Questions about water conditioner and salt for a freshwater tank

ErinO
  • #1
HI all. I looked for the answers to these questions, but I couldn't find anything. I'm just learning how to utilize a forum (I'm not tech savvy at all), so I apologize if these are repeat questions.

Some background info:

I have a 10 gallon tank (I have just found out that 10 gallons is not the wisest choice for a beginner). It is an Aqueon kit that has a biofilter, heater, and LED hood. We were told that we could set it up and let the water "stabilize for 48 hours" before we got fish, which we did. (After reading a lot of threads on this forum today, I have come to the realization that I shouldn't have gotten the fish yet. Also, no, I didn't research the fish that I got as thoroughly as I thought I did.) We have two Platys and a Serpae Tetra. They are playing well together so far. I hope that continues. I know that are schooling fish and that they may not do well with so few of each kind. We have been testing the water twice a day using the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. Ammonia has been between 1 and 2, Nitrites at .25 and Nitrates at 0-5. We have been doing twice daily water changes to try to get the ammonia lowered.

Now for my questions:

I've been reading that a lot of people use Prime as a water conditioner. We have been using the Aqueon water conditioner. Should we switch to Prime, or are we ok if we stick with the Aqueon?

We were told to add aquarium salt, but I have read that it is a bad idea to do so. What are your thoughts?

I would also welcome any other thoughts you all may have that may be helpful for a successful aquarium.
Thank you
 
fishydudez
  • #2
HI all. I looked for the answers to these questions, but I couldn't find anything. I'm just learning how to utilize a forum (I'm not tech savvy at all), so I apologize if these are repeat questions.

Some background info:

I have a 10 gallon tank (I have just found out that 10 gallons is not the wisest choice for a beginner). It is an Aqueon kit that has a biofilter, heater, and LED hood. We were told that we could set it up and let the water "stabilize for 48 hours" before we got fish, which we did. (After reading a lot of threads on this forum today, I have come to the realization that I shouldn't have gotten the fish yet. Also, no, I didn't research the fish that I got as thoroughly as I thought I did.) We have two Platys and a Serpae Tetra. They are playing well together so far. I hope that continues. I know that are schooling fish and that they may not do well with so few of each kind. We have been testing the water twice a day using the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. Ammonia has been between 1 and 2, Nitrites at .25 and Nitrates at 0-5. We have been doing twice daily water changes to try to get the ammonia lowered.

Now for my questions:

I've been reading that a lot of people use Prime as a water conditioner. We have been using the Aqueon water conditioner. Should we switch to Prime, or are we ok if we stick with the Aqueon?

We were told to add aquarium salt, but I have read that it is a bad idea to do so. What are your thoughts?

I would also welcome any other thoughts you all may have that may be helpful for a successful aquarium.
Thank you

I suggest you read about The Nitrogen Cycle. Yes prime is the best one especially if you have ammonia or nitrite! Just test once a day. Aquarium salt is not needed, salt is just used for QTing. I used Tetra Safe Start+ to finish my cycling.
 
el337
  • #3
Welcome to Fishlore

Sounds like you've been given the same bad advice from the fish stores as many of us have received. Having the tank sit empty for a couple of days does nothing but maybe get your water's temp up to where it needs to be. As far as it being ready for fish? Nope, far from ready.

But that's ok because we've all been there and you can successfully and safely cycle with the fish you have. I will say though that if you can, I'd return the serpae tetra as they are schooling fish and need to be in a group of at least 6+ of their own species in at least a 20 gallon tank. The platies are not schooling fish so it's fine if you just have those 2.

Can you also test your tap for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate? We'll need to know if any those readings are coming from your water source.

To answer your questions, your water conditioner is ok but it doesn't detoxify ammonia and nitrite like Prime does which is why it's so popular here. If you can, I'd pick up a bottle and then do a couple 50% water changes to bring that ammonia down as close to zero as possible. Using a bacteria supplement like Seachem Stability or Tetra SafeStart Plus will help you cycle in about 2-3 weeks. If you choose to use TSS+, you'll need to wait 24 hours after the use of a water conditioner before adding the entire bottle to the tank. You then do no water changes for 2 weeks. At around the 2 week mark, if you show 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and some nitrates, you're cycled.

Salt is not needed at all for freshwater setups so I wouldn't use it.

Let us know if you have any more questions. Enjoy the hobby!
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Thanks for your thoughts and insights. We got Prime so we'll give that a try. We've also started doing the 50% water changes. I'm pretty sure we're on our way to losing the Platys. My husband tested the tap water. The results are ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 0 and pH 8.8.
I thought that I had read somewhere that if you use something to help your tank cycle, you have to keep using it. I can't find that info again. And having typed it out, it doesn't make much sense, so I'm pretty sure this is not the case, right?
Any other thoughts are always welcome.
Thanks again
 
el337
  • #5
The instructions on the bacteria starters will tell you to keep using it with each water change even after you're cycled but I would not follow those instructions. It's just a way for them to keep selling more. After you're cycled, there would be no reason for your to keep using the product since your filter media has established bacteria to process those ammonia and nitrites on its own.

