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URGENT HELP: Cycling with Neon Tetras and Cory Catfish

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Hi all, complete newbie at keeping fish and aquatic plants here. Really need some advice on cycling a new tank of mine. I've done a lot of reading but I can't find anything regarding what I should do now. Please bear with my story, and thank you SO much in advance. I'm freaking out!

I got a 65 litre (approx 17 gallon) tank on October 2nd (12 days ago as of posting). Details: Horizon 65. It comes with a HOB filter, a 12W white LED light, and a heater.

I am setting this tank up for a betta, and some tank mates (I wanted harlequin rasboras).

On Day 1, I chucked in some frogbit, hornwort, and duckweed. Respectively, frogbit has been ok and multiplying but has rotted a little when I covered the tank for 2 days with its glass cover, the hornwort has grown a bit but is shedding somewhat, and the duckweed is doing fine and multiplying. I also have a tiny sprig of water sprite I think, which has been floating around and doing fine.

Today I got a piece of driftwood with an Anubias (think it is Nana) and some moss (possibly Java, store wasn't sure) which I threw in. I have ordered some Java Ferns which will come in about 2 weeks, and I bought some Malaysian driftwood which I started soaking today.

I was going with fishless cycling. I live in Australia where you cannot get ammonia for cycling so I have been using fish food. Day 3 I had a bacterial bloom which settled, though I had no ammonia readings with my API Master Test Kit (liquid, not strips). Nitrites and nitrates have always been at 0. A few days ago I threw in a lot of food because I was getting impatient with the ammonia, and overnight ammonia went to around 4ppm. The water got disgusting and cloudy. I left it as is for a few days and there was an increasing amount of white fuzz growing on the decaying food (fungus I think, because it seemed ).

Now my family members have not been very understanding regarding the need for cycling, and have pestered me since Day 1 as to why there were no fish in the tank. I have constantly explained to them I am doing fishless cycling, and it would take some time.

2 days ago, my friend who has an established oscar tank, gave me a bit of gravel and some filter media (looks like charcoal in a small mesh bag). She said I was doing okay and just needed to wait. I noticed some little worms appearing after adding her stuff. Hopefully they're not harmful.

Today, without asking me, my father went and bought some fish and added them to the tank this morning. He bought 4 neon tetras and 2 cory catfish.

When I got home in the evening and tested the tank, ammonia at 4ppm and I did a huge water change in hopes of keeping the fish alive. Got it to about 0.5ppm in the end. I also scooped out as much of the decaying food as I could to remove the source of ammonia. I don't believe I can return the fish to the pet store. They appear active and are swimming around (both before and after the water change). Corys are ferreting through the gravel but have also been seen zooming up to mid-tank and upper-tank regions, neon tetras look a bit timid but are moving around and trying to eat the small floating fish food debris I have stirred up.

I have Seachem Prime and Seachem Stability. I have been adding the Stability on/off for the last few days, Prime to dechlorinate (seeing as I didn't have fish before, but now I need it for the ammonia detoxifying I know, and it is only temporary for 48 hours?). My friend uses Neutral Regulator for her oscar and she has popped some in my tank too...

Questions:
  • Where do I go from now with my cycling? What happens now that fishless cycling has become fish in cycling?
  • I read that neons and corys are not very hardy fish for cycling. So how do I do my best to keep them alive? Water changes how often?
  • I have heard mixed reviews about neons and bettas, with neons possibly nipping betta fins. I am planning on getting a halfmoon betta/dumbo betta. Is this pretty much impossible now with neons?
  • Is the light that I have going to be enough for the types of plants I have? I am going for plants that do not require substrate as I only have gravel, and want water column feeders only.
  • With the size of the tank and the number of fish I have, do I have enough space if I want a school of harlequins? I am aware that I may not have enough neons and corys (I heard from some sources there needs to be at least 6 of them for each type?).
  • My tank is not heavily planted I don't think, so I don't think I can do a Silent Cycle but I am unsure of what a Silent Cycle really is. Will the plants help the fish along during the cycling process? Will it affect cycling as it takes up ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, effectively competing with the bacteria for their food source?

I am VERY frustrated with how things are going because this is my first time setting up a fish tank properly, I am inexperienced, and I am trying to do things right. However, without supportive or understanding family members (but rather people who hijack what I'm doing!), I'm worried that my tank and its cycling process has been ruined.

