's real way of "cycling" and creating healthy systems. I'd get some Hornwort and Anacharis. Not sure I'd get it from the local pet store though!

    This little juvenile Betta loved his labyrinth LOL: (top down view)


    anubias floating around without rhizome being attached to anything:

    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
  6. CindyVBPets

    CindyVBPetsValued MemberMember

    I forgot to say if you get some live plants in the little pots with the planting wool in there, dump the wool into your tank as another source of biological media! Don't rinse and especially be careful not in chlorinated tap water my mistake!

    I swear by Prime like everyone else, I'll protect your fish for 48 hours.
  7. OP

    PeachesPanTaoNew MemberMember

    Thanks so much for your advice! Fortunately, I have not bought a pleco. I started out with 1 Dalmatian Molly, 3 dwarf gouramis

    6 neon tetras, and a beta. Sadly, one of the gouramis died after the first night, it looked like it had been attacked. I'm still not sure it was my beta, because the beta was very lethargic after I added it to the tank and I believe it had a swim bladder issue. The beta eventually died a couple days later as well. Wish I'd done more research before. Now my two remaining gouramis, single molly, and 8 neon tetras (I added a couple more yesterday before venturing here) all seem happy enough. No one seems sick or ready to die, but its something I certainly am prepared for considering I set things up too quick. I have three live plants, and some clusters of grassy looking stuff. They are all small, and were packaged in little plastic tubes at the pet store, and rooted in some gel. I discovered that the petco in my town sells fully grown plants (I initially bought everything at petsmart), so I might go get one. I live in a rocky mountain town under 100,000 people, so we dont have any specialty shops here. I have discovered, however, that my petco is much more professional and their fish more hardy. While I will take their advice with a grain of salt from now on, I'll definitely be going there rather than petsmart.

    Also, the topfin filter intake was a bit confusing at first. I pulled it down which extended it to a few inches above gravel line.

    I have one more betta I'd like to remove from his bowl prison and add to the tank, but I'm currently treating him for some sort of fin infection, which he seems to be responding well to. Once he is all better, and my nitrogen cycle is established, I may add him to the group. This will put me a bit over the 75% of gallons rule for determining how many inches of fish to keep in a single aquarium, so maybe getting a bigger filter might help. (petsmart told me the rule of thumb is 1 inch of fish per gallon, I now know this is wrong).

    My tank's hood has LED lighting. The first day I discovered how panicked my fish get when I simply flick the light on. So I bought a ramp up timer that simulates sunrise and sunset be slowly phasing the lights on and off. Eventually, I may switch to a nicer LED strip that has this function built in, but these are a bit pricey for me at the moment. Not sure how they will work with my tank hood when I do get one though... Oh well, I'm finding that this hobby is an unfolding adventure, and I'm enjoying the learning curve, even if there are a million things to buy, lol.

    Thank you so much for your advice and input. I really appreciate it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 18, 2019
  8. OP

    PeachesPanTaoNew MemberMember

    Thank you! This really helps. I will try to find some of the nitrate detox the one article mentions. I'll also need to pick up a test kit. Looks like I'll be doing lots of small water changes. Would you say a 10% change daily, or every other day, is enough?
  9. CindyVBPets

    CindyVBPetsValued MemberMember

    What a nightmare, right?

    Yay no Plecos LOL. Algae isn't the horrible thing everyone says. It means you have a LIVING ecosystem so that's better than sterile un-cycled!

    The 1 inch of fish per gallon isn't really wrong but it all's been the "rule" for decades.

    That was nice of you to buy that ramp up timer. I don't use the LED strips on my 10 and 20 gallons...they annoy ME so I just went back to old school florescent strip. NO rush on lighting for the fish they don't care but the plants you may have to view as disposable. I was used to using Versa Tops (glass tops) in my store but that got old quickly in my home with the LED strip so I went to a FULL HOOD with florescent plant light. Much more stable and easier for me, anyway. But my 7.5 gallon is a modern rimless one with a stable attached clear top so that one has a clip on Finnex lamp.

    My Petco is great, too - they have a very responsible fish guy managing it. Those plants in the containers are perfect (but not cheap). Mine also sells Prime. and other Seachem products. I just stocked up on some anacharis yesterday from there and it had just come in. So far I haven't had a problem with their plants not even snails.

    You can superglue the plants with the thick stem (rhizome) onto wood or rock if you want down the road because they are a PITA to plant in substrate.Most of mine are that way. The roots will grow around the anchor and be permanent eventually. Or tie with thread or a cable tie.Eventually you cut them off.

    My LFS gives bad advise too, sometimes, so don't worry about it. And I say this as a former pet store owner with many tanks of fish! LOL

    I would leave that Betta isolated for quite a while. On top of the recent drama, his immune system will be compromised so he's better off safe and quiet and un-stressed in a 1-2 gallon enclosure (or larger)...with some plant material in there to give safety and help with the water conditions. Maybe pick up a 1 gallon bowl if he's in a tiny one or something AND the Betta Water if you want. It's perfect for him but you'll have to stay on water changes using that water or pick what water you'll use and just stick with it. Make sure it's the same or a PH bounce can hurt him and try and have it the same temp.

    I know people who just keep two identical "tanks" and switch the fish back and forth. One lady has a 25 yr old goldfish who goes and literally lays down in her hands when it's time for him to get switched! Mr. Personality.

    Also putting him in an established territory can be bad either he might get aggressive/defensive or hide all the time and even though he's cousins with that Gourami (pretty fish) who knows what would happen. AND you need to "hand feed" him because he can't chase food around the tank like other fish can, most likely. Also he needs special Betta food. I rotate pellets and frozen. 2-3 in AM 2 in PM. One day fast because overeating can kill them.

    So now you have two tanks haha. Join the club!

    OH and unplug then take your filter out carefully (better with a big bowl under it and double check the intake tube is in tight!)

    You CAN save some money if you want to add filtration and biological with a basic cheap sponge filter or bubbler filter hooked up to an air pump. They're very popular still! Especially for Bettas, ironically.

    Like these. I have one in my 7.5 Betta tank and it's perfect.Also had one in my 20 gallon - same.

    The air pump can be annoying to me though if it's near my ear!
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019