Sorry to hear about the platys. What behavior are you seeing?
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Sorry to hear about the platys. What behavior are you seeing?


They are laying on the bottom of the tank, not moving like they used to. When they do start swimming, they're very fast and erratic, even running into the side of the tank.

Thank you for the info about the bacteria starters. I'll get that going today.
 
el337
  • #7
Let us know what the readings are including the pH out of the tank after the water changes are done.
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Will do. That's another question I have. How soon after a water change can I test the water?
 
oldsalt777
  • #9
Hello Erin...

A 10 gallon tank is going to be difficult to keep clean. The fish waste alone is the problem. In such a small amount of water, the dissolved waste from even a few fish builds up quickly and poisons the fish. If you're determined to keep a tank this size, you'll need to remove at least half the water and replace it a couple of times a week, so the fish stay healthy. Feed just a little a couple of times a day and test the tank water daily for traces of ammonia and nitrite. If a test shows a trace of either, then immediately change the water. As you can probably tell, small tanks take a lot of work.

The best water treatment is Seachem's "Safe". As for salt, wait until you have some experience in the water keeping hobby before you decide on it. I've used it for several years in my fish tanks and like the results. But, that's my opinion.

Old
 
el337
  • #10
Will do. That's another question I have. How soon after a water change can I test the water?

You can test it right after.
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
So I did a 50% water change and added Prime. I ended up testing the water about an hour later. Here are the results:
Ammonia: 0.25
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 0
pH: 8

We lost one of the Platys, but the other one is holding on so far. Is there any chance that he might come out of this, or should I just put him out of his misery?
 
el337
  • #12
Parameters look a lot better!

Just keep an eye on the platy. Hopefully the water changes will help him. If he doesn't make it, you could get either 2-3 more male platys and try again or consider a fishless cycle. Did you return the serpae?
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
We did return him. If we lose the Platy, I think we'll go to a fishless cycle. I feel so bad about what I've put these guys through. Lesson learned. Is there anything I have to do differently for a fishless cycle, now that there have already been fish in the tank?
 
el337
  • #14
You'll want to do a large water change and gravel vac to remove any debris/detritus first . Don't touch the filter media or replace any of it as that is where any bacteria that's colonized would be.

Then you'll want to pick up a container of pure ammonia (Ace Hardware sells it that many use to fishless cycle with) as your ammonia source. A clean unused medicine dropper to dose the ammonia will help. You'll want a bacteria supplement to help cycle your tank like the ones mentioned above. I'd personally go with Seachem Stability as it would allow you to do water changes if the ammonia/nitrites get too high. TSS+ has a more hands off approach where no water changes are allowed for 2 weeks. Both are effective though.

Here's the ammonia dosing calculator.

https://www.fishlore.com/ConversionCalculator.htm#form20a

And a thread for fishless cycling but just dose to 1-2ppm and not the 5ppm that's recommended. 1-2ppm would be plenty to cycle this tank size and you don't want to overwhelm the bacteria and risk stalling the cycle if you dose too much.

https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/ammonia-instructions-for-a-fishless-cycle.19627/
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
Thank you for all the info. Such a big help.
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
Update: We still have a fish! I'm shocked. I thought he was a goner. I never did use a bacteria starter because we were going to switch to a fishless cycle if he died. I am wondering why my ammonia has gone back to 0 but I still have no nitrites or nitrates. I have been doing 50% water changes and using Prime with every change. What am I doing wrong? should I stop the 50% changes and start 25% changes? Do you still recommend a bacteria starter? (I'm guessing that it would still be recommended, but I wanted to check before I did something wrong)
Thanks for your help
 
el337
  • #17
I think the water changes helped him! You can still cycle with him in the tank. I think you'd be fine not doing water changes until ammonia and/or nitrite get up to 1 or above. If they are less than 1, you can dose Prime directly into the tank (for the full tank volume) to keep your platy safe. It wouldn't hurt to pick up Stability also to help cycle.
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #18
Excellent, thank you! We'll get the Stability today and get that started. And no water changes until the ammonia and/or nitrites are up to 1. I appreciate all of your advice, el337. You've been a huge help
 
el337
  • #19
Yes, since Prime can detoxify ammonia and nitrite up to 1ppm for 24 hours, you can just dose that directly. Just keep testing daily to see where you are.

