Helping a Beginner...
So I have read around the forums, and I NEED some help. I will list everything I have done so far and what I plan on doing soon. Please tell me if I am doing this right, or just harming my aquarium.
Saturday, May 10th - I bought a 20 g aquarium kit from Petco. It came with a 20 g aquarium, 15 watt bulb, Whisper 20 Filter, 100 watt heater, fish net, starter size water conditioner, and starter size fish flakes. I added 20 lbs. of white gravel, then tap water. I added the water conditioner, and left it on.
Monday, May 12th - I returned to Petco and bought a gravel vacuum, master ALI liquid water tester, thermometer, extra water conditioner. My tap water from the faucet read 7.4 pH and my tank read 7.2 pH. The tank is 81 degrees F, so I added 2 bamboo plants and a mystery plant.(What is the plant on the left?) My water seems a bit cloudy.
What I plan to do: Tomorrow - I am going to test the tank for pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite.
Wednesday - I am going to my LFS or Petco to buy 3 danios (Zebra Danios if possible). I will buy some rock/driftwood/live plants for the fish.
So, what am I doing wrong? When should I add fish? What are the best fish to go with danios? What are some tall and some carpet like/short plants? What bottom/algae eaters should I get?
Almost regardless as to what sort of fish you put in there, you're going to want some sort of structures present in the tank. They can provide useful ways to break up lines of sight to help fish establish territores, they can provide caves and whatnot for your fish to hide in or dart through, and they simply look good. There are lots of resin and ceramic decorations available, but I prefer the natural look of driftwood and local rocks. The rocks can sometimes be a pain in the butt because there are certain types of rocks that are harmful to your fish, but any type of rock at least needs to be washed thoroughly (without soap!) and given a bath in very hot water (don't boil your rocks, though!) You can buy some aquarium sealant and glue rocks together to make DIY caves and other structures.
Some people have problems with using bamboo in aquaria, but I've never even tried it myself so I can't comment on it.
I wouldn't recommend adding any algae eaters until you have algae for them to eat. Sure, you could add one without any algae growth, but it's likely it'd get so used to eating the food you'd have to give it that it might not prove so useful at actually eating algae once it does start growing. Good algae eaters for a 20g include Otos, many shrimp species, and snails. There are some smaller species of pleco such as clowns and bristlenose plecos that could be squeezed into a 20g.
The danios are a good choice for cycling your tank if you plan on cycling with fish. Three is a good number to cycle with, but if you plan on keeping them, I would also plan on adding at least two more as they're a schooling fish. Also, zebras will school with similar danios such as leopards and blue danios, as well as the long-finned varieties of all three variants.
Danios are generally great community fish so there are tons of options for fish that would go well with them. The only fish that don't really go well with danios are fish large enough to eat them and slower fish that might be annoyed by the danios. Some people say danios can be nippy towards fish with longer flowing fins, but I've never seen this myself.
One of the better bottom-dwelling species to add to your cleanup crew would be any of the cories. In a 20g you could fit a sufficient herd of just about any cory species and a larger herd of some of the pygmy species.
I don't really see any glaring problems with your setup so far; just make sure you stay on top of water changes and testing until the aquarium is completely cycled. The only small problem you might have is that your plants will be nitrate sinks in a cycling tank, meaning you won't get the nitrate readings toward the end of your cycle showing that the cycle is complete if you've got the plants there.
Thank you for the sppedy response batman.
How often should I do my water changes during and after my cycle? How much percent and how often?
Different sources vary on this subject. A sticky on this forum suggests doing a 50% water change during the cycle any time the ammonia rises above 0.5 ppm, the nitrites rise above 1 ppm, or the nitrates rise above 15 ppm. You can do this, or you can just do a 20% water change every couple of days. Zebra danios are hardy enough to survive both slightly escalated ammonia/nitrite levels and frequent water changes, and making a routine of the water changes is an easier way to stay on top of it. However, during the cycle you should do routine testing of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates to monitor their levels. Emergency water changes can be done if any of the levels spike dangerously high.
The amount of water changing to do after the tank is cycled really depends on the stock. For most community setups, as long as you're not way overstocked, a 20-25% change every week is usually best. Messier fish and carnivores often demand more water changed out per week. Small tanks (below ten gallons) require very frequent water changes.
Is the gravel Petco brand gravel? If so, I highly recommend taking it out and changing it with a different brand. I used black Petco gravel in my 20 gallon, and the paint started coming off and it slowly killed all of my fish. Otherwise it looks like you are doing good in my opinion. Watch the water levels closely when you add the fish and keep a record of them. You don't want to have any fatal ammonia or nitrite spikes if you can help it.
Jasey, I am using Petco brand gravel. Although, my friend has had a 30 g for about 6 months now, and he uses the same gravel I have now, but he hasn't had any problems. How long did it take for the paint to wear off?
I just did a nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia test. Nitrite and nitrate were 0 ppm and ammonia was .25 ppm. What do these readings mean and when should I expect my cycle to start?
Cycling starts soon after adding an ammonia source (fish, or pure ammonia). It usually takes 4-6 weeks to finish. Have you already added your danios?
The bamboo may rott in your tank. I haven't kept it, because I've been told that it often does. I think the leaves are supposed to be kept out of the water - so it needs a shallow tank. Just keep an eye on it, in case it goes bad in your tank.
Sounds like you're doing good so far! What kind of fish do you plan to keep?
One other thing you're going to want to do before adding fish is to read up on how to buy a healthy fish, and find a good fish store in your area. Every Petco I've ever been to has had many sick fish, and will ignorantly sell these fish to people. While it is possible to buy fish from a place like Petco, you're going to want to feel very comfortable in inspecting fish in every aspect to confirm their health. Not that another fish store doesn't have sick fish as well, but a reputable fish store with knowledgeable employees will not sell you any fish from an infected tank.
A great way to find a good fish store is to look up the forums for a local aquarium society. That's how I found the LFS that I frequent, and I absolutely love it. They've also never sold me a sick fish.
I will keep an eye on the bamboo, James. Thank You :D
I plan on keeping Zebra Danios, Neon Tetras(or other types of tetras), some kind of platies, and a algae eating shrimp or snail later on. I also want some anacharis and a tall plant, as well. I will only add the 3 danios at first, then add some more fish each week.
There is a great LFS that seems very professional. I went there to get a tank, but they had no full kits. I plan on buying the fish there because the fish at Petco and PetSmart seemed lethargic. The LFS employess sounded like they knew what they were talking about, and had a large variety of things.
Ooh, I just noticed you're in MA, as am I. What was the name of the store? I always go to Skipton's in Boston.
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