New Member, New Tank, Filter Question

  • #1
I'm a relatively new fish keeper, and new to this forum. I've read a lot of the beginner stuff, and my head is exploding with information which I'm eager to make use of. Lots of very helpful people here, I'm glad to see.

I've currently got a 29 gallon tank that I've been struggling to stablize, but we're getting there. 8 Tetras, 3 danios, 2 red tail sharks, 1 female betta and a pleco. Trying to work with some plants. We got caught in that nasty storm in Virginia on June 29th, and were without power for a week. Only had two casualties, a lyre molly, and a plant just didn't make it through. I changed 25% of the water every other day during the power outage, and the water temperatures were in the lower 90s.

Anyway, that's not why I'm here, although I'm open to suggestions on anything.

I've acquired another tank, a 39 gallon, and I'm wanting to get it set up, probably again with freshwater. I think I'd like to do an under gravel filter, since this is a tall tank, and reaching the gravel for vacuuming will be not as easy as in the 29. I got the memo about multiple heaters, which is cool, and I need a hood/light. Since the footprint of the 39 is the same as the 29, I could swap the hood, but the hood I have for the 29 doesn't put out much light.

So I guess what I'm looking for is advice on selecting and setting up a filter, and a hood. I will probably want to keep some live plants, so light will be an issue. I'm open to opinions and education. Thanks in advance!

Matt (dezignstuff)
  • #2
Welcome to FishLore!

Do you know about the nitrogen cycle? <----

I don't think 2 RTS will fare well in a 29 gallon tank. IMO, one RTS requires a 75 gallon tank. Reason being territorial issues and size.

After that, maybe bump your danio school to maybe 6 or 8.

What kind of pleco do you have? If it's a common it will get way too big. 2 ft+ !

For filter, I recommend getting a Rena XP2 (canister) or an AquaClear 500 (HOB).

Lighting wise, I'd get one of these: I have one over my 29 gallon tank, and I love it! It supports many plants.

Good luck!
  • #3
Matt, Welcome to Fishlore! Where in Virginia are you? I am in Fairfax myself.

I also have a 29 gallon tank.

You write that you are currently trying to stabilize this tank. Is this due to a minI cycle, or has this tank never fully cycled? Do you know about the nitrogen cycle? How long has this tank been set up? What are your ammonia/nitrite/nitrate/ph readings? Do you have a liquid test kit such as an API freshwater test kit? What kind of filter do you have on the 29gallon. Actually, all of these questions would be answered if you please filled out your fishlore profile information.

One of my advice for your 39gallon tank is: if you can wait until your current tank is stabilized, do so, and add an extra filter onto this current tank or additional filter media which you could then transfer to the new tank. My understanding (and I may be wrong) is that under gravel filters are not so good. The best filter is a canister filter.

Personally I like having two filters for failover. One possibility for a failover filter is a sponge filter, which is very inexpensive and low maintenance and reliable. For the sponge filter you could buy both an airpump that connects to your electric outlet, but also a battery operated air pump for when power is out again, for example. Personally I like to aI'm for as close to 2x as much filtration as minimum recommended for my tank, and I like to distribute it as evenly as possible between my two filters, that way if one filter fails, we are still in very good shape.

As for light, it depends on what kind of plants you would like to grow. Do you want to have the option of high light requiring plants, and are you willing to add CO2 to tank? Or do you want to just have enough light for low light plants and do the minimum needed to have a planted tank (like me)? Depending on which of these you want, your light setup would be very different.

If reaching the gravel for vacuuming won't be as easy, you may want to look at better tools for tank maintenance, but I don't think that planning on doing less maintenance is a good idea.

Also are you committed to getting the 39 gallon size or are you still considering other sizes? Some fish do better in a longer tank than in a taller one, so depending on your flexibility in terms of space where to put tank, and depending on which fish you would like to get for your second tank, you may want to consider again whether 39 is the best size for you.

