The Blunders Of A Returning Aquarist

Blub
  • #1
Hello again...

UPDATE: SEE POST #17

It has been five years since my last FishLore post and since I dismantled my aquaria before leaving for university. Having now graduated and with a lot of free time on my hands, I've finally returned to the hobby. Although I'd previously considered myself a fairly experienced aquarist, the story of my new tank includes a fair few rookie errors! So I'm turning to FishLore for the sound advice I know this community for.

1) The tank
Our apartment is small, so the only suitable aquarium my girlfriend and I could muster was a 34 litre (9 US gallon) tank, which measures 50cm (19.6") x 25cm (9.8") x 28cm (11").

A small tank, but I'd enjoyed several nano setups, including solitary bettas and 'nano communities. The tank isn't a mistake, necessarily, but a limitation.

As my girlfriend hadn't kept fish before, we'd agreed she would choose the tank's primary inhabitants, with myself advising and making any little additions after.

2) The cycle
I've always fishless cycled and that's what I set out for. I set up the tank, planted it with Hyygrophila, Vallisneria and Anubias, and let the ammonia and bacteria get on with business. However, two weeks in, and our nitrite stage is slow to start. I'd always used fish food as my ammonia source in past, so that's what I did, hoping it would give the plants nutrients.
Mistake #1) Inconsistent ammonia source.

Something jogs my memory; on FishLore, we always used to talk about Tetra SafeStart. I've always been sceptical of SafeStart, or any such 'wonder solutions', but I could not ignore the amount of positive experiences online. My girlfriend was set on fancy guppies at this point, which I felt would weather the SafeStarted cycle. I ordered a bottle for 60L...
Mistake #2) Impatience.

3) SafeStarting
When the bottle arrived, my tanks' readings were 1.2 Ammonia, <5 Nitrite and <5 Nitrate. Not cycled, although I had seen bigger nitrite spikes that week. Having read SafeStart instructions, I decided to do a 90% water change and plop a little SafeStart in early, to sort out lingering ammonia before fish. After 6 hours, Ammonia tested 0, we plopped the rest of the SafeStart bottle in, then headed for the fish shop. I think this was the correct procedure with SafeStart.

4) The fish shop
We went to the only fish shop open past 5pm. I was very surprised to find no guppies in our LFS, but my girlfriend instantly fell in love with a gorgeous purple male Betta. Remembering my old bettas fondly, I was pleased. I'd always kept bettas as solitary animals, but worried in the shop: will one fish be enough to feed this bacteria which I've just dropped into the tank?
Mistake #3) Adding SafeStart before guaranteeing the fish can be sourced.

Thinking on my feet, I scanned the shop tanks for something which would cohabit with a betta whilst pumping out some bio-load. Historically I've planned my stocks meticulously in advance; this was completely impromptu.
Mistake #4) Brash stocking decisions made in the LFS.

I struggled! I've always been sceptical of schooling fish with bettas. No small plecos, cories or nerites were available. So I turned to platies - a fish I'd always known as small, hardy and harmless. I swear they had two males... But once the first was netted, we could only see gravid females, or male swordtails. I'd never kept swordtails, but remembered them as 'big platies'. Thinking he would basically be a 10cm platy, I asked for a male swordtail. With little else in the shop suiting my ideas and no other chance in our schedules to buy fish in the next 36 hours, I decided this would ensure my SafeStart worked.
Mistake #5) Over-confident and under-researched decisions!

5) Introducing the motley crew
We came home with a male betta, male swordtail and male platy, in separate bags. Going through the usual process of darkened tank and adjusting the bag water, trouble brewed. Whenever betta sighted the livebearers in the adjacent bag, he flared his gills. I thought, uh-oh... An hour later, I've netted them into the tank.

Immediately, even in the dark, the betta chases each livebearer, flaring his gills at them. Swordtail initially has a little 'face off', but backs off. Both livebearers now simply flee betta. For about half an hour I watch in distress as the betta intermittently chases the livebearers around the tank. He does seem to let up after a while, and we go to bed.

6) The morning after
I came into the living room in trepidation... Turning on dI'm room lights first, the fish awake. Before long, betta has flared his gills at swordtail, and this happens about once every five minutes. Platy receives some, but markedly less,

The tank's length and planting throughout the back mean that betta and livebearer can go five minutes easily without encountering each other. Over the course of today, things seem to be calming down. The livebearers move quite loosely around the tank. Right now all three are running up and down the front glass, not seeming aggressive at all. The livebearers perhaps seem a little nervous of betta, and betta was swimming at them a few hours ago, but not flaring gills. Each fish has utilised one of the two coconut caves. Water parameters look safe!

