Hi, new with a few questions...

blue fish
blue fish Member Posts: 27
edited February 2011 in Beginner's Forum
Hi...it's nice to "meet" everyone!!!

I have attempted on and off for several years to keep fish, mostly successful but our previous nomadic lifestyle led to most fish dying every time we moved, despite my best efforts and lots of research and preparation.

We've now settled and I'd like to get a little more serious about my fish. I currently have a 3 foot tank, gravel, driftwood with plant, no fish. I have a heater and an internal filter at the moment with some used filter media from a friend to kickstart the cycling. I have ordered some glass shrimp, kuhli loaches and neon tetras plus a few more plants to get started, which I'm assuming I will get late next week. {ETA: unexpected day off today, so I'm off to my lfs to get a few starter fish...hoping to make it a few of the blue mickeymouse platys cause it seems they are pretty hardy}

So, on to my questions... (am happy for links in response if someone else has already answered them somewhere)

What is the difference between a canister filter and the ones that hang on the side of the tank, and is either one better than the other? Will it be beneficial to get one of these if I already have an internal filter? Should/can I put anything other than the sponge in the internal filter to increase it's effectiveness? How often should I clean the sponge (I know to do it gently in water taken from the tank during a water change...but how often)? {ETA: I added the fish species I would like - see my signature - into AqAdvisor and while they are babies my current filtration is all good, but I'll run into problems when they are adults so I WILL need some sort of additional filtration, just not sure which type}

How do you keep plants alive? I want plants to make the tank look pretty and to give my fishes some security, so I'm not going to go all out on super expensive plants. However, in my experience plants do not last very long. I'm sure I'm doing something monumentally wrong and that's the problem...I ususally buy the loose bunches from the lfs, and they last about a week or two then start floating, the roots go rotten, basically they die quickly. My petstore very helpfully suggested I buy plastic plants, but I'd rather get the real ones to survive if I can because they are so much nicer.

How important is it to test water hardness? Is it important enough to warrant the expense of buying a test kit? What about ammonia and nitrite/nitrate test kits, or is it good enough to just do more regular water changes while cycling? {ETA: I found the post on the "First Aquarium" page which answered this, to begin with I'm going to get test kits for pH, ammonia, nitrite...will take a sample to the lfs and get them to test for hardness}

I think that'll do me for now <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: -->

Comments

  • Mooo
    Mooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    What is the difference between a canister filter and the ones that hang on the side of the tank, and is either one better than the other? Will it be beneficial to get one of these if I already have an internal filter? Should/can I put anything other than the sponge in the internal filter to increase it's effectiveness? How often should I clean the sponge (I know to do it gently in water taken from the tank during a water change...but how often)?

    How do you keep plants alive? I want plants to make the tank look pretty and to give my fishes some security, so I'm not going to go all out on super expensive plants. However, in my experience plants do not last very long. I'm sure I'm doing something monumentally wrong and that's the problem...I usually buy the loose bunches from the lfs, and they last about a week or two then start floating, the roots go rotten, basically they die quickly. My petstore very helpfully suggested I buy plastic plants, but I'd rather get the real ones to survive if I can because they are so much nicer.

    How important is it to test water hardness? Is it important enough to warrant the expense of buying a test kit? What about ammonia and nitrite/nitrate test kits, or is it good enough to just do more regular water changes while cycling?

    Hi & mooowelcome.gif
    Go have a gander at our beginners topics, many of the question you have will be answered in there, But I will attempt to answer the ones you asked here.

    The difference between the two types of filters,, for a larger tank, the smaller hangon back filters aren't as good as a canister filter..Why? A HOB has only a small area for the media..where as the canister has a larger media area & sponges are larger also, meaning more area for good bacterias to grow,.
    There are HOB's that claim to do larger aquariums, My dad has one HOB supposedly enough for his 3 foot tank, but he always has troubles(IMO it doesn't have enough space for media to keep a tank of that size healthy, most in the know, will have a canister filter before any other or in addition to a canister, they may have an internal or HOB..for extra filtering and current..A sponge filter is imo the best second filter to have...unless your needing current..This depends on your fish...
    'Flow Rate'...in a filter your looking to have at least 4 times (if not more) the amount of water in the tank, passing through the filter per hour..
    Most certainly it would be in the fishies best interest to get a canister filter as well as the internal..the new canister will need to build up its bacteria so leaving the internal in while this is happening will ensure the tank stays healthy, leaving the internal running as well as the canister also ensures a fail safe, if one or the other fails, you have a back up already running.

    Internals usually only have the space in them for the sponge & or media required for that filter..I wouldn't change anything, they are designed to run efficiently with what comes with them..

