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Old 01-07-2013, 07:16 PM   #1
Kudaria
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Default New to Aquariums - Intial First Steps

Hello everyone,

As the title says I'm new to keeping any type of aquarium much less a planted aquarium. I don't want to go crazy on the plants (at least not initially) but I'd like to have a bit of healthy green in my tank for the fish to swim among that aren't plastic.

I bought the Tetra deluxe aquarium setup which gave me a 20H tank, a Tetra Whisper 20 gallon filter, preset-tropical water heater (78F), and a deluxe Precision Full Tank Hood with a single T8 Daylight 18" florescent light.

Onto describing the tanks environment, we keep the house between 68 to 72 in the winter and 74 in the summer. We have two Maine Coon kittens that are seven and six months old right now (both around 8 lb now) and are highly interested in closely observing and assisting with the aquarium setup.

Maintenance effort willingness - I'd rather have an easy to maintain tank so I probably won't want to get either hard to maintain fish or plants that would require alot of effort to keep alive.

After some reading (and effort in finding a place that sells it) I got two bags of the Eco-Complete Black Planting Substrate and put it in per the directions to simply empty the entire bag contents into the empty tank. I'm not sure if that was pure water in the bag or something else but it all went into the tank. I followed that up with 15 gallons of RO water from the aquarium shop.

Now, I know I should need to add back in minerals and such to the water for the plants and fish and am waiting for my order from Amazon to come in on Wed. I'm getting SeaChem Equilibrium and Neutral Regulator to put in the water along with and API kH gH test kit. I already purchased the Master Freshwater Test kit but unfortunately it doesn't come with that particular test.

I know I need to measure my gH value of the RO water and then raise the gH value with the Equilibrium to somewhere above 5 but not more than 12gH. My first question is where should the gH value be if I'm planning on planting low light plants such as java ferns and maybe some java moss and a school of 5 or 6 zebra dan fish.

I'm planning on replacing the current single T8 lamp with a Finnex Fugeray 20" LED (as soon as their available again on Amazon) to give me a slightly brighter lamp that will still fall into the high range of low light so that I don't have to worry about adding carbon dioxide unless I want to for plant growth instead of it being required.

Questions:

(1) as I mentioned I'm trying to figure out what gH to aim for when conditioning the RO water with Equilibrium.

(2) using RO water what else should I be testing for besides kH and gH? Phosphates? Calcium? Magnesium?

(3) what plants will do well with the Finnex Fugeray besides the javas?

(4) when conditioning the RO water am I correct in thinking that all I should need to add are the Equilibrium and Neutral Regulator?

(5) probably the most essential question... what have I not thought of that will be a gotcha in setting up this tank?
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:49 PM   #2
puopg
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2. I think the most useful will be a good quality pH meter (none of that color drop crap), KH meter.

5. Too much to even mention. Don't worry, keep reading and learning. Experience + Time = Success.
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Old 01-08-2013, 04:29 AM   #3
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Default Point one

Sorry it is not relevant to your question...
but at this point what you need to focus is the 'tank cycle"...
before this goal at least two times of massive algae attacks and dying off plants etc etc...
Keep in mind that plants 7 days= our 1 day so be patient
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Old 01-08-2013, 10:25 AM   #4
Kudaria
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True the tank cycle is important but first I need to get to the point of feeling comfortable even adding plants and fish to the tank to even begin the cycle.

Does anyone know whats in the water in the bag of CarbiSea Eco-Complete? It instructs you to add the gravel and water in the bag to a new tank but my pH has risen from 7 to 7.6 since Saturday. Using RO water I know I have no buffering effect so pH would rise or fall rapidly but I'm trying to figure out if I should do a complete water change to get back to completely neutral water which can then be conditioned or to simply go ahead with what I have now.

Grrr I can't believe that every fish place around was out of KH GH tests....I'm either now stuck taking it in for testing or waiting another day for the test to get here in the mail.
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:30 PM   #5
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I wouldn't worry so much about the PH - a steady PH is better than a fluctuating PH. A lot of fish will adapt to what you can provide. When you start messing with increasing then lowering then maybe back up a bit, that's more stressful. Is there an issue with just using your tap water with a dechlorinator like Prime?

