Newbie - done everything wrong Help

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by jowhiteley, Apr 7, 2010.

  1. jowhiteley

    jowhiteleyNew MemberMember

    I really wish I'd read all of these articles before I started. But I didn't, so ...

    I was given a second hand 36" x 12" x 15" tank + hood. I think that makes it 30 gallons. I put down "Fertil Plant" substrate because I knew I wanted live plants. I added gravel, dechlorinated the tapwater using Aquasafe, threw in a couple of rocks and a piece of bogwood and thought I was ready to go.

    At the fish shop they sold me 6 neon tetras, 2 bristlenose plecs, some "instant bacteria" that I now wish I'd written down the name of, some snail-infested plants, a heater and and what I now know to be an inadequate filter for the size of my tank (Aquarius 400). [sigh]

    7 neon tetras came out of the bag rather than 6 but it was instantly clear that one of them had problems and seemed to have taken damage somehow. I hoped it would recover but it sulked for 2 days and then disappeared and I couldn't find the body anywhere. Not good. However, the rest of the fish seemed fine and took flake food, no problem.

    A week later, everything looked good so I went to another fish shop and bought 12 white cloud mountain minnows and a redtailed black shark (I know, I know - ignorance is my only excuse). They also sold me some test kits (nitrite, nitrate and pH BUT NOT ammonia) and advised me to test my water which is when I started to read the articles on this site and realise that I'd got EVERYTHING wrong.

    So now I'm doing 10% water change every 2 days and testing at the same time.

    temp = 23C
    pH seems stable at 7.4
    Nitrites testing at around 0.3mg / litre
    Nitrates seem stable at about 12.5mg / litre

    Ammonia test kit + better filter (Clearseal 700) are on their way and should be arriving today/tomorrow.

    The fish seem fine, active, brightly coloured, eating well. Although I'm not sure if I'm feeding enough. All the advice is to feed tiny amounts but the fish seem hungry all the time. I'm crushing maybe 3 - 4 flakes in the palm of my hand and sprinkling into the tank twice a day - is this enough?

    I know that I will have to move the tetras to another tank - even the WCM minnows are bullying them. I thought they would be ideal companions for the tetras but they chase them off all the time and the tetras now hide in a corner and don't come out much.

    But I think my main question is this: am I doing enough? How will I know when my tank has cycled? Water still has a very slight green tinge to it but this seems to be clearing.

    I had the best intentions to provide well for my fish and give them a pleasant, naturalistic environment and I'm gutted I've got it so wrong. Any advice to help me put right my wrongs would be much appreciated.

    Jo Whiteley
    Shamed Newbie [hangs head]
  2. peacemaker92

    peacemaker92Well Known MemberMember

    Hi Jo and Welcome to Fishlore! :;hi2

    I'm sorry to hear that you're going through this problem. Most of us here went through the same when we started this hobby knowing nothing to only a bit of info about what to do. So don't worry.

    Firstly, to know if your cycle is complete, test readings should show that you have 0 Ammonia and 0 nitrites and nitrates should be kept below 10-20. But according to what you stated about your nitrites, your cycle is definitely not completed. So doing water changes daily is a good thing. I'd also advise to get your ammonia tester as soon as possible. The green tinge could be caused by a slight algae bloom so wait for more input on that one.

    About feeding your fish, know that they stomachs are the size of one of their eyes so don't feed too much even though they may seem hungry. Some of here feed them once to twice a day so that should be good enough.

    About your fish, the neons have to go as they could cause more problems. I'd advise returning them for something else. Maybe some cories? The plecos also have to go as they can outgrow your tank soon. Wait for more responses on that one too.

    Do you have any plants in your tank yet?

    I'm not sure of anything else. I'm sure there'll be more responses soon from the other members. I hope my info helped. Best of luck! :;hf Hope you enjoy your stay here on FL :)
  3. OP

    jowhiteleyNew MemberMember

    Yes, thank you! I also have a 24 x 12 x 12" tank - about 20 gallons I think? I was planning to move the minnows & tetras to that tank as soon as the new filter arrives (I can use the old one for the smaller tank) but I'm not so sure now that the minnows are bullying the tetras.

