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librarygirl 07-29-2012 01:40 PM

Guide to Starting a Freshwater Aquarium (including Planted Tanks)
 
Guide to Starting a Freshwater Aquarium (including Planted Tanks)

Aquariums can be a relaxing and enjoyable addition to any home that will provide both you and your fish a stable, healthy and happy environment…assuming you know the basics. While it may seem intimidating when first getting involved in the hobby, with a bit of knowledge, you may be surprised at how simple and fun things can be. This guide covers the basics: from tank size, live plants, heaters and filters to decorations, cycling and more.

This is a long article; feel free to jump to the parts that interest you or you have questions about. The Index below should help guide you through the content. At the end of the article is the fishless cycling guide and then the fish-in cycle guide.

*The information presented here is based on my own personal experience and research as well as information that may be considered common knowledge among aquarists. However, one of the most important aspects of fish-keeping is to do your own research. Always get second opinions before making decisions and remember that just because someone sounds like they know what they’re talking about, it doesn’t mean they are always correct…myself included.

Index:

Part I
1……Cycling (the Nitrogen Cycle)
2……Aquarium Size
3……Aquarium Stands
4……Filtration
5……Substrate
6……Lights
7……Dechlorinator (Conditioner)
8……Testing Kit
9……Heater
10….Thermometer
11….Air Stones
12….Plants (Live, plastic, silk)
13….Decorations
14….Siphon/Vacuum
15….Fish Food & Feeding
16….Aquarium Salt
17….Other Supplies
18….Stocking Your Tank
19….Acclimating New Fish
20….Maintenance


Part II

21….Fishless Cycling Guide

Part III

22….Fish-In Cycling Guide


Part I
1…Cycling (The Nitrogen Cycle)
Cycling an aquarium properly is the single most important aspect of starting a new aquarium, which is why it’s listed first. Most fish store workers will tell you to let the aquarium run for a week or so and then add fish. This unfortunately is bad advice; letting a tank “run” will not properly cycle the tank. Cycling means growing the correct bacteria needed to consume the toxins (ammonia) your fish put out through waste. Growing these bacteria does take time (1-3 months) and cannot happen in one week.

There are different methods of cycling a tank and colonizing those bacteria and the path you choose is entirely your decision. This will be the most important choice you will make for your new aquarium…so research deeply and choose wisely.

The two basic methods are Fishless Cycling and Fish-In Cycling.
There are pros and cons to both forms, so do your research, weigh your options and select the method that fits best with your knowledge, experience level and willingness to be committed to your aquarium.

Before you purchase fish please read the information below and decide which you would rather do (fishless and fish-in cycling how-to guides are posted at the end of this article – Parts II and III). Keep in mind that both methods are valid, however fish-in cycling requires daily commitment to your tank to ensure the safety and well-being of your fish. If you are not able to commit to potentially daily water testing and water changes for 1-3 months please consider fishless cycling.

Fishless Cycling Pros

– No fish are at risk or exposed to dangerous toxins
– Very little maintenance during the process. Limited water changes, adding pure ammonia and testing your parameters is all that’s involved.
– The ability to (usually) fully stock your tank once the tank is cycled instead of adding fish very slowly over time


Fishless Cycling Cons

– Requires patience
– You’ll have an empty fish tank sitting around for a while

Fish-in Cycling Pros

–You can have a few fish in the tank immediately

Fish-in Cycling Cons

–Fish are at risk of ammonia / nitrite poisoning if not properly cared for
–Requires absolute responsibility and dedication in order to keep your fish healthy
–Water changes and testing daily are often required (also there is no such thing as too many water changes during fish-in cycling as long as you are using temperature- matched conditioned water).


2…Aquarium Size
Before purchasing an aquarium, survey your available space and get the largest aquarium you can fit into your home. Why? Believe it or not, larger aquariums are easier to maintain than smaller aquariums plus your options for fish will be increased with a larger aquarium. There is also more room for error in larger aquariums since there is more water to dissipate toxins if something goes wrong.

A good tank size to start with would be a 20 gal long aquarium; fish options are greatly increased with this size tank plus it has a lot of surface area and horizontal swim room for active fish. Most beginners start with a 10 gal aquarium which is fine, however fish options are fairly limited in a 10 gal tank plus the smaller the tank the smaller margin for error.

Also keep in mind the weight of the aquarium on your floor when filled with water, particularly if your aquarium is going to be on an upper level.

A note on Aquarium Kits:
The all-in-one kits may be tempting to buy and can be useful however most of the time the filters they come with are barely enough for the tank size. It’s often better (and cheaper) to buy the pieces separately so that you can custom build your aquarium to your specifications.

Quarantine Tank:
While you’re aquarium shopping you may want to purchase a 10 gal tank to use for quarantine. If a fish develops illness in your main tank you may want to quarantine it for treatment rather than treating the whole tank. You should also quarantine new fish for a minimum of at least 2 weeks (4 is preferred) before putting them into your main tank to monitor the fish for potential illnesses to avoid introducing sick fish into your main tank. Also running an extra filter on your main tank, which you can then use to instantly cycle a quarantine tank, is a good idea and can save you a lot of time and frustration if an emergency arises.

Upgrading Tanks:
There are often a lot of questions about how to upgrade your current tank to a larger one. Fortunately this is easy if your current tank is already established and cycled. Remember the filter you have on your current tank is already seeded with the proper bacteria to take care of the toxins and waste your current fish load puts out, so you’ll want to utilize this in your new tank. Often a larger tank requires a larger filter. You can seed the new filter in one of two ways: 1) Move your current filter to the new tank and run it along with the new filter for at least one month. This will instantly cycle the larger tank for your current fish and give time for bacteria to grow on the new filter. 2) You can take out all media (sponges, pads, bio-rings, etc.) from your current filter and insert it into the new filter; if there’s room left you can fill the new filter the rest of the way with the new media it came with. This should also instantly cycle the tank for your current fish load. Whatever method you choose, it is advised to test the tank daily for a week to ensure that there are no toxin spikes, particularly if you’ve changed out other items in the tank like substrate. When the tank is stable you can introduce more fish, but keep in mind that the bacteria on your filter is enough for your current fish load only. When you add more fish, the bacteria need time to adjust and grow for the higher fish load. Therefore, add new fish SLOWLY (1-2 every 2-3 weeks) and monitor the tank closely for toxin spikes. Be sure to research fish prior to purchasing.

Bacteria Starters:
There is a lot of debate among hobbyists as to whether to use bacteria starters or cycle boosters to aid in cycling an aquarium (such as Tetra Safe Start and Nutrafin Cycle). Generally they are not needed and in some cases do not work. Some bacteria starters contain the wrong types of bacteria and even if they do contain the correct types it can be very difficult to keep bacteria viable that is kept in a bottle and shipped from place-to-place under various temperature conditions.

If you want to safely add bacteria to your tank to aid in cycling find someone with a healthy established tank and ask them for some of their filter media to place into your filter. If you don’t know of anyone with an established tank, AngelsPlus sells “active” seeded sponge filters from their Angel Fish tanks which have helped many (myself included) with their cycles (both fish-in and fishless). Just ensure that the sponge filter you buy says “active” next to it or else you are just purchasing a plain filter.


3…Aquarium Stands
Think about the surface your aquarium is going to stand on and be sure that it can hold the weight of a full aquarium. Purchase an aquarium stand built for aquariums or you can even build your own.


4…Filtration
Filtration is very important for any aquarium and the more filtration the better. You generally want a higher level of filtration than your tank size; so if you have a 30 gal tank and your filter is rated for aquariums up to 30 gals you may want to invest in a larger filter (or more than one). A good rule of thumb is to purchase filtration that is at least double the size for your tank, so if you have a 20 gal tank purchase a filter that’s rated for at least a 40 gal aquarium.

There are many types of filters: under-gravel (UG), hang on the back (HOB), internal and canister. Most internal and HOB filters are the best choice; canister filters can also be great for larger tanks. Some recommended brands are Aquaclear (HOB) and Fluval (internal or canister), or Eheim (canister).

Most filters come with filter media which is the “stuff” that goes inside the filter; this can be ceramic rings, sponges, pads, etc. Some filters also come with charcoal. There is some debate on whether charcoal is needed for an aquarium. Mostly charcoal is used to remove medications from the water after treating for illness but generally charcoal isn’t needed at any other time. You can keep the charcoal in the filter without any harmful effects but you can also choose to replace the carbon with another form of filter insert such as a sponge or ceramic rings.

Most manufacturers say to replace filter media every x amount of months but this is incorrect. The beneficial bacteria your aquarium needs mostly live on your filter media and replacing the media can cause your tank to recycle depending upon the amount you change. Generally filter media does not need to be replaced until it is literally falling apart (which can be years) and if you do need to replace some filter media replace a small portion at a time.


5…Substrate
Gravel or sand? It largely depends on your preference. If you are thinking of stocking your tank with bottom feeders that like to burrow or sift through the substrate (like Khuli Loaches or Corydoras just for an example), sand may be the best choice.

Sand should be rinsed multiple times or else it will cloud up your tank for a while (and even with rinsing there may be some temporary cloudiness). Pour the sand into buckets and stir it up repeatedly with your hand, dump the cloudy water and repeat until the water runs clear. You can also rinse the sand through a clean pillow cover. Some of the finer sands can get into your filter mechanism and cause issues but this shouldn’t be a reason to forego sand entirely. Aquarium sands sold at fish stores are fine to use. Many aquarists also choose to use Pool Filter Sand which can be cheaper. Sand also looks more natural than gravel so if you’re looking for a natural-look to your aquarium you may like sand better. Sand is actually easier to keep clean than gravel as gravel offers many small spaces for leftover food and waste to hide and potentially foul the water if not cleaned properly.

For tanks utilizing live plants, many aquarists choose to use a nutrient-rich substrate. Here is a link to Substrate Articles and FAQ (originally posted by Wasserpest): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=184631

Gravel is easier to prepare: usually just rinsing it off a few times in hot water is sufficient. Some gravel can deteriorate over time where the coloring washes off and you’re left with whitish colored gravel. This probably depends on the brand of gravel you are using although most aquarium gravels should be fine. Gravels come in various colors as well so if you’d like a more colorful tank then you may prefer gravel over sand.


6…Lights
The standard lights that often come with aquariums are sufficient for viewing fish and possibly for growing low-light live plants. Lights should be kept on a day/night cycle as fish require some dark time. Lights can be generally kept on for up to 10 hours per day without any negative effects.

Some light fixtures have a built-in moonlight effect or you can build your own. Moonlights can be kept on for a few hours at night but leaving them on overnight is not recommended.

A Note on Black lights:
There are some fish (Glofish for example) that are genetically engineered to “glow” under backlight. While a few hours per day under backlights should be fine for fish this should not be the sole source of light. A standard daylight aquarium bulb should be used most of the time.
Lighting in a planted aquarium plays a vital role in which live plants you can grow successfully and whether you will need to inject CO2. More on this is found below in the Plants section (#12).


7…Dechlorinator
A water dechlorinator (also known as conditioner) is a must-have; it detoxifies the chemicals in your water so that it is safe for aquarium use. Seachem Prime is highly recommended due to the fact that it is highly concentrated and less Prime does the same job as more of most other brands and will therefore last longer. Prime also helps detoxify nitrite and ammonia in an aquarium which can be helpful in situations where toxins are present such as during fish-in cycling. Other similar brands are API Stress Coat, Amquel, API Tap Water Conditioner and Tetra AquaSafe.
Follow the dosing guidelines on the bottle of the dechlorinator you plan to use.

When doing water changes it is often asked how to dose dechlorinator. You can do this in one of two ways:

1) Dose for each gallon you are replacing. If you are using buckets to fill the tank, you can dose each bucket with the appropriate amount of dechlorinator prior to putting it into the tank. So, if you have 5 gal buckets dose enough for each bucket (see the dosing guidelines on the dechlorinator; for example, Prime dosing is 2 drops per gallon).

2) Dose for the entire volume of the tank. If you are using an automatic water changer that attaches to your faucet (like a garden hose or the Aqueon Water Changer) you should add the dechlorinator straight to the tank and dose enough for the whole tank. So if your tank is 40 gallons and the dechlorinator instructions says one capful treats 50 gallons then you can add one capful to the tank and then refill. You can use this method with buckets as well. Water dechlorinators work instantaneously so there’s no need to let treated water sit out before replacing.


8…Testing kit
A water testing kit is essential for any fish keeper. You will need to check your water regularly to ensure that all levels are safe for fish and to test the water if you see any problems developing with your fish. A good liquid test kit is recommended as opposed to test strips. Strips are cheaper in the short-term however they do not last long and they are generally inaccurate. The best liquid test kit that is recommended by most hobbyists is the API Master Kit.

A note on the API Tests:
It can be difficult to read the ammonia test colors on the API Kit. Often, the 0 reading may look slightly greenish depending upon the lighting conditions in the room. When in doubt, move to a better light source. You can also test some distilled or spring water and compare the tube to your tank’s test; if they match, the tank’s ammonia is 0. The nitrate test is finicky and can cause inaccurate readings if not done correctly. Shake and BANG both nitrate bottles on a hard surface for 30 seconds and then once both drops are in the tube, shake the tube vigorously for a full 60 seconds and then wait 5 minutes for the result.


