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Old 08-14-2014, 11:20 AM   #1
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Tank finally cycled! Three questions...

Hi everyone,

After 5 weeks of fishless cycling, the tank has finally cycled! YAYYY!! For two mornings in a row, Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, and Nitrates are consistently just under 5 ppm. So I will definitely be fish shopping on Saturday -- at last!!

I won't be doing a water change because I did one 7 days ago and the nitrates are not high enough to warrant another one. The pH went up to 8.0 a few days after a 50% water change last Thursday, but it has dropped back to around 7.4 by itself. The fish I want to get (guppies and tetras) need the pH to be between 6.2 and 6.7, so I need to add a little filtered water to fix that. (Our filtered water is acidic.) But I'm wondering how to handle that once I get the fish settled.

I have put salt in the tank water right from the start. Yes, this is a freshwater aquarium but I understand that the salt is good for fish health and it is not in significant enough concentration to bother the fish. I have a US 29 gallon tank and I used 6 tbsps of salt to start, and I would normally top it up proportionally with each water change. (This is what we did with our pearlscale goldfish before, too.) I also use water conditioner even though we don't have chlorinated water (we're on a well), just for the overall fish health part of it.

So three questions:

1) How should I fix the pH level? I'm thinking of adding 2-4 cups of water at a time, then testing the water 20 minutes after each addition until I get to the proper level. Do you think that will work, or will it take ages that way? I haven't a clue how to do this.

2) I have to learn how much of the water I replace with in a pwc should be filtered water (i.e., acidic water) to keep the appropriate pH levels in the tank. That's going to take me a bit of time to do, as I've never had to figure this out before. Would it really bother the fish if the pH was messed up for a little while, but not constantly? I'm a little paranoid that our well water will hurt the little guys if I don't learn how to fix the pH up quickly enough. I have only today and tomorrow to experiment with it before the fish will be in there.

3) Do any/all of you add salt to your freshwater tanks? Is it a good idea, or am I just being overly cautious?

That's all for now. Thanks!

Wendy (excited for fish shopping in two days!)

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Old 08-14-2014, 11:21 AM   #2
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I add a little when I'm adding new water. I always do it when a fish seems sick bc it can help.

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Old 08-14-2014, 02:45 PM   #3
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I don't know much about guppies, but most tetras will be fine at pH 7.4. That's the upper end of where they'll be happy, but it's also close to the conditions where the fish are raised in captivity. Having a steady pH and GH is more important. If you want to slowly lower your tank's pH, add peat pellets to your filter. (This will also lightly stain your water, but you can control this via the amount of pellets you add and your water changes.)

I would not add salt to your water. Tetras like soft water and your well water certainly contains enough dissolved ions already. I don't know about the guppies, but the salt will probably do more harm than good to the tetras. I'd do an 80% water change and refill with unsalted water.

On the other hand, using water conditioner is always a good idea.
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Old 08-15-2014, 12:06 AM   #4
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It will really depend on where you are getting your fish from to determine what PH you should be keeping the fish at. Hardness may be a bigger issue than PH. Many S. American fish for the pet trade are bred in Florida where the water PH is in the upper 7s to lower 8s but the hardness is more on the soft side for the fish farms in the central FL area while much higher in the Southern areas of FL. The second most common place is the Far East which will have a different water parameter. So you need to know where and what your fish are coming from before altering your water.
There seems to be this generalization of what is best for fish but it really only applies to wild fish. In your case, most of the Guppies and Tetras you will probably be getting will be tank raised ones. For starters however, Guppies and Tetras are not really a good mix. Tetras, even the most "non nibblers" will most likely see a male Guppy's tail as something to eat. You may want to reconsider this mix.

Salt is a constant debate amongst aquarists. Some use it on everything, some only livebearers and some not at all. I personally use it on certain fish but not all. It all depends on the general hardness level I am trying to achieve. For me, in your mix, I would salt the guppies but not the tetras so another reason to not mix them.

As for water changes, keep this in mind, fish, in general, don;t like large changes in just about anything. This is why for the past 50 years that I have been keeping fish, I only change about 10%- 15% of the water volume weekly in order to not have large scale changes in the tanks. This has been my way of controlling nitrate accumulation as well as I don;t overstock my tanks. I was trained by the following: " If your nitrates get that high in a week that your fish are in jeopardy, then you have too many fish or not enough filtration." You may want to keep that in mind as you go forward. Should you need to do a large scale water change for the fish's safety, you can use a drip system ( siphon hose with a valve on the end) to slowly add the new water back into the tank. If you do this over the course of a few hours ( depending on how much of a change the new water is from the old water) it will be less of a stress for the fish. In some cases, you may need to do it over the course of a couple of days. Again, this is all subject to how different the waters are from each other. For example: in my 30 gal tank that has a PH of 6.5, I will pour 1 gal of my well water which is 8.4 directly into the tank and then wait 30-45 minutes then drip the rest of the 2 gals into the tank. 1 gal won't alter the water chemistry that much in a 30 gal tank but 3 gals will. When I check the tank the following day, the ph is within .2 of the original so I know this works.

What I would recommend is talking to the shop you are getting your fish from before going there to know what their water parameters are for their tanks and if they have different parameters for different fish. THEN you can adjust your tank accordingly.

