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Old 06-24-2011, 10:17 PM   #1
ReluctantHippy
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Complete newbs DIY 1st time aquarium


My gf mentioned that she wanted a goldfish so we grabbed a 10 gallon tank and bought a dozen feeder fish from walmart. They died. Grabbed another dozen feeder fish from petco. They died.

At this point I got interested and decided to get involved. I'm not the biggest fan of either walmart of petco when it comes to selling animals. I was once a big reptile enthusiast and it greatly pained me to see the local Petco's reptile selection and the health of their stock. I can't afford spending big bucks on nicer fish stores so I decided to head to the local pond.

I currently have the 10 gallon with a plain gravel bottom, small water pump with DIY carbon filter, and a few locally collected water plants and fish. Two western mosquito fish, two unknown guppies, and I believe a local minnow. Also have three pacific tree frog tadpoles, a couple oarsmen, snails, damselfly larvae, and I believe a springtail larvae.



No idea on the flora:



I don't like the looks of this tank one bit and would like to make something a bit more spectacular. The past couple days I've been scouting craigslist for tanks and all I came up with was a 20gallon with filter for $10:



I recently moved and had to deconstruct my captive bred blue belly's cage so I'm thinking I might throw him in the 20 gallon I just purchased and use his 30 gallon for my new planted tank:



I'm thinking a 2/3 full with 1/3 dry tank so that the tadpoles can develop. I'm experienced with growing terrestrial plants indoors and outdoors but know nothing about water plants. I know more than most about soil but very little about water.

We have local manzanita so I plan to go hiking in the next few days for my hardscape. I want to go low budget DIY with local flora and fauna and perhaps a couple tropicals. Lighting will be a DIY CFL fixture with reflector running 6500K bulbs. Might go with DIY CO2 but would prefer not to.

Yesterday I started testing my terrestrial supersoil in a tiny vase. This stuff is all organic and should be similar to miracle grow which I've seen people on this forum using. I also plan to populate this with a gang of triops - my favorite childhood toy



All help, comments, recommendations... are welcome. I'm totally new to this so I'll need help with the terms and abbreviations.
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Old 06-24-2011, 11:52 PM   #2
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Anyone have tips on removing hard water buildups from old tanks?
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Old 06-24-2011, 11:53 PM   #3
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Anyone have tips on removing hard water buildups from old tanks?
Use white vinegar on a rag/paper towel.
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Old 06-25-2011, 12:39 AM   #4
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If that doesn't work, let newspapers soaked in vinegar soak on the stains over night.
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Old 06-25-2011, 01:53 AM   #5
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Use white vinegar on a rag/paper towel.

These are pretty bad stains. I tried vinegar and got some out. Then soaked each side in CLR and so far have removed all of the lower (below the previous watermark) stains but can't get the higher stains out.

I have a polishing wheel - is there any solvent or pad I could use with it to buff the deposits away?
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Old 06-25-2011, 01:55 AM   #6
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If that doesn't work, let newspapers soaked in vinegar soak on the stains over night.
I'll try this. Isn't there a possibility straight vinegar over night will etch the glass?
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Old 06-25-2011, 02:01 AM   #7
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Etch the glass? No way. I have done this before and it only leaves super clear glass. Just be careful not to soak too much vinegar on the silicone, it loosens it.
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Old 06-25-2011, 02:18 AM   #8
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feeder fish are never really well cared for. get something they want to sell to live and might have better luck. but try a different source... chain stores aren't really the best place to get fish.
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Old 06-25-2011, 03:07 AM   #9
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Etch the glass? No way. I have done this before and it only leaves super clear glass. Just be careful not to soak too much vinegar on the silicone, it loosens it.
Awesome, I'll be soaking it tonight.

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feeder fish are never really well cared for. get something they want to sell to live and might have better luck. but try a different source... chain stores aren't really the best place to get fish.
I definitely agree. The local fish I gathered seem to be doing well. The mosquito fish are loving the termites I feed them and the tad poles going to town on frozen spinach. Rest seem do be doing alright on goldfish flake and the water is staying nice an clear with my DIY filter.

