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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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