Tell me what to do...

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by ebbandflow, Mar 28, 2006.

  1. ebbandflowValued MemberMember

    Hi everyone,

    I recently acquired (from my basement... how it got there i do not know) a 29 gallon fish tank with stand and hood.  It has gravel in it, three fake plants, and a hanging on the back filter.  I was wondering if anyone could hold my hand through this process.  I live in upper westchester, NY and I was wondering if anyone lives around here and knows where a good place to get fish and supplies is near me. 

    I would also love suggestions on how to get started.  I would not mind someone playing god with me and telling me a good setup that they have or know that works with some hardy, easy to take care of, pretty schooling fish (or others where its fun to watch their behaviour and interactions) and live plants that work with them.  Thanks everyone.
  2. chickadeeFishlore VIPMember

    first of all you have to cycle your tank and at the beginning of this site there is an article on the Nitrogen Cycle or you can use

    I would look into one of the Fishless cycles as they are more humane and easier on the fish you may plan to add to your tank later on.  You will need to buy a test kit for Nitrates, one for Nitrites, and one for Ammonia.  Don't get the dip stick tests as they tend to be inaccurate.  the types that are from Aquarium Pharmaceuticals are the ones most in use around here and can be purchased most places or online.  If you have trouble finding them let us know.

    This will get you through the first 4 weeks or so before you can add fish.  Then we will help you chose the number of your chosen fish that would be appropriate for the size of your tank if you wish. 

    Welcome to Fishlore.  I hope your experience here will be as pleasant as mine has been the last several months.


  3. IsabellaFishlore VIPMember

    Hi Ebbandflow :) Good luck with your new tank! LOL, I wish my basement had tanks with stands, hoods, filters, gravel, and decor - all ready! Haha ... really not even the slightest idea where it all came from in your own basement? One way or another, you are lucky because you're about to start one of the greatest hobbies in the world :)

    Listen to Rose (Chickadee) on how to start. Remember, never rush with this hobby but be patient, and you'll see it was all worth it. You'll see what we mean when you're done cycling and slowly stocking your tank. So stick with us and see you around :)

  4. ebbandflowValued MemberMember

    Thank you both for the advice and the welcome. I'm vaguely remembering my older brother as a short-lived fish hobbiest. I think I will be more successful... at least I hope so. So four weeks without fish huh? I guess I can handle that... being humane is very important for me but I really want to get fish. I gotta think about them more then my instant gratification though i guess. I'll get back to you guys if I have any problems or when my tank has cycled. Thanks again.

  5. 0morrokhFishlore VIPMember

    I think 4 weeks is a fairly short estimate. I think the average cycle takes around 6-8 weeks to complete, which means I would expect more like 6 weeks before getting fish.
  6. IsabellaFishlore VIPMember

    Omorrokh is right. Cycling may take longer than 4 weeks. Ebbandflow, just don't count the cycling process in "weeks". The best way to measure if your cycling process is done is with a good testing kit. What matters most is to have your tank cycled, not the amount of time it takes to cycle it. So once again, be patient. You will generally need tests for: ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH as well as water hardness. (A great test kit that includes all of these is Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Master Test Kit - that you can find cheap online and that is very accurate compared to some other test strips - that I wouldn't rely on.) For cycling, the most important tests you'll need are those for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Read up on the cycling process and you'll know why these tests are so important. You will really need them not just for cycling alone, but throughout the entire time you'll be maintaining your tank.
  7. ebbandflowValued MemberMember

    Ok, I'll get the test kit.  Thanks.  A quick question before I get started.  I read two opposing things on gravel in a tank.  One site said that it was purely for aesthetic value and would be easier to keep clean without the gravel.  One site said that there was good bacteria in the gravel so its better to have it.  Which way is it?  Id rather figure out now so I dont have to take gravel out while there is water in it.  If i am supposed to keep the gravel how deep should it be?  Also, on the cycling website there is a link to this kit that has good bacteria in it.  Is this recommended and if I use it will my tank cycle faster or is it just a marketing thing?  Thanks again, you guys are really being helpful.
  8. IsabellaFishlore VIPMember

