new (again) and questions re stocking, substrate and more - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 18 Old 08-14-2011, 02:23 AM Thread Starter
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new (again) and questions re stocking, substrate and more

Hi all,

I have browsed around here for several days and have devoured several pages of posts and replies. FWIW I am thoroughly impressed (I come here from another fish forum that has grown a bit dark over the past few years).

I am running the set-up you see in my signature. Unfortunately, when I began cycling my new 20 gallon high 30 days ago, I chose the old school method of a fish-in cycle. I didn't realize that fishless had been so well developed in the eight years since I last kept fish. I won't be doing the fish-in again, but it's too late for that now, so I simply want to ensure I'm on the right path. Here are the brief notes:

- Started the tank 30 days ago, conditioning the tap water with Amquel and Gel Filter Cartridge Inoculant, letting it run for 24 hours first. (FYI, the GFCI was sold to me by a LFS employee -- didn't seem to do anything at all). Added the 4 Giant Danios after 24 hours.

- Saw the expected ammonia and nitrite spikes. Water params are now 0 ammonia, ~1 nitrite and dropping, and about ~20 nitrate, using the API Master Test kit (because I am new to to this again, I've taken my water into the LFS to double-check). Also, pH is 7.6. I have to get the water hardness and other tests soon, I'm realizing. These amm/nitri/nitra results come 24 hours after my last water change of 25 percent. Unfortunately, during the course of the cycle, ammonia and nitrite both spiked pretty heavily. As I said, I won't be doing fish-in again.

- Most importantly, fish behavior and appetite has been solid, which I'm glad for. The biggest Danio is a total bi-atch to the smallest, but they are all co-existing. They did fine during the ammonia spike, seemed a little sluggish during the nitrite spike, and have definitely perked up during the last few days as nitrites have dropped precipitously.

Here are my questions:

I realize now that I didn't add a thick enough layer of substrate (black sand) to my tank, and want to add more. Seems like it makes the most sense to add it when I doing the big water change at the end of the cycle and return the Danios to the LFS. How would I add it? I am planning to wash well, soak in treated water, drain, and add by the handful with the filter turned off. Is that right? Should I add it right on top, or agitate the existing sand a little bit to ensure the good bacteria getting a little mixed in? I am guessing the latter, but wanted to seek advice.

I want to add some some plants. I am running about 2.4 watts per gal right now, with no plans to add more. Would basic ferns, Hornwort, Anubias, Anacharis be suitable and do well, with simply liquid nutrients added? I will probably float some, too, to dim the lighting a bit, and supplement all with a few fake plants. Should I add these at the big, end of cycle water change?

How big should that "end of cycle water change" be? I plan on vacuuming well on half the gravel (leaving the other half for next time), rinsing the AQ filter foam in old aquarium water and replacing, and changing out the carbon bag. Anything else?

My stocking plan is 4 julii corys, 7 lemon tetras, 7 harlequin rasboras and, eventually, 1 Bolivian Ram. AqAdvisor says this is very doable, but I am wanting to consult with you experts here. (I also considered pristella tetras or glowlight tetras instead of the rasboras, but it seems like they might be a bit small, given the ram). I plan on 25-30 percent water changes a week, and given my history, am VERY faithful about making them.

FYI, I've kept juliis, lemons, and rams before and love them. Kept them successfully, too, except when I have a few lemons get ich many years ago.

I think that is it -- thank you very much for your patience in reading this, and for your continued service to all hobbyists here.

I appreciate any and all input.

Freshwater 20 (US) gallon high (24 x 13 x 16) with black sand substrate
AquaClear 50 and Hydor Theo Heater (150W)
24" Coralife HO T5 running 1 24-watt 6700K and 1 24-watt 10K
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post #2 of 18 Old 08-14-2011, 02:14 PM
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First off, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Glad to have you with us.

Second, the linked thread doesn't seem to be connected to this, and I earlier deleted your post there as it just said "my bad." I didn't see any connection as you were not the OP... ?

