Introduction, Ambitious Plans; Advice Needed!

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by eddiam, Aug 3, 2014.

  1. eddiamNew MemberMember

    Hi, everyone. :) I'm new to this site, so I'm still getting the hang of things!

    Well first off, I started keeping fish about a year ago, as they were the only easily accessible pet that I wasn't allergic to. I had 2 mollies and a deformed Mickey Mouse Platy in a 2.5 gallon.

    Yeah, I know, pretty bad, haha. But I'm proud of those fish. I was told the Platy would live a week due to her deformities, but she lived 4 months, fighting to the very end. My mollies, who I grew to love and cherish, lived 11 months. They started in an unheated, 2.5 gal; they died in a 10 gallon, with a heater and filter, 3 days apart from one another. I believe it was due to nitrates building up (a brown algae infestation), but I still miss them like heck.

    Aissa and Araceli, their names; a black molly & a Dalmatian Lyretail. They were the absolute best of friends and followed each other everywhere.

    They were the type of fish that make you smile, not because of their appearances, or how big they are, but because you actually loved them and you could swear they loved you back. They were the goofiest little fish, full of personality and charisma. I even have a picture where Aissa was seemingly hypnotized by the light on the heater.

    When they died, it was a hard blow. I only had one fish remaining, a silver molly I had adopted 5 months prior, a challenging, hearty girl named Perri.

    Don't get me wrong, I love and adore Perri in her stubborn, frustrating ways, but Aissa and Araceli... They were something special. They're the reason I'm striving to improve and continue with this hobby.

    Nowadays, I'm the owner of Perri, Rita (orange balloon molly), Anti (veil-tail betta, she resides in the 2.5 gallon) and 3 comet goldfish I rescued, Big Red, Double, and Cappy. :)

    (Note; yes, I understand that goldfish shouldn't be housed in a 10 gal, and that some people feel that's too small for a molly, much less 2, and I know that's too small for goldfish; I'm not making excuses. I can't give them away anywhere, I'm not going to, and I'm doing the best I can for them. I can't go out and buy a billion+ gallon tank, as well, I don't have the money nor the room. They were put in a public pool, chlorine and all, as a game to catch them. Well, I caught 9, and the last 3 are the survivors. They're now in an actual home with a filter, food, heater, and love. I'm doing my best, and they are okay. ~ I know you guys must hear these types of stories all the time, and get sick of them pretty quickly, and the entire "oh they're just fish" thing. I'm not one of those people. I get it, I've come a long way, and I still have a lot more to go.)

    - - -

    Now that you have some knowledge of my history, I need your help!

    I've been saving up, I'd like to upgrade to a 20 gallon. Realistically, it'd most likely be around the winter when it finally happens, but I like to plan these things out. ~

    Any advice or comments on my following plans would be very appreciated! ~

    - - -

    The tank would just be a normal, square 20 gal, which is as big as I can go (parents' rules). I'd like to get a filter for a 30 or 40 gallon tank. It'd just be regular ol' gravel, with some ceramic pots and fish - specific decor, and maybe an artificial plant or two. I want to get a background for my tank, as well, as I've heard that helps with the fish feeling more secure. Plus it looks a lot prettier, haha. :)

    I want to change the diet for my fish, and seeing as I want to keep strictly Mollies in this 20 gal (with the exception of my rescue comets); I want to buy sinking algae wafers, bloodworms, and a plant/vegetable based fish flake.

    I would absolutely love to upgrade my lighting to fluorescent.

    I'd like to try live plants, because I've heard such great things about them. I would love to start out with a Java Fern or two, (and a moss ball if that counts?). I've heard that a dirted (dirtied?) tank is superb for plants, but have no idea what they are at all or how to set one up, much less maintain one. I found out about them when a user on Instagram posted a picture of clay and soil, and told me it was for this type of tank. I'm also unsure of whether to get a CO2 booster/fertilizer or not, as well.

    I've heard that since lava rocks are porous, they help with filtration? Somehow? So I'd like to have a couple of those, since they're like $3.

    I'm yet to pay any sort of attention, really, to pH or stuff of that sort. I basically just check the temperature on my heater, replace filter cartridges when they get dirty, and do water changes (scooping up water with a large cup and replacing it with new water) when the mood hits me, which I'm aware all that's not good. So I'd like to get a test kit, so I can start and aim for the perfect environment. (I learned everything I needed to know about aiming for the pH, hardness, etc from the species profile for mollies on this website. That was extremely helpful ~ however, I'm unsure of how to raise or lower my pH.)

    I'd like to start adding aquarium salt to my tank, as well, as I've heard it does mollies a world of good and is a good buffer. :) However, I've heard like... A lot of different rates to add it and such (like 1 teaspoon / gallon, others say per 5, etc.) I'm not sure which is best.

