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Old 08-30-2013, 01:50 AM   #1
tonytheshark
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My first aquarium: 3G cherry tank in college dorm


Hey guys, first timer here-- to this site as well as shrimp-keeping in general. I was hoping I might be able to get some shrimp-wisdom from you regarding my setup. (no shrimp in it yet, still cycling)

Attached here is a pic of my setup. It's a 3G plastic (acrylic?) tank I got in a kit at Petsmart. I have black sand with a tiny bit of white sand for a very slight pepper-looking effect. The plant is amazon sword, and I'm hoping to add more plants very soon, I'm just not sure what. I have another lamp above the LED one that was provided in the kit because I'm not 100% sure the kit one is enough light for the plants to thrive on. There's also a bubbler in there; I was told by a guy at my LFS that cherries don't need an actual filter.

It's been cycling for 2 weeks now; one week at home and one week in the dorm. I cycled for a week before moving into my dorm, stored some of the water in a jug, and poured it back in after moving into my dorm. My understanding is that I need to cycle it for 3-4 weeks before adding the cherry shrimp. So technically, I guess I have to wait 2 more weeks before adding shrimp, assuming the jug thing wasn't a stupid idea. (the jug water makes up only about 20% of the total water that's in the tank now)

My 2 main questions are:

1) I haven't done any water changes yet. Should I be doing that? How much and how often? (I understand it's 10-20% per week once shrimp are added, but I'm wondering about before then)

2) What are some really low-maintenance plants I can add, that may thrive on relatively low light? (Since I might take away the 2nd lamp at some point. I'll leave it if necessary though) Preferably something that's grasslike or bushlike since I already have tall plants, but any suggestions are welcome.

I planted some dwarf hairgrass originally and learned the hard way it requires more light than I could give it. So I got rid of it which is a shame, since it's so pretty and I think the shrimps would have loved it.

Sorry for the essay, and thanks for listening!

P.S. I do have a master test kit btw; planning on testing the water for the first time this weekend.
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Old 08-30-2013, 03:50 AM   #2
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Quote:
Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1a) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine.
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1b) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.
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Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1b) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Tropical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving.
Hope this helps
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Old 08-30-2013, 02:06 PM   #3
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Awesome, thanks for all of that! I have a much better idea of what to do now.

Any idea how much ammonia I should add to end up with 5 ppm in a 3 gallon tank? Teaspoon maybe?

Also, this is probably a stupid question but: the 100% water change thing caught me off guard a bit. Changing out all the water wouldn't get rid of all the bacteria I'd been working to cultivate? I guess maybe the bacteria live mainly in the substrate and on the surfaces of the walls, decorations, etc?
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Old 08-30-2013, 04:20 PM   #4
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Here's a picture of the ingredient list on the label of the bottle of ammonia that I got. I notice it lists "surfactant, fragrance and colorant" along with the "ammonium hydroxide" we actually want.
Is that bad?
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Old 08-30-2013, 04:35 PM   #5
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do not use that ammonia, its gotta be pure. I have never used ammonia before. I use fish food. Its not as easy as ammonia because you can't control the amounts but since I can't find ammonia without the additives, it's easier for me. I throw in a pellet or two, test the levels in 24 hours, assess and do a water change if needed. I found the bacteria I added kicked into high gear and I had really high nitrites. Good thing, but too high to promote optimal bacteria growth. So I did a water change, added food, tested again and things were moving well. I've been in the process for a week or two. If you want to jump start, Tetra safestart at walmart (or other pet stores) has the appropriate strains of bacteria you need. A starter isn't required, but it may speed up the process. That is what I used, and I think it worked very well.
Another point, water does not house bacteria, ornaments, sand/gravel and other things do. That's also the great thing about filtration. That is where most tanks house their bacteria colonies extensively. In a tank this small, why not look into sponge filters. I really like the one I have by hydro sponge pro i think? Will house a lot of bacteria for you and low flow for the shrimps! You can simply connect the airstone and tubing you already have to the filter and you will be good to go.
Hope this helps
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Old 08-30-2013, 06:41 PM   #6
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yes you need pure ammonia without that stuff in it. check ace hardware, thats where i bought my ammonia (and it was pretty cheap). imo i wouldnt use any jump starting products, especially for your first time cycling a tank. it really is useful to understand the cycle and watch it first hand to understand what is going on in your tank

