Newbie-with lots of mistakes

RCME

Hello! First time poster, but have been reading for a few days. And it appears i have fallen for every single newbie mistake! So, we made the not-well thought out or planned decision to get a tank. 20 gallons, with a sponge filter. 2 Amazon swords. A few fake plants and a little house thing. Went to the local fish store and let them convince us what to get. Now here are my issues:
1. We didn't cycle AT ALL. I know better now, but need some help. Ammonia has been at 1-1.5. No nitrates or nitrites. Water is cloudy. PH is 7.6. We used API Quick Start, Stress Coat + and Stress Zyme (yes, they probably saw a sucker and over sold us!).
2. I am 99% sure I have an awful mix of fish. Again, I take full responsibility. We let the fish store and 8 year old guide us prior to doing the research. I am scared to even admit, and know we deserve the criticism!
3. We have babies. Seriously, my almost 3 week old tank has like 20 little fry.
I need help. This is what I think:
Daily water changes (what %?) with Seachem Prime
Don't vacuum the gravel for now.
So, we have:
2 neon tetras (should be 6 as they like to school)
4 male guppies
2 Endler guppies
3 cory catfish (albino, emerald and peppered) (should be 5, can it be all different kinds?)
1 clown loach
2 zebra Danios (should be 6 as they like to school)
And a bunch of mollies (who gave us the babies)
2 dalmation, 2 black velvet and 2 gold dust

Everyone seems happy. No one is gasping for air. They are all swimming happily. Even the babies are still alive after being born Sunday night. So, tell me what to do to make this right and keep my fish happy (and alive)! Thanks so much!
 

SparkyJones

Well, the water changes, and water changes, and water changes, you have to keep doing that.

it will cycle, and it will cycle for the stock you have in the tank, but between the fish and plants, it's going to be a while, and one day the ammonia is going to stop showing and so will the nitrites that will possibly eventually show up.

ideally you really want to keep that ammonia under 1ppm, it's going to be hard to do with the amount of fish you have, which is why the prime might help with that. It works for me, other folks don't believe in it at all. You get more effect at reduction by water changing larger volume at one time than you do doing small changes. 50% change cuts the ammonia in half, same goes for nitrites or nitrates. change 50% of the water, get rid of 50% of the readings. And the idea is to keep it under 1ppm all the time and the prime acts as a safety net if it goes over that. you can double dose the prime, it will have a double effect. 2ppm safety instead of 1ppm. but can't do much more than that. It will cycle in time, but you might not see it until it's just reading )ammonia and 0 nitrites for a while. Until then, it's basically water change daily trying to keep under 1ppm, and retreating with the prime, for wiggle room between changes.

The neons would be the most sensitive and the most likely to show a problem or die out of this group, well besides the babies but baby fish die anyways.
Neons just aren't very hardy, but they can kind of serve as your "canary in the coal mine" so to speak, if there's a problem it should hit them first, so watch them for signs of difficulties and water change when in doubt or it appears anyone is struggling even if, it looks ok from a test.

We cycled with fish in tank a long time before Prime or testing was the modern thing, the fish will show you there's a problem even if you didn't test. and the rule of thumb was "if the fish ain't acting right, water change, and if the fish are acting right, water change,
just water change. it will cycle, don't mess with the filter or the substrate.

You really can't add more fish until it's cycled it just makes it harder to handle and keep on top of. You can add fish after it's cycled, but don't exceed half the number of fish you currently have in there in new fish to add to it, because cycling the way you are will just be up to size for the fish you have.
 

ProudPapa

Welcome. It sounds like you're in the middle of the same situation most of us started out with. To start, we can't give you an exact percentage of how large your water changes should be, or how often. They should be large enough, and frequent enough, to keep the ammonia and nitrite at safe levels. Many people use 1.0 ppm combined (not each) as that level, and it's probably a good starting place. You pH has an effect on this. Ammonia is more toxic in high pH water.

About your stocking, I'd start by rehoming the clown loach. I'm not familiar with them, but from doing a little research it looks like it will get too large for your tank. Other than that, the rest can probably wait until you get things stabilized.

I would like to mention one more thing. More live plants might be a thing to consider. They help absorb ammonia and nitrates, and take up carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Both of those are good things in general, but especially in heavily stocked tanks.
 

