long time listener, first-time caller. I wanted to start documenting my experience with my first tank and sharing it with other hobbyists. At this point, you've probably scrolled to see this is a long post so if you get through, I'll thank you in advance for sticking with it.
I'll start by saying at the time of this post, my tank is about a month old. I wanted to share the mistakes, unfortunate coincidences, and successes so far. Not just so readers with experience know what I'm up to, but also for other beginners to have a relatable narrative to follow along. Here we go:
The set up:
I purchased the following to begin the tank:
- Waterbox Clear10 tank
- Aqua Clear Filter for 10-30G & and some sponge filters
- Lominie LED Aquarium Light
- Aquascaping tools
- Fluval Plant and shrimp Stratum
- CaribSea Supernaturals Aquarium sand
- Water stuff: Fluval Bio Enhancer, Seachem Flourish, Seachem Prime Conditioner
For tank decoration, I bought some Seiryu Rock. Also, living in New York, I made a trip upstate and collected driftwood along the Hudson River. The driftwood had been sitting out for maybe 4 months before being introduced to the tank. It had been boiled for about 15-30 minutes, then set to soak over the course of a weekend in several baths. The first bath had a light amount of bleach, the others were just water. Then I let the driftwood dry out again.
The setting up:
The tank was the last crucial item to arrive to start the process. So, the day it arrived I went to Petco with a small paper list of possible fish and plants I wanted and traveled home with 3 Black Neon Tetras, and 3 Panda Corydoras, an unidentified moss (maybe java moss), an unidentified plant (stem plant with leaves), and what I believe are two types of Java Ferns.
I unboxed the tank, and went to town, trying compositions of rock and driftwoods, and settled on what seemed good enough for a first scape. I superglued some driftwood to a clear sheet of acrylic i had lying around to prevent it from floating. I also superglued pieces of the moss to rocks and driftwood. Then proceeded to add the substrate. At this point, I was extremely excited and added conditioned water pouring from a bucket through a cullender, and then removed the cullender to find that, of course, my sand and stratum had mixed around and looked a mess. Plants were added, then the fish, then some plant fertilizer, then the Bio Enhancer.
New filter, new tank, no bacteria, you know the drill. So, ammonia poisoning was something I had read about a lot and I kept a close eye on the fish, and how they were doing. For the first two days, all seemed great and happy but, you may have noticed something on my list of supplies that wasn't present was a water test kit (this is because watching my dad with his tank as a toddler, I never once saw him test water). On day 3, one cory had died with all the signs of ammonia poising, Red striations on its belly really red gills. I immediately did a 50% water change, and then purchased a test kit. The next day I realized that when replacing the water, I filled the tank too high, and one of the corys, thrilled with the fresh-ammonia free water, darted to the surface with joy to fly over the edge and land on the floor, where we didn't find the poor thing til morning - completely dried out. With one cory left - I learned about fish depression, to see him/her only laying at the bottom of the tank, moving maybe 1" every hour. From what I had read, when a fish is depressed it is more susceptible to disease, and by the weekend it had pop-eye in one eye. From my research on what my options were, I could remove the fish and give it baths of Melafix or I could wait and let it clear up on its own. I elected to let to clear up on its own, thinking that its clear this fish is stressed and alone and removing it to a bath would cause more problems than improvements. The next morning I found it dead and its eye was missing, I'm unsure if the eye popped out or if any fish picked at the body overnight. During this first week, the tetras were great, they were timid, but ate and so I chalked their timidness to them being a schooling fish and lacking proper numbers for them to show their true nature.
After a few weeks of consistently good water testing results, I decided it was time to add more stock. The 3 tetras were still no longer swimming together, remaining hidden and still seemed timid. I also needed a clean up crew established since the Corys had passed on. First, I introduced 10 Cherry shrimp from Flip aquatics. I think I need to do a special shout out here about the customer service, it was great. I received 12 shrimp, some were DOA, and a few died within a couple of days, I think the deaths were the fault of USPS delivering to the wrong address and receiving the shrimp a day late - but Flip still wanted to make sure I was a happy customer and offered to help. I refused more shrimp though because I don't want to overstock the tank and didn't want any more deaths due to possible shipping error. Today, there are 5 shrimp in the tank. The next day after introducing shrimp, I purchased three more Black Neon Tetras from my local fish store. Overall the fish seem to do well.