You're welcome!
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #20
Ok el337. Please tell me if I'm being paranoid. I'm still testing 0 for ammonia and nitrites. I haven't done any water changes, so I would expect to have at least a .25, right? I have been adding the Stability and Prime. What am I doing wrong?
 
el337
  • #21
Not necessarily. Maybe his ammonia output is not enough to register on the test or you could be cycled. What are your nitrates?
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #22
Nitrates are at 0 as well. Is the Stability still going to be able to do its thing with out ammonia?
 
el337
  • #23
Your single platy is producing ammonia but it may not be enough to register an ammonia/nitrate reading. You could get another male platy if you want.
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #24
Ok, I'll try that. Thanks
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #25
We got another "Little Fella", as my daughter calls them, yesterday. Still no ammonia or nitrites, but I didn't really expect that to happen super fast. I'll just keep testing daily. Can I do a partial change and vacuum up the gravel a little? I feel like I'm being neglectful by not cleaning.
Also, I was looking at my calendar and I noticed that next Tuesday, we will have had our tank set up for a month. I've been reading other threads that I thought might help me along the way, and I have a question about the filter. I have seen where people have said to just rinse the filter, not replace it. What is the procedure with this?
 
el337
  • #26
Yes you could do a water change and gravel vac if you want.

You want to just rinse the filter media in a bucket of removed tank water or in dechlorinated tap water so as not to lose your beneficial bacteria. You shouldn't need to replace it for a while unless it was falling apart or the water doesn't filter through it even after rinsing. If it comes time to replace, cut the floss material surrounding the cartridge and place that next to the new cartridge for at least a month before removing the old floss. You could also eventually look into adding in a thin foam and/or a bag of ceramic rings as media instead of those cartridges. They last longer and are more effective.
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #27
Update: Ammonia levels are still only sitting at .25 and no nitrites or nitrates, but the Little Fellas seem to be doing well. I have a confession: apparently I'm a glutton for punishment. I picked up a 29 gallon tank yesterday. Darn that Petco and their $1 per gallon sale...lol. We're trying a fishless cycle with that one. Will live plants be beneficial for either of the cyclings?
 
el337
  • #28
What does your pH look like in the tank now? You mentioned your tap is at 8.8, right?

Congrats on the new tank!!! If you have room in your 10 gallon filter, you could add some extra media to help seed it so it will help you jump start the cycle on the new tank. Or add the 29 gallon filter to the 10g.
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #29
Thanks! We're pretty excited

Will extra media from the 10 gallon help seed the other tank even though the 10 hasn't cycled yet? And how long should I leave the extra media in the 10 gallon filter?

The pH is 8. Is there any way to get it lower? Other than the additives. I've read that you shouldn't use those, right?
 
el337
  • #30
Yes, it will help at least start the process and then you'd want to leave that media/filter in there for at least a couple more weeks after the 10 gallon has cycled before removing it. It won't instantly cycle the new tank since of course there will probably be more bioload in the 29 gallon than the 10 gallon but it will at least give you some BB to start off with.

Your pH is fine for most fish. My pH is at 8.0 also and all my fish are doing just fine.
 
CindiL
  • #31
Hi, will you be moving your fish to the 29 gallon or keeping the 10 gallon running also?
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #32
We will be keeping the 10 gallon going as well. My daughter has decided that Serpae Tetras are her favorite and she was devastated when we had to take the one we had back to the fish store. So we will be getting a school of 6-8 of the Serpaes to start in the 29g.

el337, I have heard that a little bit of haze in the water can be a good thing. Is this true?
 
el337
  • #33
I'm thinking it's a bacteria bloom. I wouldn't worry about it as it's common in new tanks and will go away soon.
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #34
Awesome! Thanks!

Ok, I'm so frustrated!I had the bacteria bloom haze yesterday. My ammonia was 0, nitrites .25 and nitrates 0. Today, I have no haze, ammonia 0, nitrites 0 and nitrates 0. What happened? Is it common to get nitrites and have them just disappear with no nitrate spike? This is in my 29g, by the way
 
el337
  • #35
Oh, I didn't realize you got the 29 gallon started. Is it the serpaes that are in there? How many?
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #36
No serpaes yet. I have 3 platties in the 29g. I was going to try a fishless cycle but my husband refuses to believe that it would work. Tonight will be the last night of adding Stability to the 10g. The ammonia is .5, nitrites 0 and nitrates 0 for the 10. It feels like I'm not getting anywhere with that tank. But I'm trying to look at it as though we just started the cycle again when we added the Stability. That one still has 2 platties in it as well.
 
el337
  • #37
I think the easiest thing for you to do is move the 2 platies and the filter from the 10 gallon to the 29 gallon and cycle both filters in one tank especially since you're not getting any nitrites yet on the 10g. Then you could move the 2-3 platies back to the 10 gallon along with its filter when the 29 gallon is done cycling.

I'd add a larger dosage of Stability after you moved everything over. Let's see what @CindiL thinks about the approach I mentioned.
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #38
Ok. I'll plan on doing that if CindiL thinks that's the way to go.

Why would my nitrites go from .25 to 0 with no nitrates? And I was wrong about there not being a haze anymore. Its very slight but its still there
 
el337
  • #39
Are you banging nitrate bottle #2 really hard against the counter and then shaking it for the full 30 sec like your life depended on it? Many have gotten false readings when they didn't shake it hard enough. hehe

Don't worry about the haze. Again, just a bacterial bloom.
 
ErinO
  • Thread Starter
  • #40
I thought I was shaking it pretty darn hard, but I'll try it again.
 

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