What do we really need?
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What do we really need?

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What do we really need?
Old 12-27-2012, 02:42 PM   #1
 
What do we really need?

Hi everyone! New here (came over from one of the sister forums- dogforum)...

I hate posting stuff like this but I need some advice. My husband came home with a 20 gallon tank a couple of weeks ago (that he got for free) and is dead set on setting it up. He knows nothing about fish keeping and neither do I but I am the "googler" of the two so I am trying to help... Please excuse the totally silly questions but I need to be able to find out more so we know where to start. Talking him out of it is not an option.

A friend of ours who has a 100 gallon saltwater tank took us to a fish store and my husband fell in love with fresh water angel fish. I agreed that freshwater would also be easier and cheaper...somewhat.

I read the stickies on cycling the tank and tried to explain to him it's not just adding water, plants and fish but I am still somewhat confused. Try to keep it as simple as possible because the most fish I've ever kept was a betta... Sad I know..

Would we be able to get gravel, 2 live plants and maybe one or two hardy fish to start the tank and get the angels later? Any recommendations on what type of plants? He wanted 6 angel fish at first but that's insane to me for a 20 gallon so I convinced him on 2 only and maybe a couple of docile bottom feeders?

What are your thoughts? What do we really need to start?

Thermostat? Any water conditioner? The fish store sells water that's de chlorinated already... Will it work to add plants and a couple of fish ? What kind of fish can we start with that will get along with 2 angel fish later? The tank has a light and filter (clean) already... Runs fine. We were also planning to get a timer for the light?

Anything else I need to know?

Like I said I am sorry for asking so many questions..just need some personalized advice.

Many thanks!

I also should mention I am trying to set it up as soon as possible just for the fact that it's been in our living room for a month and I'd like to see it set up since he's not going to sell it or give it away.
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Last edited by Fishybusiness; 12-27-2012 at 02:45 PM..
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Old 12-27-2012, 02:50 PM   #2
 
I suggest 20g for angel fish is way too small.

I plant the tank heavily with a mix of fast growing (anacharis/vals) and slower growing (potted, amason swords) plants. Then let the tank set a week. then add a single fish and not add food for the next week. then stock up more completely and start very light feedings. (1 flake per day).

With that method I have had tanks that ran from up to 9 years with descendants of the original cycle trio.


Just a thought.

Worth at most. 02
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:11 PM   #3
 
Okay.. Thanks for the reply and advice. Makes sense. Do we need a thermostat that you stick on the side of the tank?
Also, I was under the impression that angel fish only grow to the size of the tank so 2 in a 20 gallon would be okay. Borderline but okay.
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:20 PM   #4
 
I agree with beaslbob. The fish profiles on this forum (click on tropical fish profiles above) suggest a tank length of 48 inches. That's about a 55 gallon, I believe. Angels can get quite large and a 20 gallon will not work for them. I got mine late last winter and they were about the size of a nickle. Now, less than a year later, their bodies are about three inches and then add to that their long fins, just to give you an idea of how quickly they grow. Hope this info helps. (they enjoy living with Amazon Sword plants)
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:28 PM   #5
 
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hello and warm welcome
it won't hurt to have a thermometer on the side of the tank,so you can keep an
eye on the temperature in the tank,instead of relying solely on the heater.
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:45 PM   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishybusiness View Post
Okay.. Thanks for the reply and advice. Makes sense. Do we need a thermostat that you stick on the side of the tank?
Also, I was under the impression that angel fish only grow to the size of the tank so 2 in a 20 gallon would be okay. Borderline but okay.
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No. There are fundamental reasons why fish are given minimum tank sizes and this is for the simple fact that putting fish in a tank too small poses serious health problems. Health problems caused by keeping a fish in a tank that is too small may include skeletal deformities, digestive problems, and weakening of the skin and scales. All fish will have their immune systems repressed when they are kept in a tank that is too small or too crowded. This results in more frequent outbreaks of disease, and to be honest, messed up fish.

I myself bought a 55 gallon tall tank as thats all i had room for in the cubby its in and i wanted balas and clown loaches. I really REALLY wanted them. i still do. But my tank just isnt capable of allowing me to have them. i nearly even went out and got them anyway, on the notion of 'I'll get a bigger tank in 6 months' But what if i dont? Might lose my job, blah blah, and i would have be lamped with fish that i would have had to give away in 3 months.

So i took the other route, i researched and researched, asked a million questions on here and found other fish that i liked and loved. And i couldnt be happier with my tank now. Well, i want a Queen Arabesque Pleco right now, but my tank just isnt mature enough yet IMO. This is unfortunately the game we play with fish. Its a sucky hobby at times- you just cant have what you want always - but well worth it when you get things right and you see that happy little buggers swimming about.

