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Planning for a 20 gallon

This is a discussion on Planning for a 20 gallon within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> Originally Posted by Byron I always mention this with respect to filters because it is very important: know what type of fish you intend ...

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Planning for a 20 gallon
Old 04-20-2011, 05:25 PM   #11
 
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Originally Posted by Byron View Post
I always mention this with respect to filters because it is very important: know what type of fish you intend to have before buying a filter.

I have had Aquaclear filters, but I would not select these for a 20g unless you intend keeping fish that need water currents, and in a 20g that type of fish are very limited. In a 20g with quiet fish, the sort of forest fish that Amanda has mentioned and I have hinted at with your soft water, and esp with any live plants, a sponge filter is sufficient. And it will be much less expensive.

Plan the aquarium before you buy any fish; know what you want first, then work towards it. And research any fish before bringing it home. There are many threads on this forum about aquarists who bought without doing this, and soon regretted it. And it is not easy disposing of troublesome fish.

Byron.

As always, your knowledge and opinions is greatly respected by me, Byron. But I did want to point out that the outflow on the AquaClear is much slower and softer than any other HOB filter I have come across (especially the biowheel), and it is adjustable for the outflow to be even softer. I often have to double check to make sure its on because there is such a tiny current from it. But that's just my experience and opinion regarding them. :) I dont have experience with sponge filters in any manner, so I cant say how I feel about their effectiveness as a filter.

And I totally agree with planning ahead. I am having to invest way more money than I want to into my 29 gallon...as it was originally set up for cichlids, in which I quickly decided a couple of months in that I could only do dwarfs and didnt want to at that time, so have been slowly switching it to a more tropical community tank as it is now. Still need more plants, live ones. And I so wish I would have done sand instead of gravel...to switch now would be a major pain! Not to mention all the beneficial bacteria on my gravel for this long!! It would take me forever to slowly replace a section of gravel with sand!!! But the new 15 gal (getting it in like an hour), will be sand! I have thought ahead!!! lol
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Old 04-20-2011, 06:04 PM   #12
 
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Thanks Amanda. The one thing i don't like about HOB filters is that in a power outage they can restart without water and burn out. I had one that did this. Mind you, that was back in the 1980's and perhaps they are different now with preventative measures.

I still do not like the water current entering such a small tank. Of course, I am talking planted tanks, where filtration is only there to move the water around minimally and pass it through media that will remove suspended particulate matter, which is where a sponge is ideal.

Most of the small forest fish we can house in a 20g are fish from flooded forests, ponds, swamps, ditches and very slow-flowing streams. It is very stressful on these fish to have to fight any sort of current, and since they must do this night and day in the closed confines of the aquarium, having no escape, it does take its toll. This is why I push minimal filtration.
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Old 04-20-2011, 07:19 PM   #13
 
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Thanks Amanda. The one thing i don't like about HOB filters is that in a power outage they can restart without water and burn out. I had one that did this. Mind you, that was back in the 1980's and perhaps they are different now with preventative measures.

I still do not like the water current entering such a small tank. Of course, I am talking planted tanks, where filtration is only there to move the water around minimally and pass it through media that will remove suspended particulate matter, which is where a sponge is ideal.

Most of the small forest fish we can house in a 20g are fish from flooded forests, ponds, swamps, ditches and very slow-flowing streams. It is very stressful on these fish to have to fight any sort of current, and since they must do this night and day in the closed confines of the aquarium, having no escape, it does take its toll. This is why I push minimal filtration.
Yeah, speaking of power outages...last night the electric company was replacing some electric cells and one of the 50 apartment units effected was mine...so I was without power for 3 hours. The good thing is that my Marineland BioWheel on the 29 gallon and the Tetra Whisper 10i on the 5 gallon are self priming, so I didnt have to worry about them. However, my AquaClear is NOT self-priming, so I unplugged it after the electric went out so it wouldnt burn the motor if the power came back on and I wasnt right there to prime it (only thing I dislike about the AquaClears). But after the power came back on I primed it easily and all was well. Only lost 2 guppy fry during the outage, but I dont think it had anything to do with the power loss as none of the water parameters changed during it. I did keep a close eye though to make sure there wasnt a climb in ammonia or nitrite or anything so that I would be ready to do an emergency water change if something of the sorts were to happen.
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Old 04-20-2011, 11:57 PM   #14
 
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Thanks for the input Bryon and Amanda!