9…Heaters
If you are thinking of setting up a tropical aquarium, you will need a heater. Be sure that the wattage is enough to heat your size tank but don’t buy a heater that is too large for your aquarium; a 200 watt heater isn’t good for a 5 gal tank as it may potentially overheat your tank if it malfunctions– larger isn’t always better when it comes to heaters. Often the packaging on the heater will tell you how many gallons the heater can support. Also purchasing an adjustable heater so that you can control the temperature is highly recommended. Some good adjustable heaters are Aqueon and Fluval.


10…Thermometer
You want an in-tank thermometer to ensure that the heater temperature is accurate. Some heaters often heat the water to +/- 1-2 degrees from which they are set so it’s always best to double-check. A mercury thermometer is preferred over the external stick-on thermometers which can be hard to read and often not accurate.


11…Air Stones
An air stone or bubble wand isn’t a must-have for an aquarium. If you like the aesthetic quality of the bubbles then purchasing an air stone and air pump can be fun and fine to use. As long as your filter agitates the surface of the water there should be sufficient oxygen exchange and an air stone isn’t needed unless you want one. However if your filter fails an air stone can provide an emergency backup allowing oxygen into the water until your filter is fixed or replaced.

If you live in an area where power outages are common you may want to invest in a battery operated air stone (sold at some fishing supply shops and larger department stores in the fishing section) to provide oxygen for the fish until power is restored. Also the higher the temperature in the tank the less oxygen is in the tank so an air stone can help with that as well (such as if you are treating a disease like Ich and need to raise the temperature in the aquarium over 80).


12…Plants
Plastic, silk and real plants are all options. Plastic plants are commonly sold at pet/fish stores and are safe to use, just remove any stickers that may be on them from the stores and soak in hot water before placing in the aquarium. Plastic plants will last for years and are easily maintained by occasionally rinsing them off in old tank water during a water change. Some plastic plants have sharp edges that can injure some fish however.

Silk plants
are like plastic plants but softer and they also can seem more life-like as opposed to plastic plants. They too will last a long time and maintenance is the same as they are for plastic plants.

Live plants
are often a favorite and can be a hobby in itself. Your aquarium lighting will largely dictate which live plants you can safely grow in an aquarium. Most aquariums come with a single standard T8 florescent bulb which should be able to maintain very low-light plants such as Anubias, Java Fern, and mosses such as Java Moss.

A list of low-light plants can be found here (originally posted by Homer_Simpson): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=56042

Healthy plants also provide another form of natural filtration as they can consume excess nitrates and toxins in the water…but uncared for plants do more harm than good as rotting plants can contribute to bad water quality which in turn can harm your fish. Also do research prior to investing in live plants: ensure that your lighting is sufficient for the plants you wish to grow and be wary of plants sold at large chain fish stores as most of those plants are not fully aquatic and may rot in your aquarium if left underwater for a long period of time.

Fish can tell the difference between real and fake plants. Many fish use real plants to hide from predators or to spawn (mate) and even lay eggs. Some fry (baby fish) and shrimp use dense plants such as Moss to hide in until they are large enough to swim among other fish without being eaten.

Lighting also plays a role in a planted aquarium: the higher the light, the more chance for algae without proper CO2. Many hobbyists also dose fertilizers in either dry or liquid form to provide nutrients for the plants. Here are some links:

Algae
Internet Resource Guide (originally posted by GateKeeper): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=137368

Aquascaping
Threads. (originally posted by observant_imp): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=16974

Basics
to Starting a Planted Tank.
http://www.plantedtank.net/articles/Basics-to-starting-a-Planted-Tank/4/


CO2 chart
(originally posted by GDominy):
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=23531


Comparison of Lighting Types (Lumens and Watts) (originally posted by BlueRam):
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=21052


Fertilizer
Calculators & Dosing Recipes:
http://www.theaquatools.com/fertilization-calculator

http://tinycalc.petalphile.com/

https://sites.google.com/site/aquati...r/home/pps-pro

http://www.thenutrientcompany.com/aquarium/calculators/

http://www.aquariumslife.com/aquasca...izer-solution/

http://www.bestaquariumregulator.com/dosing.html

http://www.aquascapist.com/co2-ferti...y-fertilizers/


Glossary
Terms, FAQs, useful links and search tips. (originally posted by edrock200):
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=27118


Lighting Articles
& FAQ (originally posted by Wasserpest): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=184634

Planted Tank Articles
(articles on various topics such as Starting a Planted Tank, Aquascaping Principles, Calculators and Converters and more): http://www.plantedtank.net/articles.php?d

Plant Database
: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/myPlants.php

Plants to be Aware of
(illegal plants) (originally posted by CAF): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=52433


13…Decorations
This is the fun part. There are many types of aquarium decorations from underwater ships to Greek Coliseums to driftwood and everything in between. As long as the decoration is stated as being aquarium safe it should be fine to use. Just remove any stickers from the store and rinse the decor under hot water before placing in the aquarium. Be wary of using reptile decorations in an aquarium as some may be pre-treated with pesticides; if in doubt, contact the manufacturer prior to placing these in an aquarium.

Natural driftwood is also a choice for many hobbyists who want to create a life-like underwater scene. Mopani, Malaysian and Manzanita are common types of driftwood. Many local retailers and online shops sell driftwood. You will need to soak the driftwood in hot or boiling water in order release the tannins inside the wood; often these tannins will produce a tea color to your water however this is not harmful to fish. It is also normal for natural driftwood to grow a white fungus-like substance for the first few months after it is placed in your aquarium which is not harmful and will go away in time.

Also some natural driftwood will not sink on its own right away but should sink on its own in time. You can attach a piece of slate to the bottom of the wood with aquarium safe silicone or stainless steel screws.

Also keep in mind that some driftwood may reduce your water’s PH in the aquarium, so keep this in mind. You can test the PH of the water that the driftwood is soaking in to see if the PH drops.


14…Siphon/Vacuum
Vacuuming the substrate in your tank is essential to removing fish waste and leftover food which can damage water quality (vacuuming often during fish-in cycling has no negative effects on the cycle). Siphons also make it easier to pump the water out of the aquarium for water changes.

There are many siphons to choose from; if you are thinking of maintaining a larger tank (15+ gallons) an automatic water changer such as the Aqueon or Python changer can be useful. These changers connect to standard faucets and eliminate the need for buckets. (If you use a manual changer for water changes you will need to dose the aquarium with dechlorinator prior to adding the water and remember to add enough dechlorinator for the entire volume of the tank, not just the water you are replacing).


15…Fish Food & Feeding
Fish like variety just as humans do. There are many fish foods on the market, too many to go into here. Some of the recommended brands are Hikari and New Life Spectrum. Some fish even like (or require) fresh vegetables. Some bottom feeders such as Corys (Corydoras) should be supplemented with algae wafers or shrimp pellets. There are also frozen foods, sinking foods, pellets, wafers, flakes and many others. Research the best types of food for your fish and try to give some variety. Note that freeze-dried foods are not recommended as they can cause bloating issues in fish; if freeze-dried foods are given they should be used as an occasional treat only and soaking the food in tank water for a few minutes may help combat some of the digestion issues associated with freeze-dried foods.

Regardless of whatever food(s) you choose, overfeeding is very easy to do and can be detrimental to fish health and water quality. Fish always seem hungry but they can be easily overfed which can cause bloating and swim bladder issues. One rule of thumb is to feed your fish no more than they can eat in 1-3 minutes and most fish (except for fry – baby fish – which need to be fed more often) do fine with once per day feedings. It’s also good practice to fast your fish one day per week so that their digestive tracts can clean themselves out. Feeding your fish a thawed, de-shelled, frozen, unsalted pea once per week can also help them digest their food and combat constipation (just remove any uneaten peas after a few hours).

Some fish like Otos (Otoncinclus) and Goldfish do well with eating vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber and spinach. You can slice the food and blanch it (boil it for a few minutes and then dunk it in cold water) prior to putting it into the aquarium. Remove any uneaten food after a couple of hours.


16…Aquarium Salt
Aquarium salt is generally not needed in freshwater aquariums (although as with most things in this hobby this point has been debated). Most large chain fish stores will tell you that aquarium salt is required but this is not true. Aquarium salt is only generally needed to treat certain diseases or injury and is not required otherwise.

Some fish do need brackish water (slightly salted water but not quite enough to qualify as Saltwater) such as certain types of Mollys (some have been raised in freshwater only so ask what type of water these fish are kept in before purchasing), Bumblebee Gobys, and certain types of Puffers.


17…Other Supplies
–fish net
–bucket(s) and/or an automatic water changer (e.g. Aqueon Water Changer)

As you go along you may need to acquire other tools such as medications, breeding traps, etc. depending on your setup and what your aquarium requires. These tools generally can be purchased later if needed but not required at the beginning. Just remember that owning an aquarium is a responsibility so be prepared for the eventuality that you may need to run to the store to purchase something if the need arises.


18…Stocking Your Tank
There is an old-school rule of fish stocking which says that 1″ of fish can be added per 1 gallon of water. This of course would dictate that a 10″ fish would fit in a 10 gallon aquarium, which is just silly. So then what’s the rule? Unfortunately there isn’t one easy rule to follow when stocking a tank. Adult fish size, activity level, bioload, etc. all need to be taken into account when planning the proper fish for your size tank.

For example, since Goldfish are large, messy fish the general rule is 20 gallons for the first goldfish and 10 gallons for each additional fish, so if you wanted 3 goldfish you would need a 40 gal tank. This is just for Fancy goldfish; goldfish like Koi, Comets or Commons grow too large for home aquariums and should be kept in ponds.

Neon Tetras are very small fish and are commonly sold so it should be OK to put a group of them in a 5 gal tank right? Unfortunately no. Neons are also very active swimmers and need a good amount of horizontal swim space in order to thrive properly; at least a 20 gal long aquarium would be ideal for these fish.

Glofish are also another type of fish that are often sold with very small tanks; Glofish are Danios which are active fish and require a lot of swim room, therefore a 20 gal minimum is often recommended for these fish to thrive.

Bettas (Siamese Fighting Fish) can be kept in small jars like at the store, yes? No. Bettas thrive in heated tanks with ample room to swim. A minimum of 5 gals is recommended for the proper care of a Betta and the tank should be heated between 77 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Also most Bettas do better alone, particularly males, otherwise they can fight to the death. Female Bettas can be kept in a sorority of at least 6 to minimize aggression and a large tank is required. Please do research prior to mixing Bettas. Also some Bettas can be added to tropical community aquariums with other fish but some cannot; it will largely depend upon the personality of your Betta, so please have a back-up plan if your fish does not work out in a community setup. Fish like Guppies and Mollys are not recommended to mix with Bettas as fin-nipping can occur.

Choose your fish carefully because you’ll have them for the long haul. For example, if you purchase a school of Tetras and down the road wish you hadn’t bought them you are effectively stuck with your Tetras because they are schooling fish and you will have to continue replacing them if some die off to keep up the minimum number they require for their school.

For aquariums less 10 gallons or less, Nano fish are a great way to add some variety to your tank without overstocking. Some common Nano fish are Celestial Pearl Danio, Ember Tetra and Chili Rasbora. Smaller types of Corys would work as well depending on tank size, such as Corydoras Hastus, Corydoras Hasbrosus and Corydoras Pygmaeus.

List of Nano Fish (originally posted by alphacat): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=31095

Invertebrates

Many hobbyists also find freshwater shrimp and snails interesting additions to an aquarium. Fish and/or snails can be kept in smaller tanks (depending upon size) and can be interesting to watch in their own right. A small tank with plants and shrimp can be very rewarding and fun. Here are some links to further information:

Shrimp & Invert FAQ

Post contains a compilation of links to helpful threads, FAQs and articles (originally posted by Wasserpest): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=184517

PlanetInverts


The best advice when it comes to stocking your aquarium is to do your research first.
Search the internet for information on the types of fish you want to keep; check their compatibility with other fish and temperature requirements for each fish (for example, a coldwater fish like goldfish should not be kept with tropical fish due to the temperature differences they require). Take a trip to some local fish stores in your area and write down the names of fish that interest you and then do some research on those fish prior to purchasing. Also start a post here asking for advice; your best resource are other hobbyists who have experience with the fish you are wanting to keep and can give constructive advice so that you choose fish that are suited for your size and type of aquarium and will be happy in their new home.


19…Acclimating New Fish
So you’ve cycled your tank and are ready to add fish! You can just plop them into the tank right? Nope. Fish need to be acclimated slowly to your tank because your tank’s parameters (temperature, PH, etc.) can be very different from the tank from which they came.

The “old school” way of acclimating fish is to float their bag for a while in your tank. This only acclimates them to temperature however and not to other factors in your water, such as PH. The best way to acclimate fish to your tank is by drip acclimation (also search YouTube for “drip acclimation” for some how-to videos).


