Diary of a Serial Fish Killer (a.k.a. How NOT to set up a tank) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-23-2012, 10:24 PM Thread Starter
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Diary of a Serial Fish Killer (a.k.a. How NOT to set up a tank)

"I've always done it that way."

"That's how I was taught."

Ever heard the term "sacrificial fish"? You set up a new aquarium, take care of the tap water, then toss in some hardy fish (like danios) to start the biological activity in the tank. Sure, the fish may die, but you get your tank going before putting in the fancy fish.

That's how I learned to set up fish tanks when I was a kid. That's how I've been setting them up all my life. I never knew the details about the nitrogen cycle. That's "just how it works" as I was taught.

All of that changed when I found this website. Unfortunately, my new 36G bowfront with its plants and things has three danios in it--to be sacrificed.

Oh the fish-manity!
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-24-2012, 12:34 AM Thread Starter
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So what should I do? I don't have another tank to put the danios in. I can't take them back to the store. It's been a couple of days and the fish are frolicking around through the plants.

The last tank I set up, one of the sacrificial danios lived over 4 1/2 years after being put in the fresh tank.

I never knew about "cycling" before. How long should it take? Is it okay to keep the danios in?
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-24-2012, 12:57 AM
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Do enough water changes to keep them safe. It will take the cycle alot longer but that's how it goes - the bacteria will still grow, only slower. We are fishkeepers, not bacteria keepers, right?
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-24-2012, 01:01 AM
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The plants in the tank may be removing the ammonia at a rate that is enough to keep the Danios alive.
Anyway, here is the Fish-In cycle:

1) Test daily.
2) Do enough water changes to keep the ammonia < .25 ppm and the nitrite <1.0 ppm.
3) Add salt (sodium chloride) at the rate of 1 teaspoon per 20 gallons when there is nitrite showing. This is a low level, and is safe for the plants, but it is enough to protect the fish from Brown Blood Disease.
4) When the ammonia and nitrite have been zero for a few days, and the nitrate is rising the tank has grown enough bacteria to handle the waste from just the fish that are in there now. You can add more fish, but just a few, and go through the whole thing again, and again, and again...

OR THERE IS A BETTER WAY

1) Run, do not walk to the nearest store and buy a bottled bacteria product that includes Nitrospira species of bacteria. These are the very species you are trying to grow in your tank. Do not waste your money on anything else. Read the label. Do not listen to the sales help saying, 'But this other stuff does the same thing'. Order it on line if the local stores do not carry it.
2) Add a small amount (you only have a few fish) and monitor the conditions. If there was any ammonia or nitrite before you added this product it/they ought to be gone in 24-48 hours.
2) Now you can add more fish. Keep the bacterial additive in the fridge and keep adding it in proportion to the amount of fish you add. Add just a few fish, use just a little of the bacterial additive. Add more fish, use more of the additive. Be generous. You cannot overdose, except that it is wasted if you do not add enough fish to keep the bacteria fed.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-25-2012, 02:01 AM Thread Starter
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Why am I not detecting any ammonia, nitrite or nitrate in my fish tank? My 3 little danios have been in there since early Saturday. I've been feeding them in the morning and at night.

My 36G Aqueon bowfront tank setup:
Aqueon QuietFlow 30
Aqueon modular LED w/3x day bright modules
Aqueon 200w heater
1x bag 15lb Seachem florite
2x bags 25lb Topfin gravel (black)
4x large anubias (from LPS in-tank)
2x bunches bacopa (from LPS in-tank)
10x sagitaria (from LPS in-tank)
2x Topfin peacock fern (snail-free tube)
3x zebra danios (from LPS)

I filled the tank using 4 gallons of spring water and the rest was Pur filtered water. I used one 8.45oz bottle of Tetra SafeStart. Instructions said to dump the whole bottle in the tank--so I did.

Question: Did the combination of SafeStart and the bacteria on the plants from inside LPS tanks jumpstart the cycling in combination with the fish?

I'm using Tetra 5-in-1 Easy Strips and Tetra ammonia test strips. The nitrate pad looks somewhat pinkish, but not the full-on pink of the first color pattern.

(BTW, this is my first planted tank. All my previous tanks were 5-10G with plastic everything.)

Last edited by KlintZquarium; 07-25-2012 at 10:05 AM. Reason: Added final statement
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-25-2012, 07:22 PM
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Because you have a very small bioload. 3 danios in a well planted 36G will take a while to produce readable ammonia levels.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-25-2012, 07:51 PM
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also if you can get some, seachem prime will detoxify ammonia/nitrite/nitrate which could help the danios as your tank cycles.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-26-2012, 02:41 AM
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this put a big smile on my face. my journal is titled, "How Not To Plant a Tank."

And that's precisely how I started it. Well I filled it up, hooked up the filter and heater and all that, added some bacteria & conditioner, let it run for a couple of days, and then tossed about four fish in there. But the tank wasn't cycled when I put them in there. I didn't know anything about the nitrogen cycle. Or light, or co2, or substrate, or fertilizer. Definitely NOT the way to set up a tank.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-26-2012, 10:33 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wendyjo View Post
Because you have a very small bioload. 3 danios in a well planted 36G will take a while to produce readable ammonia levels.
So that means instead of a month to cycle, it'll take much much longer?

Unless I remove the danios, I can't do the drop-a-dead-shrimp-in or the capful of straight ammonia. I'm no fan of cruelty. This website has broken my serial sacrificial fish attitude. The nitro-cycle is something that has to happen.