    How often do you clean a sponge..
    Well that depends on what filter you have & its size, the smaller the sponge the more you will need to clean it & as you stated, only ever in tank water..
    Water changes should be done once a week at a rate of at least 20% the tanks volume, cleaning filter at this time in water taken from tank,
    When cycling, the number of changes can be increased but the amount removed reduced .

    Test kits.. I advise you get a master test kit, it has all the test you will need included in the one box..(buying equipment online is way cheaper than lfs)..

    Yes the hardness of the water matters to the fish you keep, some fish are from very soft waters (ie the amazon regions), some are hard water (ie African lakes regions) We in Oz have differing water hardness depending on where you live..
    as a basic guide,
    Hard water(alkaline) can be achieved by adding crushed coral, increasing the hardness by the calcium & carbonates ..
    Soft water(acidity) is achieved by the addition of drift woods, this lowers the general hardness
    Hard water has a pH of above 7 & Soft water has a pH of below 7

    Plants..
    Most lfs will sell plants not designed for submersion, they will eventually rot and cause a big strain on the bio load of filter if not removed....
    We have a topic on the plants not to buy http://www.livefish.com.au/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=2669
    Lighting is another thing you need to address when growing plants, some will do well in low light but most need high light...
    They also need special fertilization..not hard to do, there is a plethora of ferts on the market all do a good job..I personally use Dave Wilson's @ aquagreen.com.au Dino Range of ferts . Dino Pee n Dino Spit..He also sells proper aquatic plants.. <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D -->

    I applaud you for asking the questions, as some people don't bother & pay the price with the lives of their fish ..Well done <!-- s:thumbright: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_thumright.gif" alt=":thumbright:" title="thumbright" /><!-- s:thumbright: -->
    If I have missed anything, I am sure another valued member will advise further..
    Again Welcome to the site.. <!-- s:dance3: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/dance.gif" alt=":dance3:" title="dance3" /><!-- s:dance3: -->
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • Brengun
    Brengun Moderator Posts: 1,985
    Plantwise got for anubias on driftwood. Even I have trouble killing those. <!-- s:laugh6: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/ROLFSmiley.gif" alt=":laugh6:" title="laugh6" /><!-- s:laugh6: -->
    If you are going to try to add all those fish at once you will run into cycling issues. I know you can get better economy in freight by buying all at once from livefish but its best for the fish if you just buy a few at a time.
    Having said that, there is a way to do it. Cycling the tank first with a bit of dead prawn for a couple of weeks is advisable before you go adding fish. What you need to cycle is a constant supply of pollution like fish waste or to be kind a dead prawn.

    Buy Prime liquid to not only to neutralise the chlorines in your town water supply but to also neutralise the affects of ammonia and nitrates which the fish will encounter. Here is the stuff I am talking about. You dont have to buy it from this link, I just googled it up to demonstrate. <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.aquariumsupermarket.com.au/720-seachem-prime-250ml.html">http://www.aquariumsupermarket.com.au/7 ... 250ml.html</a><!-- m -->
    I use it all the time and if I have a death in the tank at all I plonk Prime in and ask questions later. Its marvellous stuff, in fact add it when you add the fish as it does promote the fishes slime coat and help stave off whitespot or ick disease.
    To kick that cycling bio along also add Stability liquid for a week or two. <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.aquariumsupermarket.com.au/654-seachem-stability-250ml.html">http://www.aquariumsupermarket.com.au/6 ... 250ml.html</a><!-- m -->

    Now you will with a lot of fish end up with rising ammonia etc for a start, even in a cycled tank so do small water changes or say 10% per day and even twice a day if you think the fish are stressing badly. Add back in that prime liquid daily as well and keep it up for maybe a week until the tank is all caught up with the wastes of the fish and everyone is happy. Keep the feeding in the first week to the barest minimum, they won't starve to death in a week. Less food = less wastes = nicer water and thats what you need initially until your fish are all settled.

    Good part is, treat em mean on the feeding and it will keep them keen with them all following you around the tank whenever you walk by. After the settling period you can feed normally or even break it up into several much smaller feeds several times a day if you want to make them really friendly.
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  • blue fish
    blue fish Member Posts: 27
    Thank you so much for you reply, what a lot of great information!

    Cannister filter it is!!! Now just need to start researching to decide which type. Recommendations will be greatfully received!

    Lastly, in a fit of enthusiasm last night I bought Doug's eBook about breeding bristlenose. I was all excited about eventually getting into breeding but then read that BN shouldn't be kept with loaches...would kuhli loaches be included in that? I'd love to set up a breeding tank but it's not really an option for the forseeable future so I'm hoping that by ordering the kuhlis I haven't given up my chance of trying to breed some BN one day. <!-- s:cry: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_cry.gif" alt=":cry:" title="Crying or Very sad" /><!-- s:cry: -->

    And the one plant I have is (I think) an anubia on a piece of driftwood...so I did good! <!-- s:dance4: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/WoohooSmiley.gif" alt=":dance4:" title="dance4" /><!-- s:dance4: --> Mind you, I would like just a few more as it's looks a little empty.

    Oh, and...for hidey-holes in the aquarium for the bottom dwellers, are normal terracotta pots from a nursery okay or is there something special about the ones for aquariums?
  • blue fish
    blue fish Member Posts: 27
    <!-- s:idea: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_idea.gif" alt=":idea:" title="Idea" /><!-- s:idea: -->

    Something just occurred to me...I have had the tank about half full for months with my driftwood and plant in there. The light, heater and filter were all turned off. No fish and therefore no fish food (when my fish died after our last move I turned all the elctrical stuff off but the plant just kept going).

    But...will the tank already be cycled from having the plant in there? I know the bacteria in the filter are likely to have died from it being turned off, or dramatically reduced in number at least, but what about the bacteria in the gravel? Does the tank have to have fish and/or food for it to remain "cycled"?

    <!-- s:scratch: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_scratch.gif" alt=":scratch:" title="scratch" /><!-- s:scratch: -->
  • Mooo
    Mooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    Hi again..

    Best filter would be an eheim..
    The kuhli loaches will be ok with bns...as for breeding the bns, so long as they can keep the loaches out of their caves, you could still successfully breed the bns..they are only small loaches, think they burrow into substrate too.....
    Caves, there are all sorts on the market. I have some round ones bought through a friend, benandy breeding http://benandybreeding.webs.com/ or you could make your own DIY caves, in Doug's ebook you will see a cave I made for my bns...there is a topic in here showing how I did it..http://www.livefish.com.au/forums/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=4535&hilit=Mooo%27s+bns&start=45
    Otherwise there are slate caves also..or even a hollow bit of drift wood is suitable for a bn they are not too fussy where they breed...
    If I were you, I would get more plants on wood,

    The old tank water, would have NO bacterias in it, no good ones anyway. You should give it a good clean n start again...
    The plant doesn't need the filter to live...it can survive, although not flourish...
    Like I said, the old tank, that has just sat there, will not have any good bacterias..just clean it out with a weak solution of water n vinegar..n start again...clean filter media also..in another tanks water would help get the good bacterias back in there to colonise it again...

    as Brenda said, stability is a great product for starting a new tank on...
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • Doug
    Doug Member, Classifieds Posts: 2,371
    hope you like the book <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->

    In terms of loaches, Khulis are at the bottom end of the scale when it comes to danger to breeding bristlenose. They are much smaller than most loaches and are no where near as agressive. I would def keep an eye on them but there wont be the danger of them fighting, the khulis will run a mile if they came across a male bristlenose all fired up protecting its eggs unlike a clown loach who will fight back.

    in terms of the tank. I agree with Mooo. I would completely drain it and give it a good clean, really scrub it out, give the gravel a good hose out to clean it up and then refill it. Hook the new filter up and then let it cycle. nothing worse than having ghosts of old issues come back to haunt you. The plant will help the cycle a bit by helping to keep the ammonia levels down a bit. the more plants the more the ammonia level will drop as they use it.
  • Bob
    Bob Member, Classifieds Posts: 708
    Not Happy People,

    Hi Blue Fish,

    To cycle your tank (develop a colony of bacteria essential for the breakdown of ammonia into nitrItes then into nitrAtes), you need a source of ammonia. Your source of ammonia can be fish, sadly for the fish by the time the nitrifying bacteria colonies have been established in your filter the fish will have succumbed to ammonia poisoning. This can also be done by adding pure ammonia, dropping in parts of a dead prawn as previously mentioned (quite a smelly thing to do) or putting in generous amounts of fish food which will then decay in the bottom of your tank producing a nice supply of ammonia as it goes.

    By maintaining a level of ammonia in your tank about 5ppm(Illion) you will over time note that the ammonia you keep adding will be significantly lower when you measure it (use a liquid test kit for accuracy, not strips). This is when you know that you have a nice little colony of good bacteria in your filter breaking the ammonia down into nitrIte. Sadly, nitrIte is only a little less toxic to fish than ammonia. You need a test kit to test for levels of nitrIte, this will become quite high until your second colony of bacteria establish themselves. The tough fish that managed to survive the ammonia that has previously been in your tank will, in all likelihood, succumb to the levels of nitrIte produced by these bacteria. Keep adding your preferred source of ammonia to maintain these guys and their production of nitrIte.

    The presence of nitrIte in your tank will encourage the establishment of a second colony of bacteria in your filter. These guys are really good because they will break down the nitrIte into nitrAtes which are much less harmful to fish and which also can be used by your plants. You will notice, when you use your nitrAte test kit, that you get a significant spike in the levels of nitrAte. This means that the good guys are in there converting all that nasty nitrIte into nitrAte. Your nitrogen CYCLE is now complete.

    Keep up the ammonia. When you are able to test your tank water some hours after adding your ammonia (after about six weeks) you should get a reading of ammonia NIL (surely there is some in there, I clearly remember adding it), nitrIte NIL, and nitrate 20ppm and above. Your nitrAte spike is evidence that both lots of good guys have taken up residence in your filter and are doing their jobs.

    Now is the time to order your fish. KEEP UP THE AMMONIA FEEDS TO MAINTAIN YOUR NITRIFYING BACTERIA COLONIES UNTIL YOUR FISH ARRIVE.

    Prior to the arrival of your fish prepare some water to do a water change, RINSE (not squeeze out) your filter media in the tankwater you have removed. This will ensure the survival of most of your bacterial colonies and promote the effectiveness/efficiency of your filter (the media should be rinsed once every four to six weeks just to get rid of all the large bits of waste that collect in there). When your fish arrive do a water change to reduce the nitrAte levels to between 5 & 10 ppm. The fish do not need the nitrAtes but they do provide some benefit to your plants.

    All of your fish can be added at the one time. DO NOT OVERSTOCK. STOCK FOR LEVELS OF ADULT FISH, not the juveniles you will probably purchase. By doing it this way you will save yourself the worry/need of having to quarantine fish each time you feel you slowly want to add some more.

    BE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT SORT OF FISH YOU WANT, ENSURE YOU GET THOSE THAT CAN LIVE TOGETHER IN HARMONY.

    Regards,

    Bob
  • Doug
    Doug Member, Classifieds Posts: 2,371
    why not happy mate?

    seems like everyone else is happy <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D -->

    all the info you posted is in the stickys <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->
  • Bob
    Bob Member, Classifieds Posts: 708
    Not Happy because a lot of contradictory advise has been posted.

    I know the information, or similar that I have written is in the sticky's but it seems that much of it has been altered/changed to suit the philosophy of the various posters. NOT GOOD.

    Regards,

    Bob
  • FruitSalad
    FruitSalad Member Posts: 81
    Kind of agree with Bob.
    Except I would have said incorrect and misleading rather than contradictory.
    Only a couple of small parts mind you.
    <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->
  • blue fish
    blue fish Member Posts: 27
    Wow, thank you Bob...that's a really great explanation of how to cycle a tank without fish...I think I'll copy it into a word doc and save it for future reference too if you don't mind! It's certainly the first time I have read that by doing this you can add all the fish you want at one. Everything I've read prior, and I mean EVERYTHING, has said you need to add fish a few at a time.
  • FruitSalad
    FruitSalad Member Posts: 81
    Bob is correct.
    If cycled correctly, using ammonia, you can pretty much add all your stocking in one go.
    I say 'pretty much' only because most people who use this method still get a bit on edge about doing so will stock to like 80%.
  • Isabelle
    Isabelle Member Posts: 953
    Welcome!

    I used to run my 4ft tank with a Whisper Hang-on filter. It did a pretty good job but then I upgraded to an Eheim 2217 canister filter because of the amount of fish I had.

    What I did with my hang-on though was removed the cartridges all together.

    I placed some bio rings in the bottom half of it and put square sponge on the top then it was just a matter of rinsing out the sponge in bucket of aquarium water when I need to do maintenance. Much cheaper than the cartridge inserts, plus those inserts always seem to have charcoal in them that you can't remove.
  • Brengun
    Brengun Moderator Posts: 1,985
    "Bob&quot wrote:
    Not Happy because a lot of contradictory advise has been posted.

    I know the information, or similar that I have written is in the sticky's but it seems that much of it has been altered/changed to suit the philosophy of the various posters. NOT GOOD.

    Regards,

    Bob
    Could you link me where your post is in the cycling stickies Bob? I can't find it. <!-- s:pale: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_pale.gif" alt=":pale:" title="pale" /><!-- s:pale: -->
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  • Bob
    Bob Member, Classifieds Posts: 708
    Hi Brenda,

    I haven't posted anything in the stickies. Just in this thread.

    Regards,

    Bob
  • Brengun
    Brengun Moderator Posts: 1,985
    Perhaps you would care to add it into the stickies so it doesn't get lost over time?
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