Amanda I have heard just as many good stories about the Tetra brand heaters as bad stories. It seems they either work just fine or they don't work at all.

Byron thanks for the recommendations, especially for the foam filter recommendation. I am doing a lot of research, finding out what fish are available in the area. I would prefer not to have to order fish online, but will consider it if I fall in love with a particular species. I have plenty of time and am not going to rush in to anything. I'm probably not going to move for another two weeks at least

Do you have any fish in particular you think I should look at?


On the research side I went to the petsmart here and wrote down the fish they had available and I thought looked interesting. Now to find out if any of them fit my water parameters and are compatible...

Also saw they had some Anubis Nana plants started on rocks for a pretty good price. Otherwise their plant selection was pretty poor (some java ferns, a plant simply listed as "tropical fern", and some grasses).
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Old 04-21-2011, 05:50 AM   #15
 
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1. Planted. I love the look of natural plants and they allow me to skip the cycling process, so plants are going to be required.
Perhaps this has already been mentioned, as I know both Byron and Amanda are knowledgable about fish, but I didn't notice it in scanning through their posts, so I feel the need to point out that plants do NOT allow you to skip the cycling process.

Plants help absorb nitrates, but that is the last step in the process. If you're not familiar with cycling, there are posts here and on other fish sites that explain how to do it in detail. Basically, you set up your tank, put in some source of ammonia, such as a small amount of fish food each day, then check the ammonia every few days. When it spikes and starts down, start checking nitrites. When they peak and start down, start checking nitrates. When the ammonia and nitrites are at 0 - no higher, not even .25 - and the nitrates are in the right range for the fish you are planning, your tank is cycled and ready for fish. If you don't put fish in right away, continue to add an ammonia source, so that the bacteria that are transforming the ammonia to nitrite, and the bacteria that are transforming the nitrite to nitrate don't die of starvation.

It is possible, but not advisable, to cycle with fish in the tank. However, you run the risk of losing fish to ammonia and/or nitrite poisoning, and it takes a lot longer to cycle the tank completely because to avoid this risk you have to do frequent water changes, which removes the ammonia and/or nitrite and slows the reproduction of the right bacteria. Without fish, the levels can go high enough to support a fast-growing colony of bacteria, which cycles the tank more quickly.

Also, getting some "used" filter media and/or substrate from an already cycled tank will help the process, as will adding beneficial bacteria during the cycling.

Good luck with your new tank.

By the way, very pretty betta. I love his color. Is he yours, or just an avatar?

Last edited by Amethyst123; 04-21-2011 at 05:59 AM..
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Old 04-21-2011, 11:19 AM   #16
 
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Perhaps this has already been mentioned, as I know both Byron and Amanda are knowledgable about fish, but I didn't notice it in scanning through their posts, so I feel the need to point out that plants do NOT allow you to skip the cycling process.

Plants help absorb nitrates, but that is the last step in the process. If you're not familiar with cycling, there are posts here and on other fish sites that explain how to do it in detail. Basically, you set up your tank, put in some source of ammonia, such as a small amount of fish food each day, then check the ammonia every few days. When it spikes and starts down, start checking nitrites. When they peak and start down, start checking nitrates. When the ammonia and nitrites are at 0 - no higher, not even .25 - and the nitrates are in the right range for the fish you are planning, your tank is cycled and ready for fish. If you don't put fish in right away, continue to add an ammonia source, so that the bacteria that are transforming the ammonia to nitrite, and the bacteria that are transforming the nitrite to nitrate don't die of starvation.

It is possible, but not advisable, to cycle with fish in the tank. However, you run the risk of losing fish to ammonia and/or nitrite poisoning, and it takes a lot longer to cycle the tank completely because to avoid this risk you have to do frequent water changes, which removes the ammonia and/or nitrite and slows the reproduction of the right bacteria. Without fish, the levels can go high enough to support a fast-growing colony of bacteria, which cycles the tank more quickly.

