Starting a tank
I just got a 20 gallon tank. It came with a filter and a hood with incandescent lights. Its set up, with water, but the only thing in it so far is a shrimp in one of those loose tea holder things for your cups. I've read that a shrimp works well for a fish-less cycle of the tank.
But I always thought a few drops of whatever water conditioning from the pet store fixed it up, so reading up on how the ammonia/nitrate cycle works squashed that idea.
I have a paper that I am keeping track of ammonia and pH levels on. So far ammonia is at 1 and pH is 7.6-8, and that is straight out of the tap.
Do I need any other sort of tests? I am using water based ones, I read that the paper strips can be not as accurate.
I have two dwarf gouramis currently I will be wanting to move to this tank. I've done some reading up on these little guys and it seems they are a terrible fish to do fish-in cycles with. I'm not doing fish-in cycling, but should I be worried about adding these guys to the tank first? Or should I pick a tank mate for them that is hardier and add them first?
And on tank mates, what are some good fish to go with dwarf gouramis? I know size of fish is limited and I'll need something timid and docile like them. Or lower level swimmers? I've read dwarf cichlids are good or platies. But I'm open to suggestions.
So now the insides of the tank. I'm planning on going with the common fish tank gravel and fake plant/decorations, but I was curious on how hard it would be to slowly switch over to live plants?
Sorry for length, but I have lots of questions. Do I seem to be going in the right direction?
I'm fairly new to the fish keeping world; only having a gold fish, a beta fish and now currently two dwarf gouramis. I'm very fascinated by it all and learning a lot, but have a long way to go.
I'm open to any tips/suggestion as well.
Welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Glad to have you with us.
I will right off the top suggest you go with live plants from day one. If you have sufficient live plants, there will be no discernible cycle and once the plants are in and the filter/heater is functioning properly, the gourami can go in (make sure the water parameters are close between the new tank and the tank the gourami are now in). This is less fuss, more reliable, saves time cycling, and completely safe on fish.
With any gourami, floating plants are almost mandatory. And as they are the easiest plants to maintain, you might want to start with them. Water Sprite is perfect if you can get it. Brazilian Pennywort left floating (it is a stem plant) is also ideal. You can read more about these in our profiles; click the shaded name. Profiles of many fish and plants are under the second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page. The Dwarf Gourami profile will also mention suitable tankmates. As you mention them, I would not recommend cichlids with gourami; both fish are territorial, and in a small space (20g is small to these fish;-)) this is best avoided.
Does it matter what kind of plant it is? I was checking out the pet stores today and they just have "live plants". Its clearly a variety of stuff though.
After looking at some fish I'm thinking of getting a third dwarf gourami (it seems 3 is the magic number for them) and three panda corys. My bf would love a school of neon tetras too. Sound reasonable?
I really liked the looks of golden barbs and the dwarf angelfish, but I'm not sure if they would be a good fit. One pet store said they were docile and the other said semi-aggressive, so more internet reading I go.
Also, is the rule of thumb a week before adding a new fish to the tank? Or is just whenever your tank has seemed to settled since the last addition?
Now Byron is our 'resident expert' and Lord knows he's a plant guy - why he's almost got me convinced, but if you decide to go planted there's a few things you probably should consider...
Lighting - you said the tank has an incandescent light fixture/hood. You might want to get the 15w compact florescent bulbs.
Substrate - If you'll have rooted plants, you'll want a slightly deeper substrate of fine gravel or sand.
(I've been studying up on deep sand beds, mineralized top soil and 'dirt tanks', but these are not a place to start).
Fertilizer - You'll be putting those plants into a lifeless 'soil' to start (think of hydroponics) so you'll need to dose the water and/or use fertilizer plugs to feed your plants.
If you do not go with a fair number of plants, you will cycle the tank and the best way is to use the API test kit. I did mine with a Seachem ammonia alert. Monitor ammonia closely and be prepared to do a partial water change if/when the ammonia level spikes.
good luck and keep us posted.
Dwarf gourami are best in a pair of male/female. Males are territorial and in larger quarters can work out but in a 20g it is risky. If the two you have are managing now, I wouldn't upset the applecart.
Neons are not the best with Gourami, some say due to the colours. Rasbora would be better; in a 20g with a pair of DG a group of 8-9 rasbora of the Trigonostigma genus would be ideal. There are 3 species, all in our profiles. The Hengels Rasbora and Lambchop Rasbora are my favourites as they are a bit smaller and the copper colouring is quite intense esp on the Hengels. The other is the Harlequin Rasbora.
On the plants, we have several in our profiles. Floating is essential, I mentioned two previously.
I thought I would come in with an update.
I went with fake plants. The pet stores here had live plants only labelled as live plants, no other information. So not really knowing what I was doing with live water plants, I really didn't want to just guess on what I was buying. So I have a good number of plants, with some floating ones too and a fake drift wood chunk.
I added the two dwarf gouramis. And they seem pretty happy. I went out and got 3 panda corys. They are still just tiny, maybe 1/2 inch. I was a little concerned that the dwarf gouramis may get territorial on them until they get bigger, but the 3 little guys actually hide out under neath them in the back. They started venturing out now and all seems good.
I'm looking at the rasboras, most likely will get some. But I have to wait a little bit. And every time I've gone in to look at fish I keep thinking of what else I could do if I had another tank. Or if my other tank was bigger. I know you guys warn about MTS on here, but darn, never about how quick it kicks in! :-)
So is the tank cycled? If not, you may likely loose the pandas as they are fairly sensitive fish and fish in cycling is pretty hard on fish.
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