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FAQs on Freshwater Aquarium Set-up 2

Related Articles: Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium by Ronni Marcum, General Freshwater Aquarium Set-Up Checklist by Bob Fenner, Tips for BeginnersAquascaping for Beginners; Twenty Tips for Realistic Aquaria by Neale Monks, Aquascaping Adventures in Aquascaping by Timothy S. Gross

Related FAQs:  FW Set-Up 1

Setting Up Successful Aquariums video      7/4/16
Hi Bob,
<Jimbo!>
OK, its ready. Let me know if you like / approve of this.
Here is the You Tube link >> https://youtu.be/Zs74xRTm4hs  <<. You can place this link, or the Embedded version into your WWM web site. It is listed as UNLISTED within You Tube so the only people who will see this version are those who you allow to see the link. Does that make sense?
<Yes and it is FAB!>
I tried uploading a second copy so I could link and monitor its views separately from LA Fishguys but You Tube wouldn’t allow an exact duplicate. Can I add in some MyFishTank, Jelliquarium and WWB promotions to a copy of this and upload that copy so as to track its results separately?
<Sure mate. Thank you Jim. BobF>
Jim Stime, Jr
805-241-7140
Aquarium Design - Installation and Maintenance
Midwater Systems - JELLIQUARIUM Jellyfish Display Systems
MyFishTank.com - Acrylic Aquariums, Stands and Canopies

New Tropical Aquarium - Pitfalls to avoid    2/12/12
Hello, I would like to compliment you all on a very informative website.
<Thank you.>
We have just committed all the major crimes against fish care and responsible ownership possible.
<Oh?>
Perhaps this email will assist other people in avoiding some huge pitfalls.
<Perhaps. Can I recommend you visit the WWM Forum, here:
http://wetwebmediaforum.com/forum.php
That's a good place to share experiences.>
We bought a second hand aquarium  last weekend with the following dimensions:  Length 122 cm x Depth 36 x Height 40 cm with a volume of 176 litres, that when filled holds around 158 litres of water.
<Indeed. A popular sized aquarium.>
Equipment included were two bubble aerators, a filtration system located under the substrate turning over 1000 litres per hour and a jet aerator providing a current across the tank.  Also included were these inhabitants - two angelfish (/Pterophyllum scalare)/ both approximately 10 cm from nose to tail, 10 cm in height and body size approximately 5 cm; 1 gold gourami /(Trichogaster trichopterus)/ approximately 10 cm in length; 1 albino Cory catfish /(Corydoras spp.) /4 cm in length; 1 catfish (unsure exactly what kind) /(Corydoras spp.)/ 6 cm in length.
<Should all be compatible and appropriate to this aquarium.>
Note: we have checked the water condition daily Hardness = 0; Carbonate = 0;
<This is far too low! Basically pure, as in distilled, water! Soft water is fine, but it should have some hardness. If you're using rainwater or RO water, it's a good idea to either add Discus Buffer as instructed, or mix with tap water in a ratio around 1 part tap water to between 1 and 3 parts rainwater/RO water depending on your aim.>
pH = 6.5 - 7.0 ; NO2 = 0 ; NO3 = 20.  Temperature = 26 degrees Celsius.
<Otherwise fine.>
Now come the crimes. We set the tank up, put water in, added Aqua Plus water conditioner, left it to settle for an hour, and popped the fish in.
<No cycling beforehand? So the filter was not matured somehow? Not good...>
We used the internet to find out which other species of fish would get on well with the ones we had inherited.   We then went to the pet shop and bought 10 Glowlight tetras /(Hemigrammus erythrozonus)/ all 2 cm in length, one shark red tail /(Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) /4 cm in length,
<Too territorial and aggressive for this size tank.>
2 green tiger barbs /(Puntius semifasciolatus)/ 2 cm in length,
<These barbs aren't compatible with Angels or Gouramis -- too nippy. Must be kept in groups of 6+ specimens, too.>
4 types of aquatic plant and a water testing kit. When we got home, we followed the advice given, and floated the new fish still in their plastic bags on the surface of the fish tank for fifteen minutes, then added one cup of tank water to each bag, waited another five minutes, and popped all the fish in.  Everything seemed fine.  Then one of the tiger barbs stated chasing the other one around almost incessantly.
<See above; in groups of less than 6 specimens their hierarchical behaviour won't work properly. Indeed, you usually need 10+ specimens to really stand a good chance of ensuring good behaviour.>
After a while, one of the angelfish started attacking the other angelfish, mostly face to face, but also attacking and nipping the tail fin.
<What they do. Unfortunately they're difficult/impossible to sex, and two males in a tank this size will bicker. Angels are easiest kept singly, as bona fide matched pairs, or groups of 6+ specimens. As community tank residents, it's often easiest to keep one.>
All is not well.  So, when this happened, we looked up information in an old book on aquarium keeping we have, and searched for solutions on the internet.  The next bit is going to make you either livid or physically ill, you have been warned.  So, we found out, that tiger barbs and barbs in general like to live in groups of at the very least five.
<And the rest>
Also angelfish like to have something to observe and keep them interested.
<Never heard this before! Here's the science: Angelfish school together when very young and outside breeding. The rest of the time they're territorial, just like any other cichlid. In large groups you can sort of ensure no one specimen becomes a bully, and given space, say, 250+ litres, it's possible to house a pair alongside the 4+ specimens that aren't breeding at that moment. But in smaller tanks Angels can be as difficult to house as any other cichlid.>
You guessed it, we went back to the pet shop.  We bought three more barbs.  We bought two apple snails /(Pomacea canaliculata)/ - to help with any algae build up, but mostly because they are really interesting and attractive.
<But sadly rarely do well for long alongside aquarium fish. Tiger Barbs will surely nip their antenna. Once damaged, they quickly die and pollute the tank. Of no value at all as algae eaters. For that, use Nerite snails. Smaller, don't breed, dislike soft/acidic water, but otherwise excellent animals. Allow 1-2 per 20 litres or thereabouts.>
We bought another ten tetras - this time neon tetras /(Paracheirodon innesi)/ - so pretty.
<But delicate and not for immature aquaria. Need warmer water than Corydoras, too.>
OK, well all the fish seem to be surviving quite well so far - its been a whole week and a bit, so surely that must bode well?
<Not really.>
Unfortunately, all the additional residents have not helped one little bit with the aggression of the angelfish.  We have now taken the aggressor out of the tank and placed it by itself in a small holding tank, after three hours, the angelfish are both looking ok - the one no longer being harassed is swimming more freely around the tank instead of keeping to the upper corners which is a positive sign.
<Only if you can permanently separate them.>
We will try the advice found on your website - to change the environment of the tank - changing things around and will add many more vertical plants to create two separate secluded areas one on each end of the tank.
<Don't bank on this working. Sometimes works, but Angels are persistent little beasts when they don't get on. Have seen this many, MANY times. The weaker fish often stays visibly smaller (not eating enough) and in some cases gets seriously damaged (e.g., loses an eye).>
The dynamics of the aquarium have changed a little, the gourami is harassing one of the new barbs (which happens to be gold in colour), but the mainly aggressive green tiger barb is now at least chasing one of the other barbs as well, so at least that is spreading the stress load.
<Sort of.>
From reading information - unfortunately the penny has dropped after the fact - it is clear that the tank is very overcrowded given that these are mostly young immature fish.
<A-ha!>
The apple snails and catfish seem to be no problem to anyone.
<Corydoras generally get along with everything that doesn't actually attack and damage them.>
The neon and Glowlight tetras seem to be getting on well with everyone as well.
<Yes.>
The shark red tail also seems to be innocuous.
<Sexually immature. Many/most specimens are extremely waspish.>
So, having committed all these tragic and avoidable mistakes, these are the lessons we have learned.
<Yes>
1.  If you buy an aquarium second hand research any fish that come with it thoroughly before hand. We did look up compatible types, and found out about the inches of fish per gallon rule before we went to the pet shop, but in the excitement of everything, we got carried away and our enthusiasm and wonder overrode common sense.
<Yes.>
2.  In trying to fix a problem with the aquarium community don't make it a million times worse by increasing the population. Try instead altering the habitat first.
<Don't think you've actually fixed anything yet. These fish have much growing to do. Their behaviours are still very gentle compared to what the adults will be like.>
3.  If there is a potential for aggression to cause serious injury and death to one or more of the fish, make the decision on which fish to keep - it is better to give some away than to have your own stupidity cause harm to beautiful and blameless creatures.  Anyway, hopefully this may help someone, sometime.
<We can only hope>
Now, we have two questions, (even though we probably don't deserve an answer having admitted all these terrible things).  1. If we keep all the fish (assuming they all survive), except one angelfish (should changing the habitat not work) how long before the tank will be unable to sustain the population?
<Do see above; you have to make some decisions here because the fish you have probably won't live together peaceably in the long term.>
2. We have fed the fish on mosquito larvae - is this ok and how frequently can we do this - is every day too much?
<Such fare is fine once a day, but do use a good quality flake food as well. As a rule, portions about twice the size of the eye of each fish seems to be about right. Do remember Corydoras feed primarily at night; one Hikari Algae Wafer or similar seems adequate for 5-6 specimens, and can be offered to them 3-4 nights/week.>
We hope our fish all survive, if you have any suggestions such as dividing the fish into separate tanks and which fish would form the most stable communities we would be grateful.  Thanks in advance, Suzie.
<Good luck, Neale.> 

questions... and a whole bunch of questions w/o searching   12/28/11
hi wwm.  i have a few questions regarding livebearing fish and also tropical fish thanks. -i brought some Seachem livebearing salt for the  is this ok??
<... For what purpose?>
-i have a 140l tank how many livebearers (mollies, guppies, swordtails and platies??)
<Yes>
-how many tropical fish can i fit in a 60-65l tank (excluding livebearers)?
<See WWM re... the search tool, indices. This is all gone over and over>
-what is a good compatibility for black red tip shark and striped barbs
<Not compatible w/ the livebearers listed above and get too big for this volume system>
 + Bristlenose catfish?-can Bristlenose catfish handle livebearer salt??
<Yes>
-what are the best frozen foods for livebearers and tropical fish??
<... posted>
-for tropical fish i brought GeoLiquid Tropical 180 ml is this okay?? -i brought Seachem prime for my livebearing fish tank is this okay??
<... yes, yes>
-i brought 2 java moss (put on driftwood), 3 small java fern (put on driftwood) ,1 Cryptocoryne plant (does it do best on driftwood or not??)
<See WWM, not>
 and Bacopa monniera (does it grow best on driftwood or not??)
<... sand/gravel... rooting plants>
is this okay for livebearers and can the plants handle livebearer salt?? and how do i care for the plants (everything besides co2)-what do striped barbs do best in groups or single how many for a group-i brought this stuff called detox for my tank for both tropical and livebearers is this okay?-for my tropical tank i will be putting 2 more bristle nose fish is that okay??-for my livebearer tank  i will be adding all at the same time: 15 shrimp of 2 different kinds and 17 other fish (at the same time on the same day)
<Don't do this... see WWM re stocking, cycling...>
 would it be alright if i add some prime,  livebearer salt and StressCoat??-what are the best foods for pregnant livebearers and baby livebearers??-how do you get barbs, bristle nose, and leopard Danios to
spawn??? thanks a lot guys for taking time to read this and your website has helped a lot of people
<Please learn to use it, and should you have occasion to write us again, DO run your message through a spelling/grammar checker.>
 so thank you again!!kind regards, Georgia.                          
 - does Seachem prime add more beneficial bacteria in the tank?? (just
<Bob Fenner>

What kind of fishkeeper are you...? 12/9/11
> Hello Bob, James,
> If you haven't seen this in the PFK newsletter, might amuse.
> http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/content.php?sid=4532&mid=54
> Cheers, Neale
Ah, yes. Have met all these. Cheers, B

New to aquariums - varied questions     12/4/11
(If the option is available, please don't post this on the site. Thank you!)
<<Have deleted your personal info. See our Content Use Policy>>
Hello,
<Salve!>
I'm looking into starting my first ever aquarium. I have not bought a tank or supplies yet -- I'm in the research phase. The articles and FAQ sections on this site have been very informative and helpful to me. Could you please help me with some of my specific (and quite varied, sorry about that) questions?
<Sure.>
(I'm going with a freshwater, heated tank with live plants, probably 30 gallons. The water will be soft. For filtration, I'm considering a hang-on-back (likely Aqua Clear) with either 150 gph or 200 gph. For fish, I'm interested in having a pair of dwarf cichlids along with some other compatible residents.)
Questions:
- I am considering getting either a 30 gallon 'long' (36Lx12Wx16H) or 30 gallon 'breeder' tank (36Lx18Wx12H). Which one of these is the better option? Are there any advantages to the 'long' over the 'breeder'?
<Long and shallow is always better than tall and deep. Long and shallow is easier to light properly, provides more territory for the fish, lets active fish swim faster, and allows a bigger surface area to volume ratio so oxygen can get into the water more effectively. Breeder tanks are designed for a small number of fish (typically two!) but with a small "footprint" that allows them to be fitted into a smaller space than longer tanks. That's a plus in fish rooms. But for the casual hobbyist, the breeder tank is to be approached with caution. While slightly easier to decorate, and perhaps prettier because of its depth, you can't keep as many fish in it, and providing good environmental conditions is that bit more difficult.>
- How many additional fish (cardinal tetras for instance) could live comfortably with a pair of Rams or Kribs in a 30 gallon? I don't want to overload the tank.
<Ram Cichlids have VERY specific needs, and most die in home aquaria within a few months. So avoid them unless you have VERY soft and acidic water and know how to maintain a pH around the 5.0 mark (and as a beginner, you don't). Now, let's say you choose a good, reliable, non-aggressive cichlid species, for example Apistogramma cacatuoides. That's a pretty and widely sold soft water species (often sold as the Cockatoo Cichlid). You could easily keep a pair or a male and two females in this tank, alongside two schools of tetras, perhaps 10 Cardinals for the middle-lower part of the tank, and 10 Lemon Tetras for the middle-upper part of the tank. Two other outstanding South American cichlid species for a tank like this would be Laetacara curviceps and Cleithracara maronii, both of which are extremely peaceful and won't upset your plants. I'd skip Kribs because they breed too easily, and you'll soon have hundreds of fry. Unless you maintain the pH at precisely 7, they'll be either all females (below 7) or all males (above 7) and you pet store definitely doesn't want just one sex. Kribs can also be a bit aggressive at times.>
- Would two different species of small tetras interbreed?
<No.>
Would they school together?
<No. Get at least 6 of each, and ideally more. Some tetra species are nippy, e.g., Serpae Tetras, while others need cooler than average water, e.g., Neons, so research carefully.>
- I would like to include some small shrimp if possible. Are these likely to be eaten by dwarf cichlids?
<Possibly, but worth a shot.>
- When I need to clean the filter or there's a power outage, how long can the filter stay off before the biological filtration/cycle of the aquarium is harmed?
<Several hours, even a day or two so long as it doesn't dry out.>
- What specific dechloraminator brand/product do you use/recommend? I've tried to compare the information in the articles on the site to the products on the market, and I'm a little confused about which ones are good. The answer will help greatly.
<Any. But look for a brand that neutralises not just chlorine but also chloramine, ammonia (from the tap water, not your fish!), and copper.>
Thank you so much for your time and help,
<Cheers, Neale.>

new tank setup 11/1/11
Question, Pt. 1

Greetings Crew, <Hi Amy, Sugam with you today>
I have done quite a bit of reading on this site and others, and think that I may have answered most of my own questions. <Excellent!> My husband and I have a shady past with aquarium management, however... having gone about it with a very "trial & error" attitude. <That's how most of us learn> We are attempting to reform our act, and wanted to check our research with your knowledgeable staff (to make sure that we haven't missed something important). <Will try to help>
We have a 70 Gallon tank, situated along a wall which does not receive direct sunlight. For filtration, we are using a Pennplax Cascade canister filter (rated for 75-100 gallons). The out-spout has been angled against the glass to reduce the current it creates. So I would say that the tank, overall, has a very mild current. <As long as there is some surface agitation, this should be okay> It is freshwater.
It has been running for the last year or so, but up until now we had not had time to do more than basic maintenance and water changes.<The most important aspect in maintaining good water conditions.> It needed a serious cleaning. <I would imagine so> We have moved its three remaining inhabitants into the quarantine tank, also clean and well-established. When we did this, my husband drained a bit of water from the quarantine tank, and filled it back up with water from the 70. I'm uncertain if this makes a difference, or not. <If the QT was established, a simple acclimatization would have been sufficient.>
Since then, we have flushed the larger tank with water only, vacuumed the gravel, cleaned all of the plants and structures, and added new bubble bars/tubing. We filled it back up with water, treated the water with Start Right (to remove chlorine and Chloramine), started heating it, and then re-attached the filter (which we did not clean or change out). <Helps to rinse out the filter media with tank water. I would imagine it would be quite heavily polluted if not cleaned in a year.>
We also added a piece of Zoo Med African Mopani Wood, purchased from PetSmart. We soaked it for several days, and then boiled it (per instructions on the tag). I'm not concerned with it staining the water (as I think it might actually look sort of pretty, and several articles suggested that our fish would like it), but more with it carrying anything unhealthy for the fish. Is there anything I should check for? <Not
particularly if you have boiled it. Do keep in mind that wood tends to impact pH.>
We know that we need to wait for the tank to cycle, before we can move our three fish back in (and possibly add others). <Indeed> Using the old filter should speed that process up, right? <Somewhat, but as above, do consider rinsing in established tank water.>
I have purchased an API Freshwater Master Test Kit, so that we can track the nitrogen cycle as our tank sets back up. <Good. You may want to add a pinch or so of food as the initial ammonia source.>
There are further questions, but I figured I should send them in parts.
This is just Part 1. <Hope the above helps.>
Thanks much, <Good luck!>
Amy <Sugam>
Re: new tank setup 11/1/11

Thank you for the quick response, Sugam. <No worries, Amy! That's what I'm are here for.>
I'm glad to hear we are headed down the right path, but wanted to clarify one point. We have been changing out the filter media over the last year, but did not do so recently (so that we could re-establish the balance in our tank more quickly after cleaning). <Typically not a great idea to change out media. Better to rinse it out in used tank water. But I do see your point about it not being as clogged as it otherwise might have been>
I wasn't very clear in my original message.
And I guess that sort of leads me to Part 2, which actually contains most of my questions. <Fire away!>
We have added a wide variety of plastic plants this time around, to give our fish hiding places. We've also added several structures with embedded air-stones. How can we tell if we are introducing enough oxygen into the tank? <The simple answer is test for it. Of course a rough rule of thumb is to observe surface agitation. If there is some agitation, there is the opportunity for gas exchange. Beyond that, testing is the way to go.>
Currently, there are only three fish to acclimate once the tank is ready again. We have a single Angel (Pterophyllum scalare?), female and 5ish years old. The other two are both Plecos, a Clown Pleco and an albino high-fin Bristlenose Pleco.
Most sources suggested that both Plecos would stay small in size, tolerated similar water types (temp, hardness, and pH), and were generally pretty mild in temperament. <Yes, should be okay together. Even though they are smaller than other Plecos, they still require decent amount of room. I am guessing you tank is at least 2-3 feet wide?> We have been giving them algae wafers, as well as small slices of zucchini. Several articles also suggested driftwood as important to their health, so we added driftwood (per previous message). In what direction will the driftwood alter the pH?
<Will soften the water>
I have tested our tap water with an API Freshwater Master Test Kit, and found that it reads our pH as 7.6. So... slightly alkaline? <Somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 should be fine.>
As it did not include a Hardness test, I had to use Mardel test strips, which I think measures KH. <Much prefer using liquid to strips. More accurate. Do consider buying a liquid kit to test your kH> This is new to me, so I'm not certain if I'm right or not. It says that our Total Hardness is 75ppm, so maybe 2-5 KH = Moderately Soft? < Aha, you want this to be somewhere in the 5-10dH range for the angelfish>
I guess, just to start with, I probably need to find a way to make my water slightly more acidic, for the Angel and the Bristlenose? <Very mildly so. Almost in the range you want so do be very careful if adjusting. Always the danger of getting caught up in adjusting too far down and then having to compensate. Depending on how long the wood has been in the tank, it may not had had its impact yet. Do also keep in mind that once the tank is stocked, the pH will adjust down a touch anyway. >
Thanks, <You seem to be doing the right kind of reading. Do spend some time on WWM reading about the basics of water chemistry. This will serve you well as the tank gets ready for stocking.>
Amy <Cheers, Sugam>

new tank setup 11/1/11
Question, Pt. 1

Greetings Crew, <Hi Amy, Sugam with you today>
I have done quite a bit of reading on this site and others, and think that I may have answered most of my own questions. <Excellent!> My husband and I have a shady past with aquarium management, however... having gone about it with a very "trial & error" attitude. <That's how most of us learn> We are attempting to reform our act, and wanted to check our research with your knowledgeable staff (to make sure that we haven't missed something important). <Will try to help>
We have a 70 Gallon tank, situated along a wall which does not receive direct sunlight. For filtration, we are using a Pennplax Cascade canister filter (rated for 75-100 gallons). The out-spout has been angled against the glass to reduce the current it creates. So I would say that the tank, overall, has a very mild current. <As long as there is some surface agitation, this should be okay> It is freshwater.
It has been running for the last year or so, but up until now we had not had time to do more than basic maintenance and water changes.<The most important aspect in maintaining good water conditions.> It needed a serious cleaning. <I would imagine so> We have moved its three remaining inhabitants into the quarantine tank, also clean and well-established. When we did this, my husband drained a bit of water from the quarantine tank, and filled it back up with water from the 70. I'm uncertain if this makes a difference, or not. <If the QT was established, a simple acclimatization would have been sufficient.>
Since then, we have flushed the larger tank with water only, vacuumed the gravel, cleaned all of the plants and structures, and added new bubble bars/tubing. We filled it back up with water, treated the water with Start Right (to remove chlorine and Chloramine), started heating it, and then re-attached the filter (which we did not clean or change out). <Helps to rinse out the filter media with tank water. I would imagine it would be quite heavily polluted if not cleaned in a year.>
We also added a piece of Zoo Med African Mopani Wood, purchased from PetSmart. We soaked it for several days, and then boiled it (per instructions on the tag). I'm not concerned with it staining the water (as I think it might actually look sort of pretty, and several articles suggested that our fish would like it), but more with it carrying anything unhealthy for the fish. Is there anything I should check for? <Not
particularly if you have boiled it. Do keep in mind that wood tends to impact pH.>
We know that we need to wait for the tank to cycle, before we can move our three fish back in (and possibly add others). <Indeed> Using the old filter should speed that process up, right? <Somewhat, but as above, do consider rinsing in established tank water.>
I have purchased an API Freshwater Master Test Kit, so that we can track the nitrogen cycle as our tank sets back up. <Good. You may want to add a pinch or so of food as the initial ammonia source.>
There are further questions, but I figured I should send them in parts.
This is just Part 1. <Hope the above helps.>
Thanks much, <Good luck!>
Amy <Sugam>
Re: new tank setup 11/1/11

Thank you for the quick response, Sugam. <No worries, Amy! That's what I'm are here for.>
I'm glad to hear we are headed down the right path, but wanted to clarify one point. We have been changing out the filter media over the last year, but did not do so recently (so that we could re-establish the balance in our tank more quickly after cleaning). <Typically not a great idea to change out media. Better to rinse it out in used tank water. But I do see your point about it not being as clogged as it otherwise might have been>
I wasn't very clear in my original message.
And I guess that sort of leads me to Part 2, which actually contains most of my questions. <Fire away!>
We have added a wide variety of plastic plants this time around, to give our fish hiding places. We've also added several structures with embedded air-stones. How can we tell if we are introducing enough oxygen into the tank? <The simple answer is test for it. Of course a rough rule of thumb is to observe surface agitation. If there is some agitation, there is the opportunity for gas exchange. Beyond that, testing is the way to go.>
Currently, there are only three fish to acclimate once the tank is ready again. We have a single Angel (Pterophyllum scalare?), female and 5ish years old. The other two are both Plecos, a Clown Pleco and an albino high-fin Bristlenose Pleco.
Most sources suggested that both Plecos would stay small in size, tolerated similar water types (temp, hardness, and pH), and were generally pretty mild in temperament. <Yes, should be okay together. Even though they are smaller than other Plecos, they still require decent amount of room. I am guessing you tank is at least 2-3 feet wide?> We have been giving them algae wafers, as well as small slices of zucchini. Several articles also suggested driftwood as important to their health, so we added driftwood (per previous message). In what direction will the driftwood alter the pH?
<Will soften the water>
I have tested our tap water with an API Freshwater Master Test Kit, and found that it reads our pH as 7.6. So... slightly alkaline? <Somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 should be fine.>
As it did not include a Hardness test, I had to use Mardel test strips, which I think measures KH. <Much prefer using liquid to strips. More accurate. Do consider buying a liquid kit to test your kH> This is new to me, so I'm not certain if I'm right or not. It says that our Total Hardness is 75ppm, so maybe 2-5 KH = Moderately Soft? < Aha, you want this to be somewhere in the 5-10dH range for the angelfish>
I guess, just to start with, I probably need to find a way to make my water slightly more acidic, for the Angel and the Bristlenose? <Very mildly so. Almost in the range you want so do be very careful if adjusting. Always the danger of getting caught up in adjusting too far down and then having to compensate. Depending on how long the wood has been in the tank, it may not had had its impact yet. Do also keep in mind that once the tank is stocked, the pH will adjust down a touch anyway. >
Thanks, <You seem to be doing the right kind of reading. Do spend some time on WWM reading about the basics of water chemistry. This will serve you well as the tank gets ready for stocking.>
Amy <Cheers, Sugam>

Alright, that is respectful. What is a tropical aquarium?     9/14/11
<A glass box with water, a filter, a heater, and very likely a light, some gravel, and some decorations.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwset-up.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/GenFWAqSetupChklstArt.htm
Cheers, Neale.>

College Fish, & sys.  7/16/11
I'll probably be going off to college in a year or two, and would like to keep a pet. However, I inquired at one of the colleges I've been considering and it turns out that only fish are allowed (probably; the person seemed unsure about semi-aquatic animals).
I've kept fish before in a saltwater Nano tank, but wasn't very successful (and when I finally got things going the way I wanted them to, there was a heat wave! ugh...). Because of this, plus the costs of saltwater fishkeeping and the fact that water parameters fluctuate more rapidly in a Nano, I've decided that if I start another aquarium then it should probably be a freshwater tank of at least 55 gallons.
<Mmm, I'd check w/ the school/dorm re size limitations... Likely you'll want/be required to have something much smaller. Do look into the various Nano-kits... The Fluval Flora or Ebi Shrimp systems at 7.9 gallons are very nice... not expensive, and though small, able to support life>
I have already considered betas as a possibility, but I would like to know what my other best options are so I can compare them.
<Many...>
So, onto my actual questions...
How many gallons should I make my tank, and what should the bioload be?
<... again, you need to check w/ the folks there, likely visit the room you'll be staying in, check w/ roommate/s if any re noise, light et al. issues; make sure they're in agreement>
Ideally, I would want to make sure that my water parameters will stay relatively stable over a period of three days to a week, perhaps two weeks (I'm not sure if a week is expecting too much, though two weeks probably is
- I'm thinking that it might be manageable if I keep the bioload especially low and plant a lot of vegetation, though I may need to add a sump and/or some sort of automated system. I'd rather not leave the upkeep to some student I don't know, and I don't want to miss out on off-campus lessons).
However, since I'll probably be staying in a dorm with a roommate I can't take up too much space.
<Ah yes>
With that in mind, what would be a good fish (or other aquatic organism - I had a shrimp in my saltwater tank who I just loved, so I don't want to limit myself to just fish) to keep? Apart from the "usual" criteria for aquarists (hardiness and compatibility with tankmates) the things I am looking for, first and foremost, are (and I'm using bullets now since before it was just one big block of text)
-intelligence (this is not the same as trainability; for example, if it weren't for their difficult care requirements I'd probably get a cephalopod)
-behavior (observable, interesting behavior; extra points if it's unique to the species or genus)
-shyness (or lack thereof; slight or initial shyness is fine, however)
-personality (in this case referring to their attitude towards the keeper; puffers, which are sometimes referred to as "doglike", would probably score high in this category)
-breedability (this isn't high on the list, but it ties into observable behavior; interesting/unique nesting/rearing behavior is a plus, too)
-lifespan (I'm actually leaning towards the shorter end, with ten being the absolute maximum average lifespan and 2-4 being ideal; this is also the main reason I don't want to keep goldfish, since if properly cared for they can live for fifteen years or more and I don't feel that making such a commitment while I'm in college is fair to the animal) ...in other words, I'm looking for a (hopefully personable) fish in which I can study animal behavior, psychology and intelligence.
<Good questions>
Should I keep a specimen/species tank? I've been considering this since I think it would make individual and species-specific behavior easier to observe, but on the other hand a community tank has the advantage of more observable species...
<Up to you>
Also (I'm sorry, I hope I'm not asking too much...this is getting kind of long), are there fish which can be handled without adverse effect, and/or methods to do so? I know someone who had a pufferfish that seemed to enjoy being "pet", which strikes me as cute; more importantly, though, if I can get a fish used to being handled and maneuvered underwater, then I could probably measure it in that fashion (I don't know if I'll ever need to do so, but just in case; frequent netting would probably be stressful to the animal and I won't do it, but on the other hand if this works...)
Finally, what do you think of mudskippers in a college dorm?
<Have kept periophthalmids... Very interesting animals>
It's one of the fish I've been seriously considering. Their tendency and ability to go onto land fascinates me, and could open up a world of possibilities, especially if I can remove them from the tank without adverse effects (as in "without hurting the fish"; I'm of the opinion that behavioral experimentation can and should be done humanely or not at all).
What kind of mudskippers would be best?
<Which ever you can get your hands on. Not easily sourced>
Being smaller, Indian Mudskippers need less space, but being larger, African Mudskippers might be easier to observe...
Anyways, thank you, and sorry for the overly-long message!
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>

my first aquarium   2/27/11
Greetings, and good afternoon.
<Hello,>
My name is brad. And I am currently stationed in Beijing, China. I have always wanted my own aquarium, and about 4 weeks ago my wish finally came true. My wife and I went to a large aquarium market, and bought what was called a starter tank / kit / setup. Feel free to pick which ever word you
want.
<Indeed.>
I received the following �
1 � tank (15 / 20 gallons)
<Towards the small end of what we'd call a good starter size, but certainly manageable.>
1 � filter
<Should be placed with the outflow near the surface, so the water is "ruffled" a bit. I assume you matured the filter for 3-4 weeks before adding any fish? If you add the fish all at once, you'll have non-zero levels of ammonia and nitrite, and the higher these levels, the more sick (or dead) your fish will become.>
1 � pump
1 � heater
Various trees / grass / flowers / rocks / sand
3 types of fish
<Neon tetras, Dwarf Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia praecox), and albino Zebra Danios. All should do well in water that isn't too hard (5-15 degrees dH) and maintained at low to middling temperature. Neons and to some degree Danios have dramatically shortened lives if kept too warm, and Neons never do well in hard water. On the other hand, the Rainbowfish do prefer somewhat warmer water than either Neons or Danios, hence I'd recommend you keep the tank at 23-24 C/74-75 F.>
1 type of shrimp
<Some type of Neocaridina; should do well.>
And 2 my surprise this morning, 2 different types of snails.
<These often come into aquaria on plants. Some can be pests, some are harmless. Yours are Physa spp.; will breed, but basically harmless, though they will eat dying plants.>
I was instructed to change ¼ (25%) of the water 3 days after I purchased, and then to change ¼ (25%) of the water one (1) time every 30 days. I was also given instructions on the proper way to feed the fish, and the water heater was pre-set by them.
<OK.>
During the past several weeks, my trees / grass / flowers have started dying. Some are showing black, others are turning light brown in color. I am at a loss to figure out why.
<Plants require a few things to do well. The first is that they're true aquatic plants. Sad to say, many beginners end up buying non-aquatics, and these obviously die when kept underwater. Second, they need bright light. For shade-tolerant species, 1 watt/gallon may be adequate, but for most, especially ones with pale green or pink leaves, you need at least twice that much light. Finally, plants need to be planted in the right way. Some need a deep substrate, a good 2-3 inches deep, while others must float at the top or be attached to rocks/wood above the substrate. Good plants for beginners include Java Fern and Java Moss (both attached to rocks/bogwood); Anubias (also attached to rocks/wood); Vallisneria (white roots only planted gently in the substrate); and hardy Cryptocoryne species like C. wendtii (also gently planted in the substrate). Among floating plants, Indian Fern is a sure winner.>
I am unable to tell you the type of fish / shrimp / or even the type of trees, or of the snails. I have included a link to hotfile which shows the pictures of my tank setup, fish, shrimp and my NEW snails.
http://hotfile.com/dl/107707583/2d26f3b/my_beginner_tank.rar.html 
<In future, please attach one or two small images, 500 KB or so in size, to your e-mails. Yes, we get a lot of messages, and downloading big files through hosts that require passwords and such, and then viewing those images, isn't something most of us will do willingly. Just isn't the time!>
I understand that you are very busy, and may or may not be able to reply to every email in a timely manner and that is understandable. Any assistance you can provide me would be greatly appreciated.
<Your mix of fish is okay. Neons are ideal for 15 gallons, but Danios do become boisterous as they age, and in tanks less than 60 cm/2' long from left to right they have a tendency to become annoying. The Rainbowfish are hardy, but sensitive to very soft or acidic water.>
Sincerely,
Brad
<Do read:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwset-up.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/stocking.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwlivestk.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwfiltration.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plantedtkssubwebindex/groplts101.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plantedtkssubwebindex/plttksovrview.htm
Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: my first aquarium   2/27/11
Neale,
<Brad,>
Thank you for taking the time to reply.
<No problem.>
I will put the snails back in the tank then.
<Cool. I have Physa and Physella spp. in many of my aquaria, and they cause little harm. They may even eat a little algae!>
I saw on your site that it was requested to post small pictures, but as I was unable to provide the other relevant information you required, tank size, fish, plants, etc etc etc, I figured a rar file containing the
pictures would be much more helpful than me saying I don't know. I apologize for any inconvenience that it may have caused you.
<Not a big deal, so don't worry about it too much.>
Once again, thank you for the help that you have provided.
<Glad to help.>
Sincerely,
Brad
<Cheers, Neale.>

Setting up and transferring fish to a large tank. 7/18/2010
Hello,
<Hi there>
In about two weeks I will be moving. I need help with the steps of how to set up a new tank, when to move fish, plants, etc.
<Ahh, best for you to develop/adopt-adapt a written plan on steps to take, including tools and friends needed>
I will be setting up a 150 gallon tank I purchased used and will be transferring my freshwater fish from my current 55 gallon to my new 150 gallon. Now, here is my dilemma. I have some plants along with Angels, gouramis, Corys, kuhlii loaches, black skirt tetras and neon's in my 55 with some black aquatic substrate that I need to move. I will be getting new aquatic soil to add to the 150 but other than that, everything is ready for the move. This means I have two large canister filters I had purchased for the large aquarium.
One of which I have set up and had running for the last 7 months with all of the media for both filters within the one so all the bacterial have time to grow.
<Ah, good planning>
I'm a bit nervous and know it will take a while for the soil to settle even with me rinsing it off. I know planted tanks like lower pH than non-planted tanks. My current 55 has no plants but has the soil in it. My worry is the pH level from me adding enough soil for the 150 gallon to make it 3" or so high.
<Mmm, I would use no more than 1:1 as a ratio of mixed gravel/soil, with another inch of gravel on top. Easy for the soil to "get loose", make a mess otherwise>
Someone mentioned that the aquarium soil changes the pH of the water
<It can... depending on type, conditions>
and I'm worried that by the time the tank is set up and the fish are ready to be added, that the pH will drop. I never noticed it when I put the black soil in my 55 so when they mentioned it I was surprised.
Huh. My current 55 has about 7.6-7.8 pH and I know that a small difference is really bad for them. I have some hearty plants that someone gave to me that I will be adding but I will not be using anything more than light to grow them. I figured it would take a day or two for the water to clear in the 150 gal but will wait a week to cycle with the two canister filters attached since they have the media in them. I will use my old hang on the back filters on the 55 until I move. I only have a week and a half before I have to be out of other old house so I will wait till the last minute to move my fish.
<And a good deal of the water... to be placed in the 150 along with your moved livestock>
My concern is the new soil. I have some soil already so not all of it will be new but will there be a huge fluctuation with the pH?
<Can... please read here:
http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/soilags.htm
and the linked above FAQs file>
Should I add the plants when I add the fish?
<Before is better>
There are only 8 small plants.
not enough for a 150 yet but cross my fingers. Also, do I need to save the water from my 55 gal?
<I would haul and place as much of it/this as you can practically>
That's a lot to haul and with the filter media working I didn't think it would be necessary. Any help with this would be very appreciated...I didn't realize how worried I have been over this. My 55 gal has been in a happy place in my living room for the last 3 years.
I don't like to move tanks. Too much work and worry!
Thanks for any advice,
Lisa
<Plan and enjoy the move... get some help! That tank and the water are HEAVY! Please read here re such moves:
http://wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i6/Moving.htm
and the linked files at the bottom... for input re generating your plan.
Bob Fenner>

