Starting A Classroom Aquarium!

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by laramiya, Apr 11, 2012.

  1. laramiya

    laramiyaValued MemberMember

    Hello!! I am starting a classroom aquarium in my 3rd grade special education room. I am new to fish care and aquariums and want to make sure I am going about things right and not putting fish into a bad and stressful environment.

    I have already purchased my aquarium. It is a 16 gallon tank equipped with light, filter and heater. (Link to tank: ). I filled it with water, gravel and decor today and plan to go next week to my local pet store for a ph test.

    I know there is a ton of information I need to learn but one of my first questions involves the type of fish I should get considering the size of my tank and the classroom setting. Any suggestions or input would be very greatly appreciated. Thank you!!!!

  2. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Welcome to FishLore Laura!

    The first thing you need to do is learn about the nitrogen cycle. (The words should be a link and clicking on it will take you to an article about it). It is really the most important thing to fully understand when keeping fish. There's nothing worse than having your students watch all the fish die from ammonia and or nitrite posioning.

    Once you understand the nitrogen cycle and determine the method you are going to use to cycle the tank, we can move on to tank stocking.
  3. ryanr

    ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Welcome to Fishlore :;hi2

    Congrats on the new tank, and well done on the 'ask first' approach :;hf

    To add to jd's comments and your own, while you're going to get the pH test, grab a master kit, we all highly recommend the API Freshwater Master Kit. It has everything you'll need to get started, pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate (which allows you to monitor the cycle). Depending on your budget, I believe the API kit is still sold as a generic brand kit at Walmart, exactly the same products [made by API], just with different labels ;)

    As for which fish, well that all kind of depends on what you like. Maybe you could put it to a classroom vote, and let the kids decide?

    There are many species suitable for 16G, click on my name next to this post and you'll see what I have in mine.

    But as some starting suggestions:
    - Many of the tetra species
    - Guppies (but don't mix male/females unless you want fry every other week)
    - Endlers Livebearers (same as guppies, breed like crazy)
    - Celestial Pearl Danios
    - Danios
    - White Cloud Minnows (I think that's the name)
    - Rasboras
    - Otos

    It's a long list of suitable fish.
    And here's a list of what I would avoid:
    Betta (Siamese fighting fish) - Whilst you can house bettas in a 16G, Bettas are not what you'd call 'community' fish. They can be harassed and/or do the harassing.
    Gouramis - again, some species will go in a 16G, but generally it's not wise to have more than one in a tank
    Tiger Barbs - are generally known to be somewhat aggressive
    Angel Fish - even the small ones will grow too large for a 16G

    You've got a lot of choice for some small fish, check out some of the profiles at

    And engage the kids, they'll make it fun for you, you've got time to choose while the tank cycles.

    Enjoy, and good luck :D

  4. bowcrazyWell Known MemberMember

    Welcome to FishLore! You have already been given some very good starting advice. Starting a new tank properly can take some time so don’t rush into getting fish until you have read about the Nitrogen Cycle. This is required reading if you truly want to start your tank off right.

    There are lots of things that effect your fish and pH is one of the last things to worry about. Ammonia, nitrites and nitrates are far more important to control when trying to keep safe. The only proper way to monitor these is by using a liquid test kit and the API Master Test Kit for freshwater tanks is one of the best.

    Before rushing out to pick out some fish take the time to do your home work and read the fish profiles on the types of fish that interest you. This will help you understand how many you can keep in your tank and which ones will work together without conflicts.