how do you plan on dealing with your tank during fall/spring break?
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Old 08-30-2013, 07:33 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the help guys! I'll look into getting some pure ammonia hopefully this weekend, I might have to order it online (no car).

My kit did come with a filter (pictured below), I just haven't been using it since I was told I don't need it, but you make some good points so I think I'll give it a try! It's not a "sponge filter" per se, but I did also buy a box of sponges to try and wedge into the intake. I also have a filter media bag I could wrap around the intake (also pictured below), do you think that'll work just as good as a sponge in keeping the fry from getting sucked up? I'll definitely price some sponge filters on Amazon though regardless.

Also, regarding the quick starter: I forgot to mention, I used some of the stuff pictured below at the start of the cycle. Since it says it "allows instant addition of fish" I assumed it works as a dechlorinator as well as a cycle jump-starter (I hope I was correct in the assumption).

As for winter break, I figured I have a couple options:
1) Sell my cherries to a local LFS for store credit and start over in the spring, or
2) Package the shrimp in a way similar to the way they're packaged when you order them in the mail, and take them on the 3-hour drive back home in San Antonio like that. (I'd also transport the tank with the water mostly removed. Since the bacteria live in the gravel, ornaments, etc my understanding is that I could add them back to the tank as soon as I got home)
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Old 08-30-2013, 07:49 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kcoscia View Post
In a tank this small, why not look into sponge filters. I really like the one I have by hydro sponge pro i think? Will house a lot of bacteria for you and low flow for the shrimps! You can simply connect the airstone and tubing you already have to the filter and you will be good to go.
Which of these would you recommend?
Amazon.com: sponge filter Amazon.com: sponge filter

And should I be worried about getting a filter that's for a tank much larger than my 3G? (since I imagine the flow might be stronger for bigger tanks)
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Old 08-30-2013, 08:24 PM   #9
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Filters (sponge or mechanical) are really the place that your beneficial bacteria will thrive and keep your tank cycled. It helps to remove bad things from the water but mainly keeps your BB growing to establish and keep your cycle going. You can remove the carbon cartridge that came with it and put in some type of Fluval balls or ceramic pieces into that media bag to grow your BB in.

You can wrap a cut off piece of panty hose or knee high (30 cents at walmart, come in a bubble gum machine plastic thing) just cut a hole for the suction cup and then tie a knot tightly to hold it up to protect your shrimp with that filter.

Good deal on sponge filters and free shipping from here http://www.truaqua.com/aquatop-inter...er-caf-10.html plus it's small so doesn't take up to much room.

I love the look of dwarf sag or brazillian micro swords. Crypt parva is also a nice one small green addition. I'm really liking the look of guppy grass, it's growing in nicely and the shrimp seem to love it. Also any type of moss is a great addition, the shrimp seem to love it Java moss is probably the easiest to grow so far. Java Ferns are also a low light great addition. Nice easy stem plants are ludwiga and rotala as well as any species of hygro. Petsmart sells some nice downoi, crypts and s. repens which are all very good additions. I am still attempting to successfully make a carpet of riccia but it's nice and green just harder to control, it kind of likes to go where ever it wants.