Also, getting some "used" filter media and/or substrate from an already cycled tank will help the process, as will adding beneficial bacteria during the cycling.

Good luck with your new tank.

By the way, very pretty betta. I love his color. Is he yours, or just an avatar?
With respect I must correct this, as it is inaccurate.

Live plants do not normally assimilate nitrates, or if they do it is either minimal or as a "last resort" to get nitrogen. Their preferred source of nitrogen is ammonium. This holds for the majority of plants we use in aquaria, and there are scientific studies I can provide if anyone wants them. But you can also read this in many books, such as Hiscock's Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants, Walstad's Ecology of the Planted Aquarium, and Kasselmann's Aquarium Pants.

When there are sufficient live plants in a new aquarium, with a few fish, there will be no discernible cycle, by which I mean that our common test kits (such as the excellent API) will usually not detect ammonia or nitrite above zero because it is so minimal. A "cycle" does still occur, as it must in all new tanks. But the live plants--provided they are sufficient for the fish load--will assimilate most of the ammonia/ammonium and they are faster in doing this than nitrosomonas bacteria. Bacteria will still appear but they will be secondary to the plants so to speak.

As the plants assimilation of ammonium/ammonia does not produce nitrite, any nitrite in the tank will only occur from the ammonia/ammonium taken up by the nitrosomonas bacteria, which is minimal as I said. The minimal nitrite will then result in the establishment of Nitrospira and similar bacteria, and nitrate will be the end product. But again, it will be minimal, due to the afore-mentioned. This is why in well planted aquaria, nitrates are always very low, often zero or certainly below 10 ppm. The fish load and plant selection has a lot to do with this, since the more fish there are (in numbers or size) the more ammonia, and the fewer plants there are the more opportunity there is for bacteria.

A word on ammonia/ammonium and nitrate. Fish produce ammonia in respiration, and the breakdown of their waste along with other organics by bacteria in the substrate also produces ammonia. In acidic water, this largely changes to ammonium, and the plants grab it fast. Faster growing plants grab more of it and quicker than slow-growing plants. In basic water (pH above 7) the ammonia produced by fish and bacteria is taken up by plants and much of it is converted into ammonium by the plants. They can also use the toxic ammonia in other ways I won't get into. Plants also have been shown to prefer ammonium from the water and not the substrate, since they assimilate it through the leaves. Ammonium is critical for all photosynthesizing organisms (including plants and algae) because it is used to produce their proteins.

In order to obtain nitrogen via nitrate, plants must take up the nitrate and then change it back into ammonium, a process termed nitrate reduction, and it appears to be a mirror image of nitrification. They do this with enzymes that only have this as their function. But this consumes a considerable amount of energy from the plant; studies show that it takes as much energy to convert nitrate back into ammonium as it does for nitrifying bacteria to convert ammonia to nitrite. Studies have also shown that the same plant species when given the option of ammonium and nitrate will always use ammonium first and only resort to nitrate when the ammonium is no longer available. Ammonium uptake is also faster; for example, the plant Pistia stratiotes was shown in a study to take up ammonium in just 4 hours, where its uptake of nitrates required a full 20 hours.

I have set up dozens of new tanks and introduced a lot of fish on day 1 and never had an issue with cycling. My latest was a rebuilding of my flooded Amazon aquascape, using a 70g aquarium with new substrate and a canister filter with new media. Plants were moved from the existing 90g tank, and then all 80 fish. Not one loss, and some of these are very sensitive wild-caught species.

Byron.
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Old 04-21-2011, 11:27 AM   #17
 
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Thanks for the input Bryon and Amanda!

Amanda I have heard just as many good stories about the Tetra brand heaters as bad stories. It seems they either work just fine or they don't work at all.

Byron thanks for the recommendations, especially for the foam filter recommendation. I am doing a lot of research, finding out what fish are available in the area. I would prefer not to have to order fish online, but will consider it if I fall in love with a particular species. I have plenty of time and am not going to rush in to anything. I'm probably not going to move for another two weeks at least

Do you have any fish in particular you think I should look at?


