40 Gallon Tank Fish Project For 4 Yr Old And Daddy

HobbyNovice

Member
HI everyone,

My son, for his 4th birthday wanted a fish tank, so my wife and I agreed it would be a great project for him and I. We have no clue what we are doing and probably over stocked our tank. We have 4 Bala Shark, 1- Rainbow Shark, 1-Pictus Catfish, 2- Dwarf Gourami,
7-Tiger Barbs and 3 mystery snails.

Our 4 yr old while being supervised by our 16 yr old dumped an entire container of food into the tank, on Tuesday evening. When I got home, I vacuumed the tank did a 50% water change, another 25% on Friday...we are having difficulty keeping the ammonia down, today the nitrate and nitrite levels were high. I did a water change of 13.5%.

I am using apI QuickStart, as instructed by the folks at petsmart.

Thanks for any helpful advice.
 

Jellibeen

Member
Hi!

Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? how long has your tank been set up for? You won’t be able to keep ammonia and nitrite down until the tank is cycled.

Your tank is definitely overstocked. Bala sharks are very active and get pretty big. I’m not great at stocking advice, but i’m sure someone else on here will help you come up with a plan that fits your tank.
 

TheBettaSushi

Member
HobbyNovice said:
HI everyone,

My son, for his 4th birthday wanted a fish tank, so my wife and I agreed it would be a great project for him and I. We have no clue what we are doing and probably over stocked our tank. We have 4 Bala Shark, 1- Rainbow Shark, 1-Pictus Catfish, 2- Dwarf Gourami,
7-Tiger Barbs and 3 mystery snails.

Our 4 yr old while being supervised by our 16 yr old dumped an entire container of food into the tank, on Tuesday evening. When I got home, I vacuumed the tank did a 50% water change, another 25% on Friday...we are having difficulty keeping the ammonia down, today the nitrate and nitrite levels were high. I did a water change of 13.5%.

I am using apI QuickStart, as instructed by the folks at petsmart.

Thanks for any helpful advice.
We all started out with not really knowing what we’re doing but in time you’ll figure it out.

I’d suggest that you keep doing water changes (daily if you have to) until the ammonia is down significantly and you can use seachem prime to detoxify ammonia/nitrites/nitrates to make it safe for your livestock in the meantime.

Did you cycle the tank before adding fish?

What test are you using?
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
Unfortunately, No. We were instructed by the associates at petsmart, and they said this QuickStart would allow us to add fish same day, not knowing anything about the nitrogen cycle, we went with the flow.
 

Jellibeen

Member
Ahh. Unfortunately pet store employees often don’t know what they are talking about. Quickstart speeds up the cycle, but it still isn’t instant.

I suggest reading up on doing a fish-in cycle. You should be able to click on those words which will take you to some information about it.
 

AJE

Member
HobbyNovice said:
HI everyone,

My son, for his 4th birthday wanted a fish tank, so my wife and I agreed it would be a great project for him and I. We have no clue what we are doing and probably over stocked our tank. We have 4 Bala Shark, 1- Rainbow Shark, 1-Pictus Catfish, 2- Dwarf Gourami,
7-Tiger Barbs and 3 mystery snails.

Our 4 yr old while being supervised by our 16 yr old dumped an entire container of food into the tank, on Tuesday evening. When I got home, I vacuumed the tank did a 50% water change, another 25% on Friday...we are having difficulty keeping the ammonia down, today the nitrate and nitrite levels were high. I did a water change of 13.5%.

I am using apI QuickStart, as instructed by the folks at petsmart.

Thanks for any helpful advice.
First, welcome to fish lore. I see a few problems with your tank. 1. The bala sharks will get big and will need over triple your water volume, the rainbow shark will need at least 55 gallon in a community setting, and the tiger barbs will harass and kill any long fin fish, so the gouramis will be ripped to shreds eventually, and they will also try to eat the snails. Good luck
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
TheBettaSushi said:
We all started out with not really knowing what we’re doing but in time you’ll figure it out.

