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Old 01-03-2009, 01:19 AM   #1
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Sharing my fishkeeping blunders

Hey AA,

I think I made most of the mistakes that newbie's make before I found this site. I thought I would share for those in the same boat. I bet this sounds familiar to many of you...

My wife and I wanted to get my son, Robert, a fish tank for Christmas. He wanted a pet and always liked fish. We've been to Sea World (while on a trip to Disney), The National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Camden Aquarium, and some others. So this seemed to us to be a great gift for a 7 year old. Perfect pets.

When I was a kid there was a fish tank in the house. Parents kept it in the basement. It was about 20 gallons or so I think. With 5 kids in the house all wanting their own fish, it seemed pretty full. It had some strange kind of filter with a j-like tube you had to dunk and keep all the air out of when you placed it or it wouldn't work. Bit of a pest to get it right really. We cleaned the filter out in the laundry tub with hot water every so often. Oh yeah!, and an air pump. I didn't know what it was for, but had to have one of those hooked up to air stones to keep the fish alive for some reason. After all it must have kept those fish alive, right? I didn't go near the tank much. It smelled for some reason or other and was always green. Must have been a bad filter? By the time I was 11 or 12 it was gone. So I didn't want that to happen to my son's tank. I'll ask the people at the store for their advice. They do this all the time I'm sure. That way this tank won't have those problems.

So I went to pet store for advice on keeping a freshwater fish tank. I was told a bigger tank was easier to keep than a small one. I remembered the tank we had as a kid. That looked like a 20 gal, so I bought a 46 gal tank. We needed a stand to put the tank on so it wouldn't break. It's glass right. I'm sure it can break easy. Can't forget the light, filter, air pump, heater (I was asked if wanted breakable kind or unbreakable? Good question?), gravel (I was told to rinse dust off, not wash the heck out of it, and add to tank), salt (yes, I was told it was needed by the fish), stress coat, and stress zyme. Plus other small items. Then, instructed on how to set up, add chemicals, and let filter clear the water (blue from gravel). Poof, just add fish. Sounds great.

OK, day after Christmas we set up the tank. 2 days later we went to get fish. Got 2 cherry barbs , 4 zebra danios, and 3 leopard danios. This was great. I followed the pet stores advice, and the only problem we have is when to get more fish.(BTW, I was told in 2 weeks).

Stocking level? That referred to how much stuff fits into the sock on the mantle at Christmas, right? Water change? Whats wrong with the water the fish have? Topping off? The bartender does that when your drink gets low. How to feed? Open the can of flakes and add for 3 - 5 min. twice a day. That's what we did when I was a kid and it says on the can. Vacuum the gravel? My wife wouldn't like seeing the hose of the vacuum in the tank I'm sure. The nitrogen cycle? Was that a new bike from Harley-Davidson? Fish less cycling of the tank? What was that all about? Test kit? Test for what? Do you need a #2 pencil for this? Ammonia, that's a chemical in the laundry room next to the bleach. Nitrites, nitrates, pH, GH, KH, I thought I was getting fish not taking a chemistry class. I just wanted a fish tank for my son. These things never came up. It's only a fish tank. Everybody has had one at one time right? After all I got advice from several stores. They all couldn't be wrong. Could they?

I got 2 books on freshwater aquariums that were not very good. (Note to self, if published before 1973 find a more current edition.) So next I went onto the Internet to find out if I needed anything else for these pets. Thank God I found this site. I actually started to learn about the art of keeping an aquarium. Then reality showed up. What a buzz kill. I realized everything that I was doing was completely wrong. It's like getting the hang-over without the fun at the party the night before.

Other than all the technical items picked up on the Odyssey, there are a few nuggets of truth I've found. When someone who used to have a fish tank gives you advice find out if they no longer have the tank because all the fish died. Not good to imitate here. Someone trying to sell you something will always tell you how easy and low maintenance it is. Don't take the advice of someone working in a pet store unless they carry a picture of their fish tank at home in their wallet proudly. If you want an easy pet get a hamster, if you want a living art work get an aquarium.

So there are fish in the tank before it has cycled. Salt (1Tbsp/5gal) in the water. Blue dust from the gravel on the leaves of the plastic plants. Excess food on the bottom of the tank. And 80'F water because that was the temp I was told was best by the stores for tropical fish.

It could be worse. I am watching the fish closely, all are active and they seem ok. Tested the tap water. I'm testing the tank water everyday for pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Vacuumed the excess food, etc. out of the gravel. Cut back on the food going into the tank (once/day). Turned down the tank temp to 76'F at a rate of 1'F per day. Don't know what to do about the salt. Assume it will need to be adjusted slowly. Also will have to get the blue dust off the stuff in the tank where it has settled.

