Help with new tank (of course)

anp73
  • #1
Hi, all.  My friend had an extra 5 1/2 gallon tank that she let me use until she can set up one of her bigger tanks again and then she will let me use her 10 gallon tank(which is what I really wanted to begin with).  I had fish a couple of years ago in a 29 gallon tank but always had problems, so I went off of fish for a while.  Now I'm ready to start one up again, but don't want to make the same mistakes I did before.   Plus, this tank is much smaller so I understand that I don't have much room for error.  Anyway, I have a couple of questions that I didnt see answers to on the board (though I could have missed them).  First, I used these little glass things instead of gravel on the bottom because she used to have that in a 20 gallon tank and never had any problems with that tank at all(they look like marbles but are flat on the bottom...dont know where she got them but her tank was always perfect and she never did ANYTHING).  Like an idiot, though, I forgot to wash them before I put them in, and now my water stinks!  They hadn't been used for a while, so I doubt there was any bacteria left in them, though they were stored in a plastic bag in a dark place, and now that I sniff the bag I know the smell is definitely from them!  I have had my tank set up since Saturday but haven't added fish yet because I want to make sure I have everything ready before I try to cycle it with maybe 2 zebra danios.  Which leads to my next question.  I'm using a Whisper-type filter(I think that's the brand but the more I think about it I'm not sure...it was from before when we had a 10 gallon tank set up..will check when I get home) so the filter is basically a bag with carbon in it that you are supposed to replace when it gets dirty.  I keep hearing about a sponge for bacteria purposes...is that something that I could just drop into my filter box behind the filter so that I can change the filter when dirty but leave the sponge?  Any particular type or size of sponge? Because there was not a sponge with this filter when I got it.  Was going to cyle with fish so I haven't added any ammonia or anything yet, but the water now appears slightly hazy.  I tested both(with drops) and the PH is in the high range but there is no ammonia(obviously).  I used distilled water from the store and then added water conditioner, so per the strip test(which I understand to not be very accurate) I seem to be in the correct range for everything.  Was going to get the zebra danios today but am wary...dont want to kill them.  From what I have told you so far do you think it would be ok to add them if I get Prime to make things easier on them and I check the readings every day until it has fully cycled?  Sorry for the long post!  I read from different sites online and just got more confused! And thanks for any help you can give me. 
 
Gozer_1
  • #2
How long were these glass beads stored? I'd say the smell is from die off of what bacteria and such was living in it. I'd add a bacteria booster (i.e. StressZyme, or Cycle) and give it a bit before adding fish. The dead bacteria and stuff is basically rotting. I believe that will feed a new batch of bacteria. You just need to give it a boost. If your water is getting hazy then, ammonia might be on the rise just not quite detectable yet. The dead stuff will put out some ammonia. OH and yes test strips aren't real great. My advice on the extreme side of safe would be to treat with StressZyme\Cycle, wait 24 hours, and then if the haziness is gone add your 2 Zebras to finish cycling. Stinky water is a sure fire sign of something wrong. Basically what you are smelling is a simple version of swamp gas. When there are not enough aerobic bacteria, anaerobic bacteria are forced to make do. To do this, some anaerobics take over the job of breaking down ammonia and nitrite into nitrate. Nitrate is what anaerobics use instead of oxygen. Unlike aerobic bacteria, when anaerobic bacteria break down ammonia and nitrite, they produce gases like nitrogen and the very smelly methane.

Well enough science for today, hope it helps.
 
poppet
  • #3
HI welcome to fishlore. I have a whisper filter and it has a sponge type filter in front of the carbon bag.
 
sgould
  • #4
If your Whisper does not have a sponge in it, then I would definitely suggest getting one to add to the filter box. My Whispers came with the sponges already installed, in between the filter pad and the front wall of the filter box (underneath the water return). With no sponge, you will have problems every time you change your filter. You should be able to find Whisper sponges sold individually at a fish shop. It would be better to cycle the tank with flakes or ammonia before adding fish. If you do cycle with fish, then the Prime is a good idea.
 
anp73
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
I went to the pet store on my way home today and instead of buying fish I bought Stability. And Prime, for when I do put fish in. (Hopefully Stability and Stresszyme/Cycle are pretty much the same things?). Will definitely wait on adding the fish until I can get a sponge(poppet & sgould: I don't know why mine didnt come with one....its a small filter for 5-10 gallons so maybe only the bigger filters come with the sponge? I kept it from my last attempt at fish a number of years ago, when I knew nothing about all this, so at one point it very well could have had a sponge, though I don't remember ever seeing one. I dunno...at any rate, will definitely go get one to add in!).

