Inherited a 28 gallon tank, questions..

  • #1
Hello All,

As a bit of background, I was a fish-keeper many years ago but gave the hobby up 15 years ago for a variety of reasons. I'm not exactly a newbie but from reading some of the articles here I'm guessing the hobby has changed quite a bit in the last 15 years. At the beginning of the month I moved into a new apartment and inherited a 28 gallon tank (30"x12"x18") left by the previous tenant.

No live plants in this tank but it came with the following fish:

6 Guppies (1 male, 5 female)
2 Neon Tetras
1 Red-Eye Tetra
1 Rainbow Shark
1 Pleco

I bought a test kit once I was settled in and tested for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and PH. The readings on ammonia and nitrite were both zero, while the PH is high (8.0) and the nitrates came back at 80ppm. I did a large (20 gallon) water change, followed by another small (7 gallons) water change two days later, then retested the water. The nitrates came down to 10ppm while the other readings remained the same. The temperature is maintained at 76 and the aquarium is lit via a timer for 9 hours a day.

So, with the preliminaries out of the way I have a few questions:

1) Is the high PH anything to worry about? I maintained aquariums in the past with higher PH readings (a consequence of the hard water around these parts) and never had a problem, but things seemed to be more informal in those days.

2) The guppies always seem to be "panting" for lack of a better word. Their gills move very fast, almost as if the water is oxygen deprived. Is this normal behavior for them? The aquarium is aerated and none of the other fish exhibit this behavior. Aside from this behavior they seem relatively healthy. I forgot how spunky and fearless guppies are; they've already learned to associate me with food and follow me around whenever I'm in the room with them.

3) Is this aquarium large enough to support a few more fish once I know it's stable? I'd like to add either a school of zebra fish or a few cory cats. I wouldn't look to add anything beyond that but it would be nice to have one more species in this setup.

4) Now that I have the nitrate levels down what would be a good water rotation schedule? I was thinking of trying 6 gallon water changes once a week and seeing where the nitrate levels stabilize at.

5) Should I be using aquarium salt? I never did in the past but a few people have recommended it to me. If yes, then as a second question, would I have to worry about that poisoning my houseplants if I want to water them with tank water? I was thinking that aquarium water provides the perfect free food source for my plants but I don't want to kill them with salt accumulation.

6) Building off question #2, does this aquarium actually need to be aerated? The air pump is incredibly annoying and I never bothered with aeration back in the day. If it is required then I'd love some suggestions as to ultra-quiet air pumps!

7) Anyone in the Binghamton NY area with a larger aquarium who wants to take the pleco off my hands when he outgrows this setup? He's still fairly small but I doubt he'll be content in this size tank indefinitely.
  • #2
It seems like you got all the basics down. Your pH is fine. Fish can adapt to various pH if acclimated properly. pH is only important if you want to breed fish.
Are your guppies gills red? Previous ammonia poisoning might be the cause.
For your tank, I would rehome the rainbow shark and the pleco. The shark will grow more territorial and mean as it matures and will potentially harm your other fish. The pleco, if its a common, will grow way to big. Not to mention they are waste factories. Before adding more species of fish I would first up the number of the fish you have. Most tetras and rasboras are schoolers which means they do better in groups of 5-6+. Keeping them in schools will reduce stress and allow your fish to feel more safe and in result, become more active.
People usually recommend 20-30% water changes weekly. Whichever you choose, I would recommend doing a water change once every week as fish love fresh water.
Aquarium salt in most cases, is useless. JMO

Glad to see your asking before acting! Good luck!
  • #3
Yeah you got the basics down. That's great and welcome!

Ok here's the deal, the Shark needs a much larger tank as well as they do grow to about 6" and can get more territorial as they mature. This is why larger tanks are better. At least a 55 gallon long but larger is better.

