inherited an active aquarium...and perhaps some problems

  • #1
I am living overseas, in China, and just moved into a new apartment that has an active aquarium. The landlord simply told me to feed the fish daily and change the water monthly. Knowing nothing about aquariums (but having always wanted one), I've been doing some online research and I have a few concerns... First, the basics of the tank;

- around 35 gallons
- working submersible heater that is keeping the water around 77 F
- something that seems to be promoting air flow in the tank
- a filter of some sort that is in the tank - but not functioning


- 1 clown loach, 3 Dwarf Gourami (2 orange, 1 red), 5 Golden Chinese Algae Eaters, some ghost shrimp

My concerns are

1) Should there only be 1 clown loach? Aren't they better in groups? But is the tank even big enough for one? Let alone 2 more?

2) One of the Gourami is considerably larger than the other 2 and spends most of the day chasing the other 2 around. The smaller 2 spend 90% of their time hiding in the corner of the tank.

3) One of the Algae Eaters is huge and darts around the bottom of the tank scaring the other 4

4) I have no idea if the filter should be working, if its needed, etc...

5) The gravel, rocks, and layout etc... are pretty much a mess and I would love to start over from scratch. I don't know if this is possible in a tank that already has fish though.

Any advice on how to get this aquarium on the right track?
  • #2
Welcome to FishLore! We will be glad to help you get this tank back in shape!

1. You are correct in that clowns do better in groups, and the tank is really too small for clown loaches. You can get by with having them in a smaller tank for a while because they are slow growers, but just for future reference, you really shouldn't buy fish that will outgrow a tank. Fish choices should be based on the adult size of the fish. I know you inherited this fish, but you may decide to change some of the inhabitants in the tank, so keep this in mind. Try and trade in the clown loach for credit at the fish store, or see if you have any fellow hobbyists in your area who might want to buy or trade it from you.

2. Gouramis are notorious bullies. My experience has been with them that the dominant one will relentlessly chase the others until they die from stress. You may want to try to trade in the 2 being chased, and keep the one if you wish. If you trade in the dominant one, one of the other 2 will just take over that behavior.

3. I know on the algae eaters you speak of, there are 2 species that are similar in appearance, but one species is much more aggressive toward other fish, and they are not very good algae eaters, especially as they get older. You may want to consider trading them in also and getting a bristlenose pleco instead for algae control.

4. Filtration of some sort is definitely vital to the survival of your tank. If nothing has changed since you inherited it, my guess would be that the filtration is an undergravel filter powered by an air pump. It is pulling all of the waste down under the gravel. These filters were popular in the 70's, but now are not recommended by fellow hobbyists unless you use it in conjunction with some other type of filter, and reverse the flow so that the water comes up through the gravel and trash is pushed up to the other filter.

5. It sounds like the tank was not maintained like we recommend, so at this time, I would like to recommend that you get ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and ph tests. The aquarium pharmaceuticals master test kit is the best bang for your buck in the U.S., but might be difficult or expensive in China to get. If you want to change stuff out, you can definitely do that. That would also be a good time to either remove the undergravel filter (if you indeed have one), or reverse the flow and add another filter. With or without an undergravel filter, sponge filters are cheap and easy to use. First, take back or find good homes for the fish you no longer want in the tank. Make sure the ph of your tank water doesn't differ more than .2 on the ph reading. Then the day you plan on changing out the gravel, remove all the fish to a bucket or container that has water that is the same temperature as your tank. You may have to add some of the tank water if there is a substantial ph difference or you could shock your fish. You will also need to have a filter of some sort running in the container with your fish, or at least an air stone, but this is only if your fish will be temporarily housed for a couple of hours this way. Get a large enough bucket so any decorations you wish to keep can be placed in there also to save the live bacteria on them. Make sure your water in the bucket has been been treated for chlorine and/or chloramines before adding the fish or decorations. I would also grab up a good handful of the gravel and put it in an old nylon stocking and place that in the bucket also. This will be extra bacteria which will help you seed your tank once you change stuff out. Do what you plan on doing with the tank as quickly as you can, and don't use any chemicals if possible when doing so. If you use bleach, you will have to rinse, rinse, rinse, to make sure you don't leave any residue in your tank. This could be deadly to your fish. Once you've got it done the way you want it, fill it back up with water (always treat the water you add to your tank), heat it to the right temperature, and then slowly add your filters, decorations, gravel bag, and your fish. Keep close tabs on the ammonia and nitrites for the next few days. It will take time to get your bacteria level back up to be able to keep the ammonia and nitrites under control, so if the numbers go above 1 on either, you need to do a water change ASAP, or your fish will start getting sick and could die. If you need more information about the nitrogen cycle, just click on the link in my signature titled, "FishLore Articles for Beginners". It will help you a lot. Once you get everything done, post back with pictures if possible, and we will help you with maintaining a healthy tank. Later on when everything is settled, I would recommend weekly water changes instead of monthly.
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  • #3
Wow. Thanks for all the great info.

I would love to just start over from scratch, but my biggest problem is going to be finding homes for the fish that I inherited. For one, I'm not sure how attached the landlord is to them, though I don't think he would mind if when I moved out he had a beautiful aquarium with healthy, well-adjusted fish. I'm also a little bummed to have to give the clown loach up for adoption - he is just awesome.

I guess I'll start by finding some shops nearby and seeing if the owners are interested in letting me do some trading. The landlord might not be too excited about me starting his aquarium over again, but it will drive me nuts trying to maintain a "bad" aquarium. If I can do that, I may be able to start completely fresh.
  • #4
I know it's hard to give up fish once you have them at home. I'd have a hard time selling or giving away my babies if my angels ever quit eating their eggs.

There are quite a few loaches that would be better suited for your tank, and are also awesome. I have 4 yo yo loaches in one of my tanks, and I think their personality is similar to a clown loach, but they don't get as big. You will also see quite an activity level between them when you have them in at least groups of three. They seem to play tag all day, stopping every few minutes to poke in the gravel looking for snails. loaches is a great site to learn about other loaches. ;D
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Ok, so a quick update.

I was suprised to find that there is an entire street here in Suzhou with nothing but freswater/saltwater aquarium shops. It was unbelievable, I spent hours going into every shop and was amazed at everything that was available. Finding dealers to adopt the old fish was no problem.

A buddy and I spent the day emptying out the old tank and starting over as planned. It looks terrific now, with all new gravel, plants, coral, rocks, etc... and I can't wait to finish cycling the tank so I can start adding some new inhabitants. Our only regret was forgetting to take a "before" picture so we could compare the difference. I'll post some picks of the new setup as soon its ready for fish - but I can tell you the comparison isn't even close.

Buying fish is going to be a blast too, because in addition to the enormous selection the prices are unbelievable. I'm not sure how much these fish cost back home, but I can't imagine they are this cheap. Neon Tetras are less than a nickel and a clown loach runs about a $1.25.
  • #6
Yes I had heard there were whole streets dedicated to the sale of fish there. and yes those are incredibly cheap prices. 1-1/2 inch clown loaches can run close to$7 here.
Have fun shopping for fish(keep us in mind- we will be drooling ). Now is the fun time, while the tank is cycling you can make plans, window shop, take notes on what you want to put in that tank. If you are like me you will change your mind several times before its over good luck!
  • #7
good luck commonradical! sounds like quite a project! before you know it you'll be addicted and getting more tanks....especially with so many cheap fish close by!!

looking forward to the pictures! shame there's no "before" pictures though!!
  • #8
Wow! I am so excited for you! Keep us posted. I know the tank will be beautiful!

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