New To Hobby, Questions About Maintenance (now Includes First Test Results)

Discussion in 'Cleaning and Maintenance' started by BrettMad, Jul 16, 2017.

  1. BrettMad

    BrettMadNew MemberMember

    I just posted my new to the hobby thread in the beginners forum, linked here.

    I am sure John and Jennifer, the couple helping me set up the tank who run the store and service, will have ideas and advice as well, but I wanted to ask the wider question. One of the things it was not included in my initial set up were testing kits and a vacuum. Part of the setup cost included Jennifer stopping by a couple times here in the first month to make sure that everything got off to a good start, but I am going to learn to maintain this myself rather than paying for ongoing service.

    This is a planted tank, and the roots are not yet well established (I have had to replant a couple of the plants that floated to the surface). How soon will I need to start doing water changes/vacuuming of the substrate? We have CarribSea Eco-Complete Planted Substrate. I also know that I will need a test kit to monitor the water conditions.

    Any recommendations for a good vacuum and test kit?
  2. BottomDweller

    BottomDwellerFishlore VIPMember

    The API freshwater master test kit is one of the best. It tests ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and Ph. It initially costs more than test strips but lasts a lot longer so is more cost effective in the long run. It is also a lot more accurate than test strips.
  3. Cherie G

    Cherie GValued MemberMember

    Hi Brett
    welcome to Fishlore! Is the couple helping you through cycling your tank? An incompletely cycled tank will lead to stress, possible loss of fish etc. This is very important, make sure your tank is completely cycled and stable before adding fish. I am new to the hobby as well and never knew about the nitrogen cycle before I stumbled on this site. Could have saved myself a lot of frustration and had much happier fish if I had known. There is lots of information on this site which explains what the Nitrogen cycle is and how it is done. The key is to be patient and not rush and put fish in before your cycle is complete, easy to say more difficult to do :)!

    For a vacuum I just use the simple siphon type, they are inexpensive and should be stocked at any pet store that has aquarium supplies. I have found they work pretty well and are easy to use. Hope that helps.

  4. OP

    BrettMadNew MemberMember

    There was a week between when the first plants and substrate and water were added and when the first fish were added, but the first fish are already in the tank. Because it was a live planted tank I was told that the cycle was accelerated greatly, but if they are wrong I do not have another tank where I can move these fish.

    I do not know what else I can do at this point, I know this couple has set up a large number of planted and freshwater tanks, they are hobbyists as well as the owners of the store (not just employees) and have been doing this for about 20 years. Does that mean they're always correct? Of course not. I do know she was performing some tests when she arrived at the end of that first week, you can see in my new tank post in the beginner's forum about the setup process.

    It does sound like I should go purchase a test kit when I am out later today. I was reading a lot of information about the plants and fish we were getting but unfortunately did not come across this information about the nitrogen cycle until after the fish were added. The fish have been in the tank for 4 days now, and their color is starting to improve, but I guess I am going to have to pay real close attention.
  5. BottomDweller

    BottomDwellerFishlore VIPMember

    Plants will not cycle your tank for you. You added a lot of fish at once which could cause a mini cycle even if the tank was cycled. Moving them to a different tank wouldn't help unless the tank you were moving them to was cycled.
  6. minervalongWell Known MemberMember

    Read up on using Tetra Safe Start Plus, Seachem Prime and Stability. They can be a great help in cycling with fish in. And yes, you do need the test kit as ammonia can spike to deadly range quickly so while you are getting that cycle going you will need to test at least every other day, if not every day. The cure for an ammonia spike is a large water change unless you are using Prime, it will lock up 1ppm but you have to change water for more than that I think.
  7. OP

    BrettMadNew MemberMember

    I wish I had posted before we started, I hope I can navigate this start up period successfully...
  8. minervalongWell Known MemberMember

    You will, there are really good fishkeepers on here, and they are happy to give help and advice. Just read as much as you can, ask questions, decide what is best for you and your fishies.
  9. OP

    BrettMadNew MemberMember

    I picked up the test kit mentioned above, here are my first reading (started a notebook, but does anyone have a cell phone app they recommend for this? I see there are a bunch of them, but I did not know if anyone had experience with one that was easy to use. Little paper notebooks tend to disappear around this house.)

    The results were, given that the tank is only been established for 12 days and fish have been in the tank for the last five, somewhat unbelievable.

    None of the colors really seem to match perfectly against the color guide, so I am going with closest equivalents.

    PH: between 7.0 and 7.2

    Ammonia: slightly darker than the 0 ppm but not as dark/green as the 0.25 ppm

    Nitrite: again, slightly darker/purpler than 0 ppm but not as purple as the 0.25 ppm

    Nitrate: this one was the closest color match, 5.0 ppm

    I am not entirely sure how to interpret this.
  10. OP

    BrettMadNew MemberMember

    Today's test results:
    temperature: 81°
    pH: 7.0
    ammonia: 0.20 (estimate, slightly darker than before, still not at the 0.25 level which is the lowest band on the test kit above zero.
    Nitrites: 0
    Nitrates: 3

    We keep our house around 78°, and the heater in the tank is set at 77, so I am not entirely sure why the temperature went up to just over 80°. I have LED lights so they should not be adding that much heat. This is something I need to monitor.

    PH level and nitrates both dropped a little, ammonia is maybe a trace higher. One of the confusing ones to me is the nitrates reading. My understanding is that number generally grows until it diluted by water change. However I was also told that plants will absorb and utilize some of the ammonia/nitrites/nitrates. I do not know how much, but it would appear at the moment that the plants are if nothing else keeping the nitrates steady.

    I need more test results, this test was three days from the first test. I waited until today because my daughter wanted to participate (she is 10). I think will test every other day for the next week or two to see if we have a baseline or if this is still a moving target.

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