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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, folks. This is my first post on TPT, though I've been lurking and learning for many years. :fish:I apologize for the long post.
Anyway, I finally decided to ask for help. Here's my situation:
I am planning an aquarium installation for a family that are total beginners. The tank is mainly for one their 6 yr old boys, and will be in his room.
It will be either a 20 gal long or a 29 gal tank, with an Eheim canister filter and Current Sat+ light. The substrate will be Caribsea Sunset Gold sand, and the tank will be planted with low light plants and manzanita branches.
I'm working on getting an accurate water test, as they have a whole house water softener, which is weird for this area. Water around here is usually pH 6.8 -7.2, and on the softer side of medium hardness about dGH 6-10.

So, what fish are:
Not too big, not too small
Not too shy, not too aggressive
Not too dull colored
Not too delicate
Not too expensive
Preferably good schoolers
Compatible with Corydoras (planning a small shoal for the bottom)

Any ideas?
I'm looking at tetras, barbs, rasboras, and livebearers. I need suggestions and recommendations based on experience watching their behaviors. Thanks!
 

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Is said by some ,that water produced by water softeners often remove the calcium,magnesium, that cause hard water stains and fur pipes and replace these needed minerals with sodium salt's that aren't so good for fishes in the long term.
Might could look to outside water spigot on house to see if this too is filtered through the softener. If not,then this might be better source water for the tank.
Might also look for info on fishless cycling for new aquariums to help prevent fish loss and disappointment for the young person.
 

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You basically can't go wrong with Neons of any kind or Livebearers in this case, as well as a large number of Tetras or Rasporas. Barbs, I'd personally steer clear of, simply because they can be a bit more aggressive, and depending on what type you end up with, can get fairly large. Rosy Barbs, for example, grow to six inches.

I've housed Rasporas and Tetras for years and can attest to their natural, peaceful behaviors. They're fantastic community fish that are also quite hardy, which would favor your situation, considering this tank is for children, who may do things to the water at times that you otherwise wouldn't do. They're much more tolerant of wider ranges of pH, and even nitrate and nitrite levels, though like any fish, are probably not going to last very long with a substantial Amonia spike. Even over-feeding, for example, might be an issue, but probably won't be as much of one if you stick to hardier fish.

My suggestion would be to go real simple and get it set with a school of Harlequin Rasporas. They basically fit your list to a tee, and they're far and away the hardiest fish I've had.
 

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I think neon tetras are about the poorest specimens offered in the trade today .
They used to be fairly hardy fish but not so much anymore.
Small danios,silvertipped tetras,blood fin tetras,Lemon tetras, are a few I have found to be fairly hardy in wider range of water chemistry along with white cloud minnows,and cherry barbs.
Livebearer's excel in hard alkaline water and often do poorly in soft acidic water comparably.
 

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For kids, why not glow-fish? Either the original zebra danios or now they also have them in tetras (black skirts I think?) A school of 6-8 of those and then maybe some panda or skunk corys and mystery snail or two. What little boy wouldn't love glowing fish, super cool looking mini catfish and a snail with alien antenna eyes and a snorkel!
 

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Don't get barbs

Zebra danios are VERY active and do not stop moving (not the best schooling fish though)
Rasboras are good (my vote) - I love my harlequins
I personally don't like tetras unless you have like 20+ and can get them to school. Have had neons and black neons and they are kind of boring IMO
 

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I vote for a school of diamond tetras.

While I love my CPD/Emerald/Ember Tetra 29g, besides the Embers all the fish in it are very, very shy.

whereas, if you fill it with Tetras - they're much more interactive with people. For little kids, the brighter the better. It's hard to beat the glimmer and activity of a school of Diamond Tetras when they're fully grown
 

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I think neon tetras are about the poorest specimens offered in the trade today .
They used to be fairly hardy fish but not so much anymore.
Small danios,silvertipped tetras,blood fin tetras,Lemon tetras, are a few I have found to be fairly hardy in wider range of water chemistry along with white cloud minnows,and cherry barbs.
Livebearer's excel in hard alkaline water and often do poorly in soft acidic water comparably.
Really? My neons are probably the hardiest fish I have. They're packed in a 12G with a ton of guppies and they are fat and happy. I lost a couple of my originals during a nasty BGA bloom, but bought five more and all seven have been doing great for months.

