Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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meatball 02-08-2009 05:31 PM

Help My Tank Get Back On Track
Ok, I've been posting a lot of questions on the forum lately, and I've decided that my tank has too many interwoven problems to address separately, so I decided to start this thread.

To start things off, I have been a very irresponsible fishkeeper. Some of my major problems have been forgetting to do water changes for up to a couple months and failing to address a diatom algae infestation. Actually, I'm pretty sure Ive done almost anything wrong possible. I care about my fish a lot, but I often neglect my tank when my schedule's really busy. However, I am determined to get back on track and stay there. I'll post all the questions I have about getting the tank back in shape and improving it here.

To help with answering my questions, here are some stats of my tank:
-20 gallons
-Filtration: UG filter and hang-on-the-back filter
-100w heater
-Gravel substrate
-19w lighting (I think, if that doesn't make sense I can look again)
-2 gold pristella tetras (with a supremely amazing will to live)

First, questions about my general tank parameters.
1. My nitrates are at the "stress" level. This will change as I start to perform more regular water changes, right?
2. I am interested in keeping Red Cherry Shrimp, but my water is soft. First, will tetras be okay with hard water?
3. If so, how do I make it hard so the shrimp can be healthy?

My diatom problem:

4. What is usually the reason for diatom algae problems?
5. Will shrimp take care of diatom algae on the side of my tank?
6. If not, are there any animals I could fit in my tank that could be used for this pusrpose?

On introducing plants:

7. I have heard my UG filter will make it very hard to grow any plants. Is there any way to get around this problem?
8. If not, is there any way to remove my UG filter that doesn't require dismantling the tank/cycling it again?

I feel sorry for my fish. They deserve better than what I have done to them.



KrisRogers 02-08-2009 07:14 PM

Hmmm... I'm still pretty new to this myself but have kept freshwater fish for a few years successfully.

1. Lets start by addressing the high nitrate problem; Yes water changes will help. 25% water changes every week is about normal. (here's a link on lowering Nitrate) -
-An Instant Nitrate Reduction Method - A Multiple Step Water Change Procedure-

2. 3. Red Cherry Shrimp & Gold Pristella Tetras are both very hardy. they should be able to coexist. (here are links with information on both) -
-Red Cherry Shrimp-Red Cherry Shrimp .:. Neocaridina heteropoda sp. "Red Cherry" .:. Freshwater Aquarium Shrimp Species Information Page-
-Gold Pristella Tetra (x-ray fish)-X-Ray Fish, Golden Pristella Tetra, Pristella maxillaris-

4. 5. 6. Now for your diatom algae problems, and yes Red Cherry Shrimp should help with the algae problem(They will eat the algae), but I would strongly suggest manually cleaning as much of it as you can first. Yes, there is alot of algae eaters/ bottom feeders that would go crazy eating the algae. Some suggestions would be small Cory's (Corydoras) Stick with the smaller breeds such as Panda, Hasbrosus, Hastasus, Pygmeus, etc.. are but a few. (they are schooling fish and do better in groups of 3 or more, and remember keep your tank at 1" inch of fish per gallon of water).
Here is yet another link (I know it's alot of reading but I promise you'll learn something out of it) -
-Diatom Algae-Brown Algae, Diatoms In Freshwater Tanks-

[Okay for the long one ;p]
7. 8. As for your UG filter most everyone after awhile gets rid of them they are just to much to take care of. As for your HOB filter as long as it's ment for a 20 gallon it should be sufficient for you tank on its own if not, approx. 20$ at a walmart will get you one. (I just up graded mine from an HOP to a "Tetra Internal Whisper Power Filter" that I got from walmart. It filters 150 Gallons per hour and is ment for 10-30 gallon tanks.
Also removing your UG filter will help with your Nitrate, they hold/ collect alot of debris/waste under them. Removeing the UG will create a mini cycle but it'll be best in the long run. when you remove the UG I would place your fish into a bowl of tank water. The tank will get really cloudy from the debris, Have your Vacuum ready and after it is removed go nuts. Then do a water change, let the water settle with the filter running then let the fish go back home. (This is how I removed my UG and it all took around an hour) remember to keep your HOP inlet tube in the water if you keep it running.
- Reserch different plants some are high maintenance some are not, some alot of light some don't. (I myself am trying Java Moss and am hoping for the best)

I hope this helps in any way shape or form since I've spent the better part of my life putting it together. lol
I'll check for replies and feel free to message me, I like messages :)

Best of luck and happy fishing. lol

meatball 02-09-2009 04:31 PM

Thanks for all the help! This will really help me get my tank healthy again. Do you think I could combine the processes of removing the UG filter and doing the successive water replacements? Like removing the fish, taking out the filter, vacuuming, replacing the water, vacuuming, replacing, etc?

Also, the article you linked about diatoms said otos are particularly fond of diatoms. Do you think a group of 3-4 ottos would work well in my tank?

EDIT: Also, do shrimp count as inches of fish in a tank (in regard to obeying the 1 in./gallon rule)?

KrisRogers 02-10-2009 07:53 AM

No problem, glad to help.

Yes you can combine some of the processes, (remove the fish into a bowl of tank water, remove the UG filter, then vacuum) when you remove the UG you'll see what I ment by all the debris that it collected. When you vacuum, you'll end up needing to replace the water any way. then let the water settle put your fish in, wait a couple 2/5 days then vacuum and start the water changes. try and watch your fish closely because removing the filter will cause a mini cycle. But once its done you won't have to do it again.