7) Questions: what future for these fish?
Here, I'll ask for advice:
- Do you think this stocking situation can be sustainable? Does it seem like the fish have settled their disputes and might live in relative peace?
- If I remove my livebearers, will the low bio-load threaten my SafeStart cycle? I'm worried the bacteria will starve with just one betta's bio-load.
- If I remove the betta, how advisable is keeping a swordtail in this tank?
- What would you do?

Thankyou in advance
 
PonzLL
  • #2
I read it all, entertaining post! I'll let others chime in on what they want, but you mentioned starving bacteria with just a betta and I wanted to clear up that this isn't not an issue. The bacteria isn't a single large unit, but a colony made up of thousands and thousands of individual bacteria. If you remove a food source (fish waste), bacteria will start to die off until the amount left is the amount of bacteria that can be sustained by your single betta's waste. Even if you just have a single little shrimp in there, you'll still have a bacteria colony, it will just be an incredibly small colony!

Personally I'd not try to keep another type of fish with a male betta in that size tank. Not that you can't, but it usually doesn't work out the way you want it to, as you've seen first hand!
 
Dawn Michele
  • #3
Welcome back!!!
 
ValerieAdams
  • #4
Welcome back! I made sure to read the whole thing
1. No, I think they will continue to fight in that small of a tank size.
2. I think it will be fine, some bacteria will starve and die off but you will have what you need to cycle with the betta, you won't need more.
3. I've seen swordtails recommended for a 29 gallon minimum because they have such a large bioload and grow rather large. Here's an article for reference that suggests more than 29g.
4. I would remove the livebearers and return them. Having some of the bacteria that you don't need die off isn't going to hurt anything. Maybe add some shrimp or a snail but I wouldn't put anything else in with a betta in that tank size.
 
Mcasella
  • #5
Honestly a 9 gallon isn't suitable for the three fish you have, I'd keep the betta (since this is the fish she picked out) and return the platy and swordtail and look into either a couple nerite snails or some shrimp. The colony will be fine with a low bioload as it will support that bioload, which is why adding more fish is the biggest issue when stocking.
 
Ohio Mark
  • #6
Good to have you back. I like your writing style!
 
Seasoldier
  • #7
.Hi, I think either the livebearers will end up injured or the betta will get stressed out chasing & flaring at them all the time. I like Mcasella's idea above to trade the two fish, keep the betta & add some shrimp & snail to liven the tank up a bit.
 
Culprit
  • #8
Here, I'll ask for advice:
- Do you think this stocking situation can be sustainable? Does it seem like the fish have settled their disputes and might live in relative peace?
- If I remove my livebearers, will the low bio-load threaten my SafeStart cycle? I'm worried the bacteria will starve with just one betta's bio-load.
- If I remove the betta, how advisable is keeping a swordtail in this tank?
- What would you do?

Glad you made it back into fish-keeping. I'm gonna give a suggestion to try out saltwater lol. That's my Dark Side speaking

Anyways, no. For one thing Platies and Swordtails get quite a bit too big and too active for a 9 gallon tank. Also, both will be quite aggressive towards each other.

Nope. Some bacteria will die off, but if you ever decide to add more fish, the colony will quickly grow.

I think you could do a small school of Pygmy Corydoras, or possibly a school of nano fish like ChilI Rasboras, Ember Tetras, Rasbora Hengeli, or Green Neon Tetras. You'd just have to make sure you're very heavily planted. Shrimp and snails are also great, but on the shrimp, I'd go and get the smallest ghost shrimp you can find, get 2 or 3. Put them in and make sure they won't get eaten before trying RCS.
 
Seasoldier
  • #9
Glad you made it back into fish-keeping. I'm gonna give a suggestion to try out saltwater lol. That's my Dark Side speaking

Blub NO! Don't get seduced by the dark side, the force will not be with you
 
Lucy
  • #10
HI Blub welcome back!
 
Lacey D
  • #11
Hello again...

It has been five years since my last FishLore post and since I dismantled my aquaria before leaving for university. Having now graduated and with a lot of free time on my hands, I've finally returned to the hobby. Although I'd previously considered myself a fairly experienced aquarist, the story of my new tank includes a fair few rookie errors! So I'm turning to FishLore for the sound advice I know this community for.

