What have I done?! (this is kind of long, sorry)
Hello all! So here's my story... I have a 2 year old son and at his daycare they have a fishtank, which he LOVES. My husband and I decided (very impulsively) that we would get him a small little Betta tank. I sent my husband and stepdaughter out to get a bowl and a betta and they came home with the "classic" round betta bowl and very ugly female betta (my husband said, "the fins grow in," and i knew we were in trouble hahah). The female betta became my stepdaughter's, and about 2 nights later I went out and bought a 2.5 gallon tank (with an aerator, filter, and LED lights) and a gorgeous male betta. Set him all up (without cycling because I had no idea :cry:) and he has thrived! When seeing this beautiful fishie, all 4 of us wanted a big tank hahaha. We went out at midnight that night and bought a 30 gallon and set it up like Bikini Bottom, filled her up with water and impatient waited for PetSmart to open in 7 hours so we could buy some fish.
We get to PetSmart and I tell the girl that we are completely new to the hobby, setting up a 30 gallon tank, and that I need to know everything I need for my fishies, what to do, and what fish to get (boo on me for not researching, but I just really didn't know ALL that I didn't know). She sent us home with 4 Black Striped Tetras, 2 Angelfish, and 3 tiger barbs. Never mentioned anything about testing, but because of a pet goldfish I had as a child, I knew I needed to test ph and that I couldn't just plop the new fish in the water, that they needed to acclimate to the temp. We get home and get our fishies in the water and all smile in awe at our new pets.
Well after a few days, I'm so in love with my fish tank and happy fish that I start doing some research. My pH stayed around 7.6-7.8 and I unknowingly kept lowering it with tablets. I was trying to find a more permanent solution and it is in this research that I discovered all the mistakes I had made lol. So i bought a new filter (Penguiin 150, wish I woulda went bigger now but meh) and installed it after throwing the other one away ( wish I wouldn't have now.... but no I know better). That was about a month ago. We have had the tank for about 2 months now. Shortly after that, I realized I needed to be testing my water so I ran out and bought strips and an in tank ammonia reader (once again, know better now) and the big ones tested all 0, soft water, no chlorine ( and yes I do use a dechlorinator) and ph at 7.6. I thought, "YAY no ammonia, my fish are healthy" only later realized that this was not good at all, because I hadn't even began to cycle (prolly thanks to throwing away that filter). Yesterday I finally bought the API master test kit because my in tank ammonia reader went to alert. I tested my stuff and ph as 7.6, nitritates and nitrites 0, ammonia 4. I immediately did a 50% water change (I had just done my weekly one 2 days prior) and retested. Ammonia down to 2, and at that time I had to go to work. TOday I came home, retest, and was back at 4. Another 75% water change ammonia at 2. Went to sleep (i'm a nightshifter), woke up and retested ammonia still at 2. All my fishies are still alive, happy, and vibrant. There is no sign of ammonia poisoning. I have stop feeding them and know that at this point I just need to be patient, but i LOATHE to think I am hurting my fishies. We have all grown to love them and cannot wait to upgrade to a 150 gallon (but will THOROUGHLY research next time lol).
Some key things I may have missed: I do use a gravel vacuum...... ummmmm I cannot think of anything else but I am sure you all will have some great questions and advice for me! Thanks!!!!!
Thought of some more things to add about my tank. I have an automatic heater that keeps the water at 78 degrees all the time ( husband bought this too, wish he woulda go adjustable but oh well). When i first noticed the ammonia i bought some live plant bulbs. A lilly and some type of fern. I had to go to walmart to look for something because i work nightshift and nothing else is open when im awake. Anyway the plants r suppose to grow in 8-15 days and i was hoping starting from a bulb would use up more ammonia since the plants would obviously be growing.
Welcome to the forum! It sounds like you now have a better idea of some of the stuff that you just didn't know.
If your tank is 2 months old it should have already cycled to accommodate your fish load but with zero nitrates it does appear that it has not done so... particularly with no plants to use the nitrates at all. I won't speculate as to why but tossing the old filter would not have disposed of the entire bacterial population and it wouldn't take long for them to bounce back.
