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Starter tank- size/stock recommendations?

2601 Views 23 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  boygirlmama
We live in a (first floor) apartment and our rental community says aquariums must be 25 gallons or less. I'm completely new to fishkeeping, but have been interested in beginning it as a hobby for years. Now that my children are also interested, I think it's a good time to start (small). Eventually I dream of a massive saltwater tank! ;)

Having read that the folks at chain stores aren't super knowledgeable about fish, I headed to a local shop to ask questions. They recommended a 10 gallon with a betta, some mollies, 2 cory catfish, a few platies, 2 clown loaches, and some tetras. In general, I feel that the person I spoke with was helpful and knew a lot. He knew proper betta care, what not to put with bettas, etc... but I'm a little concerned that some of those fish should not be housed in a 10 gallon.
What are your honest recommendations for the size I should start with, and what would be good to stock it with?

Also, he told me I only need to cycle for 1.5-2 weeks for a small size aquarium. Is that true? (I was thinking no, which is why I wanted to ask early- I am planning to surprise my daughter with her first fish for her mid-August birthday and wanted to have plenty of time to ready the tank first)

Thanks in advance for any and all advice. :)
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I do agree with the 10 gallon part! The bigger the aquarium, the easier it is to care for ^_^

However, Mollies can grow to be 5 inches each so I would scratch them, Clown loaches also can reach up to 16 inches so I'd scratch them as well. You could do: 1 Betta, a shoal of 5-6 Corydoras Habrosus (small enough to be happy in the 10 but still active enough) and a shoal of 6-7 Ember Tetras if you can find them! That would make a very happy tank indeed! Platies, as with most livebearers, are very messy and they poop everywhere terribly so I'd scratch them too if you want a nice clean tank.

Cycle is still a month's worth regardless of what size tank it is. If it's 2 gallon or 200 gallons, it still takes roughly a month if you do it right. There are ways to make it shorter like adding seeded material (filter material from an established tank from the LFS or a friend) or by adding live plants (although this is an entirely different world from fish and once you get sucked in, you'll never be able to return! lol). You have your choice of methods though if you take a look in our stickies you will find different ways to Cycle including Fish-In (a fish in the tank to feed the good bacteria), Fish-Less (usually using fish food or pure ammonia to cycle in less time ~2.5-3 weeks) or Silent Cycle which is using a planted tank to keep the fish safe.

It's whatever you feel comfortable with and we'd be happy to explain each of them after you look through the stickies ^_^
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Petco is going to have the $1/gallon sale on the last week in June. A 20 long would be a good choice for a first tank.
Go with a 20L. As stated above, mollys get too big. Platys, guppys or Endlers will work. I'm biased but I recommend Endlers. As for corys, you need at least 5-6. You will also need to find corys that top out smaller, pandas for example would work fine. Loaches, Kuhli would be all I could think of in a 20L and I'd get 3-4. As for tetras, skip them and get harliquin rasboras.

Make sure you cycle as suggested above, 1.5-2 weeks will not work for a tank like that. Also, figure out what type of filtration you would like and run the idea by folks here. Rule with filters, more is better.

Last suggestion, purchase your fish one group at a time. The tank like any ecosystem will need to adapt.
Ive got a 20 gallon tall. Right now its inhabitants include 6 platys (3 adults and 3 babies) and 4 glo fish. I was wondering if I could add like 3 guppies (maybe more) and maybe 3 more platys. Id also like to add a ghost shrimp or 2. Advice please. Good idea bad idea? Or at least number reccomendations I could add. Also could I add a ghost shrimp or 2 to my 5 gallons with my bettas?
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I'm back. :)

After long hard thought and knowing I wanted to start small and grow (I know the likelihood I will become an addict is high, lol), I decided to stick with a 10 gallon. It is cycled and ready. So far we have added two tetra and two albino cory catfish.
When we add again, I am planning a few more tetra. I have nixed the idea of a male betta entirely and am thinking of just a female. I would love to find a gorgeous "showcase" type fish that would do well in this tank as well. Clearly it is mostly going to be a tetra tank because I know they do better in schools and I definitely wanted to avoid live bearers.

My local fish store recommended gourami as a stunning smaller fish. Any thoughts? I want to do this right and would love recommendations.
My plan has been to start small and if we truly enjoy this as a hobby, move up to a 20 or larger maybe in the next year.
It depends on the Gourami you're looking at. You can get a Sparkling or Croaking (two different species) Gourami which are much smaller than your average Dwarf Gourami and honestly more interesting IMHO ;-) I have Sparkling Gouramis and you could easily have a pair in the 10 gallon with around 10 Ember Tetras and have a great looking tank! ^_^

Don't mix the gourami and Betta though, it's one or the other :)
I just looked up all three of those. Pretty fish! I agree with those choices as far as adding some color/showcase look. I just want a really colorful tank overall, with good hardy fish that will do well in a 10g. When we move up, they'll be moved to the larger tank.
I love the tank I got too. The Tetra 10g LED kit from Petco. The Whisper filter is amazingly quiet. So far I am a fan of the whole setup. :)
And are you good with the cycling process now or do you still need help with that? I recommend the Fish-Less method since you don't have any fish right now, it will be much more stable and easier in the end ^_^
Oh no, we do have fish! We are already cycled. I used Safe Start Plus to aid in that, and everything is good to go. We have 2 bottom feeder Albino Cory Catfish, and 2 tetras. One is a Candy Cane tetra (I can't begin to type the actual name, but the local fish store sells them as Candy Canes- they are white with red tips) and one is an Orange Von Rio. Those we started with, and will get a few more of. I didn't want to start with too many.
Ooh okay! really should have a whole school of each of those Tetras, they don't school with other species within Tetras so it's bad for their health if they don't have a school of their own. Same goes for the Cories, they need a school of at least 5.
That's what I was thinking, but the store was telling me that it didn't always matter? That didn't seem to make sense to me though after reading about schooling fish.
I don't want to overload the tank. I know sometimes you can go above recommendations, but then how do you manage the bioload? I don't want to be killing the fish.