Are there pros and cons to a biological filter versus coal?
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Old 06-25-2011, 04:56 PM   #10
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my mosquito fish gave birth today or yesterday. I count at least 18 babies. Hopefully the mother doesn't get to hungry and eat them all.
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Old 06-27-2011, 02:37 PM   #11
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12 feeder fish in a 10 gallon? That's alot of fish in that size tank, they could have all died from ammonia spike. You should add fish gradually to an tank that has completed the nitrogen cycle. Goldfish can get pretty big if they live. You could probably keep 1 or 2 in that size tank for a while, but they would be better off in a bigger tank. Goldfish are very messy as far as eating and producing waste, so siphoning the gravel and water changes are important.
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Old 06-27-2011, 04:00 PM   #12
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12 feeder fish in a 10 gallon? That's alot of fish in that size tank, they could have all died from ammonia spike. You should add fish gradually to an tank that has completed the nitrogen cycle. Goldfish can get pretty big if they live. You could probably keep 1 or 2 in that size tank for a while, but they would be better off in a bigger tank. Goldfish are very messy as far as eating and producing waste, so siphoning the gravel and water changes are important.

I have to admit it was poorly thought out. I'm use to feeder fish being quite sick and assumed most wouldn't make the first night which is why we picked up so many to begin with. Most never lasted the first few hours and died in the bag while we floated them.


I have a question - the mosquito fish gave birth and most of the young are cruising around the very bottom of the tank just above the gravel. They are TINY - how do I clean my gravel? Or how long can I go without cleaning it while they grow?

I found some scaping material I gathered in Death Valley and hopefully I'll be making it to the local aquarium store today to check out plant availability. Pretty stoked to get this 20 gallon going.
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Old 06-27-2011, 04:04 PM   #13
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To get started in aquariums, you'll need to know a few things. I don't know how much you know, so I just wrote it all down. I'll add links later:

1: Cycling- This refers to the process by which waste from the fish is processed by bacteria in the filter into less harmful chemicals.

2: Filtration- Most tanks need a filter, and there are several diffferent kinds. For a tank your size, you'll probably want a power filter. Filters circulate water and catch particles that are suspended in the water, keeping the water clean. More importantly, they provide a place for beneficial bacteria to grow. If you get a filter, make sure it isn't one of those that tells you to change the pad. What you want is a filter with a reusable pad or sponge that you merely rinse out when it gets dirty. Make sure you never clean out the filter with tap water, use old tank water from a water change.
This article explains both cycling and filtration: http://fins.actwin.com/mirror/filters.html

3: Water conditions- this refers to the chemical composition of the water in which the fish are kept. pH refers to how acidic or basic the water is, GH and KH refer to the hardness and buffering capacity of the water. "Buffering" refers to the water's resistance to rapid changes in pH, which are stressful to fish.
The first part of this article goes into more detail: http://www.chelonia.org/articles/waterchemistry.htm

4: Diseases- there are many, many diseases fish can get, but the most common ones are Ich, Velvet, Fin Rot, Columnaris (mouth or body "fungus"), and internal parasites. There are many more than that, but those seem to be the most common. Some diseases are always in the tank, but they don't affect the fish unless it is stressed, so the best way to prevent them is to keep the water clean. Other diseases (usually parasites) can only be introduced by an infected fish, so the best way to prevent them is to quarantine fish for a few weeks before adding them to an established tank.
Here's a good link: http://badmanstropicalfish.com/fish_...ification.html

5: Cleaning the Tank- Cleaning the tank involves removing solid fish waste (called "mulm") and chemical fish waste (ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate; see Cycling). There are three main actions for cleaning the tank: water changes, which is when water is taken out of the tank and replaced with fresh water; vacuuming, which is when a hose is used to suck mulm from the substrate and remove it from the tank; and filter cleaning, which is when mulm is rinsed from filter pads.


