03-02-2010, 12:12 PM
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Welcome to one awesome hobby, aquariums can be so much fun..
As others have posted water testing and water changes are really important on a cycling tank and keeping a regular water change schedule will help you keep healthy fish for a long time.
The smaller the tank the faster the water quality can go bad, I have found regardless of stocking making weekly 50% water changes with substrate vacuuming has kept my water quality tip top for the life of the tank.
During the cycling process with fish making 25-50% daily water changes and substrate vacuuming one time a week will help keep the fish safe and still cycle. Only swish the filter media in old tank water if the flow has slowed.
IMO the only chemical you need is a good dechlorinator if you are on city water supply.
Remember the bacteria needed to cycle are sticky and adhere to everything in the tank like the walls, decorations, plants both real and fake, in the top layer of the substrate and in the filter media, very little are in the water column itself so water changes will not hinder the cycling process.
Too much vacuuming and over cleaning the filter media can upset the cycling process and cause mini-cycles in an established tank.
You know you are cycled when your water prams read: ammonia 0ppm, nitrite 0ppm, nitrate 5-10ppm, pH 7-8ppm is ideal for most species but as long as it is stable most fish will adapt.
If you have the water test kit to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, this can help you during the cycling process and in general, they can help you know how much and when to make to make water changes.
What kind of fish do you have and would love to see pics......