Furthermore, do you have a quarantine tank? If not, I strongly recommend getting one before you get the second tank if possible. I learned the hard way about the benefits of quarantine when all my fish got sick most likely from one sick new fish, and then my bristlenose pleco (which was my favorite fish) died, either from the disease or from the medications (since plecos do not handle medications as well as fish with scales). Since you are planning to get a second bigger tank, you will have more fish, and a larger investment (both financial and/or emotional) to protect, and thus quarantine tank if you do not already have one becomes an even better idea.

What type of pleco do you have? Is it a bristlenose?

  • Thread Starter
  • #4
One shark is definitely dominant, and chases the other around. I've had my eye on them, and they've been living together without any real violence for a couple of months now. Maybe I'll separate them when the other tank gets going. I'm trying to ID the pleco onplanet catfish, but haven't seen a match yet. The closest is Rich brown with light tan spots. About 3.5-4" long, and has grown an inch since I got him last fall. Graceful, but shy. I got him at Petco with my initial batch of fish when I started the tank. Why would a store sell a fish that gets that big? For now, he's fine, but what do I do when he gets say 8"?

Thanks for the recommendations on the hood and filter. I'll definitely check them out!


I'm in Roanoke, quite a ways away from the bustle of NVa.

I've read about the nitro cycle, and I have test strips, but after all the reading, I'm going to get the better liquid test kit. The tank has been set up since October. I've lost a few fish due to overfeeding, I think, and maybe a couple due to bad fish compatibility choices. I'm learning as I go along.

I've got a pretty basic filter on the 29 "hob", I guess you all call it.

I really don't know enough about the plants to make good decisions yet, but I'd guess that the low light would be a better place to start since it would be more likely to succeed.

I could get a 3 foot dowel and a bit of extra hose for my vacuum to reach the bottom on the taller tank. The 39 was given to me, and I've cleaned it out, rinsed it, soaked it, and tested it for leaks. I had water sitting in it for 2 weeks in the basement shower just to check it. So far its good to go. I have yet to get a stand for it, and then start getting equipment and other stuff. Fish are probably a month away from that tank, since I just want to get it solidly cycled, and I'll want the better test kit for that. I'm not in a rush to get it set up. I'd rather do this one right.

A quarantine tank seems important, and I'd like to get one set up. Don't have that yet.

Yeah, I guess my pleco is a bristlenose, like yours. It looks pretty much like the one at the link you posted. I think he's gorgeous, and he's my favorite fish in the tank. Kind of shy, but very graceful when he swims. He hides inside the decorations, and I have to be careful when I pull them out of the tank for vacuuming.
  • #5
A reverse undergravel filter may be a good option for you. It works basically the same, but instead of pulling all the gunk into the gravel (where you do still need to clean. UGF does not equal no vacuum) it pushes water into the lift pipe, up through the gravel. Then you also run either a HOB or canister filter as well to pick up said gunk. I believe this to be the most low-maintenance plan for a tall tank, but you still need to tidy up some, and nothing replaces the need for water changes. Also, if you want plants, any type of under gravel system it's out. Well I guess floating plants and stuff tied to driftwood, but nothing actually planted.
  • #6
If your current tank is cycled, if you add an additional filter to it and run it there for a while, you should be able to cycle your new tank quicker, since then you can seed the new tank with bacteria from the old tank. Also depending on what kind of filter media / cartridge you have in your current filter, you may be a le to cut off some of that to use as seeding filter media for new tank - that depends on how much filter media you currently have. Alternatively if you have space in your current filter to add more filter media to it, for example add a sponge type media, you could add it to your current filter, and then take it out and transfer it to the new tank's filter. My understanding is that people who have a tank already do not usually cycle their second tank for a month but use current tank to help progress cycle of new tank faster.

Alternatively, you could buy an active filter from They sell already pre-cycled sponge filters, which can either be set up as a sponge filter with air tubing and external air pump, or you could take their sponge filter, cut it up and place it inside any filter you buy for the new tank. The main advantage to going with the angelsplus filter is if you trust their filter to be better than any seeding material your current tank may produce. For example, I am planning to get an active filter from them if my main tank has not fully stabilized yet by the time I decide to set up my QT. I have personally not tried their active sponge filter yet, but the reviews sound very promising.

Anyway, while I did wait about a month when setting up my first tank, I am not planning to do that for my second tank.

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