  5. Fall River

    Fall RiverValued MemberMember

    Welcome to Fishlore Laura.
    Excellent advice from those above. Maybe, while the tank cycles, you and your class could, each day, investigate and discuss a different breed of fish appropriate for your size tank. Make a project of it with a chart or something like that to narrow down the list of candidates.
    Cycling can take up to six weeks so there is plenty of time to figure the stock.
    Here is a link to our beginners articles :

    Best of luck to you and your class. Don't be shy about asking questions!
  6. LyndaB

    LyndaBFishlore LegendMember

    I think that 3rd graders would love to see a red cherry shrimp colony. They can watch the females with their eggs and then see baby shrimplets swimming all over the tank. It's a very easy tank to keep. You could also have some pygmy corys with the shrimp. Make it fun! Go for something other than fish! ;)
  7. OP

    laramiyaValued MemberMember

    Wow!!!!! There's so much I don't know!!! Thank you for all of the information and the links. I was completely unfamiliar with the nitrate cycle. I'm going to purchase the Master Test Kit from amazon today. Is this kit good for a one time use or multiple uses? Also, how often do I need to purchase this kit? Will it be a regular monthly expense or is it something that I would purchase just a few times a year? I'm running off to work but can't wait to come home and check out all of the other links and info you all provided. Thanks again!!!!
  8. LyndaB

    LyndaBFishlore LegendMember

    If you're in the US, you might get a better price on rather than amazon. Don't get me wrong, I love amazon but kens offers phenomenal customer service and he's usually priced the best.

    The API master kit will give you tons of uses, you definitely won't have to replace it within the first year.

    Also, do NOT pay attention to where the manufacturer tells you to change out your filter monthly. Not true, not true. Maybe a few times a year, but not monthly. We'll give you the good dirt on tank maintenance once you're up and running. We don't want your head to explode from too much information...... :p
  9. Wendy Lubianetsky

    Wendy LubianetskyWell Known MemberMember

    Welcome to Fishlore. I hope you and your class enjoy your new tank. I think just about everything has been covered above; the nitrogen cycle is the most important thing to be worried about long before you buy your fish. As already recommended you need to get an API Test kit. You need to be able to test for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. The last thing to worry about is Ph. Most water has acceptable Ph and unless you are buying a very specific fish that is very sensative to Ph I would not worry about it. None of the critters mentioned in the other posts fall under that category.
  10. orandagal

    orandagalValued MemberMember

    Hi Laura,
    What a wonderful thing you are doing for your students and I know you will all have a great time with this hobby and learn so much. I'm fairly new to a (larger aquarium) and have done many things wrong over the years but you've come to the right place and there are many, many wise folk who will help you out. They were absolutely right when stressing about reading, wish I had done more of it when I first started out buying fish years ago. I haven't checked out   yet, but one other you may want to look at is   - they also have very resonable prices on needed chemicals, food, etc... I wish I had known about sites to order from, they are much cheaper than the major chain pet stores. Wishing you great luck on your new hobby and don't be afraid to ask questions, I think I was the "Question Queen" in the beginning :D
  11. ryanr

    ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Oh, and don't forget a good quality water conditioner, most of us here endorse Seachem Prime or Kordon Amquel+/Nova+ (?), Tetra Aqua Safe is also good as a dechlorinator.

    Important to mention too: we're all hobbyists/enthusiasts, and I don't believe any of us work for any of the aforementioned companies. We will recommend products based on experience with them, and more importantly because they work or give good results ;) [just don't want you thinking it's a conspiracy to sell products]

    There will be products that the shops try and sell you, or tell you that you need. It has been the experience of many members that the following products are either not required, don't work, or are simply not required/appropriate for a tropical freshwater system:

    - Aquarium Salt (salt irritates fish and is simply not needed)
    - Bacteria Supplements (Such as Cycle and the like) - these just simply don't work long term - the exception is Tetra Safe Start (but if you cycle fishless, you shouldn't need it)
    - pH Up/Down - just not necessary, and often cause more problems than they solve
    - Most 'chemicals/additives' - often over complicate your setup, with good husbandry (i.e. water changes), most systems do not need anything added to them

    And of course, if anything get's recommended that you're not sure of, feel free to ask the Fishlore community. More than likely someone has used the product, or as a community we can determine the merits of the product.