Now to your questions. I assume you intend this to be a natural (low-tech) planted tank. You have a lot of light. Can you disconnect one of the two tubes in some way? You are going to have real algae issues otherwise, as the nutrients especially CO2 will never be up to par with that much intensity. If you haven't already seen it, there is a series at the head of the Aquarium Plants section entitled "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" that will provide a bit of background on this.

As you intend live plants, I would plant the tank. Then you do not have to bother with "cycles" because the plants will assimilate the ammonia/ammonium from the first few fish and there will be no discernible cycle. The bacteria still develop as normal, but with plants they are much fewer in number so there is scarcely any nitrite in the process.

On the plants, Anubias is low light and unless you can shade it somehow, it will serve as a host for brush algae under that light (or any other for that matter). I would suggest pygmy chain sword, dwarf sword, one of the new "dwarf" cultivars of the common sword. For floating, Water Sprite is ideal, or the stem plant Brazilian Pennywort works very well. These are all in our profiles with photos. [Click on the shaded name to see the profile; and profiles are under the second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page.]

On the substrate, with black sand you want 2-3 inches depth overall. It can be deeper at the back, say 3 inches, and shallower at the front, 1 inch is plenty. If you add more to achieve this, yes, mix it in [there are no fish now, so you have a blank canvass, so to speak, or so I am (again) assuming]. The bacteria is not an issue with plants, as mentioned above. Leave the existing organics in the substrate, that is food for plants.

To the planned fish. This is a 20g high, so 24-inch length. A single Bolivian Ram is fine, as are 4 corys (I would get five, better number for the group and C. julii are smallish--do you have access to the true C. julii, most are actually C. trilineatus as mentioned in our profile of Corydoras julii. The tetra/rasbora with 7 each might be pushing things; if this were a 20g long, it would be much better. But with lots of plants and regular weekly water changes of half the tank it should work. If you decide on Glowlight Tetra, the Ram will not bother them. Pristella Tetra get large by the way.

You might want to baffle the filter to cut down the flow, these are all forest fish that appreciate still waters, as do the plants.

Think I've touched on most of your questions, feel free to ask away.

Byron.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #3 of 18 Old 08-16-2011, 10:36 PM
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Don't mean to hijack the thread, but I would like to ask a couple of questions regarding your response.

First, why do you recommend the 20 long over the 20 tall - because of the greater surface area?

Second, regarding keeping only one Bolivian Ram, does this apply to other species of dwarf cichlid? Can they be kept singly as well (I had started another thread on this topic, but never got a clear answer)?
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post #4 of 18 Old 08-17-2011, 10:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quantum View Post
Don't mean to hijack the thread, but I would like to ask a couple of questions regarding your response.

First, why do you recommend the 20 long over the 20 tall - because of the greater surface area?

Second, regarding keeping only one Bolivian Ram, does this apply to other species of dwarf cichlid? Can they be kept singly as well (I had started another thread on this topic, but never got a clear answer)?
On the cichlid question first, it depends on the species. The Bolivian Ram attains 3-4 inches, and males are naturally territorial and can be aggressive to females and males. Even a pair (male/female) needs space with hiding places so the female can escape the aggressiveness of the male when necessary. I had a pair in a 5-foot tank and the female after several spawns was killed by the male's aggression between spawnings. I had not expected this in so large a space, considering how well they interacted during spawnings. A 20g is insufficient space for a pair of this species. It would however suit a pair of Dicrossus filamentosus.

On the tank length, partly. Longer tanks suit forest fish because they have more physical space. The linear space is equally important to water volume, and to some extent more-so. A group of 12 average tetra will be better--and this means "happier" and healthier--in a 20g long as opposed to a 20g high, solely because of the additional 6 inches of space. Depending upon species and other factors, more fish will work in a longer aquarium rather than a taller aquarium, all else being equal.

Byron.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #5 of 18 Old 08-17-2011, 10:53 AM
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Planning for the future moreso than for my current set-up. I don't think I'm going to make too many changes to what I currently have. I think I've gotten things (filter, light, etc.) sorted out for the most part and will see how this goes until I feel like I want to take the next step with a larger tank. Planning for that larger tank is what prompted my questions.

