When I was in High School I was very interested in aquariums and aquarium fish. Then I went to college and obviously couldn't bring my fish with me into the dorms so I left my dad to care for my fish while I was gone. I've previously had a 10 gallon, then a 20 gallon, before moving on to a 16 gallon hexagon tank, all freshwater. I used to keep goldfish before setting up the 16 gallon tropical community tank, so I'm not a complete newbie, but in my time away I feel like I've forgotten a lot of things that I used to know off-hand easily.
I just got home for the summer from my second year and to my horror my dad managed to strip the aquarium of ANY decorations ("too hard to clean") AND kill off all of my fish except one clown loach (poor guy must be lonely). This atrocity made me decide I must take up the hobby again, not only because I really love it, but for the sake of the poor fish. My dad wants to get more, but he's the type of guy that thinks its a great idea to put new fish directly into the main tank and just, in his words, "bomb" the fish (old and new) with three different antibiotics "just in case".
Now here's where I need help. I just bought a shiny new 38 gallon glass aquarium starter kit. I plan on this being a freshwater tank since I don't have enough time for a saltwater when I go back to school and my dad is too much of a retard to be able to deal with handling it in my absence anyway. Before I even add any fish, I have a few questions..
1) The kit came with an Aqueon 30 power filter, which the website says is good for up to 30 gallons. I know the obvious answer to my obvious question ("is it good enough?"; "no"), but why would they package an insufficient filter for the aquarium size in the kit? Could it work? If it can't, any suggestions on good filters? I've heard good things about Aqueon and I know they make a larger filter, plus its quiet, but I'm open to other suggestions (I've only used Aquaclear before so I don't have any comparisons).
2) The filter is the usual external power filter and it does create a nice turbulent flow.. but only for half of the pretty large aquarium. Most of the water is pretty stagnant. I have two airstones on opposite ends of the tank, but most of the water (especially at the bottom of the tank) doesn't move at all. On top of this the way the holes in the hood are set up, the intake for the filter is all the way in the corner. With this set up, I just feel like the water isn't moving around enough to be efficiently cleaned. Though I may be completely wrong. Anyone have any thoughts? Or any ideas on how to get the water moving around better.
3) The lady at the Petco I bought the tank from recommended letting the system cycle for a week before adding fish. Now my question is, won't the nitrogen cycle NOT start unless theres a source of ammonia (the fish)? Is there any point to this? I added a handful of the gravel from my old aquarium to jump start everything, but if the bacteria have nothing to eat, won't it be useless? Also, for the record I wouldn't buy my fish at Petco (though my local one has completely reorganized the fish section and cleaned up tremendously), I go to a privately owned aquarium-specific store with a very knowledgeable owner.
4) How would you go about regular partial water changes for an aquarium of this size? I would always siphon the gravel til about 1/3 of the water was gone with my older, smaller aquariums, but this one is much more decorated and planted (with fake plants, I want to raise fish, not plants!), so it would make siphoning quite hard. On top of that, 1/3 of the water every month seems like a lot..
5) What fish would you guys recommend I get? I'd rather have more smaller fish than fewer larger fish. I've had it up to my eyeballs with tetras, and I've had platys guppies and gouramis along with the tetras (and of course the loach) in my old tank. Of course I love these fish and will probably end up getting some anyway, but what types of these do you guys find the coolest (or the hardiest for the break in period)? Also, suggestions for different compatible fish are welcome. I read in the starter manual that there's top swimming fish, mid water fish and bottom feeding fish, and I feel like an equal amount of each would give the aquarium a fuller look without overcrowding, so if you guys know where whatever fish you're suggesting prefers to swim, that would help me immensely.
Thanks for all the help. I hope to become a regular and active member in this forum now that my love of fish-keeping has been rekindled.