I’d suggest that you keep doing water changes (daily if you have to) until the ammonia is down significantly and you can use seachem prime to detoxify ammonia/nitrites/nitrates to make it safe for your livestock in the meantime.

Did you cycle the tank before adding fish?

What test are you using?
I am using JNW direct test strips and Tetra Easy Strips for ammonia
 

TheBettaSushi

Member
HobbyNovice said:
Unfortunately, No. We were instructed by the associates at petsmart, and they said this QuickStart would allow us to add fish same day, not knowing anything about the nitrogen cycle, we went with the flow.
Ah ok don’t worry, get the seachem prime... it’s going to save you and your 4 year old a lot of heartache. You can dose that every 24-48 hours to lock up the ammonia/nitrites/nitrates until everything stabilizes. It’s also a live saver on the days when you can’t do a water change the same day... it will give you a bit more time to get to a water change.

If you haven’t already, I would also pick up apI freshwater master test kit as it is the most accurate test for ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. The readings will help determine how much water to change when spikes arise.

If you’re able to return or rehome the sharks, I’d start by doing that as well as dosing with prime.
 

thequietman44

Member
HobbyNovice said:
We have no clue what we are doing and probably over stocked our tank
HobbyNovice said:
we are having difficulty keeping the ammonia down, today the nitrate and nitrite levels were high
Yes, I would say it's definitely overstocked . If this is a kit from PetSmart it's likely the filter is undersized for the tank which won't help. It sounds like the tank hasn't been cycled, so you're going to be fighting ammonia until that happens. Seachem Prime can help detoxify the ammonia, but you'll have to do daily water changes. If you have any friends with a stable aquarium you can see if you can borrow some used filter media from them to kickstart the cycle.

Immediate emergency aside, you'll probably need to move the sharks and catfish eventually. They can all get very large and a 40 gallon won't be adequate.

That said, don't feel bad if you were misled by PetSmart employees. They often just repeat what they've been told and have little fish-keeping knowledge.

EDIT: So in the time it took for me to type a reply it looks like 7 other replies were already posted which cover everything in better detail o_O. All good advice, I hope you can get things under control without any losses!
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
AJE said:
First, welcome to fish lore. I see a few problems with your tank. 1. The bala sharks will get big and will need over triple your water volume, the rainbow shark will need at least 55 gallon in a community setting, and the tiger barbs will harass and kill any long fin fish, so the gouramis will be ripped to shreds eventually, and they will also try to eat the snails. Good luck
We are planning a getting a larger aquarium, and dividing the livesto
thequietman44 said:
Yes, I would say it's definitely overstocked . If this is a kit from PetSmart it's likely the filter is undersized for the tank which won't help. It sounds like the tank hasn't been cycled, so you're going to be fighting ammonia until that happens. Seachem Prime can help detoxify the ammonia, but you'll have to do daily water changes. If you have any friends with a stable aquarium you can see if you can borrow some used filter media from them to kickstart the cycle.

Immediate emergency aside, you'll probably need to move the sharks and catfish eventually. They can all get very large and a 40 gallon won't be adequate.

That said, don't feel bad if you were misled by PetSmart employees. They often just repeat what they've been told and have little fish-keeping knowledge.

EDIT: So in the time it took for me to type a reply it looks like 7 other replies were already posted which cover everything in better detail o_O. All good advice, I hope you can get things under control without any losses!

Thank you .
 

AJE

Member
HobbyNovice said:
We are planning a getting a larger aquarium, and dividing the livesto



Thank you .
How large?
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
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HobbyNovice

Member
I am awestruck at the learning curve and the level on information required to keep fish.
 

AJE

Member
HobbyNovice said:
I’m looking for 150-200 gallon
Ok, should be good
 

thequietman44

Member
HobbyNovice said:
I’m looking for 150-200 gallon
HobbyNovice said:
I am awestruck at the learning curve and the level on information required to keep fish.
I'm awestruck at the thought of having a 200 gallon aquarium

It can certainly feel overwhelming when you have to try to take it all in immediately. Sorry you got thrown in the deep end as it were. It's really not that complicated once you have a cycled tank, and the good news is the larger the tank the easier it is to maintain a stable environment. You're also getting a lot of experience with possibly the most important thing in fishkeeping: regular water changes .
 