    I currently have the following plants: wavy-edged sword plant, Hygrophila difformis, Cabomba caroliniana, Hygrophila rosae australis, Eustralis stellata, , broadleaf Amazon swordplant and Cryptocoryne beckettii.

    The fish shop told me that the bristlenose plecs only grow to 12cm and will be fine in a 3 foot tank - is this wrong?
  4. Tigerfishy

    TigerfishyWell Known MemberMember

    We all started here, don;t feel bad. Most of us found this site when things started to go wrong, me included! I'm not gonna have all the answers, but between me and some of the experienced guys, we'll get there!

    To start, I'm glad you're bothering to research, thank you! The only "instant bacteria" that works is Tetra SafeStart. I have never yet found it in the shops, but I got mine off eBay! It will cycle the tank in about 10 days, it might be worth looking into. Try also getting Prime (again an eBay product, not available in shops here). You should change about 30% water every day with Prime. Prime detoxifies ammonia and nitrites for 24 hours, this is why you need to change every day. However, do not change water out or use Prime if you use Tetra Safestart as this will destroy the food source for the bacteria, and the product will fail.

    If you use the Prime method, keep up daily changes until you see Ammonia=0, Nitirtes=0, Nitrates= between 5 & 20, that's your cycle. If you use Safestart, then leave it for 10 days, then test, you should have your cycle!

    I feed a small pinch of flakes every day to my community, but I think you may be overstocked, someone else will be able to advise further, I'm a bit rubbish at stocking levels!
    I would say no more fish until the cycle completes. The less changes in the tank right now, the better.

    Good luck, someone else will be along soon to add to this, but it's a good starting point to research Prime, test kits (Buy liquid instead of strips, API master test kit is again cheaper on eBay and is the best kit!).

    Welcome, I promise it gets easier, and you will always find a fast friendly response here, and no question is too stupid (Believe me, I asked some great ones lol!)
  5. OP

    jowhiteleyNew MemberMember

    Thanks very much for taking the trouble to reply.
  6. LyndaB

    LyndaBFishlore LegendMember

    Never hang your head in shame when you've made a very honest mistake. You're doing the right thing by asking questions now and seeing how to correct any mistakes made and how to move forward for the health and well-being of your fish. That's an amazing first step!

    Everyone who keeps fish has learned through trial and error. I don't know anyone who's aced it from the first moment. There's a huge learning curve and bit by bit you'll begin to understand how all the information you're given links together.

    :;hi2 Welcome!
  7. ppate1977

    ppate1977Well Known MemberMember

    We all started with mistakes, things will get easier as you collect info. I just wanted to chime in on the bristlenose plecos... they will not get too big, maybe 11" or so, but that is large for your tank, especially 2 of them. I suggest rubber pleco, they only get about 4-5". Hang in there, things will sort themselves out, and you will find a lot of help here.
  8. AlyeskaGirl

    AlyeskaGirlFishlore VIPMember

    Hello! Glad you are here!

    Lots of good advice above! You are on the way to be a great fishkeeper! :)

    As for the Bristlenose Plecos they only grow to approx. 5-6". But I would suggest in taking ONE back, you don't need TWO. lol They also like a piece of bogwood to chew on (if you don't have one already) as that helps their digestive system and they eat algea wafers and fresh veggies like blanched (boiled) zuccinni (sinks when blanched), cucumber slice (needs to be weighted down) and Romaine Lettuce. Sinking Shrimp pellots for some protein, occassionally.

    Minnows I believe are cooler water fish. Not really sure, don't know alot about them. lol I suggest in taking them back anyways since your Neons don't care for them. Research fish it's importent so you know how big they will get and compatibility.

  9. christine828

    christine828Valued MemberMember

    I am not 100% positive but I believe I read minnows do well with goldfish, which would back up Alyeska's thought of them being cold water fish.

    I am going through the same thing you are, only I lost half my tank. The advice I have gotten here has been wonderful and the 4 fish I have remaining are doing very well.

