Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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-   -   I need tips on how to set up a 30 gallon tank. (

GOURAMIKEEPER83 09-10-2009 10:25 PM

I need tips on how to set up a 30 gallon tank.
I have tried twice and failed horribly. Th first time I overstocked my tank and some was eatten and some died from stress of water conditions. I tried a second time trying the add fish slowly method and failed again all but a few fish died. Now I want to reestablish it again and this time hopefully with the aid of a seasoned hobbiest. I have a 30 gallon octagon tank I bought second handed. It came with an undergravel filter which I think is most of my problem, I believe that this type filter is for an more experienced hobbiest since it uses the gravel as a filter. I need a suggestion on what kind of filter to purchase. I want to stock it with beutiful fish that get along great together in a tank. I like gourami's and platys as well as danios etc. I just want this time to be the one that makes it all worth the learning curb. I don't want to lay a lot of money out again just to watch it waste away. I would like tips from start to finish on how to set up a tank and steps need to be successful.

JohnnyD44 09-11-2009 08:16 AM

You could purchase a Penguin 350 or Emperor 200 for your 30G tank....that will be enough filtration for your tank. I would ditch the undergravel filter....thats just me though, i'm not really a big fan on them to begin with.

Then you can either add fish slowly or do a fishless cycle, thats up to you. Make sure either way you do it, you need to test your water everyday. When you buy your filter, pick up a APi Liquid Master Test Kit. You thank yourself later as your going to save dozens of trips to your LFS to test your water.

Good Luck!

aunt kymmie 09-11-2009 09:35 AM

Agree w/JohnnyD. A test kit is an invaluable tool and a must have.
Here's the least expensive place I have found one: Freshwater Master Test Kit: Fish

I've seen these kits at chain stores for upwards of 35$. :-( Walmart states on their website they will do site to store free shipping. It's a bargain. Hopefully you have a Walmart near you?

I think the UGFs are big detritus collecters and I personally would never use one. I like JohnnyD's recommendation on filters. I'm glad you're taking your time on this set up and doing it right from the start. There's nothing like the feeling of sitting back and enjoying a tank that was fun to put together and not full of grief!

WisFish 09-11-2009 09:49 AM

I guess I'm the only one that doesn't have a problem with UGFs. I've been using them exclusively for over 30 years with 29 and 55gal tanks. It wasn't until a year ago that I finally purchased my first canister. So the problem isn't the filter. I'd use the fishless cycle method to prepare the tank for the new fish. I found this post:

And I agree with the above. Check your water as the tank is cycling to know when its ready for fish.

MOA 09-11-2009 10:19 AM


I am also a fan of UGF's. I have kept fish for about a decade (selling and breeding) and almost always use either a UGF, plenum, or residual flow filter. For beginners, I would recommend either a residual flow filter or a plenum (IMO) since they do not pull anything into the gravel. No less, a reverse-flow UGF or one that simply doesn't have too much gravel will work just fine.

I actually have major problems with HOB's (the types mentioned aforehand that hang on the back of the tank). Most new aquarists make the mistake of using either activated carbon or "ammo chips" in the filter cartridges and they change the cartridges incorrectly. With regard to activated carbon, it does little for the critical filtration in a freshwater tank in that bacteria are responsible for converting ammonia into less noxious substance (activated carbon doesn't absorb ammonia very well). Additionally, activated carbon over two weeks old will actually start to leach toxins back into the water (yuck).

"Ammo chips," on the other hand, actually do absorb ammonia. The problem with this is that they keep the bacteria from feeding on the ammonia and starve them to death. This means that once the ammo chips have absorbed all the ammonia that they can, then the ammonia levels will spike since there is no bacteria in the tank to process the extra waste. When cycling a tank, never-ever use complex chemicals (dechlorinator is okay) or use chemical filtration (no activated carbon, charcoal, ammo chips, zeolite, etc.). All that is need to cycle a tank is:
  1. An ammonia source (aside from live fish, which I do not recommend, commercial ammonia, fish food, milk, and meat products all work well as an ammonia source).
  2. A place for the beneficial bacteria to live (a regular cartiridge without anything in it works fine, or you can use fiber floss, fish-safe sponge, gravel, etc.)
  3. A flow source that brings contaminated water to the bacteria (most filters inherently do this).
Cycling a tank can take up to two months. An easy way to tell when cycling is complete is to check the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate readings. A properly cycled tank will have 0 ammonia (despite that ammonia is added to it), o nitrite (this usually doesn't show up until 3-6 weeks have passed), and 5+ppm nitrate (nitrate is the net result of biological filtration and is easiest to remove with water changes).