EDIT: I can provide photographs if they will be helpful!
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I'm new to plants, so I can't speak to that. As for the fish aspect, I don't think your cycling has been ruined, but it would make sense to either return those fish or give them away. They both do better in larger groups and if you want harlequins and a betta, you'll need the space. With your filter seeded from your friend, your cycle is probably on track. That is probably too many fish at once though. My suggestion would be to give away/return those fish. Continue with with your fishless cycle. It will be much quicker now with the seeded material. Get your betta when your parameters are in check. Wait a few weeks before adding the harlequins. Lock your tank somewhere the rest of your family can't go randomly adding fish. Hopefully someone else can advise for your plants/lighting.
 

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So, a couple things.

Cory cats can be very resilient and, luckily the darting to the surface is a fairly regular activity for them, you'll often see cories darting up to grab a bubble of air and then returning to their affairs. If they are staying up at the surface and not just darting, you've got problems with the water.

Neons are less resilient and i would recommend caution when housing with bettas or other long finned species. They are known to fin nip.

For plants, You'll want a light that peaks in blues and reds for better growth. I'd have to see what your spectrum is on those lights. Frog bit will grow under just about anything, in my experience. I've had alot luck with surface plants and just about any lighting. Anubias plants when exposed to higher lights grow quicker, but i've seen them pick up alot of algae. Java moss has also grown well under high light sources for me. Java ferns seem Bomb Proof, but like lower lighting.

If your tank is seeded, just keep an eye on it. You could also just return the fish. Cory cats like bigger groups as they are a schooling fish, and neon's probably wont like hanging around in a fluctuating tank.

Best of luck! Feel free to reach out, i'll help where i can.

Thats my 2 cents. I'm still getting my aquarium legs back under me after a few years out of the hobby.
 
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Thank you all for your responses!

I don't think your cycling has been ruined, but it would make sense to either return those fish or give them away. They both do better in larger groups and if you want harlequins and a betta, you'll need the space. With your filter seeded from your friend, your cycle is probably on track. That is probably too many fish at once though. My suggestion would be to give away/return those fish. Continue with with your fishless cycle.
I don't think I can return those fish. Can't find the receipt, plus my father would be really pissed off and I already have a somewhat dysfunctional family which I won't go into further detail. Do you think a 65 litre tank could fit 6 harlequins, 6 neon tetras, 3 corys, and a betta? I'm worried about overstocking, and yeah I know it's too many fish at once. I'm planning on doing another water change ASAP because 0.25-0.5ppm of ammonia still seems scary.

Cory cats can be very resilient and, luckily the darting to the surface is a fairly regular activity for them, you'll often see cories darting up to grab a bubble of air and then returning to their affairs. If they are staying up at the surface and not just darting, you've got problems with the water.

Neons are less resilient and i would recommend caution when housing with bettas or other long finned species. They are known to fin nip.

For plants, You'll want a light that peaks in blues and reds for better growth.

If your tank is seeded, just keep an eye on it. You could also just return the fish. Cory cats like bigger groups as they are a schooling fish, and neon's probably wont like hanging around in a fluctuating tank.

Best of luck! Feel free to reach out, i'll help where i can.
I hope the corys will live; they are my favourite even though the neons look cute but I have heard they can fin nip bettas. Some resources say cycling with bottom feeders is bad though? Do you know much about that? And yeah the corys have been darting up for air and also playing with their reflection along the side of the glass (maybe because there's only 2 of them and they want more friends). How many corys would you suggest as a minimum? Will 3 be enough? I don't want too many of them.

Will a white LED light be enough for my plants? I purposely went for easy-care plants. When everything's settled I may switch to a red and blue light. What wattage would your recommend by the way? I keep thinking 12 watts 17 gallons is too little.

If you don't mind I may PM you some questions if that's alright! Thanks for your generosity. :)

I’ve kept neons, green neons and cardinals in every tank I’ve ever had. They’re pretty much a staple of the aquatic fish keeping hobby. I personally have never had an issue or witnessed them nipping at any other fish.
Have you had any experience keeping tetras with long-finned bettas? Initially I was worried about betta aggression, but as they're slower swimmers I am more afraid of neons nipping. I do have small neons though so I suppose they're not fully grown. If introduced to bettas young, would they be less likely to nip?
 

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Thank you all for your responses!



I don't think I can return those fish. Can't find the receipt, plus my father would be really pissed off and I already have a somewhat dysfunctional family which I won't go into further detail. Do you think a 65 litre tank could fit 6 harlequins, 6 neon tetras, 3 corys, and a betta? I'm worried about overstocking, and yeah I know it's too many fish at once. I'm planning on doing another water change ASAP because 0.25-0.5ppm of ammonia still seems scary.



