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Old 07-21-2006, 01:38 AM   #1
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successful beginner ready to delve deeper

I'm pretty amatuer at this whole aquarium thing. I've had this 50g for 4 months now and I feel like I have been doing great. Tank cycled successfully and easily. No deaths at all, water is always clear and of good quality. Tests are in the sweet spots. Good setup with hiding spots and such for fish. It took me a while but I've gotten good at feeding the right amount. I've been doing 25% weekly water changes with a gravel vac. Anyways, things have been going fine but I would like to learn more and get more scientific in my hobby.

Let me start off by listing the facts. I have two african cichlids, both fairly large at 6 inches. One common pleco thats a little less than 6 inches and looking great. One Leporinus fasciatus thats about 3-4 inches, one pictus catfish thats about 3 inches. Like i said before, I have a 50g with a fluval 305 canister filter. The top two medias are bio max and the bottom is zeo-carb that also removes ammonia, which I just recently switched to from carbon at the suggestion of a lfs guy.

Now for the questions.

How much bigger can I expect the cichlids to grow... They were in the assorted african chiclid tank, are about 6 inches and in my opinion they are pretty thick looking At another lfs, petsmart, where I bought the Leporinus says that I will get to 6 inches but some websites say 12 inches. Both call the fish the exact same thing so its not a mixup. What should I believe?

All the plants and decorations are aquarium made stuff, none live. I don't think I'm ready for live plants and such because of the extra attention needed to address water quality. Or so I am to believe. Are there any benefits to having live plants in my situation? If so, what extra care is needed?

I've been using a test kit, but just out of curiousity, what are ALL of the various main things I should be testing for and what levels should they be at?

Is a weekly 25% water change enough? I add water conditioner every time I do a water change for the amount of water I add. Is this correct? Should I also be adding cycling stuff, because I haven't although the cycling package says I could.

The LFS where I got the Leproninus says the tank should be lightly salted, so I have done so. They have also said its good for the health of all fish. Is this true? How often should I be adding the salt and how much should I be adding? The amount I change out the water? More or less?

How often should I clean the sponges inside my filter? I have been cleaning them every so often but don't have a defined schedule yet. How often should I replace the bio max stuff? I know it can be reused for a while but I am unsure what it looks like when it goes bad. I know the carbon is once a month thing. I already know that I have to stagger the filter replacements and sponge cleaning, don't worry.

Is my equipment sufficient? Is my combination of media a good selection?

I know this is a lot to read and a lot of question to request being answered but I appreciate all the help. Anything else that I have forgot to ask and you think would be good to know I definitely wouldn't mind reading about. Sorry for the confusing layout of questions. I tried to space out the questions and group the ones related. Thanks
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Old 07-21-2006, 02:29 AM   #2
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It's good that you took the Zeo-Carb out. There's no need for any ammonia removing material to be in the tank (besides the bacteria) if you have an established tank. You're just robbing the bacteria of its food.

In the begining, at least, you should be testing for pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. The last 3 should be 0, 0, and <20 repsectively. As time goes on and you get a feel for your tank, you really only need to test when you suspect something's wrong.

The benefits of live plants are that they look nice, use up nitrates within the tank, and release oxygen into the water. Live plants will require more light than what is usually given w/ a standard tank. They also require nutrients. (Nitrogen, Potassium, Iron, and I think some others.) I'm no expert on plants, but I know a thing or to. They also need CO2.

However, the trick is getting the right balance between all the things plants need. With lower light, you won't neccesilary need CO2. But w/ 3+ wpg, it becomes mandatory. Nutrients - if you overdose chances are you'll probably have an algae outbreak. With a highlight tank you may find that your plants are sucking up nitrates (nitrogen) faster than your fish can produce them and you need to add it. (Never thought you'd be ADDING nitrates did yah?) It might take a while but once you find the specific "balance" for your tanks needs, things are good. Check out the plant forum for more info.

I'd clean the mechanical sponges in your filter every couple of weeks. I wouldn't replace the Bio Max, though. That's where the aerobic beneficial bacteria is residing. Replacing all of that at once could cause an ammonia spike. If you were to replace it at all I'd replace about a 1/3 of it at a time. But, I don't see a reason you'd need to really. If it gets dirty you can rinse it in tank water. NOT, tap water, though. Chlorine will kill the bacteria.

As far as the cycling product goes. You don't need to add any of it.

HTH.
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Old 07-21-2006, 10:46 AM   #3
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Re: successful beginner ready to delve deeper

Quote:
Originally Posted by matthewvl
At another lfs, petsmart, where I bought the Leporinus says that I will get to 6 inches but some websites say 12 inches. Both call the fish the exact same thing so its not a mixup. What should I believe?
PetSmart GREATLY understates the maximum sizes of their larger fish, especially Plecos and Bala's. My local PS lists Bala's as 9" max (IIRC). I was in the store the other day and they were going to sell some Balas to someone who said they had a 30 gallon tank - I got involved and talked the customer out of it. Trust the literature, trust the smaller store, don't trust PetSmart.
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Old 07-21-2006, 11:26 AM   #4
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Todd really hit everything you asked. I'll elaborate on the water changes. I do 50% water changes on my tanks, because they are all at the stocking max. Yours is understocked, but you have some fish that get pretty big and can be messy (especially the pleco). I'd start doing 40%. The fish would gladly appreciate it. If you are using the bucket method, I'd invest in a Python. They are great and make water changes so easy. I paid $25 for mine a year ago, so I'm sure they are cheaper now.

