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Hello everyone,

I'm a first-time aquarium owner and have a few questions in regards to setting up my community tank.

When I bought my betta, Alistair, the idea was that I was going to join the ranks of my cubicle office mates who have little vases and jars of Betta Fish on their desks. I brought home Alistair, set up his little 1.5 gallon vase, and watched him for a couple weeks. He seemed pretty content (blowing bubbles, swimming frequently, and sleeping on his little leaf) but the more research I did the worse I felt for him.

My little $7.00 fish has turned into a $250.00+ investment. I recently went out and bought a 20 gallon long tank, some live plants, a floating Betta log, a large log centerpiece and a little castle. I originally was cycling my tank using an Aqueon QuietFlow 30 filter (which I dislike and will be returning -- it's so loud!) and the standard light that came with the Aqueon Deluxe Hood.

I've been cycling and treating the water for about a week, using the Aqueon Filter and the newer Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED+, and recently bought one of the API Freshwater Master Test Kit.

My current water readings are:

pH: 7.6
Ammonia: 0
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: Are close to 0

I added Alistair into the tank and he seems to be doing well -- the current isn't too much for him and he's been swimming, flaring and exploring. He's even taken advantage of sleeping on some of the real sword plant leaves.

I recently bought (3) Neon Tetras and (1) Emerald Cory Catfish, after doing some research, I want to eventually have somewhere in the ballpark of (11) Tetras and possibly (3) Emerald Cory Catfish.

Admittedly I did not quarantine the Neon Tetras, but they seem to be doing well. I'm worried that they might be stressed out by being such a small number, but my betta doesn't seem like he's too interested in them now. His behavior doesn't seem like it's changed much from his solitary days, but I'm concerned that might be because he's still acclimating to his new environment too.

So my questions are as following:

1) Do you think the Satellite Freshwater LED will provide enough light to maintain live plants? I have a Sword Plant, a Marimo Moss ball (that looks a little depressed, honestly), and some different grasses. I wish I had the names.

2) Will a 20 gallon long tank support the size of (3) Emerald Cory Catfish? I really want my fish to be happy and content, but don't think I can have a herd of (6) catfish in my tank. I did so much research but didn't realize until after I bought my cory that they're one of the larger species.

3) How many Neon Tetra do you suggest adding? I would like to add four Tetras and possibly 1 Cory in a couple weeks. I know they suggest doing 2-4 fish at a time but the Tetra's are very tiny and I don't think they'd affect my bio-load too much?

4) I realize that my pH is high. I bought a product to help stabilize it to 7.0, but after adding in the rest of my fish and mixing in the products, it still is coming out at 7.6 (which is a bit high for the Tetras, I believe). Suggestions to help?

5) Will replacing the filter to a newer one (AquaClear 30) ruin my cycling process? I've been treating the water frequently with Fluval Biological Enhancer.

6) My tank is registering nearly 0 ppm for Nitrates. Should I be concerned? Has it been that I didn't have enough Ammonia to begin the process or is it my chemical treatments and live plants that are helping things along?

Thank you so much for reading this and for taking the time to answer. I know that I am new to owning an aquarium but I want to make sure my fish are as happy and healthy as can be.

P.S. I think it might be worth noting that the substrate I used was the Eco-Complete Substrate for live plants.
 

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1.) A 20 Long tank is about 12" high. With a couple inches of substrate that's around 10 inches from your light to the substrate. According to Current's specs, the Freshwater LED [not the Freshwater LED+ right? Big difference] you'll get 15 PAR at 12" inches so you'd probably be getting around 20 PAR. That's enough to grow many low light plants but not quickly and you'll have to experiment. Taller plants will have an easier time of it but lower ground cover plants will not thrive as easily. The sword should be fine but the grasses are a bit more iffy.
Here is an explanation of PAR: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/showthread.php?t=184368

2.) Here is a stocking calculator that can help you with planning your bioload. http://www.aqadvisor.com/

3.) See answer to question 2 and yes small Tetras have a surprisingly low bioload.

4.) pH is really not as important as you may think. My pH here is between 8.0 and 8.4 and I've never had any problems keeping Tetras or Corys.

5.) No, getting a new filter will not disrupt the cycle so long as you run the new one in tandem with the already cycled filter for a few weeks.

6.) What are your nitrite readings?
 

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Hi merrily! I can answer a few of Your questions(other members correct me if wrong)
Please excuse any capitalization or punctuation errors as I'm posting from my phone.

1) The light fixture you have is enough to support your plants, although The grass may not carpet very well. I use 2 of the same type fixture (led plus) for my 45g betta sorority. It is also worth noting if You are not aware the yellow setting is the best for your plants.
4) from what i understand using any products to adjust your ph is bad for the tank as a whole, there are plenty of less stressfull ways to lower ph. If the log you put in is real driftwood and has not been soaked it will release tanins that will lower your ph.
5) Judging by what you stated i do not think your tank is cycled it has only been set up for a week and you most likely only started the cycling process after adding the fish. IMHO i would wait a bit to add more fish and changing the filter will most likely not effect the cycle much, but i wouldnt wait to change the filter if you are planning on it.
6) nitrates are the end result of the bacterial process and the plants consume it however you should have a higher nitrate reading if your tank is cycled IMO.
Edit: I did not see goodbytes post before posting my own
 
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