Hello Everyone, Welcome to the Ultimate Guide to Starting a Fresh Water Tank. There are many people on this forum who probably have more knowledge than me, but for the past few weeks I have been researching freshwater fish, so I decided to write a guide based on my knowledge for you all to save you time researching. I hope you enjoy. Please note, any conditions are assumed when writing this guide. If your conditions do not meet this, you can change things out as you wish. Everything here can be molded based on your conditions. We will assume you have a $1000 budget and a place for your tanks. Your tank should be a freshwater, tropical, community tank. You should also shop and petco, and have pals rewards. If you want some extra help, feel free to post a question or comment, and I, or another member will reply to the best of our abilities. There is no such thing as a bad question. Also, I normally wouldn't have time to write this, but I'm going to Lake Tahoe today, so I opened it in a new tab, and began typing, and then published when I got internet. This means that it may take me a day or two to reply to your questions, because I don't always have this much time. Ok, so you have, for a variety of reasons, been introduced to fish keeping. You have fallen in love with it, and as a result, came to this forum to learn more about your hobby. You then set aside a budget of $1500 (we probably won't use all this), and decide to go with a 55 gallon tank. With that, you begin your venture in the fish keeping hobby. Please also note that prices may not be exact and can vary based on location. The first thing you need to do is get a 55g tank, and equipment for it. I recommend heading of the pet co and buying a 55g kit. The kit costs $120 w/ pals rewards, and $200 w/out, so make sure to sign up for it. You just need to fill out some basic information, and your done, you get discounts for that purchase also! For this guide we assume you have pals rewards. -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit Next, you want to plan for the future. Fish keeping is all about working in the present, yet planning for the future. Fish keeping is rewarding, yet not an overly fast hobby. Your fish can take years to mature, yet interesting things can pop up in the moment, part of what makes fish keeping so exciting. With that introduction, the next thing you need to do is buy a 2(10g) kits from pet co. The reason you need these 2 tanks are for being quarantine tank and a fry tank. The quarantine tank holds new fish so if they have disease(s), they can show them before being introduced to the rest of the aquarium, while the fry tank holds baby fish. -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit. Great, you now have your tanks the filter, and basic supplies all provide in your kit. Your hobby is truly on its way to being established. Now, we need to give your tank a bit of look. To start, we will need some gravel. Gravel is essential to all tanks in my opinion, besides possibly a fry tank (though we will get gravel for our fry tank). It holds food, which can be sucked out by a gravel vac (we will get this later.), and provides a nice solid surface for the fish. Plus, it also give surface for your plants to adhere to. You have 75 gallons tanks to put gravel to put in. From my experience you should generally purchase around 1 pound of gravel/gallon, even though the backs of the gravel bags say you should purchase 2 pounds of gravel/gallon. So you need to purchase 75 pounds of gravel. Gravel also costs ~$0.75/pound, which comes out to around $60 of gravel -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel Now we need some plants. For new fish keeper's I highly recommend fake plants, just because live plants can present a variety of costs and problems. Fake plants, look nice and work great. So, now we have 2(10) gallon tanks and a 55 gallon tank we need to plants. We shouldn't need a very large number of plants since we will also be putting in decor. For the 55 gallon, we want 2 large plants, $6.99/each. 2 medium plants, $3.99/each, and 12 small plants, $3.99/6 pack. That comes out to $30 in plants for your 55 gallon. For your quarantine tank, you will want 4 medium plants, and 6 small plants, for a total of $20. Plants are great at making your new fish feel safe. And lastly, your fry tank. This is where we begin to rack up some costs in plants. The entire bottom 4-6 inches of your tank should be planted to provide hiding for your fry to keep the parents from eating them. Try to put about a half an inch of room between plants so your fry have room to hide and shade. Try to make it look a little uneven though, so it looks natural. You will want around 90 small plants, or 15 packs at $3.99 each. That comes out to $60 -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants Now, to finish up one of the most expensive categories of your tank, the decor category. All tanks need some decor, and nice objects. You now need some ships, or clay items. For the most part prices here are assumed based on what I have purchased in the past, as there are no exact prices for separate decor items. Try to stay in these guidelines and not overcrowd the tank. Since some fish in your tank will like hiding spaces, which generally happens in a community tank, I recommend getting some caves. Here are our assumed prices. $60 for the 55 gallon tank in various object. This should be enough to get 2 large objects and one small-medium one. $30 for each 10 gallon, or $60 total. This should be put mainly towards caves in the fry tank, and various nice objects in the quarantine. The total for decor, is a nice even $120. -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants $120= decor Ok, now we need to make sure your tank has good temperature. The kits come with heaters, but we want to be able to measure that temperature, so just take 3 thermometers and toss them in your cart. This really should only be about $10, or a fraction of the total amount you are spending. -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants $120= decor $10= thermometer Last section was a bit short, wasn't it. Now, what you need to do is get a way in order to test your water quality. A major portion of fish keeping is reducing the stress that your fish need to go through, and with poor water quality your fish can develop some serious stress. Many people, including me, consider this item a necessity in all fishing tanks. This is the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. It costs around $30 at pet co, so make sure you get it. Generally you will want to purchase a new one every year, yet I'm just going to add a 1 time, $30 cost to our kit. -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants $120= decor $10= thermometer $30= API Freshwater Master Test Kit Well, now we need to keep our filters running. Filter bags should be changed every 2 months, so we will plan on buying a 6 month supply of filter bags. You will obviously need to get more later. Your filter should come standard with its first filter bags. Your 55 gallon kit at pet co uses 2 large filters, so a 6 pack, or enough for 6 months is $17. Your 10 gallon filter should use one bag, but you have 2 tanks, which means again another 6 pack for 6 months. We can assume this will cost around $17, so $34 for your filters. -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants $120= decor $10= thermometer $30= API Freshwater Master Test Kit $34= Filter Bag Now, the second last part before you take your fish home. Notice how we haven't bought any fish or fish food yet, as we will not be buying that this trip, though that will be explained later. You need to get yourself some water conditioner to treat your water, which most certainly will be tap water, though it is easier if you put the bucket under the shower, and fills up faster. We want to buy 2 good size bottles of water condition, which should cost us around $20, and will last at least a few months, because the kits come with a little water conditioner to start. Make sure you use this every time you add tap water to the tank. -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants $120= decor $10= thermometer $30= API Freshwater Master Test Kit $34= filter bag $20= water conditioner Last thing before we go home. Almost there. You need to buy 2 gravel vacs, which suck up gravel from the floor of your tank, and aid in cleaning. It lifts the gravel, and removes dirt, though can be a little hard to get started. Instructions are generally included on the container. A large gravel vac for your 55 gallon is around $20, while a small one for your 10 gallon, you should only need one for both of them is around $10. That's $30 for gravel vacs. -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants $120= decor $10= thermometer $30= API Freshwater Master Test Kit $34= filter bag $20= water conditioner $30= gravel vac Great, you are now ready to go home. This trip cost you $634, which is a good portion of your budget. When you get home open your kits and set things up. To help I will include the steps needed to get everything going, but please note it is best to normally follow the instructions that came with your kit. Set aside a few hours for doing all this. 1) Open everything up, and place the tank wherever you want it, should it be a table or stand. Remember that your 55 gallon tank will weigh about 700 pounds, and each of your 10 gallons will weigh around 100 pounds. This also means, something I can not stress enough, put your tanks exactly where you want them to be. With the exception of possibly the 10 gallons (which I don't recommend moving), your tanks will not, can not remove after being set up. This may mean you have to carry water from the sink to the tank, but so be it. You may also need some help with the 55 gallon, as the tank by itself is pretty heavy. 2) Empty your bags of gravel into a bowl, a little bit at a time, and rinse it. After this dump it all in your tank. It will probably be slightly less than 2 inches deep assuming you bought the recommended amount, I told you. Only use water, no chemicals. 3) Plants/Decor. Take all your plants and decor, and rinse them out, clean them with water. Only use water, do not use some, detergent ect. After this, take it to your tanks, and arrange it in any fashion you want. The fry tank doesn't need to be 100% covered, but with those 60 small plants make sure to have nice clumps of grass. Put your decor as you like. 4) Add water. This is generally the longest and most boring step. You have to carry water in smaller buckets from one place to your tank, 75 gallons of it. This will generally take the longest time. Make sure not to fill up your tank, and then attempt to move it. Make sure to fill it far enough, so that when you look at it from the side, you can not see the water line without bending down. 5) Filter. Adding your filter is the next step. Take your filter bags, and rinse them out with water and then put in the filter. Your filter should also come with a longer piece from the kits, that you should attach to the bottom to help its reach. A very important warning note for the 55. The filter that comes with the 55 processes several hundred gallons an hour, which means that the suction is extremely strong. Make sure to add the extra piece that comes with it on the bottom (I figured this out recently for my tank, but thank fully I hadn't put any fish. This means that if a fish were to swim within several inches of it, under it, which is bound to happen, it can suck up your fish into it, or if your fish are too small, attach your fish to the bottom until they die. Make sure to add the extra piece, even though it will reach down into the gravel. 