TheBettaSushi

Member
HobbyNovice said:
I am awestruck at the learning curve and the level on information required to keep fish.
Once you get the hang of it, it won’t be so difficult as it may seem right now. We all learn something everyday even those of us who have been in this hobby for years. Once you’ve learned and have been through trial and errors, you’ll find what works for you and it will be well worth it and so rewarding in the end. What works for some will not work for others... this is the biggest problem I have come across in my years of fish keeping. This is why it’s important to gather as much information I can beforehand so I don’t have any potential losses.

Once your tank is cycled, you will feel much better about it.

Patience is key when it comes to fish keeping (something I’m still learning) but trust me, all will be fine. People get into fish keeping and quickly get out because something happens... as long as you stay consistent, you’ll be fine and your fish will be thriving in no time. Just do a little more research next time so you can aI'm towards success.

is a good tool to start with. This can help determine which fish/inverts will be suitable in your tank. Remember, it’s only a guide and you’ll need to do a bit more research about each species to make sure it will work for you.

Some have had great success with keeping certain fish with others that aren’t advisable or compatible with each other while others have seen the trauma it can cause. Make your fish selection wisely and always have a backup if things don’t work out (either by taking it back to the store or rehoming in a different tank in your home or to someone else).

Best of luck to you and if you need anything, we are all here to help the best we can.
 

MamaLlama76

Member
Jellibeen said:
Hi!

Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? how long has your tank been set up for? You won’t be able to keep ammonia and nitrite down until the tank is cycled.

Your tank is definitely overstocked. Bala sharks are very active and get pretty big. I’m not great at stocking advice, but i’m sure someone else on here will help you come up with a plan that fits your tank.
HobbyNovice said:
Unfortunately, No. We were instructed by the associates at petsmart, and they said this QuickStart would allow us to add fish same day, not knowing anything about the nitrogen cycle, we went with the flow.
HI 4 yr old and Daddy,

I am new on FishLore forum, but I was once upon a time a "fish lady" (and THE plant lady) at a PetSmart in Indep., MO approximately 20 years ago (back when I was in college). When I was working there, employees were trained to be at least somewhat knowledgeable, and I apologize that the staff you encountered probably had little idea what they were talking about.

Am I reading this right that your tank is 40 gal?

As the previous poster mentioned, you are dealing with an uncycled tank. Had I been the person who waited on you at the store, I would have recommended using StressZyme by API and the sister product StressCoat for protecting the fish's slime coat etc (if I remember correctly, the later also removes chlorine/cloriamines from your tap water...don't quote me on that, as I'm am on a farm with well water, so I dn't have chlorine in it.) I've tried a lot of "tank cycling" products and StressZyme worked the best for me everywhere I have lived and had fish (moved probably 25 times in my 43 years of life and have kept fish on and off for over 30 years...and I totally remember the days when tank cycling products weren't on the market yet.) I also would have recommended running your new tank for at least 1-2 weeks with StressZyme , inexpensive live plants (plants are wonderful, they give surface area for good bacteria to grow) and maybe a snail or two or a couple of cheap feeder goldfish (fish/invertebrate that you aren't planning to get "attached to" so IF you lose them to new tank syndrome, you don't feel so bad about it.) The light bio-load of a few plants (which will use the nitrates once that cycle going) and a few goldfish in a 40 gallon wouldn't overwhelm the system you are creating, but would provide the Co2 and a little bit waste needed to feed those tank cycling bacteria.