    I'd like to add some Ghost Shrimp, as well, to take care of any algae (plus invertebrates are cool), and some Nerite snails, but I'm not sure if the snails are a good idea. I've heard they can eat away at plants, anyways.

    I know a lot of people keep Cory Catfish in their tanks, however I'm not sure whether they'd benefit my tank or not. I know they need to be kept in numbers.

    - - -

    As well as that, I'm pretty clueless on other things. I could use a lot of help w/ learning about cycling (a watered down version would be nice), the correct method to do water changes, and cleaning my tank and keeping it crystal clear. I can handle scrubbing algae and such, no problem, but I'm talking about the leftover food and waste that sinks to the gravel and isn't sucked up by the filter. I've heard of something called a syphon and a water vacuum...? Some (well, a lot, actually) insight on that would be very helpful.

    - - -

    Well, if you read this entire post, thank you ~ I hope you guys can help me out with learning about these things, and I hope that I can find my place within this forum. :)
  2. poeticinjusticesWell Known MemberMember

    Hello there. And welcome :)

    I've read through your post and I'm not going to spend a lot of time telling you things you already know. The first thing I will stress is the nitrogen cycle. Those words should be linked to an article in blue. But, the watered down version, as you say, is this - Fish produce ammonia via their own bodies. Ammonia also results from any decaying organic matter in the tank. Missed food, fish poop, dying plant matter. Ammonia is deadly toxic in its own right and also stresses the fish which makes it vulnerable to other infections. In time, a bacteria grows which metabolizes ammonia as a food source and releases a by-product called nitrite. Also deadly toxic and stress-producing. Both ammonia and nitrite can produce complications in your tank even at low levels. The only safe level of either is 0ppm. Anyway, eventually a second bacteria develops which metabolizes the nitrites into nitrATES. This nitrogenous compound is FAR less toxic and is removed through regular, partial water changes. Ideally, we develop our water change and gravel vacuuming routine around keeping those nitrates below 20ppm. With goldfish, even appropriately stocked, that usually means at least twice a week if not more.

    Lava rocks help because they are porous creating more surface area for bacteria to live on, but they will primarily live on your filter media, which is why many of us do little changing of the media unless absolutely necessary.

    The bio-load of a fish varies across species. That is, how much ammonia they produce. Goldfish are among the largest waste producers in the aquarium world which increases exponentially with their rapid growth rate. Ignoring the environmental/swimming space/growth room needs of these comets, I still would not recommend you put anything else in this tank other than what you already have. As it is, your filter is likely to become overwhelmed. The hard truth is that you will need to step up your maintenance routine considerably. Vacuuming the gravel is an important part of water change routine and with that many fish in a 20g, you're going to need to do large water changes with gravel vacuuming several times a week just to keep the nitrates under control once cycled. Until the tank is cycled, you'll need to do MASSIVE daily water changes.

    There are a few different ways that you can cycle your tank. The most dangerous is done completely naturally with water changes daily/PRN and a water conditioner like Prime which also temporarily converts low amounts of ammonia/nitrite to non-toxic forms. This process takes 6-8 weeks at the minimum but, in your case, please be prepared for it to take much longer or, possibly, never fully cycle at all. You can try to account for this by adding HEAVY filtration with lots of media for bacteria to grow on. The other method is via a bottled bacteria product called Tetra SafeStart. If your filter can handle the bioload, it should cycle your tank in 14 days, used properly. Lastly is the fishless method. By and large the safest but also takes the longest.

    There are LOTS of other things we can get into here but the most important is the cycle. Hands down. It's the cornerstone of successful fish-keeping.

    I'm sorry to sound harsh, I just want to prepare you for the reality of keeping these fish in a 20g tank. It will require commitment and diligence and, even then, you're likely to run into trouble when the fish stress from over-crowding or stunt from not having the room they need.

    I understand you're in a situation where nothing more can be done, you've certainly done better for these fish than would have been done for them otherwise, and I'm not going to stand here and judge you for it, god knows I do not have the right as I've had enough of my own issues in this hobby, but I am going to be realistic with you because I believe you deserve that from us. This will not be an easy tank to cycle and you are likely to face a number of secondary complications due to the crowding and species compatibility issues. At the barest minimum, please do not add anything else living to this tank other than what you have unless it's plants, which will help maintain water quality.

    May I suggest, also, that you consider a 20g long-style tank rather than a regular 20g? This is a longer, shallower tank of the same volume that will allow the fish to better utilize the room they do have. Comets will prefer to swim the length of the tank rather than the height. And, they're quite sleek looking tanks, if I do say so myself :)

    I wish you the best of luck and please post any questions you have. We do our best with what we've got and, right now, knowledge is power for you :)
  3. eddiamNew MemberMember

    That was very helpful, thank you so much! :)

    I'll be sure to do more looking into the nitrogen cycle, for sure, but thank you for giving me the basic run - down. I do have a question, though; how do you know when your tank is fully cycled?