20…Maintenance
–Water changes
Once your tank is fully cycled and you have the appropriate fish for your tank you will need to maintain the aquarium. The best practice is to change 50% of the water per week. You can do this by doing 2-3 smaller water changes per week or one larger change per week. Also test the water with your test kit every couple of weeks to ensure water quality is good. You want nitrite and ammonia to be 0 at all times and keep nitrates under 20 (nitrates are only removed through water changes). Even if your nitrate doesn’t reach 20 during the week between water changes it’s still a good idea to maintain a weekly water change schedule. Fish use up minerals in the water and these need to be replenished. Also clean water can go a long way in preventing disease in most fish. Use your siphon regularly to vacuum the substrate and suck up any excess waste that lies at the bottom.

99% of the time, your natural water source (tap or well water) is more than sufficient to use for your tank as long as it’s properly dechlorinated. If your source water is very high in toxin levels (ammonia, nitrate, etc.) you may need to “cut” the water by using a mix of source water and RO (Reverse Osmosis) water. Please ask for advice before changing your source water; most of the time it is fine and if you already have fish changing their water source suddenly can have negative effects.
Also using nothing but Reverse Osmosis (RO or RODI) water in a freshwater tank is not needed except in very rare circumstances. Keep in mind that if you do need to use RO water, you are basically using distilled water which is not only stripped of toxins but minerals as well and fish need minerals to survive. Therefore you will need to add back the minerals manually during water changes with a product like RO Rite or Seachem Replenish. Again, your source water should be sufficient for your aquarium. If in doubt, ask first.

–Checking equipment
Periodically check your filters and heater to ensure they are working properly. Once or twice per month swish your filter media in old tank water during a water change to loosen any debris that may be caught in the filters.

–Keep it simple
If you open the cabinet under your aquarium and bottles of pH adjusters, clarifiers, aquarium salts, buffers and other additives fall out…you’re probably doing something wrong.

A healthy, established aquarium normally requires only two things to be added on a consistent basis…fresh water from your faucet and a quality water conditioner / dechlorinator (and possibly plant fertilizers based upon your setup).
The hundreds of products found on the shelves at your local fish store may seem like a treasure trove of goodies to keep your fish happy and healthy…but in reality it often has the opposite effect. Just like when buying fish…look all you want, but don’t bring anything home without thoroughly researching it first.

A note about PH: many new aquarists think that they need to adjust their tank’s PH in order to keep certain fish. In the majority of cases, your fish will adapt to your tank’s natural PH and there is no need to adjust it. In fact, attempting to adjust your PH with chemicals can do more harm than good. Fish require stable parameters and constantly fiddling with your PH can cause fluctuations, which is far more harmful to fish than living in a different PH than they are said to need (there are a few exceptions to this rule; Discus is one. Researching prior to purchasing is always recommended!)

–Don’t panic
…Which is often easier said than done particularly when something goes wrong with your own aquarium. If a fish is behaving abnormally or looks ill or injured don’t panic and buy the first type of medicine you see. Diagnosing fish illnesses can be difficult and you want to ensure that you are using the correct medication to treat the correct illness. Some medications treat particular diseases or infections and even some illness (like Ich) do not require medications for treatment. If in doubt, start a post in the Fish Forum
and see if others can help.
· Swim Bladder Disease
· Treating Ich & Treating Ich with Salt
· Common Fish Symptoms
· Freshwater Disease Chart

–Be responsible
Remember that your aquarium is not just a piece of furniture or something new to look at…it is a home for living animals who solely depend on you for their health and survival. Before making any decisions, do your research and gather information from different sources (not just the guy at the fish store). Keep in mind that fish-keeping is not just a hobby…it’s a responsibility.

Follow the steps above and enjoy a healthy aquarium that will last for years. :icon_mrgr



dannylc 07-29-2012 01:44 PM

WOW what a guide!! Great job, I did not read it all just had a scan over it.

librarygirl 07-29-2012 01:49 PM

Fishless Cycling Guide
 
Part II – Fishless Cycling Guide

21…. The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling (originally created by Eric Ogilvie. Used with permission).

Whether you are a veteran of the technique who is just brushing up on your knowledge, or a new member who is reading this article to figure out what the heck fishless cycling is, I hope you take the time to read my guide and FAQ to answer any questions you may have…even the ones you haven’t thought to ask yet.

Questions
a. *What is fishless cycling?
b. *Why fishless vs. traditional?
c. *What items do I need for my fishless cycle?
d. *Should I use bacteria in a bottle?
e. *Where can I get the right ammonia source?
f.* I have live plants! Can I put them in the tank yet?
g. *What are the step by step instructions to fishless cycle an aquarium?
h. *What is the best seeding material?
i. *Should I use carbon? Why not? What other filters then?
j. *Where does the bacteria grow?
k. *Should I clean my tank / filters?
l. *Are there any tricks to speed up my fishless cycle?
m. *Will pH affect my cycle / pH crash at end of cycle?
n. *Should I do pwc’s during my cycle?
o. *Do I need a dechlorinator?
p. *My ammo level is not going down!
q. *My nitrItes / nitrAtes are not appearing!
r. *My nitrItes / nitrAtes are sky high! Is that okay?
s. *My cycle is stalled, what can I do?
t. *What should my readings be if my cycle is complete?
u. *I think I’m done! What now?
v. *How can I keep bacteria alive after my cycle is done?
w. *My cycle seems to have reverted after big pwc! Showing ammo / nitrItes!
x. *All finished! How many fish should I add initially?
y. *How can I keep my bio-filter healthy down the road?

Answers

a. *What is fishless cycling?
Fishless cycling is a fast, efficient and humane process of preparing your aquarium to be safe for fish. Basically, it is the process of growing 2 types of beneficial bacterial colonies in your aquarium. These bacteria will convert the dangerous waste your fish produce into a much less toxic form (ammonia > nitrIte > nitrAte).

Normally, cycling a tank involves sacrificing or permanently damaging a few “hardy fish” to grow these colonies of bacteria. Doing a fishless cycle uses a pure ammonia source instead of the ammonia a fish produces to feed and grow this healthy bio-filter, cutting out the middle man (or middle fish) to achieve this . In an uncycled, unprepared aquarium, even fish food is toxic. A fishless cycle insures you have the strongest and safest home for the fish that will soon move in!

b. *Why fishless vs. traditional cycling?
Traditional cycling with fish in your aquarium has many drawbacks. Cycling always involves high levels of ammonia and nitrite (NO2). Ammo and no2 are both extremely dangerous to fish, and even if they survive the process they can be permanently damaged and exposed to having their gills burned and scarred. Their quality of life will be greatly reduced by putting them through this process.

Secondly, fishless cycling is MUCH less work for you. Traditional cycling can take months and requires daily water changes and constant monitoring of water parameters. Many people who purchase fish to cycle their tank end up desperately searching for a temporary home for them so they can do a fishless cycle, simply because traditional cycling takes a lot of physical labor and tons of bucket carrying and back pain.

Also, a fishless cycle establishes a stronger, healthier bio-filter in much less time than traditional cycling. A fishless cycle can be completed in a matter of days or weeks as opposed to potentially taking months with traditional methods. I personally completed my first fishless cycle in 20 days and if you have seeding material from another tank…it can be completed in days.

Believe it or not, fishless cycling can be fun and exciting, and the peace of mind that you are cycling your tank FOR your fish…not WITH your fish is a good feeling and a great lesson to teach your kids.

c. *What items do I need for my fishless cycle?
If you already have all the normal items that are required for a fish tank (heater, filter, test kit, etc…) the cost of doing a fishless cycle can be paid for with the change in your pocket. The only additional item required is a pure ammonia source picked up from your local hardware store. A bottle of pure ammonia only costs a couple of dollars. If you want to have a few items on hand to help things go super-fast, a small packet of fish food (a great source of phosphates for the bacteria) and a good source of oxygen (air stone, bubble wand) can really speed things up. Also make sure you have a quality dechlorinator like Seachem Prime and a reliable test kit (we all use the API Master Test Kit). Strips are notoriously inaccurate. A notebook or an Excel spreadsheet is also a great idea to track your progress.

*If you have very soft or low alkalinity water, I personally recommend purchasing a bag of crushed coral or aragonite. Both of these products will buffer the water and assist in keeping the pH stable while cycling your tank. The vast majority of problems related to fishless cycling are due to a lack of buffers that the bacteria consume during the process. This has the potential to cause a dramatic pH crash which can prevent the beneficial bacteria from colonizing…and actually cause a die-off if the pH becomes acidic enough. If you purchase it, you can place a handful into a mesh bag (sold at most fish stores) or a clean (never washed with detergent) stocking and fit it into your filter or simply hang it in your tank. After completing your cycle, you can simply take the mesh bag out of your aquarium, do a water change and from then on use only your natural tap water. This is really only necessary if your water has low hardness or alkalinity, but there are no downsides to using it during a fishless cycle. If you have an extra $10-12 to spend, it’s never a bad idea to be on the safe side and ensure things go smoothly.

d. *Should I use bacteria in a bottle?

This is a matter of some debate. I personally recommend against using them. I have heard too many stories over time about crashed bio-filters and sudden spikes of ammonia and nitrItes that are tracked back to an “instant cycling” product. There are some reputable sources that sell “active” sponges which they claim contain good portions of natural beneficial bacteria. If you decide to take a short cut, this is the method I would prefer over the bottled products.

If the guy at your fish store managed to talk you into a cycling product and you’ve already added it in, I would implore you to keep a very sharp eye on all water parameters for quite some time after your aquarium (appears) cycled. It is also common to experience some very odd readings which seem to defy the laws of science if you have added them to the water.

If and when a product is developed that is 100% proven to establish a healthy, consistent, stable and natural bio-filter, I will happily take down this guide and simply post a picture of that product…until then, keep reading!

e. *Where can I get the right ammonia source?
This is one of, if not the most important part of a successful fishless cycle. If your bottle of ammonia is not 100% pure…run away! The right ammonia will have no surfactants, no dyes, no perfumes and no detergents. Even though the wrong stuff will have ammonia in it… it would be like pouring a bottle of dish soap or cologne into your fish tank along with it. Most members here have good luck at Ace Hardware finding the correct stuff. It is Ace Brand Janitorial Strength Ammonia. Or you can try Blue Ribbon brand Clear Ammonia from True Value Hardware. There are plenty of other stores to find pure ammonia, but Ace Hardware seems to be the most reliable. If you are in the UK, try Boots or Jeyes Kleen Off.

Many people use frozen shrimp or fish food in a mesh bag, and while these things work, I suggest you put in the effort to find pure ammonia as it is much easier to maintain a constant level and take a more scientific approach to the process. There are also several negative consequences that are possible from using shrimp or fish food (molds, fungus, etc…).

f.* I have live plants! Can I put them in the tank yet?
Sure! Plants love the ammonia and nitrAte rich environment that is created during a fishless cycle. While technically they are a competing source for the ammonia you are adding in, it will not make any noticeable difference or slow down your fishless cycle in any way. Plants removed from an established tank will have some degree of beneficial bacteria on them to help get you started, but it is up to you to decide whether to add them directly into your tank or use a plant sanitizing method of your choice. Plus, they give you something to look at and play with while you wait for your fish to move in! Try to keep the lighting only to the amount your plants require to discourage algae growth until your cycle is complete.

g. *What are the step by step instructions to fishless cycle an aquarium?
g1) Fully set up your aquarium. Get it filled up with water, filter filtering, bubble wand bubbling, decorations decorating, heater heating, etc… I personally recommend against using carbon filters…I’ll explain later.

Any live plants you plan on keeping are also welcome to be placed in the tank at this point, they will actually benefit from the water conditions during a fishless cycle.

