20 gallon stocking questions from a first timer
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20 gallon stocking questions from a first timer

This is a discussion on 20 gallon stocking questions from a first timer within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> First of all, greetings! My name is Kroum and I only recently got into this fine hobby. My setup is a 20 gal kit ...

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20 gallon stocking questions from a first timer
Old 07-17-2012, 01:56 AM   #1
 
20 gallon stocking questions from a first timer

First of all, greetings!

My name is Kroum and I only recently got into this fine hobby.

My setup is a 20 gal kit from aqueon. Had I done some research before buying it, I would have probably chosen a different brand.

It has been set up and running for just over 2 weeks with two guppies to cycle it. I used an instant cycle product (colony) an hour before putting the fish in and prime to treat my tap water. Ever since then, I have been monitoring the water conditions daily. My tests as of today show no ammonia, a barely registering reading for nitrites, and a low level of nitrate.

I started thinking that the surface area for bacteria growth in my aqueon filter was insufficient, so I tried adding some extra filter media before and after the filter, but that just made it overflow. So, I went and bought a pen-plax cascade 200. This should be overkill, but I have heard that there is no such thing as too much filtration. I have been running both filters in tandem and will continue for another month to allow for bacteria growth in the new filter.

Sorry about the rant, but I wanted to give you guys a rundown on my setup.

I think that I can begin to stock the tank. (But I am open to being dissuaded for the right reason.

How does this sound for the long term: 2current guppies, 10 neon or cardinal tetras, 5cory cats (dwarf?), a dwarf gourami, a couple of shrimp, and a couple of snails. I also want to plant the aquarium, as densely and as lushly as my skills and lighting allow me.

I am open to suggestions or substitutions. I want a peaceful community which is as self-sufficient (cleaning and changing water) as is practical in a 20 gallon tank.

Also, what would be the correct sequence and timing for populating this tank?

From what I have read, it should go: guppies(already in) neon tetras, corys , shrimp, gourami, snails, but I am afraid that if I get the tetras first, I may overwhelm the bacteria in my tank and have rapidly rising ammonia... at the same time, they should be in groups of 6 or more.

Any suggestions, hints, advice???

Oh ya, my tap water has high 8> pH >7.6, has 0 total hardness, but ~180ppm total alcalinity/buffering capacity.

Thanks in advance guys. I'm really glad to have joined this community.
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Old 07-17-2012, 11:44 AM   #2
 
sounds good to me

I think your stocking should do well. but if you really want to make your aquarium look good, and filled up, add a ton of live plants, and add many schooling fish, like Neons. What i did with my 20 gallon was have 2 Blue Ram Cichlids, 5 Tiger Barbs, and 1 red tail shark. It gave me a perfect amount of coloration, and not too much movement so you could enjoy each individual fish. ( this was a 20 gallon long)
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Old 07-17-2012, 12:14 PM   #3
 
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First off, welcome both of you to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.

There are several important issues within your two posts, so I will comment on what I see. First, definitely plants. I won't bog this post down with the benefits, but they are considerable.

Which leads me to the filter. Plants filter better than any gadget we can buy, so let them do it. Minimal filtration on planted tanks is much better. And it is indeed possible to over-filter any tank...not so much that too much filtration is detrimental (though it somewhat is with respect to water current and fish) but that it is unnecessary. Bacteria can only function well in specific water flow and within certain parameters. Too much flow (which usually occurs with "over-filtration") can impede the bacteria since they can only take up so much ammonia and nitrite. Kroum, what filter came with the tank? I might suggest using it, when I know what it is.

Now to the fish stocking. Here you both have problems. A 20g is no where near sufficient space for the intended fish (Kroum) or what you (Hadstuff) have now. I'll discuss the latter first, but before that I'll point you to our fish profiles under the second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page. Most of the usually-seen fish species are included, and the data for each includes water parameter requirements, tank size, minimum numbers for shoaling fish, and any compatibility issues. I will briefly mention the issues in my following comments, but please check the fish profile for further detail. When you see the name shaded, you can click on that for the profile; if the common or scientific name used in the profile is typed exactly identical in posts, it will shade as a link.

Red tailed shark is not a community fish. It attains 5 inches, needs a 4-foot tank at minimum, and no substrate fish with it. Profile explains all this.

Tiger Barb are similar; they need a larger group (8 minimum) and in their own 30g tank. If any other fish are to be included, the tank must be considerably larger than 30g. More in profile. They may not have done it yet, but i can all but guarantee they will target your rams in time.

There are proven scientific reasons for minimum numbers and tank sizes, which I won't get into now, or this post will be a book in volume. So on to Kroum's fish list.

