Hi All, Rob here.
As the title suggests, I'm new to this whole game, having set up a tank for my kids. But things haven't been going well, and frankly, I'm getting well over it, to the point I'm considering getting rid of all my gear...
But, one last throw of the dice, I'm hoping someone here can set me on the straight & narrow - so much other advice I get is either incomplete, or partial, or just hasn't worked. I've also made a few bad decisions, mostly out of ignorance, that I'm not sure I'm going to be able to rectify.
I'll try to keep the whole saga short:
I set up a ~100lt tank, just before Christmas 2014, as a present for the kids. It's a tall style - think 'Aqua One 620T', although it's a chinese made job. Top mount trickle filter, power head runs ~400lph. 2 filter trays, each with ceramic noodles & initially a thin mat over the top. Used water conditioner / dechlorinator, etc, as per the instructions.
Decided to do a 'fish in' cycle. Started out with 6 platys Let it go about 3 weeks before adding more fish to a mixed community tank. Realistically, I've since learnt the tank is over-stocked. Eventually, I had a few fish die. Started doing 50% water changes & gravel clean twice a week, to keep the fish alive. I also started dosing with API quick start. Testing later showed that every value was zero - I had one test that came up with 0.25ppm ammonia, but essentially, the water changing was keeping it at bay. For awhile, nitrites & nitrates stayed at 0.
I backed off the water changes, and at one stage got a reading of 10ppm Nitrates - I assumed at this point my tank had cycled. However, partly out of fear of losing fish, and partly out of habit, I kept doing ~40% water changes.
The thin fibre mats in my filter trays started to fall apart after repeated washing - about 3 weeks ago, I replaced this with thick dacron pads. Since then, my tank has become very cloudy, to the point I can barely see fish. I've also detected an unpleasant odor. To complicate things, my platys, at some point, started breeding, so my tank is even further overpopulated. I'm working on getting rid of the young into a small holding tank (whole other story), but to help cope with the overcrowding, I've added a small aqua one 101F internal filter, just to add capacity. I'm not sure it's made any difference.
In short - my tank is murky, and I'm not convinced it's fully cycled. I really don't know where to go from here, aside from giving away my fish & selling up. If anyone has any ideas, I'd welcome the advice.