If you have a local (non- big box) fish/pet store within a reasonable driving distance from you, pay them a visit. They are usually have much better informed staff and are in the business of not only getting people into the aquarium hobby, but keeping people in the hobby. Usually they want to see customers grow and learn, and are willing to teach new fish keepers what they need to know to be successful. Back in the day, we used to have to find a local store or somebody who was breeding fish in their garage of whatever and ask for a few handfuls of gravel from a cycled older tank or an "old filer pad" or sponge from a sponge filter (or if you were lucky their water from a water change, to get a new tank established.) If you have a nice "mom and pop" fish store, it is worth asking for a few handfuls of substrate or filter media they were going to throw out anyway, even is they charge a small fee, it would be worth it to really get your cycle established and not have to replace the fish you bought. That said, sounds like maybe there are too many/or too large (fully grown sizes) of fish for a 40 gallon in total, especially for where your nitrogen cycling is at the moment. If you know somebody else (co-worker, friends family, etc.) who have aquariums for 6 months or more and could either take a couple off your hands temporarily or permanatly that would be helpful until you are better established..this would help relieve the bio-load on your tank while it's getting up to speed.

What type of filter are you using? Many of the traditional hang on back and canister filters are not maximized for ideal filtration. WHY? The manufacturers and stores don't want you to know that because they make a lot of their money selling you those throw-away filter cartridges. You and your family could have a lot of "family night" fun watching aquarium fish videos learning about the fish you have, fish you might want to try someday and general fish keeping topics on YouTube. Try typing in" maximizing your aquarium filtration" on a YouTube app to find more ways to help create an environment in which your fishy pets will thrive.

Yes you want to gravel vac and get out what you can of the dumped fish food and do some water changes maybe every other day for a while. (Please note though that water changes in and of themselves do create stress on the fish too and removing too much of the water also reduces the population of your beneficial bacteria colony (always added more cycling bacteria culture when you water change to help reduce the stresses on the fish and bacteria colony). By all means get that decomposing fish food out, it will create more toxins and molds that are detrimental to the fish. Once that is accomplished do regular water change twice weekly for a month or so...then if your biological filtration is in a great place you may need to do it only weekly, unless another problem arrises. Meanwhile, learn about ways to grow a huge colony of beneficial bacteria (I really recommend adding sponge media to any filter you are running and there are many ways to do this, ditching the throw-away cartridge that are usually used as media in most filters and replacing with sponge media or bio-rings/balls is a great place to start...look for how to vids on YouTube) that can handle the amount of waste your current fish are producing. And definitely try adding live plants to help use the by-products of the nitrogen cycle.
 

MamaLlama76

Member
thequietman44 said:
I'm awestruck at the thought of having a 200 gallon aquarium

It can certainly feel overwhelming when you have to try to take it all in immediately. Sorry you got thrown in the deep end as it were. It's really not that complicated once you have a cycled tank, and the good news is the larger the tank the easier it is to maintain a stable environment. You're also getting a lot of experience with possibly the most important thing in fishkeeping: regular water changes .
WOW! 150-200 gallon! If you can find a "used" one that had a thriving environment just a short while ago (existing gravel/subrate etc, that would be very helpful in getting it going and providing your fish a great home.)
 

MamaLlama76

Member
Good luck! Wish you guys the best. Glad you are willing to stick with it through the "newbie" fish keeper growing pains!
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
I’d like to express our gratitude to those who responded, and provided excellent advice. I found a couple of local fish stores and visited them both, one was very nice and willing to price match online vendors...also have been taking in hours of you tube videos, reading articles, threads and talking with others.

I bought the Seachem Prime, as advised
My wife ordered API QuickStart and Fluval Cycle.

We were able to get the Ammonia nearly .25
General hardness 120ppm
Chlorine 0
Nitrate somewhere between the 100-250ppm
Nitrite lil bit darker than 20, but not as dark as 40ppm
Carbonate 40ppm
Alkalinity 120ppm
pH 7

I’m going to do another water change....and buy some sponge to pre-filter our hang on back filter...
 

Crazycoryfishlady

Member
You're getting closer! Great job, I'm also awestruck at the thought of that big of a tank! I'm jealous!
It's nice to see parents being responsible and learning about their fish for their kids! Now in a few years you can describe the nightmare to your kiddo and ask if they remember all the work you did
And show them all the growth and improvement you've done together!
Best of luck to you as you keep going forward!
 