However,

My son loves his fish tank and fish!!!!!

Merry Christmas!
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Old 01-03-2009, 01:29 AM   #2
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Welcome to AA!
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Old 01-03-2009, 12:54 PM   #3
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Test kit? Test for what? Do you need a #2 pencil for this?
Great post! By the time I got to this part I was !

I had fish too as a kid and my memories are just about like yours - smelly, green water, fish lived for awhile but then one day the tank was gone. I'm glad I tried the hobby as an adult and found this site too! We all started out in the same boat and probably were surprised at the level of knowledge to acquire to succeed in this hobby. But it's not hard - overwhelming at times when you're a newbie, yes, but not difficult and that's what AA is here for!

It sounds like you're taking the right measures to "fix" the tank. What are your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate parameters? (to see how far along you are in the cycle) If the ammonia is over .5 you'll have to do a water change to get it down to under .25 or as low as possible. Do you have a python? It's a great help for doing water changes. Don't worry about testing pH yet - it's likely to fluctuate during the cycle.

It's good that the fish are active - those are active fish so they seem ok. Salt is not necessary, and your water changes (tap water with dechlor. but no salt) will slowly dilute the remaining salt.
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Old 01-03-2009, 01:18 PM   #4
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That was a great post Jim. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 01-03-2009, 06:39 PM   #5
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Thanks, I thought this should get written down so I can laugh about it later. :p:p:p
Until 4 days ago I thought a python was a snake. Still need to get one.

tank water 3-Jan ; 4:30pm ; tank temp 77.0'F ; pH= 7.8 ; NH4 = .25><.50ppm ; NO2 = .25ppm ; NO3 = 10ppm ; KH = 240ppm ; GH = 180ppm Fish introduced on 12/28. Tank set up on 12/26

tap water 48hr sit 67'F pH= 7.4 ; NH4 = 0ppm ; NO2 = 0ppm ; NO3 = 10ppm ; KH = 240ppm ; GH = 180ppm

Would a 50% water change be good or 2 - 25%'s a day apart?

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Old 01-03-2009, 06:44 PM   #6
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50% is what I would do
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Old 01-05-2009, 05:22 PM   #7
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During the cycle, change at least 50% to get those ammonia and nitrItes down.

Great story. The "having a hang over with out getting to go to the party thing" cracked me up, and Im at work.

Hang in there, sounds like you are commited to making your sons tank a success. Keeping an aquarium is a hobby, and due to the difficulty, skill, and learning curve involved... its very gratifying when successful.
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Old 01-05-2009, 07:31 PM   #8
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I just did a 2/3 water change and the fish are swimming around the tank like mad now. They are either happy or going to put a contract out on me. Guess i'll know soon. Readings before water change. temp 77.0'f ; pH 8.0 ; ammonia 1.0ppm ; nitrite .50ppm ; nitrate 10ppm. Readings after water change temp 75.6'f ; pH 7.8 ; ammonia <.25ppm ; nitrites 0ppm ; nitrates 10ppm. used stress coat + for water change.
the python is great how did anyone ever change water without one?

p.s. can I get any suggestions on what the tank can hold whan it's finally cycled? (46gal.bow)
colorful kid friendly fish a must. think 7 year old.
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Old 01-10-2009, 01:11 AM   #9
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Quick tank update . I am doing a 1/3 water change about every 3 days to keep the ammonia and nitrites below .50 ppm. So far so good. Seem to be a slight increase in nitrites while ammonia is lower for longer than before. Hopefully a good sign. No change on nitrates yet.

Random thought. The guy or gal who invented the python should be sainted or knighted or something. I really like this thing.

I am using stress coat + for the water dechlorinator. Is this ok or is a better choice out there?

Thanks
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Old 01-10-2009, 02:20 AM   #10
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Seem to be a slight increase in niteites while ammonia is lower for longer than before. Hopefully a good sign.
Definitely is. Soon, ammonia will drop to 0 and stay there. At the same time, nitrITE will go up (again keep it under 0.5ppm). That means you have entered the next phase of the cycle.
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Old 01-10-2009, 03:16 AM   #11
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I am using stress coat + for the water dechlorinator. Is this ok or is a better choice out there?
You'll find many that recommend Seachem's Prime, including myself. It's quite concentrated, which is nice for those of us that go through a lot of water.
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Old 01-10-2009, 05:39 AM   #12
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WOW u had be luaghing!