If you have decided to use crushed coral or aragonite as an insurance method, go ahead and get that in as well.

g2) Add your dechlorinator to remove any chlorine / chloramines / heavy metals in your tap water. Chlorine is made to kill bacteria… bacteria is what you’re trying to grow. These 2 things don’t mix.

g3) Crank your heater up and get the water temperature between 77-86 degrees. This is the range that the beneficial bacteria colonize the fastest. It’s smart to leave your tank light off at this point as well (assuming you don’t have real plants). Algae also love the water conditions you’re creating, and leaving the light off will help prevent it from growing. Hey, there’s nothing to look at yet anyway!

g4) Crank the bubble wand up! The more bubbles the better! If you don’t have an air stone or similar item, lower the water level a bit so the filter water splashes onto the water surface and creates bubbles.

g5) Go ahead and add in your ammonia. Aim for around 4ppm. Start with a small amount, wait about 20 minutes for it to circulate and add more if needed. Repeat until you achieve the correct amount. If you add too much, you can do a partial water change to bring down the level. Keep track of how much you added to achieve the desired result.

g6) Get some seeding material! Beg your friends, a friendly guy at the local fish store, basically anybody with a healthy, established tank to donate a used filter, gravel, decorations…anything will help! Stick it in the tank, preferably into the filter area as this is where most of the bacteria grow. Technically, if you got enough seeding material you could instantly cycle your tank since you’d be adding in so much of the bacteria you need. If you can’t get anything, no biggie! The bacteria you want are free and in the air around you. Also, you can add a tiny bit of finely ground up fish food to add nutrients and phosphates into the water that the bacteria like.

g7) Have patience. Test your ammonia level every few days. When you see it start dropping down… the party’s getting started. Let it go down to about 1ppm and then dose it back up to 4ppm. Don’t let it drop to zero because you’ll be starving the bacteria of the food they need. Note: it typically takes up to 2 weeks before seeing a drop in ammonia so just be patient, it’ll happen!

g8) Once the ammonia starts dropping, start testing for nitrItes. It is normal for there to be a delay of several days between the time ammonia drops and nitrItes show up. It will appear slowly at first then start rising pretty quickly. You should be excited! We’re almost halfway home!

g9) Keep dosing the ammonia up to 4ppm. It should be dropping fairly quickly by now. Watch your nitrite levels, and once they’ve gotten really high…start testing for nitrAtes. Once the nitrAtes show up, it’s all downhill from here!

g10) When your levels of nitrItes and nitrAtes get so high that they’re off what your test kit can show you… do a 50-60% water change. A water change will have no negative impact on your cycle and will help keep things moving and bring your levels low enough so you can actually tell what they are. You can also add another pinch of ground up fish food just to make sure the bacteria has lots of nutrients and phosphates to grow. A water change will also restore the buffers in your water to prevent any fluctuations in pH at the end of your cycle. Remember your dechlorinator!

g11) Wait for the magic to happen. Keep watching your levels and adding the ammo up to 4ppm (2 ppm is fine for smaller tanks). Keep a very sharp eye on pH at this point. If you see any hints of the pH level dropping…time to break out the bucket and bottle of Prime to do a 50% water change. We want to make sure we have plenty of buffers in the water to keep the pH stable.

One morning you’ll wake up and when you test the water…Ammo and nitrItes will be gone! They’ll have vanished overnight! Technically this means your cycle is complete, but we’ve still got a bit of testing to do to make sure. Again, be patient. The nitrite phase is the longest of the phases and can take up to 3 weeks on average before they drop.

g12) Add your ammonia up to 4ppm one more time. Look at the clock. If within 24 hours you can turn that 4ppm of ammonia > nitrItes > nitrAtes… congratulations! After the 24 hours your test results should be ammo-0 nitrItes-0 and have lots of nitrAtes. You grew one heck of a bio-filter and are going to have ridiculously happy fish!

g13) Now you’ve just got to keep your bacteria alive until you add fish. Add around 1ppm of ammonia daily just to keep the bacteria alive.

g14) The day before you plan on adding fish, you’ve got 2 important things to do… Number one, TURN THE HEATER BACK DOWN! The bacteria love the warm water, but your fish probably don’t want to be dropped into a hot tub. Also, perform a HUGE water change… I’m talking around 90%. The nitrAtes will have built up like crazy during this process and you’ve got to get them into a safe level for fish. The lower the better, but as long as you can get them below 20 you’re good to go!

g15) Add some of your fish. You’re bio-filter is so strong that you could technically add the full stocking level to your tank, but you don’t necessarily want to. Some types of fish need time to establish territory and dominance, so if you throw them all in at once it can be asking for trouble. Personally I stocked my tank around 50-60% full initially with peaceful community fish. You don’t want to add too many at first, but if you only added a couple tiny fish at the beginning they won’t provide the amount of ammonia that your new bio-filter needs to stay strong. Shoot for a middle ground and add a reasonable sized amount of fish depending on your tank size and by researching the type of fish you plan on getting. This is where common sense is most important.

g16) Final steps… enjoy your fish and tell your friends to fishless cycle!

h. *What is the best seeding material?
Seeding material refers to any type of item that comes from a healthy, established aquarium that is used to introduce some of the beneficial bacteria into your tank. The best seeding material comes from a filter because the vast majority of good bacteria live here. A nice dirty filter pad, cartridge, ceramic media… anything from this area is fantastic. Even a handful of gravel or a decoration from an established tank will help though.

Make sure that the tank you get these items from is healthy, because everything that is alive in there (including algae, disease, parasites, etc…) will soon be alive in yours.

Whatever you get, make sure it stays wet until you get it moved to your aquarium, because if it dries out…that’s the end of your seeding material.

i. *Should I use carbon? Why not? What other filters then?
You know that little cartridge that comes with basically every HOB filter on the planet? The one that you’re supposed to use for a month, throw away and replace with a new one? They are one of the worst things you can do for a healthy tank and a horrible aspect of this hobby.

The carbon itself is not the problem. Carbon can be used to absorb odors, help with a cloudy tank or take out medicine you might need to add. The problem is that the companies that make fish keeping products need to make money, so they tell people that you need to purchase cartridge filters on a monthly basis. As I said, the VAST majority of your beneficial bacteria live in your filter, so by throwing it away and replacing it, you are literally throwing a huge piece of your bio-filter into the trash. This can lead to mini-cycles, ammonia spikes and very unhappy fish.

Instead of buying the cartridges, go to the lfs (local fish store) and buy a roll of filter media that you can cut down to size and stuff into your filter. The rule is to never throw away filter media until it is literally falling apart. During each pwc swish the media around in a bucket of tank water (not tap water!) to remove loose debris and stick it back in where it was. When you’re getting to the point that it needs to be replaced, stuff a new piece of filter in right next to it and leave it as long as possible. That way the old filter can seed the new, and when you have to throw away the old there will be another ready to take over.

j. *Where does the bacteria grow?
Beneficial bacteria grow on virtually every surface of your tank… the walls, the gravel, the little ceramic octopus you’ve got in there, everywhere! It however especially loves the oxygen rich area inside your filter. That is why it’s so vital to never throw away a filter unless it is no longer viable.

The bacteria do not live in the water as many people think. There may 1 or 2 little guys floating around, but this is why pwc’s are not harmful during a cycle.

k. *Should I clean my tank / filters?

One of the great things about a fishless cycle is that there is virtually no tank maintenance during the process. With the exception of a couple pwc’s in the middle and a massive one at the end of your cycle…you really don’t need to touch anything. In fact, trying to clean the gravel, decorations or the filter pads is detrimental to the process as you will always remove some of the bacteria you’re trying to grow.

Once your tank is up and running, weekly pwc’s and swishing your filter around in a bucket of tank water to remove debris is normally all that’s required. Types of fish have different requirements for tank maintenance, so make sure you research what your little friends need to stay healthy.

l. *Are there any tricks to speed up my fishless cycle?
As long as you followed the step by step instructions in the guide, you’ve already done the tricks. If it seems like things are starting to slow down and you’re numbers haven’t moved in a while, a 50% pwc can get things going again. Also another little pinch of fish food can restore nutrients and get things moving.

m. *Will pH affect my cycle / pH crash at end of cycle?
pH will not have a huge impact on the speed of your cycle. Some bacteria prefer it a little higher, the other a little lower. As long as you do not have extremely high or low pH values, everything will be fine. If your pH is below 6.5 or well above 8…it may be time to consider getting the water into a more neutral range. If so, I much prefer natural methods like crushed coral to raise it, and things like peat to lower your levels. I am against altering pH in 99% of cases, but during a fishless cycle when there are no fish in the tank it will not cause harm. The almost complete water change upon finishing the cycle will restore the natural value of your waters pH and natural additives will no longer be needed.

During the process of the cycle, there is the possibility of pH fluctuations. The ammonia has basic properties which can raise the pH as you add it, and the nitrifying bacteria produces acidic waste which will lower it as the cycle progresses. If you have low hardness and alkalinity to your water, these pH fluctuations can be much more dramatic. Performing a 50% pwc at the height of your cycle will restore buffers and prevent any serious crashes or drops in pH. Remember to always keep a close eye on your pH in the last stages of a fishless cycle. People with low alkalinity are much more prone to sudden drops and the potential for pH crashes and damage to the beneficial bacteria.

n. *Should I do pwc’s during my cycle?
Partial water changes are not harmful, but usually only necessary at certain parts of your fishless cycle. First, if you accidentally overdose the desired level of ammonia, do a pwc to bring it down to the correct range. Second, at the height of your cycle, when your levels of no2 and no3 are so high that they are unreadable on your test kit, do a 50% pwc. This brings the nitrIte and nitrAte down to a level where you can monitor them, as well as restoring nutrients and buffers to the water that are needed to continue growing bacteria and stabilizing your water.

Though not normally necessary, remember to keep a close eye on pH and do a water change if you see the pH lowering significantly towards the end of the fishless cycle. Lastly, when you complete your fishless cycle and are ready to bring home fish, do a massive (90 %) pwc the night before to lower the nitrAtes to safe levels. The lower the better, but anything around 20ppm is fine.

Remember that the vast majority of beneficial bacteria live in your filter and the surfaces in your aquarium, so a pwc will not interrupt your cycle… but they are normally unnecessary except for the reasons listed above. And always remember to use your dechlorinator when doing pwc’s!

o. *Do I need a dechlorinator?
If your home is connected to a municipal water supply, the answer is ABSOLUTELY! Chlorine / chloramines are deadly to bacteria and need to be neutralized to prevent any damage to the bacteria you’re trying to grow. Even if you are on a private well, a quality water conditioner is still a good idea to neutralize any heavy metals which may be in your water supply. Don’t worry if your bottle of dechlorinator says it “removes ammonia and nitrItes”…this is actually not true. It temporarily converts ammo and no2 into a non-toxic form that is still available for your bacteria to consume. Remember to always add this during any pwc, especially once you have fish in your tank.

p. *My ammo level is not going down!
Chances are you just need to be a little more patient. My first fishless cycle took 7 or 8 days before I saw any drop in ammonia, and I had lots of seeding material in my filter. If it has been a substantial amount of time without any change…you should review all the steps in the guide to make sure you didn’t miss anything. The biggest cause of this is people using the wrong type of ammonia. Double check the bottle, if it says it contains surfactants, dyes, perfumes or other additives… you’ve unfortunately got some water draining and serious rinsing of things in your future…and the bad news is you’re gonna need to scroll to the top of this article and start again. Also if you overdosed ammonia at the beginning (e.g. if the level reads more than 5 ppms) that can stall the cycle as well; do a large water change to get the ammonia level to 4 ppms at most.

q. *My nitrItes / nitrAtes are not appearing!
Just as with the ammonia not dropping quickly, you probably just need a bit more patience. The ammonia > nitrite bacteria will develop first, and the nitrite > nitrAte bacteria will take a bit longer to start showing up. The bacteria that produces the nitrAtes needs to have nitrItes to feed on and colonize, and chances are that nitrItes haven’t been in your tank long enough to let the nitrAtes show up yet. Stay patient and test nitrItes and nitrAtes every few days. It’s an exciting feeling when you finally see the nitrAtes show up on your test!

r. *My nitrItes / nitrAtes are sky high! Is that okay?
Extremely high levels of nitrItes and nitrAtes are a normal and expected part of cycling a tank. That is why cycling without fish is so important because these high levels are deadly to them.

If your nitrItes and/or nitrAtes get so high that they are unreadable, do a 50% water change. This will bring the levels down to readable levels to save your sanity and also to be able to monitor your cycle more efficiently. Those super high levels can also stall your cycle, so by doing the pwc (partial water change) you can prevent this and also restore nutrients and buffers into your water.

s. *My cycle is stalled, what can I do?
First off, are you sure your cycle is stalled and this is not just one of the times where you need patience? If ammo has been dropping and is now staying the same, or nitrAtes were climbing but are now level…it is possible the cycle is actually stalled.

The vast majority of stalled cycles are due to the bacteria using up all of the nutrients in the water. Think of it as fertilizer for plants. A plant can grow with light and water, but it needs nutrients from the soil to be healthy and flourish. It’s the same for the bacteria in your water. Doing a pwc and adding a pinch of finely ground up fish food will restore these nutrients and get your cycle back on track.

t. *What should my readings be if my cycle is complete?
In a fully cycled tank, your readings should always be ammonia-0, nitrItes-0 and levels of nitrAtes can vary. If you can add 4ppm of ammonia, and 24 hours later there is no trace of ammonia or nitrItes, your tank is fully cycled with a strong bio-filter. *Note- never try this little experiment once you get fish…because you won’t have live fish anymore after that 24 hour period.

u. *I think I’m done! What now?
If you believe your tank is finished cycling, you should do the 4ppm ammo down to 0 ammonia and 0 nitrItes in 24 hour test once more. If that test is successful, you’re almost ready to move in your fish! Do a massive (90%) pwc to bring your nitrAte levels down to a safe range. Anything under 20 is safe to start stocking. If you aren’t going to add fish for a while, continue to keep the bacteria fed until the night before you add fish by adding only 1ppm of ammonia every day. Remember to always do the pwc the night before adding fish anytime you’ve been adding pure ammonia to the tank.

v. *How can I keep bacteria alive after my cycle is done?
Your new beneficial bacteria can last quite some time without food, but it is wise to continue feeding them small levels of ammonia every day until you introduce your fish. At this point 4ppm is not necessary, just dose the tank up to around 1ppm of ammonia daily and make sure to do your big pwc the night before adding fish.

w. *My cycle seems to have reverted after big pwc! Showing ammo / NitrItes!
It takes a pretty serious problem such as a MAJOR pH crash to actually cause your cycle to go backwards after it is completes. Most likely, if you just dosed your tank up to high levels of ammonia again, you are actually watching the conversion of ammo > nitrItes > nitrAtes happen. Try adding a small dose of around 1ppm of ammonia and see if you can keep the levels of nitrItes virtually at 0 during the conversion. Fish put out a small, steady stream of ammonia instead of dumping in 4ppm at one time. Your bio-filter can handle the fish, but it’s still a good idea to make sure your tank can handle low levels of ammonia without any type of nitrite spike.