Jellibeen

Member
HobbyNovice said:
I’d like to express our gratitude to those who responded, and provided excellent advice. I found a couple of local fish stores and visited them both, one was very nice and willing to price match online vendors...also have been taking in hours of you tube videos, reading articles, threads and talking with others.

I bought the Seachem Prime, as advised
My wife ordered API QuickStart and Fluval Cycle.

We were able to get the Ammonia nearly .25
General hardness 120ppm
Chlorine 0
Nitrate somewhere between the 100-250ppm
Nitrite lil bit darker than 20, but not as dark as 40ppm
Carbonate 40ppm
Alkalinity 120ppm
pH 7

I’m going to do another water change....and buy some sponge to pre-filter our hang on back filter...
I am glad to hear your cycle is making progress! And that you have been doing research. There's a lot of info to take in at first, but once your tank is cycled everything becomes so much easier.

It is nice to have good fish stores nearby. You could try asking them for seeded filter material, meaning material that already is fully established with beneficial bacteria. They may give or sell some to you.
 

MamaLlama76

Member
Sounds like you are getting the hang of it! In a few weeks, you'll have your water right where you want it to be and really be enjoying your tank, instead of trying to keep on top of maintaining it through the new tank period. Have fun and keep learning new things. Have a blessed day.
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
Update...all four Bala have been relocated, Pictus Catfish and two Tiger Barbs unfortunately succumbed to the toxicity.
I have yet to get the freshwater master test kit, but will get it in the next few days.
4y/o and I performed another water change after test strip readings:
Ammonia was great finally in the safe zone
Nitrate still between 100-250 ppm
Nitrite about the same as yesterday between 20-40ppm
Carbonate 40ppm
Alkalinity 120ppm
PH around 7
Today plants are browning.
 

mattgirl

Member
Have you run the nitrate test on your source water? I ask because it is unusual to see nitrates that high after doing water changes. If you find you don't have nitrates in your source water you may want to consider doing a big (meaning 70 or 80%) water change. It may take more than one big water change to get them down to 40 or less.

Water changes aren't going to slow down your cycling process. They will protect your fish from the damaging affects of ammonia/nitrite poisoning though.

Try to keep the ammonia level well below one with water changes. Add enough prime for the full 40 gallons of water with each water change. Prime will protect your fish for at least 24 hours so you need to add it on the days you don't do a water change.
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
I had checked our source water previously, but forgot the results...so I did it again, the source water is zero Nitrite and same for Nitrate. Awesome recommendation by the way. I’m going to check the tank again shortly, I was giving it a few hours to get the tank turned over...
 

mattgirl

Member
HobbyNovice said:
I had checked our source water previously, but forgot the results...so I did it again, the source water is zero Nitrite and same for Nitrate. Awesome recommendation by the way. I’m going to check the tank again shortly, I was giving it a few hours to get the tank turned over...
It's good you don't have them in your source water. You should be able to get them down with water changes and in the process you will also be lowering the ammonia. As long as you can keep the ammonia level down your fish should come through the cycling process safe and sound.

You basically started out much like most of the rest of us. There was no internet when I first got into this hobby but did have a leaflet that gave me the basics of what needed to be done.

The main thing it told me was I needed to keep the ammonia levels down and I could accomplish it with water changes. I used test strips back then but also bought the liquid ammonia test since for some unknown reason that test isn't included with the test strips.

I am glad you are getting an API Master Test Kit. It isn't as accurate as made for lab tests but are fairly dependable for our purposes.
 

MamaLlama76

Member
Sounds like you are starting to get beneficial bacteria starting to come on board if you are starting to get nitrites and nitrates when you test. It's still an ongoing process, but that let's you know you are making progress. Eventually, they will catch up and you'll see all 3 of those numbers get to zero or pretty close, once the plants establish.
As for your plants browning, a lot of aquarium plants are not grown under water and they have to "learn how" to live submerged. The leaves that grew out of water will "melt back" and new ones that can handle living underwater will grow in from the base or stem (depending on the type of plant). If you don't have a fish yet who will eat algae and decaying plant matter yet, consider the humble snail. Many of the snail species will happily eat those browning leaves for you, plus they are pretty tough and can survive a lot of the new tank growing pains. Some of them are even quite pretty (for an invertebrate).
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
Hey everyone, ammonia is gone Woohooo
Nitrite looks between 5-10ppm
Nitrate between 50-100ppm
Carbonate looked closer to 120ppm
Alkalinity about the 120ppm
Ph 7.2

We lost our rainbow Shark, Pictus and tiger barbs, the Bala Sharks were lucky to be relocated...

