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gondo 09-11-2010 09:08 AM

Need input on my current setup
 
I'd like some suggestions or tips on my current setup and any changes that can be made. I'm trying to perfect my tank maintenance regime before I go ahead and experiment with live plants, salt water, etc..

My current setup is a 30gallon freshwater tank. It has an external cannister filter that I'll clean out and replace the carbon every 2 months or so. I also have an air pump and air stones, etc... All the decorations are fake except for some flat stones I purchased form the local pet store to build a cave. The substrate is black moon tahitian sand for the loach to dig and hide in. I have a horseface loach, some corries, and a school of neon tetras. 1 Black phantom left from an old school and 1 guppy the fish store threw in for free (it was a baby mixed into a tank of neons).

Now for my regime. I have the fluorescent bulb on a timer for 5 hours per day. For the rest of the time I have 2 LED moon lights that are on. I do a water change every 2 weeks. About 5 gallons. I use deionized water form a reverse osmosis and DI filter, then reconstitute the water using R/O right from Kent Marine. Then I'll add some Proper PH 6.5 to the water. This is the water I use at every water change. The reason I do this is because my city water was so buffered it was impossible to get the PH below 8.0. I wanted it at 6.5 for the Tetras which prefer slighty acidic water. So I got an RO machine, reconstitue to soft water, and add proper PH 6.5.

I have lots of green algae that grows in the tank. On all the decorations and on the glass. I can keep it under control if I clean the tank and some of the decorations at every water change. If I let it slide for 4 or more weeks it gets out of hand. I understand that the green algae is good and is a sign of healthy water which I certainly have. I only feed once per day which is not overkill. The lights are only on 5 hours a day which is not a lot. Also there is no direct sunlight on the tank. My tank is not overstocked since I only have about 12 fish right now. Is there a way to control the gree algae? I never had the problem when using city water, but my fish seem more lively and school with the deionized water at 6.5 PH. The only thing I can think of is using a UV sterilizer and live plants. Any suggestions.

I know green algae is good and is a sign of a healthy tank but I just want to learn a bit more before I get another aquarium and start experimenting. Thakns for any help.

Byron 09-11-2010 12:18 PM

Algae is a plant, and in the absence of "higher" plants will use the light (however minimal) and nutrients to thrive. It is true that in a well-planted aquarium, algae is rarely ever a problem; it is there to some extent, but the live plants use the nutrients and light (provided these are in balance) and prevent algae from gaining control. I would expect your nitrates may be high; in planted tanks they rarely are above 20ppm, usually 0-10ppm, due to the plants assimilation of ammonia/ammonium. Water changes should be 50% weekly in non-planted tanks, or more; in planted aquaria with normal fishloads they can be less.

If you intend trying a planted tank, algae should not be an issue. Bear in mind though that in "new" tanks, plants or not, algae is often present during the first few weeks due to the instability; once the tank is biologically stable, that's usually it for algae. Unless the light is more (intensity and duration) than what the plants need in balance with the nutrients. You can read more on this in the series "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" stickied at the top of the Aquarium Plants section of the forum.

A comment on water preparation. I would move away from using any chemicals, by which I mean the "RO Right" and "Proper pH 6.5" stuff. Chemicals are chemicals, and the fewer in a fish tank the better for the fish. What most who use RO do is mix some RO water with regular tap water; experiment a bit to find the right balance, one that will have low GH and KH and the required pH. This is far safer.

Thinking of a planted tank: your substrate if excellent. The canister filter is good, just leave out the carbon (it removes nutrients plants need); the filter pads and ceramic disks are sufficient. Do not use airstones or bubble devices in a planted tank; reason is also explained in that article series. Light will be required 10-12 hours each day. The best type is full spectrum or daylight, with a Kelvin rating around 6500K. Plants (and fish) also need absolute darkness for around 10 hours, so make sure those moonlights are off at night. They would probably work well as "dawn and dusk" lighting, the hour before the main light comes on and the hour after it goes off, but no more.