If your water supply has chloramines in it, on many test kits it will show as an ammonia level. As long as you used a dechlorinator (like Prime) the ammonia is rendered non-toxic and will quickly be gobbled up by your bio-filter.

x. *All finished! How many fish should I add initially?
You’re bio-filter is so strong that you could technically add the full stocking level to your tank, but you don’t want to. Fish need time to establish territory and dominance, so if you throw them all in at once it’s asking for trouble. Personally I stocked my tank around 50% full at first with peaceful community fish. You don’t want to add too many at first, but if you only added a couple tiny fish at the beginning they won’t provide the amount of ammonia that your new bio-filter needs to stay strong. Shoot for a middle ground and add a reasonable sized amount of fish depending on your tank size and by researching the type of fish you plan on getting. This is where common sense is most important.

y. *How can I keep my bio-filter healthy down the road?
The great thing about building a large bio-filter with fishless cycling is that it is a self-sustaining system that requires virtually no further work from you. The only things to keep in mind are to never throw away old filters until they are falling apart, and always seed a new filter before you throw the old one out. Also avoid doing heavy vacuuming of the substrate (floor of the aquarium). While most of your bacteria do live in the filter, plenty of it is also in the substrate. I recommend vacuuming only small sections of the gravel at a time. Last thing, if you are doing a large pwc, don’t take a lunch break in the middle of it. If you leave the tank walls without water for too long, the bacteria on them can dry out and die.

Congratulations on doing a perfect fishless cycle! I hope you learned the basics and tricks of building a healthy home for your fish. Now just sit back and enjoy your healthy, happy fish for years to come!

librarygirl 07-29-2012 01:51 PM

Part III

21….Fish-In Cycling Guide
So you went to the store and listened to the employees and let your tank run for a few days and then added fish. Maybe some fish started dying or maybe you started doing research and read up on cycling. So what do you do now? Don’t panic. This guide will help you.

First, make sure your tank isn’t too overstocked. If you have a goldfish in a bowl that’s going to be a problem as you will never be able to keep up with the ammonia the fish will put out; either return the fish or upgrade to a proper tank size. If you’re not sure whether your stock is adequate, ask on the forum. Ideally you want to start with a small number of appropriate fish which will slowly add ammonia to the tank to feed the bacteria but not enough so that the ammonia becomes overwhelming too fast so that you are doing constant water changes (not to mention the potential damage to the fish).

Next, be sure you have a proper liquid test kit, like the API Master Kit. Test strips are very inaccurate and for a fish-in cycle, accuracy is key.
A good water conditioner/dechlorinator is needed, preferably one that says it detoxifies ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and heavy metals. This will keep your fish safe between water changes (but it is not to be used in place of water changes). Seachem Prime is the most recommended brand and is sold at most fish stores and online.

If you can find some seeded media (filter material from a healthy established tank) it will go a long way into speeding up your cycle by introducing the needed bacteria. Ask friends who have aquariums for some media from their filters, or ask at various fish stores. AngelsPlus also sells active sponge filters from their Angel Fish tanks (be sure it says “active” next to it or else you’re just buying a plain filter).

Test the tank daily for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and PH. At the beginning (the first 2-4 weeks) you may only get an ammonia reading and that’s OK, it’s good to always test everything anyway. You may also want to test your tap water for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and PH as well. If your tap water has some ammonia or nitrate in it for example, you’ll have a good idea of what you’re putting into your tank and where your starting from. When you start to see the ammonia rise over .25, do a water change. You want to keep the ammonia level under .25 at all times. Remember basic math: if your ammonia level reads 1 and you only do a 25% water change, the ammonia will only be reduced to .75. It is OK to do one larger water change or even multiple water changes in one day for the protection of the fish. Just remember to add dechlorinator each time and to try to match the temperature of the new water roughly with the tank water (feeling both with your hand is usually accurate enough). Changing water will NOT slow down your cycle (despite the rumors to the opposite); clean water will help your fish live through the cycle.

A note on the API Ammonia kit: it can be hard to read the ammonia test colors on the API Kit. Often, the 0 reading may look slightly greenish depending upon the lighting conditions in the room. When in doubt, move to a better light source. You can also test some distilled or spring water and compare the tube to your tank’s test; if they match, the tank’s ammonia is 0.

After a few weeks or so you’ll notice that the ammonia isn’t rising as quickly and may even read 0 each time you test. This is good! But the next phase, the nitrite phase, will follow. Nitrites are as toxic to fish as ammonia and will rise very quickly. Keep testing the water at least once daily and when nitrites rise over .25, do water change(s) to get them lower. This phase is the longest and can last at least 3 weeks so just be patient, you’re halfway there! As nitrite rises you should also check for nitrate. For the API kit, the nitrate test is finicky and can cause inaccurate readings if not done correctly. Shake and BANG both nitrate bottles on a hard surface for 30 seconds and then once both drops are in the tube, shake the tube vigorously for a full 60 seconds and then wait 5 minutes for the result. Nitrate isn’t as toxic to fish as ammonia or nitrate but it’s recommended to still keep them low; if they start to rise higher than 20, do a water change to get them down lower.

After another few weeks or so you’ll test one day and nitrite will be 0. Congratulations, your tank is now cycled! Be careful when adding new fish though; the bacteria in your tank is only enough to support your current fish load. When you add more fish the bacteria need to multiply so add new fish slowly and test parameters daily and do extra water changes as needed.

librarygirl 07-29-2012 07:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dannylc (Post 1960798)
WOW what a guide!! Great job, I did not read it all just had a scan over it.

Sorry, I must have missed your reply earlier. Thank you! :) If anyone has suggestions on things to add (or anything that seems wrong), or if you want to add your own advice, or share any experiences that might help others, etc. feel free to post!

Hoppy 07-29-2012 08:05 PM

It is very difficult to write a comprehensive guide to setting up a planted tank, primarily because much of the information that should be included is still not settled. For example, for planted tanks, cycling is far different than for non-planted tanks, but the same standardized advice is always given, as it it doesn't matter that the tank is planted. And, people are taught that it takes human intervention to get a good bacterial colony established in a tank, but that bacteria is natural, and it will grow in every tank with or without our help.

Then, there is the subject of lighting an aquarium. This guide, by referring to another guide, treats light as something to be poured into the volume of water in the tank. I challenge anyone to pour light into anything. Light is radiation - it doesn't pour. So, any guide that refers to light as "watts per gallon" has to be in error.

And, there is testing. Some people enjoy testing their water. It can be fun, and it can be interesting and of some value to do periodic testing, plotting the test results, looking for changes. But, many of us successfully keep planted tanks without ever testing the water for anything. So, testing has to be optional.

I admire you for attempting this and posting it. But, I suggest it will work a whole lot better and be a lot more accurate, if you work on only one aspect of setting up a tank at a time, until that specific part is fine tuned to bring it into agreement with whatever the latest "scoop" is on that part. Then, move to the next part, etc. While doing this, don't attempt to present greatly and wrongly simplified information that can only lead to unnecessary problems.

You could start with a summary introduction that tells a beginner what questions he needs to answer for himself before proceeding, and including a brief discussion of what things are involved in a successful planted tank. Then, I would move to a discussion about what sizes and shapes of tanks are best as planted tanks and why. Next needs to be light, since the amount of light selected drives a lot of the next decisions. Etc.

Somewhere in there needs to be a discussion of water - what water is good for a planted tank and why.

When this gets completed and generally accepted, or at least not furiously challenged, it should be listed as a FAQ post at the beginning of the forum.

wkndracer 09-01-2012 03:21 PM

well intended.
 
Librarygirl,
The time and effort put forth on creating this string is applauded by me without doubt.

Reading Hoppy's post I thought it harsh.Then remembering his character and consistent posting style I paused before moving on, he had a reason was my thinking. My morning quiet time for coffee and reading was spent right here enjoying your efforts, and grumbling to myself LOL. Several points of opinion expressed as best method or as accepted fact within the information are sadly very misleading, some are simply, wrong. I have my pet points of information that stir a response (as do many).

Freshwater Aquariums (fish tank) and planted aquariums are worlds apart.
A comprehensive or starter guide to a single planted tanking method requires volumes to explain it, ultimately a book of sorts.
As a starter one is offered here.
http://www.plantedtank.net/articles/...lanted-Tank/4/
While I still grumble about a point or three. :redface:
Then there's the ready reference on topics without the posted banter of disagreement.
http://www.plantedtank.net/articles.php

Generalized topic information condensed to paragraphs in the effort to create 'steps to success' is well,,, well intended.

The best practice is to change 50% of the water per week. You can do this by doing 2-3 smaller water changes per week or one larger change per week.
This is in no way the same so incorrect.
Lets say the tank holds 120 gallons. Changing 50% (60g) in a single water change creates reduction of accumulated 'gunk' in the water. Test results will confirm that. Drain 15-20 gallons, refill and repeat until you have changed that same 60g or the entire 120 gallon volume and that reduction in tested levels won't be the same.

A credo of the environmental engineer; The solution to pollution is dilution.
Large volumes = dilution

pH testing as a water quality parameter is another very misleading entry many times within the posts.
A pH test in all reality tells you very little (if anything) about the quality of the tanked water and leaving it at that.

librarygirl 09-02-2012 01:58 AM

I had intended to stay out of any potential debates on this thread mainly due to the fact that I do not want the thread closed or deleted and kept available for those few who may find it helpful. But at this point I (unfortunately) feel I need to defend at least part of what I wrote and why I wrote it.

I wrote this same guide for another forum (minus the information on live plants). It was very well received there and still continues to be linked often. However that forum is focused mainly on fish as opposed to plants. I asked a moderator whether I could replicate my guide on this forum as well. It was accepted with the idea that I add information on planted tanks to fit the forum. I was hesitant given (admittedly) I am still learning about planted tanks myself (although it could be argued that we are all still learning on some level or other). Hence why I included links to other posts in the forum is to bring up topics that might be considered and pointing the user elsewhere for more information. This guide as a whole is intended for the beginner aquarist….mainly to those who post about their fish dying in a new tank and wonder what cycling is. For me, the safety of the fish is first and foremost and everything else is secondary.

I will respond directly to some of the points brought up here:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hoppy (Post 1961133)
It is very difficult to write a comprehensive guide to setting up a planted tank, primarily because much of the information that should be included is still not settled. For example, for planted tanks, cycling is far different than for non-planted tanks, but the same standardized advice is always given, as it it doesn't matter that the tank is planted. And, people are taught that it takes human intervention to get a good bacterial colony established in a tank, but that bacteria is natural, and it will grow in every tank with or without our help.

I agree that bacteria is natural and does not need human intervention to cultivate, which I believe my article articulates. I do not agree however that just because a tank is planted the aquarist should assume the tank is safe. I’ve seen fish die in uncycled tanks with plants due to lack of testing and water changes. Just because X person added plants and their fish made it through the cycle does not mean the fish were not suffering from ammonia or nitrite poisoning throughout the process. A blanket statement such as “add plants and your fish will be fine” is potentially dangerous particularly to new aquarists and not something I support or agree with.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hoppy (Post 1961133)
Then, there is the subject of lighting an aquarium. This guide, by referring to another guide, treats light as something to be poured into the volume of water in the tank. I challenge anyone to pour light into anything. Light is radiation - it doesn't pour. So, any guide that refers to light as "watts per gallon" has to be in error.

At the suggestion of the moderator reviewing the article the “watts per gallon” reference was removed. Perhaps you read that portion prior to my editing.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hoppy (Post 1961133)
And, there is testing. Some people enjoy testing their water. It can be fun, and it can be interesting and of some value to do periodic testing, plotting the test results, looking for changes. But, many of us successfully keep planted tanks without ever testing the water for anything. So, testing has to be optional.

“Has” to be? According to whom? I do not agree. Anyone keeping live fish-- for who they are the sole caretaker-- should test their tanks at the very least during cycling. Just because you don’t test you cannot assume your tank is fine. Taking 5 extra minutes to test a tank is not much work and is for the benefit of the fish. I don’t understand the logic there.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hoppy (Post 1961133)
I admire you for attempting this and posting it. But, I suggest it will work a whole lot better and be a lot more accurate, if you work on only one aspect of setting up a tank at a time, until that specific part is fine tuned to bring it into agreement with whatever the latest "scoop" is on that part. Then, move to the next part, etc. While doing this, don't attempt to present greatly and wrongly simplified information that can only lead to unnecessary problems.

If I waited for consensus this (or any) article would never be completed. It is not intended to be comprehensive--- it couldn’t be given the format. It is a GUIDE to those who wish to get started with aquariums in general. Given the mentality and the personalities of some of the members of this forum anyone would be hard-pressed to write anything without it being critiqued, torn apart and debated.

