My wife and I started our first fish tank (neither of us have any experience even as children) about two months ago. A little background on the tank first. It is a 45 gallon freshwater tank roughly 22x22x22 (it is a pentagon shape so it's slightly less). We have an Emperor 400 Bio-Wheel filter, 2 marineland heaters (not sure of the size, but they are rated for more than our size tank). We have a light fixture with 2 65 watt dual daylight bulbs (130w total) which we are now only running at half power (65w) due to some hair algae growth we experienced our first few weeks which seems to now be under control with the reduced lighting and co2 injections. As far as the co2 we are currently using one of the systems in which you drop a tab into some water which then creates co2 and injects it into a holding device which adds the co2 into the water over a few hours. We used eco-complete substrate and have about a 3 inch cover. PH is around 7.4, kh is at about 180 ppm and gh at about 120 ppm. Temp ranges from roughly 76-79.
My wife is maintaining the plants, so I may not have this exactly right, but I believe we have 2 wisteria plants, 2 ludwiga?, 3 java ferns, some java moss, a moss ball, and 3 baby tears. We are using a couple different fertilizers, the kind you just dump into the water. API leaf-zone i know is one, than there is something called excel i believe and another iron supplement.
We have 4 male guppies, 3 zebra danio's, 6 neon tetra's, 4 cory's (2 panda and 2 green), 3 otocinclus, an upside down catfish and a striped raphael catfish. We also have 2 large trap door snails and another smaller snail that made it in through our plants when we purchased them. Currently I am feeding two different flakes (tetramin and tetraveggie) as well as some freeze-dried and frozen bloodworms and an occasional small fresh boiled cucumber, in small increments 3 times a day.
The tank has cycled and I am still testing ammonia/nitrite/nitrate every few days and all the readings are good (0/0/<10ppm respectively). In fact I only saw a very small ammonia spike and never even witnessed the nitrite spike during the original cycle and I was testing everyday. I'm doing weekly water changes at between 10-15% each week as well as cleaning the filter once every other week, replacing cartridges once a month. I've been using a marineland filter media (don't remember the name now) that is designed to reduce ammonia but I have been weening my tank of it and as of yet there has been no additional spike. I used a fairly small amount (about half of one of my media containers worth). I expect to be completely off of it by this time next week.
I've done countless hours of research and feel that I am as knowledgeable about the aquarium hobby as one can be without actually having any experience. I think my tank may be a little overstocked, but all my fish are relatively small and I think I have adequate filtration and a good enough maintenance routine to not cause any problems.
We have lost 3 fish up to this point. 1 danio which I believe was attributed to the beginning cycling (we started with 4 danios). 1 swordtail which I believe was diseased from the LFS and 1 german ram which died within 12 hours of purchase either because i did not acclimate him properly (I've been using the method of placing the bag in the tank, slowly filling it up with tank water, draining out half of the water, repeating, etc. for between 30-45 min per fish) or because he was just not healthy. The other three danio's I've had from the start, and the guppies and raphael catfish have been in the tank for only a few weeks less time than the danio's and all are doing fantastic. In fact, all my fish appear to be extremely healthy. With the exception of the swordtail (which as I said I believed was diseased) none of the other fish, including those that have died, showed any signs of distress or disease.
So, after all of that, my question to you, the experts, is what am I doing wrong? What am I missing? What am I not doing? I feel like we've made a very good start but that there is still something that we need to do or purchase or look for that we're not. Any advice/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.