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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have just bought a 20 gallon tank. A while ago, I posted a thread about a 5 gallon tank that I wanted to use. Simply put, I abandoned that project and am starting this new one. So, I have the tank up with 20 .lbs of all black gravel already set up at the bottom. I bought a master test kit for the Nitrification cycle and a separate test bottle for KH and GH. I don't know what my tap water comes out as so that is the main reason why I bought this tester, making sure these properties are maintained was my second reason. Now, this leaves me with this question. Do I test for GH/KH straight from the tap water, or do I put the tap water in the tank, add chloramine neutralizer, let it filter and cycle for a few days before testing? My goal is to find out my local water's paremeters before buying fish so that I know what to stock my tank with. This is why I haven't bought any decorations yet. Also, my tank came with Incandescent lights. Does this mean that I can't use any live plants? I want to go for a natural look.
 

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the gh/kh will be of use to get you rolling with your plants, the light more then likely wont be able to grow much being a oldschool indcand. before you delve into plants lighting and all that you need to first choose which route you would take. very high light with alot of fert dosing and co2 injection, or low light slower" growing plants with fert added 1-2 a week. then after u make that descision then look at what plants you want. i wish i would have been more decisive before i choose all of my equipment/plants.

i would test it straight from the tap as that is im assuming going to be your source of water for your water changes. i would also test the tap for nitrates and ammonia, i have 10ppm nitrates from my tap but im on a well. some also report having .25 ammonia in the tap to start with. either way a definate waterconditioner to help with the cycle and at water changes is a prodcut called prime by seachem. i use it sometimes and some on here live by it. happy fishing!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That's correct. I'll be using my local tap water for water changes. I figure it'll be the cheapest way since I won't have to buy de-ionized or distilled water. Since I am on that topic, can you buy store-bought water depending on hardness and alkalinity? What is the purpose of testing for nitrates in the tap water? For plants, I'm not sure. I want something for beginners because this would be my first planted aquarium. I just want something that will thrive in my tank and that the fish will benefit from.
 

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Shake the tap water vigorously for a few minutes before you test it, to out gas the CO2 and ensure accurate test results.

Test your water for everything. If you have high levels of ammonia/nitrite/nitrate you'll have to adjust water changes, filter media, and your dechlorinator accordingly.
 

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you want to test for nitrates in your tap since this will be going into your tank. nitrates can have detremental effect on fish and water quality causing stress disease and cyanobacteria. when you buy water in stores from what i have seen they are either reverse osmosi or di ionized water or distelled, dont use distelled use R/O or D/I if your going to buy your water. now if you plan on going planted stick with your tap as theis will have some of the micro and macro nutrients needed for the plants.
 

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Test the tap water straight for GH and KH. For pH, out-gas the CO2 either by letting a glass of water sit 24 hours or shaking it very briskly for several minutes. This is not necessary for GH or KH.

Before we discuss mixing other water like bottled, etc, let's have the results. Also, an indication of the fish you would like to have. Water adjustment is possible, but can be cumbersome and expensive, and may not be necessary.

On the light, a 2-socket incandescent hood over a 20g is perfect. I have this on my 20g. I use "Daylight" Compact Fluorescent Bulbs having a Kelvin rating of 6500K. I happen to use GE brand, but Phillips and Sylvania make them too. I am using two 10w CFLs now, this is the lowest wattage and works fine for low and moderate light plants. The next size up is 13w, and there are others above that. The type of plants will dictate the bulb wattage. You want the least (lowest) for the plants; the higher the light intensity (brightness), the more likely algae will be a nuisance. Light and nutrients have to be in balance.

Byron.
 