Since the bacteria are the critical factor and since a great many of them live in the filter, filter cartridges should be replaced carefully. Before a new cartridge is used, it must be "seeded," or altered in such a way that allows the filter bacteria to grow on it. An easy way to seed a cartridge is to place it behind the old cartridge in the filter for about 2-3 weeks. Another option is to bury the new cartridge in the gravel for a couple weeks before using it. This way, the cartridge is exposed to the bacteria but the cartridge is out of sight.

Hope this Helps,

GOURAMIKEEPER83 09-11-2009 12:42 PM

What is the best way to use a undergravel filter. I have never used one till now but since I got it what is the correct media to use for this filter and also I thought fish was needed to cycle a tank?

Joe 09-11-2009 04:23 PM


Originally Posted by GOURAMIKEEPER83 (Post 241620)
What is the best way to use a undergravel filter. I have never used one till now but since I got it what is the correct media to use for this filter and also I thought fish was needed to cycle a tank?

Google: Fishless Cycling

This method of cycling is just as effective and fast as adding fish but it doesn't require any to stress out or possibly die. Basically you add your own ammonia to the tank instead of fish creating ammonia. If you go the pure ammonia route go to your local ACE hardware store to get it, the stuff at grocery stores and walmart ect have extra agents that will ruin the cycle.

Heres the big part: the cycling can take from 4-8 weeks. (if you are adding anything but zebras to the tank before its fully cycled they will die from the ammonia levels) It sucks to wait that long but my ammonia spike held for 6 weeks and I am sure that would have killed any fish I would have in there. It's worth the wait. Once the tank if fully cycled and all the water tests out fine you are ready to add fish. My 46 gal is my first aquarium and I have sucessfully added all kinds of cool fish without a single casualty! (kock on wood its been a couple months now and they all look healthy). It's worth the wait.

MOA 09-11-2009 09:55 PM

Hi Again,

Some common problems people have with UGF's include:
  1. Too coarse or too fine of gravel of gravel: The gravel should should be between 1/8" and 5/16" in diameter.
  2. Too deep or too thin of gravel: The gravel should be between 1/2" and 3/2" deep. If the gravel is too deep, then it will be difficult to maintain; too thin, and the filtration will not be very effective.
  3. Improper cleaning: A gravel siphon is a must-have for UGF's. Unlike other tanks that pull a lot of the debris into a filter cartridge away from the gravel, UGF's require weekly gravel siphoning (yes, they can handle once-a-month cleanings, but can become clogged if you wait that long). Also, some people think that the gravel actually has to be removed from time to time. This is not true: UGF's do much better if you leave the gravel in the tank. Additionally, the gravel should be stirred from time to time and the uplift tubes should be "pumped" from time to time if the flow isn't a reverse type. To pump an uplift tube, remove the powerhead (more about powerheads later) and use a cleaning brush (for aquarium use) and pull it up and down the uplift tube rapidly. The action will bring debris that gets caught below the gravel plate up out of its usual resting places.
  4. Most importantly, not enough flow: Simply, air-powered UGF's don't cut it. Air-power requires air stones that need to be replaced about once a month, some models use little carbon or zeolite inserts that cost quite a bit and impede the flow rate, and making an air-powered filter more powerful is only marginally effective. Instead of air-power, UGF's work best with powerheads, little water pumps that slide down into the uplift tubes. Most models last a long time (penguin and aquaclear can last up to 20 yrs., shark up to 10 yrs.), are easy to clean, and are very powerful and can squirt air directly into the water via venturi adaptors. Sadly, a good powerhead can cost anywhere between 20 and 100+ dollars depending on size and brand. Nonetheless, the advantages of hardly ever needing replacement parts for decades easily outweighs the intial cost.
(BTW, Most "medias" (activated carbon, etc.) are fairly useless you need to remove some medication or some chemical (probably cleaning chemical) that is in the tank.

As to cycling, fish are definitely not needed. Also, there are ways to speed up the cycling process:
  1. Buy the ammonia.
  2. Add at least one teaspoonof ammonia per five gallons.
  3. Buy a bacterial starter (check the pull date).
  4. Buy a test kit.
  5. Add the bacteria (follow the directions on the bottle).
  6. Add ammonia at least once a week.
  7. Keep adding ammonia until the tests reveal 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 0 nitrate.
  8. Depending on the bacteria and brand, using this process can cut cycling down to 1-4 weeks.
Have Fun,

MOA 09-15-2009 03:19 PM

Oops, "0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 5+ nitrate."

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