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Old 05-02-2006, 09:57 AM   #1
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Help me get started

Hello everyone, I'm new to the forum and realtively new to fishkeeping. My twin boys want to get a freshwater aquarium for their 7th birthday in June. Recently I was buying some dog food at PetSmart and took a look at the aquariums. I know that the rule of thumb is bigger is better so I'm looking at a 25 - 30 gallon tank size for about 12 - 15 fish.

My question is should I go with a kit (Topfin) or buy separate? the PetSmart salesperson said that Topfin power filters are not that great but for the price of the kit (around $100), I could not go wrong. The kit price versus the just the tank alone was about the same cost. She did say that I would probably end up replacing the filter in about a year.

If I buy separate, are there any brands to recommended or stay clear of?

Also any good books that I should get to help me through setup etc.?

Thanks, Mike
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Old 05-02-2006, 10:43 AM   #2
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I would stay away from the kit. Like you said, they come with a filter that isn't that nice, and I think they also come with a heater that is a little underpowered and maybe not even fully submersible. I had a Top Fin filter for a 10 gallon tank once, and I found it to be loud and inefficient. I got my 29 gallon tank at Petsmart for about $65-$70 and it came with the hood and light only. That was ok with me because I knew I would want to buy a higher quality filter and heater. A 29 gallon is a good size for starting out, and gives you quite a few options for what you can keep.

As far as equipment recommendations, I would choose an Aquaclear 70 or Emperor 280 for a 29 gallon. Each of these are quality filters and each has its benefit, so you can't go wrong either way.
http://www.petsmart.com/global/produ...N=2030112&Ne=2
http://www.petsmart.com/global/produ...N=2030112&Ne=2
Don't pay attention to the manufacturer's ratings. You'll want to turn the water over about 10x per hour, whatever size tank you get. The Emperor has the Biowheel, which is nice, but the Aquaclear is cheaper to use in the long run and more customizable. It uses sponges instead of cartridges like the Top Fin, Emperor, Whisper, etc. The sponges can be rinsed in tankwater and reused, and you don't have to spend money on cartridges. Either of these filters are easy to maintain. I've heard some not-so-good things about Whisper filters so I wouldn't recommend those.

As far as heaters go, you'll want to buy one that is fully submersible, and aim for about 5 watts per gallon. 150 watts would be fine for a 29 gallon. Here are some good brands:
http://www.petsmart.com/global/produ...N=2030060&Ne=2
http://www.petsmart.com/global/produ...N=2030060&Ne=2
http://www.petsmart.com/global/produ...N=2030060&Ne=2
http://www.petsmart.com/global/produ...N=2030060&Ne=2

For substrate, you can of course buy any gravel that you see at Petsmart or your LFS, or you can use sand if you want. Your LFS should sell sand (be sure not to choose aragonite or crushed coral, as these will affect pH), or you can go the cheaper route and get a bag of pool filter sand at a pool supply store. I paid $10 for a 50 pound bag.

You'll also need a dechlorinator to detoxity your tap water. This is what I use:
http://www.petsmart.com/global/produ...N=2030068&Ne=2
There are lots of brands that will work fine.

Also, be sure to read up on the nitrogen cycle. You will need a test kit to monitor your water perameters. Here's what I recommend:
http://www.petsmart.com/global/produ...N=2030068&Ne=2
The Master Test Kit is the one you'll need.

This article describes the nitrogen cycle:
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/articl...q=2&fldAuto=21
You can cycle your tank without fish, which is much more humane than exposing fish to toxic levels of ammonia and nitrite while the tank cycles. Here is an article describing the process. It says it's for saltwater but the process works the same way in freshwater too.
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/articl...q=2&fldAuto=15

I don't know of any good books to recommend, but this site is very helpful and has plenty of articles to get you started. We will be happy to answer any questions.

