allow me to share with you my newbie experience on starting a new 55 gal
. i, too, want a community tank showcasing neons and cardinals.
cardinal(no pun intended) rule # 1: know your water and be 100% sure it's in exceptional condition to start with. my first failure was most likely due to untreated tap water which contains chlorimine(sp?). 20 lives were killed in about 20 mins. it's a huge defeat.
secondly, always keep your fish in the tank. i konw, this sounded like a duh...? but i lost 4 cichlids because i put them in a vase for about 15 mins while doing water change and i think they died of suffocation(sp?). i sort of lost most of my patience after this inccident.
also, it might not be a bad idea to start with hardy fishies, regardless how you cycle the tank. i lost neons due to an ich attack. they are picky about everything. and i'm told cardinals are even worse.
right now i'm in the second week of a fishy cycle, with 2 zebra danios and 2 tiger barbs. i know how unwelcome the fishy cycle idea is on this borad, but this is the fourth try in about two months to start the tank and over $70 worth of bio-spira had went down the drain. i had to play cheap.