All in all, why put your fish in the absolute minimum they can handle and risk all the above, dont we all want happy fish?
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:46 PM   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishybusiness View Post
Hi everyone! New here (came over from one of the sister forums- dogforum)...
Hello! Welcome to TFK!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishybusiness View Post
I hate posting stuff like this but I need some advice. My husband came home with a 20 gallon tank a couple of weeks ago (that he got for free) and is dead set on setting it up. He knows nothing about fish keeping and neither do I but I am the "googler" of the two so I am trying to help... Please excuse the totally silly questions but I need to be able to find out more so we know where to start. Talking him out of it is not an option.
Free stuff is always good! Questions are good too! Better to have a good plan of what you are doing so you don't make any dumb mistakes!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishybusiness View Post
A friend of ours who has a 100 gallon saltwater tank took us to a fish store and my husband fell in love with fresh water angel fish. I agreed that freshwater would also be easier and cheaper...somewhat.
Haha! Not always the case!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishybusiness View Post
I read the stickies on cycling the tank and tried to explain to him it's not just adding water, plants and fish but I am still somewhat confused. Try to keep it as simple as possible because the most fish I've ever kept was a betta... Sad I know..
About the cycle... (copied from something I wrote up for betta keepers :p) If there is anything in particular you are not clear on let me know..

About the Nitrogen Cycle:
There is tons of info on this, but I want to sum this up as briefly as possible. The nitrogen cycle is when you "grow" bacteria in your tank, on your filter and everything else in the tank. Fish produce ammonia, which is bad for them, it damages their bodies, causing burns and death. The bacteria consume the ammonia, and produce nitrite. Now, nitrite isn't any better and can do just as much damage as ammonia, so another type of bacteria consumes it to make nitrates. Nitrates are the last step of the cycle, and are much less toxic, but still hurt in the long run, which is why it's important to do weekly water changes of 30-50% in a cycled aquarium.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishybusiness View Post
Would we be able to get gravel, 2 live plants and maybe one or two hardy fish to start the tank and get the angels later? Any recommendations on what type of plants? He wanted 6 angel fish at first but that's insane to me for a 20 gallon so I convinced him on 2 only and maybe a couple of docile bottom feeders?
As has been mentioned, 20 gallons is simply too small for angel fish. I really hate to say it, as you are basically being told "no!" before you even get started with your dreams, but a regular angel fish can reach 6" long with a height of up to 10", making it rather impractical for a 20 gallon tank. If you really want the angels you might consider selling the 20 gallon and making room for a 55 gallon (which would allow a group of 6 angel fish). You can read more about them here- Scalare Angelfish.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishybusiness View Post
What are your thoughts? What do we really need to start?
Thermostat? Any water conditioner? The fish store sells water that's de chlorinated already... Will it work to add plants and a couple of fish ? What kind of fish can we start with that will get along with 2 angel fish later? The tank has a light and filter (clean) already... Runs fine. We were also planning to get a timer for the light?
Substrate- Thought aquarium pea gravel is a common choice, if you are planning on live plants, I'd highly recommend buying play sand (from a hardware store) instead. Plants just seem to do so much better with sand, and it allows you to have a larger variety of bottom dwellers (fish like corydoras and kuhli loaches do much better on sand). However if you are set on gravel, the plants will still do fine in it, Amazon swords should be able to handle it as well as floating plants.

Lighting- If you are planning on live plants a proper bulb is needed to grow them. Hopefully someone else can help as this isn't my favorite subject. Flourescent is most popular with plants, they do sell bulbs at fish stores but if you know what you are looking for a hardware store is a great place to get light bulbs. (Colour temperature of at least 5500 kelvins is required I believe!) A timer for the light is fine to have.. Generally with plants you are looking at 10-12 hours of light a day.

Heater- A good heater is useful for keeping tropical fish at a steady temperature (though some choose not to if their house can keep the water warm enough). Generally heaters will say what tank size they are good for. I would not go cheap on a heater bad brands (like "Top Fin") are much more likely to break and just be a waste of money. I use Fluval heaters but there are a few good brands out there. Be sure to have a thermometer in the tank as well!

Water Conditioner- Really any good old water conditioner will do here- they are all pretty much the same, but it's still important to have one! I wouldn't bother buying already dechlorinated water.. Much easier (and I'm sure cost efficient) to take home a bottle of conditioner than gallons and gallons of water.

Water Test Kit- Probably the most vital tool.. API Liquid Master Test Kit will cover you for testing all the basics. It does not come with tests for water hardness (dH) and carbonate hardness (kH), but you can find these out from a water report from you city. If you're on a well most pet shops will also test these for you free of charge.

Filter- Just want to make a note that if the filter has carbon in it, I'd recommend taking it out. The general consensus is that these days carbon is no longer needed (except when removing medication from water). Especially if you are planning on live plants-- the carbon will suck up any plant fertilizers you will use.

Plants- If you stock well with fast growing plants you technically can stock immediately. Plants such as Egeria densa, Hygrophila difformis, Hygrophila polysperma, and Ceratophyllum demersum, are some fast growing plants that will make it easier to stock fish immediately and go through a "silent" cycle, meaning you will likely not see any ammonia in the tank ever (if this method is done right).

There are no guidelines for how many plants you need for however many fish. My advice, start as heavy on plants as possible and light on fish. Test water and if it stays perfect, you know your plants are doing their job and can slowly raise your fish amount up.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishybusiness View Post
Anything else I need to know?
I think you are good for basics.. Someone else will chip in if I missed anything.. Start having a look through our tropical fish profiles at the top of the page to maybe get some ideas on how to stock.