For a kid, I recommend going with the 29G. More water obviously = more fish in the same 30" footprint. You should look at pearl gouramis for a centerpiece fish. I have three in my 29G. A male and two females. They were pretty inexpensive and are beautiful, peaceful fish. I also have guppies and leopard danios in that tank, as well as albino cories and three peacock gudgeons. All are doing well except the guppies. There is surprisingly a lot of fin nipping going on, and many of them are looking pretty tattered. I think it may be because I moved most of the males into that tank, and a few turned out to be females, so there is about a 4/1 male to female ratio. I need to get the females out and moved to the other tank.
 

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A tank of all male guppies or all male platys would be active and colorful and these are generally hardy and not shy at all.
 

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I vote for all male guppies too, unless you want to explain the birds and bees and get females too. I love the look of Tequila sunset guppies, with some contrasting black or blue guppies. I would Quarantine them with you and then the guppies that make the cut go into the tank. Some guppies can be weak bred. Petsmart is having a sale so very cheap! You can't beat a Tetra tank either, Black neons, Regular neons, glowlight tetras, Or perhaps some threadfins?
 

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I have a water conditioner on my whole house too and love it. Makes fish tank maintenance so much easier. The salt is used to clean the filtration system but does not end up in the water. My fish and shrimp are breeding and I have all the fish I listed below and they do well in that type of water. TDS around 45 from the faucet with equilibrium I raise it to about 120, ph 7. You will have to get equilibrium to put some minerals back into the water for the plants and fish. But a bottle of equilibrium goes a long way in a 20 or 29 gal.
I would second the glolight tetras (10), along with some corys. I found salt and pepper corys (5) to be very easy and hardy. If you go with a type of dwarf cory (pygmy, hastatus or habrosus) you could get a couple more and would have room left in a 29 for some hatchet fish (5) for the top layer and I would get a rubberlip pleco either way for algae control. The rubberlip will need a cave or some sort of decoration to call his home so he can hide under it during the day.
 

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It's hard to go wrong with Harlequin Rasboras. And little kids love colorful guppies so I might add 2 or 3 male guppies, along with a nice litle group of cories. I'm especially fond of Pandas. They seem to mug near the front of the tank more than other cories I've owned. The kid should get a kick out of them.
 

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My new favorite tetra is pristellas. Very hardy, they don't school as tightly as some others but they are active and peaceful. Also long lived.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone!
Just to clarify, no fish will be harmed in the cycling of this tank.
Not counting my experience as a child, I have kept my own planted tanks as an adult for more than seven years. I will be using media from one of my established filters to jump-start things. :biggrin:
The tank will be locked (wooden canopy) so that the boys will only have access during supervised feeding times, etc. Better safe than sorry.
By the parents' request, I'm planning a natural looking tank, so will probably avoid glofish. They're also a bit pricey in our neck of the woods. I'm hoping to go with fish that are about $5 or less a piece.
The fish will be sourced from That Fish Place in PA, the Aquarium Center in NJ, and my local fish club auctions. (I'm a member of the local fish club.)
Local auctions tend to have a lot of guppies, endlers, angelfish, and bristlenose plecos.

I'm planning for a 29 gallon tank, with two schools of mid-top dwelling fish, a school of cories, and a handful of otos for algae control. I've had very good luck with otos. :proud:
Basically, I want to give him three stocking options to choose from.
For the cories, he can choose one kind from: bronze, peppered, panda, three-lined, bandit, or albino. Planning a group of 6 or so.

Although I have bred my own strain of swordtails, and kept a variety of tetras, cories, otos, bolivian rams, etc. over the years, I would like more information about the behaviors and habits of specific fish.
According to the profiles I can find, everything is "peaceful, schooling, good for community, etc." but I know some fish are more boisterous and aggressive than others.

Also, his favorite color is blue, so I'm looking for some hardy and peaceful blue fish I can recommend. I refuse to recommend Neon tetras any more. They have become way too delicate and overbred, in my experience.