I had originally thought about a 37 gal (30x12x22), but, for the reasons you listed, I'm now thinking a 40H (36x13x20) is the better option.

Stock-wise it will mostly be tetras, pencilfish, and corys, but I would like to add one or two dwarf cichlids as well. The aggression (and breeding itself) you mentioned is something I would like to avoid and the easiest way I thought to do so would be to keep only one of each species. Just wanted to make sure they could manage (thrive really) alone (thinking 1 Dwarf Flag + 1 Apistogramma borellii, or just one Keyhole).
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post #6 of 18 Old 08-17-2011, 11:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quantum View Post
Planning for the future moreso than for my current set-up. I don't think I'm going to make too many changes to what I currently have. I think I've gotten things (filter, light, etc.) sorted out for the most part and will see how this goes until I feel like I want to take the next step with a larger tank. Planning for that larger tank is what prompted my questions.

I had originally thought about a 37 gal (30x12x22), but, for the reasons you listed, I'm now thinking a 40H (36x13x20) is the better option.

Stock-wise it will mostly be tetras, pencilfish, and corys, but I would like to add one or two dwarf cichlids as well. The aggression (and breeding itself) you mentioned is something I would like to avoid and the easiest way I thought to do so would be to keep only one of each species. Just wanted to make sure they could manage (thrive really) alone (thinking 1 Dwarf Flag + 1 Apistogramma borellii, or just one Keyhole).
The 40g is by far the better choice considering the named fish, without question.

On the cichlids. I would not have more than one dwarf cichlid species in a 3-foot tank. I have two Apistogramma species (one is a pair, the other is a single male) in my 4-foot 70g and they are not peaceful. It sort-of works in this tank, but in my 3-foot, I would not risk it for the sake of the fish. Fish that are continually being hounded will be stressed, and that weakens the immune system and causes all sorts of problems that otherwise would never occur. Fish deserve better.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #7 of 18 Old 08-17-2011, 11:51 AM
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OK, just to be sure, if I want to add the cichlid, it should be just one individual of the three species listed, they would be OK alone?
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post #8 of 18 Old 08-17-2011, 12:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quantum View Post
OK, just to be sure, if I want to add the cichlid, it should be just one individual of the three species listed, they would be OK alone?
I am not aware of any danger to the fish by being alone, but I will readily alter this view in the face of evidence to the contrary. I know the Bolivian is ideal alone because in their habitat they appear to live in solitude except when spawning (which may be part of why my male killed the female).

I read through our profile on the Keyhole in case I had something there, and spotted the mention of never keeping this species with other cichlids. So aside from the tank size,...

Byron.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #9 of 18 Old 08-20-2011, 02:33 AM Thread Starter
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Byron, thank you so much. I was called out of town on an emergency and couldn't easily reply earlier. Your help is much appreciated, and I hope to be able to ask you further questions.

Quantum, please don't say "I don't mean to hijack this thread but. . ." and then actually hijack it.

Man up, find your own big words, and post your own thread. In doing so, you're not only being respectful, but you're helping make it easier for everyone else to find the info they need.

Freshwater 20 (US) gallon high (24 x 13 x 16) with black sand substrate
AquaClear 50 and Hydor Theo Heater (150W)
24" Coralife HO T5 running 1 24-watt 6700K and 1 24-watt 10K

Last edited by Byron; 08-20-2011 at 11:43 AM. Reason: delete profanity
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post #10 of 18 Old 08-20-2011, 02:38 AM Thread Starter
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Byron, regarding light -- I have two lights in my fixture. A 6.7K and a 10K. I could remove either one. What guidance would you give here? Of course, which one I remove would depend on what type of fish I am wanting to keep, mostly. But given what you know, and given my desire to prevent algae growth and show off my fish in the best and most natural settings possible, what do you think? Thx in advance if you have time.

Freshwater 20 (US) gallon high (24 x 13 x 16) with black sand substrate
AquaClear 50 and Hydor Theo Heater (150W)
24" Coralife HO T5 running 1 24-watt 6700K and 1 24-watt 10K
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