As plant leaves start dying off and breaking down, should I remove them or let them stay in the tank?

For house plants, I've always clipped off the yellowing leaves so the plant can focus its energies on sustainment and growth. How does that work in a planted tank that hasn't cycled? Do dead leaves produce ammonia?
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-26-2012, 10:39 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mommabear1007 View Post
this put a big smile on my face. my journal is titled, "How Not To Plant a Tank."
You're welcome.

Quote:
I didn't know anything about the nitrogen cycle. Or light, or co2, or substrate, or fertilizer. Definitely NOT the way to set up a tank.
I've been reading through the various threads and stickies. I'm learning something new everyday about what's good and not-so-good to have a lush, healthy aquarium.

All I've ever successfully grown in my 5-10G tanks before has been algae all over the plastic plants and decorations. I figured, if I'm going to grow something in this big 36G tank, it might as well be REAL plants this time.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-26-2012, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by KlintZquarium View Post
So that means instead of a month to cycle, it'll take much much longer?

Unless I remove the danios, I can't do the drop-a-dead-shrimp-in or the capful of straight ammonia. I'm no fan of cruelty. This website has broken my serial sacrificial fish attitude. The nitro-cycle is something that has to happen.

As plant leaves start dying off and breaking down, should I remove them or let them stay in the tank?

For house plants, I've always clipped off the yellowing leaves so the plant can focus its energies on sustainment and growth. How does that work in a planted tank that hasn't cycled? Do dead leaves produce ammonia?
No tank won't take longer to cycle , it means that with well planted tank,,and not over feeding, or running out and buying a dozen fish to throw in the tank,that the plant's will take up ammonia produced by the fish,fishfood,fish poop, and at say weekly, or ten day interval's(better), you could add a couple three small fish and then wait another ten day's before adding another two or three or centerpiece fish.

Yes, remove dying,dead leaves, so that nutrient's aren't being wasted on trying to repair them (don't happen much).
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-26-2012, 03:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KlintZquarium View Post
You're welcome.


I've been reading through the various threads and stickies. I'm learning something new everyday about what's good and not-so-good to have a lush, healthy aquarium.

All I've ever successfully grown in my 5-10G tanks before has been algae all over the plastic plants and decorations. I figured, if I'm going to grow something in this big 36G tank, it might as well be REAL plants this time.
I've been reading as much as I can and learning a lot too.

But I still can't seem to grow anything but algae :/ The plants are growing but they don't look very healthy. But I'm starting to understand what I'm doing wrong.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-26-2012, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KlintZquarium View Post
Why am I not detecting any ammonia, nitrite or nitrate in my fish tank? My 3 little danios have been in there since early Saturday. I've been feeding them in the morning and at night.

My 36G Aqueon bowfront tank setup:
Aqueon QuietFlow 30
Aqueon modular LED w/3x day bright modules
Aqueon 200w heater
1x bag 15lb Seachem florite
2x bags 25lb Topfin gravel (black)
4x large anubias (from LPS in-tank)
2x bunches bacopa (from LPS in-tank)
10x sagitaria (from LPS in-tank)
2x Topfin peacock fern (snail-free tube)
3x zebra danios (from LPS)

I filled the tank using 4 gallons of spring water and the rest was Pur filtered water. I used one 8.45oz bottle of Tetra SafeStart. Instructions said to dump the whole bottle in the tank--so I did.

Question: Did the combination of SafeStart and the bacteria on the plants from inside LPS tanks jumpstart the cycling in combination with the fish?

I'm using Tetra 5-in-1 Easy Strips and Tetra ammonia test strips. The nitrate pad looks somewhat pinkish, but not the full-on pink of the first color pattern.

(BTW, this is my first planted tank. All my previous tanks were 5-10G with plastic everything.)

I'm not sure that you have enough filtration. The aqueon quietflow 30 only filters 200gph. I'd add another one of equal or larger size, preferrably an AquaClear IMHO.
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-26-2012, 10:06 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Amy9 View Post
I'm not sure that you have enough filtration. The aqueon quietflow 30 only filters 200gph. I'd add another one of equal or larger size, preferrably an AquaClear IMHO.
Looking at adding the Aqueon QuietFlow 55/75 to the other side of the tank.

With this option, the same filter media is used for all three positions (two filter packs inside the 55/75, one in the 30).

Another option in consideration is the API Nexx filter. It is expandable and uses the same filters as the Rena SmartFilter 20 (HOB) that I have at work. The Nexx takes two filter packs. Each add-on adds two more filter packs. You can have up to six filter packs going at once.

Buying filters in bulk packages looks very appealing. With either of the set-ups above, you can replace the filter media in a rotating cycle.
  • With the Aqueon 30 + 55/75, two filter packs can be replaced at once, leaving the third with its biologicals still intact.
  • Or replace one pack at a time every two weeks. All media would then be replaced on a 42-day cycle vice every 30 days.
  • Same principle applies with the Nexx filter system. Alternate between replacing the main and the add-on, or triple-cycle if you have a second add-on.

If I go with the Nexx, I'll sell/trade off the Aqueon QuietFlow 30. I'll have to do more research on here and elsewhere to see which set-up is better.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-27-2012, 12:21 PM
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Or..with the Aquaclear, you could avoid replacing the media all together, and simply rinse it in old tank water when you do your water changes. I've had mine over a year in all of my tanks and I've never replaced anything. However, I don't use carbon. I put addition filter floss in it's place. You would be surprised at the $ you could save. Filter cartridges aren't cheap. Just a suggestion
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