So I'm a *kind of* beginner with some questions... 20 Gallon Tank

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

  1. taylorbrettjNew MemberMember

    Hello everyone. :) This is somewhat of a long beginnier's story, so I apologize! I have recently "inherited" a 20 gallon aquarium that I am now the primary caregiver of. My parents just recently went through a divorce, and when my dad moved out he couldn't take our aquarium with him. He has been its primary caregiver for about 10 years now, although I've helped him here and there throughout the years and knew some general information about fishkeeping before I even took on this project. When my dad moved out, the fish tank was pretty much just left to rot. There weren't any fish left in it anyways (and there hadn't been for a good while...), so my mom unplugged everything and just let it sit there because she didn't want to mess with it. Well, about a week ago I decided that I hated to see it just sitting in the corner lifeless when it was once so beautiful, and after all, I always loved caring for and watching the fish... So I decided to start from scratch and take on the responsibilities and joys of having an aquarium on my own. :)

    I am definitely the kind of person that does their homework before taking anything on, so I researched everything I could beforehand (I knew about pH and dechlorinating the water before, but I had no idea anything about the nitrogen cycle!). It had been about 5 months since anyone had even touched the aquarium, so the water in it was absolutely disgusting. There an accumulation of gunk and old rotting fish food all over the hood and light, but I scrubbed everything (don't worry, I didn't use soap! :) ) I got rid of all the old dirty water and rinsed the tank, gravel, and decorations out with tap water. I did an assessment of all the equipment, and luckily I didn't have to buy anything new except a filter (the old one was beyond repair), thermometers, test kit, and bubble wall. I went to our LFS to buy a new filter, and they sold me an Aqueon 20, but after reading some reviews I'm afraid it won't be sufficient enough... I'm a senior in high school with no job at the moment, and I have very limited funds, so hopefully it will work out okay though. It's very quiet at least!

    I now have everything set up, and I must admit that the tank looks pretty good! After letting it sit for 24 hours, I tested the water. I expected bad water parameters because technically I thought I was starting from the beginning, but I guess I didn't take account the fact that I was using gravel and decorations from a well-established aquarium that already had beneficial bacteria growth. I have tested the water several times since I set the tank up on Monday, and the ammonia and nitrite are both reading 0; the nitrate also appears to also be at 0, and I have read that it's usually around 20, but I assume this is because I have no fish? I'm not sure... Anyways, the only problem is that the test kit is telling me my water is too soft, and my pH too acidic. I told my dad this, and he came over and found his old kit of supplies, including some pH Up. I used the recommended dosage of pH Up, but then I realized (to my horror) that it was manufactured in 2000, and probably expired like 7 years ago... oops... Could this have done any harm to the water/aquarium environment? Luckily I do not have any fish or live plants... I am planning on buying new pH adjusters as soon as I can get the money to do so... I also made another mistake (I think) and have been using Nutrafin Cycle. I started using this as a "just in case" kind of thing, even though my tank's cycling process didn't appear to need any help... Now, about 30 minutes ago, I began reading bad reviews about this product and that it doesn't really work, and only creates "mini cycles..."

    So... All in all, am I doing everything okay so far? What is your input? Do you think the Aqueon 20 power filter will be sufficient for my 20 gallon tank? Will my tank water/environment still be okay even though I added wayyyy expired pH Up and Nutrafin Cycle? What can I do about my water being too soft? And, of course, when do you think it will be okay to add fish? I'm sorry I have asked so many questions and told a pretty lengthy story, but I'm just extremely excited about all of this! :) I've definitely been bitten by the "fishkeeping bug!" I'm going off to college in the fall, but luckily my university is only 45 minutes from my home, and I will be able to come home as often as I need to to clean my aquarium :)
  2. ppate1977Well Known MemberMember

    I'm glad you decided to do something with the tank! That's great! Have you read about the nitrogen cycle? I know you said you know about it... you will need an ammonia source to get and keep the cycle going. The filter is definitley small, but until you can get another it will do with a very low bio-load; till you can get a better one. As far as the pH... I wouldn't mess with it. You're opening up a can of trouble. Just be patient with it. The old stuff you put in the tank, I honestly don't know what to say. Maybe someone else will know. I'd go ahead and do a 100% water change just in case. Perhapse someone will have better advice.

    Oh and check the expiration date on the test kit too. They go bad around the 3yr mark I think.

    Last edited: Apr 7, 2010
  3. taylorbrettjNew MemberMember

    Thanks for the quick reply. :) My test kit was actually a new one that I just bought, so it has not expired. Yes, I have read all about the nitrogen cycle, and I assume that everything is going well so far due to me using the same gravel and decorations from before with the beneficial bacteria... At least, that is what the tests are saying. I am getting readings of 0 ammonia and nitrite...
  4. LucyModeratorModerator Member

    Welcome to FishLore!!
    I'm sorry about your parent's divorce.
    Whew, you're right, that was some post. lol
    Lots of great background and info for the members to go on.