1) The tank
Our apartment is small, so the only suitable aquarium my girlfriend and I could muster was a 34 litre (9 US gallon) tank, which measures 50cm (19.6") x 25cm (9.8") x 28cm (11").

A small tank, but I'd enjoyed several nano setups, including solitary bettas and 'nano communities. The tank isn't a mistake, necessarily, but a limitation.

As my girlfriend hadn't kept fish before, we'd agreed she would choose the tank's primary inhabitants, with myself advising and making any little additions after.

2) The cycle
I've always fishless cycled and that's what I set out for. I set up the tank, planted it with Hyygrophila, Vallisneria and Anubias, and let the ammonia and bacteria get on with business. However, two weeks in, and our nitrite stage is slow to start. I'd always used fish food as my ammonia source in past, so that's what I did, hoping it would give the plants nutrients.
Mistake #1) Inconsistent ammonia source.

Something jogs my memory; on FishLore, we always used to talk about Tetra SafeStart. I've always been sceptical of SafeStart, or any such 'wonder solutions', but I could not ignore the amount of positive experiences online. My girlfriend was set on fancy guppies at this point, which I felt would weather the SafeStarted cycle. I ordered a bottle for 60L...
Mistake #2) Impatience.

3) SafeStarting
When the bottle arrived, my tanks' readings were 1.2 Ammonia, <5 Nitrite and <5 Nitrate. Not cycled, although I had seen bigger nitrite spikes that week. Having read SafeStart instructions, I decided to do a 90% water change and plop a little SafeStart in early, to sort out lingering ammonia before fish. After 6 hours, Ammonia tested 0, we plopped the rest of the SafeStart bottle in, then headed for the fish shop. I think this was the correct procedure with SafeStart.

4) The fish shop
We went to the only fish shop open past 5pm. I was very surprised to find no guppies in our LFS, but my girlfriend instantly fell in love with a gorgeous purple male Betta. Remembering my old bettas fondly, I was pleased. I'd always kept bettas as solitary animals, but worried in the shop: will one fish be enough to feed this bacteria which I've just dropped into the tank?
Mistake #3) Adding SafeStart before guaranteeing the fish can be sourced.

Thinking on my feet, I scanned the shop tanks for something which would cohabit with a betta whilst pumping out some bio-load. Historically I've planned my stocks meticulously in advance; this was completely impromptu.
Mistake #4) Brash stocking decisions made in the LFS.

I struggled! I've always been sceptical of schooling fish with bettas. No small plecos, cories or nerites were available. So I turned to platies - a fish I'd always known as small, hardy and harmless. I swear they had two males... But once the first was netted, we could only see gravid females, or male swordtails. I'd never kept swordtails, but remembered them as 'big platies'. Thinking he would basically be a 10cm platy, I asked for a male swordtail. With little else in the shop suiting my ideas and no other chance in our schedules to buy fish in the next 36 hours, I decided this would ensure my SafeStart worked.
Mistake #5) Over-confident and under-researched decisions!

5) Introducing the motley crew
We came home with a male betta, male swordtail and male platy, in separate bags. Going through the usual process of darkened tank and adjusting the bag water, trouble brewed. Whenever betta sighted the livebearers in the adjacent bag, he flared his gills. I thought, uh-oh... An hour later, I've netted them into the tank.

Immediately, even in the dark, the betta chases each livebearer, flaring his gills at them. Swordtail initially has a little 'face off', but backs off. Both livebearers now simply flee betta. For about half an hour I watch in distress as the betta intermittently chases the livebearers around the tank. He does seem to let up after a while, and we go to bed.

6) The morning after
I came into the living room in trepidation... Turning on dI'm room lights first, the fish awake. Before long, betta has flared his gills at swordtail, and this happens about once every five minutes. Platy receives some, but markedly less,

The tank's length and planting throughout the back mean that betta and livebearer can go five minutes easily without encountering each other. Over the course of today, things seem to be calming down. The livebearers move quite loosely around the tank. Right now all three are running up and down the front glass, not seeming aggressive at all. The livebearers perhaps seem a little nervous of betta, and betta was swimming at them a few hours ago, but not flaring gills. Each fish has utilised one of the two coconut caves. Water parameters look safe!

7) Questions: what future for these fish?
Here, I'll ask for advice:
- Do you think this stocking situation can be sustainable? Does it seem like the fish have settled their disputes and might live in relative peace?
- If I remove my livebearers, will the low bio-load threaten my SafeStart cycle? I'm worried the bacteria will starve with just one betta's bio-load.
- If I remove the betta, how advisable is keeping a swordtail in this tank?
- What would you do?