Because we'd need 4 more of each of those tetras and 4 more Cories.

I really can't move up to a 20 gallon until at least Christmas time cost wise. My husband is in medical school, so money is a little tight.
That's what I was thinking, but the store was telling me that it didn't always matter? That didn't seem to make sense to me though after reading about schooling fish.
I don't want to overload the tank. I know sometimes you can go above recommendations, but then how do you manage the bioload? I don't want to be killing the fish.
Because we'd need 4 more of each of those tetras and 4 more Cories.
I really can't move up to a 20 gallon until at least Christmas time cost wise. My husband is in medical school, so money is a little tight.
One thing I learned over the years is that stores aren't always correct and you will soon notice it is better to research then buy the fish; not vice versa.
I undestand that you don't want to overload the tank and it is ok if you go slightly over the recommendations, however that doesn't mean you cram it with fishies. A good idea is to look on aqadvisor - click here and see what you levels are like. I just did a quick estimate, however I not 100% sure what a candy cane tetra is and what the dimensions of your tank is. So far you tank stocking level is around 60%, however I do find that the site is to be used as a guide and I know many people - myself included - that stock over 100% without problems. A good guide is to stock the tank around 150% or less. :lol: Many of us manage with an overload on the bio by having a mature tank, over time you tank will mature too.
Personally I would think about returning one of the tetras and doing something along these lines:
5 - 7 maybe 8 of a tetra school either von rio or candy canes
4 cories
and maybe a centerplace fish like a dwarf gourami - Trichogaster lalius - or a honey gourami - Trichogaster chuna - would look good and finish off the tank IMO. Maybe think about including shrimp as they have a small bioload and will add interest in the tank. :)
I do believe that all the fish that I suggested will do fine for 6 months until you get a 20g - preferably a long as you can house more fishies. Once you get a 20 you could think about adding some more fishes...
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Yeah I'm with aussie, best to stick to one school of fish, either the candy canes or the con rio's not both. (We have Candy canes down here too ^_^ they're nice fish)

I would actually get rid of the Cories since you have gravel substrate, eventually it will wear on their barbels and they can end up with infection but if you get rid of the cories you can bump up your school safely and add a centerpiece fish to go along. I'd suggest the Honey Gourami, MUCH more peaceful than the Dwarf's and smaller so they have slightly less bio-load so you don't have to worry so much.
See I did do my own research! And then second guessed myself with the so called fish experts in the store. It's a family owned store too.
I feel very torn right now because this is my daughter's birthday present and she is in love with the movie The Reef so she wanted an orange fish and a pink fish. That's why we went with the Von Rio's and Candy Canes. I had it in the back of my head that all tetras need to school, but planned to get more of each later. I am doing a slow add.
And I didn't know about the Cory cats with the sand substrate. My son already is attached to them, so what about this?
What if I sometime soon move the Cories to a second 10 gallon with a sand substrate? Then have the tetras, both schools, and one or 2 gourami's in the first 10 gallon. Is that possible?
My birthday is 12/2 and then of course Christmas so I will have extra $$$ to start a larger tank then too. But I can swing a second 10 gallon Tetra kit here soon.
Then what would you put with the Cories? What else would do okay with sand substrate?

And out of curiosity, when should I complete my tetra schools? I should still wait right? My Von Rio is fine, but the Candy Cane seems really shy.
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It's okay, we live and we learn! ^_^

Yeah, The Reef was a cute movie :-D it might be okay if you do 4 of each but you'll have to nix the Gourami if you want the Von Rios, Candy Canes and the Cories and yes you can change the substrate to sand if you wanted to or get another tank, that's all up to you. The fish should be okay for the time being, they won't be overly happy but they won't just up and die on you generally (unless for other reasons).

If you do want to do separate 10's then I'd go with this:

10 gallon 1
5 Von Rios
5 Candy Canes

10 Gallon 2
4-5 Cories
3 Honey Gourami (1M:2F)
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Okay, that sounds like a good plan.
The 10 gallon kit was only $69.99 at Petco and came with everything except filter cartridges, substrate, and decor of course. I can probably swing that late next month.
I'll keep the 2 Cories in there for now, get just a few more of each tetra, and move the Cories and finish the schools once we get the second 10 gallon.
Or I'll look for a 20. Hmmm.
hehe, yeah the 20 is only a few bucks more XD Actually if you finagle it just right for PetCo's dollar per gallon sale and build up your tank that way, it's much cheaper but they won't be having one for a little while now :-/

Have you thought about getting tanks for Craigslist? It might be a much cheaper route in the end and you can save money to get other things! :-D
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