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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Stop me if you've heard this one, but I'm brand new tall of this and may or may not be posting in the wrong forum. I apologize in advance if that's the case.

I believe what I'm trying to do would be considered the low-tech method. I'm not sure.

So for Christmas Santa brought my daughter 3 goldfish. The guy at the pet store told Santa that this would be fine for a 5 gallon tank. Then Daddy did some research (daddy likes to do things right) and found out that goldfish really need a lot more space.

So the neighbor was throwing out a 29-gallon tank. I took it and because I can't do anything easy, immediately decided that we'd make it a planted tank. And so I did some light reading and bought a pack of 25 plants from Amazon. I also bought appropriate substrate. I don't really know what kinds of plants they are. Amazon swords and some other basics. Only 2 have died in 3 weeks which is a lot better than I thought I'd do.

I'm not injecting CO2. I only have a T8 bulb (I've used tin foil to try and reflect as much light as possible into the tank), and I have the light scheduled to go on for 6 hours in the morning, off for 4, and then on for 5. This coincides with my daughter's waking/bedtime schedule and I read somewhere that this was a decent way to create some CO2 in the middle of the day? There's a lot of conflicting info out there....

Anyway, I'm trying to cycle the tank before moving the fish in there. I used a bottle of ammonia, turned up the heat, and waited. It was going very slowly, so I took the filter out of the established tank and just tossed it in there for a day. Sure enough- nitrites. I then took it out. I tested for 2 days and found that the ammonia hadn't gone down, but the nitrites continued to spike. Weird, right? So then I decided to put the filter back in and see if I don't get nitrates quickly- and I did. But now ammonia is around 2ppm (which is where I had it originally), nitrites are at 5ppm, and nitrates are at 10ppm. It's been 2 days that the ammonia doesn't seem to have gone down- which is the main thing that makes me think something is wrong.

Does this make any sense?? I'm so confused. Also, it's possible that I got those numbers wrong but trust me that ammonia and nitrites are high and nitrates are very present.

Oh..and I did make one mistake. At one point I got worried about PH and got a bottle of Proper PH. It required 3 scoops. After 2 scoops I noticed that you aren't supposed to put it in a planted tank. But it seems like it won't kill the plants, just maybe stunt growth? So I figured I'd leave it in there until the tank cycled and then do a big water change. Is it bad to do a water change right now?

I'm sorry for the wall of text. I suck at this whole fish tank thing it would seem....

17 Posts
Welcome to the world of fish ownership! You'll get addicted, quickly! I'm glad you are upgrading your fish to that larger tank. To answer some of your questions, and some general advice:

- 29g is a good start, but really not big enough for 3 goldfish. They should be in something like 50 or more, probably like 75 at least. They require a ton of space! Maybe as you get used to the hobby, you can upgrade them.

- It sounds like you just have to be patient with your cycle. You are in the mid-stages of it right now. Though do you actually have a permanent filter for the tank? Why do you keep putting it in and taking it out? You must have a filter at all times in a tank as that is where the bacteria live (and they are what cycle your tank)! So put a filter in and leave it in. Also, while heat is good for growing bacteria, goldfish are not warm water fish. They like cooler temps, like 70ish. So you won't need to have your heater on too high when you put the fish in.

- Don't worry about pH too much. Fish can adapt to a wide range of pH - stability of pH is more important than actual number. Unless your pH is wildly high (8.2+) or low (less than 6), don't fiddle with it. Just make sure its stable.

- Goldfish are known to screw with plants (and eat them) so don't be surprised if this happens.

- Your light cycle is extremely long - 11hrs is probably too much. Shoot for 8 (or less), because once you get nitrate in the water, I bet you're going to have crazy amounts of algae! More light does not equal more CO2. In fact, the more light, the more CO2 is used up.

I hope that helps! Good luck!

11,721 Posts
The guy at the pet store told Santa that this would be fine for a 5 gallon tank.
Yes, I have heard this one before.
Then Daddy did some research.
Good for Daddy! Research is great!

You have the golds in a tank, now. Is that tank cycled?
Move everything to the 29 gallon, and this will move almost all the bacteria to the 29 gallon. (see details below)

You must be going frantic keeping the water conditions in a 5 gallon tank OK.
Move everything to the 29 gallon, and this will make the water change schedule a lot easier on you because the 29 has a lot more volume of water to dilute the fish wastes. (see details below)

OK, here are the details:
Beneficial bacteria live on all the surfaces in the filter, and in the tank, including on the substrate (gravel, sand...)
When you have 3 fish in a tank the filter and all the surfaces have enough bacteria to handle the wastes from those 3 fish.
When you want to move the fish to a new tank you move the bacteria with them, and there is only a minor loss of bacteria. Pretty much all the bacteria that were supporting the fish in the old tank will continue supporting the fish in the new tank.

Here is how I would do this:
1) 100% water change to remove all ammonia and nitrites from the 29 gallon. Rinse the filter gently so as not to dislodge any growing bacteria. Refill with water that matches the water the fish are currently in. (don't forget dechlor)
2) Move the fish to the new tank.
3) Move the old filter to the new tank. Run it on this tank for a few weeks. Or move the filter media from the old filter to the new one. Most of the bacteria are in the filter media.
4) Skim the top layer of the gravel from the old tank. The maximum bacteria population will be in this top layer (perhaps 3-4 grains thick) of gravel. Put this gravel into several (3-5) mesh bags. Hang these bags in the new tank in an area with good water flow. Remove one bag per week. This will allow whatever bacteria are in the bags to help out during the transition, but will eventually remove these bacteria, but slowly, so the tank can grow more.
5) Add a bottle that contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything that store tells you is 'just the same'. This is the actual species of bacteria the tank needs, and this step is 'just in case' something happens to some of the bacteria in the transition.
6) Keep the 5 gallon and its equipment clean and store it so you can use it as a quarantine tank when you figure out the 29 is a nice size tank, just not for Goldfish.

Ditto the comments above about how fast Goldfish grow.
I grew some from January to April indoors, in a 45 gallon tank (4' long) and they grew from 1" (small feeders) to 3" in just a few months. Then I put them in my pond. I may have had them in a 30" long tank (29 gallon? 20 long?) for a few weeks when I first got them.
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