Newbie tank owner!
Hello everyone! I wish I had found this forum prior to visiting the fish store. Either way, I've got a brand new tank up and I suppose the cycle is about to begin. I've got a 20g tank with power filter and heat, gravel bottom, a few fake plants and decorations, around 75/76 degree water with a bit of freshwater aquarium salt added. I have 4 zebra danios in the tank now at the suggestion of the fish shop guy. I tested my water today just for a starting point. Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate all zero, and a pH of around 7.6 from what I could tell. I think I would have done a fishless cycle had I found this forum earlier. Now that I've got a few fish in the tank I'd like to try and make this as harmless for them as possible. A couple questions:
How long can I expect before I see the ammonia spike?
When the spike does occur, I plan on doing a 15-20% water change every few days or so. Is that right? I suppose that goes for the nitrite spike as well?
If I ever do get a good cycled tank I know to add fish slowly. One thing I've had trouble finding good info on is a good mix of fish for a 20g tank. I've seen SO much conflicting information online. At this point I don't know what to believe and would rather have some info for those who actually have a combination that seems to be working.
I like the Zebria danios a lot but I also like some of the barbs as well. I actually like quite a few different fish, just don't know what to believe about which ones are good together. I'd like to have one or two slightly larger/non-aggressive fish in the mix as well, if possible. Although everyone says to add fish slowly once the cycle is done, they also say some fish should only be added as schools of 6 or more. After the cycle, can 6 fish be added at one time?
Anyways, I've enjoyed this forum very much and appreciate any help. Hopefully this cycle goes without too much tragedy. :shock:
Changing out 15-20% of the water every few days is sort of like shooting in the dark, but it's better than not shooting at all (i.e. just letting it cycle without water changes). It's better to monitor the cycle by doing daily parameter tests and changing the water only when you need to (i.e. when the ammonia or nitrite reach about 0.5 ppm). That way, you're only doing water changes when you need to, rather than doing them sometimes when it's not needed or failing to do one when your fish are swimming in ammonia-rich water.
Before I give any stocking advice: is the tank a 20g tall, or 20g long? A 20g tall is two feet long while a 20g long is 30" long. In a 20g tall, for example, I would get a total of six danios, a school of six mid-level swimmers like tetras, and six small bottom dwellers like corydoras catfish or kuhli loaches, plus your centerpiece fish. In a 20 long, however, I might do something like 10 of the danios and 10 bottom dwellers plus the centerpiece fish because you've got less room for vertical zones but more room horizontally for more fish in each school. Keep in mind that either of these options is a pretty heavily stocked tank, so you'll have to have sufficient filtration and be on top of things with water changes.
You're right about schooling fish needing to be in groups of 6 or more, but in most cases it's safe to add them in smaller groups of say 3 at a time. It really depends on the fish, though. For example, if you got a fish like tiger barbs, if you added three and then waited, you might get serious aggression problems with only three fish so you might have to make that LFS trip for the next three sooner than you expect.
Thanks so much iamntbatman, I appreciate the help! My tank is a 20g tall tank. I hope to someday get my tank filled the way you suggested, that would be fantastic. I'm thinking 6 danios, 6 bleeding heart tetras, and 6 panda cory cats. Now you mentioned also a centerpiece fish. Would that be one, larger fish or are the tetras considered the centerpiece fish? If it is one fish, would you have any suggestions?
Anyways, thanks again for your help. Right now I'm going to concentrate on nothing but helping these 4 danios get through a tank cycle!
Sounds like a good plan, although bleeding heart tetras can get pretty big. A good centerpiece fish might be a dwarf cichlid, a smaller species of gourami, or possibly a betta.
I would just add that fish should be fed sparingly during the maturing or cycling process. Once a day feeding and only what you actually SEE them eat will help keep ammonia at manageable levels. Also don't stress over conditions that you may observe with water clarity, all kinds of things take place during this process, fluctuating ph, bacteria blooms, and cloudy looking water are common and will take care of themselves as the tank matures. I would resist the urge to use ANY chemicals other than dechlorinator.;-)
Thanks to everyone for the replies! I fed the danios today and noticed that they tend to spit their food out, sometimes not eating it at all and sometimes going back to finish it. I ended up with a lot of it falling to the bottom. :cry: I'm not sure if I should try another food or not. Any recommendations for a great fish food? I'm using TopFin flakes. Oh, and any idea how long I can expect before the ammonia spike?
Tetramin tropical flakes is another food you might try. I would take a very small amount and put it in the palm of my hand and then crumble it up to make the flakes smaller almost like powder. I would then feed only a tiny amount and watch to see if they eat it within a minute. If not put the remainder back in the container and try again the next day. A test kit such as API freshwater master kit used by many will tell you when the ammonia is at level that water change is needed. As batman said 0.5 or higher would indicate the need for water change of 20 percent. Do not change the filter for the next three or four weeks for this is where the good bacteria that is needed is developing.If the filter becomes clogged to the point that it slows or stops the flow of water then simply swish it around in some of the old water you take out during waterchanges and stick it back in.It is very difficult to say how long before you see ammonia spike followed by nitrites and then nitrates for tanks mature at different speeds. The main thing needed is patience, the maturing or cycling will happen it has to. So long as you monitor the water through water tests,don't overfeed, and don't dump any chemicals in thetank other than the proper amount of dechlorinator at water changes you will be successful. Use the time needed for the tank to mature to research the fish you are interested in and discover their needs.
During the cycling process especially, since you're trying to minimize ammonia exposure, you want as little wasted food as possible. My danios also exhibit the same kind of eating behavior as yours, but I don't worry about it as I have corydoras catfish in the tank that eat any flake that lands on the bottom. Since you don't have these fish (yet) you don't have that luxury, so I'd try to do what 1077 suggested with the crumbled flake. You could also try using a food that doesn't sink so easily. My danios seem to really like floating betta pellets.
In terms of food quality, there seems to be distinct levels of quality:
Low quality foods include store brands like Top Fin. They usually contain a lot of filler.
Hikari (in my opinion, anyway)
New Life Spectrum (NLS)
Thanks so much everyone. You guys have been incredibly helpful. I purchased some Tetramin flakes and will grind them down very small. I'll be testing the tank often and let you know how it goes. Hopefully well!
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