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if your just staring out i would reccomend a lower intencity lighting and aim for low light plants, nothing worse then having a battle with algae, im in one right now because my lights are too strong, led might be up your alley i would pm jdm if you are more curious about those as he is using them in a planted tank and doing just fine
 

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That's correct. I'll be using my local tap water for water changes. I figure it'll be the cheapest way since I won't have to buy de-ionized or distilled water. Since I am on that topic, can you buy store-bought water depending on hardness and alkalinity? What is the purpose of testing for nitrates in the tap water? For plants, I'm not sure. I want something for beginners because this would be my first planted aquarium. I just want something that will thrive in my tank and that the fish will benefit from.
A little clarification... or just me rambling. Sometimes I'm not sure which it is...:roll:

If you test the GH and KH from the tap and you are not planting live plants it won't change much so it doesn't matter when you test it BUT even if you have plants and the water softens a bit as a result, your fresh water going in will always be the same so that is what you need to know. This helps to determine what fish you can keep and what plants might do well in your tank. Often it only needs to be tested once. I like to monitor my tank levels as well though.

If you are going to use plants and can get the ones that you want to start with and have the right bulbs as already suggested then I would suggest planting them all right away. This can avoid the whole tank nitrification cycling with it's associated spikes and allow you to add fish right away. Even so, don't add them all at once. The smaller the fish the more you could add though as it has to do with making sure that the plants can handle the ammonia that they produce. Two or three weeks between additions seems to work well.

On the nitrates:

The nitrification cycle takes ammonia and, through ammonia oxidizing organisms, produces nitrite which is then handled by another set of organisms to turn it into nitrate. We don't typically have anything to turn nitrate into harmless nitrogen gas in the aquarium so we need to rely on water changes to remove this build up. Some plants, particularly some floating plants like duckweed, amazon frogbit and similar, water hyacinth is actually used as a third stage water treatment in some countries, do use nitrates but often not enough to eliminate them. I have only ever seen 5ppm in my tank even after a 3 week hiatus from water changes due to a trip. Some substrate plants do this as well but I'm not sure how efficient they are or which ones do. This is where a good variety of plants is good.

If there are nitrates in your source water then you are starting out at a disadvantage. Anything over 20ppm should be of concern and it is best to keep it below 10ppm in the aquarium. Starting with 10ppm means that you only have a 10ppm margin rather than a 20ppm margin.

With plants and/or a properly cycled and established tank a bit of ammonia in the source water is of little concern but you should be aware of it so it is best to check for it. In another thread there is mention of the spring sometimes bringing changes in the water for any number of reasons, whether on a well or city supply, so it is probably best to do some seasonal water testing of your tap.

The plants are important as they use the ammonia before it gets to the nitrogen cycle. Every bit of ammonia that the plants use means less to become nitrite and, in turn, less to become nitrate.

As far as plants and ammonia sinking go, fast growing stems and floating plants are good starters. I have some dwarf hygrophila (polysperma) that are like bad weeds. I can cut them in half one week and still need to trim them a week or two later and my tank is just over 20" tall. I added duckweed for lack of any other available floater but it does a great job. I remove about half to 3/4's every week or two and the surface does fill back up quickly. Fast growth = ammonia usage. Others have anything from anacharis to watersprite

Hope that was helpful on some level.

Jeff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I have finished testing my tap water, however, I was in a rush so I didn't test for nitrite and nitrate. I had trouble matching the colors to the chart so some of these may be a little off. Now, here are my results.

KH - 3 drops; 3dKH; 53.7 (This is when it just started to turn a shade of yellow). It took 5 drops to actually turn closer to bright yellow.

GH - 5 drops; 5dGH; 89.5

Ph - 7.6 (I took a test for High-range Ph at that came out as 7.4.-7.8. The color was hard to match so I don't know which one to count it as.)

Ammonia - 0 ppm - 0.25 ppm (Once again, the color was hard to match and is somewhere inbetween.)
 

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I have finished testing my tap water, however, I was in a rush so I didn't test for nitrite and nitrate. I had trouble matching the colors to the chart so some of these may be a little off. Now, here are my results.

KH - 3 drops; 3dKH; 53.7 (This is when it just started to turn a shade of yellow). It took 5 drops to actually turn closer to bright yellow.

GH - 5 drops; 5dGH; 89.5

Ph - 7.6 (I took a test for High-range Ph at that came out as 7.4.-7.8. The color was hard to match so I don't know which one to count it as.)

Ammonia - 0 ppm - 0.25 ppm (Once again, the color was hard to match and is somewhere inbetween.)
With these results (GH and pH) we can now answer your intial question on suitable fish. And here you want to be looking at soft water species which includes most all of the characins, most of the cyprinids, many catfish, some cichlids (the Neotropical, here South American given the small tank size), some anatabids. The profiles (second heading from the left in the blue bar at the top) give preferred parameters for each species.