Thankyou in advance
Fell off the wagon, did you? The obvious solution is to get a nice 150L for the swordtails and platy. Tanks that size are smaller than you think, and can fit just about anywhere >_> Then you can get a couple more platy and swordtails and...

The other solution is just to take the excess fish back, and stay within your means and NOT get MTS. But where's the fun in that? Welcome back, and at least your fish are all still alive. I got back into the hobby after 20 years of being out of it, had never learned about what the nitrogen cycle was the first time around, and put 2 male guppies in a 2.5 hexagon because that was fine back when I was a kid. They lasted 2 weeks, before "mysteriously" starting to act weird and dying :/ I almost threw the towel in, but there are so many more resources now than back then, and my education has been rapid and wonderful! We all make mistakes, even the most veteran among us. Yours have been well intentioned, and currently harmless. But that betta will be happier alone, and those livebearers will be happier back with their friends <3

Oh, and love your storytelling style! I look forward to the continued adventures!
 
r5n8xaw00
  • #12
I suggest all the above...Welcome back...
 
mattgirl
  • #13
Welcome back !!!!

I think everyone (you, your girldfriend, the Betta, the Swordtail and the Platy) will live a more harmonious life if the Betta lives a solitary life in his own little kingdom and the others go back to their friends. He will thrive if all attention is given just to him.
 
jdhef
  • #14
Welcome back!
 
Blub
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
Thank yous
Thank you everybody very much for your replies, kind welcomes and compliments. I remember this forum for friendly, gentle advice and it has not changed. Your replies confirm many of my suspicions.

In general reply - I still have three tanks, stored at my parent's house... Which I suppose means that my MTS has never left! Alas, this apartment really is cupboard-sized, so my hopes rest with this little tank engaging my girlfriend enough that I can wheel out the 180L in a year's time, when we've a better home.


It is nice to see both your familiar faces again, Lucy and Jdhef, with the same avatars as well! I am very pleased to see that you are both still keeping the place running so well.

Bettas with livebearing tankmates

As I understand, your collected advice is to remove the livebearers, and run the tank with the solitary Betta. I'm convinced that if you were to trawl this forum's records, you would find me repeating the same. I can recall at least beloved two solitary betta setups I've enjoyed in past; historically I have been in the camp which argues for solitary bettas.

At present, however, relations in the tank are... good. The platy, swordtail and betta are roaming freely without aggression. None of the fish are showing signs of stress, to my knowledge. I have not seen betta flare gills since midday. I am recalling the many voices in the betta tankmate debate who report positive experiences of bettas with 'unconventional' tankmates. It's often said that the question is not what bettas can coexist with, but what that particular betta will coexist with. I can feel the shuddering spines in the room already; he's not going to try and keep those livebearers with that betta, is he?

Rest assured that I have taken the advice on-board; I am fairly confident myself that the best action is to return those livebearers. It will take a few days until I can do it, however, possibly even a week, due to logistical issues I won't bore you with. I feel this is not a problem, because the tank is currently peaceful.

SafeStart
you mentioned starving bacteria with just a betta and I wanted to clear up that this isn't not an issue. The bacteria isn't a single large unit, but a colony made up of thousands and thousands of individual bacteria. If you remove a food source (fish waste), bacteria will start to die off until the amount left is the amount of bacteria that can be sustained by your single betta's waste. Even if you just have a single little shrimp in there, you'll still have a bacteria colony, it will just be an incredibly small colony!

I take from your words that I did not need to stock the tank more heavily, to get the SafeStart cycle going. I hope I am correct in my interpretation.


Good to have you back. I like your writing style!
love your storytelling style! I look forward to the continued adventures!

Thank you very much!


Anyways, no. For one thing Platies and Swordtails get quite a bit too big and too active for a 9 gallon tank. Also, both will be quite aggressive towards each other.

This has been mentioned several times. I certainly can't argue about swordtails. I must admit, I've seen many successful setups of similar dimensions with platies... I wonder if I am in a minority in this belief? My understanding is platies stay to 5cm, maybe 6cm.
 
mattgirl
  • #16
I am happy to hear that all is peaceful at this point. I do agree that the aggression seen in some tanks toward tank mates depends entirely on the disposition of the Betta in question.

