My new 36 gallon build

  • #1
New to aquariums. I had them in my 20’s, but that was 40 years ago. Wife and I decided to get into hobby and add aquatic babies to go with our 3 rescue dogs, 2 rescue cats and 2 rescue birds.. When I use to have aquarium 40 years ago, it was buy a 20 gallon tank and light from Walmart and fill up with some colored rocks and tap water with the undergravel filter that came with it, the heater that was some wires in a test tube and a pump that would rattle your teeth. Let it sit a day and fill with fish from Walmart that came in a bag with bright blue water. Put the bag in the tank for 15 minutes and dump it all in. Then feed them with the only food you could find at store, came in a gold/brown can with a black top, and put the aquarium in the garage when it turned green and the last fish died.

Well, things have changed. Want to give aquatic babies the best chance I can and have them live long and happy lives. Already made a few newbie mistakes but I hope I haven’t done too much wrong. If anyone sees a whoaa, let me know. This forum has been a wealth of information so far. Okay, here goes:


Purchased and set up aquarium. Top Fin 36 gallon bow front tank, LED hood and stand.

Filter - Top Fin Silent Stream 75 Powerfilter. 400gph, so should provide 11 cycles per hour at full. Heater-H300 (300 watt), thermometer on opposite side of tank. 6” air stone strip under gravel with Top Fin

Washed and put in substrate. 20lb of aquarium gravel and 10 lbs (or so) pool filter medium sand. A couple of rocks and decorations (including faux plants.

Filled aquarium and treated with 30 ml TopFinwater conditioner and 30 ml of Top Fin Readistart nitrifying bacteria 15 minutes apart.Water clear. 82 degrees-lower heater.


Found this wonderful forum. Not much good said about Top Fin, so put one capful of Seachem Prime and 30 minutes, since read you couldn’t overdose bacteria, added one 8.45 oz bottle (for 75 gallons) of Tetra Safestart Plus 30 minutes later (maybe should have waited longer - actually appears to have been too soon). Added pinch of food (wasn’t sure about fish in or out cycle).

Temp 79 - ammonia, nitrite and nitrate 0 (API), pH strip 7.5 API 8.2. KH 120 and GH 60.

4-21. First Fish

Went with fish in cycle. First fish babies. 8 longfin Zebra Danios (1/2-1”). I realize now I should have just gone with a couple but newbie mistake. Acclimated fish (20 mins, swap 1 cup of water from tank, remove 1 cup and discard-let sit 15 minutes. Did this 3 times, let sit 20 mins and added to tank. Fish active in top 1/3 of tank.

Water turned milky cloudy (bacteria bloom?). Added 10 ml Readistart to filter (with fish in).


Added 1.5 gallon water warmed to 75 degrees and treated with 1/2 cap of Prime to fill tank. Fish active-all over tank-exploring more towards bottom. Pinch of food (top fin flakes).

temperature 79, ammonia 0-0.25 (hard to tell with api), pH8.2 nitrite and nitrate 0 (api). Strip nitrite and nitrate 0, pH 8.0 KH 120 GH 60.


Water getting much clearer . Fish active-chasing each other and very active.

temperature 79. API pH 8.0, ammonia 0-0.25 ppm, nitrite and nitrate 0.


Fish very, very active. All over tank but preferring chasing each other in lower third. Water very clear . No bloom. Fish leaving some flakes when fed, so gave Hikori micro pellets.

Lowered temperature from 79-78 to help with fish in ammonia spike(won’t help much but anything to help-can’t do much with pH).

temperature 78, pH 8, ammonia 0-0.25 nitrate and nitrite 0 (api). Strip-pH 7.5 KH 180 GH 60.


Fish very, very active-throughout all levels. Food-Cobalt brine shrimp flakes. No distress seen-very active-no issues seen with gills. Water clear. Added 3 liters treated with 1 ml prime - container submerged in warm water until temperature was 75.

temperature in tank down to 76 and stable-will leave at 76 degrees.

Strip test on tap water- pH 7, KH 180, GH 120, nitrite and nitrate 0.