    Just my 2c based on my experiences.... Oooh it's exciting starting a new system.
  12. psalm18.2

    psalm18.2Fishlore LegendMember

    There is also a product that members use called Tetra Safe Start. I haven't tried yet. Tetras or rasboras and shrimp would be pretty. Since your classroom is special needs based, make sure tank is cycled to avoid deaths. Hate to upset the little ones if avoidable. Is your classroom aces sable to water for weekly changes?
  13. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    It might be good for the kids to see that the fish also have special needs.
  14. LadayenValued MemberMember

    Gotta disagree here. PH and hardness are important to all fish. Some have a greater range of acceptance true, but putting livebearers into acidic water increases the chance of still births. I wouldn't want to be the one explaining why momma fish is is giving birth to dead babies.... then eating them. Which brings another point up. If it fits in it's mouth fish will eat it (there are a few exceptions). So if you were planning to breed fish to show babies you will need another tank.
  15. ryanr

    ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Hi Ladayen, I'm with Wendy.

    I appreciate what you are saying, and agree with you. But respectfully, in the context of this thread, the pH is the last thing to worry about. The first step for the OP is to get through the cycle, which will cause swings in pH to start with. Once the tank cycles, a more reliable and stable pH reading can be taken.

    It is also widely accepted (by most at fishlore) that most tropical freshwater fish can be acclimated and will happily live in just about any pH from 6.5 to 8.2

    Breeding is a different story, and does require more stringent control of parameters, where pH, temp, and hardness can all influence breeding.
  16. angelfish220

    angelfish220Well Known MemberMember

    Hi! What a cool idea! Fish tanks are very calming to look at and exciting to learn about, making them a great classroom tool! I agree with everything said above, they seem to know what they're talking about. I thought that you could use the API test kit as a learning tool to. You could make a poster version of the Color chart that comes with it and hang it by the tank, then when you test the kids can match it to the right color. Also as the tank will be in school most of the time, take a look at the timers you can get to plug the lights into, that way the fish get the same amount of lighting even on the weekend.
  17. mikegipNew MemberMember

    Welcome to FishLore Laura!
    Nitrogen Cycle is very important
    And I am a beginner too.
    thanks for info..suggestion ,knowledge,Product recommendation.
    I have learn much from this thread.
    thx ,teacher.
  18. ivonko

    ivonkoValued MemberMember

    welcome to fishlore! this is a great thread for anybody starting a tank, it covers all the basics,
    after going through cycling choosing fish will be lots of fun with a class full of kids and opinions
    one thing i suggest is that when suggestions for various species of fish come in please run them by the people here.
    fish all have very different personalities so you wouldnt want to put the wrong two species together and expose the kids to bullying :)

    for example
    danios are awesome fish but tend to be fin nibblers and like to be in large groups
    mollys, plecos, or fancy gold fish are slower and will become victims to quicker fish
    shrimp are amazing creatures but are always at risk of being eaten because of there size,

    my point is i guess to run a compatibility test past people with experience before mixing fish :)

    lastly HAVE FUN! i know its a lot to learn for you and all the kiddies but its a hobby not a job so have fun and learn along the way :)
  19. cameronpalteValued MemberMember

    Wow glad you made sure to ask first, great job! Ok, so now for your aquarium (please note that my answers are not promised and ask other members for conformation).

    To start you need to learn about the nitrogen cycle. I recommend getting a API Freshwater Master Test Kit for your tank. Also, make sure to cycle the tank (double check).

    Now for fish recommendations.

    1) 8 Neon Tetra's
    2) 1 Male Guppy
    3) 2 Female Guppy (some babies which can be exciting for your class)
    4) Few Bottom Feeders, not sure.

    Thats all I have for you, best of luck.
  20. ZeeZ

    ZeeZWell Known MemberMember

    Hey, a classroom aquarium! Sometimes these things pop up here. I'm glad to see teachers are willing to learn before they attempt to teach their students with projects like this. :)

    Tell you what, if you're still here by the time your tank is cycled, ready, set up with small nano-style fish with plenty of hiding places, I'd be willing to donate some Red Cherry Shrimp to your classroom aquarium if you pay for the shipping. :)

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