As for the oxygen, if fish hangout near the surface this can be indication of lack of oxygen. Warmer water also has less oxygen. If your filter can give enough surface movement then you can try shutting the air pump off and observe the fishes behavior. Its the surface agitation that provides oxygen.

For a maint. Schedule I'd change at least 30% weekly with a gravel vac. Nothing beats freshwater. Rinsing filter media when needed to get the gunk off.

Salt isn't necessary.
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
I hate to let the shark go; I love them precisely because of their "spunk". Thus far he doesn't seem to be bothering the other fish very much, he just hides in a hallowed out log whenever the light is on. The most I've seen him do is chase the guppies a bit when they get near the entrance to his log. At night he comes out and doesn't seem to care about the other fish. Long term I know I'll have to make a decision about him; if I have good luck with this tank I'd like to procure a 55 gallon and move him into that. Can't think about that until I have a handle on this one though!

The guppies don't exclusively hang out near the surface. They are just always "breathing" hard. None of the other fish behave this way. Perhaps they did suffer gill damage from the previous owner? I don't see any obvious signs but I can't exactly look at them under a microscope. They seem healthy enough otherwise, I just don't want them to be stressed if I can avoid it!

I wouldn't mind having some more neons but I'm not inclined to procure more red-eyes. From my previous experience I recall them being somewhat nippy towards fish with long fins. My only concern with the neons would be the PH of my water; aren't they soft/acidic water fish by nature? The pleco is history as soon as I can find him a home; I always had good luck keeping a handle on algae in my tanks with routine water changes and never needed a pleco to do it for me.

Anything else I'm overlooking here? As I said, I'm not exactly a newbie, but it has been a long time.
  • #5
If you acclimate them slowly, the neons will be fine. pH only really matters when you want to breed. If you don't want to add more red eyes, I suggest you just rehome them. Btw tetras known to nip usually mellow out when they are in a larger school.
An air pump isn't necessary IMO. A good filter with a high output of water breaking the surface is usually enough.
Chicken farmer
  • #6
Most fish these days are tank breed, well somewhat, and they are not as touchy to the ph. I used to think I could only have fish with the same ph as my water, after learning more I found out pretty much any fish can live comfortably in my water.

So pretty much any fish will work. Unless they are wild caught. Usually if you take it slowly they will get used to your ph.
  • #7
Welcome back to the world of fishkeeping.

I have no problem keeping neons in my 8+pH water, but the fish store I got them from gets healthy, slowly acclimated stock.

If you can try to identify the type of pleco you have, you'll be able to find out whether it is appropriate to your tank or not. As mentioned, a common pleco is not appropriate, however, bristlenose and clown plecos are also widely available these days, and would probably be fine in your tank (if you have a bit of driftwood in there for them).

I would re-home the red-eye tetra if it seems to be causing any problems at all. My experience with a school of them didn't go so well.

Also, know that with a rainbow shark, growing and needing space may be more of a short term thing than a long term one. My rainbow shark grew faster than any other fish I've had.

If the stock in this tank was reduced to guppies and neons, then a nice school of smaller cory cats would fit. As long as the rainbow shark remains (and pending ID of the pleco), the tank is overstocked, and shouldn't have any additions IMO.
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Well, I lost one of the female guppies today. I'm thinking that girlsbeforefish is dead-on about the previous ammonia poisoning. I observed them more closely today at feeding time and noticed some red/inflammation in their gills. I'm not sure if anything can be done about this? None of the other fish in the tank exhibit this behavior and my water tests are all good, so I don't think it's anything I've done in the short time I've had custody of the tank.

ID'ing the pleco will be easier said than done; he rarely comes out during the day and when he does will run away at the first sign of movement outside the tank. I have gotten him to come out at night to eat algae wafers but even at that he's still very skittish.