    Ok, so, I'll start with Cycle. Stop using it. The bacteria it contains isn't aquatic. It does off quickly. That's why you have to keep adding it.
    It won't allow your tank to cycle properly.

    Usually leaving the pH alone is advised. Most fish can adapt to whatever pH comes from the tap. Adding chemicals can make the pH fluctuate, best to keep it stable.
    There are some species of fish that need a certain pH, but until you have an idea what you want to stock, just leave it be.

    Most likely, the bacteria has died off since the tank sat without a source of ammonia.
    The 0 nitrates indicates that.

    I would also say do 100% water change. Only add conditioner and a source of ammonia.
    Please consider cycling without fish. Here are

    I'm not that knowledgeable about filters, someone else can address that.

    Good luck!

    Edit: The reason you're getting 0 readings is because it's all brand new water.
    You won't get a reading until there is something in the tank that makes ammonia. In order to get the bacteria to grow, there needs to be ammonia.
    Same with nitrites. NitrItes are the by product of ammonia and nitrAtes are the by product of nitrItes.
    lol That was confusing. it goes like this:
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2010
  5. jetajockeyFishlore VIPMember

    I may have missed it if you answered this, but did you add fish already?
  6. JeffcameronValued MemberMember

    Hi there, Sounds like you're going to be a good fish keeper with your enthusiasm and patience.

    I just wanted to add a few things that you've not quite got your head around yet. Firstly your tank is not cycled and is in the very beggining stages if everything reads 0. The fact that it was established months ago means nothing now you've cleaned everything out. To begin a cycle you need to add an ammonium source regularly. If you want to do the best thing for future fish then do a fishless cycle. There are a few different ways listed under fishless cycle here:

    You're right when you say Nutrafin cycle is not good. It does not contain the right bacteria that will sustain a biofilter unless it's constantly added which will only cost you money (of which students don't have much of). If you're really keen to get fish then you could use Tetra Safe Start which many forum users claim is very successful in completing a nitrogen cycle quickly.

    As for the pH, from what I've read it's not something you should mess around with too much. Most fish can adjust to a slightly higher or lower pH if it's kept constant. You have issues when the pH fluctuates so it's better to acclimatise fish to the pH your water source is at so you can keep it constant. Most tap water is within reasonable parameters.

    Because you've not started your cycle yet it wouldn't slow you down at all to do a full water change again to clear out the chemicals you've already added. Just remember to use a water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloromines before adding to tank. Seachem Prime or API StressCoat + are both good water conditioners.

    Once you've decided which method of cycling you want to use then keep testing your water to see progress. Your tank will be cycled when you read 0 Ammonia, 0 nitrite, and some nitrates.

    Good luck with your new tank :)

    Argh I just noticed I was way too slow typing this up and Lucy answered it all for you anyway haha!
  7. taylorbrettjNew MemberMember

    Nope, no fish yet, and thanks so much Lucy! That definitely makes a lot of sense and was very very helpful... I've made some mistakes so far, but at least I don't have any fishies suffering because of them haha! :)

    Edit: And thanks to you too Jeff! You're right, I was still a little confused about the nitrogen cycle... I didn't know that all of the readings would be at 0 with a start-from-scratch tank until I added something that produced ammonia. I think I've got everything now... Hopefully I can be very successful with all of this :)
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2010
  8. LucyModeratorModerator Member

    Hey, not major mistakes!
    ;) No fish!
  9. Prince PowderWell Known MemberMember

    Hello and welcome to Fishlore!
    It looks like the others have you covered on just about everything, I just wanted to touch on the filter. The Aqueon 20 is supposedly designed for up to a 30 gallon tank but would definitely work better on a 20. It moves 125 gallons per hour which means in a 20 gallon tank it will turn your water over completely a little over 6 times per hour which isn't too bad. If your tank is going to be moderately or heavily planted it should be sufficient. If you weren't planning on using live plants then I would keep your stocking light once you are cycled and ready to stock. You can add additional surface area for your bacteria to colonize by using porous decor like terracotta pots and also by putting a piece of sponge over the intake tube of the filter. Not only will the sponge give you extra bio media, but it will also keep smaller fish from getting sucked up into the tube. Just a word of warning, the Aqueon power filters make a very strong waterfall so it might be wise to add some filter floss to the outflow to keep smaller or heavy finned fish from getting blown around. Most fish will adapt to the strong current and some may actually prefer it so just keep an eye on them (once you get them) and if the current seems to much then add the floss to slow it down. Good luck with your cycle!
  10. LyndaBFishlore LegendMember

    I applaud you for taking all the steps and asking all the questions necessary on your road to having a happy and healthy fish tank! :;wv

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice