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New to aquariums & having MAJOR issues.

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.



  • Dr MattDr Matt Member Posts: 81
    Hi wombat,
    It sure sounds like your tank is not cycled and you've had a bacterial bloom.

    First place I'd look is the top-mount trickle filter. Unfortunately these are very hit'n'miss to begin with and if you've got a cheap Chinese copy, it may well be nowhere near its published specifications.

    As I see it, you've really got two or three options.
    1. chuck/sell the lot and give up.

    2. start again from scratch - drain the tank, rinse & wash everything, and refill with appropriate chemistry. Then work out the correct stocking level and halve it to allow for filtration fiction.

    3. keep your current stock level and beef up the filtration with a quality external to exceed your stock level. I'm a huge fan of Eheim externals but you will pay a premium for that German quality. Fortunately, when it comes to Eheim, you only need pay once.

    As you've discovered, an overstocked and underfiltered tank is massive work to keep stable & happy. Reverse the equation to overfiltered and understocked and suddenly it becomes a whole lot easier.

    I've also found different food brands can have shocking effects on tank chemistry - some common brands seem to cloud my tanks terribly, whereas slightly more expensive and less easy to find boutique brands do not.

  • wombat200wombat200 Member Posts: 9
    Option 1: Preferred, but not palatable (see option 2)

    Option 2: Impossible, as I'd be disposing of the kids pets. Way to make a three-year old cry.

    Option 3: Really trying to avoid option 3, as I have nowhere for an external filter to go, aside from the middle of the loungeroom floor, and I'm guessing the best of german engineering still makes for a poor foot-stool....

    Is it possible to improve the original top-filter? Or, can I add a better internal filter, perhaps one that contains useful media?
  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    edited March 2015
    Hi & welcome, wish it were under better circumstances, you are experiencing what most new aquarists experience, impatience ;) I don't think your tank is overstocked, You are correct about one thing tho, Your tank hasn't cycled, If you take out the amounts of water you have been, you are halting the process every time, it needs time & small water changes to be balanced, the ammonia has to be there to create nitrItes and then they are converted to NitrAtes, Only when the tank is showing readings for nitrAtes, is the tank beginning to reach the end of it's cycle process, it is then safe to add 2 or three small fish weekly, Takes at least 6 week for a complete cycle to be stable enough to put more load on the bio bacterias, There is quite a lot more to it of course, but basically what I have mentioned is my thoughts about your issue :D
    I assume you have read some of the topics in our beginners section ?
    If not, go take a look at Might help you understand what's going on in your tank..

    You can use a bio starter to help the process along, one I recommend for cycling is Seachem Stability. sold online more than in shops*and reasonably priced), shops really are robbers lol
    & the water conditioning treatment I recommend for water changes is Seachem Prime Liquid :D

    Did I miss anything, anyone care to chime in ;)
    Keep us updated :)

    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • wombat200wombat200 Member Posts: 9
    Mooo - I've read cycling information until I could spout it verbatim - but that doesn't make the tank cycle! I think I'm pretty sure the tank is overstocked - 6 platys, 4 neaon tetras, 2 dwarf gouramis, 3 bristlenose, plus about 10 juvenile platys.
  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    edited March 2015
    hmm might be better with two sponges & the internal :)
    I agree, it's overstocked :/
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • wombat200wombat200 Member Posts: 9
    Why are they better? And, when the sponge is rinsed, doesn't that get rid of the bacterial colony? With those sponges, how do you run them? Do they sit on the bottom & run a pipe up to a powerhead, then via a spray bar back into the tank? The extra filter I added is a coarse sponge filter, but It hasn't made a difference in the two weeks it's been in....

  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    edited March 2015
    Sponges have a greater bio load on their surface & internally, meaning more good bacterias .. To rinse a sponge is simple, the water you remove from a water change, rinse it in that, thus keeping the bacteria colony alive, if rinsed in tap water the chemicals in it kill off the colony, so always in tank water ;) the bacteria stay on it, but if you only clean them in discarded tank water.. :) I can't stress this enough .
    Right now tho, Your issue is your colony can't cope with the waste load because it isn't ready to convert the waste yet, How the sponges run is, an air hose connected to an air pump into the center of sponges plastic housing, the air circulating throught it pulls the water through the sponge & in doing so, sucks in the waste, they sit on the bottom and that's it :D Watch the video below :D

    Have you considered a hangon filter , Could be your answer for a quiet & minimal space requirement for your filter, The video below is of one of my Aquaclear 150 on an 80L tank, great little filters imo, they come in bigger sizes also, My dad has just one on his 4 foot and it's great..
    Your immediate issue tho, is your cycle & keeping your fish alive ..
    Do you know anyone with a mature tank?, you could steal some of their dirty media to help your bacteria colony grow faster ;)
    Note.. There is a sponge filter in there also ;) always good to have a second filter running in case one stuffs up :D
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • wombat200wombat200 Member Posts: 9
    Thanks for that Video, I get it now - I assumed you connected it to a power pump at the top.

    I've rejected hang-ons, for the simple reason that as my tank is an 'all in one' style with integrated lid/cover, etc, they can't attach. Hence why I'm looking at internals.

    I don't know anyone with a freshwater aquarium at all. I've had that advice on a number of occasions, but it ain't gonna happen.....
  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    edited March 2015
    It's connected to a simple air pump

    I keep overlooking its an all in one..
    In all honesty, I'd start again.. :/ using only 3 fish to cycle and using the appropriate treatments :)
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • wombat200wombat200 Member Posts: 9
    Trust me, if I empty it, I'm not going back for a second go.... If I empty it, I have to convince the kids to let me dump the fish (not easy), and if managed to win that argument, I wouldn't be going back for more punishment......

    What's the big problem with an internal filter - the sponge filter you've showed me is a type of internal?

    While I have no problem with getting a sponge filter (I already have an air pump I could use), surely the whole point is making more space for bacteria to grow, therefore the type of filter isn't that relevant? What makes one type better than the other, assuming there is media for the bacteria to colonise?
  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    The amount of porus surface area , the more they have the greater your colony :D
    I have to go and vote now :'(
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • BobBob Member, Classifieds Posts: 708
    edited March 2015
    Hi Wombat and welcome,

    Lots of good information above and good to see that you have more than a background knowledge of cycling processes.

    In regards to the air-driven sponge filters they are highly recommended by breeders of "difficult" fish such as discus as an effective means of controlling ammonia and nitrItes in "grow-out" tanks with high numbers of fry. The reason for this is that they grow large colonies of bio-bacteria and the comparatively low flow rate allows for effective break-down of your waste products.

    To set up and accelerate your colony growth I would do a small water change, rinse the media from your current filter in that water, then immerse the sponge filter into the same water to facilitate transfer of bacteria to the new media.

    Due to the cloudiness of the water you will need to keep an eye on the sponge filter and rinse it to prevent blockage and maintain flow on a regular basis using the following process, take out a small amount of tank water to rinse the sponge by moving it through the water to dislodge debris rather than squeezing it out.

    Good luck but remember to change only one thing at a time, and give it time (3 preferably 5 days), so that you can see what is helping and what is not.


  • Dr MattDr Matt Member Posts: 81
    Mooo said:

    Have you considered a hangon filter

    Speaking of which, I'm in process of moving my yabbie tank. Since I'm going whole hog, I'll try to remember to get some photos of the mods I do to a HO to make them wayyy more effective than stock.

    Wombat: when you do your water changes, do you mix the new water with chemicals in a bucket outside of the tank before adding or do you pour in tap-water and add chems to suit?
    Do you adjust Ph / kh / mineral levels?

  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    ;) I'd be interested in that Matt :D
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • wombat200wombat200 Member Posts: 9
    Dr Matt - when I add new water, I usually do either 2 or 3 15lt buckets at a time. I usually mix the water conditioning crystals, and the dechlorinator liquid, for the total change in the first bucket. The dechlorinator I'm using is added in very tiny amounts (1ml per40lt) so doing it this way is a bit easier..... Let me guess, I should be doing every bucket-load separately?
  • wombat200wombat200 Member Posts: 9
    Looks like I'll be trying a foam filter, then.....
  • Dr MattDr Matt Member Posts: 81
    I've probably spent too much time in the labs, but I always get my buckets at the chemistry/conditions I want (well, close enough) before adding them, thus getting the water fully mixed, temperature/pH/kh equlibrated and everything reacted before adding. I always assume that it takes a while for the water to mix properly, so until that happens, there's still active chloramines.

    I know what you mean about tiny amounts. I usually do 1 bucket with a full load of chems (the master mix) and then aliquot it out - say 1/3'rds over 3 buckets before topping them off and letting them sit with occasional stirrings before adding to my tank. If I've got my crap together, I dig out the spare air-pump and use that to stir them overnight.
  • BobBob Member, Classifieds Posts: 708
    Hi Wombat,

    Just wondering how things are going.


  • GooeyGooey Member Posts: 24
    I know this is a very old post but I initially had problems cycling a Aquaone 620T tank.

    I didn't have any success until I got rid of the charcoal filters (consumable) and with the space freed up i added extra ceramic noodles.

    The other trick I used was soaking the new noodles for a day in a mix of Bio start and water from a water change. I sat that out in the sun for a day (covered) and then added the noodle into the filter.

    The next day i started getting the nitrite readings that had elluded me.

    Hopefully this might help somone else at some stage.

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