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Old 05-21-2011, 05:21 PM   #1
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Hello new with tank problems

Hello,
I have been trying to get a fish tank set up for my mom as a Mother's Day present for a few weeks now but the levels haven't been correct.

The only fish I have really ever had was a Beta Fish, he lived for about 2 1/2 years. I have never really tested water and all that prior to this fish tank. My mom got this 55 Gallon tank from my Aunt who no longer wanted it. I had our water tested at Petsmart and they said the pH was high so I purchased some pH decrease. I do not have anything living in the fish tank yet. My mom wanted a natural look so we have rocks and a piece or drift wood that is secured to a bottom meant for fish aquariums. I washed them all with water before adding to the tank. It is a 55 Gallon tank so buying store bought water is a bit much. I have added several doses of the pH decrease but it isn't going down. I have the test strips as that is all I can find. The strips go up to 8.4 and that is where it says the pH is. We do have large amounts of Calcium or something in our water as our dog bowls get white lines on them. We have city water but it doesn't have chorine according to testing.

The tank came with one of those old small types of charcoal filters and a Powerhead 70 which I purchased the separate filter for. I tested the water today after not adding anything for a week and the pH is still high and now the Nitrites are at 3.0 they were at zero before. I'm not sure what is causing this because there isn't anything in the tank other then rocks and a piece of drift wood.

Is there any way to get the pH to go down and what do I do about the Nitrites going up? I plan to get Mollies and some live plants but the store said their tanks are at 7.4 pH so even though I've read Mollies like a higher pH if they're used to the 7.4 I'm afraid my water would be too much of a shock for them.

I'm new to testing water and setting up a tank this large so if there is a better way please let me know. I read somewhere about liquids for testing but I'm unsure where to get those. Any help and suggestions is greatly appreciated as my mom really wants fish not just an empty tank.

Thanks in advance, Shelly
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Old 05-21-2011, 07:36 PM   #2
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Well, you have to cycle the tank first, preferably by doing a fishless cycle. Any readings that you get right now aren't going to mean anything. Dont worry about the ph and don't add any chemicals to adjust it. Your ph is affected by the ammonia and the nitrogen cycle, so it doesn't mean anything right now.

The fish will adjust to the ph in your water. You just need to acclimate them to your water before just putting them in the tank, but that comes later. ph is important, but is less important than ammonia, nitrites and nitrates.

You don't need store bought water. Pretty much the only thing that you need to add to your tap water would be Prime, which removes chlorine/chloramines that the water company uses as a disinfectant. But first you need to get the tank cycled before you add fish, by using ammonia. Unless you use fish to cycle, which most people don't recommend these days. I've never done a fishless cycle so I can't advise you on that. But there are a few links on this site that will tell you how to do it.

You definitely need to get yourself an API master test kit, the strips aren't very accurate. Any fish store should carry it. If not you can get it on line. A friend actually told me you can get it for a reasonable price online at Linens and Things of all places. lnt.com. Sometimes they have coupons or you can find coupon codes and get free shipping. You'll also need to get Prime to dechlor your water. I don't know that much about water companies etc, but I find it hard to believe that you don't have chlorine/chloramines in your tap water. You'll also need to get yourself a gravel vac to use for water changes and probably a few 5 gal buckets to use when you change your water.

Other than that, someone else with more expertise will come along and advise you. I'm pretty good at the basics, etc, but can't explain chemistry and the why's and wherefore's! You should probably also get a heater if you don't have one and a bubble wall and air pump or something to make bubbles to add oxygen to the water. And, um, lets see, a thermometer... Not sure about that "charcoal" filter. I can't remember if that is the same thing as carbon (I'm thinking it is) but you don't need carbon in your filters no matter what the stores tell you. The only reason you need carbon would be to remove medication from the water.

Ok, this is the end of my novel. But one thing that I have found helpful is a diary or something. Make yourself a chart of some kind so that when you do your water tests you can keep track of the ph, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Date each entry and also leave some room for some notes, like if you add a fish or if you notice problems with your fish, whatever. That way you can look back on your notes if you have problems with your tank or water parameters and see if there are any trends. I've been keeping charts on each of my tanks (I've only been keeping fish for 3 years) but its amazing how helpful it is, even to look back for months and years. I find it helpful.
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Old 05-21-2011, 10:59 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. I do have a heater, forgot to mention that and a thermometer. The powerhead adds a lot of bubbles to the water but do I still need any thing else to add bubbles?

I plan to do a fishless cycle but I wasn't sure if the bacteria would grow if the pH was high. I planned to add something to treat the water for chlorine even though the test said there wasn't much, we do live in the city but there isn't a chlorine taste or smell to the water either. I will look for the API master test kit. I asked at Petsmart about other types of tests because I don't like that it stops at 8.5 any way that doesn't tell me how high the pH actually is, they however didn't know of any. I have also heard that fish do better in water that has a lot of buffers even if the pH is off and I'm assuming if the pH won't change there must be some buffers in there keeping it there. How would I acclimate fish to a different pH? The store said they try to keep it at 7 but their's was currently around 7.4.

My mom has tried setting up tanks before but hasn't ever tested levels or cycled the tank so the fish don't live long. That's why I'm trying to set her tank up correctly so that she can have healthy fish that stay alive. I plan on getting her Mollies in various colors. I'm looking for something that is lower maintenance on the daily part because I'm not there every day but can do the water changes and weekly things for her.