    In all honesty, I'll most likely end up using the TetraSafeStart, but could you explain more about the fishless method? I want the best for these little guys, especially my Comets.

    Speaking of which, I'd like to be able to double up on filtration, perhaps with a sponge filter or something simple. Does a bubble wall/air stone/air pump help with providing oxygen, as well? I've only briefly looked at those, but if it'll help, I'm all for it. (Oh gosh... By the sound of it, I'm going to need a LOT of electric outlets, haha!)

    I'll definitely consider a 20 gal long, I've seen pictures of them, I'm sure I can find a place that carries them, or on Craigslist or eBay. :) And I definitely understand with not adding anymore fish, I'll be sure to do so.

    And! Don't worry about sounding harsh, you're completely fine. :) I need help and advice, and I certainly know things need to be improved with my tanks! :p
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2014
  4. valauValued MemberMember

    You will know when your tank is fully cycled when your ammonia and your nitrite levels are both at 0, and not immediately following a water change. This means that the bacteria is converting the ammonia into nitrite, and then nitrate as fast as it is being produced. It is normal to have a low nitrate reading in your tank.

    Your comets should be fine, even in a tank that is cycling. They're very hardy fish. When cycling, it's a good idea to feed less. Feeding a small amount every two days will keep ammonia levels lower and be safest for the fish. Don't worry your fish won't starve. They can survive weeks without being fed. Comets will eventually outgrow a 20 gallon tank as they can get up to about a foot in length, but you should be fine for now.

    After your tank is successfully cycled, you can add other fish to your aquarium slowly. The key to keeping your fish healthy will be to maintain stable and healthy water parameters and temperature.
  5. petaddictionWell Known MemberMember

    Hi I'll try to help you out with some of these questions. :)
    I've found that when I first started out I watched tons of videos on youtube. This helps so you can actually see what we are talking about.
    First of all a water syphon or vacuum is used to remove the waste from the bottom of the tank. It's basically like a water version of a real life vacuum. As you use it water comes out as well as the waste that you suck up. Then you can do water changes and get rid of the waste at the same time. This meaning you should get a couple buckets to use for aquarium use only so the water from the syphon has a place to go that isn't on the ground. :)... make sure the hose doesn't fall out of the bucket.
    To help you understand the nitrogen cycle a little better, get on youtube and watch videos such as "nitrogen cycle in your fish tank" from cichlid Shane.
    To know when your tank is fully cycled, you need to test the water. I know you don't have much money to spend right now so petsmart tests water for free. If you do get your water tested at a LFS or CPS they might just tell you "oh your levels are good" or "oh something is off just put this in and it will be fixed". Don't let them do that. First of all if they give you a product to buy for it, don't buy it. You probably just need to do a water change but check with us first. 2nd, Ask them to give you your levels so we can help you figure out problems on here. :)
    I'm not trying to sound down, but you will run into problems because of your stocking. If you can buy your own kit to test your water, that would be tremendously better. Most people here recommend API liquid master test kit. It comes with all you need ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and ph tests.
    Once you do test your water, you want the levels to look like this. 0 ammonia, 0nitrite, and you want there to be some nitrates. This will mean you are cycled. Once you decide how you are going to cycle your tank, come back on here so we can explain what you have to do.
    There's fishless cycle(no fish), Tetra SafeStart/bacteria additives(good bacteria that eat ammonia&nitrite), and natural cycle(done by WC, I strongly don't recommend).
    If you fishless cycle, an easy explanation is you add liquid ammonia(with no additives) and eventually the bacteria will grow and turn that ammonia into nitrites, and then other bacteria will grow to turn the nitrite into nitrates. It's just like the other cycles just without fish in it so they don't have to face the toxic levels of ammonia and nitrite. If you decide to go this way, just post a new thread and we will explain how to do this better. :)
    Yes, airstones provide oxygen for the fish. Also I would highly recommend live plants if possible. I'm not sure what plants Goldie's will and will not tear up so you'll have to check with poeticinjustices with that one.
    Did I read your 10 gallon has all your fish in it now? (except for the betta?) Did I read that right?

    If so, why not leave the mollies in the 10 gallon and move the Goldie's to the 20 all by themselves. These conditions & sizes still aren't ideal but it's better than all of them in the 20 gallon. I wouldn't get any more fish. Try to accommodate your current fishies needs first. :) I know your situation isn't ideal but I know you can provide your fish with the right stuff and I'm happy you are trying your best for your fishies health. Good luck! I hope one day you'll be able to have that billion+ gallon tank you were talking about. Haha.

    p.s. Comets grow really big so maybe you could eventually move them into a pond? Then you don't have to buy a massive tank for them, they can just go in a pond.

    Sent from my iPhone using Fish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2014

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