Planted aquariums are a specialty type of aquarium that have additional requirements:

1: Light- Most aquariums only need a light for the purpose of making it easier to see the fish. Most plants require more light than that, and in particular shades. The amount of light determines how quickly a plant will grow, but if the light is too low, some plants will die.

2: CO2- Carbon is a basic building block of plant cells, and they can't grow without it. In all aquariums, there is some CO2, but it is quickly used up by most plants. The lower the light, the less the demand for CO2, but most plants will benefit from additional CO2. There are three ways to add carbon to the tank: DIY CO2, which is when yeast is used to produce CO2 and add it to the tank; Excel, which is a chemical which can be added to the tank as a liquid source of carbon; and pressurized CO2, which is when bottled CO2 is purchased and injected into the tank.

3: Fertilizers- All plants need certain nutrients in addition to CO2 to grow. These include macro nutrients -nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium- which are required in large amounts, and micro nutrients -iron and others- which are required in smaller amounts. Fertilizers can be added to the tank in liquid or powdered form, or can be added to the substrate.

4: Substrate- Most plants have roots and need something in which to grow. There is a wide variety of substrates you can use, including sand, gravel, dirt, and commercially available substrates, like Flourite or Aquasoil. An important aspect of the substrate is carbon exchange capacity (CEC), which is the substrate's ability to adsorb nutrients and hold onto them until the plants need them.


These are just the basics, but once you learn about these you should be able to handle finding more info without feeling overwhelmed. Remember, this is a hobby, and it is your tank, so if you're not having fun, there's not much point, no matter how healthy your fish are. It's okay not to have the ideal setup, and it's okay to make mistakes and have tank crashes along the way.
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Old 06-27-2011, 10:31 PM   #14
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Thanks Fishly!

Most of this I have under control as I'm a bio major with an emphasis on natural resources and soils. I understand the nitrogen cycle, BOD, CEC (which stands for cation exchange capacity - you were close), macros and micros...

What I particularly need help with is specific conditions for specific aquatic species. I'm into soils and have a bit of experience with hydroponics so I know what conditions (EC, ppm...) that terrestrial plants require but I have a feeling that 1600ppm of nitrogen, which is fine for tomatoes, isn't going to be great for fish...

My 10 gallons will need to be redone and I would rather go with organic slow release soil than have to dose with nutes. At the moment though my focus is on this 20 gallon.



I see that people here have decent results with Miracle Grow organic which I have used before (non aquatic) and find runs very hot (high high quick release nitrogen levels). I'm using an organic potting soil base amended with half mineralized high nitrogen bone meal, alfalfa meal, and a tad of kelp meal - it should be very similar to Miracle grow but with a slower nitrogen release pattern and a lot less urea and salts.

I have capped my soil in river sand and set up some simple hard scape and am now awaiting my water to sit so I can start stocking it with plants. I know a bit about plants but very little about specific aquatic plants but this is what I am thinking -

fissidens fontanus - next to base of tree
glossostigma elatinoides - sides of river
Hemianthus callitrichoides - tiny tiny ground cover for whole tank
Hydrocotyle verticillata - towards the back?
Riccia fluitans - even better ground cover for the tank.
Crystmas moss - for rock/base of trees
Vallisneria nana - long grassy plant for back of tank - two on each side.
Java moss or something similar for the tops of the trees.

This is the filter that came free with the tank - Might modify it just a bit. I also have several sumps if I choose to go that way later.



Light will be one of my DIY CFL rigs that I use for indoor lighting. Some people don't seem to realize it but CFLs are the exact same (actually better when it comes to penetration) as T5HO bulbs. I can run anywhere from 1-12 bulbs with my rigs but I'm thinking I'll likely go with 4 23w 6500k unless I can find some cheap 10k bulbs to mix the spectrum with. If this is too much or not enough light please let me know - 92w over a 20gallon.

A DIY C02 is in the works as well.
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Old 06-28-2011, 02:44 AM   #15
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Cool trees, are they dead bonsai trees?

Are you planning on injecting CO2?

You are planning on 4 clfs over a 20 gallon, its making me wonder if I still have too little light over my 40 breeder.
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