Gozer_1: Thanks for the science lesson! Not sure how long the glass beads were stored....a year or so maybe...perhaps she put them in the bag still wet? Swamp gas...rotting....yuck! I really wanted to use new gravel, but she was being kind enough to give me all the stuff that I would need (small heater for the cold months, decorations, etc.) so I didnt want to refuse her. When she finishes with her 10 gallon and I get it, I'll put gravel in that one and do as was suggested on this forum, i.e. tying some glass beads from my then established 5 1/2 gallon aquarium into pantyhose and putting it in the new tank along with a just used filter or the sponge.

Thanks for the advice, all of you. I read lots of pages and got great info but with the glass beads and lack of sponge and all, I wanted to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Great forum, btw. Will definitely be lurking to get all the good info you guys provide.
 
COBettaCouple
  • #6
Welcome to fishlore. we use the flat glass marbles in our tanks and some activated carbon in your filter for a week may clear out the smell, or you could take the beads out and soak them in hot water before putting them back in the tank.

If you can get pure ammonia, go with what sgould said and that might be the best way to cycle the tank fishless. Cycling shortens fish lifespans and that tank would almost be fully stocked with 2 danios.

As far as bacteria products go, the BioSpira is the good one since it has the right type of live bacteria and the only one we'd recommend. It's not easy to find locally usually though. The rest amount to expensive water. We threw out the Cycle after finding that it was creating mini-cycles in our tanks and preventing them from truely cycling.. and sure enough, they finally cycled after we stopped using the cycle. The bacteria that you want in the tank has about a 15-hour lifespan (that's the reason for adding flakes or ammonia every 12 hours when cycling fishless) and even with refrigeration has a short shelf life so the non-refrigerated products may contain bacteria but not the 2 strains that you want. Stability is pretty much the same product as Cycle.

Like sgould said - definitely have some sponge in the tank. You should be able to find sponges at the LFS/LPS and be able to cut it to fit.. or you could get a small sponge filter to work along with your main filter.

No matter how you go, definitely Prime is the best tap water conditioner.
 
anp73
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
I was at Wal-mart today waiting while my oil was being changed and I went to the fish section just to look around....saw the Whisper filters you guys were talking about with the black sponge in it that talked on the box about its 3-way filtration system for healthier fish, etc. Back when I got my filter (must have been 4 years ago...used it for a year or so then stored it and am now using it again), they didnt have those sponges...the design has changed quite a bit too. Anyway, this is sort of a useless post except to say that I see what you guy are talking about and mine definitely did not come with that. Note to self: go to Petsmart after work today and get a sponge!!
 
Gozer_1
  • #8
I work for a golf course where we have 10 small lakes/ponds. We use a product (I can't think of the name right now) that is a suspesion of bacterias that clean up water. I'm not sure if there is a commoly available version but this stuff is of the commercial variety. We get it in 55 and 250 Gallon barrels. After reading the MSDS and doing a little digging I found that StressZyme was very similar. I think the commercial stuff is better. Gonna try it next batch we get. It seems I may have even seen it sold in Gallon jugs. I have been using StressZyme since the beginning and only ever had one ammonia problem. That was not the fault of the StressZyme. My tank has a VERY establish biological filtration section. That's inevitable after it runs for a year. I have never heard of BioSpira so now I'm gonna have to find it and check it out lol. Thanks BettaCouple. That's all I need, to spend MORE time reading about fish online lol
 
COBettaCouple
  • #9
lol.. well, what we're doing after the move is ordering a bunch of sponge filters to put in the cycled tanks until we get a new tank, then we can stick 1 or 2 of them full of good bacteria in the new tank and speed things up.. BioSpira is great, but $$$.. in the long run using big sponge filters for seeding new tanks should be easier on the fish finances and more filtration doesn't hurt.
 
anp73
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
Well, I bought a sponge and ended up getting 2 zebra danios as well. This was on thursday...I've been checking and I guess the little guys have not pooped or anything because there is no ammonia yet and its early sat morning. I've fed them but only a flake or two crushed up a day(that's a lot for two little guys when you crush it up!); didnt want to overdo it. Guess its just a waiting game from here on out. Oh, and the smell is pretty much gone now too, so that all worked out well. My ph level is good..the water is quite soft, though. Should I do something about that? My little guys are quite active and seem fine...just in case the ammonie and such gets bad later I have prime and other things to bring it down until it finishes cycling. Wish me luck!
 
Kevin
  • #11
good luck...your zebras should be fine if you keep the chemistry relatively close to the norm
 
COBettaCouple
  • #12
I don't think the danios are real heavy on waste production so it might take a bit for 2 of them to get ammonia going in a 10 gallon tank but you should see some soon.
 
anp73
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
Well its been a week and a half now and still no ammonia. This is probably due to the fact that my two zebra danios seem to think they are corycats or something in that when they aren't chasing each other around the tank, they are eating fish food out from where it has fallen between the glass beads in their tank. I keep telling them not to be so clean, but they just won't listen. lol!