Quote:
How much bigger can I expect the cichlids to grow...
I think one of your cichlids was IDed in another post....a Cobalt I think. The profile on Cichlid-forum.com says 6 inches. The ones in the pictures on the profile don't have stripes, while yours does, so I'm kind of wondering about the ID. Anyhow, I think I'd expect them to get around 7 inches...maybe 8 at the most. They both look like Mbuna cichlids and most of them don't get over 8 inches.

There are definitely benefits to having live plants, but with cichlids, you have to be careful. Some will uproot your plants and some will eat them. I'd post in the cichlid forum and see which plants work and which don't. There is someone on here that has a beautiful cichlid planted tank though. Another issue will be the pleco. When he gets bigger he will probably knock over the plants. But I think you have some time before he gets big.

I'd start out with some java fern, anubias, and java moss. And maybe some wisteria. The wisteria grows fast and will help suck up some nitrates. The java fern and anubias need to be attached to wood or rocks, but will be great because the fish won't be able to uproot them. All the ones I mentioned will grow in low light. I'd start there first and then you could upgrade your lighting in the future, if you wanted to.
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Old 07-21-2006, 12:16 PM   #5
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I'm definitely going to up my water changes to 40%. Will this help the fish grow and flourish faster? I think for the moment that I'm going to stay away from the live plants. Seems to be more of a hassle that I care to concern myself with at the moment. The reason why I asked about the cichlids is because I did not get a positive ID in the other post, but I'm really only concerned with if they will outgrow my tank but that doesn't seem to be the case. All of the answers were great and got knocked off pretty quickly, so thanks a bunch for that.

I just have a few remaining ones. What is the deal with the salt, as I asked before? Is my filter any good? It was donated by a neighbor who was moving. Also, one question I forgot to ask... How often should I be feeding? I feed two 5 min helpings per day. Should I only do one? Should I take HALF a 5 min portion twice a day? Should I feed less than 5 mins?

Agains, thanks a lot.
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Old 07-21-2006, 12:50 PM   #6
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The filter seems good to me. It is rated for up to 70g, so if you ever get more fish and have a heavy bioload, you may need to upgrade, but for now its fine. I like to have more filtration on tanks that have more fish. I think you could go anywhere from 2 weeks to a month with the sponge cleanings. And like mentioned above, rinse them in tank water and not tap water. On my Rena XP3 cannister, I'm going to clean them once a month.

Here are some profiles on the two leporinus species. One gets around 12 inches and the other around 10 inches, so either way, you are looking at a big fish.

According to this site the Leporinus affinis has 9 vertical stripes while the Leporinus fasciatus has 10 vertical stripes. That site doesn't have much more info on Leporinus fasciatus. I've heard Leporinus are aggressive, but have read that they are pretty peaceful with other fish. It said they don't tolerate their own kind though....and don't keep them with fish small enough for them to eat.

Browse the profiles at Cichlid-forum. I'd check out the Lake Malawi cichlids...Mbunas especially. Look through there and see if you can ID them. They have really good profiles on there.

The larger water changes may not help your fish grow faster, but it will make them flourish. Fish love clean water, so 40% is a good start until you get more fish, if you plan to.

About the feeding, really its your call. I only feed mine once a day at most...sometimes every other day. I was having alot of problems with algae from feeding too much in my planted tanks, so I cut down on the number of times I feed. If you are having alot of leftovers falling, then I'd go with only once a day, and only what they can eat in 2 minutes. I wouldn't feed more than twice a day though.
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Old 07-21-2006, 03:57 PM   #7
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as far as feeding goes, I feed all of mine twice a day. IN the morning, flake and staple food, in the evening, fresh veggies, bloodworms, live bbs or frozen bs (i alternate) and i only feed as much as they will eat in 2-3 minutes
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Old 07-21-2006, 04:10 PM   #8
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I do 50% water changes on my tanks, because they are all at the stocking max. Yours is understocked, but you have some fish that get pretty big and can be messy (especially the pleco). I'd start doing 40%. The fish would gladly appreciate it. If you are using the bucket method, I'd invest in a Python. They are great and make water changes so easy. I paid $25 for mine a year ago, so I'm sure they are cheaper now.

Kristen, where did you get your python for $25? Actually I found this one at bigals for 29 http://www.bigalsonline.com/BigAlsUS...cleanandfill25

At my LFS they have longer ones and the cheapest is $50.

I don't think that more than 30% PWC every week is necessary, however it can't hurt. Just make sure you replicate the temp. in the new water.
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Old 07-21-2006, 04:18 PM   #9
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I got my Python (25') for around $25 at my local Walmart. It may not have been $25 on the dot, but it was around that (no more than $30).
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Old 07-21-2006, 04:24 PM   #10
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Also, many PetSmarts will price match the PetSmart online store, which is currently selling the 25' Python kit for $24.
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