So, the fish I am currently considering and would like more input on:

Minnows:
White Clouds - active, hardy, peaceful?
Zebra or Leopard Danios - extremely active, boisterous, maybe nippy?

Rasboras:
Emerald Eye -?
Harlequin - great schoolers, hardy?
Lambchop -?
Brilliant-?

Gouramis:
Sparkling - small, shy, delicate?
Dwarf - sickly, aggressive?
Pearl - too large for tank, delicate?

Barbs:
Cherry - shy?
Golden - boisterous, maybe aggressive?
Checkered - active?

Rainbowfish:
Dwarf Neon - expensive, too active for small tank?

Livebearers:
Guppies - delicate, shy?
Platies - overbred?
Swordtails - large, aggressive, active, boisterous?

Tetras:
Black Neon - hardy, peaceful?
Black Phantom - active, hardy, shy?
Bleeding Heart - too big for small tank?
Blue- aggressive, too boisterous?
Cardinals - delicate?
Columbian - boisterous, maybe nippy and aggressive?
Diamond - beautiful, hardy, peaceful?
Ember - small, shy?
Emperor - territorial, too big for small tank?
Flame (Von Rio)- hardy, peaceful?
Glowlight - hardy, peaceful?
Golden Pencilfish - hardy, colorful, territorial?
Kerri Blue - peaceful, active?
Kitty - new, not much known?
Lemon - hardy, peaceful?
Marble Hatchetfish - delicate, prone to "escaping"?
Penguin (Hockey Stick) - active, maybe nippy?
Red Phantom - shy?
Silvertip - active, maybe nippy?
X-ray - hardy?

Keep your suggestions coming! The more input I can get, the better this tank will be! Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
About the water. . .
The whole house, outside spigots included, is on the water softener. The softened water tests pH 7.0, kH 4 degrees, gH 6 degrees.
From what I've read, softened water is not safe to use in aquariums, so I didn't recommend it. I'm trying to get a water sample from a neighbor without a softener to test, or a sample after the water softened has been turned off for a few days.
Basically, there is probably no real need for a water softener in this area, and it is highly unusual that one was installed by the previous owners of the house.
Our choices to source tank water are as follows:
Either I can bring water with me, when I do tank maintenance, we can install an RO unit and reconstitute the water for fish tank use, or we can install a spigot between the water meter and the water softener unit.
An RO unit could also be used for drinking water. (My family has one for that purpose.)

Suggestions are welcome, especially from anyone who uses softened water with success in your aquarium.
Do you use sodium based or potassium based salts in your softener?
What fish do you keep?
How long have you kept them?
How do they react to the water?

I know anything is possible. I raise a strain of swordtails that are adapted to water with a pH as low as 6.0!
 

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I believe the key is getting a large enough group of nearly any community fish.
All fishes will establish a pecking order and in large enough numbers,they work things out without too much nipping.
In smaller numbers,they often will single out one or two fish and or fish of other species to harass just cause they can.
In the wild these fishes shoal or school in the hundreds if not thousands which makes it more difficult for predators to single out prey and this also helps spread out aggression among species/sexes.
Large groups also tend to shoal better than five or six fishes with one or two often being odd man out.
In short,the more the merrier they behave.
 

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Take a look at kerri blue tetras for some blue color. Similar to an emperor tetra but a little smaller. I have these in a 20 Long tank with black neon tetras. All have been hearty and get along. This tank also has panda cories, which I like as they are one of the smaller cories. And surprisingly I have added some RCS in there and they are thriving. I was afraid they might become snacks.


I have glowlight tetras in another tank which are really hearty and peaceful. Nice looking fish also, but not blue! These used to be with some bloodfin tetras which are also a great active fish. I had had some of these for a very long time, though, so decided not to replace them as they died off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Obviously, the bigger the school, the better.
Any estimates on the tipping point between nippy and good schooling behavior?
What region of the tank do different species prefer?
Are they semi-territorial like pencilfish and emperor tetras, or schooling like rummy-noses and harlequins?
What fish do they get along with?

I'm looking for the kind of details that will help narrow down the choices, based on people's real life experiences keeping different fish.
Thanks for all the continuing help and suggestions!
 
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