[Instead of replacing your fish if you have a big enough container (5gallon bucket/ a small plastic storage container) that your filter and heater would fit in, you could leave you fish in it while you do this. It would be less of a shock to them over the week.]

Yes a small group of oto's (Otocinclus)would love to help keep your 20 gallon tank clean. I would get no fewer then 3. they can also be quit interesting to watch. (make sure you get small breed ones some of them can get quit large)

I hope this answers your question on the shrimp per gallon. (sorry I'm in a hurry so I'm copying from another source)

""The one inch per gallon guidline is just something spouted out to offer a "keep it simple stupid" salution. In most cases the guidline will work however as the first poster pointed out it depends on the fish still. If your fish tend to school then you can over crowd them compaired to the one inch per gallon rule. If they are teritorial then you should allow extra room for each fish. Because shrimp are bottom dwellers they do not require a specific number of gallons but rather a number of square inches of floor space. To the fish they are more like moving rocks. Now the only consideration that must be considered (assuming that all fish and shrimp are compatible) is the total amount of waste that the community will be producing. So if you do over stock your tank make sure you keep up with enough water changes and have a big enough filtering system. Your four shrimp should be fine so long as you don't have a lot of other bottom dwellers in the tank already.""

JohnnyD44 02-10-2009 08:06 AM

Parallel to what kris is sayin, I'm fairly new too, but I have had my tank for several years. About 4 months ago, I started to see a spike in my nitrates. They were near the "alarming" level. I soon came to realize that it came from my brother, he was watching my tank for me for 5 weeks (I moved and wasn't able to take it with me at the time) and did (1) 15% water change in almost 2 months!!!!

You may be looking at doing 20% water changes 3 to 4 times a week. and cutting back on the feeding too. This is what I did and it seemed to lower them over the course of about 5 to 6 weeks. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it definetly took care of my problem.

Agian, that is what i did, ask around as I'm not a professional at this (yet :) )

kris gave you some pretty sound advice, but I think you may need to be more aggressive with the water changes.

WisFish 02-10-2009 08:21 AM

I guess I'll be known as the only one who likes UGFs. I don't understand why people think these are hard to maintain. All you do is replace an air stone from time to time and do a good enough job with gravel vacuuming. That's it. No floss or carbon to replace. I've never had the UG filter leak all over the floor. There's plenty of gravel to act as the bio material. And if you look at my aquarium, I've been using the UGF as my only filter for over 18 years. It wasn't until last August that I finally added a canister.
I will admit however that if you plan on having a heavily planted tank, UGFs are hard to clean. That's mainly because you don't want to disturb the roots of the plants by vacuuming too much.
Whether to use the UGF depends on the plants you choose. Heavy root feeders such as Amazon Swords won't like the UGF. Java ferns, Java moss, etc won't care.

meatball 02-10-2009 08:14 PM

Thanks for the helpful viewpoints. I'm thinking of combining the two methods - putting the fish in a 5g bucket (which I have) with heater and filter, removing the UG filter, vacuuming, replacing the water, maybe vacuuming and replacing a couple of times, then letting it sit, repeating on each day for a week that I have time, but I guess in less extreme quantities than the first time. If I'll be changing the water so often, I'm thinking it might also be a goo idea to just leave the fish in the bucket with the heater and filter for the length of time that I'm doing all of these radical water replacements. That sound like a good plan?

@Wisfish - I see where you're coming from. One thing that really seems a hassle to me, though, is that supposedly you need to vacuum all of the substrate of the tank regularly. That means you have to move plants and things, right? Do you do this? It would seem a lot less of a hassle if it was ok just to vacuum around things.

I'll probably have some pictures up in a week or two showing the progress.

MBilyeu 02-11-2009 12:33 AM

Just to add on... if you are planning on ottos, I would wait until you are sure that the tank is done with whatever mini-cycle it may have. Ottos are very finicky when it comes to water parameters, so make sure your tank is stable before you add them.

FishGirl 02-11-2009 01:00 AM

I have a 75g planted tank. It used to be heavily planted but recently I hacked it back and rearranged it. When I do water changes I generally pick 1/3 of the gravel to do a great job vacuumming. I'll also hit a few of the spots where I know the dirt collects as well. I don't do it all at once and all every time because that would disturbe the tank too much. It works for me and my fish seem happy and so do my plants.

What you need to do is come up with an adequate system that works for you. If you make WCs too much work, you'll find yourself slacking off again. Come up with a happy medium. The WCs need to be done, but make it easier on yourself and you'll be more likely to keep up with them. You've got a 20g, then vacuum 1/2 really well every other WC. Make the ones in between quicker for yourself.

If you've got a decent amount of plants, they will help stabalize the nitrates. Especially the floating ones like water cabbage, once they get established and extend their roots. You'll have to throw a bunch away once they start growing.

WisFish 02-11-2009 07:25 AM

I use the Python to gravel vac. When the only plants I had were crypts, I'd vacuum probably 80% of the surface area. Now that I have several different types of plants that tend to be planted tightly, I just vacuum the areas that are easy to get at. If I ever replant an area, I'll vacuum that spot before I put the plants back. I usually run out of areas to vacuum before I've even reach the 30% water removal mark which is what I strive for. (Every other week)

When I entered my post, my only point was you don't have to remove the UGF to have plants. But I will admit that there are plants that don't like to have their roots disturbed. And if you'll be using root tabs, I think UGF reduce their effectiveness.

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