Incidentally, what's the rule of thumb for aquarium stocking these days? I vaguely recall a formula from my previous experience that incorporated the surface area of the water. In theory it was based off oxygen exchange rates -- I remember long aquariums had a higher number than tall ones of the same size.
  • #9
Theres really nothing that can be done about ammonia poisoning. From what I read, it is permanent. All you can do now is provide clean water and a happy place for your fish to live out the rest of its life which I see you are doing.

There isn't really a rule of thumb about stocking fish. Stocking is about the bio-load of the fish, if the fish are compatible with each other and the amount of space you have. Filtration takes a role in this as well.

Btw, the inch per gallon rule is bogus if you hear someone preaching it. Would you keep a 12 inch oscar in a 12 gallon tank? Obviously not.
  • #10
The old rule of one inch of fish per gallon of water is not used by many any more due to it really didn’t even work very well with fish of different shapes. There are just too many variables to set up a hard fast rule. The type of fish, the surface area of the tank, the total gallons of water in the tank and any sump, filtration, aeration, the number of live plants, and other things come into play when trying to figure out if a tank will be able to support the fish and their bio load.

Everyone seems to want to fully stock a tank because they believe it looks better but to me personally a properly under stocked healthy tank has more appeal to me. The next biggest mistake people make when stocking a tank is stocking it too quickly. I have found that I can get away with a lot of things if you give a tanks filtration time to adjust to a new bio load. Sometimes I am forced to over stock a tank for a period of time due to needing some place for juveniles to go. When this happens I only add a few fish to a tank each week so that I don’t impact the bio load much. This gives the tank’s filter time to adjust to the small increase in the bio load without causing a minI cycle. I do admit that most of my tanks are set up with more than one filter to help provide more area for the bacteria to grow.

I guess what I am trying to say her is slowly stock your tank to a acceptable level that you will be happy with and as my wife says “Less is More”.
  • #11
hello tchaika, and welcome back to fish keeping. It's nice to find a another bingo resident here on fishlore
I'd like to recommend creature comforts on front street near rt 81; their prices are very reasonable, and they usually have a fairly good stock of whatever I need, even if they do sell dyed and tattooed fish
They might be a place that would accept the fish you'd like to rehome; they also should be able to help you identify your pleco, however it sounds like you're pretty set on rehoming him. If creature comforts won't take them, livingston's animal kingdom might be a place to try; I don't shop there as much but they may accept fish. If not, there's always Pampered Pets at the mall in Ithaca (about an hour and a half from Bingo), or Countrymax in Cortland (about an hour from Bingo, with a fairly nice selection, one of my favorite places to window shop).
I've found larger tanks easier to manage than smaller tanks, in all honesty, just because everything is more dilute and takes longer to build up. If you do want to keep your rainbow shark, I'd recommend a 75, rather than a 55, only because the standard 75G is deeper (front to back, not top to bottom) and FAR easier to clean and move things around in. However, I've read that rainbow sharks can be aggressive towards other bottom feeders, which might make corys an either-or option no matter how large of a tank you get (perhaps someone who has experience keeping these fish species together can provide you with more reliable advice on this one).
It's possible that your fish got ammonia poisoning during the flood in september; there was a great deal of contamination in the water supply even after the boil-water was lifted, which probably was worse on fish than it was on people. The water here is indeed hard enough to cut with a knife (vinegar is my best friend, I have to clean my coffee maker all the time), but I find that keeping a small snail population in my tanks really helps keep my calcium concentration from getting out of control (just be sure not to over feed or your snail population will go crazy, and keep an eye on your water parameters); I just fish out the larger snails and plop them into my loach tank to be lunch, and I scoop out all the empty shells before they can break back down and up the Ca concentration again.
Hope that helps, and feel free to PM me if you have any area-specific questions!

edit: Don't buy snails! What a waste of money. If you want to go the snail route, just pick up an anubias from petsmart (they're all wonderfully infested with snails, and their anubias prices aren't unreasonable, while most of the other plants they offer can be found in better condition and for better prices at the smaller LFSs around town).

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