RCME

Well, the water changes, and water changes, and water changes, you have to keep doing that.

it will cycle, and it will cycle for the stock you have in the tank, but between the fish and plants, it's going to be a while, and one day the ammonia is going to stop showing and so will the nitrites that will possibly eventually show up.

ideally you really want to keep that ammonia under 1ppm, it's going to be hard to do with the amount of fish you have, which is why the prime might help with that. It works for me, other folks don't believe in it at all. You get more effect at reduction by water changing larger volume at one time than you do doing small changes. 50% change cuts the ammonia in half, same goes for nitrites or nitrates. change 50% of the water, get rid of 50% of the readings. And the idea is to keep it under 1ppm all the time and the prime acts as a safety net if it goes over that. you can double dose the prime, it will have a double effect. 2ppm safety instead of 1ppm. but can't do much more than that. It will cycle in time, but you might not see it until it's just reading )ammonia and 0 nitrites for a while. Until then, it's basically water change daily trying to keep under 1ppm, and retreating with the prime, for wiggle room between changes.

The neons would be the most sensitive and the most likely to show a problem or die out of this group, well besides the babies but baby fish die anyways.
Neons just aren't very hardy, but they can kind of serve as your "canary in the coal mine" so to speak, if there's a problem it should hit them first, so watch them for signs of difficulties and water change when in doubt or it appears anyone is struggling even if, it looks ok from a test.

We cycled with fish in tank a long time before Prime or testing was the modern thing, the fish will show you there's a problem even if you didn't test. and the rule of thumb was "if the fish ain't acting right, water change, and if the fish are acting right, water change,
just water change. it will cycle, don't mess with the filter or the substrate.

You really can't add more fish until it's cycled it just makes it harder to handle and keep on top of. You can add fish after it's cycled, but don't exceed half the number of fish you currently have in there in new fish to add to it, because cycling the way you are will just be up to size for the fish you have.
So, if I can get this tank straight..are you saying that in theory the fish that want to school (tetras, dannios and catfish), I could add a few more of those in time..eventually. Many months down the road? I guess that my confusion is that the fish seem fine. I put the babies in a breeder net thing and all 20ish of them are still alive and swimming. But, I will keep up with the water cahnges and use those little tetra as my visual guide. Thanks for the info.
 

AP1

In terms of the fish, here are some thoughts/steps:

1. Go in-person to the LFS, find a manager, and chat with them to see if they will take the fish back. A good store should--mine takes back any fish it sold anytime (even months down the road). If they seem especially friendly, see if they are open to giving you back store credit towards future purchases for returned fish.

2. As noted above, the clown loach certainly will need to be re-homed. Ideally to your LFS; if not, see #5 (though I think e-bay will be most difficult for the clown loach, esp. if you try to ensure it goes to a good home and right-sized tank).

3. Make a decision about whether you want to be fish parent to lots (and lots) more fish in the years to come. If not, you either will need to rehome the mollies or purchase a fish that is likely to predate on future molly fry but not on the rest of your fish, a bit of a trick but doable. (also depends on how the idea of this sort of predation seems to you; also note that some fry will probably make it, so you are just buying some time until you will need to do something with the fry. Plus, of course, you still need to figure out what to do with the current 20 fry.)

4. Finally, make a list of the fish species you want to keep and those you don't. If you don't want the mollys, I think you can probably keep 3 of 4 of the guppies/endlers (assume the endlers are males too?), neons, zebra danios, and one of the cory species (my understanding is that you want to keep them with the same species, so two of the 3 would not make the cut). I.e., you might wind up with something like 8-10 neons, the 6 guppies/endlers, and 6 peppered corys. Maybe a bit high on the stocking load, but not outrageously so. You could also, of course, opt to 'cut' more and restart the stocking completely.

5. If your LFS will take the fish back, great. If not, I think the good news is (though I have never tried it), that you purchased a bunch of fish that would seem to be attractive to others and so e-bay sales or give-aways should work, eventually.

So cut the stock back to where you want it. And lots of WCs until the tank cycles in the meantime!

*also, very much agree about the live plants. If cost is an issue, aim to add something that will spread quickly after purchase. You can wind up with quite a green tank after a couple of months w/an initial purchase of one clump of guppy grass or Pogostemonon stellatus octopus. Floating plants like water lettuce are GREAT as well for nitrates, though you will have to remove them every week or so (but not hard to do).
 