Quote:

Originally Posted by wkndracer (Post 1998169)
Freshwater Aquariums (fish tank) and planted aquariums are worlds apart.
A comprehensive or starter guide to a single planted tanking method requires volumes to explain it, ultimately a book of sorts.
As a starter one is offered here.
http://www.plantedtank.net/articles/...lanted-Tank/4/
While I still grumble about a point or three.
Then there's the ready reference on topics without the posted banter of disagreement.
http://www.plantedtank.net/articles.php

Interesting since the format of the articles does not allow for discussion---if it did I’m sure there would be debates. I believe I posted the link to this list of articles in my guide. Again, the lack of disagreement is due to the format….I’m sure if users were able to post disagreements they would. Lack of comments does not make an article accurate. I’d also point out the first link does also mention Eco-complete and Watts per Gallon both of which were points of contention in my guide (references to both have been removed).

Quote:

Originally Posted by wkndracer (Post 1998169)
PH testing as a water quality parameter is another very misleading entry many times within the posts.
A pH test in all reality tells you very little (if anything) about the quality of the tanked water and leaving it at that.

I don’t believe I said that PH indicates water quality? PH crashes are common in cycling tanks and if the tank is cycling, nitrification can slow or even stop; I’ve seen this many times and it has been well documented. Also PH plays a role in ammonia toxicity.
http://www.bioconlabs.com/nitribactfacts.html
http://www.wrights-trainingsite.com/Nitrif1onb.html
http://dataguru.org/misc/aquarium/AmmoniaTox.html

At the very beginning of my guide I mention that the information I presented was based on my personal experiences and knowledge and I urge readers to do more research on their own.

Thanks for your comments.

acitydweller 09-02-2012 02:25 AM

Firstly, great effort made.

I was wondering if it worth noting that a TDS is a good indicator of polution in the tank, and an early warning sign for a Water change.

Also regarding fishless/ or fish in cycling. i see more products offering bacteria to help with cycling. Wondered if it would be helpful to recommend which types are out there and to look for specific types of bacteria on the label as they prove the most beneficial for nitrate/nitride conversion, given these forms of bacteria normally take the longest to propagate.

also regarding fast growning plants, like anacharis and floaters, which are useful in soaking up excess nitrates and normalize tank conditions to prevent spikes.

Another item which came to mind is the use of a cleanup crew, consisting of snails and other scavengers to keep algae, detris at bay, while aerating the substrate.

Hoppy 09-02-2012 02:43 AM

Again I admire anyone who would tackle such a daunting subject. For that I congratulate you. I really believe that since this is strictly a planted tank forum what belongs here is "how to start and maintain a planted tank", not how to do aquariums in general. Of course I leave it to the moderators to decide whether to put this in the FAQ thread for this forum.

Big O 09-02-2012 03:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by librarygirl (Post 1960797)
Guide to Starting a Freshwater Aquarium (including Planted Tanks)

Aquariums can be a relaxing and enjoyable addition to any home that will provide both you and your fish a stable, healthy and happy environment…assuming you know the basics. While it may seem intimidating when first getting involved in the hobby, with a bit of knowledge, you may be surprised at how simple and fun things can be. This guide covers the basics: from tank size, live plants, heaters and filters to decorations, cycling and more.

This is a long article; feel free to jump to the parts that interest you or you have questions about. The Index below should help guide you through the content. At the end of the article is the fishless cycling guide and then the fish-in cycle guide.

*The information presented here is based on my own personal experience and research as well as information that may be considered common knowledge among aquarists. However, one of the most important aspects of fish-keeping is to do your own research. Always get second opinions before making decisions and remember that just because someone sounds like they know what they’re talking about, it doesn’t mean they are always correct…myself included.

Index:

Part I
1……Cycling (the Nitrogen Cycle)
2……Aquarium Size
3……Aquarium Stands
4……Filtration
5……Substrate
6……Lights
7……Dechlorinator (Conditioner)
8……Testing Kit
9……Heater
10….Thermometer
11….Air Stones
12….Plants (Live, plastic, silk)
13….Decorations
14….Siphon/Vacuum
15….Fish Food & Feeding
16….Aquarium Salt
17….Other Supplies
18….Stocking Your Tank
19….Acclimating New Fish
20….Maintenance

Part II
21….Fishless Cycling Guide

Part III
22….Fish-In Cycling Guide


Part I
1…Cycling (The Nitrogen Cycle)
Cycling an aquarium properly is the single most important aspect of starting a new aquarium, which is why it’s listed first. Most fish store workers will tell you to let the aquarium run for a week or so and then add fish. This unfortunately is bad advice; letting a tank “run” will not properly cycle the tank. Cycling means growing the correct bacteria needed to consume the toxins (ammonia) your fish put out through waste. Growing these bacteria does take time (1-3 months) and cannot happen in one week.

There are different methods of cycling a tank and colonizing those bacteria and the path you choose is entirely your decision. This will be the most important choice you will make for your new aquarium…so research deeply and choose wisely.

The two basic methods are Fishless Cycling and Fish-In Cycling. There are pros and cons to both forms, so do your research, weigh your options and select the method that fits best with your knowledge, experience level and willingness to be committed to your aquarium.

Before you purchase fish please read the information below and decide which you would rather do (fishless and fish-in cycling how-to guides are posted at the end of this article – Parts II and III). Keep in mind that both methods are valid, however fish-in cycling requires daily commitment to your tank to ensure the safety and well-being of your fish. If you are not able to commit to potentially daily water testing and water changes for 1-3 months please consider fishless cycling.

Fishless Cycling Pros
– No fish are at risk or exposed to dangerous toxins
– Very little maintenance during the process. Limited water changes, adding pure ammonia and testing your parameters is all that’s involved.
– The ability to (usually) fully stock your tank once the tank is cycled instead of adding fish very slowly over time

Fishless Cycling Cons
– Requires patience
– You’ll have an empty fish tank sitting around for a while

Fish-in Cycling Pros
–You can have a few fish in the tank immediately

Fish-in Cycling Cons
–Fish are at risk of ammonia / nitrite poisoning if not properly cared for
–Requires absolute responsibility and dedication in order to keep your fish healthy
–Water changes and testing daily are often required (also there is no such thing as too many water changes during fish-in cycling as long as you are using temperature- matched conditioned water).


2…Aquarium Size
Before purchasing an aquarium, survey your available space and get the largest aquarium you can fit into your home. Why? Believe it or not, larger aquariums are easier to maintain than smaller aquariums plus your options for fish will be increased with a larger aquarium. There is also more room for error in larger aquariums since there is more water to dissipate toxins if something goes wrong.

A good tank size to start with would be a 20 gal long aquarium; fish options are greatly increased with this size tank plus it has a lot of surface area and horizontal swim room for active fish. Most beginners start with a 10 gal aquarium which is fine, however fish options are fairly limited in a 10 gal tank plus the smaller the tank the smaller margin for error.

Also keep in mind the weight of the aquarium on your floor when filled with water, particularly if your aquarium is going to be on an upper level.

A note on Aquarium Kits: The all-in-one kits may be tempting to buy and can be useful however most of the time the filters they come with are barely enough for the tank size. It’s often better (and cheaper) to buy the pieces separately so that you can custom build your aquarium to your specifications.

Quarantine Tank: While you’re aquarium shopping you may want to purchase a 10 gal tank to use for quarantine. If a fish develops illness in your main tank you may want to quarantine it for treatment rather than treating the whole tank. You should also quarantine new fish for a minimum of at least 2 weeks (4 is preferred) before putting them into your main tank to monitor the fish for potential illnesses to avoid introducing sick fish into your main tank. Also running an extra filter on your main tank, which you can then use to instantly cycle a quarantine tank, is a good idea and can save you a lot of time and frustration if an emergency arises.

Upgrading Tanks: There are often a lot of questions about how to upgrade your current tank to a larger one. Fortunately this is easy if your current tank is already established and cycled. Remember the filter you have on your current tank is already seeded with the proper bacteria to take care of the toxins and waste your current fish load puts out, so you’ll want to utilize this in your new tank. Often a larger tank requires a larger filter. You can seed the new filter in one of two ways: 1) Move your current filter to the new tank and run it along with the new filter for at least one month. This will instantly cycle the larger tank for your current fish and give time for bacteria to grow on the new filter. 2) You can take out all media (sponges, pads, bio-rings, etc.) from your current filter and insert it into the new filter; if there’s room left you can fill the new filter the rest of the way with the new media it came with. This should also instantly cycle the tank for your current fish load. Whatever method you choose, it is advised to test the tank daily for a week to ensure that there are no toxin spikes, particularly if you’ve changed out other items in the tank like substrate. When the tank is stable you can introduce more fish, but keep in mind that the bacteria on your filter is enough for your current fish load only. When you add more fish, the bacteria need time to adjust and grow for the higher fish load. Therefore, add new fish SLOWLY (1-2 every 2-3 weeks) and monitor the tank closely for toxin spikes. Be sure to research fish prior to purchasing.

Bacteria Starters: There is a lot of debate among hobbyists as to whether to use bacteria starters or cycle boosters to aid in cycling an aquarium (such as Tetra Safe Start and Nutrafin Cycle). Generally they are not needed and in some cases do not work. Some bacteria starters contain the wrong types of bacteria and even if they do contain the correct types it can be very difficult to keep bacteria viable that is kept in a bottle and shipped from place-to-place under various temperature conditions.

If you want to safely add bacteria to your tank to aid in cycling find someone with a healthy established tank and ask them for some of their filter media to place into your filter. If you don’t know of anyone with an established tank, AngelsPlus sells “active” seeded sponge filters from their Angel Fish tanks which have helped many (myself included) with their cycles (both fish-in and fishless). Just ensure that the sponge filter you buy says “active” next to it or else you are just purchasing a plain filter.


3…Aquarium Stands
Think about the surface your aquarium is going to stand on and be sure that it can hold the weight of a full aquarium. Purchase an aquarium stand built for aquariums or you can even build your own.


4…Filtration
Filtration is very important for any aquarium and the more filtration the better. You generally want a higher level of filtration than your tank size; so if you have a 30 gal tank and your filter is rated for aquariums up to 30 gals you may want to invest in a larger filter (or more than one). A good rule of thumb is to purchase filtration that is at least double the size for your tank, so if you have a 20 gal tank purchase a filter that’s rated for at least a 40 gal aquarium.

There are many types of filters: under-gravel (UG), hang on the back (HOB), internal and canister. Most internal and HOB filters are the best choice; canister filters can also be great for larger tanks. Some recommended brands are Aquaclear (HOB) and Fluval (internal or canister), or Eheim (canister).

Most filters come with filter media which is the “stuff” that goes inside the filter; this can be ceramic rings, sponges, pads, etc. Some filters also come with charcoal. There is some debate on whether charcoal is needed for an aquarium. Mostly charcoal is used to remove medications from the water after treating for illness but generally charcoal isn’t needed at any other time. You can keep the charcoal in the filter without any harmful effects but you can also choose to replace the carbon with another form of filter insert such as a sponge or ceramic rings.

Most manufacturers say to replace filter media every x amount of months but this is incorrect. The beneficial bacteria your aquarium needs mostly live on your filter media and replacing the media can cause your tank to recycle depending upon the amount you change. Generally filter media does not need to be replaced until it is literally falling apart (which can be years) and if you do need to replace some filter media replace a small portion at a time.


5…Substrate
Gravel or sand? It largely depends on your preference. If you are thinking of stocking your tank with bottom feeders that like to burrow or sift through the substrate (like Khuli Loaches or Corydoras just for an example), sand may be the best choice.

Sand should be rinsed multiple times or else it will cloud up your tank for a while (and even with rinsing there may be some temporary cloudiness). Pour the sand into buckets and stir it up repeatedly with your hand, dump the cloudy water and repeat until the water runs clear. You can also rinse the sand through a clean pillow cover. Some of the finer sands can get into your filter mechanism and cause issues but this shouldn’t be a reason to forego sand entirely. Aquarium sands sold at fish stores are fine to use. Many aquarists also choose to use Pool Filter Sand which can be cheaper. Sand also looks more natural than gravel so if you’re looking for a natural-look to your aquarium you may like sand better. Sand is actually easier to keep clean than gravel as gravel offers many small spaces for leftover food and waste to hide and potentially foul the water if not cleaned properly.

For tanks utilizing live plants, many aquarists choose to use a nutrient-rich substrate. Here is a link to Substrate Articles and FAQ (originally posted by Wasserpest): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=184631

Gravel is easier to prepare: usually just rinsing it off a few times in hot water is sufficient. Some gravel can deteriorate over time where the coloring washes off and you’re left with whitish colored gravel. This probably depends on the brand of gravel you are using although most aquarium gravels should be fine. Gravels come in various colors as well so if you’d like a more colorful tank then you may prefer gravel over sand.


6…Lights
The standard lights that often come with aquariums are sufficient for viewing fish and possibly for growing low-light live plants. Lights should be kept on a day/night cycle as fish require some dark time. Lights can be generally kept on for up to 10 hours per day without any negative effects.

