08-20-2012, 07:35 AM
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First welcome and kudos for asking before you leapt any further. You have too many goldfish for that tank. Gold fish are 1 fish for every 5 gallons in a aquarium and 1 for every 50 gallons? in a pond. First to do is check your tap water parameters PH, GH, and KH. Ph is the measure of acidity and alkalinity in the water. GH is the measure of dissolved minerals in the water. Some fish prefer hard water and some soft but most can tolerate the other to some degree but not necessarly thrive. KH is the measure of carbonates dissolved in the water. KH acts as a PH stabilizer and is used by live plants. This is something to note if your KH is low and you have plants when they use it up your PH can fluctuate wildly and that is very stressful to your fish.
The tank I recommend saving $ where you can as this leaves more for fish, plants and decor. In that spirit I see tanks with the stands on Craigslist all the time and they are usually around 50% the cost of new. Make sure when buying a used tank that it was used for something that lives in the water. Yes to fish, turtles, crabs, plants, etc.. No to snakes, lizards, gerbils, hamsters, etc.
Lighting is important mainly if you want live plants but the right lights can also make your fish's color really pop. Most people say 2-4 watts per gallon though this not an absolute. There are a lot of options but my only experiance is with flouresent so that is what I will discuss. Bulbs are rated by internal temp of kelvin (ex. 6,700k, 10,000k) and this gives the color spectrum of the bulb. If you get a deep tank (deeper than 12 inches) a HO (high output) fixture is the way you need to go. In a 18 inch or deeper tank a 6700k light bulb may not provide light intense enough to reach the bottom of the tank so a 10 or 12k bulb is recommended. My 10k bulb made my cardinal tetras look like floating flags.
Filters- Though expensive I recommend canister filters. They are easy to clean and maintain and offer more options such as an in line uv filter and heater this helps by removing clutter from the tank. Canister filters also gives the ability to reduce the water flow or turbulance in the tank by intstalling a drilled pvc on the outlet to spread the flow of the water. Some species of fish prefer slow moving water such as discus. I reccomend using a sponge filter as well and you can hook them up to the suction of a canister filter. Sponge filters work great as bio filters and when you have a sick fish to go in your quarantine tank you have a good filter ready to go. UV filters work by zapping passing water. They are used to combat algea, bacteria, fungi, and parasites, though most widely used on algea. When cycling a tank leave your uv filter off as it kills good bacteria as well thereby lengthening the cycling of the tank.
Substrate- sand or gravel. If you are going to get live plants I recommend a laurite or flourite type substrate these have a lot of clay and do not need as much fertilization they are more expensive but worth it in the long run. A lot of fish prefer sandy or fine grade gravel. Go with a dark color as it is less reflective and thereby less stressful to the fish. If you want sand and are willing to fertilize more thoroughly with live plants a way to cut costs is play sand that they sell at home depot. I dont know if it comes in colors.
Last but most importantly is fish and plants water requirements (Don't forget temperature ranges too) and fish temperment. Make sure that you are putting fish together that have similar water parameter requirements and similar temperments. An aggresive or semi-aggresive fish will likely kill a peaceful one eventually. Check the fish profiles here and everywhere else you can find info and decide. If you put plants in water that is outside of their range they eventually will die and pollute your water.
When getting plants from chain stores unless you know specifically what you are looking for and it's scientific name as many plants are called by the same common name.
Make sure you know what you are looking for. Pet store fish people are usually kids who know only a small amount of info on a lot of fish.
If you are getting live plants an air pump is not required but good to have to run a sponge filter in a quarantine tank.
If you get a lot of live plants with a lot of light (3-4 watts per gallon or more) a CO2 system would be a good idea