    I am doing 50% water changes daily. I have 20g with a gourami, a platy and 2 buenos aires tetras and I'm still getting ammonia readings of .25 to 1.0 a day with 0 nitrites and between 0 and 5 nitrates. I'm using Amquel+ which, like Prime, detoxes the ammonia to help keep the fish safe while you get the tank cycled. I've been doing this for 2 months now, so I just ordered a bottle of Tetra SafeStart, I'm going to try that.

    I would recommend getting some Amquel+ or Prime and doing daily water changes of at least 30% like the other posters said. That should help keep the fish safe while you get things under control.

    Good luck and don't beat yourself up, as everyone else has said, we've all been there.
  10. Rhan

    RhanWell Known MemberMember

    Everyone has offered great advice, I just wanted to say hello and commend you for taking the responsibility to ensure that your fish are cared for properly :)

    Almost everyone has been exactly where you are right now, overwhelmed and been completely misguided by LFS employees. I came to this forum when my beloved clown loaches were badly infected with ich. I had previously relied on the LFS advice, as they put up a good front that they were very knowledgable. They sold me 2 clown loaches, which can grow very large and are very fast swimmers, to put in a 10 gallon. I told them the size of the tank and asked if it would be fine for them, and they said yes it would be quite suitable. Anyway, my poor fish died and I beat myself up over it for months.

    I guess my point is, please don't beat yourself up, instead be happy knowing you are doing a fantastic job trying to care for you fish in the best possible ways :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 9, 2010
  11. peacemaker92

    peacemaker92Well Known MemberMember

    Glad everyone's come by to help :) Do keep us updated! :;hf
  12. critch

    critchValued MemberMember

    Hello Jo Whiteley,
    Dont worry you are heading in the right direction, most of use started off Misdirected and badly informed by shops, i would not set your second tank up quite just yet

    Please dont put gold fish in your 24x12x12 tank 56ltrs i think , as they really need 180ltrs min..

    Please post your Water reading once you have them so we can see where you are upto.

    Also be aware Us gallons are more than Uk gallons,
    i have a 19 uk gallon tank which is 23 us gallons..

    so yours are 23 uk gallon 28 us gallon tank
    & 12.5 uk gallon 15 us gall tank,

    your the WCMM as they are known are temprate fish 15-22 degrees C
    Neon Tetras are Tropical fish and need to be kept 21-29 dgrees c
    Bristle nose plecs need about 90ltrs so may just be okay but only one, kept at 23-37degrees c,
    if they are both male they may get aggressive towards each other..

    dont worry about the snails you can get some assasin snails

    Now the red tailed shark they grow to around 12cm need 3ft long tank Min, and can get terratorial and aggressive, you may have problems with this one ane your neons, or you may not. your current stocking you are not really over stocked as such. apart from the Bristlenose.

    your fish are not really compatable I would get rid of the red tailed shark and a plec, and keep the others and try out my suggestions bellow.

    so dont split the tanks just yet as you will have to deal with two cycling tanks, which you dont need right now..

    Okay you have two tanks we will call them

    36x15x12 Tank A
    24x12x12 Tank B
    current filter A
    New Filter B

    I would suggest for now you get tank A you have running, kept at 23 degrees c,
    finish the cycle, get the ammoinia and NiTRITE down to zero,

    then place Filter A&B in tank A,

    still with me ?

    What this will do is produce bacteria in filters A&B then after 3 weeks or so, set up tank B with substrate and water, then take filter B out of the tank A and place it in tank B,

    then put your WCMM in tank B, trust me this is alot easier then cycling a tank from fresh, just test tank B every other day for ammonia as you may get a spike..

    Then after 2 weeks Swap the filters over As Tank A is the bigger tank and Filter B is the better filter Clearseal 700, we dont do this at first because there may not be enough bactiria in Filter B to cope with tank A on its own.

    I have done this for 6 of my tanks, and always have a spare filter running in my main tank, incase i need to quarantie any fish or fancy a new tank LoL...

