Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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jnbrex 02-03-2011 08:22 PM

Fish for a Tropical 30 gallon aquarium
Hello, I am an accomplished saltwater hobbyist and am helping a friend set up a freshwater 30 gallon long tropical tank. He knows how to test water, but that is about it. He knows nothing about fish compatibility or other needs, so I'm going to pick out his fish for him.
However, since I know almost nothing about freshwater having only kept a lone cichilid before, I would like some help. Is sand a suitable substrate?
He currently has gravel -- huge detritus trap -- and got some terrible stocking advice from a petsmart employee. Fish have already died, though the water quality is impeccable.
I would like advice for substrate, plants/no plants, fish stocking, etc. Is the cycling different from that of a reef in terms of length? How many fish should be added? He wants small schooling fish. What should the fish be fed with?
What kind of filtration should be used? I live about a mile from him so can help with water changes from my RO/DI system. He has a small mechanical filter with activated carbon, a bio-wheel (low surface are I know), and a sponge.
What should the nitrate and pH be? He does not have, nor has room for, a sump. If anything else comes up i'll post it in this thread. Thanks for all the help in advance, I hope to help him set up a wonderful tank!
P.S.: Limited budget, only about one hundred and fifty dollars to spend not including fish. He wants to spend about $5 per fish max.

Aqua Jon 02-09-2011 03:23 AM

A brief reply
Hello jnbrex! Welcome to the world of freshwater :-)

Sound's like you've got a lot of questions and I will answer what I can to the best of my knowledge. My explanations are brief, but feel free to ask me to elaborate on anything.


I would like advice for substrate, plants/no plants, fish stocking, etc
In the area of substrate I have experience with gravel, flourite, and now recently sand. Of the three I can tell you that I have had success with both gravel and flourite. I will not comment on sand much as I have only had sand for 2 weeks now, but I will touch on it later. Detritus is an issue, perhaps more so in a saltwater tank, it is less of an issue in a well planted tank since the biological material is "recycled" as plant "food". Flourite is a nutrient rich substrate that helps feed the roots of live plants. To be honest, you can grow plants in either. But the books will tell you to layer your substrate with sand on the bottom, a thin layer of nutrient substrate like flourite, and then top with small gravel (pea sized). I would suggest a minimum depth of 3 inches of substrate. Some plants have deep roots and my 2" substrate is challenging to plant in. In my experience with sand, it is an attractive medium, but I would use sand only with nothing beneath it. The downsides to sand are that it will sift to the bottom of the substrate over time if larger gravel lies beneath it. AND that it compacts. However compaction can be treated with a healthy dose of MTS (malaysian trumpet snails). It really comes down to personal preference or aesthetics.

Plants. It is my personal opinion, but I believe that live plants add to a freshwater tank something incredible that cannot be seen in other aquatic setups. It provides a more natural habitat for fish and encourages real interaction with their environment that is natural and gives confidence to the fish. It is extra work and money, but I find the reward to be well worth the costs. Keep in mind, a proper bulb is needed, lighting does not need to be as intense as many suggest. I currently have 15 watts over 10 gallons and have healthy plants. Some succeed very well with plants in even less light. Balance is the word to remember and there is a 4 part article in the live plants part of the freshwater forum. It will answer many questions for you.

Fish stocking IMO is really up to the owner. But the fish should be compatible with each other and given space and retreats. Even peaceful fish can put up a fin to fight if pushed to do so. I've seen neons give in to their piranha bloodline and danios become bullies. But the best advice I have on stocking is to work within what you're given. If the water is 6.8 pH then find some acidic loving fish. It is not difficult to change the pH, but it IS to maintain a changed pH. And the results can be tragic when failures occur. There are natural ways to change the pH that are more acceptable - things like driftwood.


Is the cycling different from that of a reef in terms of length?
cycling for my tanks has typically been 2 - 4 weeks for the nitrite to drop and nitrates to show, but pH did not stabilize well until the second or third month.


How many fish should be added?
They should be added slowly. Size plays a role, with a general rule of 1 inch per gallon. But given the conditions and parameters of the tank as well as fish type, there can be more or less fish. For example, in my 10 gallon i have 7 zebra danios. As danios grow to 2 inches in length, by the rule I should only be able to house 5. However i have quite a stock of plants, good filtration, and consistent maintenance. I could support more, but territorial and space issues begin to limit/strain the inhabitants.


He wants small schooling fish
I have had neon tetras, cardinal tetras, rosy barbs (mine stayed in a group together), and currently zebra danios. These are only a few of many small size schooling species. But like I said, let the local water supply dictate your range of inhabitants.


What should the fish be fed with?
I feed my fish primarily flake (ground up in fingers for small fish) or hikari small fish pellets (they look like colorful grains of sea salt) and my betta gets occasional freeze dried plankton snacks.

What kind of filtration should be used?
I use HOB (hang on the back) filters, had one on my 29 gallon. I currently use one on my 10 gallon and nothing on my 2.5g. Plants help manage fish waste, but you can only do mechanical filtration. Carbon must be removed to allow nutrients to stay in the water for the plants. I have heard good things about sponge filters, but have not used one. As long as weekly water changes are carried out, then the bio-wheel should be good. The sponge should supplement the surface area for biological filtration that is lacking in the biowheel.