Some light fixtures have a built-in moonlight effect or you can build your own. Moonlights can be kept on for a few hours at night but leaving them on overnight is not recommended.

A Note on Black lights: There are some fish (Glofish for example) that are genetically engineered to “glow” under backlight. While a few hours per day under backlights should be fine for fish this should not be the sole source of light. A standard daylight aquarium bulb should be used most of the time.
Lighting in a planted aquarium plays a vital role in which live plants you can grow successfully and whether you will need to inject CO2. More on this is found below in the Plants section (#12).


7…Dechlorinator
A water dechlorinator (also known as conditioner) is a must-have; it detoxifies the chemicals in your water so that it is safe for aquarium use. Seachem Prime is highly recommended due to the fact that it is highly concentrated and less Prime does the same job as more of most other brands and will therefore last longer. Prime also helps detoxify nitrite and ammonia in an aquarium which can be helpful in situations where toxins are present such as during fish-in cycling. Other similar brands are API Stress Coat, Amquel, API Tap Water Conditioner and Tetra AquaSafe.
Follow the dosing guidelines on the bottle of the dechlorinator you plan to use.

When doing water changes it is often asked how to dose dechlorinator. You can do this in one of two ways:

1) Dose for each gallon you are replacing. If you are using buckets to fill the tank, you can dose each bucket with the appropriate amount of dechlorinator prior to putting it into the tank. So, if you have 5 gal buckets dose enough for each bucket (see the dosing guidelines on the dechlorinator; for example, Prime dosing is 2 drops per gallon).

2) Dose for the entire volume of the tank. If you are using an automatic water changer that attaches to your faucet (like a garden hose or the Aqueon Water Changer) you should add the dechlorinator straight to the tank and dose enough for the whole tank. So if your tank is 40 gallons and the dechlorinator instructions says one capful treats 50 gallons then you can add one capful to the tank and then refill. You can use this method with buckets as well. Water dechlorinators work instantaneously so there’s no need to let treated water sit out before replacing.


8…Testing kit
A water testing kit is essential for any fish keeper. You will need to check your water regularly to ensure that all levels are safe for fish and to test the water if you see any problems developing with your fish. A good liquid test kit is recommended as opposed to test strips. Strips are cheaper in the short-term however they do not last long and they are generally inaccurate. The best liquid test kit that is recommended by most hobbyists is the API Master Kit.

A note on the API Tests: It can be difficult to read the ammonia test colors on the API Kit. Often, the 0 reading may look slightly greenish depending upon the lighting conditions in the room. When in doubt, move to a better light source. You can also test some distilled or spring water and compare the tube to your tank’s test; if they match, the tank’s ammonia is 0. The nitrate test is finicky and can cause inaccurate readings if not done correctly. Shake and BANG both nitrate bottles on a hard surface for 30 seconds and then once both drops are in the tube, shake the tube vigorously for a full 60 seconds and then wait 5 minutes for the result.


9…Heaters
If you are thinking of setting up a tropical aquarium, you will need a heater. Be sure that the wattage is enough to heat your size tank but don’t buy a heater that is too large for your aquarium; a 200 watt heater isn’t good for a 5 gal tank as it may potentially overheat your tank if it malfunctions– larger isn’t always better when it comes to heaters. Often the packaging on the heater will tell you how many gallons the heater can support. Also purchasing an adjustable heater so that you can control the temperature is highly recommended. Some good adjustable heaters are Aqueon and Fluval.


10…Thermometer
You want an in-tank thermometer to ensure that the heater temperature is accurate. Some heaters often heat the water to +/- 1-2 degrees from which they are set so it’s always best to double-check. A mercury thermometer is preferred over the external stick-on thermometers which can be hard to read and often not accurate.


11…Air Stones
An air stone or bubble wand isn’t a must-have for an aquarium. If you like the aesthetic quality of the bubbles then purchasing an air stone and air pump can be fun and fine to use. As long as your filter agitates the surface of the water there should be sufficient oxygen exchange and an air stone isn’t needed unless you want one. However if your filter fails an air stone can provide an emergency backup allowing oxygen into the water until your filter is fixed or replaced.

If you live in an area where power outages are common you may want to invest in a battery operated air stone (sold at some fishing supply shops and larger department stores in the fishing section) to provide oxygen for the fish until power is restored. Also the higher the temperature in the tank the less oxygen is in the tank so an air stone can help with that as well (such as if you are treating a disease like Ich and need to raise the temperature in the aquarium over 80).


12…Plants
Plastic, silk and real plants are all options. Plastic plants are commonly sold at pet/fish stores and are safe to use, just remove any stickers that may be on them from the stores and soak in hot water before placing in the aquarium. Plastic plants will last for years and are easily maintained by occasionally rinsing them off in old tank water during a water change. Some plastic plants have sharp edges that can injure some fish however.

Silk plants are like plastic plants but softer and they also can seem more life-like as opposed to plastic plants. They too will last a long time and maintenance is the same as they are for plastic plants.

Live plants are often a favorite and can be a hobby in itself. Your aquarium lighting will largely dictate which live plants you can safely grow in an aquarium. Most aquariums come with a single standard T8 florescent bulb which should be able to maintain very low-light plants such as Anubias, Java Fern, and mosses such as Java Moss.

A list of low-light plants can be found here (originally posted by Homer_Simpson): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=56042

Healthy plants also provide another form of natural filtration as they can consume excess nitrates and toxins in the water…but uncared for plants do more harm than good as rotting plants can contribute to bad water quality which in turn can harm your fish. Also do research prior to investing in live plants: ensure that your lighting is sufficient for the plants you wish to grow and be wary of plants sold at large chain fish stores as most of those plants are not fully aquatic and may rot in your aquarium if left underwater for a long period of time.

Fish can tell the difference between real and fake plants. Many fish use real plants to hide from predators or to spawn (mate) and even lay eggs. Some fry (baby fish) and shrimp use dense plants such as Moss to hide in until they are large enough to swim among other fish without being eaten.

Lighting also plays a role in a planted aquarium: the higher the light, the more chance for algae without proper CO2. Many hobbyists also dose fertilizers in either dry or liquid form to provide nutrients for the plants. Here are some links:

Algae Internet Resource Guide (originally posted by GateKeeper): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=137368

Aquascaping Threads. (originally posted by observant_imp): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=16974

Basics to Starting a Planted Tank.
http://www.plantedtank.net/articles/Basics-to-starting-a-Planted-Tank/4/

CO2 chart (originally posted by GDominy):
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=23531

Comparison of Lighting Types (Lumens and Watts) (originally posted by BlueRam):
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=21052

Fertilizer Calculators & Dosing Recipes:
http://www.theaquatools.com/fertilization-calculator
http://tinycalc.petalphile.com/
https://sites.google.com/site/aquati...r/home/pps-pro
http://www.thenutrientcompany.com/aquarium/calculators/
http://www.aquariumslife.com/aquasca...izer-solution/
http://www.bestaquariumregulator.com/dosing.html
http://www.aquascapist.com/co2-ferti...y-fertilizers/

Glossary Terms, FAQs, useful links and search tips. (originally posted by edrock200):
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=27118

Lighting Articles & FAQ (originally posted by Wasserpest): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=184634

Planted Tank Articles (articles on various topics such as Starting a Planted Tank, Aquascaping Principles, Calculators and Converters and more): http://www.plantedtank.net/articles.php?d

Plant Database : http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/myPlants.php

Plants to be Aware of (illegal plants) (originally posted by CAF): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=52433


13…Decorations
This is the fun part. There are many types of aquarium decorations from underwater ships to Greek Coliseums to driftwood and everything in between. As long as the decoration is stated as being aquarium safe it should be fine to use. Just remove any stickers from the store and rinse the decor under hot water before placing in the aquarium. Be wary of using reptile decorations in an aquarium as some may be pre-treated with pesticides; if in doubt, contact the manufacturer prior to placing these in an aquarium.

Natural driftwood is also a choice for many hobbyists who want to create a life-like underwater scene. Mopani, Malaysian and Manzanita are common types of driftwood. Many local retailers and online shops sell driftwood. You will need to soak the driftwood in hot or boiling water in order release the tannins inside the wood; often these tannins will produce a tea color to your water however this is not harmful to fish. It is also normal for natural driftwood to grow a white fungus-like substance for the first few months after it is placed in your aquarium which is not harmful and will go away in time.

Also some natural driftwood will not sink on its own right away but should sink on its own in time. You can attach a piece of slate to the bottom of the wood with aquarium safe silicone or stainless steel screws.

Also keep in mind that some driftwood may reduce your water’s PH in the aquarium, so keep this in mind. You can test the PH of the water that the driftwood is soaking in to see if the PH drops.


14…Siphon/Vacuum
Vacuuming the substrate in your tank is essential to removing fish waste and leftover food which can damage water quality (vacuuming often during fish-in cycling has no negative effects on the cycle). Siphons also make it easier to pump the water out of the aquarium for water changes.

There are many siphons to choose from; if you are thinking of maintaining a larger tank (15+ gallons) an automatic water changer such as the Aqueon or Python changer can be useful. These changers connect to standard faucets and eliminate the need for buckets. (If you use a manual changer for water changes you will need to dose the aquarium with dechlorinator prior to adding the water and remember to add enough dechlorinator for the entire volume of the tank, not just the water you are replacing).


15…Fish Food & Feeding
Fish like variety just as humans do. There are many fish foods on the market, too many to go into here. Some of the recommended brands are Hikari and New Life Spectrum. Some fish even like (or require) fresh vegetables. Some bottom feeders such as Corys (Corydoras) should be supplemented with algae wafers or shrimp pellets. There are also frozen foods, sinking foods, pellets, wafers, flakes and many others. Research the best types of food for your fish and try to give some variety. Note that freeze-dried foods are not recommended as they can cause bloating issues in fish; if freeze-dried foods are given they should be used as an occasional treat only and soaking the food in tank water for a few minutes may help combat some of the digestion issues associated with freeze-dried foods.

Regardless of whatever food(s) you choose, overfeeding is very easy to do and can be detrimental to fish health and water quality. Fish always seem hungry but they can be easily overfed which can cause bloating and swim bladder issues. One rule of thumb is to feed your fish no more than they can eat in 1-3 minutes and most fish (except for fry – baby fish – which need to be fed more often) do fine with once per day feedings. It’s also good practice to fast your fish one day per week so that their digestive tracts can clean themselves out. Feeding your fish a thawed, de-shelled, frozen, unsalted pea once per week can also help them digest their food and combat constipation (just remove any uneaten peas after a few hours).

Some fish like Otos (Otoncinclus) and Goldfish do well with eating vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber and spinach. You can slice the food and blanch it (boil it for a few minutes and then dunk it in cold water) prior to putting it into the aquarium. Remove any uneaten food after a couple of hours.


16…Aquarium Salt
Aquarium salt is generally not needed in freshwater aquariums (although as with most things in this hobby this point has been debated). Most large chain fish stores will tell you that aquarium salt is required but this is not true. Aquarium salt is only generally needed to treat certain diseases or injury and is not required otherwise.

Some fish do need brackish water (slightly salted water but not quite enough to qualify as Saltwater) such as certain types of Mollys (some have been raised in freshwater only so ask what type of water these fish are kept in before purchasing), Bumblebee Gobys, and certain types of Puffers.


17…Other Supplies
–fish net
–bucket(s) and/or an automatic water changer (e.g. Aqueon Water Changer)

As you go along you may need to acquire other tools such as medications, breeding traps, etc. depending on your setup and what your aquarium requires. These tools generally can be purchased later if needed but not required at the beginning. Just remember that owning an aquarium is a responsibility so be prepared for the eventuality that you may need to run to the store to purchase something if the need arises.


18…Stocking Your Tank
There is an old-school rule of fish stocking which says that 1″ of fish can be added per 1 gallon of water. This of course would dictate that a 10″ fish would fit in a 10 gallon aquarium, which is just silly. So then what’s the rule? Unfortunately there isn’t one easy rule to follow when stocking a tank. Adult fish size, activity level, bioload, etc. all need to be taken into account when planning the proper fish for your size tank.

For example, since Goldfish are large, messy fish the general rule is 20 gallons for the first goldfish and 10 gallons for each additional fish, so if you wanted 3 goldfish you would need a 40 gal tank. This is just for Fancy goldfish; goldfish like Koi, Comets or Commons grow too large for home aquariums and should be kept in ponds.

Neon Tetras are very small fish and are commonly sold so it should be OK to put a group of them in a 5 gal tank right? Unfortunately no. Neons are also very active swimmers and need a good amount of horizontal swim space in order to thrive properly; at least a 20 gal long aquarium would be ideal for these fish.

Glofish are also another type of fish that are often sold with very small tanks; Glofish are Danios which are active fish and require a lot of swim room, therefore a 20 gal minimum is often recommended for these fish to thrive.