    Well, I think both sites are right about the gravel. If you don't have any plants in your tank, gravel may simply serve an aesthetic purpose - it's there to make a tank look better. However, if one has plants that root in a substrate, gravel is an essential part of a tank setup. Now, it is also true that gravel provides a lot of surface area for the beneficial bacteria that help keep a tank cycled. It's really up to you what you will do. Breeders, for example, keep their tanks bare-bottomed because they need to be able to clean tanks easily, and a tank without gravel is easiest to clean. A tank with gravel, on the other hand, will always have fish wastes and debris trapped beneath it and will require regular gravel cleaning with water changes. But that shouldn't be a problem, as you will need to do regular water changes anyway (about 30% of water weekly I'd suggest). With every water change, it's best to clean the gravel with a siphon tube - this removes all the wastes and dirt from the bottom (stir the gravel as you clean it). If you don't do this, nitrate, and possibly nitrite and ammonia (if situation gets out of control), will increase to toxic levels and kill your fish, or make them sick. So, you don't have to have gravel if you don't want to, but if you do have it, it will provide more surface area for the beneficial bacteria. It won't be hard to clean either, as you'll have to do the water changes anyway.

    If you already have gravel in your tank, just leave it there (unless you don't like it). I don't remember the general rule of how much gravel one is supposed to have. Can someone remind us here? Thanks up-front.

    I personally wouldn't be using any commercial products to speed up the cycling process. But I really have no experience with them and don't know if they're safe, so you may want to wait for someone who knows to help you with that. What I do know, however, is that adding any commercial products to your tank water is generally not a good idea. It's best to let the water stay as natural and clean as possible.

    P.S. If you want to speed up the cycling process naturally, get some gravel (like a handful or a bit more) from a mature tank if you have access to such a tank. Then scatter this gravel over your gravel. Or you could get a little piece of a sponge from an established filter and put it inside your filter. Both of these methods help colonize the beneficial bacteria in your tank, and therefore speed up the cycling process.
  9. 0morrokhFishlore VIPMember

    I think you want about 1-2 pounds of gravel per gallon.

    One thing Isabella didn't mention about the gravel is that the people who have gravelless tanks are probably either breeding or keeping Bettas in smaller tanks/bowls (which by the way I DO NOT recommend).  In both cases the person will be doing more than weekly water changes anyway, so they don't need the extra surface for bacteria.  It makes it easier to clear out the debris in those cases.  Basically, they are cleaning the water by hand, because in both cases the filter selection is very limited, but the water must be of excellent quality.  However, the average tank won't look good at all without substrate.  I recommend trying to make a natural looking tank, so use brown or black gravel, and if it's not planted at least get realistic fake plants.  That's the other problem with no gravel, you can't have most real plants, and it would be a huge hassle trying to get fake plants weighed down.
  10. chickadeeFishlore VIPMember

    i agree with the other girls with the estimate of 2 pounds of gravel per gallon. my 5 gallon has 10 pounds in it and it is just the right depth for planting real plants. as far as the gravel cleaning goes i do use a biological cleaner and dispense with the vacuuming of the gravel as it keeps the gravel clean all the way to the bottom of the tank and the siphoning of the tank only needs to be done about every 2 months. my water parameters stay within the nearly perfect range (our nitrate levels are a bit high right out of the tap) and my fish stay healthy.

    i do however agree with Isabella not to add all kinds of things to speed up the cycling process. i have never found any of them helpful and have even found some of them to give a "false" cycle that is temporary and the minute you stop using them, you have to start the cycle process all over again.

    hope this has helped.

