New to the hobby - looking for some guidance

  • #1

I have dreamt of getting into the freshwater aquarium / aquascaping hobby for about a decade - I'm at a point now where I feel comfortable making the jump into the hobby.
I'm reaching out on this forum, as I'd like to share some of the details around what I am planning for my first tank. I'd love any thoughts / guidance the community would be willing to share in return!

I'd like to create a small aquascape to add some natural beauty to my home office.
While I'd love to have an epic, competition-level aquatic jungle - I want to be realistic with my expectations.
I would like the size of the tank to limit my ability to do anything too ambitions for my first attempt at the hobby.
For time commitment, I'd like to keep this to <3hr/week.
I really like the idea of selecting a region of the world as the theme for the tank, and stocking the aquarium with only plants and fish from that region. I'm not sold on this - just seems like a cool challenge.
Plants being the core focus, with fish being an accent.

The office area is on the second floor of my home.
The tank would be placed against a non-exterior wall.
Room temps range from 72*f to 76*f.

I do have a bathroom near the office that would be my source of water during initial setup and future water changes.
I have not yet tested the tap water to understand the specific parameters I am working with.
I'm currently looking at the ADA Cube Garden 60P (17 Gallon).
I'd likely purchase the matching wood stand as well.
I like the look of the rimless tank, and the low iron glass.
The size feels just at the edge of "enough space while not being too small".

Fluval Plant 3.0 (32W / 24").
I like the idea of LED lighting, the built in timer system, etc.
From what I've seen online, it seems that many people (and plants) are very happy with this light.

This is one area that I am currently struggling with.
I think I'd prefer a canister style filter that can be tucked away in the cabinet under the tank. I would like to minimize the "stuff" attached to the tank that could distract from the tank itself. I've seen some people are using glass/acrylic piping(?) to connect their filter - I like the idea of a similar setup. From what I understand, I need something with enough power to filter ~10x the tank volume per hour - beyond that, I'm not really sure what I should be looking for.

Like the filter, I'm not sure which specific one to purchase.
I'd ideally like something integrated with the filter, or inline with the filter, to keep it out of view.

This seems like it would add complexity / expense that I don't need for my first tank.
It also seems like there is a lot of opinions about this on the internet. Some think its critical for a planted tank in general, while others seem to think its more critical when keeping specific plants. I'm not sure what side of the argument to pay attention to.
It seems that aquasoil is the way to go in a planted aquarium.
I'd probably have a small spot or two in the aquascape that was a contrast of sand as well.

Currently looking at doing a blend of rock (like a dark gray / slate style) and driftwood.
I'd like the plants to be more of the focus - the hardscape being more of a 'texture'.

  • As mentioned above, when it comes to heaters/filtration, I'm suffering from a bit of 'analysis paralysis'.
    If you have any "just buy x and stop worrying about it" suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

  • If I needed to attach pieces of hardscape together, or a plant to a piece of hardscape - what adhesive(s) are safe to use in an aquarium?

  • Are there any plants or fish that I listed that should be avoided (maybe they get too big for the tank in question, maybe they are too aggressive, maybe they are too advanced for a beginner, etc)?

  • If I decide to add fish, how would I go about calculating the number of fish the aquarium / filtration / plants can handle?
    I imagine that after substrate/hardscape/plants, there would be a 30%+ reduction in total swimable volume(?).

  • Are there any water testing systems that are digital/more high tech/reusable, or are we limited to single use testing strips in the hobby space?

  • I'm honestly not sure what to do about shrimp/crabs/snails.
    Are they needed in a tank this size? How do I calculate the quantity needed? Are there any that I should avoid?

  • Can 'low light' plants live happily in high light environments?
Thank you for taking the time to read this - again, any an all thoughts are welcome and appreciated!
  • #2
Hi AquaticArt ,
Welcome to fishlore and welcome to the hobby.

Can I offer a few general impressions of the hobby as I see it from my short time in it and write of my experience and how my interest has changed over time.

I started with a rimless lounge tank ,a “case” 32 gallon fancy glass box. A few fish would jump out on the the carpet. I now have lids on all tanks.
While the money involved in the loss of a few dozen fish was small my wish to provide a safe environment overrode my like for a look.

I was drawn to aquascaping at first. Now I prefer easy growing stem plants in containers.

A community tank seemed like a great idea. I now realise fish would prefer to be in a large group with perhaps just 3 species total in any tank.

Over time watching fish in a tank will teach you as much as watching videos.

Fish cost just a few dollars but I now enjoy breeding fish much more than I ever imagined.

My wife and I are members of my local club. We have a better understanding of just how varied the hobby is. From people who name all their fish to people the feed fish to fish. Some members run tanks best described as wild swamp tanks full of algae but are the best breeders of fish.

My advice to you is to learn basic fish keeping before you have any fancy plants. Start slowly with floating plants like frog bit . Have an Anubis on wood / Java fern on rock before you consider a fancy substrate.

In conclusion.
I did not know where the journey in the hobby would take me. I suggest you have an open mind to your journey?

As you mentioned you need to test the parameters of your tap water as first priority.
The GH and PH of you tap water will determine the species of fish ( and plants) most suitable for you.
  • #3
Welcome to fishlore!

First, a simple aqueon heater from your local Petco should work completely fine and is pretty cheap. You can get preset ones or ones where you set the temp for a slightly higher price. If you want a more aesthetic but pricier one, the fluval ones are great. For filtration, there are a couple different options. For a 17 gallon tank, a canister filter wouldn't be my first choice, I would rather used a HOB or sponge filter. But, if you want the ability to hide it away, there are some smaller ones meant for 20-25 gallon tanks that can probably used. Although personally, aqua clear filters are not only the best looking HOB filters, but the least bulky I have found so you may want to check them out.