Years ago when I very first got into the wonderful world of having fish tanks I did house a male Betta in my community tank and saw no aggression between him and his tank mates so I know it can be done successfully. My previous apprehension was due to the aggression he was displaying to begin with. It is possible he will actually enjoy having tank mates.
 
Blub
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
I am happy to hear that all is peaceful at this point. I do agree that the aggression seen in some tanks toward tank mates depends entirely on the disposition of the Betta in question.

Years ago when I very first got into the wonderful world of having fish tanks I did house a male Betta in my community tank and saw no aggression between him and his tank mates so I know it can be done successfully. My previous apprehension was due to the aggression he was displaying to begin with. It is possible he will actually enjoy having tank mates.

Thanks for your reply mattgirl. I certainly have become more open to setups involving bettas in communities, but at this point in the tank's story, this point has become purely academic.

The state of play on Thursday morning sees four completely different fishes in the tank than we had on Monday. The drama continues...

Removing livebearers
After receiving FishLore's reassurance that I can SafeStart an aquarium with only a betta, I decided that keeping 1 betta, 1 swordtail and 1 platy was not a long-term option for this 34L tank. However, returning the fish presented a logistical challenge and I hadn't expected to do it for some days. Miraculously, my girlfriend managed to get home from work early on Wednesday; giving her chance to take the livebearers back. Unfortunately, as this was unplanned, I was elsewhere at this time, so not able to accompany her. Tank ammonia that morning was 0.6; no nitrite and 5 nitrate. I believe this is normal with SafeStart.

Now, my girlfriend is new to aquaria, and hasn't cultivated the same deep-seated scepticism for fish shop advice as I have. Naturally, she got talking to the shop clerk, about the situation of livebearers alongside bettas. Sure enough, they had plenty of 'advice' to give, especially concerning which fish in their shop would be good additions to our tank.

I can feel you thinking - oh wow, what crazy assemblage has Blub got now?

New fish
I returned home to find 5 peppered cories in the aquarium, alongside the betta. In fairness to the shopkeeper, cories are a decent choice for bettas; there was no aggression. Apparently these cories had arrived in the shop's tanks under 24 hours ago.

Unfortunately, one cory had problems. She appeared bloated and could not rest on the tank substrate; instead, she would float upwards, in the manner of a balloon. She spent much time upside-down, on the water surface, hiding in a floating plant. Occasionally she made efforts to swim, and accomplished this normally; leading my to believe this was not a swim-bladder infection, but a problem cories can experience due to shock, when they inhale too much air. I've ascertained this from my readings of DoubleDutch's contributions to threads about floating cories; I may have interpreted the situation wrongly.

Sadly, that cory died after 10 hours of being upside-down, just before bedtime at 22:30. I put this down to the latent ammonia in the tank - 0.6. I'm really sceptical of SafeStart's 'safety', because I have read on the forum that these low, but apparently non-toxic ammonia levels can persist. So I've some regrets there.

Thursday morning: an accident
I woke up today, to discover, to my horror, that betta had become trapped in the filter. I could only find one suction cup for it in my fish storehouse, leaving one small opening at the back which evidently has a strong suction. I immediately turned off the filter, hoping betta would swim free; but he could sadly not. I used a gentle pipette squirt to free him from the filter, but was sad to see that he appeared paralysed and bruised behind the gills. He tried swimming but had no control and sunk to the bottom. It was a very sorry sight and he was breathing very heavily. I did not feel a recovery was possible from such grave physical injuries so I euthanised the fish as quickly as I could. I've jammed the hole with filter sponge, and risk-assessed the rest of the tank.

With two deaths in twelve hours, I'm feeling sad about the mistakes made so far.

What next?
To review; I've 4 small peppered cories in this 50cm long 34L tank. Immediately, I'm concerned at 0.6 ammonia, but SafeStart's instructions make it clear that no water changes should be done until two weeks after it began. At the tank's pH of 7.0, my Nutrafin test kit claims that ammonia is not especially toxic, which probably explains why the 4 cories currently look healthy. I am hoping that the ammonia will soon reduce.
Question 2A) Is sitting on my hands, rather than changing water, the best action now?