Bettas (Siamese Fighting Fish) can be kept in small jars like at the store, yes? No. Bettas thrive in heated tanks with ample room to swim. A minimum of 5 gals is recommended for the proper care of a Betta and the tank should be heated between 77 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Also most Bettas do better alone, particularly males, otherwise they can fight to the death. Female Bettas can be kept in a sorority of at least 6 to minimize aggression and a large tank is required. Please do research prior to mixing Bettas. Also some Bettas can be added to tropical community aquariums with other fish but some cannot; it will largely depend upon the personality of your Betta, so please have a back-up plan if your fish does not work out in a community setup. Fish like Guppies and Mollys are not recommended to mix with Bettas as fin-nipping can occur.

Choose your fish carefully because you’ll have them for the long haul. For example, if you purchase a school of Tetras and down the road wish you hadn’t bought them you are effectively stuck with your Tetras because they are schooling fish and you will have to continue replacing them if some die off to keep up the minimum number they require for their school.

For aquariums less 10 gallons or less, Nano fish are a great way to add some variety to your tank without overstocking. Some common Nano fish are Celestial Pearl Danio, Ember Tetra and Chili Rasbora. Smaller types of Corys would work as well depending on tank size, such as Corydoras Hastus, Corydoras Hasbrosus and Corydoras Pygmaeus.

List of Nano Fish (originally posted by alphacat): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=31095

Invertebrates
Many hobbyists also find freshwater shrimp and snails interesting additions to an aquarium. Fish and/or snails can be kept in smaller tanks (depending upon size) and can be interesting to watch in their own right. A small tank with plants and shrimp can be very rewarding and fun. Here are some links to further information:

Shrimp & Invert FAQ
Post contains a compilation of links to helpful threads, FAQs and articles (originally posted by Wasserpest): http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=184517

PlanetInverts

The best advice when it comes to stocking your aquarium is to do your research first. Search the internet for information on the types of fish you want to keep; check their compatibility with other fish and temperature requirements for each fish (for example, a coldwater fish like goldfish should not be kept with tropical fish due to the temperature differences they require). Take a trip to some local fish stores in your area and write down the names of fish that interest you and then do some research on those fish prior to purchasing. Also start a post here asking for advice; your best resource are other hobbyists who have experience with the fish you are wanting to keep and can give constructive advice so that you choose fish that are suited for your size and type of aquarium and will be happy in their new home.


19…Acclimating New Fish
So you’ve cycled your tank and are ready to add fish! You can just plop them into the tank right? Nope. Fish need to be acclimated slowly to your tank because your tank’s parameters (temperature, PH, etc.) can be very different from the tank from which they came.

The “old school” way of acclimating fish is to float their bag for a while in your tank. This only acclimates them to temperature however and not to other factors in your water, such as PH. The best way to acclimate fish to your tank is by drip acclimation (also search YouTube for “drip acclimation” for some how-to videos).


20…Maintenance
–Water changes
Once your tank is fully cycled and you have the appropriate fish for your tank you will need to maintain the aquarium. The best practice is to change 50% of the water per week. You can do this by doing 2-3 smaller water changes per week or one larger change per week. Also test the water with your test kit every couple of weeks to ensure water quality is good. You want nitrite and ammonia to be 0 at all times and keep nitrates under 20 (nitrates are only removed through water changes). Even if your nitrate doesn’t reach 20 during the week between water changes it’s still a good idea to maintain a weekly water change schedule. Fish use up minerals in the water and these need to be replenished. Also clean water can go a long way in preventing disease in most fish. Use your siphon regularly to vacuum the substrate and suck up any excess waste that lies at the bottom.

99% of the time, your natural water source (tap or well water) is more than sufficient to use for your tank as long as it’s properly dechlorinated. If your source water is very high in toxin levels (ammonia, nitrate, etc.) you may need to “cut” the water by using a mix of source water and RO (Reverse Osmosis) water. Please ask for advice before changing your source water; most of the time it is fine and if you already have fish changing their water source suddenly can have negative effects.
Also using nothing but Reverse Osmosis (RO or RODI) water in a freshwater tank is not needed except in very rare circumstances. Keep in mind that if you do need to use RO water, you are basically using distilled water which is not only stripped of toxins but minerals as well and fish need minerals to survive. Therefore you will need to add back the minerals manually during water changes with a product like RO Rite or Seachem Replenish. Again, your source water should be sufficient for your aquarium. If in doubt, ask first.

–Checking equipment
Periodically check your filters and heater to ensure they are working properly. Once or twice per month swish your filter media in old tank water during a water change to loosen any debris that may be caught in the filters.

–Keep it simple
If you open the cabinet under your aquarium and bottles of pH adjusters, clarifiers, aquarium salts, buffers and other additives fall out…you’re probably doing something wrong.

A healthy, established aquarium normally requires only two things to be added on a consistent basis…fresh water from your faucet and a quality water conditioner / dechlorinator (and possibly plant fertilizers based upon your setup).
The hundreds of products found on the shelves at your local fish store may seem like a treasure trove of goodies to keep your fish happy and healthy…but in reality it often has the opposite effect. Just like when buying fish…look all you want, but don’t bring anything home without thoroughly researching it first.

A note about PH: many new aquarists think that they need to adjust their tank’s PH in order to keep certain fish. In the majority of cases, your fish will adapt to your tank’s natural PH and there is no need to adjust it. In fact, attempting to adjust your PH with chemicals can do more harm than good. Fish require stable parameters and constantly fiddling with your PH can cause fluctuations, which is far more harmful to fish than living in a different PH than they are said to need (there are a few exceptions to this rule; Discus is one. Researching prior to purchasing is always recommended!)

–Don’t panic
…Which is often easier said than done particularly when something goes wrong with your own aquarium. If a fish is behaving abnormally or looks ill or injured don’t panic and buy the first type of medicine you see. Diagnosing fish illnesses can be difficult and you want to ensure that you are using the correct medication to treat the correct illness. Some medications treat particular diseases or infections and even some illness (like Ich) do not require medications for treatment. If in doubt, start a post in the Fish Forum and see if others can help.
· Swim Bladder Disease
· Treating Ich & Treating Ich with Salt


· Common Fish Symptoms
· Freshwater Disease Chart

–Be responsible
Remember that your aquarium is not just a piece of furniture or something new to look at…it is a home for living animals who solely depend on you for their health and survival. Before making any decisions, do your research and gather information from different sources (not just the guy at the fish store). Keep in mind that fish-keeping is not just a hobby…it’s a responsibility.

Follow the steps above and enjoy a healthy aquarium that will last for years. :icon_mrgr


"That's Hot!" Love it, great job.
Cheers,
big o

LB79 09-03-2012 05:10 AM

This is really good!

wkndracer 09-03-2012 07:56 PM

replies create a conversation
 
In the reply to the posted comments you again display your ability to write in a manner to convey information very well.
Still and all I'll try to explain why I feel a blending of planted aquarium keeping and traditional tanking methods into a starter guide creates confusion on a number of points. I feel your opening remarks qualify well your goals and explain in brief the reasoning for the cross forum posting of this 'modified' guide.
It also answered (for me) why some of the information hiccups are present, the adapting of your prior work to planted methods of tank keeping. Posting to attain sticky status sharing tanking beliefs and experiences is a foreign thought for me so I didn't read it that way.

Did see the link posted to the list of articles on the TPT in your guide and intended to link it again in the context of my post.

Site Admin & Discuspaul cross posted his beginners guide to discus keeping here on TPT October of last year.
(not aware of whether or not you've read it)
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=152359
I posted regarding similar concerns in his thread. The same concerns regarding information I brought up posting in your thread are on topics of tanking that caused me problems at different times. Those topics continue to cause others the same problems based on the way we in the hobby treat the topic of water quality or rather ignore the basics of it with regards to tank setup.
"99% of the time, your natural water source (tap or well water) is more than sufficient to use for your tank"
but put that statement into the context of millions with hobbyists tanking worldwide then that 1% remaining is a pretty fair size number. We in the 1%
do indeed feel special when trying to figure out why we have problems when others don't. Emphasizing the basics of water chemistry (without being chewy about it) and adding some parameter checks starting out virtually eliminates those concerns. Concerns about the pH crashes you report as common to cycling tanks can also be prevented by knowing or monitoring KH values, sadly that's not been well documented.

I'm most web interactive here but also active on an angelfish breeding forum. The water parameters kept by those focused on breeding fish won't allow plants to survive. The parameters I routinely keep in my tanks would send them running to do a water change. The methods used are vastly different when it comes to water parameters. Common knowledge among hobbyists of one focus won't necessarily transfer over to all the others.

Even pH readings with healthy aquatic plants involved changes things on what a person will see in tested values simply based on the time of day. More accurately based on lighting. As it relates to a fully planted tank photo synthesis during the lighting period and the various processes that take place can create as much as a full point swing in tested pH values as a normal daily occurrence in a lightly buffered planted aquarium. Even in a low or medium light level non injected system plants can produce these daily changes in 'tested' pH.
I don't believe you find this happening in a fish only tank.

Mg and calcium levels (general hardness) don't even factor at all in a pH reading but sure as hell change the TDS and osmotic pressure. Cross value reference testing is much more accurate and not so hard to explain. I can easily get a tested result of 7.4pH in both 4dGH and 14dGH water. Flip a fish outta the net from one to the other in either direction and you just hit the critter in the face with a 2x4.
So does a tested 7.4pH really tell me anything?
TDS 2-5ppm, API GH, KH titration tests reading zero but testing 6.8pH is this safe water for fauna? (I don't think it is)
Can plants grow in it? (I don't think so)
Without the GH & KH testing how would you know?
I don't consider a pH discussion accurate even at the beginner level without at least brief KH/pH, range of acidity or alkalinity being covered in the same statements. For the novice reading a guide can lead them to believe based on pH alone that the osmotic pressure (what actually effects critters) was the same from one water source or another with the reality being that it's vastly different.

As long as the temperature is matched I routinely swap fish with a flip of the net between tanks with 5.9/6.2pH and 7.4/7.6pH.
Temps the same, the TDS is very close and fish don't care about pH differences in any experience I've had here. Shifts (rapid swings or changes) in GH, KH, TDS and the resultant osmotic pressure that's the yada yada that causes our critters issues not pH changes per say.

Some post that hardness values are required to be in equal ratio or a similar value (GH/KH), this is opinion not fact. Across the U.S. alone vast differences in mineral content are reported by many. Posts pop up on the forum almost weekly with wide ranging results, creates confusion for many it would seem. Tap safe to drink is not always the best or safe to tank. Eliminate the confusion by linking water quality to values of GH, KH, TDS and let pH fall where it may in the KH/CO2/pH relationship.

Starting out new to the hobby or simply moving to a new location advice to be aware of what is in your source water so it can be addressed or added to the ignore list. Beyond the test or not test question what I try to convey / contribute is that you shouldn't ignore the water you tank with.
What's in your water? What's not? Both for the fish and the plants.
(in my opinion) GH, KH are the important water quality measurement not pH, for fish, plants and bacteria. pH values follow alkalinity or carbonate hardness most of the time but not always.

The links provided regarding bacteria in the reply were a good read (TY). Even the one from Fritz though broad and covering saltwater as well provided good general information (imo). 'Phosphate blocking' was mentioned on the Fritz site and being a situation I've dealt with I smiled.


Section 9, Never trust a test kit right out of the box.
Invest less than a dollar in a gallon of distilled water and at the very least verify zero as a baseline. API & Seachem chemical tests are of great value (imo) as entry level hobby kits and reasonably accurate as a rule.
Some of the best test kits are Lamotte, Hanna, Hach.

Section 19 is thin on guidance (temperature, PH, etc.). The single referenced link (F&S) mentions very little on the true hazard of NH3/NH4 conversion that starts happening the minute you open the shipping bag allowing O2 levels to rise with or without an air stone and the easy way to eliminate it.

In discussing fertilizers you linked to one of my favorite reference sites starting out due to the posting style of the author and accuracy of the information, you mentioned and linked to Rex.
http://www.bestaquariumregulator.com/dosing.html
Any reference to Rex Grigg on this site normally carries multiple red flags with the moderators due to his long term absence from the internet.
I'm hoping this does not lead to the removal of the information link because his posting style is rather unique. While dated the information is accurate and provided for me the easiest of formats to understand starting out.
Needed disclaimer when linking:
DO NOT BUY/ORDER from his site store without direct personal contact with him first. Last known web activity was 12/5/2010.
As with all purchases caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware but be aware.

A planted tank is a little more involved than a basic water and fish tank. Considerations in the set up and maintenance are different.
If you want to tank plants they need to be fed properly if the system is to succeed.
There are literally endless ways discussed in these day's of the internet information exchange to 'method' a planted tank.

As long as I have NO3 10-30ppm, PO4 2-5ppm and TDS doesn't rise more than about 100ppm I don't change water. Let's just say there are a zillion other ways to do it.

After being burnt by moving 12 miles and having odd water issues I'm just not as trusting of water as I use to be. I learned what I need to test, I test. After losing MANY fish to ion exchanged water and then MANY more to internal parasites I don't skip using entry quarantine on anything added anymore either.

>30yrs tanking fish and I never tested anything but pH except during a new tank cycle. After payments were made lessons were learned.

On the forums I simply try to share so others might skip some grief.

just because someone sounds like they know what they’re talking about, it doesn’t mean they are always correct… makes a great tag line


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