As previously mentioned, you should cycle the tank first - without fish. Less work (fewer wc's) and no unnecessary fish deaths. You can start with plants while you cycle. Try some crypts, maybe anubias tied to a piece of driftwood.
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:11 PM   #6
Kudaria
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I might trust Prime to clean up the tapwater....might being the operative word. Where I live they often run right up against or a bit over all the recommended EPA water safety limits and every few years have to issue an alert for pregnant women not to drink the water.

The real issue is they have a very old water plant and they don't want to spend the money to bring it up to modern standards. As a result I'd rate our water quality poor here. Prime since it not only de-chlorinates but removes things like ammonia from the water, which we have here, as I mentioned might clean the tap water up enough to use but I think I'd rather have the result tested before actually using it.

RO water is a 15-20 min trip to get but I already have four 6 gallon water jugs to pick it up in.

Im getting both the RO water and current aquarium water tested at the store today as I know pH alone is telling me very little about whats going on with my water. I suspect the rise is from the water conditioner that the Eco-Complete is packaged in as well as the RO water leaching minerals out of the substrate. It will really take a GH test as well as some specific mineral tests to really tell me what I need to know.
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:44 PM   #7
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Use tap water if at all possible. Water changes are the key element to a healthy tank and having to make trips to get water is gonna get old pretty fast.

One thing you need to purchase asap is a master drop test kit. You will need this when cycling, which as mentioned above is something you need to start doing NOW, not later. If this is your first attempt at a tank then doing a fishless cycle is the way to go - much less stressful for you since you don't have to worry about killing your fish in the process, and also a good time to learn how to use your test kit and how the cycle itself works. A typical cycle from scratch (meaning you have not seeded the tank with bacteria from an existing filter) typically takes about 6-8 weeks. If you're going to use Prime then I would actually recommend getting an ammonia test from Seachem as the other ammonia test kits can give you somewhat inaccurate readings with Prime. The Seachem tests can be found on Amazon for a decent price.

Another thing you'll want to get is a smaller hospital/quarantine tank. All fish should spend a good 3-4 weeks in quarantine before adding them to your main tank, because if they have an disease or parasites you can find out and treat before the main tank gets infected/infested. This tank will also need to be cycled.
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Old 01-08-2013, 05:42 PM   #8
Kudaria
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I have the API Master Kit, unfortunately that does not come with the KH and GH tests however, thus my needing to buy it separately.

I did take my water in for testing:

RO Water tested out good - that being there was nothing to very little in it and it was a bit acidic at 6 pH (expected as RO Water often does that after sitting out and being exposed to the atmosphere).

The aquarium water (RO Water plus the water conditioner in the Eco Complete Substrate) came out quite a bit different.

pH: 7.5
KH: 4
GH: 3
Calcium: 40
Phosphates: 0

Given these values I know I need to use the Seachem Equilibrium to finish conditioning the water. The thing is I can use that to raise the GH to whatever value it needs to be and I'm not certain yet what should be the target GH. Maybe around 8 or 9.

I'll retest KH after raising the GH, with any luck it will rise some since I know that 4KH is said to be the minimum safe KH value. If it doesn't rise then I'll need to consider what I need to add to get it to rise without hopefully raising the pH value too far.

After that is done then I can finally consider getting the nitrate cycle started.

As for your quarantine tank suggestion I'll have to consider that but I don't really have alot of space for tanks. It would have to be a smaller one.
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:10 PM   #9
Kudaria
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Actually...am I right in thinking I need to first decide what type of fish I want in the tank and then set the GH? Fish like Neon Tetra's seem to want a very low GH while fish like the Zebra Danio need 5-19 GH. That would seem to indicate that trying to keep those two fish in the same aquarium wouldn't work out that well for the Neon? Well provided that GH was set for the Zebra that is...however I think its always better to go with the higher GH than the lower since the Zebra simply couldn't get the minerals it needed from the softer water right?
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Old 01-08-2013, 07:18 PM   #10
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What exactly are the test results of your tap water tests once it's been conditioned? In my opinion you are really over thinking and over complicating things here, which goes against your desire to have an easy to maintain tank. If you absolutely refuse to consider your tap water, then why not use a source of spring water, which still has all the minerals in it, like Deer Park? Deer Park has the minerals the fish needs and a neutral Ph, so you won't need to be adding all this other stuff to the tank. And you can get it anywhere.
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