  11. ebbandflowValued MemberMember

    Thank you so much guys. I'll take your advice. Umm... one more question though. What is the difference between biological cleaner, vacuuming and siphoning? And when should I do which? Thanks.
  12. moon317New MemberMember

    Hi Ebb,
    Welcome. And say HI to Westchester for me!! I grew up in Brewster, on the Westchester/Putnam border. I remember a store in Carmel, on route 6, in that strip mall place.( across from the Macdonalds) It was a decent pet shop, but I'm not sure if it is still there. ( We live in Chattanooga Tennessee now, so I haven't been back in a few years) I think there is one in Mahopac/Mohegan Lake area as well, near the Jefferson Valley mall.

    I'm a newbie too.. best advice.. read everything that GUNNIE has written on this site, and do exactly as she tells you to do. She knows everything, and is patient and kind, so ask her any goofy question you can think of.

    Best of luck!!
  13. moon317New MemberMember

    One more thing... chickadee,Isabella,0morrokh Have also been fantastic, and they will help with any question you have. I've only been on this site a few weeks, and I am amazed how completly awesome everyone has been.

    Best of luck!
  14. chickadeeFishlore VIPMember

    Vacuuming and siphoning is using a machine or a tube to create a vacuum to clean the bottom of the tank.  There are vacuums that run on battery power and there are tubes of all sizes that can be used as siphons to create vacuum pressure something like siphoning gasoline out of a gas tank.  It creates a vacuum and lifts the debris off of the gravel.  In planted tanks, they are generally just waved over the top of the gravel to keep from disturbing the roots of the plants.  This is the reason I use the biological debris cleaner which is a liquid added to the water on the 1st, 2nd and every 14th day after that.  You use an amount that depends on the size of your tank.  I believe it is 2 teaspoons per 10 gallons.  It cleans not only the top of the gravel but the debris all the way to the bottom of the tank.  It does not affect the plants or fish or the bacterial build up on your filter, but you should not use it until you have cycled your tank and have fish in your tank as it will not have debris to feed on.

    The first two methods work very well.  I have used the battery powered vacuum for in-between clean-ups (you still have to vacuum about every 2 months). and it is a good cleaner.  I have used the siphon also but I could never make it work.  Maybe someone can tell you an easy way to get it to work.

  15. 0morrokhFishlore VIPMember

    Wow, thanks Mike...

    About the siphon, it takes a few tries usually but I have found a trick to getting it going. What you have to do is hold the wide end in one hand under water on one end of the tank, and with the other hand, grasp the hose maybe two feet down and put it underwater so that it fills with water a few feet up the hose. Then quickly raise the hose out of the water and pull it downwards. Of course the end needs to be in the bucket. If you have filled the hose far enough with water, it should start to run downwards. The trick is getting the hose filled with enough water, and then pulling it down quickly before it runs out. And also be sure the end always stays in the water. I hope I didn't just completely confuse you all. ::) Like I said it takes practice, but it works.

    Rose, I would like to know more about that biological cleaner. Do you still have to do water changes, but just don't need to clean the gravel? Or does it do all the cleaning for you?
  16. ebbandflowValued MemberMember

    Thank you so much everybody. I wish I knew someone around here that had an established aquarium so i could get some bacteria from them (god i never thought i would be saying that!) Anyway, id really like to thank everyone for their advice. This place has really been most welcoming. Id probably already have fish now if I hadnt come here and that wouldnt have been good for me or the fish. What is the brand of this biocleaner that you get and what is it called. Thanks.
  17. IsabellaFishlore VIPMember

    Rose, I am also interested in hearing about that biological cleaner you have. Same questions as those of Omorrokh's. Curious thing! But isn't it a commercial product? I have read that putting literally any chemicals in tank water is not good because they all contribute to the osmotic pressure which is very bad for fish. Even a dechlorinator is a chemical - but considering that chlorine kills fish instantly, it's a necessary trade-off with a dechlorinator. Those who use tap water have no other choice.

    Ebbandflow, biological cleaning may also mean something else. The beneficial bacteria may be also thought of as a "biological cleaner" because as they convert toxic ammonia to nitrite, and then toxic nitrite into nitrate, all of this is a sort of cleaning the water - that is, removing toxic substances from water. Live plants also clean the water biologically because they consume ammonia and nitrite as well, thereby helping in keeping the water clean.

