Hello everyone and thank you for all the information you have (and hopefully will) given.
For my son's second birthday my wife said we should get him fish as he always love them in the store. She was going to bed that afternoon as she works third shift and told her I would take care of it for his party the next day. I took to craigslist and scored a 30 gallon complete setup including stand for $50 bucks. Used an old 5 gallon bucket to fill the tank; beginner's mistake #1. Got everything going before the wife woke up and found out she was thinking something like a fish bowl... Oops, I always do things over the top.
Anyway, had it going 24 hours and bought 2 Mickey Mouse Platys and 2 Pineapple Swordtails. Beginner's mistake #2. Here is where the carnage began. Lost 1 MM Platy the first night. LFS
replaced him. One of the swordtails was pregnant and gave birth in the breeder I had bought. Over the next three weeks we went through almost 15 fish. Every time I brought in a fish and water sample, they never found any issues.
Finally one of the swords developed ich and the next day she along with 4 MM platy (oh yeah I also added more platys when they were $1 ea; probably beginner mistake #15 at that point) all died.
At this point I decided it was no longer (as if it really ever was) a good idea to replace the dead fish. I knew it was time to eliminate variables and wanted to start fresh. I move the last two fish into a Rubbermaid storage bin that I scrubbed out and added the live plants, heater, filter and bubble stones. It was time to boil everything I wanted to keep and replace anything I could. Unfortunately the two fish didn't survive but that did allow me to take my time and really clean everything.
Time to do it right (or at least better). This time I filled the tank with a hose. Put in the gravel, setup the one fake plant, the large rocks, the bubble stone, the Greek columns and the slate. Treated the water with conditioner and bought some new live plants (hornwort, anacharis and bocupa I believe). At this point I let it run. Last time the LFS
had suggested at least three days so I ran it a week. Thought I was being cautious. I decided I wanted a moderately aggressive tank and really liked the red tailed sharks. While at the LFS
I noticed the rainbow sharks looked very similar and were on sale for $1. Asked the employee if the rainbows had to be one to a tank or if I could do three in a 30 gallon. He said yeah it would be fine, 30 was large enough and they get along OK. Plan was to cycle the tank with 3 sharks then look to add tiger barbs. With each night, I read more and learned more. After two days I took two of the sharks back and returned them. I learned about fishless cycles and what needs to happen to correctly cycle a tank fish-in. Ordered a test kit and went to a different LFS
each day to get a water test. It was here that I found out that my PH stayed in the 7.4-7.8 range. I did 30-50% PWC
almost daily and waited for Nitrite to appear. I also started to read more and more about cichlids.
As week three closed I got impatient and bought some bottle bacteria. After a few days I had 0 ammonia and .5 or less nitrite consistently. Nitrate has appeared and I was weak... While at a chain LFS
I saw assorted African Cichlids for $0.89. I bought two. The employee asked about my tank and told me that the 1.5 inch cichlids would eat my 3 inch rainbow shark and that you can't put anything but cichlids in a cichlid tank. Through all my reading I knew that many people had sharks with cichlids and it was important to make sure they were the same size. I said I understood the risk and brought home my two new fish.
This time I floated the bag as usual but then I remembered to add small amounts of tank water to the bag repeatedly before netting them out. I am trying so hard to learn. At first the dark cichlid (Acei I believe) was chasing the shark around. I was worried but after about an hour, the tables had turned and the shark was the dominant one. The yellow striped Cichlid stayed to himself for the most part. By the next day, everyone was getting along and only chased one another when they wanted the same spot.
From here I am looking to maintain a steady tank for a week or so and then add another 2 small cichlids. I have attached pictures of my fish if you can help ID them and I would love to hear any feedback, criticism or suggestions you may want to offer. What cichlids would work well and what my stock should max out at.