Newbie needs urgent help please!

  • #1
Hello all! I am new here and new to fish keeping. We inherited some fish and a tank from our nanny when she moved a few months ago. She set it up for me and I knew nothing. I just did what she told me to do with what she gave me. The fish were, from what I can tell from comparing to fish at my LFS, 2 angels, 2 albino tiger barbs, and a pleco in a 20 g tank. One angel died. It was always being chased by the bigger one. I didn't know about water conditioner, so the water was not dechlorinated. The heater was on the fritz, so the water got too warm. Then the filter stopped working and when I replaced it about a month ago, I threw out the old filter and all the media, because I didn't know any better. But since then I've been doing some research and I really want to do right by these fish. I've been doing weekly 25% water changes with API Quick Start and Marineland water conditioner. I had my water tested at my LFS on Saturday and they told me it was perfect and that it was ok to get new fish. With their advice we brought home 3 tiger barbs, 3 gold barbs, a baby angel, and a dwarf gourami. I acclimated them to the tank as per the LFS's instructions and they all seemed to do fine. The problem is that the big angel is attacking the little one. And now all the fish are bothering it. It's poor little fins are badly torn. My LFS suggested changing up decor, so I did that on Wednesday along with an extra water change, but it hasn't helped. I went back today and tested my water again, it's still perfect. I want to separate the two angels ASAP, but don't know which one to rehome. Should I take back the little guy or the bully? I know the bully is too big for our tank anyway, but we were planning to size up to a 55 g in a few months if we keep 1 of the angels. Will the little angel do ok if I get rid of his main adversary? The other fish didn't bother him until he was already stressed. I know angels aren't recommended with barbs at all, because of fin nipping, but the bigger one doesn't get bothered at all, so his only issue is tank size. The clerk at my LFS advised leaving the little angel and taking them the bully and trading for a ram. What do you think? Thanks in advance for any advice!

By the way, I did replace the heater and the water is now at a steady 80 degrees. I have an aqua clear 50 filter with an ammonia remover pad in it.

The gravel, fake plants, and decor were added at the same time as the new filter.

Any advice for us?

  • #2
A 20 gallon is too small for even a single angel. I would rehome both and probably the pleco depending on the type. You can post a picture of it and aliray can better advise.

Tiger barbs should be in a group of 6+. But due to their aggression, I would consider what type of tank you want and decide whether you want to keep them or not. But keep in mind, the bigger their school, the less likely they are to bother other tank mates.

I highly recommend getting your own liquid test kit and reading over the Nitrogen Cycle if you haven't yet.
Lfs consistently say "your water is perfect!" without even knowing what the numbers mean or understand the Nitrogen cycle. So my advice is to cut out the middle man.
Until then, when they test your water, write down the exact readings and we can further help you.

Recommended test kit: API Liquud Master Test Kit
Recommended conditioner: Seachem Prime
Recommended tank size for current stock: 55g

Currently if you can't get a bigger tank soon, I suggest IDing the pleco, rehoming both angels, and deciding whether you want a semI aggressive tank or peaceful community.

Edit: almost forgot your new additions. In a 20 gallon I would stick to one school. They need to be the same species

  • #3
It's not a good idea to add that many fish that quickly. Your cycle needs to adjust to a bigger bio load gradually. You're overstocked.

Are your ammonia and nitrites zero? Is your nitrate level around 10 ppm?

What kind of schedule have you been on with partial water changes? Have you been doing a partial water change every week?

Be careful about saying "the water is perfect." That phrase will trigger eye-rolls from people who are experienced fishkeepers. Maybe the water is "perfect," but in reality, the vast majority of aquarium problems are due to bad water parameters, and you don't want to ignore water as a possible cause of trouble while you're figuring it out.

If it were me, I'd get rid of the angels, keep testing the water, and if any ammonia or nitrites show up, start doing 20% water changes every other day until the cycle is complete.
  • #4
It's overstocked and angle like 29 gallons or more
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Thanks for the recommendations! I will be picking up a test kit for sure and will update on my water parameters. Here's a pic of the pleco.
  • #6
Nice pleco.


  • #7
I may be wrong, but that looks like a common pleco. If it is, it's gonna get WAY too big for your tank (they get at least as long as a 20 gallon tank is.) I'd recommend swapping it for a clown or rubber lip pleco. You MIGHT be able to get away with a bristlenose, but most species of even those aren't recommended in less than a 29g.
  • #8
Welcome to Fishlore!
Sounds like you have started out just like many of us. . Too many fish that are incompatible with one another in too small a tank because of advice from an lfs employee.

How soon will you be getting the 55 gallon? You could keep the smaller angelfish in a 20 temporarily, however the barbs may fin nip.

