Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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pittipuppylove 02-23-2012 12:22 AM

Dorm Tank
Hi everybody! My name's Leah, I'm new here (please don't kill me if I ask an over abundance of stupid-ish question :P). I'm a college student who's dorm allows fish and hermit crabs and, well, hermit crabs kinda freak me out. But I'm planning on working on getting a tank started, but I want to do it right - too many of my friends practically put a goldfish in barely dechlorinated water and are supprised when the poor fish dies! I really like guppies, so I'm thinking doing a mostly species-only tank with the possibility of a cory or two and/or a couple ghost shrimp to help with the algae. The plan so far is to get a tank kit (I already have a few 10-gals from the reptiles I keep, but it looks like getting a tank with the hood is cheeper than getting the hood by itself :-?), but I've read some about the woes of getting equipment that is poorly made and quits soon after the tank's set up. So, here's the list of questions:

-Will guppies, corys, and ghost shrimp be able to live peacefully together?
-Anyone have experience moving tanks and fish by car? I live three hours away and would need to move them over breaks.
-Any suggestions on how to go about aquiring supplies? I'm currently debating between getting a full kit, a tank/hood/filter combo or just a tank/hood. With the last two, I'd buy whatever else needed seperatly) Although I'm on a budget, I'd rather spend a little more now and get something reliable than get something that's going to cost me more to replace later.
-I've read up on cycling and gotten a few mixed messeges - what woud you guys suggest as the best and/or fastest method?
-Here's the tricky one - I have a week off coming up soon that I'll be home for, which would give me more time to set up a tank, do water changes/checks, ect and allow a more stable envoirnment. Is it at all possible to get a small tank set up and cycled in a week/week and a half and possibly begin a slow stocking process when I get back to campus?

Any helpful tips, ideas, further things I should be thinking about, ect. would be welcome and greatly appreciated! And thanks SO much in advance for any help!

Adamson 02-23-2012 12:46 AM

I would say just set your tank up at school and not worry about transporting it back to your parents. Use this upcoming week off as a way to give your tank cycling time without you looking at it wanting to put fish in there.
Just put your tank together, put the substrate/gravel in there, the water, the heater, the filter, put a little fish food in there, put more fish food in one of those weekly fish feeder things (they are cheap, under $10), and leave. When you come back to a 30-50% water change, feed the empty tank a little more fish food (the amount you would be feeding your fish when you get them), and wait another week. Get a water test kit (API Master kit is the one we all use) and make sure your water levels are good. I am sure you have read the Beginners guide to the freshwater cycle stick in this forum.

How big are you thinking in your dorm? You probably wouldn't want more than 5 gallons, I have lived in the dorms and I sure wouldn't :twisted:

Those fish should be okay together, but in all reality your tank size is the big question on how many you can get. Just remember to keep schooling fish in groups.

Edit: And when you go home for breaks, don't bring the fish, just use an automatic feeder.

thekoimaiden 02-23-2012 02:48 AM

Hey Leah! Welcome to the forum and the hobby. So glad that you are doing research before purchasing.

For cycling. The down and dirty is there is not fast method. This hobby requires a lot of patience. Cycling takes weeks at least. This article is my go-to for cycling questions. Without some kind of seeding, I don't think it's possible to cycle a tank in a week. You should probably wait to set up your tank until after spring break.

For equipment I would buy a hood/tank combo and get the heater and filter separately. The stuff that comes in the kits usually isn't the best quality. Aquaclear is a great brand of filter. If you pay the large startup cost, this hobby can be rather affordable in the long-run.

On your stocking ideas, cories are neat but they need to be in groups of at least 3. Six or more is best. This is going to limit the number of guppies you can have. It might be best just to stick with the shrimps. I would also not get female guppies because they will reproduce and overstock your tank. If you get all males you're guaranteed not to get an increase in fish.

I had fish in my dorm in college. For short breaks (a week or so) I would just leave them if the electricity was still on. Fish are rather hardy, and a week without food isn't going to hurt. When you do have to move the tank be sure to keep the filter media and substrate wet. Bag the fish and keep them insulated. A styrofoam cooler will do the trick rather well.

pittipuppylove 02-23-2012 11:35 AM

Thanks guys! I really appreciate the feedback - and to hear things put bluntly instead of the books I've read sugarcoating everything. As for leaving the fish over breaks, I'm afraid to because I live in a less than great freshman dorm - without the windows open in the winter, temps easily soar into the 90s even with the heater off (and over break, we're required to turn off the heater and latch the windows shut). Would that be a problem? I guess I'd probably go with the 10 gal over a 5 because, correct me if I'm mistaken, they're more tolerant of small mistakes. Instead of corys, could I go with a bristlenose pleco? I read somewhere that they stay small enough to keep in a 10-gal. There's a LFS at home that I really respect - they maintain the marine tank at my mom's work and I've been dealing with them for years with my reptiles - would y'all recommend asking them for a bit of used filter media? Is there any other product that you guys have used that is good to introduce bacteria, or is it best to just stick with seeding with a seasoned tank if I were to do any seeding at all? Sorry about all the questions, I just really don't want to screw this up!
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thekoimaiden 02-23-2012 02:22 PM

Ouch! And I thought my freshman dorm was bad. I guess you would have to move it then. The only other option I can think of would be a chiller, but unless you make it yourself they run in $1000 price range.