If you are treating the water with Prime (the only one that I know) it will help by rendering the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates non-toxic for up to 48 hours so even though you are reading 4ppm with the test it is not harming the fish.
It sounds like you are just going to have to treat the tank as if it has not been cycled and you are doing a "fish in" cycle so daily water changes and treatment, which you started already, are necessary. The stem and floating plants will help enormously. With 30 gallons if you put 30 individual plants you would probably be able to skip the whole cycle as they will suck up the ammonia quickly. I did it this way and only saw a small cycle nitrite spike after adding 12 fish at once in a 37 gallon tank.
The bulbs won't use any ammonia until they get growing and, being bulbs, I suspect (but don't know) that they will not be fast growers and likely won't be huge ammonia consumers. For fast immediate results, fast growing stem plants and floating plants are best. I used a lot of dwarf hygrophila and a bunch of duckweed along with a ton of other assorted plants... then skipped the cycle. They "obviously" grow... the hygros up to an inch a day and the duckweed has at least tripled in quantity in four weeks.
What is the light? If it is a starter kit hood you will probably need to change out the bulb(s). It should be rated somewhere around 6500 degrees Kelvin (light warmth rating that is good for freshwater plants) and this is usually marked on the bulb itself.
You're just going to have to keep up with daily WC's until the tank cycles. Don't vacuum more than 1/3rd of your gravel per WEEK. Beneficial Bacteria builds in your gravel too and if you continue to remove this daily, it only makes your cycle longer. Not much else you can do unless you know someone with a cycled tank that could safely house your fish until the tank cycles. Oh, and the addition of some live plants.
You're by far not the first to make this mistake. I know I have. The internet has become invaluable for helping people set-up tanks for information. Information that stores such as petco/petsmart don't seem to bother informing people of.
Thank you everyone for the encouragement! My fish are so beautiful, and I think I would be devastated if I killed one of them. Our angels have grown from barely dime size when we got them to bigger than quarter size now! They are a cute little "couple" lol.
Update for today. When I got home from work, I diligently checked my ammonia, nitrites and nitrates (my other parameters have been stable from the beginning). Ammonia was down to .50, still no nitrites or nitrates. I fed my fishies just a tiny bit for the first time in 3 days and watched as they ate it all up, then did a 25% change. I just woke back up and checked the ammonia and its down to .25.
When I get home from work tomorrow morning I will check all 3 again. I am getting concerned because I thought I would atleast see a trace of nitrites at this point. I am going to be patient and just try to keep my water as safe and stable as I can for my fishies until this is sorted out.
On another note, my betta tank as zero ammonia, still a little bit of nitrites and around 10 nitrates, so it's cycling nicely. My betta has blown himself 3 bubble nests too. :)
Try and avoid Duckweed. Yes it grows rapidly. So rapidly that you will never be able to completely get rid of it lol. I made the mistake of getting some and now I've get 3 tanks covered in it and most of my other plants have died off because they cant get enough light, even with frequent skimming of the duckweed.
Wisteria is a great plant. Can plant it or leave it floating. Grows rapidly as well.
Not to be a debbie downer here, but those Angels are gonna get pretty darn big (like 8 inches from top to bottom fin), and they will dominate the tank. Are they a male/female pair? Eventually you're gonna need wither a bigger tank, or to let them have the tank all to themselves with no other fish.
As to the ammonia...daily WCs till it's zero, plus adding live plants. They'll keep the water cleaner, and better for the fish.
Be careful with plants at Petsmart/Petco, they will often sell terrestrial plants as aquatic. Avoid the 'ribbon' plant and mondo grass, those are seen pretty often. There are others but I can't think of them off the top of my head.
As far as my angels' sex, i honestly have no clue :/ but they get along great for now. And believe it or not my tiger barbs ignore them for the most part. Instead my male tiger rather enjoys chasing his two female companions instead lol
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Sorry, but I'm going to respectfully disagree. If you vacuum the entire substrate, IMO, you can take a large portion of your beneficial bacteria out. I've heard/read this from a number of fishkeeper experts. It's a pretty popular notion to not vacuum more than a third of your gravel per week.
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