We have 3snails, two Dwarf GouramI and a clown pleco, once water if good what should we restock with?
 

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MamaLlama76

Member
For a nice family community tank, I always strongly recommend the livebearer group. For the most part they very peaceful and very colorful. Plus if you have pairs or groups that are 1-4 females per male, they will probably give you some fry if the tank has plenty of plants and that is really fun for little kids and teens alike. Other good choices would be a small school (3-6) corydora catfish, which are active and fun to watch and due double duty cleaning up your tank bottom. The albino ones look great with dark gravel and dark colored ones are sharp looking on very light gravel. Another good fish, if you are looking for a stunning centerpiece species would be a pair of freshwater angelfish. They get somewhat large, but are smaller than many other cichlids and other aggressive fish. Usually they are only mean to other fish if they are laying eggs or brooding fry (they do enjoy somewhat soft slightly acidic water, though.) A tank with schooling fish like tetras, barbs or danios can also work really well.

Enjoying sharing fishy knowledge with you today, it gets my mind off of the bad stuff we are experiencing at home right now. My family had a very rough weekend because my daughter's beloved rodeo pony/best friend passed away yesterday (Sunday), very unexpectedly. We suspect that one of our horses kicked her and that there was probably some sort of internal bleeding that caused her death. Anna's had Busy Bee since she was 3 (daddy promised her a pony if she got potty trained...my little girl got it done in under a month...extremely motivated!) and is now almost 8 years old. We had this little mare almost 5 years and were very attached to her...even my oldest son, who professes that he doesn't "like horses" is grieving his sister's pony.
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
Hey everyone thank you for all the advice and direction. We have successfully balanced the tank zero nitrate, nitrite and ammonia.

Thanks again.
 

MamaLlama76

Member
You are welcome. Enjoy the family aquatic adventure that is having an aquarium.
 

AJE

Member
HobbyNovice said:
Hey everyone thank you for all the advice and direction. We have successfully balanced the tank zero nitrate, nitrite and ammonia.

Thanks again.
Cool! Any pictures?
 
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HobbyNovice

Member

09BD3990-91CD-45B3-9FC7-781306438599.jpeg
Cool! Any pictures?

Now I’m seeing more Algae and Water is turning green, what are my remedies?
 

ETNsilverstar

Member
HobbyNovice said:
Cool! Any pictures?

Now I’m seeing more Algae and Water is turning green, what are my remedies?
How long do you have the lights on each day? Usually a shorter period of light helps, though I'd personally just leave it unless it gets super crazy.
 

Crazycoryfishlady

Member
You may very well end up with a pretty big diatom bloom, but eventually the tank settles and it starts to die off.
Newer tanks are more susceptible to algae as the plants start to take off.
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
ETNsilverstar said:
How long do you have the lights on each day? Usually a shorter period of light helps, though I'd personally just leave it unless it gets super crazy.
Light is usually on 12-14 hours...
 

Fanatic

Member
HobbyNovice said:
Light is usually on 12-14 hours...
I personally would limit the photoperiod to 8-12 hours, even shorter for a bit of time until the algae problem is resolved.
 
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HobbyNovice

Member
I just set up a timer with Alexa, so light will come on in the morning for 2 1/2 hours off all day then on in the evening for 4 1/2 hours... tank gets zero direct sunlight, but lots of indirect light all day.
 

yinoma2001

Member
Just remember most stores like PetSmart and Petco will let you return fish (dead or alive) within 14 or 30 days, no questions asked. Don't be afraid to let them know that the fish were not a good match. I've done that before.
 
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