If you keep the 20 gallon- I am wondering what the dimensions are? Likely 30"x12"x12" or 24"x12"x16"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishybusiness View Post
Like I said I am sorry for asking so many questions..just need some personalized advice. Many thanks!

I also should mention I am trying to set it up as soon as possible just for the fact that it's been in our living room for a month and I'd like to see it set up since he's not going to sell it or give it away.
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No worries. We are here to answer your questions.
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Old 12-27-2012, 05:42 PM   #8
 
Oh man... I just about want to hit my hubby over the head with a frying pan... Or better yet, put him in the tank!

Thanks everyone for ALL the answers and comments!!! They are much appreciated. I am so frustrated. Olympia, special thanks for the "fish for dummies" detailed answers!

For starters, the tank 24x12x16. It's on a stand, looks pretty etc. This is NOT my dream. I love fish..mostly looking at them. Caring for them is out of my league and I will the first to tell you I know nothing. Whatever I learned so far I learned by googling and answers like this.

I honestly feel overwhelmed. He will NOT give away the tank and I am done trying to convince him of how much work it is. He's not the type to sit here and read about levels, nitrates, bacteria and all of the above. To make matters worse, our friend that he trusts (and ussually knows his stuff) insists that our tank can house 2 angels. I believe you guys and understand why it's not ideal or best for the fish, etc. I am fine with him picking up ANY fish that are low maintance. I do not see him doing water cycle changes, testing water or any of that. Guess who I see doing that? ME!

I am sorry if this is turning into more of a rant. I want to make this work because he's a kid at heart and really wants this but I want to make sure it's manageble.

I have no clue whether the tank has a heater lamp..it does have a lamp.. Geez! (Feeling like an idiot).
I also have no idea if the filer has carbon. It does look brand new though (very clean).
I am assuming the people that gave him the tank couldn't manage the fish anymore and they all died (they probably put a bunch of angel fish in there!!!). It came VERY dirty...

Anyways...
So I don't know if we have a heater (thermostat), or non carbon filter.

We'll need API testing and I have to google water harness from the city? SMH


We live in South Florida and the house temp is about 75F so do we need a heater?

We can then add gravel, and a lot of plants... Ditto on the plants mentioned (thanks for that)...

Let it run for a week like that?
This honestly seems like a lot. I guess like anything we don't know, it seems hard at first.

Hoping in a few months I'll be on here laughing at my own frustration.

Any advice on the types of fish. I will try to talk him out of angel fish.
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Old 12-27-2012, 06:37 PM   #9
 
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Welcome from Ontario, Canada. We're so glad you ended up here looking for answers!
You said your temperature is 75... what is the worst case scenario? If the temp in winter dropped outside? That will help us guide you whether you even need one. If members felt you did it would likely be one for back up, ie if it got really cold... or if you choose fish that need 80 degrees.
We are all here to help you. Keep researching and asking questions.
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Old 12-27-2012, 07:03 PM   #10
 
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Nobody here is going to recommend a fishless cycle, but let me tell you how I cycled my first 20 gallon tank, so that you know it is not daunting.

I live in Canada so I don't know if you can get away without a heater, obviously here we need them. They're not expensive for a 20 gallon. I would air on the side of caution and have one just in case, though someone here might from a warmer climate may confirm you don't need one.

You absolutely need a thermometer, otherwise, you won't know what the temp is in your tank.

Other than that, any filter rated for a 20 gallon tank. Options include Topfin 20 (petsmart), tetra whisper 20, or Aquaclear 20. I prefer the aquaclear.

I just used regular aquarium gravel and the lighting that came with my tank. For the record, you can grow many low light plants with this setup. You will need to use liquid fetilizer and tabs, but if you want to keep it simple, get plastic, I did for my first tank.

Then get a dechloriinator, Tetra Aquasafe, or Prime is the big one used around here.

This is sounding complicated. This is what we did, in a nutshell:

Added the substrate (gravel) to the tank. Added dechlorinated water. Put in the filter, heater, and thermometer (you may also want an air pump/bubble blower, up to you). Waited 2 days, with everything turned on. Added 3 platies. Got my water checked at the local fish store once a week, did water changes when they told me to. That tank cycled really fast (3 weeks), then I started adding more fish.

I still have those platies, and that tank, it is on the left under "community". I have since added driftwood and decorations. But if you want to get started easy, just do the above. I know it can seem so complicated that it isn't worth it if you're not really into it. Start off this easy way, and eventually you will want to add more fish, and more fish, and that leads to more tanks.

You'll need some sort of gravel vac/hose and a bucket to do water changes. Expect to do a 25-30% water change every one to two weeks for the rest of your life, lol. It's not as bad as it sounds, and it's quick with a 20 gallon. Just always make sure when you add new water you dechlorinate, and try to add water that is the same temperature as your tank.

Everyone is correct about the angels being too large for a 20 gallon, sorry.
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Last edited by Canadian Fish; 12-27-2012 at 07:10 PM..
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