Angelfish are cichlids so they can get vicious, usually just towards other Angels over territory. That is why the big one is picking on the little one. Not enough room.
The pleco looks like a common which can get very large. I would advise to rehome it and go for otos or snails.
API test kits are cheaper on Amazon. So are a lot of other supplies like prime.
Please read up on the nitrogen cycle as well as fishless cycle for your 55. You may want to look into fish in cycle using stability and prime for your current tank as well. Sounds like you may not be cycled.
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
I'm loving this advice! Thank you! We are going to be out of town tomorrow, so I'm going to the LFS on Sunday and will be taking in the big angel to rehome. Still deciding on the little guy. Planning to get a 55 g in maybe 3-6 months or so. I would love to keep him in that with the dwarf gourami and maybe Cory cats. I looked up otos and I really like that idea tfreema. I could keep the barbs in the 20 g. How does that sound? I will do my research on fishleas cycling in the meantime. And get a test kit!

The pleco will be rehomed next. I will be so sad to see him or her go.
  • #10
Proceed with caution with the tiger barbs. As their name implies they are nippy and quarrelsome. The small tank makes it much worse. As a rule of thumb tetras are better for community tanks than barbs. There are many exceptions. Good luck, you'll find the 55 gal will look better and be much less stressful on the fish.


  • #11
Honestly, I'm glad you are rehoming. My college just did a "fish tank" day where we made fish tanks (I didn't because I could not do that to the goldfish) that were maybe half a gallon and they put 2 comet goldfish in the tank. No filter. No heater. Granted goldfish don't like heaters and are cold water, but still. I see half my friends with it and I cringe. Then they thought they were being better by buying a 10 gallon during the dollar a gallon sale. Granted, it was better, but still. So I applaud you for seeing its best for the fish and doing right by them. And don't worry, MTS (multiple tank syndrome) is real. You will get another one some day!
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
MTS. Haha. FishGuruInTraining
  • #13
I'm loving this advice! Thank you! We are going to be out of town tomorrow, so I'm going to the LFS on Sunday and will be taking in the big angel to rehome. Still deciding on the little guy. Planning to get a 55 g in maybe 3-6 months or so. I would love to keep him in that with the dwarf gourami and maybe Cory cats. I looked up otos and I really like that idea tfreema. I could keep the barbs in the 20 g. How does that sound? I will do my research on fishleas cycling in the meantime. And get a test kit!

It may be better to keep the gourami in the 20 and the barbs in the 55. That way you avoid any territory issues between the angel and the gourami, and your barbs will have plenty of roomy to swim (they can get surprisingly big when well cared for and can eventually outgrow a 20g) and you can have a larger group of them.

As for otos, they're a great choice, but they are very sensitive, so don't get them until your tank has been established for at least several months and is stable. Also, because they're wild caught and don't ship well, make sure the ones you buy have been at the store for a bare minimum of two weeks without problems.
  • #14
I know it is hard to give them up. I started out with African cichlids in a 20 gallon which needs a 55 gallon minimum. Lfs owner said they would be ok in a 20. Fortunately, a local medical office had room in a large cichlid tank.
I am not sure about barbs in a 20. I will defer to others on that. I have read 30 gallon is the smallest for them, but I do not have barbs so I have not properly researched them beyond the fact they would fin nip my angelfish.
Careful on selecting your cory cats that the species you choose is warmer temperature. Some, like peppered, have a high temp of 72. Way too cold for angelfish or gourami. Sterbai, albino, emerald, and others. There are a lot of different kinds and really cool, active, fun fish. They are shoaling so at least 6 are needed.


  • #15
How big is your angel? Honestly for the fish's sake, it might be best to return it too..
But when it comes to the pleco, if it is infact a common, they can live in ponds! So if you happen to have one nearby, that would be great cause you can go by and see it and know its being treated well.
If you still have stocking issues when you get your 55g, I would not waste your time with a fishless cycle. The best thing to do is put them in the new bigger tank along with the filters from the 20 gallon and keep an eye on the parameters, doing water changes if they get too high.
Sidenote: DO NOT rinse your filter cartridges in untreated tap water. And do not throw them away. That is where your beneficial bacteria lives. See Nitrogen Cycle for more information TexasDomer can help with stocking and aliray is the pleco queen
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
The little angel is about 2 inches long.And thanks!
  • #17
HI and welcome to the forum.I am very glad you joined us. The pleco does look like a common, so I agree with the need to rehome it, as even a 55 gallon is nowhere big enough to house one. You can keep a bristle nose pleco in a 20 gallon. As far as the angel fish, I would keep the large one and take the small one back, The reason being is that the little one will not stand a chance with the other tank mates. The big one you know is healthy, he is not a bully, and it is not ideal but he will be fine in the 20 gal high ,till you get the 55 gallon. If the tiger barbs aren't nipping at the big angel than count your blessings, but watch for any nipping of fins and if you see it then rehome them, he may be big enough that for now they are afraid of him. A single peaceful type grourami will be fine with an angel fish. In that size tank you could do a honey gourami . when you get the 55 then you could do a pair of pearl gourami with the angel fish. Gold gourami can be aggressive. Honey grouami can also be kept as a trio or pair when you upgrade is you like them better. I am going to go back and reread your post to see what I missed. AlisonWhen she was talking about a pond for the pleco she meant a manmade pond, not a wild pond or one that has a way for the pleco to get in the natural water supply.

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