Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Timjwilson 12-13-2012 02:33 PM

New here - cycling a 55 - duh
Hi folks;

At the ripe age of 61, I've suddenly got sucked back into setting up an aquarium after observing my nephew getting one up and running.

The last aquarium I had was in 1969 but prior to that I maintained approximately 30 aquariums of all sizes and shapes. I had a few wild crafted tanks which supported pond life and had some mosquitos and dragonflies emerging in the basement. I even managed to keep some Dollie Vardin trout alive in a 75 gallon tank co-habitating with tropicals for 4 years.

I was blown away by all the new intracacies involved in keeping a 'modern' aquarium after listening to my nephew and looking through his supplies. The biggest change (to me) is all the water changes called for. I started reading on the Internet and discovered that some people rearing young Discus and Angels changed up to 90% of their water daily....holy macaroni! I never changed my water unless there was a problem. My father who also kept fish did the same.

I never did rear any Discus but I did raise some awesome silver veil-tailed Angels. I know that not everyone changes their water this much but I think 15 to 25% minimum once per week is the norm.

I decided to get a used 55 gal and try doing it the old fashioned way by planting it with lots of plants and go for a biologically balanced tank. A used filter came with the aquarium which is a Marineland Emperor 400. It is pretty similar to the ones I used years ago but has wheels which are meant to be populated by bacteria. I decided to not use charcoal since I was using lots of plants. I was going to put pumice in the filter to harbor bacteria but they only had the reddish stuff at Rona and I was not sure if it was dyed so I bought a box of those ceramic ring things. I put some folded 75 micron silk screen into the plastic holders that slide into the filter to collect some particulate matter.

I plan on making a refugium, living filter in a month or so.

Now, my area of expertise, presently, is multiplying soil microbes for use in nature gardening ( ) and I was tempted to incorporate some of them directly into the aquarium, however I was scared off by the literature and dire warnings on the Internet about keeping fish. My instinct was to just plant the tank and put in fish like I always did. I'm planning on getting discus babies so I talked myself into this cycling thing. In retrospect after reading Byron, who makes tons of sense, I should have followed my gut...too late. (to follow)

I almost choked when I saw the price of aquarium gravel so I got enough pea gravel and sand and washed and boiled it. I mixed in sphagnum peatmoss with the sand and put it in, rooted the plants into it and covered with 2 or 3 inches of pea gravel then put in the water. My pH is 6.8, teperature 80F.

Now back to my error. I figured that I had to cycle the tank to be thoroughly up with the latest info so I checked the ammonia at zero yesterday and thought not good (I also inoculated with Seachem Stability bacterial spores) Just about 2 hours ago I put in some (1/2 teaspoon) crushed fish food to try to get an ammonia reading and there is where I probably erred. Tonight I'll probably put in more Stability and take all readings tomorrow.

The plants I used; Vallisneria spiralis, Rotala indica, Cryptocoryne affinis, Vallisneria americana gigantea, Wisteria, Java Fern, some Duckweed and some unknowns.

Fish plan; I have put a depost on ten, 1 inch discus which I'm supposed to pick up on the 22nd and I planned on some Malasian snails, Cory cats, (maybe cherry shrimp) and a couple Bristlenose about 5 to 7 days prior to the discus.

Have I screwed up putting in the fish food? Any suggestions regarding the fish and whole set up gratefully received.


lakemalawifish 12-13-2012 02:57 PM

Tim, what a pleasure to read your posting! You are definitely a person I would love to add to my list of people to just sit and listen to the many stores you have to tell! Looking forward to hearing more about your current set up and hopefully seeing some pics. As far as your question... I will leave that up to the experts around here, you already know who they are :)

beaslbob 12-13-2012 03:04 PM

welcome and it sound like you are on your way.

I use a substrate with 1" peat moss,1" play sand, and 1" pc select. (kinda like your method. LOL)

and heavily plant my tanks. I like your plants but would add some anacharis as well.

I then let the plants condition the tank for a week and add a few fish and not feed the second week. then load up and start very light feeding.

I do not recommend any chemical additives. I just use the plants.

no filters, no mechanical circulation, no water changes and just let the fish and plants blanace out and maintain the system.

Sounds more familiar like '69 methods? :lol:

my .02

TitanTDH 12-13-2012 03:07 PM

Hey mate and welcome, also it sounds like you have a wealth of knowledge already. Cant wait to hear some of the stories. There is a 4 part sticky in the aquarium plants section that might give you some further info, but I wouldn't expect to see a cycle occur with the plants. As they will most probably assimilate the ammonia before you will get a reading.
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Timjwilson 12-13-2012 03:26 PM

Thanks All! I'll see if I can locate some Anacharis and yes it does sound more like what I had in mind.