I'm aware that peppered cories are recommended for slightly larger aquaria. I do not want to move these fish soon; I feel it would be very stressful, given their recent experiences. At their current size, of about 3cm, I feel this 50cm tank provides enough space. Its décor seems great for cories. I've got fine sand, two coconut caves, oak leaf litter and heavy planting. I know they will grow to perhaps 6-7cm, although this will take years. I'm already addicted to fishkeeping again. I've got three tanks stored at my parents' and this apartment rent ends in February; afterwards, my 60L or 180L tanks could come into play! So I feel that keeping these cories for now will be the fairest action to them, given my longer-term plans.
Question 2B) Is the idea to retain these cories sound?
I'm also aware that 4 is a small number; 6 or even 8 would be better. I don't think cories would mind the crowding; what are the opinions about this bio-load in a 34L planted tank? Thankfully the tank is beside a tap, permitting easy water changes.
Question 2C) Would I be better advised to retain just 4 cories, or add another 2-4 in a few weeks?

Question 2D) One cory looks quite small. Anything I should do? See the photo.
IMG_20180920_075506.jpg
IMG_20180920_075441.jpg

Finally, my girlfriend would like something colourful in the tank. I feel a single betta, or perhaps dwarf or honey gourami, would be OK.
Question 2E) What advice would you give about adding a single colourful fish alongside cories?
 
Mcasella
  • #18
Four of them in a group isn't absolutely awful, I dealt with that for a year trying to get my albino cories to stop dying every time I added more (the new ones would pass putting me right back at 4 albinos), it a small difference in behavior for them with the 11-13 they have now compared to the 4 they were.
He is small, it is most likely that he is young - feed him a nice diet tailored to him and his should grow just fine. A betta is going to be the easiest to get a hold of and keep now that the filter has been tamed.

Cories normally don't bother mid to top dwelling fish as they spend most of their time in the lower levels of the tank and only occasionally shooting to the top for a breath of air. (I would avoid covering a lot of the surface with plants, it confuses the cories when it is removed and they sometimes jump from the water expecting a barrier, normally not high enough to jump out though).
 
mattgirl
  • #19
I am really sorry to hear of the passing of your Betta and the little cory.

The main mistake one make when using Tetra Safe Start is testing the water. Those that have been successful when using it have managed to resist the urge.

It is recommended you put it in and not test unless you think the fish are having a problem. The numbers are going to be off and it will be tempting to change the water thus negating the effects of the TSS.

At this point I would not add any more fish. The 4 corys, though not the best choice for cycling a tank, will be sufficient to feed the bacteria you have added by adding the TSS. Others won't agree but personally I would have no problem keeping just 4 of them. With the size of this tank 4 corys and a centerpiece fish will pretty well fully stock this tank.
 
Blub
  • Thread Starter
  • #20
Four of them in a group isn't absolutely awful, I dealt with that for a year trying to get my albino cories to stop dying every time I added more (the new ones would pass putting me right back at 4 albinos), it a small difference in behavior for them with the 11-13 they have now compared to the 4 they were.
He is small, it is most likely that he is young - feed him a nice diet tailored to him and his should grow just fine. A betta is going to be the easiest to get a hold of and keep now that the filter has been tamed.

Cories normally don't bother mid to top dwelling fish as they spend most of their time in the lower levels of the tank and only occasionally shooting to the top for a breath of air. (I would avoid covering a lot of the surface with plants, it confuses the cories when it is removed and they sometimes jump from the water expecting a barrier, normally not high enough to jump out though).

Sorry to hear about your troubles with adding albino cories. I'm interested that you didn't see much difference in behaviour after adding more. Mine are fairly inactive this morning; the pattern so far seems to be more activity around the evening. It's hard to say whether adding more would make them more confident.

So far, I've not seen the cories eating. I experimentally dropped a few little sinking granules in, but they haven't noticed as they are largely stationary.

Interesting point about the plants. At the moment I'm trying to keep my Cabomba and Hygrophila grounded, but they have not rooted properly yet so are sometimes floating upwards.

The main mistake one make when using Tetra Safe Start is testing the water. Those that have been successful when using it have managed to resist the urge.

It is recommended you put it in and not test unless you think the fish are having a problem. The numbers are going to be off and it will be tempting to change the water thus negating the effects of the TSS.

At this point I would not add any more fish. The 4 corys, though not the best choice for cycling a tank, will be sufficient to feed the bacteria you have added by adding the TSS. Others won't agree but personally I would have no problem keeping just 4 of them. With the size of this tank 4 corys and a centerpiece fish will pretty well fully stock this tank.

Thank you for the reassurance about SafeStart. I have read elsewhere that the low ammonia reading seen is not harmful, which is a new notion to me as I've previously considered any ammonia a problem. Sure enough my test kit does list the toxic levels of ammonia at different pHs.
 

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