Dorm-room Fish - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 18 Old 07-07-2008, 09:57 PM Thread Starter
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Dorm-room Fish

I'm heading off to college in the fall, leaving my pets at home. However, I recently learned that my dorm allows pet fish. I am the kind of person who needs something to take care of, so this appealed to me.

Now, I have owned fish before. I had a ten gallon aquarium for a number of years and learned the basics of caring for fish. I wouldn't be bringing anything near as big as a ten-gallon tank to school. Think 5-gallon max. -- fish bowl size min. and more of a low maintenance thing.

I'm looking for suggestions on the type and number of freshwater fish I should get. Tank size suggestions would be great too.

Also, would it be crazy to expect fish to survive a three-hour drive from my home to college? Should I try to find a pet store there to buy them?

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post #2 of 18 Old 07-07-2008, 10:08 PM
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I would get the biggest tank you'll be able to fit in the room. If ten is too big, there are some odd-shaped 8 gallon or so tanks, but the next best bet would be a standard 5.5 gallon.

I'm currently cycling a 5.5 gallon myself and plan on stocking it with two pairs of Endler's livebearers and some cherry shrimp. Livebearers of any kind might a problem for you though unless you got all males. Otherwise, you'd have to deal with a lot of fry.

You could get away with some of the following options:
-A male betta and a snail or a male betta and a couple of Oto catfish
-A school of small fish like harlequin rasboras, dwarf rasboras, galaxy rasboras, neon, cardinal, black neon or ember tetras, or white cloud minnows with a couple of shrimp
-A single dwarf gourami
-A couple of sparkling gouramis
-A couple of African dwarf frogs
-A single (or possibly even a pair) of scarlet badis, although with a pair you'd have to find out what to do with the fry
-A couple of the smaller types of killifish
-One or two dwarf puffers

Other people might have other ideas, as well.

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post #3 of 18 Old 07-08-2008, 07:15 AM
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I've heard lots of good things about the Eclipse units:
Eclipse 3, 6, & 12
Eclipse 5 Corner
The 5 gallon corner tank is going to be my next aquarium. I'm going to set it up at work with a betta and maybe some dwarf cories.

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Watch my tank progress from Craigslist salvage to fishy habitat: Aaron's Tank
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post #4 of 18 Old 07-08-2008, 04:54 PM Thread Starter
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I have a single room, so I could, hypothetically, fit a larger tank without worrying about bothering a roommate. Still, I think a five-gallon will be the maximum I'll be able to deal with, between transporting the tank to and from college and actually maintaining it.

The suggestions help me out a lot, thanks. I've always been fond of gouramis, so I may end up going with the sparkling gourami idea. Or the scarlet badis (never owned these before, but reading about them, one of these seems like a good option).

I also wanted to know whether I should go ahead and establish my tank this summer, while I'm at home. Or -- I guess this is really my question -- can I set up my tank and fish at home and transport it later?
I have a reliable pet store here that I'd like to purchase my fish from if at all possible. But I don't know if driving for three hours would kill my fish.
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post #5 of 18 Old 07-08-2008, 05:08 PM
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You'll have to pull most of the water out, store all the water in buckets or totes (you cannot safely move a tank with water in it unless it's just enough to keep the gravel wet) and save the media in the water as to not lose your bacteria plus transport the fish. Kinda tricky though I've heard of people using those storage totes for the water and putting the fish in there and then using one of those cigarette lighter adaptors that you can plug a regular plug into allowing you to run some kind of internal filter. You can't do it unless you've got a flat area to keep the tote though....and a really steady driver :)

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post #6 of 18 Old 07-08-2008, 05:39 PM
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I kept a 10 gallon in my dorm room! It can definitely and easily be done if you're determined. My suggestion is to actually have a second 10G at home with just substrate in it. They're *really* cheap. That way you can have your parents throw a bit of fish food in to start it cycling, and you'll be able to retain the beneficial bacteria in the filter fairly easily.

Moving fish is relatively easy. Moving TANKS is the hard part, and it's a lot easier if you can just break it down in the move and don't have to worry about keeping it cycled.

Maintaining larger tanks is actually easier, because it leaves more room for error. Smaller tanks crash faster, so if you miss a water change it can be fatal. It's nice to not be stressing about water changes during finals!