Byron.

spike0544 09-11-2010 01:14 PM

You could also try a bristlenose pleco, they only get to be about 4" and would help with your algae problem. If you go this route you should also add a piece of driftwood for him. Byron, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the driftwood would also help lower your pH.

Byron 09-11-2010 05:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spike0544 (Post 469061)
You could also try a bristlenose pleco, they only get to be about 4" and would help with your algae problem. If you go this route you should also add a piece of driftwood for him. Byron, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the driftwood would also help lower your pH.

True, but very little with such hard water to begin with. I have read of pH lowering by .2 or maybe .3 in a tank with a lot of wood and medium hard water.

On the pleco, bear in mind that they will only eat certain algae, not anything and everything. And though they are interesting fish, I would not recommend any fish solely to handle a problem. If you do get one, they need wood (real wood, not ceramic) to graze.

jeaninel 09-11-2010 05:29 PM

Can you tell us what your water parameters are for ammonia, nitrite and nitrates? As Byron suggested high nitrates may be contributing to your algae problem. Weekly 50% water changes will help.

gondo 09-13-2010 10:48 AM

Ok I've been doing about 10-20% water changes every 2 weeks. Sometimes skip for 3-4 weeks. I've read many times over that 10% monthly is all you need. Maybe I'll increase to 50% weekly.

As for the reconstituting RO water with tap water and experimenting. I used to do this but left my PH at the citie's buffered value of 8.0 or so. Even a small amount of city water mixed with the RO keeps the water buffered so high. The only way I can combat this is using the RO right and Proper PH 6.5. Unless I just keep my water at the high PH and have the fish adapt.

I only have an amonia kit now. I'll have to pick up a nitrate/nitrite kit. I refuse to get a PH kit....I'm going spring for a PH meter. I hate test kits. You use em once or twice and they expire after 2 years, and the colored cardboard reference gets lsot or wet or something. I prefer electronic meters like a PH probe.

I'll test amonia for fun tonight and get back to you guys. Also I'll see if I can pick up a nitrate kit locally and test it tonight. I'll also do a 50% water change and adjsut the moonlighting to stay off for the majority of the night.

What about covering the tank with a dark blanket or sheet for the night?

Byron 09-13-2010 12:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by gondo (Post 470537)
Ok I've been doing about 10-20% water changes every 2 weeks. Sometimes skip for 3-4 weeks. I've read many times over that 10% monthly is all you need. Maybe I'll increase to 50% weekly.

As for the reconstituting RO water with tap water and experimenting. I used to do this but left my PH at the citie's buffered value of 8.0 or so. Even a small amount of city water mixed with the RO keeps the water buffered so high. The only way I can combat this is using the RO right and Proper PH 6.5. Unless I just keep my water at the high PH and have the fish adapt.

I only have an amonia kit now. I'll have to pick up a nitrate/nitrite kit. I refuse to get a PH kit....I'm going spring for a PH meter. I hate test kits. You use em once or twice and they expire after 2 years, and the colored cardboard reference gets lsot or wet or something. I prefer electronic meters like a PH probe.

I'll test amonia for fun tonight and get back to you guys. Also I'll see if I can pick up a nitrate kit locally and test it tonight. I'll also do a 50% water change and adjsut the moonlighting to stay off for the majority of the night.

What about covering the tank with a dark blanket or sheet for the night?

A caution on the water change: if the pH in the tank is below 7, the ammonia produced by fish and bacteria will be ammonium which is harmless. If the pH of the tank water, through a major water change, rises above 7, the ammonium changes back into ammonia which is deadly.

A 10% monthly water change achieves absolutely nothing unless the tank is heavily planted. Weekly partial water changes in non-planted or sparsely-planted tanks are mandatory; the amount can be 30-70% depending upon the fish (type, size, number) and plants (the more plants, the less water change needed). There is absolutely no other way to remove the "crud" that builds up in aquaria and which no filter can remove, only re-circulate.

Keep in mind the above caution, since conditions that have deteriorated can cause such problems--and increasing algae with so few regular water changes and those chemicals (which are doubly harmful) indicate probable trouble looming.