The pH should tend to lower in the aquarium with fish and plants. Chunks of wood will suit most all of the soft water fish.

Carry out the test for nitrite and nitrate, esp the latter, when you can. Hopefully you won't have to deal with either in the source water.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I've re-evaluated my tap water parameters, this time with nitrite and nitrate levels. The reason I did this is because I was skeptical about the results of my first approach, and this time, I have slightly different readings.

KH - 1 drop; 1dKH; 17.9 ppm

GH - 2 drops; 2dGH; 35.8

PH - 7.2

Ammonia - 0.25 ppm

Nitrite - 0 ppm

Nitrate - 5.0 ppm

This brings up a question that I have. I thought that you can't have Nitrite and Nitrate until Ammonia has spiked up and goes through the cycling process. How can my water have 0.25 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, and 5.0 Nitrate if it hasn't been cycled?
 

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I've re-evaluated my tap water parameters, this time with nitrite and nitrate levels. The reason I did this is because I was skeptical about the results of my first approach, and this time, I have slightly different readings.

KH - 1 drop; 1dKH; 17.9 ppm

GH - 2 drops; 2dGH; 35.8

PH - 7.2

Ammonia - 0.25 ppm

Nitrite - 0 ppm

Nitrate - 5.0 ppm

This brings up a question that I have. I thought that you can't have Nitrite and Nitrate until Ammonia has spiked up and goes through the cycling process. How can my water have 0.25 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, and 5.0 Nitrate if it hasn't been cycled?
It can just be already in your tap water, if that is what you are testing. That's some soft water, if you are going with plants you will need to bump up the GH... Byron will probably suggest what he uses for the same purpose.

Jeff.
 

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I've re-evaluated my tap water parameters, this time with nitrite and nitrate levels. The reason I did this is because I was skeptical about the results of my first approach, and this time, I have slightly different readings.

KH - 1 drop; 1dKH; 17.9 ppm

GH - 2 drops; 2dGH; 35.8

PH - 7.2

Ammonia - 0.25 ppm

Nitrite - 0 ppm

Nitrate - 5.0 ppm

This brings up a question that I have. I thought that you can't have Nitrite and Nitrate until Ammonia has spiked up and goes through the cycling process. How can my water have 0.25 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, and 5.0 Nitrate if it hasn't been cycled?
Are these tests of the aquarium water or the tap water? You say tap water at the start, but there is no "cycling" in tap water. If you are getting ammonia and nitrate showing in tests of just the tap water, that means your tap water has these present. This is not bad, the numbers are both low enough that you can easily deal with it. But I won't go further until you confirm these are all straight tap water tests.

The GH and KH I would confirm with the municipal water people, they probably have a website with this data. Soft water fish won't have issues with this, but some plants may find calcium and magnesium deficient [these are the prime minerals that determine GH] but this too is easily solved if necessary.

Byron.
 

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Jeff and I posted at much the same time.:)

GH at 2 dGH is very soft. My tap water is even less, about half of one dGH. As I said earlier, this is no problem for soft water fish. But plants do need calcium and magnesium, both are macro-nutrients having essential roles in plants. You could manage with low-light plants such as Anubias, Java Fern, and Java Moss. Low-light plants are slow growing, relatively speaking [if you saw my Java Moss you would seriously question this:lol:], and that means they need less nutrients. So the calcium and magnesium in your 2 dGH tap water will likely be sufficient. You can add some in complete liquid fertilizers like Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement. This is all you should need with such plants.

Moving up a notch, some other plants such as the crypts should also manage; I have chain sword and pygmy chain sword managing with just Flourish Comp, and Brazilian Pennywort and Water Sprite too.

The larger swords will not likely manage, or they might just. But in a 20g these are not suitable anyway. Vallisneria certainly will not; even when I raised my GH up to 6 dGH the Vallisneria slowly but steadily died off.