General Questions (I believe) that I could not quite get the answer needed. FW, set up...  6/27/10
Good morning WWM crew,
<Hello,>
First I will start off by stating you folks have now become my one stop shop pretty much for any questions that might arise in my head, and just for general enjoyment during my breaks at work. First I would like to start you the chart of my city's water as I have two questions there.
<Hmm... tabs and tables really don't work in e-mail, so your message here is a bit jumbled up. So I've removed the redundant data you sent, and formatted the remained so it makes sense. I would also recommend that you read this article:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwh2oquality.htm
Among other things, you'll find for yourself how to convert between the main measurements for hardness.>
Constituent -- Total Alkalinity as Calcium Carbonate (ppm)
Concentration Range -- 159 - 278
Avg. Concentration -- 218
<This is the carbonate hardness. The conversion rate is 17.9 mg/l = one degree KH, which in this case 218 mg/l is about 12 degrees KH.>
Constituent -- Total Hardness as Calcium Carbonate (ppm)
Concentration Range -- 183 - 183
Avg. Concentration -- 183
<This is the general hardness. Again, divide by 17.9, in this case to get about 10 degrees dH.>
pH
7.3 -- 8.1
7.7
<As you can see, you have moderately hard, alkaline, basic water. Ideal for livebearers, Rainbowfish, Central American cichlids and goldfish. Not so good for soft water fish, though hardy types like most barbs and catfish should be okay, as will the less fussy tetras like x-ray tetras and the more durable gouramis. The fish to avoid are those that never do well in hard water: cardinal tetras, ram cichlids, harlequin Rasboras, etc.>
pH was an easy question to answer as its black and white. For the dH was a little more difficult, I am guessing its around 10 degrees. What I could for the life of my find out is what my kH is. Any ideas on this?
Next I will tell you about my tank,
100 gallon 5ft
T5 54w bulbs light(for soon to come plants)
For filtration I have one Marineland C220 canister, Marineland Magnum 350 Pro, and a EHEIM 2217 Classic. Is this too much filtration to have?
<Add together the gallons/hour for each filter. Then divide that total by the volume of your aquarium to get the total turnover rate. For fish that prefer gentle currents, like gouramis, or are relatively small and clean, like Neons, turnover rates of 4 times the volume of the tank are ideal. For most general communities with things like barbs and Corydoras catfish that appreciate a bit of current but aren't too messy, a turnover rate of 6 times is fine. If you have big or messy fish, like cichlids and Plecs, or fish that need strong currents, like loaches, then turnover rates of 8 times or more are necessary.>
If so can I just get rid of the magnum as the bio wheels are not working properly. And 2nd after reading 40 mil peoples opinions, how to stock the EHEIM. I want to say buy the course blue pad and white filter pad with in-between nothing but bio-balls. Or would the actual EHEIM Substrat be a much better idea than the bio-balls?
<Depends what you want, but you will be fine either stocking the thing with just sponges or else with just ceramic noodles. By all means add a white pre-filter pad if you find the water doesn't stay clear. Eheim brand media is very good, but you can easily substitute for alternative ceramic noodles if you want.>
Also my stocking plan as of now is 15 Harlequin Rasboras,
<Needs soft, acidic water; short-lived in hard water.>
10 Peppered Corys,
<These prefer relatively cool water, 20-25 C, which is lower than some of the others you want.>
3 Opaline Gouramis,
<Males can become quite aggressive.>
3 Powder Blue (Dwarf) Gouramis,
<Useless, disease-ridden fish; avoid. Instead, look for the much hardier species Colisa fasciata and Colisa labiosa.>
10 Black Neons,
<Again, needs relatively cool water, 20-25 C, which would be too cool for some of the other fish. Prefers soft, acidic water but may be okay in moderately hard water.>
and a Betta.
<Will be harassed by the gouramis; a non-starter.>
IS this poor choice?
<Yes.>
Should I look at other fish?
<Spend some time reviewing temperature and water chemistry requirements. Trying to "force" fish into a set of conditions they don't like rarely works. At best the fish are poorly-coloured and unhappy; at worst they simply get sick. In this aquarium better schooling and midwater fish would include livebearers, Celebes Rainbowfish, Madagascar Rainbowfish, Australian Rainbowfish, halfbeaks, hardy barbs, x-ray tetras and red-eye tetras. For catfish, choose a Corydoras species that matches the temperature. If the water is between 20-25 C, then most Corydoras species will do well, but between 25-28 C, Corydoras sterbai is the one to choose.>
And if its good so far, can I, should I add more. Thank your time, and hopeful constructive advice!
Raul
<Cheers, Neale.>

My fishtank! 4/10/2010
Hey Melinda!
<Hi Jordan!>
I got a picture of my fishtank and wondering if you like it here it is!
<Looks good!
--Melinda>

Taking Baby Steps, Setting up, stkg. 10 gal., FW   2/16/10
A big hello and thank you to the crew of Wet Web Media,
<Hello,>
I have been trawling your site for the last two days, fascinated with your informative articles and especially your FAQ's. I am interested in starting a 'beginners' aquarium to have in my home and have a 10 gallon tank. I know
that you don't recommend this size and would like it to be "prescription only", but it was given to my family as a gift. We have a filter, an aerator and a water heater which were also given in addition to the tank.
<OK.>
We read your article about recommended species for this sized tank, and would like to have an interesting variation of compatible species in a community tank. What would you suggest, and in what ratios?
<With very small fish, the inch per gallon rule holds quite well, so in a 10 gallon tank, around 10-12 Neon sized fish will work nicely. Adding 6 initially, and 6 more after a couple of weeks, is a good approach because it gives the filter time to adjust. This assumes the tank is already cycled, by which we mean not that it's running with water in it, but that it's been running for around a month with a source of ammonia. The easiest way to do this is to set the tank up, add some plants, then add small pinches of flake food every other day. The flake decays, this produces
ammonia, and the filter matures. If you have a nitrite test kit, you'll see nitrite goes up within a week or two, and then by about 3-4 weeks drops down to zero. That's when the tank is ready to accept fish. During this month the plants will grow happily, and it's a good time to tweak the arrangement of plants. I know the idea of an empty tank for 4 weeks sounds a chore, but trust me on this, it beats the heck out of having a bunch of sick fish to deal with!>
We liked the idea of Neon tetras but they seem difficult to keep as you said they are prone to disease... any advice for a beginner?
<Do read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/stocking.htm
Neons are good in soft water, but yes, in hard water they tend to be short lived. Farmed Neons also tend to be bred to a price rather than a quality, and they do seem disease-prone. Cardinals are more robust, but absolutely
must have soft, acidic, rather warm water (around 28 C). Neons prefer things cooler (around 24 C). Glowlights are another good choice, and do well at middling temperatures (around 25 C) in soft water. Hard water fishkeepers will be better choosing things like Celestial Pearl Danios (Danio margaritatus) and Endler Guppies (Poecilia wingei). Both enjoy hard water and low-end temperatures, around 24 C. Note that these are different fish to common Danios and common Guppies, being smaller and less likely to become aggressive in small tanks.>
We are, I'm sure quite obviously, new to this, and would prefer fish that are "easier" to keep healthy and happy. Thank you so much for your time, and congratulations on providing such a thorough resource!
Jess
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re-setting up a tank   12/18/09
Hi,
<Hi Joe. Melinda here with you tonight.>
Hopefully I am giving as much information to you as I possibly can.
<We just love information! Thanks for taking the time to be thorough.>
I have an Eclipse 12 gallon that I have not had set up in over a year but had the bio wheel and the gravel in the tank the whole time and of course after that amount of time it became a dry tank.
I am selling this tank to a neighbor of mine and so I have had the bio wheel from the Eclipse rinsed of dust and now soaking in my 40 gallon tank for about a week now. My 40 gallon has been in use for about a year and a half with good levels.
<I'm not sure that this soak for the BioWheels is doing as much as you hope it will... is probably doing some to "seed" the BioWheel, but not as much as if it were in a direct flow of water.>
I just found out today that the person I am selling my tank to will be acquiring 2 parrot fish and a black ghost from a friend of hers These fish have been together for at least a year now so they seem ok together, though I do remember from when I first wrote your site that a black ghost in a 12 gallon is not a good idea, and I did pass this info on.
<I guess that's all you can do. The Blood Parrots aren't a great choice for this small tank, either. Can you possibly forward this e-mail to your neighbor? I'll provide the links so that she can read up on these fish and find out what their needs actually are. Here are those links, in case you decide to take that course of action:
One on Blood Parrots (lots of links above the title, as well):
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/ParrotCichlidF2.htm
One on Black Ghost Knives (lots of links here, too, above the title):
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/bgkfaqs.htm
Now here are my questions:
--Am I doing right by soaking the bio wheel totally submerged in my established tank.
<It's definitely helping, but I wouldn't consider this bio-wheel "ready to go," quite yet.>
--Should I have been soaking the filter media in my tank?(which I have not been)
<Same thing as above, really... I just feel much more comfortable when media is placed in the path of water flow if the intention is to seed it.
What type of filter do you run on your current tank? If it's a canister filter or freshwater sump, perhaps you could find a place for it in there?>
--Should I have been soaking the gravel in my tank?.
<Same as above... soaking all of this stuff is doing a little to get you further toward your goal, but mostly, just making it wet.>
PLUS I was telling the buyer of my tank to rinse the gravel in the bucket several times with water, but her friend suggested using bleach to rinse the gravel. Is bleach safe to clean gravel at any point? <There's really no reason to bleach gravel. I wouldn't use bleach on it at all. A good rinse with the hose should do the job. Even if the fish previously housed in this tank died of some communicable illness or parasite, there's pretty much no chance that it's survived with the gravel being dry for this long.
However, this is a good reason to introduce your neighbor to WWM.
Listening to friends/LFS employees/etc. can lead to trouble, though these people often offer advice with only the best of intentions. Better that he/she research these things and make educated decisions.>
-- I didn't have luck with the Bio Spira when I did my 40 gallon tank, I had to do the long way around. So I am wondering approximately how long ,..generally speaking,... would it take before she can put in any starter fish once the tank is all assembled with the seeded bio wheel I DO realize I will need to do water tests for the levels If I go this route. This question I ask because I didn't use a seeded bio wheel when I set up my 40 gallon.
<Well, I'm not sure about these "starter fish." The tank will likely be overstocked with just the three fish that are currently planned. If you're looking for a bacteria-in-a-bottle, I recommend Dr. Tim's One-And-Only because I know it works. I'd do water tests no matter what route you choose. I test water weekly -- usually, all is great, and it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling -- success! If it's not, it's better to find out early through testing than later when the fish are already sick.>
--If we just transfer the existing water and gravel that is in the friends tank along with the fish and not worry about using starter fish would this be the best or worst scenario. Or would you suggest starting new and waiting till tank is fully cycled before adding the fish.
<Hmm... best scenario? The fish actually live through it. Worst scenario?
They don't. You don't mention the size of these fish, but this is a lot of fish to just "start" a tank with, even keeping in mind that the media/BioWheel/gravel may have a small starter colony on it. Likely, there will be an ammonia spike. I would suggest either cycling the tank via the fishless method, as it is best, most reliable, and safest. Still, I'd do what is prudent, and stock slowly. If these fish are absolutely going into this tank, then stock them one at a time.
Here's a link on cycling. Please also note, make use of, the linked files above the title: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/fwestcycling.htm
Any suggestions I might need that I may have missed to make sure I get her tank started without any problems would be greatly appreciated.
<Okay, Joe. Hopefully some of this helps. You're obviously doing a lot in order to help your neighbor, as well as doing your best to make sure that this experience in fish keeping is a positive one for her. However, I'd like to suggest that you're almost helping too much! She needs to be doing this research on fish selection, tank setup, freshwater cycling, testing, etc... otherwise, she'll end up with none of the knowledge she needs for continued success. Again, I think what you're doing is great, but I'd forward this e-mail to your friend and encourage her to get reading. This does two things -- insures she can care for this tank/livestock in the long term, and offers her the sense of accomplishment that all aquarists get when something we've planned, worked on, researched, and thought about is a SUCCESS. It's surely one of the most rewarding aspects of the hobby.>
Thank You
Joe
<You're welcome!
Oh, and in the event that some ideas for proper stocking of this size tank, here's a great link that provides some:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/stocking.htm This link also sort of enumerates the issues/special needs of a small-sized tank.
This is a great size for a variety of fish, but overstocking it is going to lead to less-than-desirable results.>
--Melinda>

Re: setting up a tank   12/19/09
Hi Melinda, thanks for the reply.
<Hi Joe, you're welcome!>
It's funny you should mention my neighbor should be doing research for herself, because when she told me she was interested in the tank I asked if she likes reading and gave her a book on aquariums. set up, starting, taking
care of fish and what's what with fish etc. So she can educate herself a bit. She even said "oh your going to make me study". <Haha!> She ended up saying she likes it and is learning things from it. <That's great!>
Which I was glad because I didn't want her to have the tank so she can say oh look at the pretty fishys. Though I don't know if she ends up doing that, I hope not. I know that taking care of the up keep of my tank is enjoyable for ME.
<I agree. I find it incredibly relaxing.>
You inquired about my filtration. No canister or sump at this point. I just have an Emperor 400 for now with no carbon but the filtration sponge material and bio stars in the two extra compartments of the filter. So I
guess having filter or bio wheel in path of water flow wont work in my case. <Okay.>
The size of the parrot fish if I remember correctly were a bit smaller than a tennis ball. The black ghost is about 6 inches but I did tell her that it should not be in the tank but all I can do is make her aware of this.
<Yeah, this is really too much for that tank. Maybe after reading some on those links I sent, your neighbor will realize that, and choose a more suitable stocking list. It will really make her life SO much easier, as well as make the hobby a lot more fun for her. When you're cleaning/doing maintenance on a tank every other day in order to keep Nitrate at an acceptable level, it's not fun. It turns into a chore.> as I know my black ghost in my 40 is eventually going to have to be moved. but for now just keeping minimum inch per gallon ratio I only have about 10 inches in other fish .if even that much. <Just keep testing that water, Joe. Those results are going to help you know when it's time to upgrade.> Again I thank you for the information and will definitely share your reply with
her
<Again, you're welcome, and I'm so glad you found it useful.>
Take care
Joe
<--Melinda>

Components of a Successful Refugium... FW, SW set up  -- 09/19/09
Hi crew,
I have spent many hours perusing your website and plan on spending considerably more getting a grasp on this wonderful hobby of fresh and saltwater aquarium keeping. I am concurrently reading Bob Fenner's The Conscientious Marine Aquarist and Michael Paletta's The New Marine Aquarium and find myself spending copious amounts of time re-reading sections from the two books and cross-referencing to the website. You have contributed greatly to the knowledge, experience and enjoyment of this incredible hobby and I thank you very much for your enjoyable, thorough and scientifically oriented approach.
<We are glad to share with you>
To the point, I am the President of the Friends of Monterey Academy of Oceanographic Science (MAOS), a public math and science academy founded in 1994 by Steve Webster and Chuck Baxter of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Laboratory and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Our capstone course is in marine biology and we are currently building and expanding our marine science laboratory and field studies classroom. In the process of building our laboratory and field studies room, we have encountered challenges that leave me coming back to WWM frequently.
<And further pleased to assist your efforts here>
Our laboratory room we are proceeding with chaining some 20 tanks with a flow-through central filtration system into a common sump for replicate studies. These will be chilled by a 1.5 hp chiller (from Mike Morris at Sea Life Supply) and will represent coldwater specimens from the Monterey Bay.
Any thoughts you might have on this would be great.
<Mmm, much to say... would need to see the spec.s or better the system in person>
We are also setting up multiple ecosystems in our classroom/fish room that will represent tropical saltwater and tropical freshwater ecosystems.
Today I set up a 170g freshwater tank with a 70g refugium. In the refugium, I'm using volcanic rock
<Hmm, there may be better choices here>
on the first division (entry) with Chemi-pure, charcoal and peat (Amazon tank), flowing into a fuge of plant-growing substrate with heavy planting and then into a third chamber with the return pump back into the main tank. The idea is to create easy medium assistance with additional gallons to the overall system to reduce the number of required water changes. The tank is currently stocked with angels, electric blue Dempseys,
<Mmm, these become quite to very aggressive with age/growth... Will likely kill at least the angelfishes>
larger tetras,
<Mmm, which species? Some are great plant eaters>
and other south American fish with swords and other live plants.
<And the Dempseys are prodigious diggers... Will likely uproot the plants>
I also have a good eheim canister filter going with volcanic rock media, charcoal and media pads. Does this sound good or overkill?
<Would work except for the addition of the Dempseys... I'd remove these>
Our saltwater tank is currently 125 gallons (with plans to upgrade when possible) with a 14" map puffer,
<Needs more room than this>
18" snowflake moray eel, 2" maroon clownfish, 3" six-banded goby, 2" mandarin and lots of live rock and sand.
We're using a refugium with live rock, live sand and Chaeto and water parameters have been muy bueno for some time now. The biofilter/skimmer produces 1/4 cup of dark green skimmate daily.
Are we on the right track thus far or do you have alternative suggestions?
<Mmm, bunches... but best for you to keep going along at your present pace, learning... Asking about, gathering useful data, enjoying the experiences.
Nothing "terminal" in the short term that you list... Bob Fenner>

Re: Components of a Successful Refugium, FW, SW sys. set-up     9/20/09
Thank you Bob for your helpful reply. I've been up for the past two hours re-thinking systems and am writing back at 4:00 in the morning - I guess that means I've gotten hooked.
<Is a good addiction>
...
The freshwater tank will primarily feature the Angels and the tetras and I'll move the Electric Blue Jack Dempseys to their own tanks. Our plan is to allow the students to maintain the Dempsey tanks - we have two breeding pairs - and then work with our LFS and a Northern California distributor to move the Dempseys as they grow out. The saltwater and freshwater tanks would be primarily set up as mini-ecosystems for the students to maintain and learn from.
<Sounds good>
We're still working on the design for our replicate system in the laboratory and will have more information, and pictures, as we get closer to that installation. Eventually, we would like to create a larger common in-ground sump with central filtration. These would be used for hands-on experiences with limpets, crabs and other intertidal life.
<Neat!>
Again, thank you for your thoughtful input as we progress with these experiences.
<Am glad to assist your efforts, help guide your self-education. BobF>

A host of things: substrates, water parameters, stocking options   8/14/09
Hey Crew,
<Hello,>
I'm working on setting up a 29 gallon aquarium. Hagen AquaClear 70 is the filter. It will be my first heavily planted tank, or so I hope.
<OK.>
Originally, I wanted to do an Amazonian biotope, with rams (this one may be cheating? Orinoco River may not count as part of the Amazon River system) and (maybe) one angel, as well as Hemigrammus bleheri, and some cories.
<Do review the needs of Ram cichlids, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi. They need very warm, very soft water (30 degrees C, <5 degrees dH, pH 5-6.5) and that won't be within the range of tolerances of your Corydoras especially, and likely not most tetras, though Cardinals will thrive in such conditions. I mention this because the woeful track record of Ram cichlids in aquaria is due in part to people's ignorance of this fact. Kept too cold and too hard water, they rarely thrive. Better choices would including Bolivian Ram cichlids (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) or one of the hardier Apistogramma, such as the excellent Apistogramma cacatuoides.>
With this, I was going to use distilled water, with some additive that would replenish necessary minerals and buffering capacity.
<Distilled, RO, or rain water can make sense, if mixed with some tap water for hardness first. But rather than saying you're going to use RO water or whatever, decide the water chemistry you want, and then calculate the mix of RO and tap water you need. On my web site I have a program called "Soft Water Ware" for Mac and Windows that does this calculation for you. In most cases, excellent results can be had mixing 50% RO water with 50% hard tap water. This is what I do at home, though using rainwater rather than RO water (in England, few things are as cheap or reliable as rain, even in August my rainwater butt is full). This will get you something around pH 7-7.5, 10 degrees dH, and ideal water chemistry for almost all community fish.>
I planned on using Aquasoil (Amazonia II), with an assortment of plants that I had yet to fully plan. A Coralife Aqualight Freshwater Power Compact (65W) with some sort of DIY CO2 system would round out the set-up.
<OK.>
I began to think that an Amazonian biotope, as well as my first major foray into aquatic plants, would be too much to tackle all at once. I figured it would perhaps cost too much to maintain as well (more losses, more expensive livestock, etc.). Also, the Aquasoil is a little pricey. I'm thinking of going with Eco-Complete now, but have heard much about its tendency to buffer pH at around 7.4. Unlike the Aquasoil, this would be unsuitable for soft water fish.
<Also review low-tech, low-cost solutions. I use plain vanilla pond soil, mixed with pea gravel, both of which can be bought very very inexpensively. Pond soil is about £4 for 25 kg at my local garden centre (i.e., about $6 for 50 lb). With a gravel tidy on top to keep the soil from mixing with the water, and then a shallow bed of sand on top of that for the fish to root about in, and you have a cheap but very effective substrate for plants.>
I read the article on your site, "In Praise of Hard Water," (Monks) to get some hard water set-up ideas. I found ideas that I liked, but I'm wondering where I'm sitting with the various water parameter/substrate/fish/plant combinations. Will Eco-Complete buffer as I've read around the internet at a slightly high pH set-up if I use distilled water and an additive (or mix it with a small amount of tap)? Or are the results more variable?
<Results will vary depending on the carbonate hardness of your water. If you have a reasonably middling carbonate hardness, say, 3-5 degrees KH, pH changes between weekly water changes will be relatively small. But if your carbonate hardness is very low, 3 or less degrees KH, then pH changes become an increasingly problem. I'd remind you that very soft water is far from important, and most community fish, including most species from the Amazon, are just fine in slightly soft to moderately hard water, let's say 6-15 degrees dH, 3-10 degrees KH. Most tetras will do fine in that, even things like Cardinals, though they do need softer water for breeding.>
I guess I'm looking for guidance on what would be a good direction for me, provided my relatively low, college budget, only two fish-only tanks worth of experience under my belt, etc.
<Do read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/fwh2oquality.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/fwsoftness.htm
>
By the way, I live in Minneapolis, MN, USA. I called the city Water Works, and they told me the average water parameters for my area. He said the pH hovers between 8.5 and 9, phosphates are between .7 and .8, and the water is lime softened. Hardness got confusing: he told me kH is 60-70 ppm, but then told me that alkalinity is 25 ppm. I thought alkalinity and kH were the same... Also, I couldn't get the gH level out of him, but hopefully the kH gives the picture well enough.
<Use a test kit. Given the option, a carbonate hardness text kit is probably the most useful. Dip strips aren't terribly accurate, but they're usable and inexpensive, and often have a variety of tests, including both carbonate and general hardness on them. Sliced vertically, you double the number of tests per pack! Anyway, much better *you know* the water chemistry values rather than rely on others. Do also try leaving some water in a jar overnight and then test it; some water, particularly that drawn from aquifers and wells, tends to have "funky" chemistry that changes when exposed to air. If this is the case, you need to leave water overnight before adding to the aquarium, so the fish aren't exposed to sudden changes.>
Given all these factors and stages, what do you guys and gals recommend for a direction for this tank? Should I go with the biotopic set-up, assuming that using distilled water, eco-complete, and an additive can be used together to create an acidic environment in a way that won't be overly complicated/difficult for a relative beginner? Or will this combination most likely give me a set-up with which the types of fish/plants described in the article aforementioned should be used? Or, am I best off using my tap water with a conditioner (to remove chlorines and other unsuitable substances) and Eco-Complete, and the fish/plants described in that article? I'm not sure if the pH of the tap water is high to an unsuitable extreme...
<As it stands, pH 8.5 to 9 is far too high for an Amazonian set-up, and you'd likely need to mix this 50/50, at least, with RO to get something usable. Do also remember to treat for ammonia and chloramine, as both of these are toxic in themselves as well as reasons why pH can be unusually high.>
Whatever the set-up is, I want to be able to keep a significant population of plants. It won't be packed with plants, but I want it to be fairly dense. I know that takes extra planning with hard water. But if it is unfeasible to keep more than a small scattering of plants in a hard water set-up, I'd like to do something different. The plant thing is the main objective with this project.
<Do get in touch with the Minnesota Aquarium Society in Bloomington.
http://www.aquarium.mn/main/
They'd be able to give you lots of area-specific advice. As it happens, I'm speaking to them in January, about brackish water fish and gobies. Brackish water fishkeeping is a good option for places where water chemistry is difficult to understand. By adding marine salt mix, you're altering and stabilising water chemistry. You can have plants in such tanks, and the variety of fish is increasing all the time. Might be an option!>
Also, I'm open to ideas that I haven't discussed, of which I may not be cognizant.
Let me know what you think. I sincerely appreciate you working through this very extended question.
Joey E.
<Cheers, Neale.>

So Far So Good? -- 07/01/09
Please let me know, what are my prospects for success?
I have a 20 gallon tank with 1Penguin 200 Bio-wheel filter, 1 Air stone, 1 heater (not needed yet since water stays at 79 most of the time)
<Do plug it in and set it... Won't come on unless the temperature drops...>
4 fake plants, 3 orange platies, 3 phantom tetras, and 2 black Mollies,
<Mmm... have you read Neale's works on Mollienesia, on WWM?
http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/mollies.htm
Not compatible with the Tetras in terms of desired water quality>
and 1 mystery fish at upper left in the photo under the platy.
<Looks like a Longfin Black Skirt Tetra, Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, a social species>
All are less than 2" long. Tank has been running for 1 month w/ no problems. Have vacuumed once along with a 4 gln water change and carbon cartridge swap. Just paranoid i guess but am wondering if disaster is looming. I have been too busy with work and kids to get water tested, but added some Seachem Prime and Nutrafin Cycle during startup.
<Was this system cycled before adding the fish life?>
I also have an extra Penguin 200 I could install if needed.
Thanks in advance ! Jamie
P.S. Yes I know, the volcano is totally cliché, but the 2 yr old loves it.
<Is fine... I even like it! I might add a bit of live plant here... something simple like Egeria, Ceratopteris... Bob Fenner>

Re: So Far So Good? FW set-up...  7/1/09
"Is fine... I even like it! I might add a bit of live plant here... something simple like Egeria, Ceratopteris... Bob Fenner"
<I would echo what Bob says here; tanks with few/no plants, or exclusively slow-growing plants, tend to have major problems with algae. While more unsightly than dangerous, it's still annoying. Installing moderately bright lights, and then adding hardy, low-lying floating plants -- I recommend Amazon Frogbit and/or Indian Fern -- solves the problem perfectly. If happy, these plants grow rapidly, stopping algae from getting established, as well as doing a substantial amount in terms of water quality; their roots absorb nitrate directly, and the root hairs provide a good surface area for the denitrifying bacteria that handle ammonia and nitrite. Indian Fern especially is also a popular food with fish that enjoy a bit of greens now and again; so far as I can tell, my Ameca splendens eat nothing else!
Finally, floating plants are uncannily good at bringing out the best behaviours in fish. They inhibit jumping, the encourage bottom dwellers like puffers to swim to the top of the tank, and they help open water fish like halfbeaks and pike characins settle down much more quickly than otherwise. I simply can't recommend the use of Indian Fern and other easy floating plants too strongly. I have floating plants in all my freshwater tanks, and together with Nerite snails, algae control is honestly limited to wiping the front glass once every 3-4 months -- even in tanks with messy
fish like Panaque catfish! Cheers, Neale.>
<Ahhhh!>

OK - Neale - here it is 05/24/09
Hi Neale,
Here is what I meant to write:
I am, by profession, a grant writer/fundraiser for nonprofit organizations.  I write for my kids' school as a volunteer. We have been looking for a few grants for the science classes. Grades 4 and 5 are taught together as Cluster II and 6,7 & 8 are taught together as Cluster III. When doing research for possible funding, I will send available RFP's to the teachers or they will come to me with project ideas and I will try to find funding to match. The school is very involved in the science community and participation in science fair is mandatory for the students from grade 4 forward.
Anyway, we are interested in planning a classroom/school aquarium and I wanted to get an expert's opinion and advice about a few things. This will more than likely be a project for which we will seek funding over the next few months and will not be actually set up for the next school year as we are in the last year of our lease and will be in a new facility in the fall of 2010 for the 2010-2011 school year. I know that is a year away, but it's really not that much time, as you may already know. If we set up for the classroom, it will likely be set up in the grade 4/5 room. If it is set up in a public area to benefit the whole school, we will post changeable info posters for the different age groups to do "hallway" learning. Some for younger grades, some for older grades relating to chemistry, biology, etc....
Weekly activities could include water testing and graphing results and figuring out what's going on in the system if there is anything out of the norm on a given day? Perhaps if we get enough grant funding, we could set up a webcam and broadcast on the web - the kids could write the weekly updates, etc....
Our local area is made up of many small lakes and water conservation and water quality is a big deal here - as it may be elsewhere, but it's a big deal for our school. The school has adopted a nearby lake and the kids do regular clean ups and monitoring, and study the ecosystem there. This would be a nice element to add to that curriculum.
We also want the kids to understand why we didn't just put a bunch of different fish and purple or blue gravel to match the fish, etc....More background on the school's commitment to science education in the attachment (offline, please) which I have included.
<Didn't work/open; would suggest/ask you send plain vanilla RTF files rather than proprietary file formats.>
You will note a quote attributed to you there.
Questions:  As far as an Asian biotope goes, what other fish and fauna would you suggest to go along with Celebes Rainbowfish?
<Celebes Rainbowfish, and indeed Rainbowfish generally, mix well with each other as well as other stream-dwelling species: Horseface loaches, Cherry-fin loaches, Glassfish, freshwater Archerfish (Toxotes microlepis) would all work well. For whatever reason, relatively few small, Asian catfish are traded. >
Another thought was to introduce the kids to the Galaxy Rasboras, so they could discuss live-caught endangered species vs farm-raising and they could also try to breed them and return them back to a LFS. What other fish or livestock would you suggest including with these fish?
<Wouldn't; best kept alone if for breeding purposes, or with Cherry Shrimps and snails if you want a multi-species set up. They're just too small to work well with other fish; Danios for example would likely bully them. They're also quite specific in terms of water chemistry and temperature.
With Galaxy Rasboras and Cherry Shrimps you can create very fun, very busy aquaria by providing a thin sandy substrate below, clumps of Java moss and Java fern for vegetation in midwater, and floating plants above. Both species will breed freely in such an aquarium, and the Cherry Shrimp "babies" at least are easy to rear with minimal intervention on your part, so you can quickly have a tank filled with shrimps of different sexes and ages.>
I am not at all opposed to a single species tank, but would like to include a clean up crew - otos, snails, shrimp, etc.
<You don't need a "clean up crew" in ANYTHING other than a reef tank with corals. It is ALWAYS better to manually clean a tank/remove algae than to add another animal to the system in the (false) belief that will fix the problem.>
I will be pushing for a larger tank in order to better ensure success and will do everything possible to acquire high quality parts - filter, lights, etc...
Big question - Would you, or perhaps one of the other WWM Crew Members, consider being the classroom advisor for the kids regarding their aquarium throughout the school year? It would be so wonderful to expose them to someone at your level - perhaps 10 minutes a week? It would be so great for them if they could Skype with their expert. The teacher could have them submit questions to her and she could pick 1-3 questions to discuss each week in their 10 minutes.....not carved in stone, but something like that.
<Well, I'm in a whole other hemisphere, so anything "live" isn't an option, and I already spend about an hour a day volunteering here at WWM. I also have my own teaching commitments to deal with. So while I'd welcome any questions for students -- within reason -- I can't volunteer for anything more, or for that matter volunteer anyone else. Do review fish magazines for the addresses of local clubs, and you may well find someone from those prepared to visit your school. That's perhaps the ideal.>
When these kids think fish tank in the future, they won't be thinking of a Betta or a Goldfish in a bowl!
<Quite so.>
Any other suggestions you can offer would be most welcome.
<Do look for "The Compete Aquarium" by Peter W Scott as one of the best books on biotope aquaria out there. It's filled with 6-page spreads on lots of different habitats, each one describing the rocks, plants, fish and substrate you need to pull the thing off. It's a very good book.>
Thanks again,
Sandy
<Cheers, Neale.>

Does this sound OK for new aquariums? FW set-up, stkg.   -- 04/07/09
Hi,
Love the website, it helps with all the questions that the "caring and willingness to help Petco people" ;-P.
<I was one of these... helped (was the original buyer for the dept. at corporate in the early 90's), and am very glad to have rec'd news of some great experimenting at a Ca. store, with hiring, empowering of a saltwater individual...>
I have given fish a loving home for many years as a child (but have not had a tank for years and years)
growing up and did the whole (flush a fish every week because I had no idea how to keep a tank at 7) anyway I purchased a small 10 gallon tank got it all set up, put a male and female black molly
<Ten gallons is small....>
together (yes yes i know 2-3 females per male) but they are doing good, and also a male and female platy. Well it has reached the miraculous week 6 and all is going good, I am cleaning water every week 10-15% and adding my salt tbls. Well anyway I got a huge itch and went and bought a 30 gallon tank!
<Yay!>
I let it run for 48 hours with my live Anacharis and some other plant, adding the plant solution and water
purifier and salt, went to the store and bought 2 swordtails and 2 Dalmatian mollies!
<And... some way to establish cycling?>
All seems to be going well, but I need to know if I should get something to measure the (pH, SG, ALK) in my water,
<A good idea>
what colorful/fun fish I can add later,
<Best for you to read re>
and if i should go to the store and buy 2 more mollies one for each tank so they don't get stressed.....
<Wait for a few weeks...>
my tanks were all packages with the filters and heaters and stuff the 10 gallon is Aquarian and the 30
is All-Glass. Any help/ suggestions would be really appreciated!
Kevin
<Patience, really... and a concerted approach to educating yourself... take your time, reading... through WWM, elsewhere... Your enjoyment is and will be commensurate with your understanding. Do you trust this statement? Good. Bob Fenner>

240 gallon freshwater setup.  11/6/08 Hello everyone! I have a couple of questions regarding a new 240g setup that I'm working on. The basics. The tank is glass, 60" long, 36" wide, 24" high. I've kept a number of tanks but need specifics on filtration/heating. Fish in mind may be: giant Gourami, jardini, bowfin, micropeltes, Arowana, rays. I'm not planning on keeping all together. . . just an idea of what I like. For filtration: I've considered a sump but am concerned about noise issues. Would I be better off using some big canisters (FX5 or Eheim?) Should I use 2 HOB filters like the Emp 400's and also a canister? I will do regular water changes, about 20% every 2 weeks. Due to the width of the tank, I will need good filtration to keep it clear. For heating: Obviously a sump will allow a number of heaters to be hidden. If in tank, would 2 300W jobs do the trick? Any other heat/filter suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Tanks, Mike <Mike, big fish need big tanks and serious filtration. Avoid "children's toys" -- i.e., hang-on-the-back filters. You need things that offer massive water turnover and provide you with flexibility to install whatever filter media you want. Hang-on-the-back filters have poor water circulation (the inlet and outlet are next to each other) and use "modules" where the manufacturer sells you their filter media options, often in space-wasteful plastic cartridges. So yes, canister filters are what you need and are absolutely standard for this type of aquarium. Trickle filters and sumps also work well, but yes, they're noisy, though not excessively so. Go visit a friend with a marine aquarium and have a listen. Canister filters combined with undergravel filters (the "reverse flow undergravel") is perhaps the best option if you're keeping fish that don't dig. Reverse-flow filters have the benefits of both the canister and the undergravel filter, and because the clean water from the canisters is pushed up through the gravel, silt and feces are kept out of the gravel and pushed into the canister. Whatever filter type you choose, go with filters that provide br > 8-10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So if you have a 240 gallon system, then at minimum your filters should add up as 8 x 240 = 1920 gallons per hour. Eheim filters are unquestionably the best in terms of reliability. But the midrange manufacturers like Fluval and Sera are producing good products too. If you have multiple canister filters, it's not such a big deal if one fails, as you'll have time to go buy another. Heating isn't that big of a deal, and there are numerous options. Eheim produce "thermo-filters" that combine filtration with heating, and companies like Hydor make ETH units that you connect into the outflow from the canister filter to warm the water. Different types of heater are rated for different tanks, so check with the manufacturer on specifics. In general, two heaters that add together to make the full wattage is the best approach: if one fails, the other will keep the fish getting too cold; if one doesn't switch off, it won't be powerful enough to boil your fish. Cheers, Neale.>

I have a new tank! FW setup/stocking  -10/31/08 Hello, <Hi,> Been spending my time on fishy business instead of working again... that's what working from home does for you.. <Yep.> Further to my messages below the little platy with the odd behaviour survived 2 1/2 weeks on her own in the QT tank before giving up (possibly of loneliness). I am satisfied she was just not a happy fish, as no signs of disease came out, and the others are all well. <Hmm... would be careful about the ideas of "loneliness" and "not a happy fish". While fine for children's books, actual science doesn't work that way. Platies are just fine on their own, and their brains are way too small to have much capacity for emotion. On the flip side, it's easy to overlook water conditions, diet, genetics, and other factors when apportioning the blame for the demise of a fish. So even if you don't know why this particular fish died, keep an open mind with regard to choices you make when selecting livestock, introducing new fish to the tank, feeding them, providing filtration, checking water chemistry, and so on.> Now I have obtained a 180 liter tank to upgrade my 60 litre. It's Juwel Rio 180, and has a very similar filter system to my record 60. (this is the biggest I can fit in the house it seems) <The Rio 180 is a great system, and I have one. The filter is a bit feeble when set against large, physically messy aquarium fish like Plecs and Goldfish, but with Platy-sized animals the tank and filter will work very well.> My questions are: Can I take a sponge (there are two, I believe I can remove one without the tank suffering as long as I do regular monitoring / water changes?) from the smaller tank to help in cycling the new tank when I set it up? <Yes. Both tanks will be instantly cycled, with the remaining sponge in the old tank quickly "seeding" the new sponge, and in the new tank the mature sponge will filter the water and mature the remaining sponges in the filter. This is called "cloning" filters and is BY FAR the best way to mature new tanks. Any filter can tolerate losing up to 50% of its biological media with little to no hardship.> If I do this how long should I leave it before I can add my fish (I have to dispose of the small tank ASAP in order to avoid marital disharmony!). I have two male platies, four females, and a teeny platy, and two one inch ancistrus. <All good fish for this tank.> Can you recommend good community fish for me? I like Tiger barbs, danios and silver sharks and would quite like a shoal of little tetras or similar. <Skip Tiger Barbs because they are nippy (and likewise Tiger Barb derivatives such as Moss Barbs and Albino Barbs). Puntius pentazona, the 5-banded Barb is an excellent and very peaceful alternative. The Silver Shark is FAR TOO BIG for this tank, so forget that one. If you want a silvery fish with big scales, then something like Crossocheilus reticulatus might be just the thing. It's an algae eater, too! One of my all-time favourites is the Moonlight Gourami Trichogaster microlepis, a biggish silvery fish with lots of character and hardy as well. Too many people fuss with the small Dwarf Gouramis that are basically rubbish any more, but the Moonlight is a species you can rely on. Danios are great, but keep them in large numbers or they can become bullies; schools of 6+ are recommended.> Nice bright coloured, active fish for the kiddies (and me!). What I am not sure about is compatibility - particularly the barbs and the silver shark, also bearing in mind I have the platies and ancistrus... I live just outside London and our water is hard. <With few exceptions, "London tap" is just fine for most tropical fish. Avoid things like Harlequin Rasboras, Ram Cichlids (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) and wild-caught Angels or Discus. Sit down with an aquarium book and browse. Feel free to bounce ideas off us in due course.> Thanks so much for your help! Sarah <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: I have a new tank! (FW; selection) -10/31/08 Thanks so much Neale for your quick reply... you confirmed my thoughts on the tiger barbs but I didn't appreciate how big the silver sharks got (just looked them up again). I am now merrily filling my tank up, will add a sponge form the smaller tank and probably still wait a week at least to be sure that the temperature is stable before transferring my fish. <Happy to help.> Your website is just the best resource....! If only I could get my friend with the 4 inch goldfish in an unfiltered bowl to agree (we have fallen out over her fish in a big way). The poor thing has recently lost all of its gold colouring and has gone a white silvery colour over the last few months, whilst it still seems fine I am sure this is not good? I have offered her my 60ltr tank but she said no... grr.... <Maybe she'll take the old tank as a Christmas present? Wrap it up and put the Goldfish's name on the thing! She'll have no excuse then! I do agree though: happy Goldfish are lovely, friendly pets -- but badly kept Goldfish are incredibly sad-looking and depressing.> Thanks again for your help. I will get some danios to start and then consider my next move - I looked up the 5 banded barbs and they look great too. <They're lovely, but a bit shy, so get a nice sized group (6+) and make sure the tank has some tall or floating plants so they don't get too scared.> I just need to find a reliable supplier. Have you any experience with an on line place in the Uk called trade aquatics in Scotland? <Not familiar with them. But if they have a money-back guarantee, they should be fine.> They sell on ebay under the trading name of zoostock, and sell large numbers at very reasonable prices (I would split a delivery with a friend). Locally there are a few places but from each place I have heard of diseased fish, and I keep going to look at them but see dead fish the tank, or one fish with pop eye.. We're near Watford in the UK. <Ah, I'm in Berkhamsted, not a million miles from you. It's a bit of a dead zone for fish shops. The two places you might consider are Maidenhead Aquatics, one at St Albans and the other at Wembley. Both are excellent stores with lots of different types of tropical fish, and well worth the trip.> Thank you again. Will leave you in peace for now! Sarah <Good luck with your fish shop shopping! Neale.>

What color background do you feel brings out the best colors if the fish? I had thought about dark blue but have heard that black is best. <Either works. The glass will get covered with algae anyway, so it all ends up kind of dark green/brown anyway. If you're serious about decor, nothing beats a 3D background, whether an internal rocky backdrop or careful use of tall plants.> Also, what are the lightest types of attractive rocks that can be used? <Granite and slate are the two rocks most aquarists use, being chemically inert and generally easy to obtain. Garden centres stock both: make sure you avoid anything with lime in it, or anything with metallic seams, as sometimes these metals are toxic. Lava rock is a lightweight artificial rock that works well, though it does colour the water a bit, and it may also lower the pH a little. Tufa rock is a lightweight rock often used in hardwater tanks; it raises the pH and carbonate hardness, and while good with Malawian cichlids for example isn't acceptable in most community tanks. Cheers, Neale.>

Are the 3D backgrounds realistic. I have only seen pictures of them. 10/21/08 <Depends on the brand, I suppose. They come in different types, from inexpensive, fairly thin (5 mm or so) textured plastic sheets through to deluxe ones that are 5-6 cm in thickness, realistically coloured, and cut to look like rocks and tree roots. The Juwel branded ones cost about £30-35 for a 50x50 cm piece and once in place and siliconed into position look really good. The only catch is that certain catfish (Panaque spp.) destroy them. Other than that, they're excellent and highly recommended.> And as far as the algae, I don't plant on letting it cover the aquarium that bad. <OK. Cheers, Neale.>

Questions, FW Setup 10/17/08 Hi Crew, Hope things are going well for all of you. <Yes, thanks.> I have a couple of questions, please. First, are you familiar with a product called Algone? If so, do you know if it really works or not? <I have seen it available, but it does not list its ingredients so it has never been added to any of my tanks. I recommend not adding anything you are not positive about what is in it and how it works.> Secondly, I dismantled my aquarium about 3 years ago due to illness but now am starting one back up. <Welcome back.> It is a 75 gallon. I am using it for freshwater this time. I wanted to know if a sand bottom is as good or better than gravel and how does it compare to gravel when it comes to cleaning. Thank you, James Hall <Better or worse depends on what you are trying to keep. Many bottom dwellers like Corys prefer a softer sand bottom, however many planted tanks use gravel for various reason. Sorry no simple answer here, but depends on what you are trying to accomplish. As far as cleaning, generally gravel is easier as sand is almost impossible to vacuum.> <Chris>

Re: Questions, FW Setup 10/17/08 I do plan on keeping some Corys, so if sand is better for them can they still do OK with gravel? <Can, but you have to be careful with the gravel you pick. Needs to be round and without sharp edges. Otherwise the Corys can suffer.> And how does one clean a tank with a sand bottom? <Generally you do not, much like in marine tanks. Keeping up with the general maintenance of the tank should keep it in order.> Also, up until now I have always used hang on the back Marineland power filters. They have always done well, but now I am thinking of using something else so the tank will be more attractive. Can you recommend a reasonably priced canister filter than works well and is easy to clean? <Give here a read and related FAQs http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i1/canister_filters/Canister_filters.htm .> And lastly, I have read many debates about using an undergravel filter. Do you feel they are necessary? <I do not consider them necessary, although they do work, not with sand however.> Thanks again for all your help. James <Welcome> <Chris>

Re: Questions, FW Setup 10/17/08 I am not trying to be sarcastic, just asking. <No problem.> You said it was not necessary to clean a sand bottom if you do the general maintenance. How do you get rid of the uneaten food, fish waste etc.? <Mostly by not overfeeding so food does not accumulate at the bottom. Good water flow will keep most detritus suspended long enough for the filters to remove it. Also bacterial processes will break down the remaining materials.> Also, I have read that if heavy rocks are put in a tank they should be put on Styrofoam (SP?). I have never done this before. Is it necessary? <Definitely a good idea, they can crack the tank if they shift or fall.> <Chris>

Re: Questions, FW Setup 10/17/08 Thank you. How do I know if I have the proper water flow? <Water should be obviously circulating around the tank, i.e., you can see leaves moving, flake drifting, and so on. An excellent rule of thumb is to use a filter rated at 4-6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. In other words if the tank contains 200 litres of water, use a filter rated at 800-1200 litres per hour.> I would love to not have to clean the bottom of my tank. <Doesn't work that way. Whether you use sand or gravel (Corydoras prefer smooth silica sand, but not Tahitian Moon sand) you should be "slurping" up any detritus with each weekly water change. Sometimes you can stir the gravel or sand a bit with your finger. Plants and especially Malayan livebearing snails do a good job cleansing sand or gravel by aerating it. Unless you're grossly overfeeding/under-cleaning the tank, sand/gravel should never get particularly dirty.> And I have read that fish should be fed once daily and slowly until they lose interest so that none accumulates on the bottom. Is that pretty correct? <No. The safest approach with small community fish is to feed 1-2 small meals per day, with each meal being no more food than is completely consumed within 1-2 minutes. Remove any excess with, for example, a turkey baster. Corydoras catfish and other bottom dwellers can be fed sinking food at night time, but use such foods sensibly. A dozen Corydoras or a large Plec will only need 2-3 algae wafers per night. Cheers, Neale.> 

Aquarium... FW, set up... stkg.   9/26/08
I realize that I haven't done my homework before putting my aquarium together. Sad.
<Oh dear.>
I did read an aquarium book, but most books don't provide enough information on freshwater fish and tanks.
<Don't agree with this at all; any half-way decent aquarium book will cover the essentials on water quality, water chemistry, and stock selection.>
Anyway, glad I came across your website.
<Good!>
I already have a 60 gallon tank with a Rena Filstar xP2 external canister filter with 300 GPH flow rate. I cycled the water with the filter on and no bacteria x 1-2 weeks. Bad.
<You can't cycle a tank without a source of ammonia. An empty tank with a filter is just water sloshing about. Nothing much happens. Might look pretty, but that's about it. The tank won't begin to cycle until there's some ammonia for the bacteria to "eat", and that means either adding livestock (a few, carefully chosen fish for example) or more humanely by adding an inorganic (or at least non-living) source of ammonia.>
Natural color gravel substrate. Added aquarium salt which I have read on your FAQs that it's not needed at all -- will not make that mistake again.
<Salt only helps in specific situations, and shouldn't be added for no reason.>
I've had fish in the tank 4 Neons, 2 cardinals, 3 guppies, and 2 Mickey mouse platy x 2 weeks.
<These fish have much different requirements, not to mention the fact you're overlooking social behaviour. Neons and Cardinals are both schooling fish: keeping less than six of either is cruel. Simple as that. You might not care, but the fish certainly do! Next up, Neons need relatively cool water, around 22-25 C, whereas Cardinals need warmer water, 26-28 C. So any conditions acceptable for the one will stress the other, the result being illness and premature death. Finally, whereas Platies and Guppies need hard, basic water, Neons and Cardinals want soft and acidic water. The latter species especially rarely does well for long in hard water. So again, anything that suits some of these fish will be stressing the others. You absolutely cannot randomly add fish to a system and hope they'll get along. Imagine a zoo that randomly placed polar bears, lions, frogs and peacocks all in the same enclosure. Obviously wouldn't work -- so why expect it to work with fish? Aquarium shops exist to sell fish, and assume the purchaser knows precisely what they're buying. Unfortunately, many shops don't provide "gentle reminders" at time of purchase so that newbie hobbyists can be dissuaded from bad choices. A cynic would make the point that a lot of purchasers don't care, and are happy to replace "cheap" fish every few months, and that approach is profitable for the retailer. Over here at WWM we take the other view, that pet fish should be given a fair chance of survival in captivity. And that means telling people (again and again) to research the needs of their fish PRIOR to purchase.>
Recently, the red MM platy died.
<Will be the first of many...>
Found a bunch of bubbles on the surface a couple days before it died. What do you think happened?
<Uncycled tank, too many fish, no information here about either water quality or chemistry, so could be a variety of entirely avoidable blunders on your part.>
I got another MM platy, 2 dwarf gouramis -- which I am reading will eventually end up dying from disease, and a black Molly.
<You're not supposed to add new fish until you've established why the last ones died.>
Not a good combination -- I found out. So my question is, what should I do with the set up I already have?
<Read, learn, make decisions.>
I will continue to just add freshwater with the water changes to get rid of the salt. But then what of molly? Which way do I need to go? Return the molly and get rid of the salt?
<What's your water chemistry? If it's hard and basic, the Molly may be fine, and adding a small amount of marine salt mix (say, 3-6 grammes per litre) will not harm the Platies or Guppies. It will stress the Neons, Cardinals and Gouramis though. As I say, you need to determine water chemistry, and then choose your fish. There's no "happy medium" any more than there's a happy medium for both penguins and ostriches. Different needs entirely.>
Will my dwarf gouramis get sick faster with the salt?
<Certainly won't help.>
Right now, all the fish are thriving well together, but I don't want a ticking bomb.
<Too late... the selection of fish you have is, let us say, unwise. You haven't cycled the tank, so the next few weeks will be very dicey unless you're regularly doing water changes (by which I mean something like 25% every couple of days) until the ammonia/nitrite levels stay at zero. Cycling with fish takes 4-6 weeks, and things can get worse before they get better. So do your water tests, do water changes, and observe.>
Also, do I have enough circulation and water movement with the filter system that I don't need an air bubbler?
<You're fine as you are.>
What's a good cooling system to purchase? I live in Southern California, and the house can get pretty warm when we are gone for the weekend.
<Neons and Platies do not like temperatures above 25 C, and ideally around 23-24 C. Cardinals, Guppies, Gouramis and Mollies thrive at up to 30 C, so they're less fussed.>
How much fish can I add?
<Don't even think about asking this question until the tank is cycled. Concentrate on removing inappropriate stock, and concentrating on fish that match the water chemistry you have. Then review social behaviour. Livebearers need to be in groups where the females outnumber the males, or you get bullying problems, so that's one factor. Tetras need to be in large groups to thrive. And so on. With very small fish (such as Neons) the "inch per gallon" rule isn't a bad guideline, but whatever you do, go slowly, adding a few fish each month, using your Nitrite test kit to check the filter has adapted to the higher workload.>
I want to add 4 more Neons to have a total of 10 neon/cardinal tetras. I read that they are happiest with 10. Is that true?
<They're happiest in groups of 100+, but 12 will do nicely, though 20 is better in terms of visual impact. These small tetras look prettiest in big groups because they "swarm" nicely, moving in sync around the tank. In smaller groups they just hang about at random, and are rather boring.>
If my dwarf gouramis die, are there any pretty/fancy fish similar to the gouramis that will live peacefully with the fish I already have?
<Depends on what your water chemistry is. If you have hard, basic water, then your choices will be different to soft, acid water. If your water isn't too hard, then Colisa fasciatus and Colisa labiosa are both hardy, peaceful gouramis that are easy to keep. There are other gouramis in the trade, such as gold or blue three-spot Gouramis, Trichogaster trichopterus, but these have distinct drawbacks in one way or another. Three-spots tend to be aggressive, and can make very poor community fish, despite being widely sold as stuff. Anyway, what you're asking about has been covered many times here at WWM; please do review these articles and the FAQs linked from them:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwlivestk.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwlvstksel.htm
>
Can I add 2-3 other colorful fish to my aquarium since the filter system is pretty good? Is the water change recommendation still weekly?
<Yes.>
Thanks,
Janice
<Cheers, Neale.>

Tank Setup... FW... need to read; WWM, books...     2/16/08 Hi Neale, <Neervana,> I just bought an aquarium that is 640 litres. How many gallons is that? <Time to learn how to use Google I suspect. Type "640 litres in Imperial gallons" or "640 litres in US gallons" (without the quotation marks) into a Google search box and off you go. It's about 170 US gallons, or about 140 Imperial gallons.> Its just that so many shops online have the US gallon thing)? And how much gravel should I buy to fill that (want a good layer of gravel)? <No idea. I'd start off with a 3-4 25 kilo bags and see how you go.> Also, how many fish would I be able to put in there? <Depends on the size of the fish. There's no "golden rule", but broadly people tend to suggest 1 inch of fish per gallon or 1 inch of fish per 10 square inches of surface area. That's fine for Neons and Guppies, but pretty meaningless for anything very much bigger.> I'm not sure what equipment should I get (air pump, lighting etc) I will have to order it online because my LFS does not have that kind of equipment. <Read an aquarium book or visit the "setting up" pages here at WWM, and all will be revealed!> I want to put two silver dollars in there and a Black Ghost Knife (only when its cycled like you said). <Cool. I'd recommend at least 6-10 Silver Dollars in a tank this size. For one thing, these fish look amazing in big groups. Secondly, as "dither fish" they will help your other fish feel more secure.> I'm putting the pictus in with the sharks at the end of this week, it seems to be doing fine. All its fins are healthy again like when I first bought it. I'm just happy that we managed to save one out of the two that I had. <Live and learn.> The tank is coming with a stand - do I still need to put some polystyrene underneath the tank before putting it on the stand? <Depends on the system. Some tanks MUST NOT have polystyrene between the glass and the wood because there is a plastic trim that takes the stress instead. The JUWEL tanks are like that. So check the instruction book that comes with the tank.> What other fish do you think I could have in my tank I don't like a lot of colour. <Oh, many things. A couple more Bala Sharks perhaps. Bichirs (Polypterus spp.) are always fun in big tanks. Clown Loaches perhaps? Or some other schooling Loach of reasonable size not to get eaten. A nice wild-type Oscar would be fun. Really many choices.> I was thinking about getting the plec you told me about, when I have finished cycling it, but I'm not sure. <Plecs are always fun, but certainly not essential. The idea they "clean the tank" is a myth, so by all means keep something else.> Thanks, Neervana. <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tank Setup    2/16/08 Hi Neale, <Neervana,> Sorry I forgot to add something in my previous e-mail. Will my floor support this tank? <I have absolutely no idea. This is the kind of thing you need to discuss with someone qualified in building or engineering. As a rule, aquaria are safe enough on ground floors, particularly when placed across several joists rather than along just a couple of them.> My 200 gallon one is in the sitting room, ground floor and is fine - I want to put the new tank in my bedroom as it is rather spacious, but I don't know if it will be able to support it's weight. <I do not know either.> It is on the ground floor, and there is no "basement" beneath it, I read online that it's not advisable to put aquariums on floors that have a basement beneath it. <It's not really whether or not there's anything underneath the floor, but rather whether the floor has sufficient structural support to carry the extra weight. If in doubt, consult someone who knows about this sort of thing.> Can I send pictures of the tank and how the set up is going? I want to take my time and do it properly with your advice too. It will take ages for me to set up the tank, but that's the part I enjoy the most so I don't mind! <By all means send SMALL photos (less than 500 KB). Don't send BIG pictures (i.e., not what comes straight out the camera). If our mailboxes fill up because of your one e-mail, it's a bit unfair on everyone else sending text messages. Also, do consider joining a tropical fish forum of some kind. I happen to like 'Tropical Fish Forums' but there are plenty of others, including ones run by fishkeeping magazines including PFK, TFH, Aquarium Fish International, etc. Most of these forums have aquarium gallery sections, where people can post photos and chat about design and aquascaping. I think you'd find that interactive and fun. Think of the Wet Web Media Questions & Answers section as the place to come for help rather than chit-chat. Certainly I enjoy spending time at forums when I want general comments and advice.><<Amen... RMF>> Thanks, Neervana. <Cheers, Neale.>

Ceramic media, air pumps... FW set-up   01/13/2008 Hello Neale, since the last email I bought from a friend a 46-gal acrylic tank (20 inches deep, 36 inches wide) and I'm now working on the aquascape project before actually running it. In other words, the tank is empty, but I pretty much have the project on paper. I also bought a compact fluorescent lights kit which is 130W, because I'm planning to make it a serious planted aquarium. I have a few questions that I'd like to ask you: 1. Considering the 130W lights, do you see issues in using plants such as Java Moss and Java fern which require low light? More in general, given the high amount of light, do you think it would be an issue to keep plants requiring low/medium light levels? 2. Do you think it's fine to cycle the tank with 6 Pristella? 3. Once the tank is mature, I'd really like to include some dwarf cichlids in it because I really like them. Initially I was thinking about Rams, but then considering the high temperature they need, which would be probably fatal for other fish such as neon tetras as well as for some plants, I thought about Kribensis and/or Apistogrammas. What do you think? 4. Regarding the substrate, do I need to use an undergravel heater? Would a mix of fine gravel and laterite be enough? I read that I should also put some peat moss at the bottom of the tank to allow the laterite to be absorbed by the plants. Is that true? As always, thank you so much for answering all my questions. Sincerely, Giuseppe

Re: Ceramic media, air pumps    01/13/2008 Hello Neale, <Giuseppe,> I believe my email starting with '...since the last email I bought from a friend a 46-gal acrylic tank....' has not been answered. I suspect you answered a previous email. I'm sorry for the confusion and thanks again for your help. Giuseppe <Hmm.... I just answer what's in the Inbox... Is the following the message?> since the last email I bought from a friend a 46-gal acrylic tank (20 inches deep, 36 inches wide) and I'm now working on the aquascape project before actually running it. In other words, the tank is empty, but I pretty much have the project on paper. I also bought a compact fluorescent lights kit which is 130W, because I'm planning to make it a serious planted aquarium. I have a few questions that I'd like to ask you: 1. Considering the 130W lights, do you see issues in using plants such as Java Moss and Java fern which require low light? More in general, given the high amount of light, do you think it would be an issue to keep plants requiring low/medium light levels? <Low-light plants are fine in bright tanks, but almost by definition they grow slowly and are easily overwhelmed by other species. Things like Java fern and Anubias also tend to get covered with algae. So place low-light plants under the shade of other plants.> 2. Do you think it's fine to cycle the tank with 6 Pristella? <I wouldn't cycle any tank with tetras really, but yes, Pristella maxillaris is at the hardy end of the spectrum. So assuming you did your level best to reduce nitrite/ammonia through water changes, they'd be fine. They're also salt-tolerant characins (a small group!) naturally inhabiting slightly brackish water, so you could use tonic salt to ameliorate nitrite toxicity somewhat, at least initially.> 3. Once the tank is mature, I'd really like to include some dwarf cichlids in it because I really like them. Initially I was thinking about Rams, but then considering the high temperature they need, which would be probably fatal for other fish such as neon tetras as well as for some plants, I thought about Kribensis and/or Apistogrammas. What do you think? <Apistogramma are great in planted communities and appreciate moderate temperatures, unlike the Mikrogeophagus ramirezi. So something like A. cacatuoides would be a great place to start. Mikrogeophagus altispinosus is also very good. Almost any of the Pelvivachromis species are good too; if you shop around, you'll find more than Kribs on the market. P. subocellatus and P. taeniatus are both very beautiful.> 4. Regarding the substrate, do I need to use an undergravel heater? Would a mix of fine gravel and laterite be enough? I read that I should also put some peat moss at the bottom of the tank to allow the laterite to be absorbed by the plants. Is that true? <Substrate heaters do have a (small) positive impact on plant growth, so if the (slightly more expensive) option of using one is viable for you, go for it. Fine gravel and laterite works very well. Put the laterite layer as the bottom 50%, and then plain gravel as the top 50%, otherwise the fish make a mess. A gravel tidy between them is helpful. Used this system myself, and back in 1980s was considered the "Optimal Aquarium" to quote the Germans who wrote on such things. Obsolete now I suppose, but still good. Never heard of the peat moss thing. Sounds a bit daft to me. What plants prefer is slightly anoxic, but not completely anoxic conditions. So a deep gravel bed with under-tank heating is ideal, because the flow of water from the heat (convection current) is just enough to keep the water in the gravel slightly but not fully oxygenated. So you get reducing chemistry in the substrate, and this allows the plants to absorb iron and other elements properly. If you look at where aquatic plants grow, it is usually very black and smelly mud!> As always, thank you so much for answering all my questions. <No probs.> Sincerely, Giuseppe <Cheers, Neale.>

Fish Question... Very new FW... for a baby... Basic set-up, cycling  12/21/2007 Hello, I am attempting to do a fish tank for Christmas for my 2 year old. (You should see her face in the store, much less all the screaming!) <Welcome to the hobby, both of you.> So, we bought an Eclipse 6 gallon from Petco. <Ah, a 6 gallon tank is extremely small and very, very, VERY difficult to look after. Paradoxically perhaps, the smaller the tank, the more hard work and the more expensive in the long run. This is often overlooked. I'd highly recommend absolute beginners to work with a 20 gallon tank -- about the minimum size for an "easy ride". Anything smaller gets difficult.> It has a Marineland BioWheel in it. I have never done fish tanks before and I have been reading everything I can get my hands on, including your FAQ which I must say has been quite helpful. I also picked up a book by Boruchowitz. I have put the water in, of which I have used my Pur filter on my faucet, and I have purchase a test kit for Ammonia and Nitrate, liquid ones as suggested. As far as I can see, platys are pretty good starters, so I plan on going with those. I just have a few questions to make sure I don't kill these things. <Platies can be good fish, but they're far too large for a 6 gallon tank. A tank this small needs fish that stay below 2.5 cm/1", which really limits you to things like bumblebee gobies, cherry shrimps, Corydoras habrosus, dwarf mosquitofish, ricefish, and so on. Adult female platies are fairly substantial fish, around 5 cm/2" and quite chunky. While I dare say they can survive in a 6 gallon tank, I'd question whether mere survival is the baseline we're going for here.> Does it help at all if I use my Pur filter? <Not really. What they are is activated carbon packaged incredibly expensively. While you may appreciate the taste difference, your fish couldn't be bothered either way. Dechlorinator to remove chlorine and/or chloramine is more important, and in the quantities required to maintain an aquarium (50% water changes per week) using drinking water filtration systems will be ridiculously uneconomic.> We have a water softener, Should I turn it off when I am changing the water? <Never, ever use water from a domestic water softener in an aquarium. Draw the water from the unsoftened tap in your kitchen. The sodium-rich "softened" water is as bad for the fish as it is for you, in fact more so.> Do the test kits have a shelf life? <Yes, typically a year, though this varies. Keeping them somewhere cold and dark, like a fridge, extends the life.> I do not want any babies since this is only a 6 galloner, is there a hardy fish that gets along well that doesn't breed well? I'm scared of that with the platies.. <Not a chance. The two platies already have filled the tank, AND THEN SOME! Besides, the parents will likely eat any fry unless you remove them, so don't worry about it. Should you be blessed with a few babies that survive, return them to the pet store. No big deal.> Are 2 female platies the best mix for not fighting and such, or do they get sad without a man around? <Two platies will be perfectly happy on their own.> When they say "school" I think of 6 or more fish. Is a school only 2? <A school is indeed at least 6 fish; smaller than that and the school doesn't work. What happens then varies, but possible problems include fighting, chasing, nervousness, and even pining to death. Depends on the species. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Question 12/21/2007 Sorry, forgot to add that the test kits don't have an exp. date. Ammonia test is from Nutrafin and the Nitrate is from TetraTest. <Expiration date is usually a year. Perhaps longer if kept cool and dark. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Question 12/21/2007 Just tested the ammonia and nitrate Ammonia: 1.2 Nitrate: 12.5 Does this mean it hasn't cycled yet? <Indeed. Ammonia and nitrite (with an I) need to be at zero. Nitrate (with an A) goes up between water changes. A nitrate level of 12.5 mg/l is fine. Ideally keep it below 20 mg/l but don't be too worried about it. 50% water changes each week, plus avoiding overfeeding, should manage nitrate easily. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Question, FW stkg.   12/23/07 The book by Boruchowitz claims that a 5 gallon fish tank can hold 2 platies, 3 zebra danios, 2 cherry barbs and 1 Cory cat. <Hmm... I know David B. through his editorship of the TFH Magazine and we consequently work together periodically. In fact, I have an article coming out early 2008 specifically about stocking small (10 gallon) tanks, and David and I worked together on refining the list. Anyway, that list of fish you suggest here simply doesn't make sense. Corydoras are SCHOOLING animals and need to be kept in groups of at least three specimens and ideally six or more. Danios likewise MUST be kept in schools of at least six specimens. Cherry barbs might work in small tanks, though they are hardly fish I'd casually recommend because they are quite delicate and have sometimes schooling/sometimes territorial personalities that need to be worked around.> Another mix he recommends is 2 gold barbs, 3 white clouds and 2 swordtails. That's where I was getting the idea of what and how many...guess he's not correct. <For a 10 gallon tank? Gold Barbs -- if by which he means Puntius semifasciolatus -- are big fish, up to 7 cm/3 inches and absolutely cannot be kept in a 10 gallon tank. They're also subtropical fish, and while that makes them good companions for White Cloud minnows, Swordtails would be too cold in subtropical water conditions. White Cloud minnows need to be kept in the same way as Danios, and that means groups of 6 or more. Swordtails cannot possibly be kept in a ten gallon tank; adult males are incredibly aggressive for a start, and both sexes are big, fast-moving fish that need at least a "long" 20 gallon tank.> Glad I asked! <Everyone has their opinion on minimum tank sizes, but to some extent you have to be intelligent about it. A 6 gallon tank is essentially a bucket in terms of volume. Which fish -- as adults -- would be happy in a bucketful of water. That's what you need to ask yourself. For me, the answer is non-schooling, relatively inactive fish around the 1 inch/2.5 cm mark.> I know the tank is small, but so is our house (700 sq feet!) It's a good size for where I have to put it. <I sympathise. I own a small terraced cottage in England, and finding space for my fish is always an issue. But on the other side of coin ANIMALS AREN'T ORNAMENTS. They live, feel, and suffer. If you've decided to get a pet, then you have to provide AT LEAST the minimum that animal requires to be healthy and happy. And a 6 gallon tank is very much borderline as far as Platies go. Children as young as 2 years aren't really going to learn much from a fish tank, and ultimately the lesson children have to learn is that animals come with responsibilities.> There is no way we could do 20 gallons without having a stand, and that will be a big watery mess on our carpet in 5 seconds flat with our daughter and 50 lb dog. <Maybe, maybe not. If your house is too chaotic for a fish tank, then perhaps a fish tank isn't right for you?> It's right on our kitchen counter, so the water changes won't be hard at all, and I plan to do them frequently. <Good; you'll need to! A 6 gallon tank will get polluted extremely quickly, and you'll soon find the water cloudy and the tank infested with algae. Trust me on this.> What I can't understand is how I have so much ammonia (1.2 mg/ml) and I haven't added any fish... <Check the tap water first. Perhaps you have ammonia in there. Also check your dechlorinator -- some brands turn chloramine into ammonia but then do nothing with that ammonia. Are you cycling the tank in some way, e.g., by adding a pinch of food every couple of days? In this case, you may be adding too much food (or whatever ammonia source). To cycle the tank in this way takes about 6 weeks, so the filter won't be mature until then.> do I just trust the BioWheel to get rid of it? <Trust nothing except your test kits. Only add fish once the ammonia is at zero; ammonia quickly kills aquarium fish.> If I change the water, theoretically the ammonia will just stay the same, right? <Depends; water changes should dilute the ammonia if the ammonia is getting into the tank via fish food (or fish). If the ammonia comes from the tap water, that's very bad, and you need to use ammonia-removing dechlorinator before adding that water to the tank. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Question  12/23/07 OOO...a cottage in England...like a fairytale. You must love it. <I do indeed!> I went through vet tech school, so I am aware of the necessities animals demand. <Very good.> Can't say we ever had a chapter on fish...which now that I think about it that's kinda sad because it seems there's not a lot of people that are well educated on this out there. <Ah, yes, a topic for discussion on another day. It is sad that many vets aren't able to offer advice to fishkeepers, but there are some vets who handle fish. Generally the bigger species like koi that respond well to medication and surgery. For smaller fish -- like Platies -- the name of the game is prevention rather than cure.> Anyway, that chart is on page 92 of the animal planet freshwater aquarium book. I think I may be reading it wrong. I think it's just saying the number of fish per species...like for a 5 gal. 2 platies or 3 zebra danios or 2 cherry barbs or 1 Cory cat. Does that sound better? <Possibly; if the book was suggesting allow 5 gallons per Corydoras or two platies, that might make sense. But without reading the book myself, I'll hold fire on being too critical.> As for the tank...I tested it last night and it was more like 2.4 ammonium. I heard adding rocks from another established tank may help, so I did do that, but I'm guessing with it being so high it'll just kill the bacteria anyway. <Hmm... doesn't really work this way. The bacteria will come into their own in time. They are in the air and water as spores of some sort, and once the aquarium is filled with water the bacteria settle and multiply. Simple as that. Adding rocks doesn't make a huge difference. Most of the bacteria in an aquarium are in the filter media. So "seeding" the tank with filter media from another tank helps dramatically, to the point where the tank matures essentially instantly if you add enough mature media. But adding rocks and water from an established don't have much impact.> Just tested the tap, and it's somewhere between .6 and 1.2...not good. <Indeed. Do check whether you're adding the right kind of dechlorinator. Water suppliers use chlorine and/or chloramine. To get to the science, old-style dechlorinator neutralises the chlorine, I think using a thiosulphate salt. This is fine for water sterilised with just chlorine. If the supplier uses chloramine instead (or as well as) then the thiosulphate splits the chloramine and neutralises the liberated chlorine but leaves the remaining ammonia in the water. The other source of ammonia in water is contamination. Some water gets ammonia in it from agricultural run-off, for example. Ammonia neutraliser will need to be used to eliminate this before adding it to the tank. Ammonia is incredibly toxic, and over the medium term even low levels will dramatically increase the risk of sickness even with hardy fish like Platies.> I did get some ammonia neutralizer, added it last night, and that seemed to bring it back down this morning, so I imagine that I'll just keep doing that until I can get my ammonia down. <Agreed. Ammonia is a deadly toxin, and needs to be treated as such.> As for water changes, I suppose that I'll have to add some of this ammonia neutralizer along with the conditioner before I do them. <Yes.> I haven't added any fish food, just water and decor, so I suspect it's my lovely hillbilly water. Can/should I double the recommended dosage of the ammonia neutralizer? <Add until you get zero ammonia; excess neutraliser and/or dechlorinator is FAR LESS of a risk to life than ammonia.> Do you have any recommendations for the conditioner? I used TetraAqua AquaSafe with BioExtract. Does that leave me with a heap of ammonia? <Hmm... I'd tend to go with either AmQuel or AmmoLock in situations like this. In theory, you could also treat the water by filtering it through Zeolite before using it in the aquarium, but that'd probably be a lot of hard work.> Also, how do you feel about bio-Spira? <Used properly it CAN work very well. But it isn't 100% reliable, so if you do choose to use the stuff, follow precisely as indicated on the package, and then do water tests every couple of days across the next few weeks to make sure it has worked properly and there's no massive ammonia or nitrite spike after introducing the fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Question... cycling   12/24/07 Got some bio-Spira last night and put it in around 11. <Very good.> By 4 today, I actually have readable nitrites! I suppose that means it's working, because before I had no nitrites at all. <Indeed! This is how it works...> Ammonium is still high. It went back up with the water changes, like I suspected. I'm afraid now to use the ammonia neutralizer because the bio package said that some ammonia neutralizers work against it. <I do see the logic here. The filter bacteria do indeed need some ammonia. HOWEVER, if you remove the ammonia from each new batch of water (so that if you test the new water, the ammonia is zero) and THEN add it to the aquarium, things will be fine. Just add fish food or a small (1 cm) piece of seafood; as this decays, it will produce enough ammonia to keep the bacteria in their happy place. In a properly matured aquarium the fish produce the necessary ammonia; you don't need any from the tap water!> Frankly, I was afraid to add it, but since I see the nitrites I assume something is going good. I'll keep you posted, thanks for the help! <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Fish Question   12/25/07 It would be an act of God for me to have 0 ammonia with my tap. When I did the water change, the new water was reading at .3. And like you said, if I ever need ammonia, fish and their food will take care of that. <That's the theory anyway. But I have to confess to never having used Bio Spira. In any case, I'd worry much more about reducing the ammonia than anything else: ammonia is deadly to fish, and there's no advantages to leaving it in the water.> However, I read the bio-Spira as it saying the ammonia reducing chemicals will kill the bacteria. But if it's just the reduced ammonia, then I'll be fine there. <That would be my thinking, too.>

Re: Fish Question... newbie, FW... heater... needs to read a complete tome    12/25/07 also, it has been suggested that I set up a bucket and use a zeolite filter in it with a heater along with the ammonia neutralizer 48 hours before water changes. What is your take on that? <Certainly worth a shot. Best try it out and see what happens. So long as you get zero ammonia in the new water before adding it to the tank, it doesn't matter how you do it!> Also, my tank has kept a steady 78-80 with no heater. The light gets pretty warm, so I think that's what it is. If it fluctuates, should I get a heater? <Hmm... try and figure the minimum temperature. If the tank fluctuates between 80F in the daytime and, say, 68F at night, that's fine for most community fish. It is, after all, what happens in the wild. Only a relatively few freshwater fish need very constant temperatures.> If I do get a heater, how do I keep it from getting too hot? The reason I ask is because we have kept the tank under a towel this whole time to keep it a secret from my 2 year old, so something is telling me that now the towel is off, it won't stay warm, however, 80 is up there, so I can't see it going below 75, because I keep my house around that. <Get a heater. Heaters automatically switch on and off. While shopping for heaters, you'll see heaters are rated for tanks of certain sizes. Avoid getting a heater too big or too small for the tank you have, or you may have problems. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Question... heater... chatting... now pH...  12/25/07 oh, wow. I heard that if the temp fluctuates more than a degree, it's bad. <Depends on the fish. Things like Corydoras and Danios positively enjoy moderate changes in temperature, and can be kept outdoors in places like England during the summer. Other fish, such as Angels and Discus, need much more consistent temperatures.> I will keep a close eye on the temp for sure. It has never been below 77. If I have a problem, a heater huntin I will go! <OK.> Nitrites are testing at 1, while ammonia is somewhere between .3-.6. Are fish ok to add? <No, far too much of both.> I also tested the pH and that's not even readable on the chart. <Obviously not good. Do check you are using it properly. Most community fish want a pH between 6 and 8, though some fish, particularly the livebearers (Guppies, Platies, etc.) MUST have a pH above 7.0, and ideally 7.5 upwards. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Question... a referral in time saves Bob's mind...  12/25/07 I know that the pH is way up, at least 7.6 because it's light blue on the chart and that's the color I got. Platies should be happy eventually... <Yes, pH 7.6 is good for Platies. But besides the absolute value, what also matters is the pH stability. You want the pH to fix at 7.6 day in, day out. If it bounces about between each water change, then you have a problem. Very small tanks (10 gallons and less) in particular are very prone to this problem, which is one of about a million reasons why they are bad choices for beginners. Cheers, Neale.>

Filtration help... FW set up Qs, learning to read/use WWM   12/18/07 Hi there, first I just want to say how much I appreciate the staff there who run this site and answer questions so fast. you guys are great and have helped me so much with my learning process, keep it up! Now, I have an established 10 gallon tank and am wanting to setup my 30 gallon and 5 gallon tanks (haha Multiple tank syndrome!). The 10 g has a small AquaClear filter on it currently. Yesterday I added the large AquaClear filter and a small sponge filter to the 10g to try to get the media colonized with bacteria. My questions are: How long do I have to leave the new filters on the established tank for it to be colonized so that its good to go on the new tanks? <Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above> I would like to get this on my new tank as fast as possible so I can put Bolivian rams in it...(long story I know they should be put in last, but where I live they never usually come here and they have been sitting in the store for 3 weeks and I wanted to get them before someone else snags them). <Can be "goosed"...> Also there is much happening in my 10g right now, with all the bubbles and movement, 1 of my baby panda cories got sucked into the uptake tube last night (I was sooooooo sad/mad...I'm getting so attached to them!) and it died. I feel terrible that it must have died a slow and painful death. The other fish (3 baby pandas, 4 tetras, 2 harlequins) don't look too happy right now, I had to change around the decor a lot..I just put nylon to cover the large filters uptake tube but will this interfere with the colonization process? <No> Is it possible to have TOO much oxygen or movement in a tank? <Not practically> Also the sponge filtration unit is meant to eventually go on a 5 gallon with a Betta, it seems quite noisy and bubbly.. will the Betta be ok with it? <Likely so> What I did was I tied 2 knots into the tubing to slow the rate of air coming out of the pump, will this wreck the pump due to backflow? <Back pressure? Perhaps shorten its effective "life"> Finally my last set of questions...I bought a bunch of driftwood to put into each tank.. about 1-2 pieces each.. I bought them to soften the water a bit since water is very hard here. I don't want to boil them because I want them to leach tannins, is this ok, can I just soak them? <Can> How long should I soak the pieces for? <Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm and the linked...> Is there such thing as too much driftwood? <Yes> I don't know my water hardness but I know its very hard. How long will it take for the tannin levels to be established...what I mean is do I have to constantly monitor pH, or say after 1 month that pH that its at it will stay there? <See WWM re FW pH...> Sorry I hope it makes sense. I take out the carbon to have the tannins in the water, is this correct or do I leave the carbon in? thank you so much! <Read on... RMF>

Beginner needs help, FW... set-up... pH    11/08/07 I have been reading for days on your site. I appreciate all the information, but have been unable to understand what is going on with my tank. <Fire away!> I have a small 10 gallon freshwater tank. <Ah, too small for beginners in my honest opinion. Small tanks are unstable and problems spiral out of control very quickly. Advice to other beginners: start off with a 20 gallon tank if you want an "easy ride".> I was using distilled water and had plastic plants with tetras and a guppy. <Why? Distilled water is completely unsuitable for aquarium fish or indeed any living creature. Tap water is much the best for beginners, though dechlorinated of course before use.> We kept the tank for about 6 months with no problems. Our guppy just died one day. <Surprised it took that long...> We decided we wanted to have some ghost shrimp, an algae eater some live plants. The ghost shrimp died right away. <Not a surprise at all].> We now understand they are not that hardy. We were told our water was soft when they tested it at the pet store. they thought we could use tap water in our area with some aquarium salt and prime. <Sheesh. Pet store advice strikes back. Please, over the next few days remove a portion (20%) of the water in your tank and replace with dechlorinated tap water. Do not add salt. If your local tap water is soft and acidic, then don't keep fish that need hard and alkaline water (such as guppies). Stick with genuine soft water fish, such as tetras.> Our ph seems to stay around 7.4 no matter what we do. <That's a fine pH for most fish. And a stable pH is a GOOD thing.> We added some sea shells as told to. <Why?> We drain and add every week and a half to two weeks. We have been doing about the 20%. <Change 50% per week. This is the cheapest and easiest way to keep a happy collection of fish. Few problems can't be solved by dilution.> Our tank looks beautiful, water looks clear, we ended up with 2 snails on the plants. <Water clarity is irrelevant in keeping fish. You can have clear water that kills fish overnight, because ammonia (for example) is invisible. By contrast the water most fish live in looks like milky coffee and yet they (obviously) thrive.> the water was running a little warm (80-82 degrees) but we changed our incandescent bulbs out for the fluorescent. <Good. Very few fish like water this warm, and some will have dramatically shorter lives when kept thus. Aim for 25C/77F; no higher.> There are some very strange tiny hair like, things for lack of a better word, on the glass of the tank. They are tiny, barely can see them attached with one piece with like three hair like things off them. <If static and whitish, that's mould or bacteria. If static and green, it's algae. If mobile and whitish, then nematodes. Not problematic in themselves, but potential clues to other issues.> Also we have sand in our tank instead of gravel. <Sand is fine, just keep it clean.> Do you have any advice for us? <Read an aquarium book or this web site. Relying on local fish store advice can be tricky. Shops want to sell you stuff, and largely don't care if your fish live 6 weeks or 6 years, so long as you come back and buy more fish and other products. Educating yourself is the key to solving your own problems, and using your pet store as a resource for essential purchases.> What do you think these little things are? Also, one of my tetras looks a little stressed. His stripe does not look right like he has faded. <Fish do lose colour when stress. Water quality, water chemistry, diet, bullying can all be factors. Need more data.> I am worried I have done something wrong. I did notice you said in many articles not to overfeed. Our fish eat all the food at the top of the water when we feed. We are very careful about that. <Very good.> Is my ph really messed up for another reason? <A pH above 7.0 can be caused by two main things. One is good: calcium carbonate in the water. This raises the carbonate hardness (measured with a KH test kit). Guppies and other livebearers love carbonate hardness, and carbonate hardness also buffers the pH in the tank, keeping it steady. The bad source of a pH above 7.0 is ammonia. So test for ammonia (or have the pet store do it for you). Ammonia is a severe poison.> Does the sand really mess up our tank? <No. But not all sand is equally good. Some sand is calcareous (e.g., coral sand) and will raise carbonate hardness and pH; other sand is non-calcareous (e.g., silica sand) and has no effect on water chemistry.> It seems like with plants we are reading a lot about gravel. <Depends on the plants. Non-rooted plants like Java fern and Anubias couldn't care less, and actually get unhappy (die) if stuck in the sand or gravel at all. Most plants prefer sand to gravel, because the slightly anaerobic conditions in the sand shift mineral ions into their reduced (as opposed to oxidised) states, making them easier to absorb. By itself, plain gravel or plain sand aren't really suitable for growing plants anyway, no more than land plants would grow if you stuck them in a flower pot filled with gravel or sand. To get good plant growth, you need to augment the substrate with something else, like aquarium soil or laterite, that contains minerals like iron.> Thanks for all your help. L <Hope this helps, Neale>  

Non Planted FW aquarium.  10/20/07 Hi Neale! <Hello Bryan,> Once again I am need of more sage advise... my girlfriend just got back from a family trip back east, about halfway through the trip she told me that she had found something that we could "do together" and was bringing it home with her. when she got home she presented me with a book called "Aquarium Style" by Matthew Christian. which surprised me, because to this point the only thing she has ever said about my hobby is "You got another _____ing fish tank!? are you out of your mind!?" <Ah, I do know this book. Not sure what to make of it. On the one hand, a book demonstrating all the different ways a freshwater aquarium can be put together is a brilliant idea. And the ideas given (while not all to my taste!) are certainly interesting and attractive. But on the other hand, some of the tank ideas seem to me to be flawed. The author seems to make no account of things like social behaviour, adult size, stocking levels, etc. So while the tanks *look* great, I'm not sure that in the long term, the fish populations used are appropriate.> The book itself is interesting, and quite a bit different than the usual book that I would read, it is very heavy on visuals and doesn't bog the reader down with long texts and big Latin words (my usual preference) it is no doubt designed to capture the interest of beginners and bring them into the hobby by showing 30 or so "themed" tank designs (some very practical and sustainable, others not so much... unfortunately she has taken a shining to the later) unfortunately there are some pretty big red flags if one reads the text... from describing live plants as "good if you want a natural look or to give your fish a place to hide" to recommending 15-20 tiger Oscars for a "medium sized tank" and suggested stocking levels that border on obscene for all of the tanks... <Exactly my sort of concern.> but the aquascapes presented are all captivating and well thought out, even if some of them probably crashed within days (or hours) of the photos being taken... anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now and get to the heart of my question. As I said before, this is the most interest she has ever taken in my hobby and I don't want her to lose that interest by telling her that the tanks she thinks are so pretty are destined to be an algae infested nightmares that will crash and burn within weeks. <Understood.> I want to break down my 29 gallon and give it to her to do whatever strikes her fancy with, but I also want to make sure that her first fish don't end up floating... the tank she has picked out has a really interesting concept, and I can see how it would catch her interest, the photos are very striking, it is titled "crystal cave" and features an assortment of geodes, crystals, and broken glass tumbled smooth as the substrate. <Hmm... no, in the long term these tanks don't work. A bright purple geode now looks like a green-brown lump after a few months. The sharp edges are terrible for bottom dwelling fish, and unless you're a skilled geologist, oddball rocks can be a potential source of dangerous metals like copper.> I'm sure that properly done it could be a great system, but I am having a hard time figuring out how to maintain it and keep algae off of the crystals and the system in balance long term... I don't think she is going to be interested in snails (and at this point neither am I, due to the previous snail infestation issue... by the way, the DIY snail trap has been more successful in the past few days, I think I am starting to get the outbreak under control...) <Good!> and although I will sand all of the sharp edges I still don't think this tank will be suitable for cories, otos or algae eating shrimp either. <Indeed.> as I said, I am probably going to use the 29 gallon planted tank, obviously the lights are going to have to devolve, as PC's on a non planted tank are going to give me pea soup... <Not so. In dimly lit tanks, you get brown algae and to a lesser extent blue-green algae; in brightly lit tanks, the algae you get is green algae. Brown and blue-green algae is difficult to control biologically, but lots of animals eat green algae, so it's much easier to keep in check using shrimps, Nerite snails (which don't breed in tanks), Otocinclus, etc.> I am thinking of using only LED "moonlights" which I think may have an interesting effect on the crystals, any idea of how fish will react to only LED illumination? should I throw in a really low output t12 for a more traditional light cycle? <Fish don't generally care either way about lighting. Most prefer shady conditions if given the choice, but adapt to the relatively bright lighting in some aquaria easily. In other words, do what you want. Within reason, the fish will be fine, particularly if there are shady areas for them to hide in should they want.> Also I will probably continue to use the Penguin BioWheel 330 that is on the tank know, I know it is way overkill for a 29 gallon, but if the system is going to be "un-planted" I think its going to be necessary. <Not a problem.> she has taken a liking to Angels and Gouramis, and if we stocked 1 pair of one of these how many other smaller fish (maybe cardinals, glowlights, rasboras, etc.) would be safe in a system like this? <Angels can/do view small fish the size of Neons as food, so choose tankmates with care.> also any ideas for algae control besides regular water changes? (I already do 10-15 gallons weekly) <Plants are the only algae control that works. Everything else boils down to some sort of manual control.> I'd appreciate any advise that you might have on keeping non planted systems stable, honestly I got into the hobby skipping the usual first steps of fake plants, pink gravel, and burping clams and dove right into planted tanks, so I have no practical experience with these kind of systems, hopefully I can get her interest into planted tanks soon, but for know this is a good first step! <Un-planted tanks are easy, and present few problems. The main thing is to ensure what you use a decor is explicitly aquarium-safe. While there's nothing to stop you raiding a garden centre for interesting rocks and substrates, you do need to make sure said materials are safe. Rather than geodes and fossils, which are a waste in the long term, going with attractive and demonstrably safe rocks is a much better way forward. Pink and silver granite, for example, looks spectacular in aquaria, and is completely safe. It also helps to choose colours sensibly; light-coloured gravels, or funky blue or red gravels, tend to make the fish *less* colourful. Fish adjust their colours to their surroundings. The best colours are almost always where the sand is black or brown. If you want bright sand and colourful rocks -- keep a rock garden! But if you want your fish to look nice, choose natural-looking rocks and sand, so the fish settle in better. One book I might recommend is called "The Complete Aquarium" by Peter Scott. I mention this book because it has a similar format to the one you have, but the tanks are *much* more carefully thought out, and all are based on some sort of biotope. As well as freshwater set-ups there are nice brackish and marine ones too. Anyway, the reason I mention this book is that at Amazon it's going for the princely sum of $2.46, so won't break the bank! I think as a supplement to what your g/f is trying to do, you'll find it a good read.> Thanks, Bryan <Hope this helps, Neale>

Re: Non Planted FW aquarium. -- 11/20/07 Hi Neale! <Bryan,> I took your advice and ordered "the complete aquarium" and man was it $2.50 well spent! I also picked up a few other books for a buck each and now I have a pretty decent little library for under 20 bucks! I am going to be trolling Amazon from now on when it comes time to buy a new book, thanks again for pointing me in the right direction! <It's a neat book. Slightly old-fashioned, but the aquaria demonstrated are wonderfully done and very inspirational.> Anyway, the girlfriend has been fully bitten now... which is a good news bad/news situation... good news is she is getting into planted tanks, bad news: she likes oddballs... puffers, four-eyed fish, crabs... and paludariums. I've been itching to try a paludarium for a while so this is a good thing, but the only tank I have available for use is a 29G standard... which no matter which way I try to slice it I cant figure out how to get more than about 10-12 gallons of water into a paludarium setup, and I am not looking forward to trying to keep 10 gallons of brackish water stable... anyway she thinks the little "red clawed Thai crabs" in 'Aquarium Style' are cute. <That tank would be fine for a small paludarium, especially if you used a lot of wood to create the above-the-water scenery. There is a small species of mudskipper on sale, nominally referred to as Periophthalmus novemradiatus but this identity is uncertain. It usually goes by the name of Indian or Dwarf Mudskipper. Maximum size is around 10 cm, though 5-6 cm is typical in aquaria. It has a reddish dorsal fin rather than blue, but is very pretty and not too aggressive. Mudskippers work best either singly or in large groups, where numbers prevents too much damage through fighting. In any case, these fish do supremely well in aquaria, and far better than things like the West African Mudskipper, Periophthalmus barbarus, a singularly nasty and aggressive (as well as big) species that was the most common species in the trade hitherto.> I have no idea what they are and the only guesses I can make are (1) they probably prefer brackish water, and (2) they will probably eat anything they can catch... <Yes and yes. They are Perisesarma bidens. Relatively easy to keep, and some hobbyists have even bred them! Not to be mixed with fish for precisely the reasons you give. Although not fish-eaters in the wild (like most land crabs they eat fruit and detritus) in the confines of an aquarium, sooner or later they nip and/or kill small fish kept with them.> I doubt that I will be able to keep much with them in a freshwater tank... (if they'll even survive in a FW tank) in a brackish setup what could I keep with them? <Nothing. Enjoy them for what they are: entertaining little critters! By all means add brackish water snails if you want. Things like Nerites do a reasonable job of algae-control, and Malayan livebearing snails make ideal salt-tolerant scavengers that keep sand spotlessly clean.> Puffers should be able to look out for themselves and four-eyed fish occupy a different niche so they would probably be ok right? <No and no. Puffers will simply take the crabs apart if they are big enough, and if they are too small, the crabs could catch the puffers. Anableps need a peculiar sort of tank all their own. Basically a long tank, half-filled with water, with a "table" in the middle onto which they can rest with their eyes poking out. In anything else, their longevity tends to be unimpressive, and they usually fare poorly mixed with other species except maybe things like Mollies and Guppies.> What about dragon gobies and/or mollies? <I wouldn't mix any fish with red-claw crabs. Fiddler crabs are often fine with fish, since they're almost pure detritus feeders and have little instinct to catch prey. But red-claws are opportunists and will have a go at anything.> And if I go with FW what about land hermit crabs? Are they a danger to fish and is there a danger to them drowning in a paludarium? <Can work very well in paludaria, but terrestrial hermit crabs easily drown. They would need a tank with a very gentle slope so they could crawl in and out of the water easily. Not all species are brackish water animals. Also, they are 99% terrestrial, and only bathe to moisten their gills and to breed. For a generic brackish water aquarium, two fully-aquatic hermits are better choices: between SG 1.010 and marine, go with the commonly-sold reef hermit Clibanarius tricolor, and below SG 1.010 Clibanarius africanus works well. Neither of these poses much threat to fish, and both are hardy. Clibanarius africanus is, unfortunately, rather rare. Clibanarius tricolor on the other hand is cheap and easy to find (sold as the "blue-legged hermit" to marine aquarists) and does well in mid to high salinity systems with monos, scats, etc.> I am trying to find a way to incorporate something different (and no matter how hard I try she just doesn't think cardonica shrimp are interesting...) but still keep a stable ecosystem, <Amano shrimps aren't my thing, but there are some great alternatives. Cherry shrimps are lovely because they breed so readily, and will turn any aquarium into a veritable reef tank given the chance, literally crawling with shrimps of all sizes. Long-arm shrimps are also amazing animals. These are Macrobrachium spp., and a variety of species are now traded. Macrobrachium rosenbergii is the best/worst depending on your point of view; at about 15 cm in body length but with claws that are at least as long again, this is seriously impressive animal that will make hardened cichlid keepers break down and weep. It is also fun to watch and can be easily hand-trained. On the flip side, it is territorial and a confirmed fish-eater in aquaria. There are, thankfully, many smaller species such as Macrobrachium sp. "Rusty" and Macrobrachium "Red Claw" that are smaller and easier to keep. Some will form stable harems (one male, multiple females) and breed readily in the aquarium. They can be easily sexed: males have bigger claws, often with coloured bands on them.> an oddball brackish tank is very intriguing to me, maybe 2 four-eyed fish, 1 small puffer, 1 dragon goby 3-5 crabs, maybe a trio of same sex mollies? This is likely too much for 10-12 gallons of brackish water right? <Yes, too much and the wrong stuff.> If I do go with a FW setup are there any land dwellers you could suggest that would fit in with your more standard aquarium fare? <Nothing commonly traded. The problem for fishkeepers is that the bulk of freshwater invertebrates are insects, and these don't make good pets for a variety of reasons. Brackish water habitats are the prime places to see amphibious fish and crustaceans, and to some extent molluscs as well.> She likes Killies, Gouramis, and the more colorful Cory's too, so we could probably put together a FW setup she likes, I'm up for pretty much anything, and if I had the space I'd have about a dozen tanks and I would be trying everything I've mentioned above, I'm just looking for a nudge in the right direction considering the set-up I have to work with and the critters that are grabbing her attention. <Hmm... if she likes "critters", then arguably a marine system is the best option. If you forego light-sensitive things like corals, and don't keep any fish, maintaining a basic live rock plus shrimps, snails and small echinoderms tank isn't all that hard or expensive. In terms of brackish water, fiddler crabs and Mudskippers are a classic combo, though not without some amount of work to get right. Amphibious crabs can be superb pets, but in my opinion they are best kept alone.> Thanks again for all the help! ~Bryan <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Non Planted FW aquarium. 11/30/07 Hi Neale, <Bryan,> Well the tank is done, it turned out great (I'll send a picture as soon as the water is in it and the plants are planted) I picked up a lot of 20 Red Mangroves off of EBay, it only cost 15 bucks including shipping! <A sweet deal! Do read Anthony Calfo's great primer on mangrove husbandry in aquaria, here -- http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mangrovetrees.htm .> Anyway, it is time to add the water and get the tank cycling, the problem is I cant find any info on the Sg requirements of the fish I plan to keep: Dwarf Mudskippers, Endler's livebearers, and Fiddler Crabs. do you have a suggestion for a good happy medium of salinity for this group? <Anything from SG 1.005 upwards to SG 1.015 will be fine.> I am thinking of maybe adding some of the blue-legged hermit crabs that you said could tolerate 1.010 and up, would the mudskippers, fiddlers and Endler's do good in 1.012-1.015? <Yep, they'll be fine. HOWEVER, Guppies need to be acclimated very carefully, especially "fancy" varieties (there's a scientific paper about how fancy guppies are less able to thrive in seawater than wild/feeder/cross-breed guppies -- a clue to the fact selecting for colours and finnage doesn't always benefit livestock in terms of physiology). If you can, set the tank to SG 1.005 first, introduce the livestock, and let it run for a few weeks at that. After a couple months, gradually raise the SG a bit at a time until you get to SG 1.010 after, say, two to three months. This will bring along the filter bacteria and the fish perfectly well. Mudskippers and Fiddler crabs can tolerant virtually instant salinity changes, but Guppies not so much and filter bacteria not at all. There's also some reports than mangroves don't always like sudden salinity changes. Presumably this isn't the case in the wild, where mangroves surely experience salinity changes, but in captivity at least they don't like dramatic salinity changes.> also, are there any corals that I could keep in that range of brackish water? <Not really. If there are any corals that naturally inhabit mid salinity brackish water I'm not aware of them. The problem is that variable salinity environments tend to be silty, which is what corals don't like. Instead, brackish water habitats are the realm of scavengers able to process the vast amounts of organic detritus that wash out of rivers. So you have lots of bivalves, crabs, shrimps, polychaetes, etc. Lots of snails (Nerites, predominately) are in the trade if you can identify them properly. Someone wrote me recently that they obtained some brackish water ragworms, Namalycastis senegalensis, on eBay. Others have kept Actinia equina in high-end brackish systems but I suspect for long term care these need fairly high salinities. A store near my home has Asian mangrove horseshoe crabs, Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda, and these do very well in (large) mid-salinity systems provided they get enough to eat. So there is scope for adding inverts to brackish systems. Just not corals!> Thanks again! Bryan <Cheers, Neale>

Freshwater tank set up.  10/11/07 Hello all. I have tried to get an answer but have failed so far so am having to ask. I have a 500ltr marine tank with about a 50 ltr sump. I want to convert back to freshwater and am wondering are sump tanks suitable for freshwater. All the previous freshwater tanks had canister filters. <Yes, you can use a sump on a freshwater tank. One type of (advanced) freshwater aquarium uses the sump as a 'vegetable filter' by stocking it with fast-growing algae or plants to remove nitrogenous waste. Can work extremely well. But even as a plain sump, it adds volume to the tank and can be used to suspend things like bags of granulated peat, calcareous filtration material, or whatever.> Are there any precautions I should take apart from fully flushing tank and components. <No, it'll be fine. Even the trace salt left in the filter pump or wherever will be dilute so profoundly that it will have zero effect on water chemistry. Been there, done this.> Can the live rock be used in a freshwater tank as have A LOT and don't want to scrap it or get a pittance from the LFS. <Yes, live rock can be used, but obviously it will die. The dead stuff will contribute massively to the ammonia levels in the aquarium, at least for the first few months while it rots away. Some people have had marginal success with live rock in high-end brackish systems, finding that some of the crustaceans and worms adapted to the reduced salinity. But below SG 1.018, you can't realistically expect the live rock to remain alive. If I were you, I'd either trade the rock in or share with some other marine aquarist. It's just too valuable to reduce to mere aggregate in a freshwater tank, in my opinion.> Any other tips gratefully received. <A 500 litre tank is a wonderful canvas to work with, but do spend some time looking at the options. The freshwater side of fishkeeping is very diverse, and for the advanced hobbyist things like Tanganyikan cichlid communities or Blackwater stream communities can be challenging but very rewarding projects.> Many thanks Paul <Good luck, Neale>

WetWebMedia can save lives, FW gen. set-up, cycling   7/19/07 Hello all <Howdy> Oh where to start, first, I must apologize for being an impulse buyer and not doing research before I purchased fish, <A very large club indeed... to join, not to bonk you on the head with> I got them from Wal-Mart sin #2)and knew nothing of cycling tanks or proper spacing for fish. <You're obviously learning...> Needless to say I have naively ended the life of some of my fish, but I am hoping to redeem myself; I have acquired a 35 gallon tank and trying to get it ready fast so I can end the suffering of my remaining fish the happy way. It is lit, heated, filtered, aerated, and currently housing 4 round-bellied mollies and a few fries <Yummy with malt vinegar!> born today, I am trying to cycle it properly but I am partially dyslexic and it is hard for me to do research <... fight that gradient...> so I figured I'd ask the pros. So here are it goes, is there a such thing as too much aeration? <Mmm, can be... but practically speaking in a freshwater system, no> In what way should I cycle a tank? For how long should I cycle a tank before adding my poor fish? How do I test my water? <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above...> What is the proper procedure for changing water from start to finish? <Mmm, during cycling or regular water changes: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2ochgs.htm> So far I have added some water from my existing tank to the new water which I filled and dechlorinated, it has been running for two and a half days so far. I think I read somewhere that when cycling you should change water frequently so I have done a 25% water change daily, <Mmm, I would monitor aspects of nitrogen cycling (ammonia...) and NOT change this much water this frequently... see the above citation> the mollies are doing fine but I don't think that means a lot. <Au contraire... their apparent health is the best arbiter...> I have not tested my water yet, per my question above. Thank you in advance for your help and once again please forgive me, for I was naive, not ignorant if I had known of my wrong-doings I would have acted differently. Sincerely Tom <Press on Tom, and enjoy the process... You're doing better all the time. Bob Fenner>

10 Gallon Aquarium Setup  -- 5/30/07 Hello! <<Hi, Jess. Tom here.>> I currently have a 10 gallon aquarium set up in my room for decorative purposes. I use a Top Fin BioFilter (meant for 10 gallon tanks), a heater (which isn't used during the summer since the water temperature stays a constant 73-74 degrees), and a floating thermometer. For decoration I have a small white (silk) plant and a Greek Column which hides the oxygen stone. <<Sounds nice, Jess.>> The tank itself has been up and running for about a month. I read somewhere that it takes about a month for the water in a tank to cycle through properly, so I originally had two mollies (silver and Dalmatian) to help get the needed bacteria and help the tank itself cycle through. <<Jess, just FYI, using fish to cycle aquariums is pretty much 'old school' thinking nowadays. There are faster and safer -- for the fish -- methods that can/should be used. Look into "fishless" cycling just for kicks.>> I have given my two mollies to a close friend who is beginning a 20 gallon tank and after a week with no fish, I now have 2 Neon Sunburst Moons (Kiwi and Peaches) and 2 Jumbo Cardinal Tetras (The Twins). I was wondering what other types (and how many) fish I could put into the aquarium that wouldn't be too aggressive and maybe schooled since each of the species I have now tend to stick together and stay on opposite sides of the tank). <<You could do worse than go with a few (three) of any of the Corydoras species. Great little fish and would fit nicely in your ten-gallon tank. They'll occupy the bottom region, for the most part, which will be beneficial in a smaller tank. I wouldn't go much further than this, though. Small aquariums can 'get away from you' if you're not careful. Best not to give in to the temptation to load your tank up. Just another piece of 'useless' trivia now. Schooling among fish is a survival mechanism. Fish that 'naturally' school may, and often do, stop the behavior in the absence of predators. (Just a little sidenote for you to tuck away for when you get a larger tank. :) )>> My nitrite and ammonia levels are perfect and my pH has been a stable 7.0. <<You've been testing! Well done!>> (Sorry that was so long...just didn't want to leave out any details.) <<I'm glad you didn't and, thanks for that.>> Also, I currently have a Betta Fish (Squiggles) in a 5 gallon tank. It is properly heated and filtered, with some live plants to help maintain the water quality. I was wondering, would the Betta feel uncomfortable in my unused 10 gallon tank by itself so I could use the 5 gallon tank as an emergency hospital tank? Or, would he be more than happy to move into a new and bigger home? <<A ten-gallon tank would be just about spot-on perfect for your Betta, Jess, but I'd rather see you keep him in the five-gallon tank and use the ten-gallon tank for a hospital/quarantine tank. He'll be just fine in a five-gallon aquarium and the larger tank would be better, in my opinion, for treating/quarantining fish should the need arise.>> Thanks! Jess <<You're doing well, Jess. Keep up the good work! Tom>>

Purchasing a Freshwater Aquarium with all the Necessary Components    5/15/07 Please Help!!! <Is what we do> I would like to purchase a 40 - 50 gal. aquarium along with the necessary components for my 10 and 7 year old kids (and myself) to enjoy.  We have agreed on the freshwater fish community, which will consist of  central and south American cichlids, African cichlids, <Stop! Not a good idea to mix Cichlids from the old/new world in general> angel fish, sharks and cats. <Many choices....> I have been to the chain pet stores and a few boutique stores in my area.  All are pushing different advice on the both the list of products that I need as well as the specs and manufacturers. I'm feeling overwhelmed. I do not want to get taken to the cleaners by over-buying as well as under buying the right equipment that will reduce the maintenance required. Please help me understand the list of items and maybe manufacturers and ratings/specs on the equipment that I need to provide my family an enjoyable first aquarium experience. I don't mind paying for quality products that will work and last, I do not want to be oversold and by contrast, I'm suspicious of the quality and specs on some of the so called "kit or packaged" equipment that's being shoved my way. <Most, well, all of this I would avoid... for reasons you obviously know> I don't want to buy inferior or underpowered products that will wind up costing me more in the long run. Please help me if you can. Sincerely, Frustrated in the Tank <Well... you need to re-think your stocking list... and what you ask is already laid out on WWM... by subweb, in the indices (topics are introduced in logical order... top to bottom). http://www.wetwebmedia.com/index.html However, unlike books, the Net is often hard to "follow" in its ease of "skipping about"... I do encourage you to slow down here, take your children to the library and check out a few beginner freshwater books on the subject. Look for the rather new one by David Boruchowitz (here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Freshwater-Aquariums-Animal-Planet-Library/dp/079383760X/ref=sr_1_9/103-2945648-4573462?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1179245037&sr=8-9 and READ this to/with your children (am a huge fan of this activity/process)... And do feel free to peruse WWM, write back re specific issues/products... As a "starting point" in this important project, I do feel/think it is imminently important to rally the troops (all of you), gather data, and come to a consensus re what your choices are... Bob Fenner>

Getting Started, FW sys. ... Teach your children/parents well...   4/2/07 Hi, <Hello.> You must be tired been asked the same question over and over again, this will be different I feel. I have been badgered from my 3 children to get a fish tank, the thing is they want coral rocks and fish similar to those in the finding Nemo movie. The questions that immediately spring to mind are. <Glen, please don't buy an aquarium because your children are badgering you to. Fish aren't ornaments and they aren't disposable. Children want things one day, and forget about them the next. Keeping animals is a responsibility. Talk it over with your children first: Will they clean the tank once a week? Will they medicate the fish if they get sick? Will they buy the food and other things needed to keep the tank healthy? If the answers to any of these are No, then buy them some pet rocks or something.> * What size tank would be best? <The bigger the tank, the easier it is to maintain. Personally, I'd recommend anyone starting with fish to buy a *freshwater* tank around 20-40 gallons in size.> * What are the best and easiest fish to care for? <Certainly not corals and anemonefish (which is what Nemo was). Goldfish aren't that easy, either. Reliable first fish include zebra danios, peppered or bronze catfish, x-ray tetras, and thick-lipped gouramis. While other fish are often sold to beginners, many of these have flaws. Blue gouramis can be territorial, dwarf gouramis are sickly, angelfish are big and sometimes aggressive, Neons tend to be disease-prone these days, guppies are flimsy, mollies do best in brackish water, etc.> * Do you have a starters guide <There are lots. Please visit the web site -- http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ -- and just browse through, particularly the Starting and Set Up guides.> *  Is it best to run the tank without any fish for a period to clean the coral etc <You're muddling up lots of concepts here. Yes, cycling a tank without fish is a good idea, but to mature the filter rather than clean anything. Please read over the site and when you're done, go buy a book, sit down, read, and then explain to the kids.> Any info would be of great help, as you will have gathered I am in at the deep end, and they will not back down. Please help <Not for me to teach parenting skills, but surely if the kids want something, it's up to the parent to teach the responsibility that goes with having a pet. If a child breaks a toy, that's one thing, but if a child allows a fish to die through neglect, that's something else entirely. Fishkeeping is a great family hobby, and a wonderful way to teach some basic biology as well as responsibility. But it sounds to me like this is something the kids want, not you. How about playing turnaround here. Figure out what your skills and budget are, and then figure out which sorts of fish (if any) match that. Marines are difficult to keep, corals even more so, and marine aquaria are very expensive and time consuming to keep. Maybe visit your local marine aquarium shop (on a quiet day) and chat with the proprietor. Get an idea of what's involved. Yes, it's worth the investment -- a marine aquarium is amazing. But it isn't the ideal aquarium for everyone. For absolute beginners, keeping a freshwater community tank can be a cheaper and much more reliable option. Tiger barbs and clown loaches both have Nemo-like colours, and the barbs at least aren't difficult to keep (though fin nippers, so choose tank mates with care).> Glen <Cheers, Neale>

Just Starting Out 1/17/07 Hello, <Hi> Your website is amazing, and very helpful. I think (I'm sure you've heard this a lot) that almost everything the pet store told me has been wrong. <Sadly experienced this myself.> My kids wanted to get tropical fish, so they each have a ten gallon aquarium set up in their rooms now. <Nice, great learning experience for them.> We set up the aquariums, (tap water that was conditioned with the stuff that's supposed to neutralize chemicals and aquarium salt in the water) and then waited 24 hours at the advice of the pet store, and then got starter fish for the aquariums. <Better than same day purchases I see so often.> My son's aquarium: My son wanted Molly fish, and the pet store said they were hardy enough so we got a male and a female molly. Also we got a Chinese algae eater, <May be problematic, several fish fall under this name, some being quite problematic.> also at the advice of the pet store. I am now reading that we probably should have gotten two female mollies, the male is already bugging the female a lot. She is starting to hold her fins tightly to her body, I'm guessing this is stress? <Most likely.> So what is better; getting a couple more females for an un-cycled tank? Or letting her stress for a few weeks? The fish seem to be doing really well other than that, and we are keeping a close eye on the water. <Good, I would not add more fish until the cycle is complete.  Make sure there are lots of hiding spots and plants/decorations to break up sight lines, may help her situation.> Also, the next day the pet store advised us to put algae wafers in one at a time for the Chinese algae eater. They told me originally that the fish would eat the flakes until the algae grew in the tank, but then they said he wouldn't. So we are now putting a wafer in, one at a time, so the little guy has some food. <Probably not needed if he is eating other foods.  If not maybe every 2-3 days add one, but watch the water quality as this large amount of food can cause fouling quickly.>  Unfortunately, the male Molly (his name is Bob) <Appropriate name> keeps eating the algae wafers and chasing the other fish away. Is there any alternative to make sure he gets his food? Or should I not worry? He (Chinese algae eater) seems to have a ton of energy. <Would not worry yet.> My son eventually wants to get some Mickey Mouse platies too, and I am now thinking, with a recommended 4 to 1 female to male ratio of Mollies, will there be any more room in a ten gallon tank? Is the same ratio advised for Platies? <If you did a 3 to 1 ratio for each may work, but reading about Bob's behavior makes me think he may not accept any other male live bearers in the tank.  Some male livebearers can be real little @#$$%s.  Maybe just female platies.> My daughter's aquarium: She wanted Platies, and again we were advised by the pet store that a male and a female would be a good idea. We brought home a Chinese algae eater, same as my sons tank, and a male and female platy. They all seemed to be doing really well all day. Then in the morning, the male platy was "not right." He was swimming weird, drifting with currents, and laying about. He was dead by lunch time. Poor thing! <Unfortunate.> But the other fish in the aquarium were doing just fine. I took him to the pet store, and they gave me a new male. I had my daughter pick one out of a different tank, because the fish in the tank that the first one had come from had fuzzy white spots on them. <Good though, although in reality both tanks probably infected due to shared filtration system.> Could that be ick? <Maybe, check out the pics and descriptions on WetWeb to diagnose.> Did I just bring that home to my aquarium? I hope the female doesn't start showing this. So now I am back to two platies and one Chinese algae eater. The platies seem to eat the algae wafers, the Chinese algae eater doesn't seem interested in it. Again, should I be worried? Is there an alternative food for the algae eater? This one also has tons of energy. <Best to leave for now, observe and act if a problem arises.> The platies ate their food well in the morning, and really went after the very few bloodworms we gave them in the afternoon, but hardly touched their dinner. <Probably just not hungry, would feed once a day for the first few weeks.> The water now seems a bit cloudy on the white side, and so I did a 20% water change this evening. <When in doubt do a water change.> Is that a sign of bacteria from the food being left untouched? <Most likely.> Or is that just the food? The fish are very quiet this evening, and they seem to be hanging out by the heater. Is that stress or just normal? <May be due to the water quality. Test for ammonia and nitrite and do a water change.  Fish shop should be able to do these for you, but can be done easily yourself and a good chance to teach the kids a bit.> My daughter would like to add neon and cardinal tetras to her tank after it cycles, will they get along OK with the platies? <Not really, Neons are quite difficult and both require very different water parameters than the platies.>  Also, do you recommend more females to males as you do with mollies? Same thing, minimum 4 to 1 females to males? <4 to 1 would be great, but 3 to 1 fine too.> And how long do you recommend that a tank cycles before adding more fish? <Takes a couple of weeks normally, best to learn how to use the test kits and do it yourself.  Don't rush and all will work out.> The pet store said a couple of days, I'm sure that's not right. <Unfortunately you are correct.> Thank you so much! Mary <Not sure if you have seen this yet   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm but give it a read.  Don't let the charts and graphs scare you, its pretty straight forward once you get the concepts.  Good luck with the new tanks and welcome to a wonderful hobby.> <Chris>