Thanks for any additional advice.
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Old 05-22-2011, 02:44 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shelly82 View Post
Thanks for the reply. I do have a heater, forgot to mention that and a thermometer. The powerhead adds a lot of bubbles to the water but do I still need any thing else to add bubbles?

I plan to do a fishless cycle but I wasn't sure if the bacteria would grow if the pH was high. I planned to add something to treat the water for chlorine even though the test said there wasn't much, we do live in the city but there isn't a chlorine taste or smell to the water either. I will look for the API master test kit. I asked at Petsmart about other types of tests because I don't like that it stops at 8.5 any way that doesn't tell me how high the pH actually is, they however didn't know of any. I have also heard that fish do better in water that has a lot of buffers even if the pH is off and I'm assuming if the pH won't change there must be some buffers in there keeping it there. How would I acclimate fish to a different pH? The store said they try to keep it at 7 but theirs was currently around 7.4.

My mom has tried setting up tanks before but hasn't ever tested levels or cycled the tank so the fish don't live long. That's why I'm trying to set her tank up correctly so that she can have healthy fish that stay alive. I plan on getting her Mollies in various colors. I'm looking for something that is lower maintenance on the daily part because I'm not there every day but can do the water changes and weekly things for her.

Thanks for any additional advice.
#1 first and foremost, TAKE ANY ADVICE YOU GET FROM THE PETSTORE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT!
Trust the people here on AA first. It will save you time, money, and the lives of any future fish.
Until you get your API Master Test Kit there isn't much you can do, because you don't really know what your true water parameters are.
Once you have your MTK test the water directly from your tap for your base.
It's unlikely that your city doesn't use chlorine, just because you cant smell it or taste it doesn't mean that it won't kill fish. You can call your water company and ask for a list of chemical break down of what is in your water. If they won't give you something, I'd really worry about what's in it.
I don't want to ramble on about all the things you are suppose to do after you get your MTK. It won't mean much until you actually have it. The last piece of advice I'd give to anyone new to the cycling of their tank water, is to read the instructions on the test kit carefully. Each test needs to be done a little differently, especially the nitrAte test.
Forget the water for now until you can test it.
What type of heater do you have, how many watts? And a few more details about the kind of filters you have would help to know if they are adequate for what you want to do.
Things like filers and air in the water you can never have to much of. So to answer your question about the air bar, yes you should have one. I found that the air bar that is suctioned to the back wall of the tank is the easiest to deal with. It doesn't get in your way when cleaning your tank or the decorations and it can't get buried under the gravel.

There are basically 2 ways to do water changes. One way is to get a manual gravel vac and carry buckets of water back and forth, first to partially empty the tank and then to refill it. Not always an easy thing to do.
There is also a couple of water changers that you can hook up to a sink. They sucks the water out of the tank, then you set your tap water to match the temp of your tank water and filler up, after you've add the proper amount of Prime.
One of the water changers is called a Python. I've never use it, but I've read numerous posts on how great they are. The other is made by Aqueon, which is the one I own and will never go without again. I also have 4 tanks and the bucket thing wouldn't work for me. Anyway, if you don't want to lug buckets of water or want your Mom to lug buckets of water, you may want to invest in a water changer.
Let us know when you have your API Master Test Kit and you can move on from there.
Welcome and good luck
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Old 05-22-2011, 01:32 PM   #5
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Definitely Wendi. I would hasten to add, not only take lfs advice with a grain of salt, but in most cases, don't believe them at all. Harsh to say, but unfortunately usually true! I too think it unlikely that there isn't chlorine/chloramines in your tap water. So a water dechlor is a definite must.

I agree, I like the air bars that suction to the back wall of the tank. Depending on what kind though, after a time I've noticed that they just get clogged with algae and no matter how I clean them I never end up with as many bubbles as I've started with. Small highjack here, but any hints on how to clean an air bar so that it doesn't get clogged? Ive used a sponge, a brush and even have poked additional holes with a needle and this doesn't always work for me.

One thing though, some fish like bettas, don't like the additional water movement created by the bubbles, nor do they need the additional oxygen since they can breathe from the top. But at the moment I would think while you are getting your tank set up, it sure couldn't hurt.

I unfortunately do the manual vac/bucket method! What a pain in a 60 gal tank if I need to do a 50% pwc! But you should see the muscles in my shoulders and arms! LOL. I had an aqueon "python" but couldn't get enough suction without the water running constantly. Thats alot of wasted water, which is why I opted for the manual method. Thank goodness my 55 gal tank butts up to my kitchen sink so I can just drain into the sink and fill up with the sink hose. My 3rd tank is only a 23 gal, so I only have to carry two 5 gal buckets to clean that tank out! But I agree, if it works for you a Python (or something similar) is the way to go!

Again, don't worry about the ph right now Shelly. Just get an API test kit and some Prime and a water changer and let us know your parameters.
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Old 05-31-2011, 07:20 PM   #6
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Hi, my name is sabrene I'm new to this site but I need help. I have a two gallon tank with one male beta and there is some black moldy looking stuff growing in the bottom and sides of my tank on one side the left side. I don't know what it is and if it's harmful to my beta and I don't know what to do about it. If anyone has any idea what it is and if it's harmful to my fish and what I should do I would really appreciate the help asap before it does irreversable damage to my beta. Thanks.
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:15 PM   #7
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