On the research side I went to the petsmart here and wrote down the fish they had available and I thought looked interesting. Now to find out if any of them fit my water parameters and are compatible...

Also saw they had some Anubis Nana plants started on rocks for a pretty good price. Otherwise their plant selection was pretty poor (some java ferns, a plant simply listed as "tropical fern", and some grasses).
Anubias is an easy plant; it attaches to wood or rock (the rhizome must not be buried in the substrate or it may rot) and prefers less light so it does well in rear corners or under floating plants where it is not in direct bright light. Algae easily forms on its leaves in brighter light, and in some cases the leaves will yellow and die from too much light.

Avoid the "fern" as i suspect that is a terrestrial plant. Many land plants are sold in fish stores and while they may look "nice" at first, they usually slowly rot when submersed permanently. Same for any "grasses" but if it is the common "Fountain Plant" (species of Ophiopogon) it can sometimes last a year or so submersed. But it is also slow growing and thus not a fast user of nutrients (ammonia/ammonium).

For fish, Amanda had some suggestion a couple of posts back. Check through our profiles (second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top) under cyprinids for many small species that love soft water, and in characins. Of the latter, Ember Tetra are beautiful, and many of the pencilfish are well suited to a 20g planted tank. The nice thing of any of these smaller fish is being able to have more of them, so even in a relatively small space like a 20g you have a large variety of colour, behaviours and interactions that makes for a very interesting aquarium display.

Byron.
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Old 04-22-2011, 08:04 AM   #18
 
Byron,

Apparently I was misinformed previously about plants absorbing nitrates. In fact, I've been told not to put plants in a tank until the tank was cycled, though I've never followed that advice.

I have been following the discussion about ammonia and nitrites in another thread, and have read what you and Dawn said there about highly planted tanks. I've never had a tank planted heavily enough to have the effect you describe, but since you have done it I bow to your greater experience and knowledge.
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Old 04-24-2011, 03:04 AM   #19
 
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By the way, very pretty betta. I love his color. Is he yours, or just an avatar?
Yes that was my betta. Unfortunately he recently passed away. I just saw a betta today with the exact same coloring at the aquarium store today oddly enough

So my girlfriend and I went and visited a new aquarium store in the area today and she fell in love with mollies. I'm a bit leery as I've heard they will reproduce like crazy, but the store owner offered if we do end up getting mollies to take any and all fry for credit. The owner of the store was very nice and very knowledgeable too (he actually knew bettas need a heated tank!). His selection for freshwater wasn't anywhere near as good as the other stores in the area, but the quality seemed to be much better. His saltwater selection was incredible!

~edit: Specifically she fell in love with balloon belly molly's

Last edited by iamtetsuo; 04-24-2011 at 03:19 AM..
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Old 04-24-2011, 11:02 AM   #20
 
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Yes that was my betta. Unfortunately he recently passed away. I just saw a betta today with the exact same coloring at the aquarium store today oddly enough

So my girlfriend and I went and visited a new aquarium store in the area today and she fell in love with mollies. I'm a bit leery as I've heard they will reproduce like crazy, but the store owner offered if we do end up getting mollies to take any and all fry for credit. The owner of the store was very nice and very knowledgeable too (he actually knew bettas need a heated tank!). His selection for freshwater wasn't anywhere near as good as the other stores in the area, but the quality seemed to be much better. His saltwater selection was incredible!

~edit: Specifically she fell in love with balloon belly molly's
You will likely have problems with mollies in your water. Molly is a livebearer, and all livebearers require hard basic (alkaline) water; in soft water they readily fall victim to disease, often fungus and such, because of the lack of mineral. When I had mollies with my soft water, I used a substrate of dolomite gravel to raise the hardness (calcium and magnesium) and corresponding pH.

You have soft water, so soft water fish should be your focus.

Also, the "balloon" type fish are I believe quite prone to health issues due to the deformity. I will leave it for those with more knowledge on this to comment, but I myself would not buy such fish.
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