Just Starting Out Part II 1/17/07 One more thing to ask. <Sure>  Is it possible to have tetras and platies in the same tank? What type of tetras would you recommend adding to the platies? <Can't think of any that share similar water requirement.  Generally the species come from fairly opposite types of water.> And is there anything else that would be advisable to keep everyone calm and happy?  <Good water quality, good food, and everything should be ok, just be ready to deal with livebearer fry, they can and do put rabbits to shame.> And thank you for the link to the "cycling" area of your site. I will go and buy some real plants for the aquarium as well as some algae starting products. I'll write it all down before I go as to avoid more bad advice! <Good plan.> Thanks so much! Best, Mary <Chris>

Fourth try... Brand new used tank setup questions!   1/6/07 Hello all! <<Hello, Audrey. Tom with you'¦finally, it appears.>> Well, this is the fourth time I try to ask questions... first time was a couple days before Christmas... either my messages have gotten lost in the mail, or Christmas has made it impossible for volunteers to keep up with this incredible work. Just in case your server has problems with Gmail, I'm writing through Hotmail... never know what mysterious illness might ail your server! <<Isn't that the truth!>> So... here it is again! Hi to whomever of the wonderful WWM crew might end up answering this one! I'm hailing from the French-speaking part of (supposedly cold, but it's been Spring since before Christmas) Canada (more precisely Montreal, Quebec), so I apologize in advance if my English is not quite as natural as it could be. <<Well, Audrey, Detroit hasn't exactly been a Winter Wonderland this season, either. We had temperatures in the range of 54 F. yesterday. You might well be getting these temp's. today. Also, I'll guarantee your English is far better than my French. :)>> My boyfriend and I are setting up our first FW aquarium. Of course, we've made a lot of progress since I first wrote, because we had all Christmas break to fiddle with it. We now have cleaned and set up the used 10gal we received from a friend who was going to throw it out. We put fine gravel in the bottom, a branch, some rocks, two Anubias nana, a couple of sprigs of Bacopa (guy at the store had two different batches of what looked like the same thing, a new (smaller plants) and an old one (bigger plants) and he didn't know if they were all the "dwarf" variety), and some bunches of Pigmy Chain Sword (those are growing very nicely already). We bought a neon that fit in the old hood and got rid of the Incandescents. We didn't treat the water since it's not really necessary for the plants, but we'll be treating with Nutrafin AquaPlus next time. This is the one product I was able to find locally that treats both Chlorine and Chloramines and doesn't look like it has 200 things added in. Should I mail-order something better or will this be sufficient? We did put some plant fertilizer in the water though. They told us that, since we don't have red plants, we didn't need a special iron fertilizer. Is that true? <<The AquaPlus product will do fine and I'm glad you selected a conditioner that treats both chlorine and chloramines. I agree that iron supplementation shouldn't be necessary with the plants you have.>> We put some hairy filter media in the filter to sift through the particles for the first few days (AquaClear Mini, rated for a 20 gal so I hope it's enough). <<The Mini should do well for this size tank, Audrey. I'm using an AquaClear 50 on a 20-gallon tank and an AquaClear 70 as a second filter on a larger aquarium. I'm completely satisfied with both.>> Water is a little yellow (I'm guessing from the branch) but we know this will clear up with time. <<Yes.>> We now have the proper sponge and carbon, and I managed to find a Bio-Max filter bag (the little ceramic things that are supposed to help with the bio-filtration - do they really work or should I still think of getting something with a bio-wheel somewhere down the road?) <<The ceramic media works. When I clean the filter, I only rinse the sponge or the ceramic media, not both. I feel this ensures that plenty of beneficial bacteria remain in the filter chamber to do the job. The bio-wheel style filters are also excellent units. Can be a little noisy, though, if water levels aren't kept high enough. Otherwise, these are fine products that do the job very well.>> We had to get a new heater because the one we were given would hold the water nicely at 73F but would quickly get it up to 80 as soon as I tried to set it a little higher - like it just wouldn't click off unless we fiddled with it. <<Of the equipment we generally find in FW aquaria, heaters are the most problematic. Eheim has taken over production of the Ebo-Jaeger line of heaters and I love them. I mentioned recently in another post that the temperature dial can be 'calibrated' to the exact water temperature in the tank and subsequent changes in the settings from there are right on the money.>> It will be sufficient to prepare changing water though. The new one has been holding a nice steady 75 for two days now, and I'm going to be testing it a little higher this weekend. <<Sounds good.>> We got a great deal on the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Master Kit. pH is around 7.8 right out of the tap but more around 7.4-7.6 in the tank (colour is hard to read on the pH test). Of course, nitrites and nitrates are 0, both from tap and in the aquarium, and also 0 ammonia from the tap. The tank has been set up for about a week with only plants and I'm already detecting about .75 ammonia! I didn't think I'd be reading this high with only plants! <<A couple of notes on this, Audrey. First, an aquarium will cycle, ultimately, with nothing in it so your reading isn't too big of a surprise. Second, and possibly more important, this kit -- as will most -- measures 'total' ammonia. That is, it measures both toxic ammonia (NH3) and less toxic ammonium (NH4). You can find charts on the Internet that allow you to calculate the quantities of both based on pH and temperature along, of course, with your ammonia reading. In this case, pH plays the larger role as ammonia converts to ammonium at lower pH levels. At this stage, since there are no fish involved, it really isn't much of an issue but, I mention it just for clarity. There are more sophisticated test kits that measure for these compounds individually but I certainly wouldn't be concerned about this now.>> Do we need hardness/alkalinity tests? The employee we happened to talk to at the store (not their regular crew since we went during Christmas break) gave me a pH reading when I asked for alkalinity and didn't seem to get it when I told him it wasn't the same thing. I can't  blame him, I'm not sure I fully understand this yet. <<As a general rule, I would not suggest these tests for the average FW aquarist. Not that I recommend against them by any means. They just aren't as useful to us as they would be to our saltwater counterparts. There are exceptions, naturally. Those people running African Cichlid tanks, for example, where higher pH levels are important would likely be interested in these tests. As you mentioned, though, the relationship between pH, alkalinity and hardness can soon start to resemble a display of 'semantic gymnastics' if a clear understanding of each just doesn't want to 'sink in'.>> He did tell me though that their water has hardness around 9 (does that make sense??), he told me it was average. We live 3 blocks from them so I think we can safely assume our water is at least very similar. <<8-12 degrees dH is average (German degrees hardness scale) and this is the scale commonly used in the hobby so, yes, it makes sense.>> The water is not quite as clear as it was a few days ago, but nothing's really happening in there either - yet. We're thinking of adding a raw shrimp to get the ammonia to spike, since we'd rather wait for the plants to be well established before we add fish anyway. <<Excellent. The shrimp will help speed things along, by the way, as will common fish food for that matter.>> At the rate the ammonia is climbing presently, we'll have to wait months before we can add anything! No, we can't get Bio-Spira locally, it's not exported to Canada because of some funky regulation about live bacteria. <<Some countries are 'touchy' about such things. :)>> The only thing we can get is Hagen Cycle (unrefrigerated)  which, from what I've heard, is mostly useless and a waste of money - unless it has improved dramatically since those opinions were posted on WWM? <<Think of it this way, Audrey. If Canada won't allow BIO-Spira because of live bacteria but will allow Cycle, I think you can put two and two together. ;) >> We haven't changed the water yet, of course, but when we do, I'm wondering how we have to proceed. We have fine gravel (1-2mm size) so I'm afraid that if we use the vacuum, we'll end up taking the gravel into the bucket. Also, we can't really disturb the plants. Is holding the siphon end right above the gravel sufficient cleaning? <<For now, yes. I have a similar substrate in one of my tanks and it's a pain in the backside (if you'll pardon the expression) to vacuum but, with practice, it doesn't completely pull in as much of the gravel as you might think. A few pieces here and there but a necessary consequence if you want to avoid dangerous build-ups of mulm/detritus.>> We originally wanted to start with goldfish, but after reading your site I decided it might not be the best idea :-) <<Good decision. A ten-gallon tank is too small for even the smallest varieties and more than one would be way too many fish.>> What I really want, of course, are dwarf puffers and a yellow tang, but that will wait until we feel like we know what we're doing - especially for the saltwater  fish (that looks like a whole complex universe in itself). So now, we're looking into Mollies and a Betta. I've heard they can go together (same temperature, for one thing). <<Mollies are a brackish species that 'might' acclimate to salt levels that a Betta would appreciate, about one tablespoon per five gallons. My concern for you here is if the Mollies get 'fin-nippy' with the Betta. Shouldn't, but one never knows.>> Now, this is only a 10 gal and I don't want them to get too crammed, I was wondering if 4 Mollies and a Betta would be too many for a 10 gal? <<There are Molly breeds that tend to stay small, say around two inches or so. There are others that can reach five inches. Obviously, the larger varieties would need to be avoided with your stocking scheme. Common sense and judicious selection will be the order of the day.>> The reason I'm thinking 4 is that I'd like to have 3 females and 1 male. I've read that having 2 females sometimes doesn't work too well for Mollies, because the male tires them too much. I'd really like them to have babies, even though I'm also looking forward to the Betta being natural population control, but if that's really too many fish I'll consider getting 3 females only. <<Your thinking on the Molly ratio is quite correct. Another consideration is that a female, after giving birth, really needs to be isolated until she recovers from the 'blessed event'. Hardly an insurmountable problem but something that I thought I'd mention.>> I know Mollies are usually considered brackish and can even be kept in full salt water. I've also read strong opinions to the contrary. I've also heard people recommending that we add 1 tbsp of salt per 5 or 10 gallons of water for Bettas. Is that something that could be beneficial to both fish? If so, do we need to get a hydrometer? Is there one that would read that low? <<Salt is absolutely beneficial to both species. No question about this whatsoever. The trick, if you will, is finding a common ground and I believe that one tablespoon per five gallons will work.>> Temperature-wise, I think we can keep it 78-80F. Is 80F too hot for Mollies? <<Should be just about right, Audrey.>> Also, I'd like to have a few shrimp. I know Ghost shrimp will eat leftover fish food, and either Amano or Cherry will eat algae also. Can we mix shrimp species? Will they provide enough algae control? When we siphon water, how do we do it as to not siphon the shrimp? Those things are *tiny* at first... <<The shrimp you mention can be mixed with one another. As for algae control, this will largely depend on how you maintain the tank. Lighting and excess nutrients will determine, in large part, how much algae growth you'll have. By the same token, your plants may out-compete the algae leaving you with little or none growing. Some variables involved on this one. As for siphoning, you might try attaching a piece of coarse mesh over the end of the vacuum tube. Something that will allow ample room for the removal of the funky stuff without giving your shrimp an unwanted ride.>> The local store has absolutely gorgeous golden apple snails. I know they're separately sexed, and I've read that if I quarantine him for about 2 months I'll be certain not to have hundreds of incrementally increasing offspring. (I'll be really happy to exponentially breed snails IF and WHEN I finally decide to keep puffers, but until then, I'd rather go low-maintenance... :-) I've read some people say they eat plants, others they don't seem to bother them... what's your experience with this? <<Personally, I confess to no experience with Apple Snails, Audrey. What I can share with you is that snails, generally speaking, go after the dead or dying foliage on plants leading to the perception that it's they who are responsible for plant damage. In this case, they're getting a bum rap.>> In any case, I was thinking of adding the Mollies first, than the shrimp and/or snail, and then the Betta. I was thinking that, since he seems to be the most aggressive of the lot, he should go in last, so he doesn't already "own" the tank when we try to introduce tankmates - does that make sense or am I totally off base? Should I keep him separated at first so he can get used to his tankmates before releasing him or does that make no difference at all? <<I don't know that with the Mollies, potentially, outnumbering the Betta 4:1 that the order of introduction is particularly important. I do, however, believe your rationale to be quite sound.>> Well, I think that's about it. We're brand new at this and will yet have many questions... In the meantime, please let me know if you have any suggestions to improve this setup. Nothing's started yet so this is the perfect time to change plans if we need to :-) I'm now going to go ahead and read some more on your site... You have info there for WEEKS of reading :-) <<It sounds to me like both of you have an excellent feel for what's needed as well as what's going on. Please do continue to read/research on the site and welcome to our wonderful hobby!>> Thank you so much, Audrey <<You're most welcome. Bonne chance (which used up most of my French, I'm afraid :) ) Tom>>

Re (Tom) : Fourth try... Brand new used tank setup questions!  1/10/07 Hi again! <<Hi, Audrey. Tom again.>> Tom answered my last question. <<Did I get it right? :)>> Wow, guys, you DO have weird mail server problems... I saw the answer posted on the FAQ but never received it in my mailbox (and I did check my junk mail too). And I answered the answer, but it seems you never got it... so... I'm trying again (and again, and again, and again... ;-P <<There's a guy in Ontario that 'vacuums' space for all e-mails going to Quebec, Audrey. The OPP is working on it. (Now I've got two dozen people wondering if this is true and what, in the world, 'OPP' stands for. 'Ontario Provincial Police' and, I'm kidding about the guy'¦maybe. :)>> In any case, thank you so much for the answer. It's very reassuring to know that we're on the right track with this! I'd rather not have to fix too many avoidable problems after the fact... <<Or any, for that matter.>> (Quote)<< Eheim has taken over production of the Ebo-Jaeger line of heaters and I love them. I mentioned recently in another post that the temperature dial can be "calibrated" to the exact water temperature in the tank and subsequent changes in the settings from there are right on the money.>>(/Quote) We bought an Italian brand that our LFS assured us was as good as the Eheim, only not as well-known. Apparently, he's been using them for years and is extremely happy with them. It's shorter than the Eheim. <<Drop us a line with the name of the heater and/or company. We're certainly open to making recommendations to folks.>> About the calibration trick, I tried searching the WWM site but couldn't find it. And I didn't find it in the dailies either. Do you have any idea where it's been archived? <<Not really a trick, Audrey. There's a locking pin on the dial that can be released to allow the knurled knob to 'freewheel'. The knob can then be repositioned to the exact temperature of the tank and the pin is then locked back into position. Subsequent changes in the dial setting are then guaranteed to be within 0.5 degrees +/-.>> (Quote)<< Second, and possibly more important, this kit - as will most - measures 'total' ammonia. That is, it measures both toxic ammonia (NH3) and less toxic ammonium (NH4). You can find charts on the Internet that allow you to calculate the quantities of both based on pH and temperature along, of course, with your ammonia reading. In this case, pH plays the larger role as ammonia converts to ammonium at lower pH levels. >>(/Quote) Good to know! I might look up the charts, just for the "learning experience", even if it's really overkill at this point :-) <<Handy to know if problems should arise. Sadly, in some cases, illnesses that might have been treated successfully aren't, frequently due to valuable time being lost trying to remedy a problem that doesn't, for all practical purposes, even exist. A good example, though out of this specific context, is when Columnaris -- a serious bacterial infection -- is treated as a fungal infection. The fish is incorrectly treated, doesn't respond (for obvious reasons) and, ultimately, succumbs to a condition that was curable.>> (Quote)<<Think of it this way, Audrey. If Canada won't allow BIO-Spira because of live bacteria but will allow Cycle, I think you can put two and two together. ;) >>(/Quote) Hmm... good point! (Quote)<< Personally, I confess to no experience with Apple Snails, Audrey.>>(/Quote) I did a little more reading. Apparently, there are several very similar varieties of Apple snails, some of which will eat plants and some who won't (much). But the main problem here is that they grow very big and would have to count towards the total bio-load... I can add many many shrimp before even coming close to what the snail  would represent... soo... shrimp it will be! <<I like your thinking here.>> (Quote)<< Please do continue to read/research on the site and welcome to our wonderful hobby! >>(/Quote) Will do! And "merci beaucoup"! Audrey <<I love it when you speak French! Best regards. Tom>> Re (Tom) : Fourth try... Brand new used tank setup questions!   1/11/07 Bonjour Tom! <<Bonjour, Audrey.>> It's me again! I've been totally obsessing over this aquarium thing. Three weeks ago, I didn't know *anything* about aquariums. I must have spent a few hundred hours reading (mostly on WWM, but I have a few books on the subject as well). <<No lack of information out there/here, that's for sure!>> I really envy Bob right now (I read he's in Hawaii). <<It's occasionally hard to keep track of Bob but I believe you're right.>> What really got me interested in fishkeeping is a trip to Hawaii two years ago (Big Island). Literally hundreds of yellow tangs grazing right below our hotel. And this really neat beach just south of Kona, we'd do our half hour of snorkeling every morning, just floating through the fish. Ahh... any of you ever been to Goldfish Market in Hong Kong? It's *amazing*. It's like putting 50 nice fish stores all together on one street (well, nice-looking in any case... Dunno about the quality but the variety was certainly there... my parents were not really interested so I had to do my little tour rather quickly). And some NICE specimens too. I'd never seen cowfish so BIG! <<I'm afraid it would be like turning a kid loose in a toy store for me! Must have been a wonderful, if short, tour that you had.>> Well... I digress. Sorry. Back to our subject. <<Okay'¦>> I just found out that one of my local stores has Nutrafin Chlor X Change. That one is definitely labeled as treating only chlorine/chloramine/heavy metals. I've been using AquaPlus because that's the "best thing" I found, but it has additives. Would it be a good idea to switch once the bottle of AquaPlus is finished? <<The AquaPlus neutralizes heavy metals, too, Audrey, as well as handling the chlorine and chloramine. Conditioners are, generally, pretty decent across the board so it's pretty much of a coin toss.>> You asked about my heater. It's a Hydor Theo. <<Kind of exactly like the one I have for my 10-gallon quarantine tank? (Sometimes all of my cylinders aren't firing properly, Audrey.)>> My LFS recommended it, said it was comparable to the Eheim in quality and accuracy. <<No complaints with mine, certainly.>> So far it's been holding the temperature very nicely, varying *maybe* half a degree throughout the day. Well, for the past week at least :-) The only problem I have with it is that, at the lowest setting (which is supposed to be below 70), it holds the water at a nice constant 75. <<Other factors perhaps?>> The calibration's off but the heater is performing well. I'll see if I can adjust the dial by releasing the locking pin, like you suggested. Maybe that's the problem. <<It's the Ebo-Jaeger (Eheim) model that has the calibration pin, Audrey. The Hydor has what appears to be a pin in the center of the dial, as well, but I've found it doesn't seem to do anything. Mine doesn't anyway.>> Well, enough for now. I'll send you a donation, you've saved me a lot of money and aggravation. <<For Bob and the rest of the WWM crew, I thank you. It's most kind and generous of you.>> Merci encore! Audrey <<De rien, Audrey. Tom>>

Freshwater Beginnings, book recommendations  1/2/07 Hi, <Hello and Happy New Year!> I've got a 30 gallon tank that I've previously used for saltwater (until I got a bigger tank and better equipment) that I'd like to set up for a freshwater system.  I know most people start with fresh and work over to salt, but that's not the case with me- I'm a beginner for fresh (and not yet an expert with the salt).  I've looked over your FAQ's but would also like to purchase a book that I can lay in bed and read (hard to do with the computer). Do you have any recommendations?  I love Fenner's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist" book and would like to find something similar for freshwater... but I couldn't find anything by him or Paletta, another of the saltwater sources that I really liked,  that dealt with this topic. <Welcome to the wonderful world of freshwater aquariums.  For the first time freshwater aquarium, I like to recommend David E. Boruchowitz's Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums - everything is very easy to read and understand, but I do think he tends to "push the envelope" a bit with his suggested stocking schemes (e.g., a bit overcrowded).  Other than that, it's a great book.  For an index of many sorts of freshwater species, I recently acquired Glen S. Axelrod & Brian M. Scott's Encyclopedia of Exotic Tropical Fishes.  As far as diseases go, I highly recommend Mary Bailey and Peter Burgess' Tropical Fishlopaedia.  Don't know if any of these rival Bob's SW book, but they are my personal favorites.  Good luck, and enjoy your new tank! Jorie> Thanks! Stephanie D.

Starting my tank   12/19/06 Hello, <<Hello, Tara. Tom here.>> We have just bought the jewel tank containing 190 litres and are setting it up to contain red belly piranhas. We originally wanted 3 but after reading your site discovered that its only really big enough for 2 at a push. <<Given an adult size of approximately 12 inches (30.5 cm), two of these fish would, indeed, be pushing the limit of a 190-liter (50-gallon) tank, Tara. Adequate cover and low lighting should be provided to keep 'skittishness' to a minimum.>> We also would like to know if it is essential to test the water pH before putting in the fish. <<Do yourselves this favor, Tara. Visit the pet shop and find out what the pH is of the water that your future pets are currently being kept in. Piranhas come from waters that are soft and acidic in their natural habitat with the pH below neutral (7.0). This really isn't as critical as trying to avoid introducing them to a tank that's far off from what they've been acclimated to, however. Stability is the key factor here.>> The tank has been set up for nearly 2 weeks now at the right temp and I don't want to be ignorant by hurting the fish by just putting them in without it being perfect. <<pH is not going to be your only concern here. In fact, ammonia and nitrite levels are going to be far more of a concern right now than pH will be. Unless you've taken some extraordinary measures to speed up the 'cycling' of the tank, I doubt that your tank is more than one-third to one-half through the cycling process after only two weeks. Test for ammonia and nitrite (both should be zero) and check your nitrate levels as well. Nitrates, by way of explanation, are the 'end product' of the nitrifying process. If ammonia and nitrites are zero but nitrates are also zero, your tank isn't ready for live fish. Your pet shop can test a sample for you if you don't have a test kit already. Personally, I highly recommend that you get one so that you can do your own testing. Shops have a tendency to tell folks that levels are 'safe' without being specific about what this really means. Better in the long run for you to know 'exactly' what your readings are. More convenient, too.>> Also, what would be your best recommendation to start feeding them as they are only about the size of a 2p when we get them. <<Thawed mussels, prawns, shrimp and fish will be appreciated but there are processed foods, in the form of pellets, for carnivorous fish like Piranhas that they may also take to in order to vary their diet. You might find that early on they'll also accept flake food. (By the way, '2p', for the benefit of our American readers who don't have one readily available, is about the size of a Susan B. Anthony dollar, which is nearly exactly the size of an American quarter. That one might have worked better if George Washington and Ms. Anthony hadn't look so much alike. :) )>> (Although, my husband really wants to feed them live food on occasion. I suppose it's a bloke thing). <<Advise your husband to keep this to a minimum, Tara. Feeder fish have little nutritional value and can be a source of disease. You and I know he's going to do it anyway but, it's not without risk to your pets.>> Thanks for your help Tara <<Consider giving your tank another fortnight (I don't get a chance to use that term very often) to cycle completely and really consider the test kit I mentioned. Uneaten food, if there is any with Piranhas, will need to be removed to prevent your water conditions from becoming toxic. Good idea to stay on top of this as best you can. Good luck with your new additions, Tara. Cheers. Tom>>

First fish, for a small FW system, young girl   9/26/06 I have read a bit  on your site and realized we have done very little  right. <Each journey....> I bought a 5 gallon tank for my dd's 8th birthday, hoping that a fish  would be an easy first pet for her. <Can be...>   I was planning to buy a couple  very small feeder fish for her to start with so when they died I'd only be out  20 cents.   But she liked the big fantails and her daddy couldn't resist her  pleadings.   So now 3 days later one is dead and buried in the backyard and  the other doesn't look so good. So for our next try what kind of fish should we try for her. <?> She is motivated to care for the tank, but we need something simple.  We have a 5  gallon plastic tank with and under-gravel filter, an air pump and a couple of  plastic decorations--and a  little girl who is very sad that her dear fish  died already. Thank you for your help, Becky <Do you have a heater? Do look into Paradisefish (Macropodus opercularis), or some small Danios (Like Zebras, Brachydanio rerio)... At this stage, very important (to me, you, your daughter) to find, secure a professional relationship with a LFS (livestock fish store) that you trust, feel confident with... to grant you this information, aid you in picking out initially healthy livestock for such a small system. Do please feel free to continue to seek our input as well. Bob Fenner> Used tank , filters, stand  etc questions   9/17/06 First off let me thank you for your *fantastic* and informative site. I have spent only a couple hours browsing it and have already learned a lot. I've searched and read through the "used tanks" information as much as I could find, and found some info that's similar to our situation, but still have questions (and lots of insecurity!) We're fairly new to fishkeeping; have a 20 gallon tank with 6 goldfish (I know, I know, too small but read on!) and a tetra whisper3 power filter that's still cycling (we figured out too late that cycling is something tanks have to do... Poor fish. <Do be careful re feeding...> But we're trying. Lots of water changes. Think we see some nitrate showing on the test strip today... barely) <Ahh, good> We were given what I think is a 55 gallon glass tank (48" X 13" X 21" more or less) (using the formula I found here, was able to determine that it's 56.73 gallons, so I assume that's a 55 gallon tank), <Yes... often called a "55 Show" in this configuration> made in 1990 by "Patti" according to the tag on the frame <grin>, and all the stuff that goes along with it. The tank was used for both fresh and marine. We have cleaned it thoroughly with water, nothing else, scrubbed with a new "scrubby" to get as much of the water deposits off as we could. <Vinegar (with air circulation) is safe here as well> We filled it outside and let it sit for a week, now, so we're pretty sure it doesn't leak. (It was kept in a basement, suffered a flood and probably was "bombed" for bugs a couple times over the past ten years that it's sat empty) Further "Stuff": A Marineland Magnum 330 canister filter which appears to have only the water polishing filter, nothing for carbon filter etc. There are *two* of the bottom part, so I'm assuming he either had one as a back up or that one doesn't work. <Or had another for switching out, cleaning... Quite common> Is there a way to test this before trying to set up the tank, using a bucket of water or something? <Yes... and/or can use the tank you're testing...> It appears to be missing a piece that I think is the diffuser (where the water goes back into the tank), and I imagine it would be wise to replace all the tubing? <Yes, can, and likely should... the vinyl tubing sold at Home Depot is useful here, as well as the same diameter likely available from a fish store... these units are still made, pretty much the same... By Marineland> A Penn Plax XP 990 air pump and an under gravel filter set-up. At least, I think that's what it is--has a unit that plugs into a wall outlet, the air pump I guess, two plastic plates that fit across the tank's bottom and that have slits in them and V-shaped "bumps", each piece has two covered holes (covers can be taken off) and two holes that are open but have a "thingie" sticking out of them. I assume these are where air passes through as bubbles and are where we're supposed to plug in the   four clear hard plastic tubes that have an air diffuser inside attached to a tube, a "hood" at the top of each (Aims the upflowing bubbles downward into the tank?), <Yes, good descriptions> with the tubing coming out of them and passing through a "holder" that hangs on the back and that also has valves (4); <Yep, an air gang valve> from there a single tube going into the pump. These tubes would also, I assume, be better off replaced. <Yes... airline tubing, 3/16" ID> full-length light (have to look up what kind it is--has two fluorescent bulbs) A particle-board cabinet (Matches the light's and the tank's "oak" (plastic laminate) frames) <Do make sure this is still sturdy... the whole shebang will weigh more than 500 pounds...> 2 heaters (is there a safe way to test them? <Yes... put in the tank (submerse all the way if they're sealed, hang on the side if there are means for such... leave be for about 15 minutes (to allow the thermostats to adjust) and plug in... turn the dials on top (clockwise to higher)... till the "lights come on"... indicating the heater is energized... and use your hand to sense whether the heating elements (toward the distal end) are indeed heating... Make sure and unplug, allow to cool down for at least 15 minutes before removing from the water (to prevent breakage)> just stick em into a bucket, plug in, and see what they do?) One is for sure submersible, not sure about the other. Plastic cover (in two pieces) One "Topless Beach -->> " sign. <grin> A whole lot of stones (large gravel) of a nice tan/white/sand color--will  give this a really good cleaning, unless it's not safe to reuse in a fresh water tank once it's been used in a marine tank? <Just rinse, soak all> Large chunk of lava rock Coral (Am leaving this out-- too sharp edged for our black moor's eyes) <Yes... and likely the lava rock as well> Some other kind of rock--tan and white, rough feeling, big "hidey hole" for fish...gorgeous for people to look at...--how can I find out what it is? Sandstone maybe? <Likely so, and very likely safe chemically> We feel as though we were given a treasure chest, here!! <Better than this IMO> Now, here are some more questions. Sure hope you don't mind having so many... don't want to be greedy!! but we are kinda needy. hehe. What, given our newness to the hobby, but assuming that we will keep up with it rather than lose interest (I think we will be "Lifers"), are your thoughts on the pros and cons of using the old canister filter (assuming it works), given that it appears we need to replace some tubing, a diffuser and add a carbon filter container--not a major output of $$, I don't think--vs. the purchase of a new power filter of some type that has the bio filter incorporated (as opposed to using an under gravel bio filtering system such as what we have to do with the Magnum 330) or even, if you think that the undergravel filter is the cat's meow over the bio bags or bio wheels, a new canister filter? <My opinion: all gear is "old" once employed... If this works (the motor) all should be fine. There have not been "earth shaking" improvements in technology, energy consumption/savings here... Perhaps an analogous situation exists for "older" used cars... If this filter/car will "get you there"...> What are your thoughts pro and con on bio wheels vs. bio bags? <The former do work, as do the latter...> We've been using the bio bags with the whisper3 (an old model) and find it very simple and convenient to work with, but wonder overall about how it compares to an undergravel filter or bio wheel, esp since we're moving into the 55 gallon tank (which we plan to give complete time to establish its cycle before adding any fish, using the "fishless" method.) Or, how about a bio wheel added to the Magnum 330 setup, to replace the undergravel filter? <Mmm, well, am not a big fan of UG filters for/with goldfish... though with large/r set-ups their potential downsides are greatly diminished... The switching to the new arrangement would be better however> Quietness is another *major* consideration, after the well-being of the fish, but before ease of use/service and the $$ factor. <The old PP air-pump is likely to be the biggest bugaboo here... do be prepared to abandon or replace it with a new, much quieter unit if you intend to use air diffusion> We've also been hearing about "wet/dry" filters... any thoughts on those as realties to our situation? <Not appropriate technology here. Can read about on WWM exhaustively> This tank has no braces underneath. There is a center brace (if that's what it is) on the top, though. The stand has no braces, either. It's a particle board or pressed wood cabinet with a frame,  where the tank sits on top, being about an inch wide, but *nothing* underneath the tank for support otherwise. Should we cut a piece of plywood to fit there for the tank to sit on? <I would... at least> What would you recommend? <To carefully assess the utility of these old stand... very dangerous should it fail...> I worry that 55 gallons will cause the tank to bow with nothing but a perimeter support to it. <Mmm, not likely... most of these tanks were assembled out of half inch (some of 3/8) plate glass...> On the other hand, a piece of wood might bow as well under the weight. <Or a whole new frame...> When we begin to set up the new tank, should we put some water from the barely established (if it is indeed established yet) 20gallon tank into the 55 gallon tanks to get it going? Or would this be an exercise in futility? <Is a good technique> Once we move the goldfish into their bigger home, we'd like to use the 20 gal tank as a FW tropical tank. Are there any particular steps we should take to ensure this goes safely,  given that goldies are notoriously "messy"? (We plan on putting in only  tropical fish recommended for beginners; will be looking up on your site and elsewhere for recommendations, as I know I've seen it somewhere) <I'd completely dump, clean, re-set-up per WWM> One more... what are your thoughts on test strips that you dip vs. the test tubes with pouring and mixing? <Can work as indicators... not as accurate (but more precise) than cheapy liquid reagent kits...> Is it only a matter of cost vs. convenience? Or is one method actually more accurate than another? Looking forward to hearing your answers. Thanks again for your terrific site, Nan J <Thank you, and welcome to the further adventures in our ever-wonder-filling hobby/experience. Bob Fenner> Converting Saltwater Aquarium to Freshwater   8/11/06 I am contemplating converting my 75 gallon saltwater FOWLR to a freshwater aquarium.  I've been in the hobby for 30 years and just seem to get more of a kick out of an Amazonian bio-type. <Neat>   I assume I would still be able to use my sump, utilizing bio-balls instead of live rock, and would eliminate the protein skimmer.  My question concerns any salt residue still in the system after cleaning/rinsing. <No worries... this is all quite water soluble... will be gone> Do you know of an easy way to covert without disassembling the entire system. <Mmm, can be done "in place" with enough towels about for splashing, wet hands and arms... and water for rinsing, a scoop for gravel...>   I do have some coralline on the back of the tank, can this be left on to dissolve, or should I scrape it off.  Any other advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank You! <I'd likely lightly acid wash this off (with the windows, doors open for air circulation...) Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fw2mar.htm and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnaqfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Children and Fish?   6/27/06 Wet Web Crew~ <Amanda> Thank you so much for this site. It rocks! My question is probably one of personal opinion. I am considering buying my nephew a fish for his birthday. He will be seven in late August. I want to go ahead and start the process soon so I can cycle the tank and acclimate the fish before he gets it. I am considering a betta in a 2.5g tank, possibly the Mini Bow kit and buying a heater to go with it. I want to get something that will be easy for my nephew/brother/sis-in-law to take care of. Will this be a good idea? <Mmm...> Is there a different fish that you would recommend or do you feel anything would be too much for a seven year old? Also, is there a good fish care book for children that you would recommend? I want him to learn the joy of having a fish, but I don't want to overwhelm him at his age. Thanks for your help!!! Amanda S. <I very much appreciate the opportunity to respond to this earnest, important question. IMO, given a certain "maturity level", and permission of parent/s, guardian/s it is entirely appropriate for children to "take on" the responsibilities of caring for living pets, including tropical fishes. Very important to have exposure to the living world and to learn first hand the joy, wonderment, as well as necessities of such care. I salute your interest, involvement. A Betta, this type of set-up is close to perfect here. Bob Fenner>

Fish tank remodeling questions FW, gen.    6/6/06 crew: <Paula> I am kind of a newbie to this site. I am currently trying to restore an old tank into a nice one. It's about 40-50 gallons (I'm not exactly sure) <231 cubic inches approximately to a gallon... Important to know the volume for some purposes> and I went out shopping today for different prices. I know I want to get an underwater filtration system with a connected motor on the surface and an air curtain so the air will be evenly distributed over the entire tank. <This is more for looks than function> I have an idea of some of the decorations I want but I am, however, a little confused on a few things. 1) Will hand-picked sea-shells (picked up in Pensacola, Florida) hurt or damage my tank, even if they are washed and cleaned? <Too often so, yes> 2) Is it ok to put Freshwater Red Crabs and Pleco Algae Eaters in the same tank? Will they fight or just not get along? <These crabs often die... are more amphibious than aquatic... eat fishes...> 3) This doesn't have anything to do with my tank but I've been wondering for a while: what is the real difference between salt and fresh water tanks? What would I have to add to regular water to make it saltwater that fish can live in? <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/fw2mar.htm and the linked files above> Thanks for your help, Paula <Welcome to the ever-wonderful ornamental aquatics hobby. Bob Fenner>

Setting Up a 29 Gallon FW Tank  - 05/20/2006 Hello, Like a lot of people contacting you, I am new to this. I will try to be brief, but even with all of the reading I have been doing, I have a lot of questions. My husband gave me a 29g aquarium for my birthday. It has a whisper 30 Power filter. I set it up a little over 2 weeks ago and let it run for almost 3 days before adding 2 lovely rainbow platies (females). I tested the water at least 3x a day for 4 days waiting to see some rise in ammonia or nitrites, but I never had one and by the 4th day the nitrates had risen slightly. I did a partial water change(20%) and two days later added 2 gold and white marbled pot bellied mollies ( a male and a female). I have monitored the tank's water quality and all is the same as it has been with a slight nitrate rise. I am feeding a pinch of food twice a day. All fish seem happy and healthy. Water temp 78 - 80 and my water has consistently been   ammonia  0 nitrites  0 nitrates 0-barely .5 hardness  25 kH  120-180 ph  7.8     I have read that the show of nitrates means my tank is cycling is that true? < This pretty quick for a tank to cycle in a few days but it is possible.> Do I just have a small enough amount of fish that the chemistry isn't going wacky or is my tank not truly cycled yet? < I would not count it as fully cycled yet. It should be after a few months.> Is it safe to continue adding fish in this manner as long as the water quality stays the same? < Slow and steady is not a bad management plan. You could add Bio-Spira from Marineland and it will be fully cycled in a couple of hours.> Also, about 36 hours after adding new fish the tank appears foggy with a slight white cast and then clears in about 24hours which seems to be a bacteria bloom of some sort so I am not concerned as it does clear on it's own and water quality remains constant, but I have also noticed white specks on the surface of the water that look a little like dust and sometimes has a slick look. I can not see it from the top only when I look up from the bottom. Have no clue what it could be. And I am sorry....but there is more. One of my major concerns is that my water hardness is 25 which is very soft but I have a water softener and actually a whole house water filtration system. I have read things that say you shouldn't use softened water but don't give me an alternative or solution. Is this something to worry about or not? Salt is added to my water to soften it is that an issue? Should I need to add more for the mollies? I am not sure how the other fish that I have and plan to get will tolerate salt. < Get your aquarium water from the garden hose. This water is usually not put through the water softener and will be better for your fish. If you want to add water for your mollies then you can do it as you change water and be in control of how much salt you wish to add.> And last but not least would you give me your opinion on the other fish I plan to add. I am thinking of 2 Corydoras ( 2-3"), a small (maybe 6 or 7) school of tetras probably Neons, and maybe a pearl Gourami. < Cory's and tetras do not like salt. pearls will probably tolerate some.> I have read that they are shy and that they can be aggressive. I am not sure how one single one would do. I don't want it to be hiding in one of the caves all the time and I really don't want a bully that will stress or hurt the others either.  I am not sure it will work but I would love to have a larger fish 4" or so and I think Gouramis are lovely (especially the pearl and it seems to be the most peaceful).  Any other suggestions or advice you may have would be greatly appreciated. One thing I've learned in reading things that people write about their fish is that they seem to have personalities and temperaments beyond species classifications and not all of the same species of fish can reliably act the same in all aquariums. I guess environment has a lot to do with that as well. I am sorry for going on and on. Thanks in advance for your help, Heidi <Many of the livebearers like your mollies like hard alkaline water with some salt added. The catfish ,Neons and Gouramis prefer softer water with no salt. None of the fish you have selected are really aggressive, but at the time of purchase try and get them all to be close to the same size. Tetras like to be in schools to feel comfortable.-Chuck>