    And lastly, perhaps you had in mind a type of filtration? There are 3 types of filtration: biological, mechanical, and chemical. Biological filtration is the process I just described - the conversion of ammonia into nitrite, and then nitrite into nitrate. For this, there is a sponge in a filter that provides a lot of surface area for the beneficial bacteria where they live and keep the water cycled. Mechanical filtration is simply removing particles of uneaten food, wastes, dirt, etc ... from water and trapping them in a filter medium (such as a sponge, as well). And chemical filtration is removing from the water substances that are too small to be seen with a naked eye. A medium in a filter (for example, activated carbon) does the job - it absorbs various chemicals and removes discoloration from the water. It can also remove medication from water if a tank is being treated, so it's always important to remove this medium from the filter when treating a disease.

    A good filter will have all 3 types of filtration incorporated into it.

    Here is a good article about the types of filtration:  
  18. ebbandflowValued MemberMember

    Ok. So I already have a filter. It is an aquaclear 200 (HOB). It has room for a spongy insert and a carbon insert. Going by the ten gallons per 1 gallon of your tank per hour thingy though, I do not have adequate filtration (I have a 30 gallon tank, it filters 200 gallons per hour.) What should I do? Should I get completely new filter that will do 300 gph? If so what type do you recommend? That website seemed to favor canister filters. Is there any brand that is particularly good? Or should I just get one to supplement the HOB filter that I already have? What type and which one in that case? Also, I couldnt tell from the website... are you supposed to get a separate biological filter? If so any suggestions on those (like specific brands and all) would be really appreciated. Thank you again... a thousand times. For all the thousand questions that will follow.

    PS. Oh yeah let me use one of them. My HOB filter only reaches down to a little under the half way point of the tank... (supposing I am supposed to keep it) should I get extendors for this so it pulls in water from lower down or is it fine this way? How far down should it go? (I'm not putting thanks here because... well... i think im covered.)
  19. chickadeeFishlore VIPMember

    No you don't need a seperate biological filter.  Once your cycle is over the filter becomes the biological filter with the bacteria in it.  The chemical part is the carbon if you choose to use it and the mechanical is the pump.  The filter does not have to reach all the way to the bottom of the tank, it sounds like yours is just where it should be.  I do not know what others would do, but I would buy an additional filter to work in conjunction with the filter you already have unless you want to have fish that are going to need a very calm water movement.  Even if you want to run a 300gph filter it wouldn't be a bad idea to have the other one running or have a sponge filter as a back-up in case because you will need a filter for a quarantine tank when you start getting your fish.  You have to quarantine the fish for 4 weeks before you put them into a community tank or risk losing all the fish you have gotten so far.  I know I just keep on giving you good news, don't I?  I always have an extra filter running in one of my tanks and an extra 25 watt heater so I can set up a hospital tank or a quarantine tank at any time.  I have made them out of buckets (that have never been used) and other plastic containers and they work as well as fish tanks as long as they have never been used with chemicals or detergents.  I don't put gravel in for easy cleaning and they make excellent temporary homes.

    Now for the biological gravel cleaner - first of all it is a bacteria solution that just consumes the waste products - I am sending the site for the page so you can read the information for yourself. 



    The second product is similar to the idea I use but I have not used the product.  I am only giving it as an option.

    Oh yes you asked about types of filters.  My only experience with filters is with Bio-wheels.  I love them, but others have loved canisters.  I also know that there are some who like the AquaClear.  I just like the Marineland products because they work and they stand behind the ones that have problems.  They give wonderful warranties.

  20. 0morrokhFishlore VIPMember

    Hmmm, the first gravel cleaner looks pretty good, although I would still be wary of putting unneeded chemicals in my tank. I'm not sure I would recommend the second one since it spikes your ammonia...

    And yes, Marineland filters are awesome. Half the reason I want the 20g long tank kit I hope to get for my b-day is because it comes with a Marineland HOB bio-wheel filter for up to 50 gallons!

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