6) Add heater. Tropic tanks should be maintained at 80 degrees. This generally takes 12-24 hours to warm up, so you can sleep on this some. Insert your thermometers to help. Once you see your tanks maintaining 80 degrees, it is time for the next step. Great, you now have things set up. Now is the time you have been waiting for, adding fish. Generally you should wait several weeks to let your water cycle, testing water, until you get good bacteria growth, but with this method, you can add fish immediately. Drive over to pet co, and purchase 4 bottle(s) of tetra starter for your 55 gallon. Also purchase an 2 bottles for your 2 (10) gallon tanks. They are generally, low or out of stock on this, so you may be disappointed, though they will probably tell you when their stock will replenish. You can also try to order some online. The price for the 6 bottles is ~$60 (assuming you get the small bottles that can treat up to 15 gallons of water.). -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants $120= decor $10= thermometer $30= API Freshwater Master Test Kit $34= filter bag $20= water conditioner $60= tetra safe start Next purchase 8 peaceful schooling fish, like neon tetras, which will go in your 55g community. Normally you will have to put fish in the quarantine tank first, but because you have no current fish in the 55, you can add the fish right away. Also, purchase 6 red cherry shrimp to go in your 55, though pet co doesn't normally have this, you probably have to get this online. An online store, like pet solutions.com is good for this, as you will also be purchasing other fish from them. Your shrimp will probably be sent with overnight, so you may have to wait a day till you get this. The price for your 8 neon tetras will be ~$20, and your 6 shrimp should be around $25 -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants $120= decor $10= thermometer $30= API Freshwater Master Test Kit $34= filter bag $20= water conditioner $60= tetra safe start $45= first batch of animals Lastly, before you can leave the fish store you need to get some food + treats. Get around 3-4 oz of flakes and 2-3 oz of 2-3 treat types (bloodworms, brine shrimp, ect.). Also make sure to get some sinking pellets, that you can put in, so that your shrimp will have some food without waiting for it to float on the top, and then sink during which time, your fish can eat it. Your shrimp can live off of your fish, but this is best for them. You can also buy 2-3 slow releasing pellets for when you go away for some time. For food we can assume $40 for now, though you will obviously need to buy more later. -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants $120= decor $10= thermometer $30= API Freshwater Master Test Kit $34= filter bag $20= water conditioner $60= tetra safe start $45= first batch of animals $40= food Now go home, and add your tetra safe start. 1 bottle to each 10 gallon (as stated above assuming you get the bottle that can treat up to 15 gallons), and 4 bottles to your 55. Wait an hour for the 55, and than add all 8 neon tetras. Make sure you follow the proper way to add fish. Wait a day for your red cherry shrimp, and then add them following the proper way to add fish. A fair warning, red cherry shrimp are known to breed profusely. Make sure to either sell these off, or find another way to take care of this to prevent your tank from becoming overloaded. Try not to put them in the fry tank, as this can hurt the fry. Another way to handle this is get all males or all females, though I don't know places that sale male and female shrimp individually. The proper way to add fish is as stated. There are many ways to do this, yet this is my preferred way. When the fish arrive, let them sit in the bag for around 10-15 minutes, get things settled. Then make sure to put the bag in the tank, remaining closed. Let it sit there for 15 minutes, and then open the top of the bag, and let them float for 30 minutes. After that feel free, to release them into the tank. Great, now that your done all you need to do is increase your fish count. Try not to overcrowd, and keep the adult size of fish in mind. Also try to get different levels of fish, from ones that swim at the top to catfish on the bottom. Get peaceful fish that can live well with others. A few recommended ones are neon tetra, glow light tetra, and guppies (guppies are sold separately male and female on pet solutions.com, and are great for getting your fry tank started. We can assume $200 for the rest of fish. -Current Costs- $120= 55 gallon tank kit $100= 2(10) gallon tank kit $60= gravel $110= plants $120= decor $10= thermometer $30= API Freshwater Master Test Kit $34= filter bag $20= water conditioner $60= tetra safe start $40= food $45= first batch of animals $200= rest of animals Now, you have probably spent some time reading this so if you are jumping up and down in your seat to get started, this is the last part of this guide. The last part of the guide is feeding fry, or baby fish. After that is a conclusion of prices ect., and then your free to go! Please leave a comment. Baby fish don't eat what adult fish do. You generally want to feed them brine shrimp for the first 2-3 weeks, and then crushed flakes for the next few weeks/months. After that you can begin to feed them regularly. We will be adding the cost of brine shrimp to our list. You need a hatchery plus some eggs, which we can assume is $30.