Changing A Tank Around ... FW set-up, stkg.   - 5/2/2006 Hi there, I haven't been able to find anything specific enough on the site on what I'm looking for...so hopefully you can help me out :) I'm relatively new to fish keeping and this is what I currently have: 35 gallon tank:  Marineland filter with BioWheel; Artificial plants; Brightly coloured gravel; Couple medium size rocks (with holes to swim through); and the following fish: 1 White Tetra; 2 Penguin Tetras; 10 Neon Tetras; 10 Harlequin Rasboras; 2 Platies; 1 Plecostomus; and 1 Snail.  Once I change my tank, I would like to add 2 Clown Loaches and a few more Neon Tetras. < Clown loaches get big over time. I would not recommend these.> What I would like to do is change the tank to a more natural looking setting, and need some specific instructions on how to do this.  I want to change the gravel to something finer and more natural looking.  I also want to add the correct substrate because I want to add live plants. < Take out everything you don't want. Replace the gravel with Fluorite, add the wood and rocks. The bacteria live on the Bio-Wheel so you don't have to worry about disrupting the biological filtration. Just rinse everything really well and use rocks that are intended for the aquarium.> Then, I would like to add a couple of good hiding places for the loaches and pleco...maybe a piece of driftwood and some type of rock formation. There are so many opinions out there on what is best and what you should and shouldn't do, I just want an instruction list from someone I trust (like you're crew) that I can easily follow. What are the exact steps I need to take, and in what order? < I would take out everything on one half of the tank. All the fish will move to the other half. Change the gravel and take out the rocks and plants you don't want. Add the new stuff to the bare half of the tank. then do the same to the other half.> What do I do with the fish while I'm making the change? < They will simply move out of the way. Try to do it slowly so not to startle them too much.> What types of plants do you recommend (I'd like to try and breed my platies if possible)? < Start with easy plants like Cryptocorynes, Anubias, java fern and java moss.> What type of wood / rocks do you recommend for decorations? < Look through some books or online and get some ideas for how you would like your tank to look. Then go to the store and try to match it.> Any other suggestions that I may be overlooking? < When you remove things your water level may drop below the heater, turn it off or unplug it to be safe. When you are done to a water change to clean things up.-Chuck> Thanks SO MUCH for your help with this! Donna FW from marine sys. set-up   4/15/06 Hello all. <Hello. Tom with you.> Great site!  Lots of info! <Thank you. There is, indeed, a lot of information available.> I have been given a saltwater tank:  120 gallon with overflows, skimmer, canister filter, refugium, etc. <Very nice!> I want to set up a freshwater planted tank. Based on the reading done at your site, I believe that I can use everything except the skimmer. After reviewing your site, I have questions. My first question involves the skimmer. Does the skimmer serve any benefit at all in a freshwater set-up (e.g., aeration)? <The short answer to a good question is that a protein skimmer "can" be a benefit in a FW set-up. The "nay-sayers" will tell you that they won't work in FW, which is untrue. Typically, though, they just don't work well enough to justify the expense and work of operating/maintaining them. Since you're asking about a skimmer that you already have as opposed to "shopping" for one that might do the job, I'd suggest you skip adding this piece of equipment to your FW system.> The second is about biological filtration.  I believe that I can use the canister for both mechanical and chemical (carbon) filtration. But how do I account for biological?  The reading I have done leads me to believe that undergravel filters are out of favor. What other methods do you recommend for a tank this size? <First, your canister filter will support biological filtration. In fact, along with mechanical filtration, biological filtration is the primary purpose here. Provided that it's appropriately sized for the tank, it should serve all of your filtration needs. If you have doubts, there are a number of good quality hang-on filters that you could add to your tank to supplement your filtration needs. Second, don't bother with carbon unless you have a specific need such as removing medications, et. al. Activated carbon has a rather short "useful" life in a filter and isn't recommended as a long-term filter medium. Last, UGF's are out of favor with many aquarists not because they don't do the job (they do) but, rather, because they can lead to problems - some serious - that can be avoided with other filtration methods. In a system the size of yours, it's best to keep maintenance as low as you can.> Finally, about the refugium. It seems that I can apply the same principles to freshwater as a saltwater refugium: freshwater plants, maybe small critters to spawn, etc. Is keeping the refugium a worthwhile effort with a freshwater tank? <Certainly. Please see http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwno3faqs.htm. Bob Fenner addresses this specific question in one of the FAQ's contained on this page.> Thanks in advance. Annette <Hope I've been of some help to you, Annette, and good luck with your project. Tom>

Converting system from salt to fresh water  - 2/21/2006 Hi Can you point me to an article re converting a salt water aquarium into a freshwater setup? <Kind of... here's one re going to SW from fresh... do the opposite...: http://wetwebmedia.com/fw2mar.htm> I still have my saltwater up and running, so I would like to know things like - how well do I need to clean my tank - is the equipment I have appropriate? Do I need a powerhead etc. etc. Regards Simon <See the Freshwater Subweb re set-up as well. Bob Fenner> Small Freshwater Tank 1/23/2006 Hi, <<Hello>> I'm very experienced with saltwater  (owned 6, 10, 20, 75 and 180g tanks), but ironically have never owned a  freshwater tank. My parents are in their 70s and just mentioned their  first-ever desire to have a tank. Problem is, my mom saw one of those  tiny fish-in-a-bottle-with-a-plant things and thinks that would be  good. Yikes.      On the plus side, my mom is a very caring, organized person and would  follow SIMPLE instructions on fish care very well. I am 100% confident  of that. And their condo has central air, so no temp. issues. But I  need to get them a tank that is very small to fit on their counter (she  thinks my Eclipse6 is a bit big) with a very hardy yet interesting/colorful fish or 2. The tank has to be easy to maintain. I  want this to be a pleasure for them, not a nuisance chore.      Can you point me in the right direction re: species of fish, minimum tank size, etc. and I'll research from there? <<You could do a beautiful male betta in a filtered, heated 5 gallon with some snails, shrimp or maybe some dwarf frogs.  Unfortunately there isn't much you can put into a tank smaller than that.>> Thanks! <<Glad to help.  Lisa.>> New Tank Questions  - 01/09/2006 Hi Crew! Thanks for the great daily resource of information. I'm a new aquarium hobby person, so it's difficult to modulate the varying degrees of advice and information I come across in my exhaustive research, to the point where some of the concerns/issues I have are still unsatisfied. Maybe you can shed some light on the issues I and maybe others have: Setup: 90 gallon, 1 baby Tiger Oscar, 1 baby Blue Dempsey, 1 baby Bristlenose Pleco One 1500 Cascade Canister filter with in line heater (77F) Q: The professional I bought my equipment from told me to "cycle" my tank by setting it up and letting it run or five days before adding anything live. < You may have dissolved gases in the water supply that may affect the pH. CO2 and chlorine will evaporate over time. Chloramine will not and you will need to add a water conditioner to get rid of it.> Then he sold me some bacteria in a bottle called "cycle" and instructed me to add it to the tank when I added the fish and then follow the directions. < I would recommend Bio-Spira from Marineland.> He claimed he's been "in the business for over 30 years" so I followed his directions to the tee, until I started researching on my own. He said not to worry about the pH or other levels if I tend to be someone who over-reacts " or you'll just be creating more problems than not" Since then I've bought a pH test kit and have adjusted the pH level from a 7.8 to a 7.1ish Was this the right thing to do? < This depends on the fish you intend to keep. Many fish do just fine at a pH of 7.8 . African cichlids actually prefer the pH to be higher. Wild riverine fish tend to like a more acidic environment.> (I've also purchased other various test kits Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, should I be and how often do I test the water???) < You really don't have that many fish. Feed once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes once each day. You will need some sinking algae wafers for the Pleco. If the water is cloudy or smells then check the ammonia. This means the Cycle is not working. Reduce the ammonia by removing left over food and fish waste with a gravel vacuum and do a water change. As the ammonia volumes start to go down the nitrite levels may increase if the cycle is not working. The nitrite levels can be reduced with water changes. As the nitrites go down the nitrates should start to go up. When the nitrates are over 20 ppm then you need to do a water change to reduce them. Use to nitrate test kit to determine when to change water and how much to change. When adding or subtracting fish to the aquarium you will have to check it more often. Go to Marineland.com and go to Dr. Tim's Library. Read his article titled "The First 30 Days". This should help clear up some issues for you.> Q: Also he told me not to clean my tank for a good 3 months, I'm assuming that's to allow the good bacteria to grow....is this recommended....it seems to me that the ammonia could reach dangerous levels by then....am I already over-reacting!!! < If the Cycle was working then this would not be needed because the bacteria would already be established. It would cycle on its own in three months without the Cycle bacterial additive. Sounds like he doesn't have much faith in the Cycle product.> Q: I have all white substrate with a black background....and a bit of the bloom, should I add more synthetic bacteria or just wait until the bloom subsides....with this color scheme it seems any sign of the bloom is almost magnified.....what would you do? < Do a water change, vacuum the gravel to keep it looking white and add Bio-Spira. I would also get a Bio-Wheel attachment for the canister filter. The bacteria grow in the sand and filter. When you clean the filter then the bacteria will be gone. They same when you vacuum the sand. The bacteria can live on the Bio-wheel so you can keep you tank looking sharp all the time.> Q: It probably depends on the fish and situation, however from the provided information do you think my cascade 1500 is enough filter for this aquarium.....I've been told to add an AC110 for additional filtration.....is this overkill or a good idea, or should I wait an see if I need it? <You need a filter that will pump at least 300 gph. 500gph would be better. Get a filter that is easy to service. Canister filters are a pain. I like hang-on the back power filters much better. QTed Oscar and Dempsey don't seem to like pellets (small) they keep spitting them out...so I've gone to flakes twice a day (just a pinch, makes a huuuuge mess), Frozen fortified brine every other day, bloodworms 3x a week, Tubifex as a treat....these all seem to make a mess....I'm hoping that as these fish grow, they might acquire a taste for the less messy, but unpopular Hikari Staple pellets....LFS said to soak them in water for half an hour prior, but even after the pellets sit in the tank for a while and become logged fish still ignore them.....any advice on a better feeding routine. I see a lot of untouched flakes on the bottom of tank....but I'm not supposed to clean it for 3 months.....that can't be good for the water....right?! Maybe I'm totally over-reacting once again....but I love my new fish and want them to be as happy and comfortable as possible! < Feed them once a day and only enough food so that all of it is eaten in two minutes. Vacum out any left over food after two minutes. At the end of the third day you should start to see them start to eat.-Chuck> Oscar: Patrick (after the starfish in Spongebob Squarepants....he's kinda slow) Blue Dempsey: Yo Yo Ma (after accomplished cellist and fish's tendency to constantly swim up and down, up and down, up and down) Pleco: Bayla Plec (after our favorite blue grass, banjo/mandolin player

A New Setup for a New Year?  1.5.2005 Hello crew,   I am a complete novice to the aquariums. I have just received a used 29 gal aquarium; it was set up as SW but I wanted to start out with a FW. I want to have a natural-looking peaceful community aquarium with small fish and live plants. The equipment included with the aquarium was:           Aquarium: 30 W x 12 D x 18.5 H       Fluval 304   Powerhead 402 (two)   SmartLite Electronic Ballast 1 x 55 wt PowerCompact (two)   MaxiJet 1000   Thermometer/heater   Hydrometer   Gravel vac   Question - do I have everything I need for the aquarium? Of course I will need gravel, chemicals, plants, fish...   Do I need an UG filter as well or the canister plus powerheads are enough? The guy at the LFS said I needed the UG for sure, but from reading your website I get a sense that I don't. Please let me know!   thanks   Lala <Hi Lala, Ryan with you.  You actually have a decent setup for freshwater- Although I will recommend a few things.   1. Get high quality water to start the tank.  Look for RO/DI water at a pet store, or get a filter.  You can then add the necessary additives but don't go overboard!   2. Change the bulbs to a freshwater spectrum. 3. I'd ditch the undergravel & canister and go purchase a decent power-filter.  Lots of people argue that the undergravel filter works great, and it does, but not for the casual aquarist.  A power filter is in a sense more forgiving.  A reasonable unit rated for aquariums of this size is less than  $50.00.    4. Peaceful aquariums come from careful planning- Get fish from the same region.  They'll need to be small to be happy in a tank this size.  Good luck! Do a web search for Planted Aquariums and check out what you get...You'll get a ton of ideas.  Ryan> New Tank  11/7/05 I have a 10 gallon tank, and I recently purchased a Bala shark and 2 sailfin mollies. They are very small fish, but I know nothing about aquariums or fish. <Before you get anymore fish you should learn about aquariums and the fish you would like to keep. The following articles are a good place to start. http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm  http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaint.htm  > I have always wanted to have an aquarium, but I am helpless. <You are not helpless, our website has plenty of good reading to bring you up to speed.> The pet store I bought them from was no help, and did not tell me if the aquarium was appropriate. The 3 fish seem to get along very well and I have had them for 2 days now. I would love to get a couple more small fish. I need to know what fish would be appropriate. Please help me! Thanks.  <I would stick with other live bearing fish, mollies, platies, guppies, etc. These are entertaining, somewhat forgiving, and a good place to start in the hobby. I'm raising a batch of guppy fry myself right now. http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/poeciliids.htm  I would see if the store will take back or exchange the Bala shark, this fish is going to outgrow a 10 gallon tank quickly and prefers longer tanks as they are known for great bursts of speed. Best Regards, Gage>

New Tank, Lots To Learn - 11/01/2005 Hi, I have only recently started my own aquarium (which I took over from my brother due to him losing interest) and am already experiencing a few problems (which I've read is not uncommon) but I just wanted to see if I'm doing things right. <Okay.> I have a 2 ft tank with my brother's rather big catfish, my 2 male Sunset Platys, 5 female Sunset Platys, 3 small fry platys and a gorgeous pink/purple Male Fighter fish. I know it's quite a small tank so at Christmas I'm getting a much bigger one (minus the catfish which my brother is taking back) which I'm also hoping to add lots of colourful Guppies to. <Sounds great.> One problem is, is that nearly every week after the water change I'm having to add "Filter Aid" to the tank to clear up cloudy water <Mm, best not to add something to remove something....> What's causing the water to get so cloudy? <Likely a bacterial or algal bloom.... Without more specs on the system (size, filtration, substrate, water parameters) I can only offer guesses as to the cause that will be of little to no use.> I'm feeding the fish flakes once a day and frozen bloodworm twice a week and I'm feeding the catfish algae tablets once a day. I clean out 50% of the water every week which is coming from my indoor taps but with added de-chlorinating stuff (Very technical terminology). <Sounds about right.... but that's an awfully large amount to change at one time. Again, though, without more detail, I don't have much advice to offer.> Second problem is that I went to my tank yesterday and found one of my female platys dead, floating at the top of the tank with half her tale missing!!! I don't know what has caused this and this is the 2nd female that I've lost! Am I doing anything wrong to cause this? <Need those tank specs.... especially readings on ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.... and depending upon the species of catfish, he may be to blame, as well.> Third problem is that my fighter fish is looking really shabby. When I came back from holiday in August he looked really bad. He was practically swimming on his side (what's the cause of this?) <Many possibilities.... likely environmental/related to water quality.> and looked very weak. I'm a great believer in leaving nature to take its course <Mm, very dangerous in these small, closed, un-natural systems....> so I kept the water clean and kept an eye on him and he seems to be a lot more healthy already. He's swimming upright and no longer resting on the bottom and seems to be nearly back to normal but his fins seem a lot smaller and a little ragged but I haven't seen any of the platys going for him!? <Again, likely related to water quality.... be testing ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate - maintain ammonia and nitrite at ZERO, nitrate less than 20ppm, with water changes.> I was wondering if it had anything to do with the catfish. <Again, depending upon the species, this is possible. There are many, MANY types of catfishes.> He's very docile but at night he gets very energetic and thrashes around a bit, so I wondered if the fighter fish had maybe been damaged by that? <Possible.> Also....another question...(does it ever end?) <Nope! I've been keeping fish for.... uhh.... 15 years? And still I have questions.> I have 3 gorgeous little platy fries who I'm now so attached to... must be some kind of maternal instinct coming out! <Grin> As soon as I spotted them I whipped them out and put them in a floating breeding box in the same tank. Thing is... when do I let them out? <When they're big enough not to be eaten. Might want to set up a dedicated tank for them.> I had neon tetras once around about the same size as my biggest fry and the fighter pretty much saw them as floating snacks. I no longer have any tetras...so how big do the fry have to be before I let them come face to face with my fighter??? <Bigger than the neons, I would have to guess. And be ready to pull them out again if anyone tries to nab 'em. Again, best to raise in a separate system, to be on the safe side.> I would appreciate any help or advice you could give me as I am such a beginner and am really loving my new hobby! I really want a successful tank! <Please do take a look at the set-up and maintenance sections of our freshwater site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm . There is much here that will help you.> Thank you so much. -Jenny :) <Glad to be of service. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Moving Fish Around  10/20/05 I have two tanks with too many fish in them.  In one, the fish just got way too big, and the other way too friendly.  I have two more tanks...a ten (well 2-10s actually--but parts for one.) and a 30 X 12" tank (long) I would like to shuffle my fish, and get two of the black tipped shark/minnows.   The "sharks would go in the 30 X 12 tank, and I would like to move out several female cichlids to the ten gallon tank. I would like to move one of the goldfish (they are so pretty-fantails) to the longer tank too--with the sharks (and maybe a few Neons?)  Can or should I take water from the old tanks to set up the new tanks to keep from shocking the fish.  They all seem really healthy and happy--but crowded at the moment, and I'd just like to alleviate the crowded part.  Thanks <It is more important that you use some of the old gravel from the established tank to be used in the new tank. It contains bacteria that will be needed to convert fish waste into less toxic compounds. Try not mixing goldfish with tropical fish. Goldfish like cooler temps than the tropicals. Somebody will get sick over time.-Chuck>

Glue smell in New tank 7/7/05 Hello Everyone, <Bryan> I recently bought a new 25 gallon tall aquarium from PetSmart. Well it's been sitting on my new stand for a few days so I finally put some gravel in it and filled it up. My problem is that there is now a GLUE like smell coming from the tank. <?> Right now the temp is about 90+ do to the fact I filled it up with zero fish in it. I expect for it to level out in a few days and then see if I needed a heater. <You will if you're keeping tropical animals... important that the temperature not fluctuate much, keep warm> The rocks inside the tank were picked off the ground outside from a previous "dump" of another aquarium but were scrubbed with hot water. I'm really baffled by this and am curious what is going on. Please help. Bryan, WA <I would empty this tank and re-fill it... wait a few days, see if this odor persists... You did rinse it out before initially filling? I might try a "test fish" once the system is cycled... Bob Fenner>

FW fishtank (stock and equipment) 7/6/05 Hello, <Saludo> I have been looking at your site for quite some time, originally with an interest in a saltwater tank. However, I figured it would be more sensible to start out with freshwater fish than jumping in to saltwater head first and not knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it (and less expensive in the event I really screwed things up. I don't want to harm any fish needlessly). <Better to practice on freshwater...> Earlier this year, my cousin gave me a 12"x16 3/4"x36" 30 gallon tank.  I would like to make a planted community tank. I did some research and chose a few fish that I liked, and appeared to be compatible in that they have similar pH, temperature, and feeding requirements (though I am not sure how accurate my information is, and am prepared for a verbal dressing down if my selections don't mix) For my tank, I would like to have the following: 2 Lyretail Killifish 3 Glass Catfish (Kryptopterus minor, not bicirrhis, which I've been told, can grow up to 6 inches in length) 4 Dwarf Corydoras I was also looking into a pair of Borelli's Dwarf Cichlids, and though they are said to be peaceful, I don't know if that's true, or if they would even fit. I am also worried about the dwarf Corydoras. The other fish like to have acidic water, but the Corydoras like it to be neutral. Would they be okay in this setup? <Would be. I might leave off with the Killies... for reasons of temperament, feeding.> I also wanted to ask about hardware. For filtration, I would like to go with a Rena FilStar xP1 Canister filter, or possibly go with the xP2. For lighting, I think that about 40 watts would be sufficient, since the plants I'm interested in (i.e.. Java Fern, Golden Cana, and a few Anubias) are said to only require .5 to 1 watt per gallon. <Yes, low light species> I think that covers everything. For the record, I would like to add that I have not started anything with this tank (just incase I wasn't clear on that) and am waiting for an expert opinion before beginning. Thank you for your time and patience with my letter, Lynn <You have way beyond the usual preparation here... and will do fine as a consequence. Bob Fenner>

New Start Up Hi, I am going to be setting up an  aquarium in about two weeks and I was wondering if I could put 2 male neon blue  dwarf Gouramis with a male guppy in a 10 gallon tank. I don't want any females because I am not ready to breed my fish, because this will only be my second time setting up an aquarium and my first one failed in about 2 weeks. I want to make sure that the fish should all be able to live happily with each other. Also, if this combination of fish doesn't work out, what can I do if I want a male neon blue dwarf Gourami? Thanks, Leah <First read here on establishing bio filtration: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm It is very important you take the time to "cycle" any new tank. If not, your fish will die in about two weeks! Sound familiar? It will take about a month to get everything ready. It takes some time to create a good home for your new pets. It's time well spent so you don't have the same problem again. When your tank is ready I would only add one Gourami. There's a good chance two males will fight. A few Cory catfish would be a great addition. But get the tank cycled first, then stock slowly. A pair of fish every 2 weeks or so. Don>

New Tank Set Up Hey guys, I've currently got a 30 gallon tank cycling. I've added about a capful of Hagen's 'Cycle' and taken the filter out of my 6 gallon tank and squeezed all the muck into the tank to sort of give it a head start in cycling. Did I do the right thing? <So far so good. I prefer Marineland's Bio-Spira but I think you will still be OK.> I currently don't have any test kits, but they are pretty expensive at my LFS so I can only afford one at the moment. Which one is most important? Ammonia, nitrite or nitrates. < Ammonia and nitrites are deadly to fish I would test for those first.> I've already got pH tester. How long should I wait before I add fish. It's been cycling for a day. < Put the one angelfish in. Feed it once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes. Go to Marineland.com and check out Dr. Tim's library and look for an article titled "The First 30 Day." This will give you a time line on when most of the cycling happens.> I pretty much have planned what sort of fish I want to have: 4 neon tetras 1 angel (small, from my old tank) 2 pleco catfish 3 Corydoras catfish 3 swordtails 3 ram cichlids Is this a good mix? < The angelfish will eat the neons when it gets bigger. The swords like hard brackish water while the rest of the fish like soft acidic water.> Does it all fit in my tank? < All these fish will fit.> I am planning of giving my angel back to my LFS. What other cichlids could I keep? I really want another type of cichlid (common, so I can find then in my LFS), even if I have to get rid of the swordtails or neons. < Rams are great little cichlids that like to be warm , around 80 degrees plus. Look at other dwarf cichlids like Lateacara curviceps or even Kribs to add to the tank. When I brought my tank I also got a Life-glo2 light bulb. I think it's 20 watts. Is this a good light for plants? Can you please recommend any common and hardy plants for this light? Thank you so much in advance, James < The plant light is actually pretty weak and would be a problem for most plants. Try easy plants that don't require much light like Anubias, java fern and Cryptocorynes.-Chuck> 

Saltwater to Freshwater system switch Hello again crew, <Hi there> My new tank that I'm picking up tonight is a 55 gallon that has been used for saltwater fish. I intend to use it for fresh only, so I'm wondering if there is anything I need to be careful of with this transformation. The equipment list goes like this:  Marineland Magnum 350 filter Marineland Emperor 400 dual bio wheel filter two Marineland 550 powerheads Aqua-link model H/O 2515 Protein skimmer Tetra Luft pump and repair kit Aquarium Systems "Visi-Jet" Protein skimmer {new in box} <Not useful with freshwater> "Fastest" master test kit <Some parts may be useful, though pH range is likely too high for fresh> Seachem copper test kit Seachem phosphate test kit Plus the "extras" below. If no brand or model is named then I don't know it. Under gravel filters, a heater, thermometer, salt specific gravity tester, a bag of salt mix, vacation feeder, Cuprisorb, Phos-zorb... <The hydrometer, chemical filtrants... not for freshwater by and large> ...replacement filter inserts, air stones for the protein skimmer, Stress Coat, all plumbing for the Magnum 350, rocks for the tank. <The rocks may be too calcareous... are they "chalky?" If so, not for most types of FW systems> I assume that the salt, gravel and rocks are out and the skimmers are useless. I also figure I need to rinse everything over and over and toss any carbon or such that might be in the filters. I'm just a little lost as to what I might be forgetting or what I shouldn't use, etc. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Pete Thompson <Looks like you have a good understanding... Unless you're going with some livestock/system that enjoys hard alkaline water, I would (save not toss) the substrates... and save the salt... can be used likely down the road. Bob Fenner> 

38 Gallon FW Setup I have recently purchased a 38 gallon tank, which I am currently building a stand for.  However before I set this tank up I have some questions regarding the types of fish I can keep in it.  The tank measures 38"long, by 18"high, by 12"deep, and I have an Eheim classic canister filter for it. I was hoping, when I bought the tank, to maybe keep 4 discus in there with a school of about 10 cardinal tetras, a pair of blue rams, and maybe 2 Plecos, but after doing some reading I've given up on the rams.  I've heard so many conflicting stories that I don't know if I can actually pull this off with just the tetras, the discuss, and the Plecos. Could you please email me back ASAP, with what ever advice you have. <Putting all these fish together is no problem. All of them like the same water conditions (soft and slightly acidic). They all like to be kept at 80 degrees plus. I would go will the smaller Pleco types. I would go with the clown Pleco, Otocinclus, whiptail cat types. None of these fish like dirty water and are sensitive to nitrogenous wastes so you need excellent filtration and be willing to do weekly water changes of up to 30% with R/O or DI water. The filter should pump at least 150 gph and be cleaned weekly. I would add a BioWheel attachment to make sure that the "good" bacteria are not removed at each cleaning. The wheel will keep the good bacteria alive and well on the wheel no matter what you do in the tank. make sure that all you fish are quarantined before you put them in the main tank to prevent diseases.-Chuck>

Dorm Tank Hey all! I recently set up a small 5 gallon aquarium in my dorm (with a carbon pad filter, bio wheel, and small heater) and set to cycling it with 3 small female platies. I have only had the fish for a week, and have not had problems so far with ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates. I have done two 20% water changes so far. I was wondering if this is enough or if I should do more frequent and/or smaller changes?  Also, my platies do not seem to be quite as rounded ventrally as many of the pictures I have been looking at. Could they be underfed or will the belly fill out as they grow? Is it possible that they are in fact a different species (like a female swordtail)? I would send in some pictures but they are quick little things! Finally, I was looking at introducing a few other fish in the future. I already added some salt the platies and I couldn't find a site that detailed whether a Harlequin Rasbora could tolerate salt or not. If not, do you have any other fish suggestions? Thank you for your time and expertise! Sara <During a fish driven cycling you need to do whatever water changes are needed to keep ammonia and nitrite at zero. The amount and frequency will vary from tank to tank. I assume you are testing, let the results set your water change schedule. After cycling, about six weeks, slow to keep nitrate under 20ppm. Your fish may be young or underfed. As long as the stomach does not seem pinched they will be fine. Better to underfeed during cycling anyway. It's almost impossible to tell a female platy from a swordtail. Closely related and frequently crossbred. I would not really add too much more to a five gallon. But a pair of Barbs should be fine. Don> Praise, Questions, and Help - 04/01/2005 Hell guys. <Woah! I'm sure you meant 'hello', but that made me laugh so hard, I had to leave it in. Sabrina here, this fire-an'-brimstone afternoon!> I just want to say that your site is great and I really trust you guys. <Thank you very kindly for these comments; words like this mean a lot to us. Thank you.> The reason I am e-mailing is because I am soon buying about a 30-40 gallon tank and I do not trust my LFS on things because they ripped me off last time. <Bummer! Sorry to hear that.> So with a tank of that size, will a 200 watt heater suffice, or will I need a larger one? <A 200 watt heater would be fine, BUT, and I really speak from experience on this, it is better to have two somewhat smaller heaters than one bigger one. In the last year, I have had no less than three heaters cease to work, and in one case lost a lot of livestock. Were it me in your shoes, I would use two 150 watt heaters. Or if you already have the 200w, I would add a second 150 or 200 watt heater. Try to have them set to very nearly the same temperature.> I also have a Sacem Gemini 100 filter. Is that large enough? <For a 30-40 gallon tank, no, not by far. You can certainly still use it for added circulation and filtration, and I urge you to do so. But I would look into a larger, external power filter for your use with this tank. Again, were it my tank, I would probably use a Marineland Penguin 330 power filter, or another brand's equivalent. That might be just a bit "overkill", but most power filters have ways to turn down the flow some, too. If you do use the Gemini as well, you could easily get by with something more like the Penguin 170.> Also, I want to have live plants in the tank. what sort of gravel do I need, and do I need to have a thick layer? <This depends much on what plants you intend to have, and how much maintenance you intend to do. I recommend you start reading here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html  I would also like to recommend a book that I have found to be tremendously enjoyable and informative in the world of aquarium plants: "Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants" by Peter Hiscock.> And how many fish can a 30-40 gallon tank hold? <Now, that depends TOTALLY on what kind of fish you want. Take a look at fish in stores and write down some names of the ones that you're interested in, then come home, and look 'em up. Find out how big they get, what they're compatible with, and so forth. You might find our forums a great place to ask other aquarists for ideas and help in what fish to get for this tank. Feel free to join in: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/  You'll find me there as Vintage_Fish.> Thank you sooo much. Jamie <And thank you again for your kind words! Good luck with your new tank, and do please join in our forums and let us know how it goes! Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

NEW TANK PROBLEMS I just recently acquired information about the "cycling" process in freshwater tanks. However I was unaware of this information when I went about (idiotically) buying: an angelfish, a shark (unknown about 2-3 inches), a red tail shark, a rainbow shark, 3 mollies, 2 algae eaters, 3 little dudes (unknown about 1 inch each small), and two fire bellied newts. All of these fish have been in my tank (about 15 gallons) and I have been having lots-o-problems with my Nitrate, Alkalinity, and Nitrite; also my 2 newts have been acting very strange recently. I was wondering how I can go about saving these guys from suffering (cuz I'm sure that they are). Or how I could go about making this cycling process happen while they are all still in the tank? Unfortunately I have already lost about 3 fish, and was buying more because I thought they the 3 were just sick. I realize now the brutality I have been causing these fish, and would like to do everything I can to achieve ecosystem equilibrium. PLEASE HELP! < Check out the WWM website for articles on cycling new tanks. If you still need some help then go to Marineland.com and check out Dr. Tim's Library for an article titled "The First 30 Days." Get some Bio-Spira and add it to the tank now. This will quicken the cycling process. If you have high alkalinity problems too then I would recommend changing a third of the water with filtered and or bottled water to cut down the stress from the high mineral content of the water. The ammonia and nitrite should be zero. The nitrates should be under 25 ppm.-Chuck>

MORE NEW TANK PROBLEMS I have several questions, and don't know where to start. Over the March Break I randomly decided that I had the need for fish. I bought a 10 gallon tank, a pump and an air stone because originally I just had one goldfish. The clerks said I didn't need anything for goldfish except an air pump (the one I have is what he pointed out.) I had three goldfish, who were extremely small, and I realized now that maybe that wasn't a good idea. Anyway, I put in a Betta only because the store clerk said I could. I regret it because four days later two of my fish died, and I guessed it was from the Betta, although after the first one died I removed him. My second goldfish died the next morning, and it was clear that he was beat up by the Betta because of missing scales and red marks. I thought everything was fine, because my third goldfish was showing no signs of being hurt. When I left in the morning he was swimming carelessly, and when I returned from school he was still swimming. Later this evening (I just found him) Jack was found on the bottom of the tank, my last goldfish. I was curious what the cause of his death could be? < Check the ammonia and nitrites. They should be zero. If not add some Bio-Spira from Marineland.> I've only had him for a week, if that. Recently, my water has gotten cloudy although I change it every other day and I do not over feed my fish. Am I changing the water too often? <No, You are probably experiencing and ammonia spike. Vacum the gravel while doing the water change> Is there such thing as too much water conditioner? < Water conditioner should be added as per the manufacturers recommendations.> Perhaps its the rocks that I added, although I soaked them for over twenty four hours? Could they have contaminated my water? < Not all rocks are safe for an aquarium. Many leech chemicals into the water that affect the pH.> Please help, I am so upset. I don't think I want to buy goldfish again, could you suggest another type of fish that is maybe easier to care for? and the other equipment I will need? (preferably none if possible, but a heater for freshwater fish?) Thank you, and sorry for the long post.-Heather < I would recommend that you get a little outside power filter that will pump a minimum of 30 gallons per hour. I personally like the Marineland brands with the bio-wheels because the good bacteria live on the wheel and I can totally clean a tank without worrying about having to cycle it again. A good reliable heater is well worth the investment. Get a good thermometer too. Not too many fish can go with your Betta. Slow moving fish will be picked on while quicker fish will nip at the Bettas fins. Try some platies and find a new fish store.-Chuck>

Calculations Offered by One Who is Mathematically Declined.... >Hello again >>Hello for the first time. >I have a 4ft tank and would like to know how gallons of water it holds. The measurements are 122(L)x 43(H)x 31(D). >>Well, since you've used feet and asked for gallons (which is a very good thing, otherwise I'm forced to convert, the results are not always good) I do believe I can help you. In order to figure gallons (U.S.) of a rectilinear vessel all one needs to do is multiply (in INCHES) the three dimensions. So (ready class?), one would address it thusly:  Uh.. shoot, your measurements don't indicate inches, centimeters, or cubits! Alrighty then, you'll have to sort this on your own, my friend. All three dimensions, Height x Width x Depth = ???? (usually a fantastically large number). Then take ????/231 = total gallons U.S. (total divided by 231, which is the number of cubic inches in a gallon). Make sense? Marina 

New aquarium-losing lots of fish HELP! I set up a 35 gallon aquarium about 3 weeks ago. I let the water run without fish and a heater (around 75 degrees) for 3 days before I put the fish in. I put 2 little frogs, and about 15 other fish (different varieties). The water had StressCoat and Stress-Zyme added to it when I put the fish in it. I lost the 2 frogs right away and a couple of fish. The water started smelling and I changed some out and added something for the smell and cloudiness. <What was added?> By the next weekend I had lost all the small fish. I changed the water and put the fish back in.  My water got smelly and cloudy again and I lost another new frog and couple of quarter-sized fish. I changed the water completely, scrubbed the tank and added another filter. I ran 2 filters (one for a 30 gallon and one for a 20 gallon tank.) I noticed a couple of days later my fish had ick. I treated them for 3 days straight with partial water changes and thought I was doing better until I came home last night and several fish had gotten covered in ick over the night and day and were dead. I immediately took all the fish out (I was panicking) and put them in a small Betta tank, bought a new aquarium (since the first was used and I was worried some type of problem existed with the tank and filters) and then filled a new 10 gallon tank with bottled water and put the fish back in. during the hour and a half it took for me to set up the new tank, 5 more fish died. I now have 1 Plecostomus (spelled wrong), 1 small frog, 2 gouramis (also spelled wrong), and 3 other small fish left and in the new tank. The water temp is about 75 and I added some ick medicine (since I still saw some spots) and some medicine I can't remember the name of in a blue bottle that is really popular at Wal-Mart and Petsmart with their staff for sick fish. I know I am really a novice at this but hate the fact I am doing something to kill these fish. I need your help. What should I do for the ick and am I doing something wrong with the aquarium? <Ahh, yes... you're missing a critical "step" in establishing biological filtration. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm  and the linked files above> I read that you should only change the water once every 6 months or so and I have had to do it at least 3 times in 3 weeks. Your advice would really help! <Understand that, like our own health, the environment is a direct and indirect determiner of health... in this case, with the systems being so new, a lack of needed "conversion" filtration... your livestock is weakened, and at a disadvantage for actual treatment... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwdis3setsfactors.htm  and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwich.htm and the related (linked) files... As you'll see, there is a needed "break in" period with new aquariums... things that can be done to prevent parasitic disease... You need to "go back several steps" and allow your system to age... Please don't buy any more livestock, nor "medicines" whose name you don't know... read for now. Bob Fenner>

FW questions Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 Mr. Fenner I love your book.  it covered everything I need to know to start my salt water tank, <Good> whenever that is.  but its also helping me with my freshwater tank.  I realize that I need to master my freshwater tank before going to something as complicated as a salt water tank is.  I hope that maybe you could write a book for freshwater tanks as well. <This IS my desire... and have been working in fits and starts on one for many years> I have a few questions to ask if it doesn't take too much of your time or if it doesn't bother you if I ask some questions. <Sure>     1.  First I was wondering with the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate cycles are they the same as you describe in your book for saltwater fish named "the conscientious marine aquarist"?  to continue <Yes> that question my nitrite level is in a deadly place, but my two angelfish I have look too very happy and content.  the angelfish are fine but when I bought them I bought two small sharks and they died less than a week after I started my tank. 2.  do you have a good rule of thumb as to how many fish I should put in my tank?  my tank is a 55 gallon, 48*22*12 inches. <Very dependent on the actual species... and the dynamic of what is that's all thrown together... and to an extent on your other gear, decor... Best to build a potential selection around either a theme (Amazon forest let's say) or "must have" organisms... and build around these ideas> 3.  when do you think the algae build up going to be good enough to place algae eaters or pleco's in the tank, or is it OK to put them in after my nitrite levels out?  I <Wait a good month after you observe actual algae growth> started my tank on Feb.. 5, 2005. 4.   do you think I need to put live plants in my tank, if so what kind would you suggest, I have gravel on the bottom of my tank. <Let me introduce you to our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ Your plant selection answers are there> 5.  what kind if any , of items can I place in my tank I make sure that I have enough algae for my Pleco's and snails? <Driftwood, sinking pellet, wafer foods...> 6.  would you suggest under-gravel filtration for my tank because it is so large? <No... better options exist... that are more efficient, easier to maintain> 7.  what types of testers would you suggest I get aka: nitrite, nitrate, ammonia? <Yes, and pH, alkalinity> when my tank levels out on nitrate and nitrite how many fish would you say I should stock every two weeks? <A couple> 8.  can you recommend a good website where I can buy thermometers test kits etc for my freshwater tank. <The actual aquarium bulletin boards are best here... to query other aquarists> I'm sorry if I caused you any inconvenience at all.  I will make sure to recommend your book to other enthusiasts.  thank you for your time Mr. Fenner. Best Wishes, Charles Hoskins <Pleased to make your acquaintance. Bob Fenner> Halides for freshwater Hi Recently I purchased a second-hand tank that was set up as a reef tank. I'm planning on using it for freshwater and not sure what to do about the lights that came with the system. Those are very nice Hamilton technology lights with two 175W Metal Halides and two VHO 40W super actinic bulbs everything in a nice oak enclosure, very nice. At first I got excited the lights are beautiful but later started to think that this is too much light for me. So my question is should I keep it or should I replace it. I really like the Orbit light with four 65W bulbs I like it for it looks and the fact that I do not need to have a canopy but it is a saltwater light equipped with one 6500K one 10000K and two actinic bulbs. Should I use it as is or should I replace one of those actinic bulbs with a 6700K bulb? Thank you.   <I would very likely use this lighting fixture... especially if you decide to have some, a bunch of live plants... perhaps a bit more algae growth (due to intensity) and electrical expense (you can put these on a timer and just have on when you're about if not growing live plants), and switch out the actinics if you find you don't like the "blue" effect... but they should be fine if your system is large enough to absorb their waste heat. Bob Fenner>

Monster Tank I just purchased a 36 gallon tank after I had a very bad week with my 5 gallon tank. I had an iridescent shark & 4 goldfish. All the goldfish died one day at a time. The shark barely survived. We had to do an emergency 1/2 water change, change the filter, clean the bio wheel & he still appeared dead. He was literally vertical head up, tail down, I finally got him back with holding him horizontal with the net. A few days later, he is alive & well, although very lonely. I stick tested the water & there were extremely high levels of nitrate (before the water change). Now that I bought the 36 gallon corner unit fish tank I need help deciding what the best filtration system would be. As a kid I had a 20 gallon tank with an UG filter along with a regular filter. That seem to work great, but with such a large tank I'm not sure what would be best. Now they have those canister filters, the filters that hang inside the tank, the UG filters & probably more. We purchased an UG filtration & a Tetra Whisper Power Filter 40. The instructions actually suggest the Tetra Whisper Power Filter 40i which sits inside the tank (better for corner units). So before I start taking these back to the store & purchasing new ones, I was hoping for some good advise. Should I use 2 filters or just a canister filter or just one that sits inside the aquarium? I am hoping to transfer our survivor to the new tank & use the 5 gallon tank for 1 or 2 goldfish for my daughter. I also hope to add another shark & some other fresh water fish to the new tank. Should I also put live plants in the new tank? I have never experienced that either. Please help me have a healthy aquarium. Thank you, Amanda <Amanda, you have a monster in your tank. You need to return the shark. An Iridescent will grow to over four feet! Please see here: http://www.planetcatfish.com/catelog/pangasii/pangasiu/172_f.php Even a single Goldfish is to many for a five gallon. If it has a filter and heater a Betta and a few Corys would work. Without a heater try about 5 White Clouds. Never clean a Bio Wheel. It's function is to grow a bacterial colony that removes ammonia from your water. It takes weeks to recover once lost. I hate UGFs, I wouldn't put it in. If you already did, I suggest you remove it. So, you need to go to the pet store. Take back the shark. No way around that unless you want to flood your basement for him. Pick up a test kit for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate with a new filter. Many fine brands/styles on the market. I like the Marineland Power Filters with the Bio Wheel. Get one that will pump around 225 to 275 gallon per hour. Do not bring home any fish. Get the filter running and the temp around 78. Throw in a small raw shrimp. First ammonia, and later nitrite will spike and crash. When they stay at zero and nitrates are on the rise you are "cycled" and can start to slowly stock your tanks. No water changes needed until there are fish in there. Expect this to take about 6 weeks. Don>  

Self contained ecosystems Hello, I am  a science teacher and have been experimenting with small self-contained ecosystems. These provide a fascinating opportunity to teach ecosystems and nutrient cycles authentically. I have had success with White Cloud Minnows surviving in seeded micro-invertebrate/algae environments supplemented with NAP to add fertility in gallon jars closed to the atmosphere. I feel I am barely pricking the surface of this interesting topic. There are a myriad of directions to head in class experimentations. Do you have any recommendations on simple systems or know of individuals who are working on this or are interested in networking? this will be my long range email address  XXXX <Go to aquaticeco.com and look at the Ecosphere. This is a little self contained saltwater unit that combines a shrimp/algae/bacteria that are totally self contained for up to 12 years.-Chuck> Drilled Hole Locations Hello All! I'm trying to work out the specifics on a filtration system for a new 90 gallon African cichlid set-up.  This may be converted to a reef system in the future.  I want to use a wet/dry system and have been convinced not to use an external overflow set-up to move the water to the sump.  If I have the tank drilled, where do I have the output holes drilled? On the back near the top?  On the bottom with a Durso standpipe?  What are the advantages and disadvantages with each?  Thanks a ton! < There are actually three ways to go. First is have the hole drilled at the back of the tank where you want your final water level. As the tank fills up the water will overflow into the outlet. Does a great job of skimming the surface water but will also very efficiently remove any floating foods. The next option would be to drill the bottom of the tank and attach a stand pipe. Problems occur when you want to catch things out of the tank because it is in the way and once again it efficiently skims the surface. You could always modify the stand pipe by covering it with a pipe with a larger diameter and slots cut at the bottom of the larger pipe. This way the water will come into the larger tube through the slots at bottom and then fill up the tube and overflow into the smaller outlet. A third option would be to drill a hole about a quarter of the way off the bottom on the back. At this location you install a 90 degree elbow with the stand pipe attached at terminated at the desired water level. the advantages of this system is when you want to change water. All you have to do is push the tube over to one side and the water will drain to that level. All the water will run down into the sump and may overflow it so the sump may require and overflow to an outlet or a valve  to drain the water from the overflow.-Chuck>

Setting up freshwater aqua. 29,30, 38, gallon I would like to know what yours is relating to this . And if more than one ideal setup would like to read this here on this web site < How you set you tank up is totally dependent on what you are trying to keep. Do you want a plant tank? A cichlid tank? A piranha tank? A FW community tank? Do a little research and get back to us with what fish you intend to keep.-Chuck>

Starting up a 55 Hey, WWMites, What a great site! <Hey back, and thanks. Don here> I've been away from aquaria since around 1980 - had a 20g freshwater and 30g marine tank for several years in college, using the old "1) buy a tank, 2) dechlorinate the water, 3) add fish, 4) remove dead fish, 5) repeat steps three and four until something lives" philosophy that ruled in the late '70s.  What a change since then!  And with y'all right here on the Web, answering questions, holding hands, chastising when necessary - what an incredible boon.  Thanks! <This guy's read my bio> We've put together a 55g freshwater setup for a community tank, with an Emperor 400, submersible 200W heater (set to 76F (77?)), 60 lb of small gravel, several silk plants, a fake driftwood arch, and a "wall o' bubbles" (my term) bubble tube.  After it sat for three days, we added six Zebrafish for cycling.  My wife (of one year) had a couple of max. 20g tanks for years, and was familiar with cycling using Zebras, and we didn't find your site until we had it set up already. Ergo, fish-based cycling. <OK. It will work. Did the same thing myself with the same size tank and filter and same fish. IMO, lose the fake driftwood for the real thing> Tap water was pH 9.6+, <Wow!!> kH and GH both 80-ish. <also high, but not terrible> The tank has been "cooking" for twelve days now, after we lowered the pH (using sodium biphosphate) and buffered (using Proper pH 7.0) for pH ~7.0 (GH now ~120). <Good. I rarely want to see people messing with pH. But yours is extreme for the fish you plan on stocking. I will say, as I always do, that you would be better off stocking fish that like your conditions. In this case African Cichlids. A big change from the Endler's and Corys you are planning> The tap water registered about 0.25 ppm ammonia (after chloramine was neutralized with Aqua Safe)<normal, will not be a concern when the tank is established> and the aquarium is now barely registering a 0.5 ppm (these numbers are all from an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals "Master Test Kit"), so we're starting to see a tiny rise. We're going the "natural" cycling route - there's a source for the BIO-Spira here in Austin, but we have a couple of three- to five-day trips between now and the end of the year and aren't going to start ramping up the population until after New Year's anyway - "should be plenty of time to cycle", he says confidently. <It is. But if you can throw in some Bio Spira you will save yourself a lot of work and maybe the Zebras life. This is a great product, when you can get it. Without it you need to do water changes to keep ammonia, and later nitrite, at zero or the Danios may die. Doing these water changes will slow, but not stop, the cycling process. I would throw in the Bio Spira. In fact I'd get a double dose and keep the other in the frig.> My wife and I are both (far too) detail-oriented, <There's a word for that, but I'll pass:)> and we've probably checked the water chemistry five or six times already. <Good> We have a siphon-vacuum-Homerbucket setup and a new trash can (for making new water) so we can do 20% water changes about every two weeks - more frequently if the chemistry shows it's needed. <All great> We're planning to just tweak the tap water instead of using RO or DI, and will probably make up a 25g batch each time so we'll have top-off water. <If using RO/DI water is an option, it's the very best one! The Corys and Endler's you want will do much better in softer water> We didn't do a very good job of rinsing the danged gravel, so the tank was nearly opaque with particulates. I put some floss in the auxiliary cartridges in the Emperor 400 and put them upstream of the regular Emperor cartridges.  We got some Kent flocculant, but the tank stayed pretty cloudy for over a week.  I cut off a pair of nylon knee-highs (yes, she knew about it *g*) and slipped them over the aux cartridges, and now the tank is clearing nicely.  Amazing what fine filtration will do... <You do have fine filtration, but that's not why the tank cleared. And the gravel is not what made it cloudy. This is a normal bacterial bloom that happens in the first couple of weeks. It soon starves itself out> Whew. Too much information! <Not at all> Now for the questions: Should we aerate the stored water before we use it? <Best too. Or add a powerhead to keep it moving, then add an airstone a couple of hours before use. You need to keep it stirring while stored. A few airstones would do> The biggest fish we plan to put in this tank will likely be a trio of Swordtails. Everything else will be pretty small, in schools (more on that in a minute). We plan to use Otocinclus spp. for algae control, probably five of them. <Then buy ten> I've seen and heard conflicting opinions on when to add the Otos - some say to wait until we need them (well-established algae growth), while some say get them early and supplement their feed until there's enough algae to support them.  What do y'all think about timing their introduction? Also, is one Oto per ten gallons about the right number? <The problem with Oto's is that most people loose at least half in the few weeks. If they make it a month or two, they become fairly long lived. No one is sure why, but I read a theory that they need algae to keep alive bacteria in their gut used for digestion. If they go without algae too long, the bacteria dies and the fish starves, ever if it is eating other things. Again, it's only a theory but I think it's best to add them after you get some natural growth going. This is why I want you to replace the fake driftwood with the real thing. Catfish love to graze it>     We're also going to have a few Corys for our scavengers. We plan to stay on the smaller end of the size range (max 2"), and were thinking about maybe six of them, as we understand they're shoal-oriented. Can we mix six different species of Corys to make the "shoal" (as an extreme example, there are some neat ones out there!), or would they be more secure with the same blotch pattern? <Best to get all one species> This one may be impossible without a picture, but here goes. After one of the Zebras died the first night in the tank, we saw what we thought was a very young male Endler's Livebearer at a very reputable LFS.  He was the lone fish like him in a tank with Rasboras and we bought him.  Endler's is going to be our primary species once the tank gets going (probably ten of them), and we'll set up a separate fry tank for them once they start whelping.  My wife swears she sees a gonopodium, and I can imagine one if I try (maybe my reading glasses would help...)  She had a herd (gaggle? (flock? (rage?))) of Endler's in her tank before, and I guess I should bow to her superior experience (but I'm in guy mode!)  His eye is huge in relation to his head (the fish, not my wife *g*), and he's tiny -  just a bit over 1/2" (not including the tail - what's the phrase for that kind of measurement?)  Now for the puzzling part.  After seeing pictures of some Dwarf Rasboras, I wonder if maybe that's what he is. He has three black dots on each side (behind gill covers, mid-body, and at the body/caudal fin junction), which is what led me to think "Rasbora".  The problem is, he has really intense broad neon-orange stripes top (behind the dorsal fin to caudal fin) and bottom (pretty much his entire length), and the black spot at his tail is right where the spot is on the peacock variant of the Endler's.  No color on the caudal fin yet, but I understand they take a while to develop their full color.  There's maybe a little bit of green on him that I can see (he's too danged quick), though my wife says it shows up better when the light is right (and it seems we saw it at the LFS).  The people at the LFS didn't argue when we called him and Endler's, either.  Is there a color variant of the Dwarf Rasbora that has that kind of intense coloring?  Will I have to admit, once again, that my wife is right?  (Sigh.)  Will Lassie find Timmy in the old mine shaft? <I'm not going to settle an argument between husband and wife without pictures! Of the fish, that is. Many pictures of both (fish, that is) on the net. But it sounds like a male Endler's.> Finally, our anticipated population is as follows, probably sequenced as shown (ramped up one species at a time, as chemistry balances after each addition): <Thank you, saved me another 1,000 words> 5 Zebrafish (there now)<OK, but you're not going to get any Endler's fry to live in this tank> 9-10 Endler's Livebearers (3-4m and 6-7f) <3 and 7, spread the aggression> 6 Corys <OK> 3 Swordtails <Same answer as Zebras> 5 Otos <OK, but not an easy fish> 6-8 Cardinal Tetras (I hope)<Very flashy and schools well. I'd want more> Does this seem to be a workable bio load for this tank, with religious water changes?  Should I give up on the Cardinals?  Are the individual species counts appropriate for icthyan bliss? <LOL, Not sure about Bliss, but it would work with lots of water changes. What about dropping the Swordtails and returning the Zebras? Then add more Cardinals with the Endler's and Corys. Better chance of some fry making it through. Hold off on the Otos for now>   Thanks a million, and I look forward to reading your forums for a long time! <Please join us there. I'm "Fish Soup" in the forum. Hope to see you there. Don> Glen

Canister Filter and Tank Setups Hey WWM Crew, I'm in need of some help to clear my confusion regarding canister filters and my setups, hope you can help. I've been swimming with the fishes for 3-4 years now and decided to take the leap into purchasing a canister filter or two for my freshwater tanks. I plan on using one for two 20Ls that will house some breeder apple snails and Hets, and their offspring.  <<Kewl!>> Another one will be used for either a 30 or a 33L that'll house yet more apple snails, a couple Bushynose catfish, a couple dwarf gouramis and a small group of something I'm currently unaware of. All tanks will be planted, the 30/33L more so than the 20Ls. <<I assume you are planning to feed the snails with these plants? The like carrots, too :)>> My confusion starts on how a canister filter takes in the water from the tank. I understand what happens inside the filter itself and the inlet/outlet but get lost on what goes into the tank to get the water out. <<Canister filters come with intake and return hoses and valves. The intake hose resembles the return hose, both attach to the filter, and are placed in the tank. Water is pulled down one hose to the canister, goes thru the canister, and is pumped back up the return hose and into the tank.>> I'm really embarrassed by this question because I should know... but I honestly don't. I've read over articles about using a powerhead and underwater jets with sponge filters attached (which I like the sound of) but cannot picture it. Do you accomplish this just be hooking up the inlet tubing to one powerhead/jet and another powerhead/jet to the outlet?? <<No, powerheads and internal filters run independently. Powerheads can be attached to undergravel filters, but we are not talking about that now. Canister filters and powerheads are two different things, you do not need one in order to use the other.>> Or do you do it by some other means?? The powerhead/jet and tubing thing makes sense to me but I just can't picture it in my head; some cannons just aren't firing in the right direction, lol. I've looked into both the Eheim Classic Plus line and the Filstar XPs. Do these sound like good choices to be investing in? Any experience or advice you can give?? <<You can choose either. I will explain the differences. The Eheim Classic 2213 may a bit more complicated to hook up and un-hook for maintenance. It has two valves, one on each hose, return and intake. The Classic series does not come with baskets inside, so rinsing media is a bit more tricky. Ideally, the Eheim Pro series would be better, e.g. the 2026, since it has the quick-release valves and baskets, but it's too large for your tanks. The Filstar is a good design for a beginner canister owner, it has quick-release valves, and baskets inside for easy cleaning. Filstar does not have Eheim's quality, but it's a pretty good filter and, like all filters, if properly maintained should give you years of good service. On all filters, keep your impellers clean!>> The last question I have is if you think it's a good idea to hook both the 20Ls to the same filter. Good? Bad?  <<Bad bad bad.>> I figure I could just rig the inlet/outlet tubing to go to each without too many problems but am I asking for trouble by doing this?? <<Don't make things complicated :) For the time being: KISS. Keep It Simple, Sir.>> As always, any and all help is greatly appreciated :) ~ Jamie <<You are most welcome. Feel free to ponder further. :) -Gwen>>

New tank set up Hi, and thanks for the previous help. <Hi Jim, MacL here with you this evening.> I'm setting up a new 215 gallon fresh water tank. <OOOO lovely.> 1. I was thinking of using 2 Rena XP3 canister filters for the filtration. Is this enough? or should I add a third? Do I need biological filtration also? <Filtration really depends on what animals you plan on having in your tank and how big a "load" you are going to have.> 2. what is your opinion on the ocean clear canister filters? <I personally think they are amazing.> 3. is blasting sand okay to use as a substrate? I have a giraffe catfish that siphons the substrate through its gills. will this substrate hurt him? <Blasting said has glass in it so its my opinion that it would be bad to use on him.> Thanks for your time, Jim G Hailing from Pakistan, Ahmed with Questions.... 10/25/2004 Hi Bob/Sabrina!!!!!! <Sabrina here again, hello, Ahmed!> This is Ahmed from Pakistan and I am very eager to get more and more information about aquariums. <And we are very eager to share....  glad to hear of your desire to learn.> I have been in this hobby for the last 5 years. Our aquarium team is working in Karachi as well as in Dubai with the name of KARACHI AQUARIUM TRADING EST.  Our team consists of 3 members Khalid Rafi, Qasim Rafi and I Mohammad Ahmed. Khalid and Qasim are working there for the last 20 years and I have joined them 5 years back. Khalid works in Dubai Qasim and me in Karachi. <Sounds like time for me to look at some maps - it's so much fun to hear from people so far away.> There in Pakistan we do not have sufficient facilities to do research (any aquarium research)   <Seems you have internet access, yes?  Do please consider making use of all of the information stored at WetWebMedia.... there is a great deal to read.> as well as I think we don't have sufficient knowledge about aquarium industry because there is no awareness in people. They just think that "water and food is sufficient for the fish if they will provide these things to their fishes they can keep fishes live". <So sad to hear.> I want to ask some basic questions from you, I would be glad if you will give detailed reply of this mail of mine. <Absolutely!> 1. What is the meaning of aquarium (though I know that water filled glass tank is called aquarium but I want to know the true meaning)   <Mm, I think the true meaning *is* simply a water-filled container for maintaining aquatic life....  The term "aquarium" is also applied to large public aquariums, where people visit to see many, many large aquatic ecosystems - like the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL, USA, or the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA, USA.  These museums can have tanks up into the millions of gallons....> and how much vast this field is? <Field of.... what.... specifically?  The aquarium hobby, meaning people keeping fish for their own personal enjoyment?  Or the more scientific end, looking into the captive husbandry of fishes (Aquariology)?  There are many fields of study associated with fish and aquatic life....  Fish pathology, marine biology, and oceanography, to name a few.> 2. What is the meaning of the term pH, acidic and soft water? <Let's see....  I'll try to give you the "simple" version, and give you a link to Bob's detailed info on this topic.  pH is the measure of how acid or basic the water is.  This is very important to us as fish keepers, as certain fish may require a certain range of pH to live, thrive, or breed.  For instance, African rift lake cichlids like a very high pH, but discus and Uaru like a very low pH.  I know that's a very simplified, dumbed-down answer, but again, I'll give you Bob's very detailed description in a bit.  "Acidic" water means that the pH of the water is lower than neutral (7.0 is neutral; anything less is acidic).  "Soft" water simply means that the water doesn't have much in the way of dissolved minerals in it.  Now, here's the page I mentioned (I find this article VERY useful; just have some patience, and read through it a few times if you must) http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm > 3. What should be the most suitable temperature and conditions for keeping and breeding of angel and discus   <Ideally, temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit or so, pH of 6.5 or thereabouts, a chunk or two of slate or an inert brick on its end to lay eggs on.  Angels, having been captive bred for generations and generations, will breed in most aquarium conditions, so you need not be too cautious of pH or temp for them.  Though discus are somewhat less forgiving, they're not as difficult as they once were.  My best recommendation is to find out from the breeder where you get your stock what pH and temp they were raised/kept in, and attempt to match that roughly.> and what should be the minimum and maximum size of the aquarium for these fishes? (here the weather is dry and warm most of the year) <Minimum of 20 gallons for a breeding pair.  Max?  Whatever you can/wish to use.  I, personally, would aim for a 29 gallon tank per breeding pair.  These *are* pretty big/tall fish.  Though it is possible to breed them in bare 20 gallon tanks, that's pretty small, and it's always better to err on the side of extra space, IMO.  For grow out tanks for the fry, it would probably be best to have a few to several tanks of graduating size to move spawns as the grow, if you're planning a large-scale breeding situation; if you're just breeding for fun, a 29 gallon tank would be the smallest sufficient to get them to a couple or few inches, with rigorous maintenance and diligent culling.  Again, larger would likely be better.> 4. What is the difference among salt water, fresh water, cold water and brackish aquarium? <A fresh water aquarium has no salt and contains either tropical or coldwater fish.  A tropical freshwater aquarium would contain fish from tropical environments, like cichlids (angels, discus, Apistos, rift-lake cichlids, etc., etc.), characins, labyrinth fishes like Bettas or Gourami, and so forth - most of the fish available in the US aquarium hobby fit into this category (though, of important note, just 'cause they're all tropical does not mean that they will get along or share the same water requirements!).  Coldwater fish include goldfish and other carp-type fish, and pretty much any other fish that come from cold environments.  A saltwater aquarium is an aquarium for fish from the ocean.  There are different types of saltwater aquariums for different purposes (reef tank, large predator tank, etc.).  A brackish aquarium is pretty much a tank specifically for fish from estuarine conditions - that is, fish from places where freshwater bodies meet the ocean.  Some puffers and gobies fit into this category.> 5. How does under gravel filter works <An undergravel filter works by filtering the water through the substrate/gravel.  This consists of a filter plate which lies beneath the substrate, and one or more lift tubes that create suction under the filter plate.  The filter plate has slots or holes in it that are too small for the gravel to fit through.  The lift tube(s) connect to the plate through a hole in the plate where they sit snugly.  A powerhead or air stone is placed in the tube.  The airstone would create suction just by the movement of the air going up the tube.  The powerhead, an electrical device for directing water, would create suction by pulling water through the tube (this is more efficient).  The suction would pull water from under the plate, which would make water get pulled through the substrate.  One must be very diligent to vacuum the substrate *thoroughly* with the use of these filters, or wastes will build up in the substrate and eventually poison the fish.> and what is the difference between chemical, mechanical and biological filtration? <Chemical filtration is removing wastes with a chemical means.  This typically includes activated carbon in a filter or other area of high water flow; the carbon removes toxins from the water, and every so often you discard and replace the carbon.  Mechanical filtration is physical filtration - "getting the chunks out", so to speak.  Water passes through a physical barrier - mesh, foam, whatever - and particles (fish poop, uneaten food, plant debris....) get caught in the foam.  This foam can be removed, cleaned, and returned, or simply discarded and replaced.  Biological filtration is a bit bigger of a story.  The short version, though, is that fish poop and release ammonia.  Ammonia is very toxic to fish, so that's bad.  There is a type of bacteria that will establish (on its own, you don't need to do anything to get it) which will consume the ammonia and release nitrite.  Nitrite is also very toxic to fish, so that's also bad.  But never fear, there's *another* type of bacteria that will establish (also on its own) that consumes the nitrite and releases nitrate.  Nitrate is not so toxic to fish, so that's good.  This is a biological process, so that's why it's called 'biological' filtration.  When you first start your tank, you should test the water for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, and do big water changes to keep the ammonia and nitrite diluted enough that the fish don't suffer from it.  The bacteria will soon establish; this is usually a two-week process.  After that, just do water changes to keep nitrate below 20ppm (preferably WAY below, if possible).  A properly stocked tank should need a water change every two to four weeks....  Uh, have I confused/frustrated you, yet?  I urge you to read the articles listed in the following link; I think you'll find them extremely informative:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm .  And do please feel free to join our forum, where you can ask questions and get suggestions from lots of hobbyists: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/ .  I do hope that gets you started, and off on the right track.> Hope you will give reply to this mail from Pakistan. <Of course.  And please feel free to let us know if you have further questions.  That's why we're here!> Thanks. Ahmed. <And thank you for writing in.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Old new tank Hi again, <Hi Anthony, MacL with you again> Thanks for the quick reply, it was a great help. I've just got a few more questions if you've got the time and the patience. <We are here to try to help> Since I first wrote, I have planted the tank (I forget the species names unfortunately, though one is definitely a cryptocoryne (sic)) and have bought my first fish (currently 4x Zebra Danio around 1 inch, 1x young Betta and a Bristlenose cat who is barely over half an inch long) and things are going well, aside from two niggles and one query for future stocking. I initially bough five zebras but one died soon after being introduced to the tank. This happened overnight and his body broke down so quickly, there was no trace of it in the tank (and believe me, I looked!). So, when I bought the Betta, I also bought a fifth zebra - five sounding right in my mind. Now, a few days on, this same zebra has died. My ammonia and nitrites are at 0, nitrates are under 10, my pH is around 7.5 I'm at a loss. I read that in certain circumstances, schooling fish can whittle their numbers down to something more comfortable for them. Does this sound about right? <It is possible but usually they do better with odd numbers, ah well sounds like you have it solved> Either way, I'm sticking with four now. The second thing is about my Bristlenose. I bought him a couple of days ago so that he can grow into the tank and the algae population (which is currently small). <Be very careful about this, they MUST have algae or a supplement to eat. They can starve.> Though I know he's not going to clear all the algae, especially as he's tiny, he seems to spend all his time around the back of my power filter or on the wood. <They eat wood as well> I think they're primarily nocturnal so is this simply daytime avoidance of the bigger fish? <More like daytime avoidance as he is nocturnal, basically a safe place.> With regards to stocking, I am going to get a school of six Neons soon and a couple of weeks after that, three Cory cats. <Okay this might be a tiny problem depending on the size of the Betta, I have seen circumstances where the Betta will eat smaller fish. I am not saying this is definitely going to happen but something you might watch for.> With this in mind, would it be okay to add a dwarf gourami (possibly a pair?). <I think you'd be okay with a pair but they possibly might nip at the Betta's fins.>  Or would this be too much? I will keep an eye on all levels but it's not just about that, I don't want to 'cram' fish in even if the levels are all okay. <Very smart give them all growing room. You might need to pull the Betta out to a separate container but just watch him and see what happens.> One further query -- I'm looking at setting up a little run of blue LEDs in the tank's hood for slight night -- time lighting. Do you have any advice on such a setup? <There are "moonlight" bulbs, primarily used in saltwater at this time,  that are specifically for this purpose, you might look into for this.> Thanks once again for the excellent site and response. <Hope this helps MacL> Anthony Jar fish question How long will a fish live in a jar with rocks at the bottom? <Well that depends on the fish, the size of the jar, the kind of water, whether you dechlorinate the water or not and many other things. If you can give me more information maybe I can help you more? MacL>

New 135 FW setup Hey Bob/Crew....outstanding website!  Thanks for providing such a useful resource. After having had several smaller (i.e., 29-55gal) tanks during my youth, I am now playing the dad role and investing in a 135 gal freshwater community setup for the family to explore aquatics (at least that's my excuse; I have always wanted a large tank myself!).  It is not going to be anything specialized or overly complex initially.   My question in putting the pieces together over the next few weeks relates to filtration (big surprise, eh?).  It is apparent that Eheim is a standout name, and it sounds like I can't go too far wrong with their Pro II canister models.  As it appears that you are a fan of going beyond mfgr.s. stated filter capacities, I am considering using dual canisters....perhaps one 2028 (158gal rated) and either another 2028 or a 2026 (92gal rated).   Then, of course, I saw a number of posts touting advantages of wet/dry filters (I believe Eheims mid- and large models are #  2227/2229). Thus, my questions are as follows: 1.  Should I go with dual filters? 2.  If so, should I stick with 2 canisters, or would 1 canister and 1 wet/dry be preferable?  Or....??? 3.  Any thoughts positive or negative about the newer Eheim models with the heaters built-in? 4.  Do you foresee any need for any additional aeration/filtration (powerheads, UGF, etc) beyond the above, or should I be pretty good to go (at least to start) with one of these options?? Thanks in advance for your help! ---Brian < While Eheim is a quality name I personally like power filters instead of canister filters. For a 135 gallon aquarium we usually recommend a filter that will turn the water over at least 3 to 5 times per hour. In your case then you would need 400 per hour to meet this requirement. Ideally I like to use the marineland Tidepool wet/dry filters. The disadvantage is that they are expensive, don't come with a pump , and require some plumbing knowledge to set up. The advantages are that they will handle up to 700 gallons per hour with the right pump have a huge bio-wheel, and are a breeze to clean. Next I would go with a couple emperor 400 hang on power filters. Very easy to service and each one pumps up to 400 gallons per hour. Last I would go with a canister filter. Very difficult to service and expensive to boot. Water goes into a canister and comes out clean , but the bacteria in the canister has used up all the oxygen and needs to be aerated as in enters the tank. Flow rates are greatly diminished as they fill up.-Chuck>

Re: New 135 FW setup Hi.  Thanks for the quick reply, and I appreciate your input and advice a great deal! < Good luck with your new tank. It is always exciting setting up a new aquarium.-Chuck> ---Brian

Used tank questions Hi- Just found your site today-it has a lot of great info.  I've had a 29 g. for a few years and I was looking at buying a used 110 g. for freshwater fish.  What basic questions should I ask? < A 110 gallon aquarium will weigh about 1100 pounds so you better make sure that your floor can support that much weight for a long time. Ask how old the tank is and has it ever been resealed. Has it ever leaked? What equipment comes with it and how old is the equipment. If they were going to keep the tank what would they do to it?> what should I stay away from?  I consider myself still a beginner.   Assuming it is in good shape, what is the best way to clean it and everything else that is included to protect my fish? < I like to use a heavy brine solution myself. I take a 5 gallon bucket and fill it up half way and add a bunch of rock salt until it doesn't dissolve any more. Then wipe down the interior of the tank and then rinse it really well. You could use bleach but I don't think it is needed.> Do I use a bleach solution?   Would it be okay to transfer water from my existing aquarium to the "new" tank?\ < When you set up the new tank you need to add some of the gravel from your old tank to get the good bacteria started.>    I save rain water for my existing tank. At the pet store last week a bought a piece of wood attached to a piece of slate, they said it was for the fish aquarium.  It looked like regular wood. Was it a mistake to just 'put it in there'? should I take it back out?   < They added the slate so it would sink. If it was already seasoned for the aquarium then it would already be water logged and the slate would not be needed.> It had no info on the piece of wood.  I had read Plecos like wood, I bought it for them. Sorry this seems so basic, things I should already know, but there isn't a real fish store anywhere near me, and they just have kids working at the pet stores that know less than me. < You are in a all to common situation. You are right in that some pleco's need wood as part of their digestion. You wood will turn your tank a brown color as it seasons. The brown can be removed using carbon in the filter.-Chuck> Thanks for your time- Sue

Water flow question, pollution comment Hi Crew, <Hi Roy, MacL here with you this fine day.> I've been reading your FAQ's and cruising through the website for a bit now and have enjoyed it a lot.  Figure I have even learned a thing or two. <Nice to hear, I know I learn every single day.> I've a question or two for you, but first.... Saw the below question and answer and thought I'd pass something along.  I worked in an oil refinery in a city with air quality nowhere near as bad as LA's.  In talking with the company's plant environmental officer I learned that the rain falling on the plant was "dirtier" than the water we were allowed to discharge from the plant.  In other words, we had to clean up the rain water falling on the plant property before it went into the city's storm drainage system. <Yes I understand what you are saying. The acid rain that's falling.> Personally, under these circumstances I wouldn't use rain water without "cleaning" it first, period. <I remember when my family was talking about how that's most of the water they drank, rainwater and now its just not safe. I guess my thinking about rain water or water from any source is that I would have it tested to see what's in it before I used it.> The Q and A (from FAQs About Water Evaporation, Make-Up H20): ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ We Get Rain, Let's Use It! >Hello, >>Hello. >I have a 50g reef tank. I was wondering if using rain water in Los Angeles >that comes directly from the sky (not from drains or runoff) is alright to >use for make-up water? >>Treat as you would RO/DI (it would be VERY soft, and require proper >>buffering). >Should I worry about pollutants in the air?  thanks.  Jason >>I would not use the "first rain", but living in L.A. myself, I would think >>that what we got yesterday would give you quite a bit after the first half >>hour or so.  I think you can certainly try (do keep an eye on our news >>stations' air pollution reports for your best information), and if in >>doubt, filter through carbon and a Polyfilter, then buffer.  Marina End of Q and A Marina may have more experience on the subject than you or I Roy, I never underestimate these WWM people they are quite amazing but generally you don't think that what's falling on your head is dangerous.  Also there is some question about standards for human consumption as opposed to standards for fish.  And I gotta be very honest here and tell you, the water where I live is filled with chloramines and I refuse to drink it. It smells bad and it tastes bad and honestly I just don't think I want to drink chlorine and ammonia linked together. Just my two cents on the matter> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Now for the questions.... I'm considering setting up three freshwater aquariums in series.  Water would flow from one to the other.  The last one would have water flowing out of it into a sump with filter media, chiller (I'm in the Arizona desert), and heaters (for the winter month), UV sterilizer (because of feeder fish). <Stupid question here but are the feeders the last in the line before the UV cause if not they've polluted all the tanks with the water that passes before they get to the UV.> A pump would circulate the water back to the first aquarium in the cycle.  Each tank is at a different height, so syphoning between the tanks should work.  I would use overflow boxes to eliminate the chance of draining any of the tanks.  I've also thought about using several pumps, one or two each per tank and hooking each tank directly up with the sump. <Indeed> However, this would be less efficient, would increase plumbing requirements, and would have a higher initial cost due to the number of pumps.  <True but it would also allow you to isolate the tank should it be necessary with an outbreak of anything.> There is a third possibility which I am considering, too.  That is having some water flow from the fish only tank to both the sump and the next tank in the cycle.  That would make sense from the standpoint from what I've read that plant tanks don't need the high flow rate. <Interesting concept, would keep the plant tank out of the loop as well but you might loose out on the benefits that the plant tank provides, a much higher daytime oxygen saturation.> I'm thinking that I can eliminate some of the undergravel and hang on filters with this setup. Additionally, maybe I can accomplish some other objectives. I have limited space for sumps, so one sump working for all three tanks would be great. <Understood, I think it would also help having one chiller for all the tanks> I understand from what I've been reading that plants use nitrates as nutrients.  If using plant tanks for this purpose would actually work this would reduce the number and amount of water changes.  I'd end up with different kinds of tanks sharing in the handling of different aspects of the water filtering/conditioning process. Tank info: 1st tank - 105 gallon - well established Fish only (Arowana, Lima Cat, Dinosaur Eel (for now), Koi, Pleco, Pacu). Uses undergravel filters (3 inches of gravel) with 4 AquaClear 802 powerheads and a Fluval 303 canister filter.  Can't put plants in this tank because of fish activity.  Additionally the Pacu would eat them. <This tank just blows my mind, I can see all the fish together BUT the Koi.  Size wise it would work, even possibly aggression as well as Koi are mega feeders but I just cannot picture these fish in with Arowanas and pacu.  Don't get me WRONG I LOVE AROWANA', find them simply amazing fish but its the combination that gets me here. I'm assuming this tank needs that mega filtration and I'm not sure that you will be able to get away without having some dedicated carbon for this tank. The fish you have in here are mega waste producers.> 2nd tank - 125 gallon - not yet set up Lots of plants and a few smaller fish and has undergravel filters. <Understood, gives you a nice balance of large and small fish as well.> 3rd tank - 55 gallon - well established Lots of plants and about 2 dozen fish (feeders, so number goes up and down) and has 2 AquaClear 610 hang on filters. <Hang-ons for the feeders waste production I am sure.>  Also has undergravel filters, but I haven't set these up yet due to plants. <Undergravels don't work so well with plants.> sump - 110 liter with 3 filter towers and 5 gallons filter media (not set up  yet) Not sure what the water flow rate should be or the number and kind of pumps to utilize.  I'm considering about 2,000 gph total volume which is just under a water turnover of 10 times. I have had Arowanas and various friends in the 105 gallon tank with this setup before and it has worked fine for years.  However, there are obvious maintenance problems. The fish run into the powerheads knocking them around which requires constant monitoring.  It takes a LOT of water changing because of the heavy fish load, roughly 50% every 5 days.  This isn't good for the fish or for my time constraints.  Thus, if the setup I've outlined would work to help resolve some of these issues that would be great.  Does the team there think this makes any sense to try? <Definitely, and the wet/dry will help with your heavy load as well.  Good luck Roy and let me know which way you decide to go.> Thanks, Roy Wiseman