I would get a tank as large as they will let you. Larger tanks are easier to maintain as the water chemistry is much more stable. You can also add more fish :D

I'm not too sure about the bristlenose pleco. I think I remember hearing they can live in 10 gal tanks, but you also have to remember that plecos have a very heavy bioloal (much like goldfish; they're both pooping machines). This will limit the number of other fish you can have in the tank. Shrimp have a much smaller impact on the bio-filter.

For seeding, if they have any well-maintained cycled tanks (like a show tank) that would probably be a good idea. Seeded cycles take much less time and you can do them with fish. I've heard very conflicting results about the "bacteria in a bottle" products. Personally, I wouldn't waste the money especially if you have a tight budget.

PS. I don't know if you've figured this out yet, but if you click on the shaded fish name it takes you to our profiles on them.

PPS. I forgot to ask. Do you have a rough idea of your local water parameters? Think hardness and pH. I would check both your college and your hometown as I doubt both get their water from the same reservoir.

pittipuppylove 02-23-2012 02:51 PM

Ah, didn't know that about plecos - I'll definatly be keeping that in mind! The temps wouldn't be so bad if I could get the maintenence person to come and fix the heater, but my room mate and I have been trying for the past few weeks with no success; I therefore have very little faith in my building's ability to maintain a stable enviornment. I've been looking into different heaters/filters, and I'm thinking about going with an Aquaclear 20 Powerfilter and Visi-Therm 50W heater, both seem to get really good reviews. Anyone have experience with the Visi-Therm heaters? The bright side is that if I order accessories online over Amazon and get a tank/hood at the store, it really won't cost that much more than buying a complete kit - if my numbers are right, it may actually be cheaper than some of the kits I've seen back home :-)

DanielaMarie 04-27-2012 03:38 PM

Wouldn't transporting a larger tank back and forth be harder than a smaller tank with the multiple hour trip?

pittipuppylove 04-30-2012 09:19 AM

I've moved the 10gal that I ended up getting a couple times now, and it's no cake walk, but it's not too bad. So long as you drain out as much water as you can while keeping the gravel wet, it's really pretty easy. And since I've never kept an aquarium before, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible - the larger the tank, the easier it is to maintain stable conditions.

SinCrisis 04-30-2012 10:15 AM

I kept a 5g tank when I was in school and my drive home on holidays were around 3.5hrs long. I always bagged the fish, plants, and filter media, drained the tank as best as possible, and transported them that way. I left the substrate wet to preserve bacteria. When I got home, it was easy to pour in around 2 gallons of dechlorinated water, start up the filter, then re-acclimate the fish. No need to cycle again.

As for supplies, some you can get away with the cheaper goods and others you should invest in better goods. The heater, for one, should be one you do not skimp on. A good one can last a long time and temperature is very important to the health of your fish. The filter is another one that you should think about a lot before purchasing. It doesn't need to be the best in the market, but for smaller tanks, space is often a big consideration and ease of access is another important one. For me, my dorm didn't offer me a lot of space at all to work on the tank, so I ended up with a penguin HOB since I could just yank out the filter, rinse it, and toss it back. A friend of mine went with internal because he didnt have space for the HOB, but ended up spending a lot if time when it came time to maintain the filter.

I find that the kits are often full of the cheaper supplies and not really that much better price wise (quality vs price). ie. You don't get to save much if the filter craps out and you have to buy a new one anyway.

Other have offered good advice on cycling. IMO, the fastest way is to use filter media from a matured tank if you have one. If not, the fish food method is good, but takes time. Test kits are important, but once your tank matures, its not a big thing, so if you want to save 25 bucks, most LFS will test your water for you for free if you bring in a water sample. If there's a store near you, you can just ask them to test it.

To start stocking your tank, one week should be ok if you can get old filter media. Otherwise, it is quite risky to put fish in after a week since it often takes longer for a tank to cycle. One method that I personally use for quick stocking is to just plant the tank like crazy. Live plants will absorb a lot the excess ammonia and nitrates your fish generates and will mitigate the effects of a cycle tremendously. For my small tanks, I introduce fish on day 1 with a lot of live plants. Putting in fast growing stem plants and floating plants will really help with the early fish-in cycling. If you don't want them later on, you can just toss them out after a month or so after your tank has cycled.

I hope this helps, keep us posted on the progress of the tank!

pittipuppylove 04-30-2012 04:17 PM

Thanks! I actually have it all set up and things have been going pretty darn well. I settled on a 10 gallon that came with a hood, and then got my own filter and heater. Not sure what brand of heater I got, but it's been doing really well at keeping the tank a constant temp; the filter I got was an AquaClear 20 and after I started putting a piece of panty hose over the intake to keep the shrimp from getting sucked in, I have no complaints at all with it! For cycling I added a bunch of plants, waited a day or two for the tank to settle, and added a couple guppies. As the week went on, I added a few more plants for good measure. About a month and a half later and I've only lost a few ghost shrimp :)
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