Beginner's Guide for New Tanks - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 1 Old 08-03-2006, 10:04 PM Thread Starter
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Beginner's Guide for New Tanks

Welcome to the Fish Forum,
So you're starting with the fishkeeping hobby. Let's get started with the basics.

A lot of people have new tanks and started to have problems. This is New Tank Syndrome, a term used where you buy a new tank, then set it up, and finally loaded it with several fish. This is all wrong. Your lfs forgot to advise you the most important thing: cycling. As money is all that matters for them, it's best that you do research before trying to add fish.
The reason why your fish tend to die in the early stages of a newly-setup tank is that there are no bacteria to break down the ammonia caused by fish wastes. This tends to pile up the ammonia level which can become more toxic to the fish and eventually killing them.
To start with the tank after setting up all equipments and decors, pls have a read on Fishless Cycle.

1. What size should i buy? Buy the biggest tank you can afford. 10-15 gallons is the minimum.
2. Is the tank leak-proof? Check for any leaks by filling it with water. Let it stay for 4 hours filled with water. If it doesn't leak, then the tank is considered safe. If it does leak, contact your tank manufacturer. Better to buy the tank in your manufacturer than the lfs as the lfs won't take responsibility for any damages.
3. Is there any possible straining of the water on the glass? Make sure the glass is thick enough to prevent cracks caused by water pressure.
4. How do I make sure the tank won't easily have a cracked bottom? Polystrene is very important. Place it underneath the tank to prevent pressure of the glass. Check for any small objects that may end up between the polystrene and the tank.

1. Where do we get that? It is sometimes available with the tank included.
2. Is it stable enough to support the weight of the tank and other equipments? Make sure the stand can withstand the weight of the tank and other equipments. A 55 gallons tank alone without equipments and other objects in it will weigh a ton.
3. What is the height of the stand? Have it built 3 feet above the ground.
4. Is it leveled? A carpenter's level is important to ensure the stand is leveled. If it isn't, you can use coins which you slip underneath the legs of the tank until it is leveled.

1. Can the floor support the weight of the tank? If you are living in high-rise buildings or on the 2nd floor and above, make sure that the floor can withstand the weight of the tanks. f you are not sure, ask the landlord about the weight capacity that it can carry.
2. Is the area frequently pass by people? Locate your tank in a quiet area of the room. High traffic areas are stressful to the fish.
3. Does the area have doors? Never place the tank in an area where a door is located as the slamming of the door causes vibrations which can shock the fish.
4. Does the area contain many electrical outputs? A tank alone needs a lot of electric sockets or possible extension cords having 4 sockets.
5. Is there direct sunlight in your chosen area? Never place the tank in an area where there is direct sunlight. Sunlight increases tank temps, encourages massive algal blooms and stresses some fish.

Extension Cords
Expect your tank to require more equipments than you ever imagine. With the need for heater, filter and other equipments, I'd recommend buying extension cords of 4 sockets or more. This should be enough to accommodate the equipments. Pls read the capacity it can hold like "how many watts does it support" as overloading may result to short circuits and eventually fire hazards.

You need the heater if you are keeping tropical fish. If the fish is a coldwater species, then no need to buy a heater.
How it is positioned depends on the instructions written in its manual. Make sure the heater is of good quality as bad ones will cause further harm on your fish.

This is optional depending on the plants you keep.
Incandescent Light
It is no loner advisable to use incandescent lights. They are very poor in quality and can give off too much heat. This causes temp fluctuations which can be stressing to the fish.
Fluorescent Light
This is one of those which is most recommended as it doesn't give off too much heat.
Metal Halide Light
They are best hang on the ceiling as they give off too much heat. Besides the disadvantage of not being suitable for the tanks, they can easily form condensation which will eventually run into an electric and fire hazard. They are used for deeper tanks which other lights cannot penetrate deeply.

This is a must to check the tank temp daily. It is best to locate the thermometer in an area which is quiet, free from being crash upon by colossal fishes, free from direct sunlight and away from the heater which can greatly influence the thermometer.
Choose internal thermometers. External thermometers are not accurate and you'll be mislead by the given temperature check as the room temperature can also influence it.

Cover glass
You need it especially for high leaping fish. It also serves as protection for the lighting and other electrical equipments as the fish may sometimes splash them which can be a hazard. It can also be used to minimize evaporation.

The O-rings on Filter
Under Gravel Filter
This type of filter can be used in small tanks. However, cleaning this filter poses a problem as you need to remove the gravel in order to remove the filter. They will not remove the wastes out of the tank although they remove that out of your sight. This filter shouldn't be used for planted tanks as the plants are easily upsetted by the movements around their roots. Neither should it be used if you are using sand as your substrate as sand clogs this filter easily.
Internal Box Filter
This is connected with a tube and air pump. Suitable only for small tanks or breeding/rearing tanks. The air pushes the water inside the filter thus the particles stick to the media. This also creates air bubbles so you may not need additional air pumps and air stones.
External/Canister Filter
Mostly recommended by aquarists. It doesn't take up space inside the tank too much. However, you need to dismantle the canister if you are to clean the filter media.
This type of filter can be expensive yet suitable for large aquariums.