Byron 12-13-2012 06:09 PM

Hello Tim, and welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.:wave:

I see you are in Chilliwack, which is not that far from me; I am actually in Pitt Meadows though I use Vancouver here as few if any would know where PM is. Before I forget, if you would like to drop round some time to chat and see my tanks, feel free to PM me. Or if you want some free plants, as I am throwing out a handful or more every week.

To your situation. And my first caution is on the substrate, particularly as you intend Discus. These fish must have stability, and using the substrate mix you mention is likely to be quite the opposite at least for a few months. I won't bog this post down with more at this time.

Second point is cycling. You have live plants, and some are fast growing, so you can forget about cycling. The plants will take up any ammonia the fish can produce from day 1.

We have had a couple of threads recently with heated debates over water changes, but I hope that is behind us, so I will venture to suggest you read my article on water changes in the Freshwater Article section; this will explain our current understanding which is certainly different from what it was 40 years ago:

And by the way, I have you beat by a year, as I'm 62. Proof that an old dog can learn new tricks.;-)

Last comments on the discus. Temp should be no less than 82F. But be careful with other fish as many cannot tolerate this long-term. Corys were mentioned, and there are a couple species that manage with discus, Corydoras sterbai and Corydoras leucomelas come to mind at the moment. And you noticed how the names shaded; that means they are in our profiles, so you can click the name for a pop-up of the profile with info on the species. I would suggest you not be so quick in adding the discus though, with that substrate.

Hope this is helpful.


Timjwilson 12-13-2012 06:39 PM

Hey Byron;

Thanks for the input. Unfortunately I've already paid for the discus and got the challenge into my head. They are not that big an investment at $6 each and they have a head start on poor conditions so it may be likely that my tank will be like returning to the tanic waters of the Amazon.:-)

[I almost used pond mud in my substrate. I've got a 45,000 gallon pond]

I reckon I'll look at it as rescuing them from a puppy mill and if they thrive, I'll be happy..If they don't I'll learn a lesson. Do you know why they are more delicate than Angels?

I'll try to take you up on viewing your aquariums. I don't know if I could stuff another plant into that tank but I've already got my eye on a 120.

Have you seen this video? 10 water changes in 6 years (I think)

Very cool filter. I'm building a rough copy.

You might like some of the videos on my webpage.

Something else I wonder about. In the soil, there are two primary organisms responsible for the mineralization of nutrients so they are bioavailable to plants. They are protozoa (flagellate & naked amoebae) and nematodes. When they eat bacteria/archaea nutrients are ionized. I wonder if there are similar organisms in the water. Rotifers? Aquatic flagellates?


Timjwilson 12-13-2012 06:42 PM

PS. Those are my two favourite Cory cats. I have not seen them around.

Byron 12-13-2012 07:34 PM

The store person in the video says he does 30% water changes every week. I always recommend 1/3 to 1/2 the tank, which is about 30% to 50% weekly. So that is not a problem. And as he said, the more you can do the better. No argument on any of that.

I can't adequately answer your last question because it is something I have never had need to research. And I am not a microbiologist.

I have both of those corys, along with several other species, in my 115g Amazon riverscape. My C. sterbai do spawn, though no fry have yet survived. I had a couple C. gossei fry survive but sadly lost them during a protozoan outbreak from new fish. And I have C. duplicareus fry now and then, I do have one of those which is almost the size of the parents now; he was in the canister filter one time when I was cleaning it, and I put him in the 10g to gain some size before moving him back to the main tank. Fry surviving in my main tank is rare because of the other fish. I have three Centromochlus perugiae which are strictly nocturnal and will eat anything that fits into their mouths, so they tend to get fry at night.

On angelfish and discus, it may just be "the way it is." This is found in other species too. For example, the two "ram" species being Mikrogeophagus ramirezi and Mikrogeophagus altispinosus are both sensitive to water conditions (by which I mean nitrates, instability, etc) but M. ramirezi is far more sensitive when it comes to parameters. And even though this fish has decades of tank breeding now, it has not lost this physiological characteristic, which is further evidence of how fish do not adapt as much as some would like to believe.

Which reminds me of some comments in the video on pH. He mentions no higher than 7 for discus, ranging from 5.5 to 7, and his discus have no issues (apparent to him) with the pH fluctuating. One always has to be careful with such statements. First, the TDS/GH combo (total dissolved solids and general hardness which is part of the TDS) is of far greater significance to soft water fish, as my recent article on Total Solids noted. No mention is made of TDS or GH in the video. Second, we have no idea of the time period for these fluctuations. Some of our members will tell you that they maintain discus in basic water with the pH in the high 7's; this may not be preferred by the fish, but that is something different.

I will check your videos when I have opportunity on the weekend.


Timjwilson 12-14-2012 12:16 AM

If you watch the video through you'll see he says you should do 30% water changes but he has not on that aquarium due to the filter used,

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