As for the pH, is is just on the basic side of neutral. Once the aquarium is established with plants and fish, I would expect the pH will lower below neutral. The KH is quite low, and this when higher can "buffer" pH to prevent this, but I wouldn't expect it here. And that is fine too. Fish have no issue with this, nor do plants. And over time the tank will be biologically stable. Water changes are not an issue. My tap water is 7 to 7.2 but the tanks remain in the mid 6's.

Now to the ammonia and nitrates in the tap water. Plants need nitrogen, and aquatic plants generally prefer ammonium (ammonia) as their source of nitrogen. And they can take up quite a lot of it. This is why you can avoid the "cycle" issue completely in tanks with live plants provided you don't add too many fish at the beginning. Some plants also use nitrates; most do this only when ammonium (ammonia) is no longer sufficient for photosynthesis, and provided all other nutrients and light are still available. The only real issue is the influx of ammonia and nitrate at the weekly water change. Using a conditioner that detoxifies ammonia [which they do by changing ammonia to ammonium which is basically harmless to fish] might be advisable.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I am relievied to know that there are others out there with tap water similar to mine. I was worried that my water would be unusable. Before I start filling my tank and placing things inside of it, I want to plan out what fish I want to get so that I can create a habitat similar to its natural home.

I wrote down the plants you named as considerations. Do certain fish like certain plants, or are some fish picky when it comes to plants? Also, I was thinking about using rocks and/or wood inside of the tank. What kinds would be good that won't leach any harmful chemicals in my water and are suitable for freshwater tanks.

I heard that changing the pH, GH, and KH can be tricky business. Is this true?
 

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I am relievied to know that there are others out there with tap water similar to mine. I was worried that my water would be unusable. Before I start filling my tank and placing things inside of it, I want to plan out what fish I want to get so that I can create a habitat similar to its natural home.

I wrote down the plants you named as considerations. Do certain fish like certain plants, or are some fish picky when it comes to plants? Also, I was thinking about using rocks and/or wood inside of the tank. What kinds would be good that won't leach any harmful chemicals in my water and are suitable for freshwater tanks.

I heard that changing the pH, GH, and KH can be tricky business. Is this true?
You will have no issues with fish and plants as the fish suitable for a 20g will all be plant loving.:)

Wood is always a plus with soft water fish as it is natural to almost all their habitats. I like the Malaysian Driftwood, dark brown, heavy so it sinks immediately, and it is not bad for initial tannins (which are harmless to fish anyway). Rock sometimes, just make sure it is not calcareous as some of this (dolomite, limestone, marble) can raise the GH and pH.

Adjusting GH and pH can be done, but it is advisable to select fish suited to the water as this will mean less fuss, easier water changes, and less expense. My article on Hardness goes into this a bit:
http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/freshwater-articles/water-hardness-ph-freshwater-aquarium-73276/

The options for fish in your water are almost endless. Check the species in our profiles [second heading from the left in the blue bar at the top] under characins, cyprinids (avoid barbs and danios, these are active and better in larger tanks, but the rasbora are good), catfish, anabantids. There are many smallish species in these categories.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I will check out fish profiles and I will let you all know what I am interested in getting and have you guys confirm it. I heard of people boiling wood and rocks. Would I have to do that with Malaysian driftwood? I hope my LFS sells it. I know they have rocks but I'm not sure about real wood.
 

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I will check out fish profiles and I will let you all know what I am interested in getting and have you guys confirm it. I heard of people boiling wood and rocks. Would I have to do that with Malaysian driftwood? I hope my LFS sells it. I know they have rocks but I'm not sure about real wood.
I no longer bother with boiling bought wood. If you get the Malaysian Driftwood, it is not too bad for tannins, and it can be soaked in a bucket of water for a few days. Anyway, the tannins are not harmful and will dissipate with weekly water changes.

This wood is available in Petsmart, and some other stores. I have seen it under other names. It is very dark brown or reddish brown, uniform colour, and each piece is different as it is natural wood. Some of it has tunnels, which is nice with fish like loaches, corys, some catfish.

The lighter woods like Mopani, grapewood, manzanita are sometimes seen but I avoid these. First, they do not sink without being weighed down somehow, second they leech tannins more, and third they may contain toxic fungus.

Byron.
 
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