I went to my mother's house this weekend and down in the basement among all my other boxes she is storing for me I found a box labeled "fish tank stuff". I didnt know I had kept so much stuff from my first unsuccessful fish attempt years ago! Got it home and I had 4 air pumps (I remember at the time I kept buying different pumps to try to find a quiet one...though they all claimed to be, none ended up that way), two filters for 20-40 gallons (one of which is a Whisper and has a sponge...the other one is a Regent and does not), decorations, plants, fish medicine, zeolite(can I put some of that in my filter when I start getting ammonia if I uses a pantyhose foot or something?), aquarium salt, heater, test kits for ammonia and ph(do you think those still work? they never dried up), and bubble wands. It was like christmas!! Of course it reminds me of all the fun we had with our tank, while my mom keeps reminding me of all the trouble I had with it(that's my mom for you...grown and living on my own and she still has to advise when not asked about all the negative things she can think of. lol!) Needless to say, now I'm really eager to get the 10 gallon from my friend that she promised me. I can do so much more with the 10 gal rather than the 5 1/2 gal, though I'll probably keep both set up, just in different rooms. (I'm getting my parents old bedroom set and the large nightstands will do great for a 5 1/2 gal tank!) Funny thing, I got back into this thinking it would give my cat something else to look at while I am gone to work all day, but she could care less about the fish(and she's seem them, because I've made her look!). All she cares about is that when I feed the fish some food that she gets some too. Silly cat...
 
Gozer_1
  • #14
LOL Feel Lucky, I had a cat that fancied himself a fisherman. He snagged 1 med size Clawed Frog, several guppies (they're not real smart are they), and a Pearl Gourami during his expeditions. He would sit on top and watch the gap for the filter until someone swam by. I moved the fish to small temporary tank without him knowing and left the glass top off the other. He had no idea the bath he was gonna get when he jumped up there. After he jumped up, fell in, jumped out, ran away and his fishing days ended then and there. He wouldn't even walk near the tank after that.

As for your tank, it sounds to me like you are doing A.OK. I don't know that you will ever get a real strong ammonia reading, as long as you don't over feed or over stock. Not a lot going on in 5 gals of water. The couple 5 or smaller tanks I've had always cycled really fast. If you are adding any bacterial booster at all, then you might not get any at all. It really depends on your ammonia test kit. Strip tests, I believe, test for free ammonia. That's the bad stuff. You should look for a "Total Ammonia" test kit. You may find that the toxic free ammonia has been turned into into the less harmful ionic ammonia. This is one of the first stages in the nitrogen cycle. If you have a somewhat high "Total Ammonia", but nil on free ammonia then you are probably midcycle. If you get a reading for Total ammonia but it is a low reading, then it is likely that your cycle has pretty well come around. That bad smell you had would have started the cycle. The nitrogen cycle is part of organic digestion or decomposition. Bad smell = decaying biomatter
Decaying biomatter = Organic digestion/decomposition. If the smell is gone then I'd say your bio foam pad is probably getting a little goo on it now. Goo = Bacteria. That Bacteria is taking care of your ammonia for you. Keep in mind that I am not suggesting in any way that stop testing. I could be wrong. I'm only passing on what has been my experience in the small tank and extremely large pond world. Try solving an algae and weed problem in a 3 surface acre pond that wasn't dug deep enough. lol Biggest powerheads you ever saw.lol 200 GPM
 
anp73
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
Too funny about your cat! And thanks for your response; all responses appreciated!

Definitely don't envy you with regards to the pond. I think an aquarium is hard, so I can only imagine a pond!!
 
COBettaCouple
  • #16
LOL Feel Lucky, I had a cat that fancied himself a fisherman. He snagged 1 med size Clawed Frog, several guppies (they're not real smart are they), and a Pearl Gourami during his expeditions. He would sit on top and watch the gap for the filter until someone swam by. I moved the fish to small temporary tank without him knowing and left the glass top off the other. He had no idea the bath he was gonna get when he jumped up there. After he jumped up, fell in, jumped out, ran away and his fishing days ended then and there. He wouldn't even walk near the tank after that.

i'd have loved to see that!
 
Gozer_1
  • #17
If only I had a camera at the time. He learned his lesson though. lol




I'm glad to help in anyway I can. The nitrogen cycle has been an area of particular interest for me. Dealing with the ponds we try not to put any type of chemicals in the water so we try biological solutions first.
 

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