you perfectly captured my thoughts when i began my tank!

python = teh good!

sounds like your tank is on its way to perfection, and with your constant attention you can bet it will be perfect!

i think dechlorors are all the same but i use seachem prime and have used others and they both seem to dechlor and be stinky.

u must post pics of your tank, also do you plan on keeping plants? (alrdy asked this question, not sure if it was answered)

as for stocking questions, the rule of thumb is about 1 inch of fish per gallon. so with your fishes its about 9 inches-+.
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Old 01-10-2009, 07:15 AM   #13
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Enjoyed your story tremendously, Jim!! I also got back into this "hobby" almost a year ago since having a tank as a child. When my husband saw me bringing in all of these test kits and glass test tubes...he was like...."is this a chemistry class you are taking?" I didn't really enjoy chemistry in high school, but I have enjoyed my tanks and their maintenance tremendously! It is truly an art! Much luck to you and welcome to AA!!
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Old 01-10-2009, 11:02 AM   #14
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Wow, I enjoyed reading your story very much. Hope you write some more about how things are going. Welcome to the world of fish. Take care.
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Old 01-10-2009, 11:37 PM   #15
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Fish keeping update; with pictures

It is day 13 of the dreaded cycle. All seems to be progressing slowly but well. I am testing water parameters every day and keeping a log. If I ever figure out how I will make the spreadsheet available to all. I have ammonia and nitrites that are kept below .50ppm with water changes. All hail the Python creator. I have nitrates out of the tap at 10ppm but the test tube did look a bit deeper in the red range. Maybe closer to 20ppm. Hopefully going up!

So far the fish have not retained an attorney for my previous misconduct on their behalf (before I found AA). And hopefully, if the fish do lodge a complaint, I may just get community tank service, with time off for water change behavior or something.

During the water change my wife wanted me to change the plants (plastic) to a more natural looking position. If anyone can make plastic plants look natural we have got to talk

Will update regularly
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Old 01-11-2009, 03:04 AM   #16
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During the water change my wife wanted me to change the plants (plastic) to a more natural looking position.
Plan A: Honey, I totally agree, but you're sooooo much more skilled at knowing where to put them than I am. Would you be able to tell me where you think each should go and I will do it.

Plan B: Put the tall stuff at the back, the middle stuff in the mid-ground area and the small things at the front. From a L -> R viewpoint, use one of three options. The "concave setup" - high on either side and low in the middle. The "convex setup" - the opposite of concave, so low on either side and high in the middle. Or the triangular setup - high on one side, getting lower to the other.

HTH
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Old 01-11-2009, 11:29 AM   #17
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I told her i'll let the fish vote on it as soon as i get a grease pen to put in the tank. Its going to take me awhile to find one the fish can use. They can write their preference on the inside of the glass. Of course since these are not american fish she will have to translate for me from their native tounge.

I included a picture of the tank owner in the last post. As the caretaker maybe I can ask him for help. lol.
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Old 01-13-2009, 04:46 AM   #18
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har har har
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Old 01-15-2009, 10:59 PM   #19
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tank update

It's day 18 on the path to cycling the tank. The tank owner, short guy in front of the tank in the last photo set, is hoping to add to the fish community ..but.... ammonia and nitrites are hovering around 0ppm and .25ppm. pH has been very stable at 7.8 almost the entire time. Do you have to have a ammonia or nitrite spike during the cycle process? I haven't had one yet but it seens most people do. Should i be prepared for this? Things seem to be progressing fairly well. Also how long can I go without a change of filter? Water seems a little cloudy and I was wondering if it may be cycle related or just a dirty filter.
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Old 01-16-2009, 06:02 AM   #20
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Jim ~ have you read any of the threads or articles on this forum regarding fishless cycling? I think I read somewhere that you had - anyway, yes, if you are dosing with ammonia properly you should have ammonia readings at 5 ppm. Soon, you should start seeing a spike in nitrites and the water you test will turn a purple color (if you are using a liquid test kit). After the nitrites spike it will be another 1-2 weeks before the cycle is complete. I would think (if you have been consistently dosing your tank with ammonia to 5 ppm) you would see nitrites pretty soon since you are on day 18. Note -- PLEASE do not add fish, especially if you have been putting ammonia in your tank...this is a perfect exercise in patience, not only for us adults, but for our kids as well. Also...DO NOT change your filter. That is where a lot of the beneficial bacteria you are "growing" are beginning to grow and if you change your filter you will pretty much be starting your cycle all over from scratch. Please keep asking those questions if you need to...that is what this forum is for.
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