Mixing livebearers that need medium hard or harder water with fish that prefer soft water is not good; there is very little "middle ground," depending upon species, so someone loses and that means stress and poor health and shorter lifespan. You mention soft water, we need to know the number for the GH (general hardness), which you should be able to ascertain from the water supply people, they may have a website. If the water really is hard, forget livebearers (guppy, etc).

I would avoid dwarf gourami; the poor health of this species today is a real risk; more on this in the profile. The Honey Gourami is better. But with any gourami, you have to be careful of tankmates. Gourami are slow sedate fish, and should not be combined with active swimming fish or those remotely likely to fin nip. And this gets us to many tetra. Rasbora make good companions.

The high pH will be trouble for cardinal tetra, and less for neon tetra. The GH is relevant here, so I'll leave this until we know the number. Corys are fine, though you might want to bypass the "dwarf" species which are more delicate. Check the profiles, many species are included.

I'll leave it at that for now.

Byron.
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kroum (07-17-2012)
Old 07-17-2012, 01:34 PM   #4
 
Thank you both for the replies.

Byron, my general hardness reading is 0. The fact that I have a water softener may have something to do with it.

The guppies are already in the tank, but I don't want to plan the tank around them. I will return them if I must, but they seem to be fine so far.

The filter that came with the tank is the aqueon quiet flow 20 I believe, and the replacement is the cascade 200.

I don't quite understand your comment about the bacteria. The filter is designed for a specific water flow and the bacteria live inside the filter media and the surfaces of the filter. There the water flow is slow and always the same, depending on the design parameters of the filter. I was lead to believe that the bacteria in the water itself is negligeable compared to that in the filter and the substrate. I would appreciate a more thorough explanation. The cascade has a flow rate control dial, so if needed, I can decrease it.

The dwarf gourami and the dwarf Cory's I put in there because I don't want any fish that grow to be large. I want them to have plenty of room to swim around even as adults.

The numbers were also just precursory. I want the tetras to be happy, that's why I had 10. Maybe 8?

The gourami is in there because I want the tank to have a centerpiece which is brightly colored and a little bigger than the rest of its tank mates. Again, I am very open to suggestions.
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Old 07-17-2012, 01:37 PM   #5
 
Had stuff: your tank sounds kind of violent. I think that cichlids are gorgeous fish, but they tend to be violent, no?

I want a peaceful community.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:46 PM   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kroum View Post
Thank you both for the replies.

Byron, my general hardness reading is 0. The fact that I have a water softener may have something to do with it.

The guppies are already in the tank, but I don't want to plan the tank around them. I will return them if I must, but they seem to be fine so far.

The filter that came with the tank is the aqueon quiet flow 20 I believe, and the replacement is the cascade 200.

I don't quite understand your comment about the bacteria. The filter is designed for a specific water flow and the bacteria live inside the filter media and the surfaces of the filter. There the water flow is slow and always the same, depending on the design parameters of the filter. I was lead to believe that the bacteria in the water itself is negligeable compared to that in the filter and the substrate. I would appreciate a more thorough explanation. The cascade has a flow rate control dial, so if needed, I can decrease it.

The dwarf gourami and the dwarf Cory's I put in there because I don't want any fish that grow to be large. I want them to have plenty of room to swim around even as adults.

The numbers were also just precursory. I want the tetras to be happy, that's why I had 10. Maybe 8?

The gourami is in there because I want the tank to have a centerpiece which is brightly colored and a little bigger than the rest of its tank mates. Again, I am very open to suggestions.
I'll just pick up on a couple issues. First, the GH and guppies. What is the GH of the tap water before it goes through the softener, if you can access this? Some softeners remove mineral salts (thus lowering the GH) but add other salts in doing so, making things worse. It would help to know how this softener works.

Centerpiece fish in a tank as small as a 20g is not easy. But instead of the Dwarf Gourami, which has health risks, there is the similarly-colourful Honey. My view on 20g tanks is that it is best to stay with small fish as one can provide a more natural environment. And this is critical.

To the filtration. Filters perform 2 or 3 functions depending upon the type. First is mechanical filtration, which is simply moving the water through fine media to remove suspended particulate matter. This is keeping the water clear, which is different from clean. Sponge filters do this admirably; and in larger filters the fine mechanical filtration is achieved by filter pads/floss media. In canisters we also have large chunks of ceramic disks and similar media to grab larger "stuff."

Second aspect is biological. All filters perform this, simply because nitrifying bacteria will colonize such surfaces. Live plants can do this task well, so there is no need to "encourage" biological filtration since it is competing with plants which use this as a nutrient source. One aspect is ammonia. Plants need nitrogen, and most aquatic plants prefer ammonium (a non-toxic form of ammonia) and are faster at grabbing the ammonia/ammonium than bacteria, so they grab most of it. Not only does this remove the ammonia, but nitrite is not a by-product.