What should the nitrate and pH be?
Nitrates should stay below 40ppm. I typically get results around 20ppm because of plants in the tank. A pH of 7 allows the most diversity, but it is best NOT to augment the source of water being used, in my opinion.

A sump is not necessary for a freshwater tank.

joeysoprano 05-07-2011 04:33 PM

I started this hobby because my friend wanted to sell his saltwater tank.because of too much algee . Come to find out after I got it he had a light for plants and he had no plants. But the light was always on.
Any way i got a 29g tank. Cabinets stand. Emperor 400 hob flirtation. Heater. Powerhead. Hood light. Cleaning tools. And testing kit. It that was for saltwater. Plus decoration and a power strip all for 40 dollars. I had to take it.
So after running for two weeks. I added four. Skirt tetras. 2black. 2white.
At this time no ammonia no nothing. Temp was 74. Ph was7.4. Then ammonia started to rise to. 50. Did normal water changes. Then about 1 week and a half they got ich, . So i traded two Tetra's back to Petsmart. Came back with four. Then two days later. They all got ich .treated for 6days with Super Ich Cure. Did 50% water change. Two days later the got this furry fungus on them. Only water problem i had was ammonia. But didn't know what i know now didnt relize i needed to cycle fully before adding fish. I tried to cycle with fish which i found out after reading all your post it not good for fish.
So i treated the fungus with Bioshperes Maracide as directed. The same night four am. The fish was covered in the fungus had pop eyed and four died.the next after noon the other two died. So. Did a 50% water change and a 20%ever week. That was three was ago. Never added new fish. Ammonia finally drop from. 50 to zero to day. From what i read so far my cycle might be done.Is it safe to add new fish?
But while treating the fungus my PH dropped below 6.4. No ammonia no chlorine no nitrates no nitirates and kh is low. I'm working on planting the tank so i added two bubble bars. I have two stalks of bamboo. Probally why i don't see nitrates. And i have two white ribbon plants. They small i wanted to grow them up.i also thinking about adding water Lillie's when i can find some. And Maybe some baby dwarf leaves.
I was thinking of adding tiger barbs. First then gourimai. Any suggestions. I don't want more fish too die.
P.S. I also treating tank with stress zyme for three weeks as directed. And use stress coat to condition water during water changes. And I have a small narual colored of gravel. 50lbs.
Never added chemical to treat ammonia. Or never added chemical to treat Ph balance. Was thinking of using crush coral for the Ph balance. Is that ok.

Christople 05-07-2011 11:41 PM

I would google most of your questions... lot's of answers out their

Byron 05-08-2011 11:35 AM

You've already received some good advice and suggestions, so I'll try not to repeat that. But just pick out a couple of what I consider to be important issues.

Definitely plants. The biological benefits cannot be understated. Any substrate will do, myself I would not recommend mixing different ones but it can be done. I currently have tanks with playsand, tanks with fine gravel, and one tank with Flourite (an enriched plant substrate). All will work, though not the same.

Light is the single most important issue as light drives photosynthesis of the plants and this is the basis of a healthy biological system. If the tank has a fluorescent fixture, this just means getting the right type of tube.

Cycling, if live plants are used, is non-existent; or to be more accurate, it will be so minimal as to be undetectable. Plants grab ammonia/ammonium, and a lot of it, and they out-compete the bacteria.m Nitrate should be no higher than 20ppm; in natural planted tanks it will be lower, zero to 5 or perhaps 10ppm, depending upon fish load.

Which brings me to the filtration. You do not want to encourage biological filtration as this is detrimental to plant growth. Minimal filtration suits planted tanks, and most forest fish which are the type of fish normally housed in planted aquaria. On a 30g, I would use a sponge filter with an air pump; I have this on my 29g and 33g tanks. Inexpensive, good mechanical filtration, minimal water movement--couldn't be better.

The type of fish depends upon water parameters out of the tap; if we know the hardness and pH we can offer areas to look in for suitable fish. It is much easier to select fish matching the source water than attempting to adjust the source water for delicate fish. Which can be done, but usually at an expense to be safe.

Hope this is of some assistance. Feel free to ask questions, we are all here to help when we can.


Josh19 05-08-2011 03:16 PM

For the fish i would put in 1 angel 6 peppered corydoras or alibino and 4 harlequin rasboras this would be an okay community set up or he could do 1 pair of convict cichlid with nothing else in tank for a aggressive set up or he could do 1 red tail black shark and 6 zebra Danios and 6 tiger barbs for a semi- agressive tank here is 3 pretty reliable stock list

Byron 05-08-2011 03:41 PM


Originally Posted by Josh19 (Post 668634)
For the fish i would put in 1 angel 6 peppered corydoras or alibino and 4 harlequin rasboras this would be an okay community set up or he could do 1 pair of convict cichlid with nothing else in tank for a aggressive set up or he could do 1 red tail black shark and 6 zebra Danios and 6 tiger barbs for a semi- agressive tank here is 3 pretty reliable stock list

There are some problems with these suggestions, and I will respond by suggesting that you have a read of the informatino in the profile of each species. Some of these fish are shoaling and need a group (angels included), some are too aggressive in such a "small" space. Profiles are under the second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page, or you can click on the fish name when it is shaded in posts. To save time, I'll list the fish names so you can get to the profile easily.

Pterophyllum scalare [angelfish]
Tiger Barb
Zebra Danio
Harlequin Rasbora
Red Tailed Shark

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