Floating plants are your friend they eat alot of nutrients and help to control any spikes you may have, just have to keep them thinned out so they don't block to much light. Salvinia, Greater duckweed, frogbit, water lettuce, red root floaters and azolla are all really great additions. I prefer the salvinia, water lettuce and frogbit - never could get red root floaters to thrive and have not tried the azolla yet, it's a bit harder to find.
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Old 08-30-2013, 08:32 PM   #10
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moss.
moss is tolerant of VERY low light, and can grow as a carpet, wall, mound (on a rock), or over driftwood branches. its also great for shrimp.
there are lots of kinds with different growth patterns. some cool ones are flame, xmas, and fissidens.
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:14 AM   #11
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quickstart IS NOT a dechlorinator. it is however helpful with getting a cycle started
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:02 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peachii View Post
Good deal on sponge filters and free shipping from here http://www.truaqua.com/aquatop-inter...er-caf-10.html plus it's small so doesn't take up to much room.
Ordered. Thanks!
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:07 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aparker View Post
quickstart IS NOT a dechlorinator. it is however helpful with getting a cycle started
Oh....oh no. That poor betta. I had a betta in there for a week having only used the quick starter. He's in a different tank now though, at my parents' house. I feel pretty stupid.

I think I'll order this one:
Amazon.com: Tetra 8.45-Ounce AquaSafe Water Conditioner with BioExtract: Pet Supplies Amazon.com: Tetra 8.45-Ounce AquaSafe Water Conditioner with BioExtract: Pet Supplies

Since I'll be just finally adding the dechlorinator on the third week, will that affect the overall cycle much? Should I wait any extra time before adding the shrimp because of this?
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:10 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by @marko@ View Post
moss.
moss is tolerant of VERY low light, and can grow as a carpet, wall, mound (on a rock), or over driftwood branches. its also great for shrimp.
there are lots of kinds with different growth patterns. some cool ones are flame, xmas, and fissidens.
Looked up some pictures of those, I love em! I'll definitely try to get some of that for my tank. Is there anywhere in particular you might recommend for buying it online?
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:16 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peachii View Post
Filters (sponge or mechanical) are really the place that your beneficial bacteria will thrive and keep your tank cycled. It helps to remove bad things from the water but mainly keeps your BB growing to establish and keep your cycle going. You can remove the carbon cartridge that came with it and put in some type of Fluval balls or ceramic pieces into that media bag to grow your BB in.

You can wrap a cut off piece of panty hose or knee high (30 cents at walmart, come in a bubble gum machine plastic thing) just cut a hole for the suction cup and then tie a knot tightly to hold it up to protect your shrimp with that filter.

Good deal on sponge filters and free shipping from here http://www.truaqua.com/aquatop-inter...er-caf-10.html plus it's small so doesn't take up to much room.

I love the look of dwarf sag or brazillian micro swords. Crypt parva is also a nice one small green addition. I'm really liking the look of guppy grass, it's growing in nicely and the shrimp seem to love it. Also any type of moss is a great addition, the shrimp seem to love it Java moss is probably the easiest to grow so far. Java Ferns are also a low light great addition. Nice easy stem plants are ludwiga and rotala as well as any species of hygro. Petsmart sells some nice downoi, crypts and s. repens which are all very good additions. I am still attempting to successfully make a carpet of riccia but it's nice and green just harder to control, it kind of likes to go where ever it wants.

Floating plants are your friend they eat alot of nutrients and help to control any spikes you may have, just have to keep them thinned out so they don't block to much light. Salvinia, Greater duckweed, frogbit, water lettuce, red root floaters and azolla are all really great additions. I prefer the salvinia, water lettuce and frogbit - never could get red root floaters to thrive and have not tried the azolla yet, it's a bit harder to find.
I'll start searching for some fluval balls/ceramic pieces online. So the carbon won't work?

Is there a special way I should wash my filter before inserting it into the tank, or will just a good regular rinse do?

And I love all the plant ideas; this gives me a lot to work with, thank you! Do you know if the shrimp might use any of these plants (like the floaters for example) to try and make an escape though?

Sorry for bombarding you with all of these questions, by the way...
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