A "blackout" as we call it can be useful to eliminate algae, but if the water is not first cleaned up the algae will very quickly return. And suddenly-dying algae in high levels as might occur here is also poisonous to fish, so caution on that.

Byron.

gondo 09-13-2010 03:28 PM

I just did a PH and Amonia test. I'm below 7.0 PH and also amonia was way low on the scale near 0.

I'll start doing a 50% water change weekly and see how that goes.

I always read that doing too much of a water change is bad. But I guess not. You also always read about getting your water up to temp before adding it to the tank, but I read somewhere that adding colder water to your tank is good. It mimicks the rain the tropical fish get in the Amazon, etc... Makes sense. Fish can't live in the same teperature in the wild 100% of the time. It must fluctuate.

Is Tahitian moon sand good for plants? And why not use air stones or a bubble wand with plants?

One other thing. I have a horseface loach that loves to dig and push the sand around. He'll bury himself right in the sand with just his head sticking out like an alligator. I hear that these loaches can be bad for the roots.

I'm not looking to upgrade this tank too much. I'm just learning before I go ahead with a second tank with a differnt type of fish. I've been learning and experimenting for the past 5 years or so. So far I've gotten the RO/DI filter, through out the hang on bio wheel and got an oversized cannister filter, timer for the lighting, and changed from rock to sand for the Corry's and Loaches. I'm still debating if my second tank will be live planted or salt water. Maybe I'll upgrade this tank to planted and make the second one salt.

Thanks for the help so far.

Byron 09-13-2010 04:12 PM

Bottom line is that you can't do too many water changes. However, most of us don't want to be in the aquarium all day every day (the fish would get used to that, and they would certainly appreciate new water every hour or two:-)) and if the tank is properly balanced it shouldn't be necessary.

On the Tahitian sand, there is another thread in which I believe eileen posted a caution on the messiness of this particular sand; might want to track that down. I am not a fan of sand to begin with; I have a 10g with sand substrate as a test, and so far I can see no benefit over small-grain (1-2mm) gravel. On the horse faced loach, as the profile here says it will bury itself more and more as it matures, and plants may suffer. I had a trio of these about 25-30 years ago, they were 3-4 inches, and I had "sand" gravel, which was true aquarium natural gravel but the particle size was very small and called "sand." It was perfect. The loaches loved it, the plants loved it, I liked it because it behaved like "gravel." I've not seen it anywhere recently.

Bubble devices, airstones, rapid water movement are somewhat detrimental in planted tanks because the more water movement, particularly at the surface, the faster CO2 is driven off, and there is an issue over too much oxygen. I go into this in more detail in Part 3 (filtration) of the series "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" that is stickied at the head of the Aquarium Plants section; that will answer your question.

gondo 09-13-2010 05:18 PM

Ok I'm back from a massive 50% water change and cleaning. Not fun at all.

Also it's a pain burrying and trying to hide all the air tubes. Especially with those little suction cups that don't suction with the pressure of the air hoses.

I also noticed that the proper PH 6.5 adds electrolytes. It doubles as a water conditioner removing chlorine/chloramine. The RO right also adds electrolytes. I think I have an electrolyte overload lol. It will also be expensive with all these chemicals with a 50% weekly water change.

I think I'll grab a bit of my DI water and experiment with tap water to see how it affects the PH after 24 hours. I'll do a 5% to 25% reconstitution in 5% increments. Basically 5 seperate cups of water to test how the PH is after 24 hours and 48 hours. I'll start doing this and avoid the chemicals.

I've also read that a cannister filter is a place to harbour bacteria and filth. The pipes, cannister, etc... load up with crap and create your ammonia. I doubt it's a big problem if you clean it monthly and do a carbon swap.

I'm going to ditch the chemicals and use tap water to reconstitute the DI water. I'm also considering ditching the air supply and putting in live plants. Plants give oxygen so you don't need the air stones for your fish. I'll read your primer on live plants.

Once I get this setup going the way I like I'll stock it up nicely. My next tank is going to have overflows with a sump, UV, protein skimmer, calcium injectors, etc... I very large salt water setup that is going to be expensive. So you see my desire to learn as much as a I can about the fresh water setup first.


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