    I hope this really helps if you want to talk more just email me,

    on a personal note, i stay away from tetras they always get stressed easily and get Ich or Neon tetra desease, always quarantine your new fish for at least a month, there is nothing worse than loosing a whole tank !
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2010
  13. Tigerfishy

    TigerfishyWell Known MemberMember

    See Jo, we've all been there! Now you don't have to feel bad at all.
    Great advice given above, jump in, have a look, have a go, and see the results!
  14. OP

    jowhiteleyNew MemberMember

    Wow. Thanks everyone. It's a lot to take in but I think I'm making progress. I've put the new filter in the tank and I'm running them both for the moment as I don't think that can do any harm (I'm sure someone will tell me if I'm wrong!) and 10% water changes every day. Nitrites were as high as 0.8 mg/l but readings now are:

    pH = 7.4
    Ammonia = 0.25mg/l
    Nitrite = readings somewhere between "less than 0.3mg /l" and "0.3mg/l"
    Nitrate = readings somewhere between 0 and 12.5mg /l

    I'm using individual Tetra test kits if that makes a difference.

    Good advice Critch - not to set up the second tank until the first one is properly cycled. I was about to do just that but you are right, I will wait.

    All the fish seem to have settled down for the moment - no aggression or nipping - even the neons are active and not hiding away - so I wonder if it was stress from the toxic environment making them fighty. I know that size will be a big problem very soon but they're all tiny babies just now so I think there will be room enough until the tank has cycled properly and I can set up the next tank to transfer some of them over.

    I'm reluctant, perhaps foolishly, to return any of the fish. I would like to try to give them all a comfortable home, even if that means having to get more or bigger tanks.

    [ Question: how do you stop the tanks proliferating? My mind's eye is populating every corner of the house with tanks! ]

    Anyway, I think the worst is past. Thanks everybody for your help. Love the site - very helpful, very friendly. I will try to post a picture soon and I would love any comments on how to improve.
  15. jetajockey

    jetajockeyFishlore VIPMember

    strip test kits are notoriously unreliable, i strongly suggest getting an api master freshwater kit, the upfront cost is kind of a turnoff since its 20-30 dollars, but it pays for itself if you plan to regularly test and maintain your tanks.

    there's a few ways, 1. get a grumpy spouse who decides to put their foot down. 2. Begin to reconsider when the neighbors stop calling you the 'fish lady' and start calling you the 'creepy fish lady' or 3. give your kids very hard objects and allow them to play catch in the house. :)

    Or just do what the rest of us do and just keep collecting them till we end up like my family doctor's wife and turn the in-ground swimming pool into a giant pond with a slide.
  16. OP

    jowhiteleyNew MemberMember

    Yes, I am using liquid tests now, not strip tests. The LFS sold me strip tests for nitrites and nitrates and then the very next week told me they were rubbish and I needed liquid tests.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2010
  17. Shine

    ShineWell Known MemberMember

    ...Evil! And they wonder why we learn not to trust them?! :mad:
  18. crystalized

    crystalizedNew MemberMember

    usually the first time is always the hardest, usually places like petco or petsmart sucks, most of them have no idea what they talking about or poor in trainning, I find this forum way more useful for whatever fish you may want..

    I basically killed all my fish by making same mistakes as you did..but on my 2nd one it was perfect and juss got better and better..

    keep it up !!! fishes are fun to raise
  19. OP

    jowhiteleyNew MemberMember

    Hurray! Nitrite levels = 0. At last!

    However, confusingly, nitrate levels also at 0 which seems unlikely and ammonia levels still at 0.25mg / litre. Nevertheless, I feel that I'm nearly there. Thanks guys!
  20. midthought

    midthoughtWell Known MemberMember

    Unfortunately, nitrates being at 0 just doesn't seem right. A fully cycled tank should be registering at least 10 ppm nitrates. If your nitrites had been rising and now are at 0 though, I don't know what to say, maybe your nitrate test was defective? Try it again? Did you shake the bottle and test vial vigorously and for long enough?

    Edit: nitrates may also be very very low if you are way understocked or are *heavily* planted, but I don't know if that's the situation here, particularly with the first scenario.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2010