Air pump
It is a must for heavily-stocked tanks. It allows water movements which diffuses the carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
You need to buy a valve that stops the air pump from pumping the water outside the tank due to "back syphoning".
It is best to locate them above the water level.
They can be noisy. To lessen the noise, place a foam underneath the pump. This should muffle the noise(possibly due to vibrations).

Hand nets
Buy two nets for each tank instead of one. Two nets help catching the fish easier. The reason why you need to use the nets only for certain tanks is that proper hygiene is a must. Diseases are tranmsmitted to each tank through the use of the same net.

Gravel vacuum/siphon
This is a must as you need to remove the wastes daily or during water changes.

Algae Magnet or Toothbrush
Choose either of those choices. You need them to scrape the algae and slime sticking on your tank glass. Razor blades can be used to scrape off encrusted algae which is hard to remove on scrapers alone. Hhowever do not use the razor blades when cleaning plastic tanks as plastic easily gets scratched.

Provide yourself 1-2 buckets for aquarium purposes. This is a good idea as this prevents any possible contamination of detergents and other contaminants.

This is optional. However it does add rhythm to your tank and cover the electrical cords that are visible at the back.
There's a choice of painting, paper or water-proof materials. If you are to choose painting, it's best to decide the final color as paints are very difficult to remove once used on the tank's back glass.
If you chose paper, make sure that won't get wet as the paper can easily be destroyed by the dampness.
Water proof materials-They are water resistant so you may choose them as they won't easily be destroyed.
Color(Applies only to plain papers, one color water proof-material and paints)
It may depend on you but natural looking backgrounds are best recommended as they reflect the natural habitats of the fish. If you are keeping freshwater, choose black or brown. For marine tanks, choose between green or blue.
How to Attach the Background(exception:paints)
Double-sided tape
Just stick each piece on all 4 corners of the background.
This applies only to water proof materials. Use baby oil or cooking oil by smearing the back side of the glass(outside), then sticking the background to the glass. Then to lay it flat, use a credit card until no lumps are visible.
For this case, it's best to plan ahead of what material to use. Use a silicone sealant and stick the background inside the tank(back glass). Cork tiles will work on this method.
To remove the sealant, just use a sharp blade and it will peel off.

There's a choice between gravel and sand. It's up to you to decide.
Check them with vinegar as some can gradually raise the pH. If the substrate fizzes with the vinegar, don't use it.
1. Easy to clean
2. Won't be easily carried away by vacuuming.
1. Too large a gravel substrate will trap more debris and create anaerobic spots if not vacuumed.
2. Small grain sizes can compact so you need to stir that frequently.
1. Debris can be vacuumed easily as they are visible.
1. They compact too easily and create anaerobic spots. They can be a hassle as you need to stir them frequently.
2. Sand is easily sucked in when vacuuming.
3. When the sand clouds the water, your filter may suck some of it and the impellor inside the pump will be destroyed or broken if the sand becomes trapped.

Watch out for rocks with shining flecks embedded in them. They can be heavy metals which are dangerous to the fish and invertebrates.
Test each rock with vinegar. If the rock fizzes, then don't use that as pH will gradually increase.
When you try to use rocks for setups, try to embed them on the substrate as loose rocks can easily be toppled by boisterous and avid digging fish. This is disastrous as some fish may end up getting squashed or worse, the glass getting cracked by the impact. You may try to apply silicone on the rocks to make sure that they are in place.
Before putting the rocks in your tank, place them in hot (but never boiling) water to remove any nasty things. Don't use rocks from your garden which could have been contaminated by pesticides. It's best to buy in your lfs or garden centers whether they are expensive or not. The health and safety of your fish should be your main concern.

Fake or live, it's up to you. But l'd recommend live plants as they can turn the nitrates into food by consuming them. High nitrates of 50 ppm and above is dangerous for the fish. Aim to 10-20 ppm nitrate level.
I'd recommend Microsorium pteropus, ceratophyllum demersum and elodea densa for beginners. The latter and the last choice are fast-growing plants and will consume nitrates.

These decors tend to float when they were not waterloged for a long time. To remedy this, weigh them down with weights or soak them in the bucket for a week or more until they sink.
You may try to boil them before using them to leach the tannins. Whether you like the tannins or not, they acidify or lower the pH and stain the water with yellowish color. This is not harmful although only fish thriving in soft water can benefit on the tannins.

Warning: Don't believe in anything the lfs advise lest you know they understand what they are saying. If you intend to buy a fish, do a research first of their requirements.

If you have any questions, pls pm me.
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