Hope this helps.
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Old 08-15-2014, 12:20 AM   #5
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Fresh water fish are very hearty fish and about once a month I do add salt to my tank because it help with stress, electrolytes in the water, helps clean it too, and helps the slim on the fish. And mostly if your Nitrates, ammonia levels aren't crazy high your fish will be fine and if something is going wrong in your tank do a water change and check filter

30 gallon reef, 40 gallon pleco tank
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Old 08-15-2014, 01:05 AM   #6
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Corys also hate salt. Even more so than tetras.
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Old 08-15-2014, 05:59 AM   #7
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I'd be careful of doing anything to mess with the PH unless you really HAVE to (that is, you get super sensitive fish or your water is really off the charts low or high)

Apparently the thing about PH is not so much whether its 6.5 or 7.5 or whatever it is, but that it must not change much. If you acclimatize your fish carefully when you add them to the tank, giving them PLENTY of time to get used to the change in the water parameters, they should be fine. As long as that PH is steady, they won't be worried by it.

If you start adding filtered water etc to try and get the PH to x or y, the chances are that you'll get it wrong every now and then, and the consequent swing in PH will be far more of a stress to the fish.

One of the most important lessons I've learnt about aquarium keeping is that most of the time it's better to leave things alone, rather than to mess with them. Adding medications, or salt, or fiddling with the PH, all that stuff makes you feel like you are doing the right thing but often it just stresses the fish.
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Old 08-15-2014, 09:05 AM   #8
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Great post from Andy, particularly very comforting to know that someone with that level of experience does water changes in the exact same way that I do and for the same reasons.

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Old 08-15-2014, 04:42 PM   #9
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~sigh~ I just can't catch a break, can I? So, I'll need at least another week of cycling before I can get fish, IF I do an 80% water change because, when I did a 50% water change just over a week ago, it changed everything -- ammonia and nitrites went up, nitrates disappeared, and the pH spiked up to 8.0. If that happens again, which it probably will, I'll need another week to get everything back to cycled again. Or I could just get guppies for now and figure the rest of the fish out later. But will 3 cobra guppies be enough to keep the bacteria alive in a US 29 gallon tank for a week or two (or three) until I can find/get more fish?

I've been gathering fish info from this site: Beginner Fish: Tropical Fish for Beginners in Freshwater Aquariums
If anyone knows of a better resource, I'd be happy to hear about it. That site tells the water parameters, species compatability, adult size, and disposition of each species. I had it all planned out, or so I thought. I only want small peaceful fish that are not longer than 2" when full grown, and all males. This is what I was planning to get (1 of each) over the next month or so:

cherry barb
pearl danio
golden cobra guppy or yellow guppy (don't know the species)
green cobra guppy
orange-tail guppy
metallic blue star guppy
harlequin rasbora
pineapple platy
neon tetra
cardinal tetra
rummynose or silver tip tetra
glowlight tetra
2 red cherry shrimp

So a total of 12 small peaceful community fish and two shrimp. But now, from Andy Sager said (and what I read elsewhere since), I can't have tetras -- even if I get rid of the salt -- because I intend to have guppies and because tetras need soft water, which I don't have. That's really disappointing news and I really don't know what to do now. This is what I had read elsewhere about the soft/hard water dilemma, as far as the fish species are concerned:

"One of the paradoxes in freshwater fishkeeping is that while most fish naturally from soft water environments will thrive in hard water aquaria, the reverse is almost universally not true. Tetras, Barbs, Gouramis, Corydoras catfish and Angelfish are all examples of originally soft water fish that are routinely and successfully kept in hard water community tanks. But Livebearers, Central American cichlids and Rift Valley cichlids almost never adapt to soft and acidic water conditions. In other words, if all you want is a mixed community tank, then hard and alkaline water will allow you to mix Platies, Neons and Corydoras without problems." from The Soft Water Aquarium: Risks and Benefits

What are your thoughts on that, Andy?

I wanted all really small fish because I'm afraid if some get larger, they're more likely to pick on the smaller ones -- even if they're not supposed to. My daughter had a fancy goldfish that tore her big pearlscale goldfish's tail almost completely off, an algae eater that was more interested in trying to eat the two goldfish than algae, and a clown pleco that spiked the two goldfish every chance he got. Those fish have been either rehomed or deceased, and I was really hoping for some peace and harmony for a change now that I've taken over the tank. And colour. Lots of colour. Sounds like this is going to be even harder than it already has been. I think I need to do more research before heading to the fish store. Trying to do things the right way is a very lengthy and bumpy process. Like taking the road less travelled, so to speak.

How does one find out what the water hardness level is? We're not on town water, we're on a well, so ours is groundwater.

Thanks to Andy Sager, Masha, and PNWaquarist for the very detailed information. Seems I have a whole lot more to think about.

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Old 08-15-2014, 10:29 PM   #10
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Most of the fish that you listed above need to be in schools of 6+. They will not do well as single individuals.

You can test your water hardness (GH) by purchasing a GH test kit. You may be able to do several species of tetra (but maybe not Cardinals) even if your water is moderately hard. The GH test kit will give you an idea of where you stand.

Also, if your tank is cycled, doing water changes shouldn't affect your beneficial bacteria. The vast majority of it lives in the filter media. As long as it's not allowed to dry out, it'll survive. I don't know why your ammonia and nitrites went up after a water change. It sounds like your tank isn't fully cycled.

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