SparkyJones

Hi RCME,

The fish will seem fine, until they aren't fine, just how it works when things become too much and affect them it's too late really to correct it, damage is done. You really can't slack because the moment it's not cool, it's going to be really uncool for the fish. proactive instead of reactive is the safe approach for the best shot at keeping the fish alive.

As AP1 suggests, if you can get the fish out of that situation it would be best, and easier on you.
I knw things aren't always possibilities, it's why I just assumed you are going to ride this out.

It's just 20 gallons of water, Tetras are egg layers, the corries will likely clean up the eggs and none will make it, the mollies are live bearers and they will crank out babies. the cories are pretty prolific and they will likely size up themselves in time adding babies to the herd.

That clown loach is going to get big, and you really don't have a tank for something like that.

the guppies, the endlers the mollies, With the amount and types of fish you have, you will be looking for ways to get rid of them, not be looking to buy more most likely. this goes for all the fish you have really.

For the most part the fish selected are Ok and will work together except the clown loach gets big, the other fish stay smaller, the problem there is that they are going to breed and crank out babies and that's going to be another problem in the long run, overcrowding. Leaving it up to nature, it might not get out of hand and the adult fish will eat most of them, if you are trying to save all of them, it will get out of hand quickly and you'll need more space or everyone will suffer.

I like this stocking, it kind of sets things up for free foods, and new stock making through the gauntlet here or there over time, mostly self replenishing.
However, i really don't like this many fish while cycling the aquarium still, it's a recipe for disaster and a bunch of dead fish if you aren't really attentive to it.

down the line when the neons are mature, you might be able to save some to the breeder box to replenish those, the guppies, endlers and mollies, trust me, you won't need to save those, some will make it here or there over time if you do nothing about protecting them. the cories will likely breed also and something make it out of that.
 

RCME

Ok. My LFS will buy back my clown loach and the mollies for store credit. No more mollies for us. We are going to attempt to save the fish (just not sure what to do with the babies. The kids are pretty attached. Can i leave them in the breeder net and if they start to get big sell them?) we have for now. But, my question, if we lose some/all. Would this be an ok tank (types/counts)
Neon tetra (6ish for a school)
Male only guppies or Endlers (3 or 4?)
Zebra Danios (6ish for a school)
And my son loves the albinio and pepper catfish the most. So, can there be 3ish of two kinds?
The whole point of the tank was geared towards him. We told him he has to help take care of them, so I'd like for it to be what he really likes.
I know I am thinking way down the line, I just like to have an idea because I may sell back any that we just won't keep at all. Sell back the mollies, the clown loach and the emerald catfish. If/when it gets cycled and healthy have what I listed above? I am also going to get more plants today.
 

Revan

Heads up, neon tetras sometimes just randomly die. They're really popular fish, so they've been overbred so much that they don't have much genetic diversity. So in the long term the neons might not last.
 

Cawafuoshi

I second the idea to replace fake with real plants. In addition, floating plants will suck up the bad stuff pretty well. Especially floating plants can be a temporary help and you can discard them later on if you do not dig the look of roots in the water column.
 

Revan

If you don't like the look of the roots I'm pretty sure you can trim them too. Floating plants aren't really that hard to take care of either, they grow pretty rapidly on their own.
 

Cara

I'm really glad your store took back some of those fish. Frankly, I think it was a bit irresponsible for them to stock you with so many. I understand you didn't do much research beforehand but any decent aquatics salesperson could have steered you in a different direction.

I definitely agree with live plants to help stabilize your tank :)
 

ProudPapa

Hello. To answer a couple of your questions, I don't have any experience with breeder nets, but if the fish are doing okay in one now I don't see why they can't stay in it until they're large enough to not be eaten.

About the current plan for stocking, that's pretty full. It might be okay, but you'll have to keep a very close eye on the water parameters. It would probably be best to take either the neons or danios back to the store.

Keeping just a few each of two Corydoras species isn't ideal, but it should be okay.
 

AP1

About the current plan for stocking, that's pretty full. It might be okay, but you'll have to keep a very close eye on the water parameters. It would probably be best to take either the neons or danios back to the store.

Keeping just a few each of two Corydoras species isn't ideal, but it should be okay.
These are about my thoughts too. Glad to hear that the store will take the others back and I am sure that relieves some stress!

(If you read this earlier, extra quote material was accidentally posted in-- apologies!)
 

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