Welcome to AA!
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Old 05-02-2006, 10:53 AM   #3
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If the price of the tank and the kit are not much different, then you can't go wrong with the kit. I assume that if you are paying nearly $100 for the tank alone, it would come with at least the light and the lid?
Outside of the tank, I highly recommend picking up the rest on-line (www.bigalsonline.com is awesome!) For that size of tank, you would be looking at a hang-on-back (HOB) filter. Aquaclear makes a very good one in that it is customizable to suit your needs. For your tank, you would be looking about $20-25 for the filter. A heater (rule of thumb is 5W per gallon) would be about $15. You would also need a thermometer which is a couple of dollars. Beyond that, the decor is up to you.
Aside from what goes into the tank, you will also need to pick up a net, a gravel vacuum, and dechlorinator.
What I would suggest is that you determine how much the kit and all of the other supplies would be (shipping would likely make buying the remaining few items on-line too costly). Then, price out everything on-line except the tank and see what works out better.
To get started, I highly recommend you take a look at the article on this site for fishless cycling. It requires a bit of patience which is hard enough to come by when 7-year olds are not involved, but when I cycled my first tank with fish, I lost the first 5 I put in. When I cycled my second tank with the fishless method, I lost none.
Hope that helps and keep asking questions!
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Old 05-02-2006, 11:11 AM   #4
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I love my aquaclear and it hasn't given me any trouble, it is a HOB and works like a charm...that is all the recommendations I can give...HTH
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Old 05-02-2006, 02:53 PM   #5
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Hey guys thanks for the response. This is really helpful information. I think I'll price things out this weekend and then look at building the stand. My hobby is furniture making so this should work out nicely.

It looks like the overall cost between kit versus individual components should be about $50. So its not that big of a deal.

Any recommendations on fish that survive well for a newbie???
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Old 05-02-2006, 03:48 PM   #6
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For fish, my suggestion is to take a look at www.liveaquaria.com. They have nice photos and some information for care and size, etc. They also give a rating for how difficult that species is to keep. Take a look and see what catches your eye. Also note that they have a compatibility chart so nobody gets to be a snack.
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Old 05-02-2006, 04:32 PM   #7
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Welcome to AA, mike126!


Definitely buy pieces separately. If you are familiar with using ebay, that is another excellent source for equipment.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cplawrence
Outside of the tank, I highly recommend picking up the rest on-line (www.bigalsonline.com is awesome!) For that size of tank, you would be looking at a hang-on-back (HOB) filter. Aquaclear makes a very good one in that it is customizable to suit your needs. For your tank, you would be looking about $20-25 for the filter. A heater (rule of thumb is 5W per gallon) would be about $15. You would also need a thermometer which is a couple of dollars. Beyond that, the decor is up to you.
Aside from what goes into the tank, you will also need to pick up a net, a gravel vacuum, and dechlorinator.
You forgot Master Test kit! This is very important fro testing ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH when the tank is just getting started and throughout the first months.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cplawrence
To get started, I highly recommend you take a look at the article on this site for fishless cycling. It requires a bit of patience which is hard enough to come by when 7-year olds are not involved, but when I cycled my first tank with fish, I lost the first 5 I put in. When I cycled my second tank with the fishless method, I lost none.
Cycling is very important. Some people feel the need for fish right away, only to watch them die off as the tank gets established. That's no fun for a birthday present. IMO, there's three ways to cycle a tank without putting the fish through the gauntlet.
1. Fishless cycling--and as cplawrence said, there is an article in the article's section
2. BioSpira, which is the only proven product that has all the necessary bacteria to properly seed the filter and keep a fish population alive
3. Use media from an established tank--if friends or neighbors have an established tank (at least 6 months old) and free of disease, then you would put some of their media into your filter and off you go!
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike126
Any recommendations on fish that survive well for a newbie???
If you go with a fishless cycle, your fish choices are greater and here’s where your sons can really get involved. Start going to local fish stores or pet stores and see what interests the boys. Write down the names and you can ask us if they are compatible and how many would be best for the tank. I hate to say this, but do not listen to the store employees. More often than not, their information is unreliable and that has led many to find AA and ask how to save their fish. You can easily avoid that by being patient and teaching your sons that good things come for those who wait I’m really excited for you—this is a great family project and a lifetime addiction—I mean hobby!
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Old 05-03-2006, 10:01 AM   #8
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Menagerie - Thanks for the advice. First thing I need to do is design and build a stand so it fits with the family room. Hopefully this weekend I can start looking at the local shops for different equipment and start researching fish.

I was talking with my wife about it and she agrees that a larger tank is more humane. We hate to see the single fish in a bowl thing. We are both animal lovers and feel that if you are not going to keep the habitat right then don't make the animal/fish suffer.

I'll probbaly do the fishless cycling since it sounds easier.

Mike
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