Third function of filters is chemical filtration, such as carbon and other products that may detoxify or remove ammonia, etc. With plants this is totally un-necessary as these products remove beneficial nutrients and the plants lose out.

More water flow through the filter might improve the mechanical aspect, although this is debatable. It is possible to have so much water movement that the filters cannot remove everything, and the water will be less clear. All this water movement is also stirring things up, preventing the particulate matter from settling into the substrate where it is vital to the health of the aquarium. And it weakens plants that are unable to assimilate sufficient nutrients if the water flow is too fast. [You can begin to see how all this is inter-connected.]

Biological filtration is not helped by more flow than what is relevant to the aquarium, meaning the volume, aquascape, and fish load. The nitrifying bacteria colonize surfaces, everywhere in the aquarium. There is far more bacteria in a healthy substrate as in any filter. And Nitrosomonas bacteria can only exist at the level comparable to the ammonia, so more and more filtration achieves nothing if the tank is balanced to begin with. Studies have proven that Nitrosomonas and Nitrospira bacteria cannot assimilate the ammonia/nitrite from the water if the flow is beyond their limit. A good filter will be rated to specific tank sizes; and this means that a tank of that size that is stocked in balance with everything else will be best filtered by that particular filter size. In this as in so much of life, more is not better.

If you'd like to go further with this, I think the time has come to refer you to an article which I wrote and that appears in our Freshwater Article section:
http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/f...quarium-74891/
This should provide a better comprehensive view, but feel free to question.

Byron.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:54 PM   #7
 
it has been 3 years, and there are no problems with any of it. The only fighting being done is the Ram Cichlids defending territory, which is healthy for them. plus, the Tiger barbs are going to be moved soon, as i plan to restock the tank
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Old 07-17-2012, 04:09 PM   #8
 
Thank you Byron. I am beginning to understand what you are getting at and I will definitely read the article you linked.

I will test my tap water from the spout in the back yard when I get home from work. That does not go thru the softener I don't think. The softener I have is indeed a salt based one.

About the filter: the flow rate can be varied, so I can decrease it. My goal right now is to populate it with bacteria. Later on, I can remove the aqueon filter and decrease the flow rate on the cascade as needed.

I do want plants. I do not want this to become a full time job, however. So I would rather have a few hardy, low light plants and deal with the low ammonium and trace minerals than risk rapidly rising ammonia an nitrite levels that kill my fish from insufficient filtration. At least this is how I see it with my limited knowledge. Please correct and/or educate me if my reasoning is flawed.

The independent aquatic store I plan to get my fish from uses the same tap water (sans the softener) that I have and their neon tetras as well as their guppies seem healthy, energetic, and colorful.

I thought the purpose of the plants in a tank was to take some of the nitrates away and make the ecosystem healthy for longer periods without water changes.
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Old 07-17-2012, 04:24 PM   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hadstuff View Post
it has been 3 years, and there are no problems with any of it. The only fighting being done is the Ram Cichlids defending territory, which is healthy for them. plus, the Tiger barbs are going to be moved soon, as i plan to restock the tank
This may well be an example of what sometimes happens when the fish's needs are not met. In some cases, aggression is worsened, but in others, the fish are not able to act "normal" and just manage. And the shark should be growing larger, if it is not then it has been stunted by too small a space.

I'm sorry, but i cannot change nature. Neither can you.
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Old 07-17-2012, 04:26 PM   #10
 
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Originally Posted by kroum View Post
Thank you Byron. I am beginning to understand what you are getting at and I will definitely read the article you linked.

I will test my tap water from the spout in the back yard when I get home from work. That does not go thru the softener I don't think. The softener I have is indeed a salt based one.

About the filter: the flow rate can be varied, so I can decrease it. My goal right now is to populate it with bacteria. Later on, I can remove the aqueon filter and decrease the flow rate on the cascade as needed.

I do want plants. I do not want this to become a full time job, however. So I would rather have a few hardy, low light plants and deal with the low ammonium and trace minerals than risk rapidly rising ammonia an nitrite levels that kill my fish from insufficient filtration. At least this is how I see it with my limited knowledge. Please correct and/or educate me if my reasoning is flawed.

The independent aquatic store I plan to get my fish from uses the same tap water (sans the softener) that I have and their neon tetras as well as their guppies seem healthy, energetic, and colorful.

I thought the purpose of the plants in a tank was to take some of the nitrates away and make the ecosystem healthy for longer periods without water changes.
On a simple planted tank, check my 4-part series "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" stickied at the head of this section. I can respond to any questions that may come from that. The photos of my tanks [click the "Aquariums" tab below my name on the left] are all based on this approach. This will also answer, at least partly, the issue of ammonium/nitrate.

Byron.
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