Since buying the test kit, I tested every day for the first week, The parameters read PH- 7.4-7.6 | Ammonia: 0ppm (consistent) | Nitrite: 0.25ppm progressing to 0ppm | Nitrate: 5ppm - 10ppm. I test the water less frequently now, but find those results to be pretty consistent. Always 0ppm Ammonia and Nitrite and Nitrate averages about 10ppm.
In the first couple of weeks, I made water changes 2-3 times a week. Nowadays, I'm once a week. For each water change, it's been more than 10%. Mostly because the vacuum I use could be a bit smaller, but I find an overwhelming urge to vacuum all waste up, especially off of the white sand. It ends up being about a 30-50% water change, never going over a 50% change. I always add some Bio-Enhancer after to keep up the colony.
Lessons learned, open questions, and discoveries:
Looking back at the corys, when I was reading about pop-eye, a source mentioned that when it occurs in only one eye, its likely an infection from an injury that occured a week or 2 in advance of the symptoms. If that's true, then this injury occurred before I purchased the fish. Also, I'm unsure why one cory out of 6 fish, showed signs of ammonia poisoning and died so soon after. Obviously, the cory jumping out of the fish tank is my fault for having the water level too high, but I can't help but thinking the cory's weren't in the best condition when they were bought. Regardless of whose fault, realizing its likely mine, its a lesson that setting up a tank is not going to go as planned.
I think some of you with experience might think, "If he is well researched, why did he buy 6 fish for a 10gallon uncycled tank that wasn't even set up yet.?" Fair question, I do have reasons for this. The first, new tank excitement is so real. The second reason, there's a lot of sources out there that say things like, "Oh a planted tank is so beneficial for the fish, it'll cycle in no time." So, a newbie reads that and thinks, I got plants, I got bio-enhancer, these are all schooling fish so they can't be alone. And you decide to take the risk.
I remember being warned by friends that snails are not a good idea. "They will reproduce so fast and take over the tank," They said. So I decided these wouldn't be brought into my 10 gallon from that advice. So its ironic that 3 snails have appeared in my tank, after deliberately not buying them because they take over. I believe these were eggs on the roots of some plants I bought. They can stay for now.
I planted the java fern. Don't do this, it doesn't enjoy it. As the leaves started to turn brown, I removed them from the tank and glued them to some rocks, they are in recovery. Fingers crossed. They have started to form new plants on their leaves, I'm not sure when to remove those yet. The new plants don't seem to grow anymore.
After the initial shrimp deaths, from either being transported or acclimating stress, a couple of others have died. I'm unsure if this is because of the fertilizer which seems to have some harmful ingredients for shrimp. Seachem claims its a safe product for shrimp, and maybe it is, but I've decided to stop using it for a while to see what happens.
The tetras are still a bit timid. Even after adding the 3 more for a total of 6. I thought maybe the light I have is too intense and maybe a floating plant would make them feel safer. So I tried Duck Weed. This was a HUGE mistake. The species I had ordered, also from Flip Aquatics, was the type with the really tiny leaf. I added way too much, and with the filter I have, it went EVERYWHERE. It basically looked like I had a tank of pond scum. Spent about 45 minutes to an hour clearing it out. I'm still unsure how to handle the timidness of the fish, overtime they are a bit better. Maybe they want a larger school or maybe they need the plants to grow and fill in more?
Also, I think one of the tetras is much younger than the others, it's much smaller. I thought with them being a schooling fish this wouldn't be a problem, and maybe varying sizes of fish would be okay. The others seem to bully him? I read that its common for Tetras to play-nip at each other, but sometimes the nips seem a bit deliberate. The bigger fish seem to get over the aggressive nips easier and keep swimming together after a bit, but I notice this smaller one is off on its own a lot more.
Having another species of fish in this tank is so tempting. With a stock of 6 Tetras, 5 Cherry Shrimp and 3 (uninvited) snails, I realize I could have more. Sparkling Gouramis, Rasboras, top dwelling fish, bottom-dwelling fish. Some sources claim you can have a community tank in a 10 gallon. But one observation, I notice advice forums advise against this. Do you think this is because articles tell you what you want to read or because advice-givers tend to err on a more cautious side?
My Tank Today:
For reading the story. Say Hi, share a bit of your story with me if you're in or out of this phase in the hobby. I'm kind of curious to know what risks people took when they started out? Something they tried that did or did not work out despite the advice of their research.
All my best!