new tank - cycling and other questions
My kids got a freshwater tank for christmas and I've been setting it up. I think it has become more my present than theirs. I didn't realize how complex the care and maintence was or how many different species of fish with unique personalities there are out there. I'm already have ideas of setting a saltwater tank when this one is up and safely running. My wife says im becoming obessed with the fish. :)
I filled the 26 gallon tank with 20 gallons of special RO water from the local fish store and 6 gallons of tap water. I added a very tiny amount of prime from seachem for the tap water that was added.
I setup a penguin biofilter wheel filter and a 100watt heater. I have the water steady at 78 degrees.
I have one large fake plastic plant and the standard colored gravel bottom.
I let it run with no fish in it for about 7 days.
I bought a master test kit and tested the water. All levels were 0 or less than the 2nd step on the test cards (within acceptable levels)
Yesterday I added 3 tiger barbs - 2 black striped ones and 1 albino one.
Now for the questions -
I have been reading about 'cycling' but i still dont clearly understand it.
By adding fish I am starting an ammonia cycle that will peak after about 10 days?
Then following that comes a Nitrite Cycle that will peak after about 30 days (20 days after the ammonia peak)?
Does the cycle start again every time a fish is added?
I've recently read that the tiger barbs prefer live plants and like be in packs of at least 6...
Does adding plants make it more difficult to stabilize the tank?
If I wanted to add 3 more tiger barbs, when should i do it?
With a 26 gallon tank, how many fish can I expect to support?
How long will it take to safely add that many fish over time?
Oh more questions I forgot...
The filter seems to create a current inside the tank. The fish are constantly moving around, but is it good to have a current in the tank? It looks like the little guys are swimming 24 hours a day. Sometimes I check on them and see them swimming in the very corner of the tank (where the weakest current is) or behind the heater or thermometer...
Re: cycling questions
Hi there!! Welcome to the wonderful (sometimes confusing) world of fishkeeping!!
I'm relatively new to this also but have been researching since setting up my 10 gallon 6 months ago.
I'll try to help with what I know. First of all, your "cycle" doesn't start until you add the fish (unless you're doing a "fishless cycle"). The water needs to have a level of ammonia for the bacteria to feed on. You now have that with the fish you added (created by the fish breathing and their waste) The main thing is to add fish slowly, so that your biofilter (bacteria) will have time to catch up to the load (fish) that are in the tank, otherwise you will have massive ammonia spikes that will kill the fish.
That being said, all tanks cycle at different rates.... some will take weeks to complete the cycle, others mere days. It helps to speed the process by adding some "media" from an established, healthy tank.... some lfs will provide you with some gravel from their tanks for little or no money. Another option is to find some filter media (peice of sponge is ideal) from someone (a friend) who already has an established tank. Adding this to your own filter will immediately add a good dose of bacteria to your tank, and jump start the bacterial filter.
Ideally, you should leave the three fish you have for the next week or so. Be sure to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels (the first two being the most important). Once they are back down to zero, you're good to go. The cycle doesn't start again unless your tank crashes (usually due to medication or rinsing your filter media in tap water, always rinse in the tank water you remove during changes.) Adding 3 new barbs in about a week or two should be fine. Just be sure to give the tank time to "catch-up" before adding more.
Adding plants isn't a bad idea, as they are often indicators to the overall health of the tank (plants get sick before the fish do). I don't keep live plants personally, seems like too much work and some fish will either uproot them or eat them.
As far as how many fish you can house in a 26 gallon ..... there are two things to consider. The old addage that 1" of fish per gallon of water works fine if all you are keeping is tiny little fish. If you're thinking of larger ones, that doesn't apply so well. My best advice is to watch your tank, do your research .... you'll be able to tell if your fish are happy and comfortable (not overcrowded) based on your water tests and their behavior. Tiger Barbs grow to about 3" each ... so if you have 6 you're already looking at 18" of full grown fish. (ALWAYS remember to account for adult size!!!) IMO you'd be good with those and a perhaps a bottom dweller or two (some of those get HUGE, btw!!!).
Hope this helps!!!! :D
p.s. I wouldn't worry about current in the tank (what size is the filter, anyway?) .... keep in mind that if you just added these fish yesterday they're likely not comfortable in their new environment just yet. Give them a day or two. If you're really concerned about the flow, there should be a lever or switch on the filter to reduce the flow.
So far I have this data:
1/06 - Filled Tank
1/12 - Added first fish - 3 tiger barbs
1/23 - Test: 78F, 7.2pH, 2.0 ammonia, 0 Nitrite, N/A Nitrate
1/30 - Test: 78F. 7.2pH, <0.25 ammonia, 2.0 Nitrite, 5.0 Nitrate
Are these levels acceptable?
Does it appear that my ammonia cycle is almost done and I'm heading towards the peak of the Nitrite cycle?
Or does the presence of the Nitrate indicate that I am past the peak of the Nitrite cycle and headed downward?
I supposed more frequent testing could prove useful.
0) Ammonia concentrations greater than 1.5 are typically considered to be highly toxic.
Fish are typically not happy fish when the nitrite concentration is greater than 1.6.
In the long term your ammonia and nitrite concentrations should be 0.
In the long term your nitrate concentration should be less than 20 and preferably less than 15.
1) With 3 barbs in a 26G tank I am surprised that your ammonia peaked at approximately 17 days (a & b).
2) Yes: it appears that the ammonia cycle is near completion.
3) You are correct. The frequency of your data is insufficient to determine if the nitrite concentration has peaked.
a) Are you certain that your biological filtration is sufficient for a 26G tank?
b) Are you certain that you are not overfeeding?
The actual capacity of filters is typically significantly less than the rated capacity and I have seen percentages up to 40% quoted.
Assuming the worst case scenario (40%) then the actual capacity of your filtration is 18G
The uneaten food on the floor and in the filter is decaying and generating high ammonia and nitrite concentrations.
Would it be easily possible to turn off your filter for 3 minutes while feeding?
A general "rule of thumb" for feeding flakes is that no flakes should reach 3/4 depth of the tank and should be consumed before reaching this depth.
There are also other means of taking care of that food that manages to find its way down to the bottom of the tank. Ghost shrimp would be ideal in this situation as they will happily live off of uneaten food they find in the tank and do not significantly affect the bioload. They are also pretty cheap...I just got 20 of em for 1.50 today. You wouldn't need many...10 or less. They are also pretty interesting to watch and for the low cost do a pretty good job of taking care of missed food in a tank.
Another idea for a bottom feeder is the Pictus Catfish. I have one in my 29 gallon and he's absolutely beautiful. Brilliant silver with black spots, they look like sharks, growing to between 4-6". They are semi-aggressive, but this one resides peacefully with my Pepper and Albino Corys (for the moment). They need good hiding places, the driftwood in my tank makes a perfect home for him, and plenty of fake plants give him other places to "hang out". they're fed sinking pellets for bottom feeders each nite before bed. And he's doing wonderfully. They must, however, have clean water.... they don't give you warning when they're going to die because of poor conditions. Overall a very enjoyable addition and he does a marvelous job of ensuring there are no "leftovers".
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