Tank parameters-API pH 8.0 ammonia 0-0.25 ppm, nitrite and nitrate 0 - temperature 76. Strip-pH 7.5 KH 120 GH 60 nitrite and nitrate 0.

so just waiting for the cycle to come.

so far, so good........ and results....


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  • #2

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  • #4
SInce I may have nullified the safe start with adding it so soon after initial treatment with Prime, I started the treatment with Seachem Stability (since it can be used with Prime). Treated water with 3 caps of Stability (Day 1 of Stability Treatment).

Water is clear - fish are active - no signs of any distress or redness at gills or anything.

Water conditions - Temperature 76 degrees, (API Results) pH 8.0. Ammonia 0-0.25 ppm, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 0.

Strip results - pH 7.5 (Nitrite and Nitrate 0) - KH Either 80 or 120 (hard to tell with strip color) GH 30

Just waiting for cycle to begin - 8th day of water and 6th day with fish.
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  • #5
4-27 Treatment - Second day with Stability (1-1/2 capfuls) - 1 cap to tank - 1/2 in filter reservoir.

Temp 77 degrees

API Results - pH 8.0 - Ammonia 0-0.25 ppm - Nitrites / Nitrates 0.

Test strip results - pH 7.5 - Nitrites/Nitrates 0 - KH 120 GH 60.

Still waiting for cycle - 9 days on tank - 7 days with fish in. Will stop the journal once tank cycles - just want to keep up and in case another newcomer to Aquariums wonders about time frame.
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  • #6
4-28 - Thought that I was starting to get some Nitrate (but yellow the following day).

Treatment 3rd day of Stability (No Prime today) - 1 1/2 caps of stability. (1/2 in tank - 1 in filter reservoir).

Parameters - Temperature 77 - pH 7.8 - 8.0 Ammonia 0-0.25 (may be closer to 0 - slightly more yellow). Nitrite 0 . Nitrate between 0-5 ppm (appears to have a tinge of orange to test). Strip test - KH 180 and GH 180.

4-29 - Fish very active (water kind of cloudy again - there also appears to be some form of very small particles in water - have not done my first water change yet - Safestart said to wait 7-14 days). 11 days on tank - 9 days with fish.

Treatment - 4th day of Stability - 1-1/2 caps (1/2 in filter - 1 in tank). Also Prime (3rd line in cap).

Parameters - Temperature 77 - pH 8.0 (to 8.2) Ammonia 0-0.25 ppm, Nitrites 0 - Nitrate 0. (Did test in the morning and one in evening - evening, I was comparing to tap water and also shook the Nitrate even harder). Nitrate is yellow - no tinge of orange like yesterday.

Water still a little milky cloudy (Second bloom?) Fish are active.
Nitrate on 4-28
Nitrate on 4-29
My pH and Nitrite reading


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  • #7
Ok - 4-30-21

Fish are very, very active. Water still a little cloudy (not as bad) and still some very tiny spots (white solid) in water (maybe Biofilter dust or something?)

Treatment today - 1-1/2 caps Stability (Day 5) - No prime today.

Parameters: pH 8.0 Ammonia 0 - 0.25 (more below) Nitrites 0 Nitrates 0

Ammonia has been 0 - 0.25 the whole time (I would think with 8 Danios, I would get some ammonia showing cycle has started (Today is the 12 th day with water and 10th with fish). I did a side by side of purified bottle water, tap water and tank water - all look about the same (the tank water MAY have a hint of green compared to the other two). Checked everything on tap water and it looks like pH of 8 - Ammonia 0 Nitrite and Nitrate 0.

Did another Ammonia and Nitrate test a few hours later and SHOOK the out of the bottle for mixture 2 (beating it on my hand upside down for a minute) - test the same Nitrate 0

So I guess still no cycle starting yet.
3 water ammonias and my tests this morning

(Reminder to me) - 2 days ago on 4-28, I thought I was getting a trace of Nitrates (yay!) - didnt look yellow but wasnt a good orange yet either. Then yesterday and today - it was yellow (0 ppm Nitrate) so all my tests thus far every day (and sometimes twice) have been 0- 0.25 ppm Ammonia, O Nitrite and 0 Nitrates - so far, so good but no cycle.


