Stocking a 49 gal tank? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 20 Old 12-25-2011, 05:59 PM Thread Starter
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Stocking a 49 gal tank?

Hi all,

I'm somewhat new to fishkeeping and have a couple questions. Three months have gone by since I started this hobby and I finally have a cycled, heated, and filtered 5 gallon tank with one betta swimming happily and blowing bubble nests. Now that I know a lot more about fishkeeping, I've been eyeing my parents' old 49 gallon tank that used to hold goldfish over a decade ago. It's just sitting there collecting dust and it feels like such a waste. I want to do some research before I set up the tank though.

I just started cleaning the tank out and haven't bought a filter or heater for it yet, so I haven't started cycling but I can't help thinking about how I could stock the tank once it's all set up. So, I was thinking about stocking the tank with 6 to 10 neon tetras, 6 cory catfish, swordtails, platys, mollies, and maybe guppies. I'm not sure about how many of each I should get without overstocking though. I know there should be a 3:1 ratio of females to males for swordtails, mollies, and platys but I'm getting mixed answers about guppies. How many guppies should be in a tank together for them to be happy? How many swordtails, mollies, and platys should I get? How many fish should I add at one time once the tank is cycled? I also really like ghost shrimp but I've read that swordtails, mollies, and platys would probably eat them. And maybe my research is been wrong, but these fish are all compatible right? And last, I was wondering what the best way to clean the old tank would be and if a tank this old is more prone to cracking or other defects. Sorry for all the questions! I'm in the planning stages since I came up with the idea yesterday and am excited by the possibilities. I'm still considering whether or not I should set the 49 gal up though. Any advice is appreciated

Thanks in advance!
- Jade
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post #2 of 20 Old 12-26-2011, 12:19 AM
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Welcome to the hobby and the forum. First things first, I would recommend filling up the old tank either outside or somewhere that a flood of water wouldn't hurt anything. Let it sit for a day and monitor for any leaks. Leaks don't always show right away. I've heard horror stories about tanks being set up in emergencies only for the owner to come back to a leak.

The second problem I'll want to point out is that neon tetras show their best colors in softer, acidic water while livebearers like guppies and mollys fare best in hard, alkaline water. What type of water naturally comes from your tap? When we find out what that is, then we can help you with stocking options.

But first things first, gotta test that old tank for leaks.


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post #3 of 20 Old 12-26-2011, 01:25 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the welcome and for the advice! I didn't expect anyone to reply on Christmas :0
I'll definitely fill it outside and let it sit once I have it cleaned up. There's a thick layer of dust and random things cluttered inside the tank at the moment.

My tap water is really alkaline, with a pH of 8.0 to 8.2. But that's tested immediately from the facet from when I first got my API master kit a month ago. I've read since then that you should let tap water sit out for 24 hours to let it "gas out" before testing. I'll do that right now. Does this mean I should go for the live bearers? Time to do more research~

Oh and is it normal to have 2 to 5ppm of nitrite in the tap water? I'm suspicious of the water I drink from the facet now.
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post #4 of 20 Old 12-26-2011, 02:30 AM
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Lol. Christmas celebrations have long ceased at my house. I'm just a crazy night owl. With that pH I would go for livebearers. I don't even think neons could survive at that pH. Another thing you might want to do is find a local water quality report online (just type in your city name and water quality report). The EPA makes the local govts publish them once a year. It will have the pH, nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, alkalinity, GH, and all kinds of goodies that will help you stock your tank.

If you want to you could, jog on over to (it's the parent site of People there keep community tanks along the lines of what you are wanting.

I'm off to bed now!


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post #5 of 20 Old 12-29-2011, 03:32 PM Thread Starter
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Oh I didn't even think to look up the info. Here's the averages I found for my city: pH = 7.7 with a range of 7.0 to 8.1, nitrate = 22 ppm, alkalinity = 160 ppm, GH = 200 ppm. It doesn't show anything on nitrite or ammonia on the report though. I checked my tap water again and does indeed have a pH of 8.0 to 8.2. I guess I'm on the upper end for pH in my city. I don't know how my betta's tank water stays at a constant pH of 6.8 if my tap water has a pH that high. Thanks for the help!

I'm still in the process of cleaning the tank out though. Haven't checked for leaks yet.
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post #6 of 20 Old 12-30-2011, 12:32 AM
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Koi has covered everything and offered some great advice. Hopefully that tank holds water for you and you are able to get it all cleaned out. I always hate seeing tanks go to waste. It sounds like you water is on the hard side, so I would stick with livebearers. Only buy a few at first though, because they will breed like crazy. Before you know it you will have a tank full of guppies, platies, etc.

Advice for anyone new to the hobby: Do your research!! Before you do anything to your aquarium, take some time to research it. It has made a huge difference for me

S.A. Flooded Jungle (20 gallon)
A heavily planted tank. Inhabitants include: 7 Lemon Tetra, 1 Whiptail Catfish, and MTS.
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post #7 of 20 Old 12-30-2011, 12:49 AM
thekoimaiden's Avatar This is a good article Byron wrote about how pH, KH, and GH interact in the aquarium. This might help clear up your questions. If not, I'm sure Byron would be willing to help.

Your water falls in the hard and basic range. Bigfish is right; livebearers will be the way to go. I'm not sure about mixing mollys, platys, and guppies as I have no experience with them. I only know that guppies and Endlers will interbreed (done a little research because I plan to keep them in the future). I would check out the fish profiles to get more in-depth information.


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post #8 of 20 Old 12-31-2011, 01:53 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the article! It's a really good reference

So now I'm thinking 4 swordtails, 4 platys, and 4 mollies - with 3 females and 1 male each. Hopefully breeding doesn't get out of control though. Or is it fine to just have all female platys and mollies? I really like how male swordtails look, but male and female platys and mollies look about the same. I wouldn't have to worry about male to female ratios either. But they're all livebearers so they might interbreed anyway... I've even seen molly and guppy mixes

And do cory catfish do okay in more alkaline water? If I get mollies, they'll need a lot of salt which eliminates getting catfish. But if they can't stand alkaline water anyway, I might try ghost shrimp and hope they don't get eaten or look into another bottom feeder.
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post #9 of 20 Old 12-31-2011, 06:25 PM
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I agree livebearers will suite your harder water, but with male and female of any species you will have fry--and soon hundreds. Something to bear in mind; finding homes for hundreds of fry isn't easy. Having only males will avoid this.

Other harder water fish are available, rainbowfish for instance (some species are in our profiles), and there are a few Cyprinids. With Corydoras you should be OK with the Corydoras aeneus, they occur in medium hard water naturally; and possibly Corydoras paleatus. A group of 4-5 of each would be fine. These do better with sand substrates, though fine smooth gravel will work.

And welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping. Nice to have you with us.


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 #10 of 20 Old 12-31-2011, 08:43 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the welcome

I never thought of having all males. I thought they'd be too territorial. Or is that only when there are females around?

I'll look into rainbowfish and cyprinids since I don't know too much about them. Thanks for the suggestions!

And are albino cory catfish ok at higher pH, or just the pepper and bronze? Or wait, is the albino cory a kind of bronze?
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