Transporting fish 3 hours shouldn't kill any healthy fish (think about how your fish store gets all their fish). You basically just need an adequately sized fish bag and make sure the temperature doesn't drop/raise too much in transport. You can keep the bags in a cooler for insulation which will help a lot, and just try to keep the air in your from getting too hot or cold.

As for transporting the tank- empty it entirely. Believe me, it's much, much easier. Then you can keep all the gravel in a 5 gallon bucket with a bit of water in it to stay wet. Same with the filter media and decorations.
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post #7 of 18 Old 07-09-2008, 01:06 AM
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I lived in an apartment on campus until just a while ago, and I was running a 20g and some smaller tanks (all in my single bedroom - no way I was leaving my fish in the living room to have who knows what happen to them courtesy of less than sober roomates/friends). My girlfriend also had a 20g in her apartment. Compared to other pets, fish are really unobtrusive. They don't make noise, they don't smell and they won't eat your roomates' homework. I know some colleges have restrictions on tank sizes (although mine didn't) so you might want to consider that as well. Trust'll have to consider it after you've had this tank up and running for a while with healthy fish and you get stricken with MTS (multiple tank syndrome) and start coming up with mixed communities and biotope ideas galore.

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post #8 of 18 Old 07-09-2008, 06:15 PM Thread Starter
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I got the aquarium. It's 5.5 gallons, glass, the standard shape. I also picked up a hood with a light, natural-colored substrate, some water conditioner, and a filter (Aqueon PowerFilter 10).
I thought about getting one that comes with all the supplies, a set (which would have saved me a lot of money in the long run), but these were all plastic tanks. I'd heard that glass is better. Plastic apparently releases toxins into the water?
Anyway, it's glass. And I would have gone with 10 gallon after all the advice you guys have offered, but I think I'm pushing my luck with my mum upsizing from the "fish bowl."

I'm now going rinse everything out, set things up, and treat the water. One of the workers at the pet store suggested I start out with some zebra danios or something similar to get the tank balanced before I add the more expensive fish I want to keep. Does that sound right?
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post #9 of 18 Old 07-09-2008, 07:25 PM
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Well, you need to cycle the tank somehow. Zebra danios are probably the most popular choice for cycling with fish because they're so hardy. When you cycle with fish, you subject the fish to ammonia and nitrite poisoning and the cycle can take much longer because you often have to do water changes to keep your fish from dying. If you do a fishless cycle, you don't have to do water changes during the cycle and it can be a quicker process.

Not to mention that if you cycle with danios you either have to keep them or get rid of them by selling them, giving them away or returning them to the store. I can tell you straight away that it's no fun trying to catch zebra danios in a tank with any amount of decor in it. If you choose a fishless cycle, you can add the fish that you actually want to keep once the cycle is complete.

Here are some links about the aquarium cycle:

I can't stress how important it is to read up on the aquarium cycle. Most new hobbyists don't know anything about it and just dump their fish in new tanks and pray. It won't work. Stocking an uncycled tank almost always leads to the death of your fish and because they couldn't see any reason for the deaths, people just give up on the hobby.

In order to monitor the progress of the cycle, I recommend getting a good liquid test kit. API's Freshwater Master Test Kit is a good choice. I also recommend buying it online from a place like aquariumguys, that fish place, or drs. foster and smith as their prices are about half of what you'd pay for the kit in a store. Not only will having the kit let you monitor the cycle's progress, it will also allow you to be sure that you've always got a tank that's free of water quality problems that are the root of stress and disease.

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post #10 of 18 Old 07-09-2008, 11:27 PM Thread Starter
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You know, after I posted that, I was fiddling around on google, brushing up on my knowledge of fish and the nitrogen cycle. I actually didn't know you could cycle the tank without fish, but it's been many years since I started a tank. Last time we sorta chucked some fish in, and delt with the problems. No wonder so many died. x.o

But I'll definitely be going with the method that does NOT involve killing zebra danios. I need to get some ammonia and ask the fish store closeby whether I can have some filter water from one of tanks to get the bacteria started.

One of the sites I found on fishless cycling suggested adding "potted" plants to the water to establish the good bacteria in the tank. Can I use anything for this? Do they have to be potted? I have a bamboo plant that's thriving in a vase of water right now. Suppose I stick that in the tank for a while?

Sorry for asking so many questions, but I want to do this right. Thanks for all the help so far.
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