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  • #8

Day 13 of new aquarium - Day 11 with fish in.

Fish very active - color good. Water still has white particulates (very fine) especially under the HOB outflow mixing in water. Dont know - perhaps dead bacteria in the TSS+ was nullified by adding the TSS so soon after Prime after initial treatment of tank or perhaps some fine dust from HOB filter. Water is fairly clear with a light tinge of milky - from the particulates. Will post a picture of particulates in water.

Water parameters - (API) Temperature 77 degrees pH 8.0 Ammonia 0-0.25 (I am calling 0.25 since it is not as bright yellow as Nitrate test). Nitrites 0 Nitrates 0. Tetra strip gave KH of 180 aned GH of 120 ppm. According to online calculator, that makes my water slightly hard with a KH of 10.8 dH and GH of 7.2 dH (I think).

Calculator with parameters give a free un-ionized ammonia of 0.0137 - so I guess it is not too bad. Was thinking about bringing up the temperature to 78 - but calculator shows that would bring my free ammonia up to 0.0143 - so anything to help the aqua babies. Will leave at 77 for now.

Treatment today will be 1-1/2 caps of Seachem Stability (Day 6) and 3 lines in cap of Prime.

No nitrates - so still no cycle - the stress is killing me.... HAHAHA.
Today’s parameters and particulates pictures.

UPDATE: Skimmed 4 cups of water from tank with filter turned down to try and remove some particulates and added 10 cups back in (needed some volume because of all the testing, etc has lowered the water level). 10 cups added in with 3 lines in cap of Prime since today was Prime day.


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  • #9
Afternoon update: After removing 4 cups and adding the 10 treated with Prime it brought the water level closer to HOB filter output. Checked ammonia and still somewhere between 0 and 0.25. I would say closer to 0. Update-tank much clearer of particulates a few hours later and performed another Nitrite test and it was 0.


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  • #10
5-2-21 (Day 14 of tank - 12 day with fish)

Noticed last night that I have brown algae (Diatoms) growing on decorations and plants in tank. Read on forum that it doesn't affect fish, so no issue. Water clearing of particulates. Still a very, very light milky. VERY light. Fish are active and no signs of distress or redness of gills or anything.

Water parameters - no change. API pH 8.0 Ammonia 0 - 0.25 ppm total (very light green) Nitrite 0 Nitrate 0. Ammonia calculates at maximum of 0.0137 ppm of free NH3. Temperature 77 degrees.

Treatment - will treat with 1 1/2 caps of Seachem Stability (Day 7) and will treat again with 3 cap lines of Prime (since there still appears to SOME ammonia). I guess I should not that when I am doing these treatments - I am adding the Stability in the morning and the Prime in the afternoon.

Still no water changes (except adding to fill tank when low with Prime treated water). I am working off the assumption that some of the original TSS+ survived (I added it too quick after adding initial Prime to dechlorinate tank) so not doing a water change until Tuesday. I put the TSS+ in 2 weeks ago on a Tuesday - so leaving as is. I dont know if any of the TSS+ was viable after adding it on top of Prime, which is why I started the Stability treatment as well. Anyway, Tuesday will be water change day. Still no Nitrates - so I guess tank has not cycled yet but good news is no major spikes in ammonia or Nitrites either - so waiting...........

Diatom and morning test
Also noticed some white growth on one plant. Adding picture of that as well. From what I have read on forum - this is normal on new tank.


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  • #11


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  • #12

same results this morning. Ammonia 0.25, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0, pH 8, Temperature 77.
Two weeks since tank set up. From what I read on Tetra site Q&A, I think I definitely killed TSS+ on initial setup so close with Prime and no fish for ammonia. I have done just about everything wrong thus far - but test results don’t show environment for fish to suffer and they are active.

Treatment - will add 1-1/2 caps of Stability (Day 8 of Stability). Still have not done water change yet in case some TSS lived.


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