I hope the corys will live; they are my favourite even though the neons look cute but I have heard they can fin nip bettas. Some resources say cycling with bottom feeders is bad though? Do you know much about that? And yeah the corys have been darting up for air and also playing with their reflection along the side of the glass (maybe because there's only 2 of them and they want more friends). How many corys would you suggest as a minimum? Will 3 be enough? I don't want too many of them.

Will a white LED light be enough for my plants? I purposely went for easy-care plants. When everything's settled I may switch to a red and blue light. What wattage would your recommend by the way? I keep thinking 12 watts 17 gallons is too little.

If you don't mind I may PM you some questions if that's alright! Thanks for your generosity. :)



Have you had any experience keeping tetras with long-finned bettas? Initially I was worried about betta aggression, but as they're slower swimmers I am more afraid of neons nipping. I do have small neons though so I suppose they're not fully grown. If introduced to bettas young, would they be less likely to nip?

Overstocking: I would be cautious on this one, Cory cats do best in larger schools, 6 is a good number, but depending on the species of cory, given enough time, they'll grow from the cute 1" aquatic piglets to in some instances over double that size. I'd do a quick google search on your species to find specifics on what they require. They may work for a while, but eventually may want more space, all depends on the species. I've kept bigger schools of corys and they're a great fish to have.

Is the Betta a male or female? I've seen some bettas totally fine with tank mates, and had others try and claim the majority of 40+ gallon tanks. So, just keep an eye on tank mates to be sure they arent getting harassed by the betta.

On the other side of this, Some Bettas and other long finned species have been pecked at by neons and similar species. A quick google search provides enough claims of such activities happening, however, i'm sure there are exceptions to all rules, on all sides. As far as the young age, i couldn't really say. I don't necessarily think its always a case of aggressive nipping, rather then mistaken identity of a fin for a worm or morsel of food. If you keep fish or in general observe anything for long enough, you'll see strange things.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of doing a quick google search and if there are negative implications that show up in search results right off the start, I proceed with caution while making my choices. My heart always says... "But... there's gotta be a way to make it work... What if i did this..." and sometimes i need to reel it in and say that no matter how much i want X result, its not very likely.

I just finished building a 29 gallon planted tank, it was stocked with 6 Otocinculus cats and a Betta, figuring, with enough plants and structure, and especially since betta fish typically stay in the top of the water column, there would be minimal conflict. After a few days of watching my betta stalk oto cats through the bottom levels of the tank, harassing them and searching through the root systems for prey, i realized it wasn't working.

Long story short, Research and common knowledge are great, however, don't let it conflict with what you're seeing before your eyes. :smile2:

As far as lighting goes, you might be okay for now if you have low light requiring plants but 1-3 watts per gallon is a good guide to the best of my knowledge, but check out this. http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/10-lighting/101085-light-calculation-chart.html a quick search just found me that.

Best of luck! Feel free to reach out.
 

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I kept finding dead neons with missing eyes. One day, I found my betta attacking my neon's eyes... and then there were none. I find that Harlequins are hardier fish for cycling. Although, I only had one that was mixed in a school of 30 espei trigonostigmas. I didn't want it, so it was always my guinea pig. I have little worms in my aquarium too. Not sure what they are. Probably baby black worms from my earlier feedings?
 

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I kept finding dead neons with missing eyes. One day, I found my betta attacking my neon's eyes... and then there were none. I find that Harlequins are hardier fish for cycling. Although, I only had one that was mixed in a school of 30 espei trigonostigmas. I didn't want it, so it was always my guinea pig. I have little worms in my aquarium too. Not sure what they are. Probably baby black worms from my earlier feedings?
You must have the world's slowest neons. It's probably more likely that the neons are already dead and the Betta is plucking the eyes out after the fact as a snack.
 

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A Betta is kind of like an ambush predator and a neon is not very smart. My first Betta looked so calm and peaceful and I was so excited to get him and then screaming as he lashed out and grabbed a tiny neon by the head then as a frantically grabbed for a net he ripped off half a guppies tail.

Back to topic just do a full water change to and then cycle the tank with the fish and the Stability. Easy Peasy.
 

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A Betta is kind of like an ambush predator and a neon is not very smart. My first Betta looked so calm and peaceful and I was so excited to get him and then screaming as he lashed out and grabbed a tiny neon by the head then as a frantically grabbed for a net he ripped off half a guppies tail.

Back to topic just do a full water change to and then cycle the tank with the fish and the Stability. Easy Peasy.
Triport is right. My betta curled slowly and waited for a neon to come by, and then it plucked the neon's eye out. I think the betta also gets the neons early in the morning when they're not ready yet, because I find them freshly dead in the mornings.
 
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