New FW set-up questions Hi there...Mathew here.  I am kinda new to the fish world, I have had a few tanks in the past all 20 highs or 20 longs.  I recently found a deal for a 55 gallon with stand for $50.00, so I took it and ran with it.  But now I find myself having a problem with finding information on setting it up.  I have contacted a few pet stores in my area but I keep getting conflicting advice.  My 2 main questions are this:  what is the rule of thumb or a minimum amount of gph you should move in this size tank (it will be freshwater, unsure if it will have live plants or not yet, < You need a filter that will turn over at least three to five water volumes per hour. So your 55 gallon tank should have a filter or filters that pump at least 165 gallons per hour. More is better,> and I would like to use a hanging filter) < I personally like Marineland's power filters with the bio-wheels.> and secondly what wattage heater should I get to properly heat and maintain the water temp. in this tank.  Thanks for any feedback or advice you can give to me!!! < The heater depends on how cold you are going to keep the room that the tank is in. If you let the room go down to 55 degrees at night to save energy then the heater needs to be at least 100 watts and it may be on all the time during cold nights. If you find that it does not keep the water tempo at a minimum of 80 degrees then you could always add another heater at the opposite end of the first heater. A 150 watts would do it for sure. Don't skimp on this part. A good quality heater is a worthwhile investment.-Chuck> Mathew

Too much light... Hi      I am writing this letter to hopefully get some solutions to a problem I'm having I recently purchased a brand new 46 gal tank,  after adding my fish I noticed when I turn on the light for the tank,  the fish get real nervous and try to hide and there's a few that wont eat.  It seems to me that the bulb for the tank is too bright,      My question is; Is there anything to do about this problem,  maybe different bulbs or some sort of material to place between top glass cover and light fixture to try and cut down some light? <Hi, you can use something called light diffuser, it's a white plastic grid that will help a bit.  Alternatively, you could pick bulbs with different wavelengths of light, which cast a different hue in your tank.  You could also just run one bulb if you feel that the light will disperse to your aesthetic preference.  Good luck! Ryan Bowen>

Betta, light hood in tank, trouble Dear Chuck (or whoever is on this evening): Yesterday, my toddler missed a step when climbing down the step stool she uses to watch the fish, and, in doing so, knocked the light fixture into the water when she instinctively tried to grab the first thing handy-which was the glass cover under the fixture. The glass canopy had a long shard that broke off, but as far as I can tell, that only happened when it hit the floor, and no glass when in the aquarium.  As to the light, obviously the first thing I did was unplug the light, then I pulled it out and checked to see if my Betta was okay.  (I house him in a 10 gallon tank by himself).  He appeared to be, but this evening, when I was observing him, I noticed what appears to be fin damage.  The odd thing is that there haven't been any pieces of it floating in the water, and my experience with a former Betta was that you would come across these when there was a problem of this nature.  I immediately took out the carbon filter and added Melafix to the water, and plan to do a water change in the morning, and keep this up for 6 more days or until I see improvement.  I saw no evidence of electrical shock at the time of the accident, but is it possible that he's had a delayed shock reaction to what happened?  Could his fin damage be due to emotional distress, or do you think that the lighting fixture possibly landed on his fins?  Again, my question still stands, wouldn't I have found pieces of the fin floating on top of the water or on the substrate?   Your thoughts? < I think he was startled when the roof caved in and may have tried to hide and duck and cover somewhere in the tank. In the process of finding somewhere safe to hide he probably caught the fin on a rock or something and tore it. He probably ate the piece of fin if he found it. Your procedures will definitely help the fin grow back but it may not be as straight or as long when it does.-Chuck> Cyndy Monarez/Thomas Nelson

Advice for a Very Small Tank Hi.  It's been very enlightening to read through the advice you've given on this site.  Very helpful.   <Thank you, that is what we hope people think while looking over our little site.> I recently purchased a small tank (just under 2 gallons) for my son's birthday. <That is a pretty small tank.> I set up the tank and let it run for 2 days before adding fish (per instructions in the kit). <It's good that you waited, but two days really isn't long enough for beneficial bacteria to build up in the tank. I suggest you look over our site and read the articles on "Cycling tanks".  It will give you a clearer idea as to what happens in new tanks.> I ended up with 2 male platies, which must have been a good purchase because they are really thriving and seem very happy in their new home. <Very nice fish, good starter fish.  They have great personality and are pretty healthy.>   I was reading your advice someone else who had small tanks and a number of fish and I'm hoping to avoid the problems they had keeping fish.  First of all I knew nothing tanks, cycling, or fishkeeping in general until AFTER I had brought our new friends home.  Thank goodness I did some research because my ammonia levels were out of control by the time I checked them. I also had started out their new lives by overfeeding them tremendously.  But a couple of water changes and an anti-ammonia additive (ACE) helped that.  We have well water and I get the tank water from the bypass valve so it's unsoftened. <I'm glad that you are one of the few that actually researches, I wish there were more hobbyists like you in the world.  It will be a much happier place for all of us and the fish.> The tank has an "under gravel filter system" which basically means a tray with holes in it under the gravel and an air stone in a tube.   <I'm not a big fan of these filters, I had them for many years and I realize that all it does it pull the waste and bad stuff to the bottom of the tank and holds it there.  if the power should go off and the suction stops the waste will sift back up.  I suggest looking around for small hang on back filter types.  With interchangeable filter bags, they are pretty cheap now a days and I think it's WAY more easier than the UGF types.> I don't know if that filtration is sufficient, but the tank is pretty clear so maybe.  Once I got the feeding and ammonia levels under controls (I do frequent partial water changes to control it) my fish ended up with a parasite (protozoan velvet?). Thankfully my fish store (not where I bought the fish) recommended CopperSafe, and after 2 days they look tremendously better.  75% of the spots are gone I'd say, a and the fish seem very vibrant and happy.   <Very good.  Copper is pretty tough stuff on sensitive animals like parasites. be careful not to overmedicate cause it can be dangerous to fish as well in high enough doses.> So, do you think I've got it under control now?   <It sounds like you do, but you might want to think about getting a larger tank.  The bigger the tank the easier it is to keep it balanced and clean.  It sounds backwards, but if you think of it this way that there is more water to disperse the waste  and more territory for the fish to call home.> Will 2 platies will happily in such a small tank?   <they will probably have problems as they get older, but for the time being you should be okay provided you do the extra work to keep it clean.> My son wants a "girl fish" friend for his little buddies.. will that be too many? <Yes, it would be.> And if males outnumber females will that be bad?   <Yes, the males would fight a lot for the female.  If you do get a bigger tank it's better to keep 2-3 females per One male.> I bought the fish at Wal-Mart (mistake #1 I think), <I agree, I bought my first fish from Wal-Mart.  A gold fish, I kept it for a decade, it was the only fish I had ever gotten there, and it will be my last.  I don't feel that they care for the animals before they sell them, nor do they make any effort after the sale to ensure they are kept healthy.> and the guy there said I could keep 5 of them in my little tank, though that seems like too many.   <You are right.  Sadly most of the people I have found in Wal-Mart fish departments have absolutely no clue as to what is needed for fish care.  That is why I tell everyone to research first and go into these stores an informed shopper.> Any advice?   <Research Research Research.> Should se stick with what we've got and be thankfully for such hardy little fish?  My son is bugging me to get another, but I don't want to cause too much trouble in the tank.  The platies are pretty small.. maybe just over an inch.   <The fish are a good choice, but, you really should think about a larger tank.  Even a 5 gallon tank is better.  I have kept three and four Platies comfortably in a tank that size for many years.  Just had to make sure that the water was always clean.> Heck - I had originally planned to get a goldfish in a bowl and now we're talking about moving up to a 10 or 20 gallon tank! (though not realistic at this time). Thanks! Jennifer <Stick with the platies.  I love my goldfish, but they are dirty fish.  and produce a lot of waste.  They need large tanks and good filtration.  I have a 150 gallon tank devoted to my goldfish and have a wall of filters running just to keep the tank looking nice.   Good luck with the fish, keep doing that research! -Magnus.> First Aquarium Confusion Hi there, I have a few questions I hope you can help me with. <<Hello. Glad to help.>> My birthday is this week and for a present my husband is giving me an aquarium (I'm fascinated by them).  I have never had an aquarium and therefore really didn't know anything about them.  I've been going to library and reading up to at least learn the basics.  I'm still having a few problems with some specifics and would love to have your opinion as to what would work best for me.  Here is what I plan on having in my aquarium (aquarium dimensions = 48" (L) x 18" (W) x 20" (H))...... 6 - cardinal tetras, 6 - head and tail light tetras, 6 - rosy tetras (bentos tetras), 6 - harlequin rasboras, 3 - kuhli loaches, 3 - leopard Cory cats, 2 - Plecos, 1 - Betta, <<These are good choices, just be sure not to add too many at once to your new system, I wouldn't add more than 20 fish to start off with in a tank this size. Please read up about new tanks, cycling, and such charge: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm .>>   My questions are: 1) What would be the best filtration (or combination of filtration systems) to use???  I've read the kuhli loaches like sand but an undergravel filter can't be used with sand -- and I've heard good and bad concerning the undergravel filters.  I've looked at many different types of filters but I'm still uncertain. <<Again, read thru the above link for info on filtration. I would add that undergravel filters are not my personal favorite. First, they are only useful for biological filtration, and should be run in reverse (RUGF) so as not to plug up your substrate with crud. Which means you need another form of filtration anyways, for mechanical and chemical filtration, so why bother? Second, if you want to eventually keep live plants, UG filters are not the best choice. I prefer hang-on-the-tank filters (power filters) or canister filters, like Eheim.>> 2) Will this grouping of fish work??? <<Yes, but if you plan to add other types of tetra, be careful. Some species, like Buenos Aires tetras, for example, are nippy and will make short work of your poor bettas finnage.>> 3) I'm not planning on using real plants but wonder if I should - really like some advice on this one. <<I recommend you do some reading on plant keeping. It's a whole world unto itself. Plus, good lighting helps. Two to three watts of light per gallon of water is just one of the good rules to go by.>> 4) Most of the fish listed above like tannin stained water from what I have read.  What would be the best way to achieve this?  I have well water.  I tested it with one of the home testing kits and the results showed that the "GH" is soft (almost medium soft) with a "PH" of 6.6 . <<There are many products on the market that you can add to your tank for this. Blackwater Extract, for example. Check with your local fish store. Obviously, you cannot use carbon when you add such products to your tank.>> 5) How is the best way to go about introducing "shoaling" fish who prefer to be in groups??? <<Introduce them a group at a time. In other words, if you decide to only add 4 fish per week, do not add two neons and two Pristellas, instead add four neons.>> Any help you can give is greatly appreciated. Thanks, Frances >>You are quite welcome. -Gwen>>

Tiny Overstocked "Tank"  3/4/04 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> A friend of mine has this 2 1/2 gallon tank. In it there is three goldfish and one algae eater. The water is so milky and after they do a full water change it turns milky within a couple of hours. Tested water all seems fine. What could be done to help it. <1st of all there are way too many fish in there.  The only fish that could possible live in a tank that size, would be a Betta, or a few small white clouds (like 3).  A small goldfish needs at least 10 gal/fish & they can grow over 12" each.  Every time you are completely cleaning out the tank, you are causing it to recycle all over again.  Do a search on WetWebMedia on cycling a tank.  Please get a much bigger tank for all those fish.  It's ok to be removing a lot of the water every week, because goldfish are messy fish, but you should not be removing everything out of the tank to clean it.  Just remove 80% of the water (leave the fish in) & clean the gravel with a gravel cleaner every week.  Make sure to add Dechlor & use the same temperature water that is in the tank.>   Thank you Georgia Luce <You're welcome.  ~PP>

Starting a New tank  4/26/04 I have already started using Melafix for the nipped fins. How long should I let the 10 gallon tank go before it will be safe for the hi-fin tetras? <What do you mean by let the tank go?  Are you speaking of cycling?  Do you know about the biological processes that go on when you're cycling a tank?  I suggest you check into this site about cycling & here are a few articles to read also: http://faq.thekrib.com/begin-cycling.html & http://www.aaquaria.com/aquasource/cyclingbasics.shtml.> I lost a lot of fish when starting this 30 gallon tank, but lost none when I started a 2 gallon tank. When the ten gallon is ready can I add my male Betta with my hi-fins?.   <Aren't those tetras the aggressors?  I wouldn't put aggressive fish in with a Betta.  ~PP>

Novice Help Hi guys. I am a novice and have just started keeping fish. I bought a bio-orb to start and intend to move upwards in terms of tank. I have recently had a bit of a scare. I have 2 Honey Gourami (did have 3 but one passed away) 5 zebra danio, 2 leopard danio and a Siamese fighter. I recently looked into my tank and noticed what looked to be some sort of insect larvae. One of my Danios (please excuse the graphic nature of this) was floundering and had no fins or eyes left. I removed him from the tank and he went on his merry way to his maker. I did a thorough water change (if in doubt get the old water out) and this seemed to get rid of the larvae. However, i think that someone or something is nipping my Danios fins. My fighter and Gourami are unaffected. All fish seem healthy and my water is fine. Anyone have any ideas??? Thanks Smidge > Hello Smidge, yes you do need help :P First, I need to ask you some questions, what is the size, in gallons, of this Bio-Orb? I am unfamiliar with this. I looked it up on Google, and found a goldfish bowl. Is this it? It looks like it holds around 2-3 gallons of water. From what you mention, you have overstocked this bowl. I would not be worried about larvae, I would instead be worried about two more important things: one, you have too many fish in a new tank/bowl, and your ammonia readings will be high enough to kill them all pretty soon, if you do not remove some fish and take them back to the store, and do daily partial water changes to keep the rest alive.. You should buy yourself some test kits for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates, or have the store test these for you. It's better to buy your own, as test kits are easy to use and will save many fish lives. You have 12 fish in there! You SHOULD start with two or three, and eventually you could keep 5-6 small Danios in there. OR one Betta and two Danios, it depends on the size of the bowl and what your test kits tell you. The second problem you have is aggression. You are keeping fish together that should NOT be kept together at all. The Danios will shred your bettas fins, your Betta will fight with your gouramis, and they will all succumb to ammonia poisoning soon, so please do a water change, and decide which fish you want to part with. You should also tell the store you bought all these at, that they have sold you too many fish for a new tank, and they have sold you incompatible fish, in short, they have given you some pretty bad advice! -Gwen<< Dear Gwen, Thanks for your really prompt and detailed response. My tank holds 32 litres which (if my math is good enough) is approx 8.5 gallons of water. My fish have been living together in relative harmony since November when i bought the final addition (the Betta). It is only over the last few days that i have had these problems. They seem to have sorted themselves out and the only thing i am concerned about now is the fact that i have one or two Danios swimming around with chunks out of their tails. It was Pets at home who sold me the fish and they said that i could have up to 9-10 fish in this tank. Obviously they were wrong. I have had my water tested and the ammonia levels are ok (as is the nitrite and ph). The only time my Betta has ever shown any aggression was when he was first put in the tank. I thought he might be a problem but he has since settled in nicely and there seems to be a nice community there now. I have heard that a Betta would be sensitive to the water condition so i watch him carefully. What might this larvae thing have been? Why do you think i ended up with a danio with missing eyes and fins? Thanks again for your support. >>Hello again :) You're welcome. I am happy to hear this has worked so far. I would recommend one more thing in terms of water testing, though, and that is nitrates. You mention you tested for ammonia and nitrites, which, in an established tank like yours, should be at zero. The "good" bacteria will turn the ammonia the fish produce into nitrite, and in turn, nitrite into nitrate. So, in order to see the levels these are now at, you must test for nitrates. This will tell you how much "converted" ammonia and nitrites there are in the tank, and basically, how often to do water changes. Your tank is 8.5 gallons, minus displacement for decorations, let's say 8 gallons (I'm being generous :P) then you are allowed around 8 inch long, slim fish, which is considered "fully stocked". This would require around a 50% water change PER WEEK in order to prevent long term problems. As I mentioned, your nitrate test kit will help determine how often to change it. By the way, your Danios that are missing pieces of fin are being aggressive. As I mentioned before, Danios WILL chew the fins off other fish. In  normal circumstances, they will not harm each other, but in your overstocked tank, the aggression level will be higher, therefore the fact that they are chewing on each other is not surprising. And no, I am not dismissing the larvae, but in general, larvae do not attack Danios. Usually we feed larvae to our fish to eat. If it is not larvae, it could be hydra, or perhaps something else, I cannot tell without seeing it. But even hydra will only bother fry, baby fish, and adults are not harmed by it. Given the nature of Danios, I would blame them long before blaming any larvae. Perhaps you can take a pic of your larvae and send it along to us, maybe it will help if we identify the little beastie. -Gwen<<

My brother bought a 10gallon aquarium for my daughter for Christmas. Have been getting conflicting info on a few matters. <Sadly that is why many people never stay with this hobby, there is so much info out there that is incorrect, and everyone thinks that their way is "the right way" to handle it.> We would like an aquarium with several fish of a decent size (neon tetras too small) that are colorful, not too aggressive and are hearty any suggestions? <Neon Tetras really need a aged tank, at least 6 months old before you can introduce them.  And in my opinion they are rather boring fish especially for a young person.  If you want relatively easy fish to care for, as well as bright colored fish you can try looking at fancy guppies.  Which sounds rather dull, but they are very active fish, pretty easy to care for.  They breed really well, and not that expensive.  Plus they stay quite small.  If you don't want to go the guppy route, then you can look at some of the livebearers, things like Platys, Mollies, and swordtails.  All of them come in bright colors, they get along relatively well with each other (males can be a bit hard on other males) But, they are quite nice and will do fine in a 10 gallon tank.  Don't try any goldfish they will get big, and will get quite messy in such a small tank.  Save them for tanks at least 30 gallons or more.> We have a clown pleco in there at the moment, and have cycled the tank with some neon tetras first then some black skirt tetras were not fond of either fish. <Cycling a tank with a fish in not needed, and is extremely hard and cruel on a fish.  It's like a person having to live in a room with bottles of ammonia open.  Next time setting up a tank, you can simply get the tank running and place in fish flake food and allow it to break down in the tank to feed the beneficial bacteria.  The problem is that when a fish is used to cycle, it really harms them.. leaving their immune system weakened, then the normal bacteria they have in their bodies can start taking over, thus giving the bacteria a head start in a new tank, and the chance of getting other fish sick down the road.>   We would also like to add a catfish.   <A Pleco is a catfish, and some Pleco's don't play well with other catfish. Especially in such a small tank.  If you do feel like getting another catfish, then look at a Cory.  they stay small, and do a great job at cleaning up the bottom of the tank.  My Pleco doesn't even bother my crew of Corys in my tank.> Also, one store told us to put another sponge in the top of our filter (AquaClear) and a different store said to get the ammonia remover stuff to put at the top of the filter.  What do you think? <The sponge on a filter acts as a filter to get some of the waste out of the water, but the main thing a sponge is, is an area were bacteria can colonize to help break-down the wastes and ammonia in the water.  Their are many different types of "ammonia remover stuff" some are chemicals (which I don't recommend) and things like filter bags with activated charcoal to help reduce the ammonia in the water.  If you are referring to a chemical, then I would skip it, if you are referring to a filter bag, then it is a good thing to have on a filter.  I change mine about once a month or so.> Lastly, we have been adding the Aquaplus, cycle, and waste control to the aquarium every water change one guy said only Aquaplus was necessary another said we shouldn't be doing water changes yet as we are still trying to build bacteria in the tank. <You really don't need to be adding all this to your tank.  Your tank will build up a bacteria bed naturally.  If you wish to add an additive to remove heavy minerals or chlorine from your tap water then do so.  But, the other stuff is most likely hindering the bacteria growth.  I believe that it is a good practice to not get into the habit of adding chemicals to your tank.  Because you will become dependent on adding something for a quick fix, and your tank will never really balance itself out naturally.> We would really appreciate your input to resolve some of this conflicting info which is very confusing to a new aquarium owner. <I suggest you look at some of our FAQ sections here on our website.  Start with this site. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm And then go from there, the page has many links and is a great source of good information.  Hopefully this tank will turn out well, and instill a life long hobby in your daughter.  Good luck. -Magnus>

Temporary Fish Housing Follow-up (12/24/2003) Sorry, I am from the U.K. Both tanks will be bigger than you imagined. <Ahh! Pardon my confusion. I thought you were referring to 35 US gallons, which is not 4 feet long. Thanks for clarifying.> The tank currently holding the sharks is 4ft long and 11/2 ft deep. Not sure what type of shark they are, were only labeled as silver sharks. I don't think the tank is overstocked, but am not sure. <should be OK--bigger than I thought.>  The rest comprise of Green Tiger Barbs (2), Dalmatian Molly(2) and then mixed Tetra. I cannot use filter material from the currently running tank because it only uses UG filtration, with occasional mechanical from a canister filter. It has been running with the stock for 2 years. Should I run my Eheim 2026 on the old tank for a day or two? <Good idea. I'd run it for a few days, this will establish bio filtration in it.> Then set it up on the bigger tank? <Yes> How much water from the old tank should I use? <Tough call. Maybe 1/3 of the water from the old tank to help condition the new. You don't want to shock the fish by changing too much at once.> I will also move some rocks and decor from the old tank. I have very hard water, 300 ppm. And the pH is 7. <Here in Utah, the water is even harder & pH more like 8!> Was talking to the local fish store manager about keeping Discus eventually in my larger tank. He was telling me that RO water is a MUST. <I would tend to agree here. Discus need soft, soft water. I've tried various water softening pillows and none work well enough to soften the quantity you need. RO is a good investment--and tastes good too.> And that the only way for me to lower my PH to a safe level would be to buy an additional canister filter to my 2026. And completely pack it with peat. I was under the impression just dropping the PH about 1 would be easy enough with bogwood (in tank and water change bucket) and some peat in my 2026. Is this unrealistic? <Not necessarily. Why not give it a try for a few weeks before adding the fish. If you can't get the pH down/stable with your current plan, then go with the LFS idea. You might want to post this dilemma on wetwebfotos and ask for advice form other discus keepers in areas with hard/alkaline water.> In one mail Sabrina was saying that they have become much easier to keep, more tolerant. Providing they were not wild.  <Sabrina is definitely a trustworthy source of info on FW aquariums.> Thanks for all your help. Have ( or hope you have had ) a lovely Christmas.  Ian <Thanks, Ian. You too!>

A Tank in the Clouds Hi, I'm Mike and I just got a new aquarium. <Hi Mike, congratulations!> I cleaned the gravel, along with the plastic plants with regular water. I added tap water to my tank, and also put a water conditioner and dechlorinator tablet in. After two days with the filter running, the water turned murky, and I don't have any fish yet. I don't know what made the water so cloudy? And how do I fix the problem? <This is perfectly normal, and to be expected with a brand new system.  It will clear up on its own in another few days, there is nothing you should do about this.  It will correct itself.  Here's a great article, to help you with your new aquarium:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm  Hope all goes well,  -Sabrina>

Small freshwater tank questions I'm a beginner trying to start off small... <Do please realize that the bigger a tank you start with, the more room for error you have....> I have a (used) 6-gal Eclipse. I want to stock it with a Betta and a couple (1-3) of those small cardinal tetras. (I checked to make sure they're compatible.) <Well, it really depends upon the temperament of the Betta whether these fish will be compatible or not; some bettas are very aggressive, and it'd only take a little stress for sensitive little cardinals to get sick.  Beyond that, cardinals (and many/most other tetras and characins) generally need to be in schools to remain happy and healthy - one, two, or three of these fish won't likely do very well.  They also do best in low pH water, so your water parameters may be an issue, as well.  Many pet stores wrongly put these fish forward as good 'beginner' fish; this really isn't the case at all, they need well established aquariums and large groups to survive.  The Betta, on the other hand, is an *excellent* beginner fish.  There are plenty of other choices for tankmates for him as well; just stick to hardy small fish, like a couple of Corydoras cats, or a few small livebearers, perhaps a few freshwater shrimp, if you find them interesting.> Can I use either of these for starter fish, or would I be better off cycling the tank with some flake food? <Try to get the tank cycled without fish, the ammonia and nitrite spikes do cause damage to the fish.> I would like to avoid using a bacterial starter from a LFS to cycle. <I would be afraid of that, as well; I'm not sure that there are any LFSs around whose water and filter gunk I would willingly put into even an unstocked tank, for fear of adding who-knows-what to my system....> I guess I'm asking, do really small tanks have to be treated any differently from larger tanks? Is there any hidden complication about using a very small tank that I should be aware of? <Just be aware that you have a much smaller margin for error - be sure to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH regularly to get a feel for how often you need to do water changes, etc.  I would suggest a small water change on a weekly basis.> Most people seem to start off big, so this question is never addressed. (Hmmm... maybe that's because there *is* no difference.   <Just the bigger the tank, the more room for error.> Well, better safe than sorry and only the unasked question is a stupid one, eh?)   <Indeed!> Also- once I establish the tank, should I introduce the Betta or tetras first? I think that the tetras should come first, since the betta's more territorial. <As above, I'd skip the sensitive cardinals altogether and go for hardier tankmates.  Hope all goes well,  -Sabrina> - MJHC

Learning From Disaster Hi, great website! I'm hoping someone can help me with the mess I've gotten my new fish into! <Will try! Scott F. here today!> Being an idiot, I went out on a spur of the moment and bought a 46 gal. tank. I didn't start any of my "homework" until after the fact, and for the last two weeks now (since I bought and set up the tank) I have spent most of my time researching. <Better late than never!> I'm scared to say it, but yes I did the unthinkable. Two weeks ago today, I bought my tank and fish! <Yikes...something that I KNOW you'll never do again!> Brought the tank home set it up. While I was doing that I had my fish sitting in someone else's tank, in their bags still. By the end of the night I had my fish in their new home. Now I realize how stupidly I've done things. <Not "stupid"- just "wrong"...But nothing that I'm sure you'll repeat> Not only did I do that but I put 4 Bala Sharks, 2 Silver Dollars, 2 Guppies, 2 Australian Rainbowfish, and 2 Swordtails in all at the same time. <Well, at least you are recognizing the mistakes here!> Of course now I realize this tank will never be sufficient. Now that I've researched the fish I bought, with no help from the people I stupidly bought from (PetSmart). <Surprise...> But I already plan to buy a much bigger tank in a year or so. So mistake after mistake. I did add some Cycle to my tank, and at first my Ammonia levels were fine. But not surprisingly my Ammonia levels skyrocketed, as did Nitrite. <No surprise there!> I have an aeration stick just about the length of the tank, hooked up to an Optima air pump. And the AquaClear 300 filter (foam filter and carbon). Gravel substrate, we went by the directions on the bag. We used 5 bags, 50 lbs. gravel total. Rinsed the gravel well, as with the decorations and fake plants. <Satisfactory equipment> Right away, within like two days one of the guppies had died. Stupidly I went out to buy another one for my lone guppy. A few more days later my second original guppy had died. Come to find out my Swordtails had Ich. Buying the Ich medicine Cure Ick, I stupidly bought 4 more fish. 2 Glass Fish, 2 Lyretail Mollies. Upon putting the Mollies into the tank that night I noticed them scratching. I suppose I bought them with Ich. I now know the importance of cycling and a QT tank. But I am trying desperately to keep these fish alive, I feel so awful that I have done this to them. <Well, you're on the "path to enlightenment" here! Recognizing your mistakes is the first step...> 5 days ago, I did about a 40% water change, and started my Ich treatments (I did take my carbon filter out). I did lose one of my Silver Dollars. I have treated for Ich every night this week thus far, and yesterday did about a 5-6 gal. water change. I have been lightly siphoning the top of the gravel, hoping to catch some of the parasites. But not knowing if I'm doing harm to the cycling I'm still trying to get in place. <At this point, you may actually be doing more harm than good...I think it's a good idea to embrace the same "fallow tank" routine that we recommend with marine systems> Two of my fish that had Ich pretty bad are clear of it, but I plan on continuing my treatment for three days after I see the last cyst gone on the last fish to have one. My temp. stays at 76 (no heater). <Good...Stability is important> One of the two of my glass fish has eaten twice in the 10 days since the new fish have been put in. And that was only when I fed frozen bloodworms. I've read they can be picky, but when I put the flakes in they act like they're going for them and quickly spit the piece out like it wasn't what it wanted. <Personally, I'd try frozen foods, like mysis, or enriched brine shrimp...> The other glass fish appears to have fin rot, and is not interested in eating, however a few times I have observed him going after something but quickly changing his mind and decides not to. I have fed them once a day, and over the past week have been cautious of how much I'm feeding. <Always a good practice> I know I can't be overfeeding but taking my ammonia levels into consideration after reading another article on this website, I guess I shouldn't be feeding at all right now. How long should I let them go without? <At this point, you really need to keep feeding, and let the tank cycle. However, you've got a disease problem to deal with, as well...> The Bala sharks have done really well so far, but today I've noticed one that is not very active, seems to be getting cloudy eyes, seems to have a bit of fin rot, and seems to have a problem with his balance, also he did not eat today (a first). What to do about the glass fish, I fear they won't make it. And what to do for my Bala shark? Any advice you can give me on how to keep my water safer, until it cycles properly would be great. <Well, what you really need to do is set up a seperate "hospital tank" or Rubbermaid container to treat the fishes. Treating in the display tank is a no-no. Also, you really need to embrace quarantine for all new arrivals, stock slowly, and choose fishes that are appropriate for your system.> And if this is fin rot, how do I treat for that? And do I wait until I'm done treating for Ich. <You need to confirm what you are dealing with here first, before bombarding your fishes with medications. I'd arm myself with a good basic book on freshwater aquarium keeping...The fundamentals are VERY important here> I also bought an ammonia filter, I thought it would help with my ammonia problem for the time being, is it safe to put it in while using the meds? <I'd avoid "quick fix" products at this point, and let the natural bacterial populations develop to cycle the tank..> Sorry so much at once, but I have researched and researched and I'm terribly lost. Please help me help my fish. Thanks so much! Sincerely, Stacie Lawrence <Well, Stacie, you've taken your first steps toward success by vesting the WWM site, and slowing down to do some reading. At this point, a good basic primer on freshwater aquariums is a big help. You may very well lose some of these fishes due to a combination of factors, unfortunately, so be prepared for this eventuality. After you're on the road to recovery, be sure to slow down and stay on top of things. If nothing else, your struggles here will serve as an example of how not to do things in the future. A painful learning experience, but a learning experience nonetheless. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Starting a new tank, part II (11/07/03) I have thought about it and I have setup the 110. I have put my Aquaclear 500 on the tank as well as the Rena. <Good idea.> I was thinking about the undergravel but I am really not a fan of the undergravel filters. <Me, neither. Too much of a pain when you have to disassemble them to clean an obstruction from under them, which is likely to happen, eventually.> I have also read that the diatom is a water polisher. I'm not sure what that is ? <I have not used one of these, but it is my understanding that it filters out the really small particles in the tank water.> But I do know it would make my 55 clean in about an hour. If you have any suggestions about my tank please let me know! <I'd put the AquaClear on the other end of the tank from the outflow of the Rena. I do think you might want to consider loading one of the filters with biological media.> I also would like to know what you think about the Miraclebeam HI-LITE system I have 2 of them in my 110 and 2 of them in my 55. <I have not used these. Are these the lights that claim to extend your fishes' lives? I suspect any claims like that may be overstated at best.... On the other hand, if you're referring to the small LED lights, I have heard of people using them as "moon lights" on tanks. So far, the jury is out on whether or not they do any good or not. --Ananda>

A Sweet New Setup Hi, <Hello! Ryan with you> My name is Jeff. I am new to the hobby. <Welcome!> I am at work now but came across your website. <Shhhh....I'm at work too.>  I love your articles and reasons behind what you say.  I have visited lots of sites and forums and everyone has different answers.  I gravitate towards your knowledge and I hope you can pass some my way. I have a 200-gallon tank. Can you help me in setting up the best filter setup? The dimensions are 60ins L x 24 ins W x 30 ins D. I was planning on using 2- Ac 500 and a filstar-XP3 .I saw that you said a wet dry or Fluidized sand filter would be better?  What size sump and pump would you recommend? For heating I was going to get either an EBO Jager or Visi-Therm A rare earth magnet- hammer float for cleaning the glass. I was looking to set up an under gravel jet system to prevent dead spots. Two Maxi Jet 1200 for added circulation I have 80 lbs. of crushed coral. For decoration I was planning on buying   Lava rock What would be the right mix of colorful cichlids that will get along in a tank my size; and how many can I put in. Thanks <Jeff- Great tank!  200 gallons is the perfect amount of space for cichlids.  It's great to see someone new jump on in, most simply get their feet wet.  Cichlids, while generally very hardy, thrive in good water quality.  I encourage you to select a good beginner's fish.  If you want a monster in your tank, try a Dovii.  As for color, African cichlids stand out.  You could easily house a community of cichlids from Lake Malawi, or go with a few larger fishes.  I am particular to Cyphotilapia frontosa, from the deep waters of Lake Tanganyika.  You could easily house 2-3 females and 1 male.  Recently. I have seen a few bred for even more dynamic colors.  I recommend checking out: http://www.aquatiqterrors.com, a great sounding board for cichlid info.   As for filtration, I've found that a nice size wet/dry in addition to a regular water change schedule is best.  Skip the undergravel filter.  Try a Wet/Dry rated for 250+ gallons, should be rated 750 gph or more.  Combine this with a 10% weekly water change, and you're golden.  Best of luck! Ryan> Jeff

Magnum 350 10/5/03 I recently acquired a used Magnum 350 canister filter. How do I set it up? Thanks, Cherie <hmmm... I'm not sure I/we can best serve you by a less than clear and long explanation of this product via e-mail. Let me ask you to help yourself (better) by archiving the manufacturers website... and seeking a local aquarium society (excellent source of such information and advice to see and work hands-on). You might also try out www.wetwebmedia.com forum for fellow users that can share insight. Best regards, Anthony> Magnum 350 Manual 10/5/03 For the person who bought the used Magnum 350, the owner's manual can be downloaded from this link: http://www.marineland.com/products/manuals/magnum_manual.pdf  Steve Allen <outstanding follow-up, Steve. Thanks kindly :) Anthony>

Having problems getting straight answers about a large tank setup I have designed a 2'x2'x8' wood and glass tank with a trickle filter. I am going to be using sand as the substrate. <For the fishes you list (below) I would use a small (1/8") to a bit larger (1/4") nominal diameter gravel instead... more functional, easier to clean... and better appearing IMO> The tank is 250+g. I am going to use a 1/2" piece of glass for the front window. I have read about W/D filter media and am still not clear as to how much I will need for a tank that large or how much flow is needed. <I would do a bit more researching here... am not a big fan of wet drys on marine or freshwater systems. Our archived input re is here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/wetdryfaqs.htm and the linked FAQs file beyond> Also, how is the easiest way to heat the tank from the sump? <Two 300 watt submersible heaters, laid down in a deeper section, plugged into a strip multiple outlet for easy shut off, this in turn plugged into or wired through a GFCI> I was thinking of using a Hagen 901 powerhead for the return from the sump. It is rated at 900 gph. Is this too large? <No> Do I need to have two sumps and filters or one sump with two pumps? <Could do with one pump with either one or two sumps...> I am trying to keep the cost down as much as possible. <Consider the costs of operation then... these will add up to more than the pump/s cost in several months> I would like to keep a few Oscars in the tank so I know that I will need a lot of filtration. Is there anything that I am totally missing? <Hard to say... from what you state here it appears you have some grasp of what is needed, possible. Keep reading, chatting (as in on the BB's) till you feel you know enough> I have heard about hard-plumbing the tank for water changes and that seems like a really good idea. <In most cases yes... though if you're using powerheads (inefficient in producing head pressure/lift) I wouldn't be too concerned with just using flexible. Do take a read through the set-up sections in the freshwater subweb of WetWebMedia.com for more. Bob Fenner>

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