To attach things together you can use kitchen twine or if you want an adhesive, cyanoacrylate glue is aquarium safe.

As far as my knowledge goes, all of the plants you listed should be fine as long as you keep them trimmed, though you probably will only be able to have a small portion of those in a 17 gallon. Just make sure you have a strong enough light for those that require it. The only thing I will warn, is that red root floaters can actually rot if water is on top of them, even if its just condensation dripping on them, so be careful about those.

After you cycle your tank, you can use AqAdvisor to give you a rough estimate; and I mean rough, on what you can put in it. All of the fish listed should be able to live in the tank, though you won't be able to put them all together, and you will have to make sure they can all live together parameter wise.

Test strips can give you a general idea of your water parameters, but the API master test kit can give you more exact amounts since it includes testing bottles and solutions.

I wouldn't suggest crabs for a beginner fish keeper, and honestly as someone with a decent amount of experience I don't think I would keep them either. You can definitely put shrimp and snails in the tank, but just be careful that the fish you pair them with don't take them for an expensive snack.
  • #4
Welcome to the hobby. You covered so many things and have a couple answers so I will just mention a few things I have learned. 17 gallons seems like a lot, but it isnt. If you can go bigger than do. Many fish need to be in groups or need lots of active swimming space. Also the more the water volume the easier it is to control parameters.
Fish jump and snails crawl out and evaporation happens- I always recommend a top, but that is up to you. Heaters are either preset or adjustable but pretty much the same after that. Most recommend a heater control to keep them from overheating. Canister filters are often recommended for large tanks because of the volume of water they filter. API master test kits are way better than strips. It costs more but you can use it for a long time.
You also need to know what your water parameters are before you plan. There are soft water fish and hard water fish. The same with plants. Go the easy route with your first tank- use basic substrate, easy plants and fish that are not super finicky. Once you master and feel comfortable with basic maintenance for awhile then get another
  • #5
I'd suggest the Fluval Flex 15g. It's a quality all-in-one setup (has internal filter and built in light.) You'll just need to get a heater as far as equipment goes. A 50 watt heater would be plenty for a tank that small and fit inside the filter. Once you get the hang of things, dump money into a nicer ADA tank.
  • #6
I have used mainland land Hang on the back filters for 20 years, they have great customer service on the rare occasion that it is needed. Get a heater with 5 watts per gallon of water or a liter more, but not less. I bought an Ink Bird heater alarm and digital temperature display and guard, It is worth the money.

Super glue gell is aquarium safe once cured. Watch youtube videos.

You could come here and we could help you calculate fish. It is always a complicated thing full of mixed opinions. no matter who you ask. Aqadvisor will give you some guidance, but its very unreliable. I recommend getting multiple opinions.

No tank NEEDs shrimp or snails or crabs. You can add shrip or snails as part of the livestock instead of fish. Crabs often require an entirely different set up than fish. Many need more land/basking area than water.
  • #7
Welcome to the forum. I only have a couple things.
  • You said "As mentioned above, when it comes to heaters/filtration, I'm suffering from a bit of 'analysis paralysis'.
    If you have any "just buy x and stop worrying about it" suggestions, I'd love to hear them!" I do. Don't complicate your life with a canister filter on a tank that small. I'd go with a hang on back filter, but a sponge filter would also be a good choice.
  • One of the fish you mentioned was a dwarf gourami. I'd avoid them. They're beautiful fish, but they often have health and/or aggression issues.
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Thank you all for taking the time to provide some thoughts on this project!

Fish and Plants
The lists I provided were more meant to highlight a few of the species I would be interested in potentially including in this tank.
I understand that the tank size I am looking at would not be able to accommodate large quantities of either.

Water Testing
I appreciate the recommendation for the API Test Kits - I've ordered them, and will be testing my tap water as soon as they arrive.
Follow-up Question: Can I expect these parameters to be my 'base' moving forward for my tap water, or would it be common for these parameters to fluctuate and require testing ahead of water changes?

Tank Selection

While I'd love to have more volume to work with, the specific area I am wanting to place this tank is the limiting factor. The 60P fits both the size requirement and the "look" that I am going for.
I've looked at the Fluval Flex - I love the idea of getting everything you need in one package, but the bow-front design creates more of a distorted/distracting view than a pleasing one (at least to my eye).

Tank Lid
Didn't think about this - appreciate you all highlighting!

Several of you suggest "hang on the back" style filters - thank you for your thoughts.
Follow-up Question: What is it about a hob style that is preferable over a canister style filter?
  • #9
With water testing I recommend testing the water straight out of the tap and another test on water sitting out for 24 hours. Sometimes they are different depending on the actual minerals and chemicals in the water.
As for the HOB style, they are easier to clean IMO. Many of them also have adjustment in how much water is pulled so you can control the current in the tank. A lot of fish prefer a slower current. Canisters are designed for larger volume tanks and with a small tank it is often too much causing too much current. Canisters are also harder to clean because they have to be taken apart and are filled with water when you do it.
  • #10
Canisters are more money, and more complicated. while they are available for smaller tanks, I always assumed canisters were primarally for large tanks. My understanding is that they are really not necessary for anything under 78 long. But honestly, I don't know much about them.
  • #11
Canisters are more money, and more complicated. while they are available for smaller tanks, I always assumed canisters were primarally for large tanks. My understanding is that they are really not necessary for anything under 78 long. But honestly, I don't know much about them.

Pretty much what I was thinking. HOB's are simple. I like simple.
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
I also like the idea of 'simple'.
Thank you all for sharing your knowledge - much appreciated!
  • #13
You're welcome ;) ;) ;)

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