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Old 11-27-2012, 05:23 PM   #1
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I've made some terrible mistakes, and need some advice please!

So I know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but here is my current situation starting with the (long) back story, so you can skip to the bottom if you do not feel like reading all of it:

I started a 20 gallon FW tropical community tank about 6 weeks ago. As you can see from the stats below it is really overloaded, and I do not think it ever properly cycled. I started with the starter kit filter, which was crap. About 3 weeks ago I put a Fluval C3 power filter on (but did not seed it). In addition to that large group of fish I committed a cardinal sin and had a small goldfish in the tank. I will not go into the whole story of how or why that happened. So needless to say my water conditions were dismal even though I thought that I was doing everything right (we live and then spend a lot of money to learn, right?). All of a sudden overnight my mollies and the goldie got sick and I went to Petsmart for advice, which started with "never keep a goldfish in a tank that small or with other fish." I ended up taking the goldie out and put him in a new tank and he died a few days later - no surprise there he was in bad shape with really bad fin rot.

I did a 30% water change, added aquarium salt and upped the temp on the 20 gallon tank, and within an hour my mollies were much better. The next day I went back to have my water tested again, and without giving me all of the numbers Petsmart said that my ammonia was WAY too high, and I should do another 25% wc and then 20% changes once a week to bring the ammonia safely down, and that I could use an ammonia remover at first to help. So I went home and did yet another wc. 4 days later, on my usual wc day I did another water change just to get back on my schedule.

Then I started doing more and more research and looking through tons of threads on this site, and started to see that I have been the cause of all of my own grief! So today I went and bought an API master water test kit. I tested my new 55 gallon tank that I just set up because it is day 3 after adding the first fish, and all of my levels are the same as my tap water, so I know it is still okay, and I will continue to test every day. I am doing fish-in cycling because my husband refused to do fishless, but that is another story.

Back to my 20 gallon, on first test today the pH is 7.6, Ammonia 0-0.25 (hard to tell), Nitrite 5.0, Nitrate 80. So I did a 50 % wc and waited over an hour and retested, and it is now Amm: 0-0.25, Nitrite 2.0-5.0 (definitely not quite 5), and Nitrate 20-30. (Tap water is pH 7.6, Ammonia 0-0.25, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 5). I use Prime water conditioner. I was using Stability with the tank early on, but I am really over chemicals, so no more. With the last two water changes I did not add aquarium salt, because it has been at least a week since the mollies had spots.

So here are some catches that will certainly be annoying in giving me advice: The fish store will not take any fish back, and I have no one to whom I can give any of the fish. My husband is going to flip if I even think of getting another tank, but I have a brand new 5.5 gallon tank that is empty (was my quarantine tank for the goldie for 2 days).

Now to the questions:
1. How often should I do partial water changes on the 20 gal. tank to keep it clean? At Petsmart they said no more than once a week because I will cause other problems, but the water obviously needs more changing. Will I harm the fish or disrupt the cycle by changing more often? Isn't it worse for the fish in the toxic environment?
2. Looking at the stats below, and knowing the story of my unhealthy 20 gallon, would you recommend transferring any of the fish to the 55 gallon (say the dojo loach? or the cat?). I really want to be careful with the new tank.
3. On top of all of my other mistakes I got 1 male and 1 female molly, and the male is relentlessly breeding with the poor female! He will not leave her alone. I would really like to get one or two more females to help her out, but that would require moving some fish out, or over loading this tank even further which I cannot bring myself to do. Any thoughts?

Sorry for the novel, just wanted to give as much of the story as possible. I know I made a ton of mistakes and I am now willing to spend the time trying to learn this new hobby, but I feel like I need someone with more experience to help me start to get on the right track. There is so much information out there that I am getting overwhelmed and confused about what to do.

Fire away! I know I deserve it!
__________________________________________
20 Gallon FW Tropical Community Aquarium: 2 Platys, 2 Mollies, 4 Fluorescent Danios, 2 GloFish Electric Green Tetras, 1 Dojo Loach, 1 Cory Catfish (I think?), and 2 african dwarf frogs.

55 Gallon FW: 2 Silver Dollars, 2 Bala Sharks and 1 Spotted Pleco
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Old 11-27-2012, 05:35 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RADF814
So I know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but here is my current situation starting with the (long) back story, so you can skip to the bottom if you do not feel like reading all of it:

I started a 20 gallon FW tropical community tank about 6 weeks ago. As you can see from the stats below it is really overloaded, and I do not think it ever properly cycled. I started with the starter kit filter, which was crap. About 3 weeks ago I put a Fluval C3 power filter on (but did not seed it). In addition to that large group of fish I committed a cardinal sin and had a small goldfish in the tank. I will not go into the whole story of how or why that happened. So needless to say my water conditions were dismal even though I thought that I was doing everything right (we live and then spend a lot of money to learn, right?). All of a sudden overnight my mollies and the goldie got sick and I went to Petsmart for advice, which started with "never keep a goldfish in a tank that small or with other fish." I ended up taking the goldie out and put him in a new tank and he died a few days later - no surprise there he was in bad shape with really bad fin rot.

I did a 30% water change, added aquarium salt and upped the temp on the 20 gallon tank, and within an hour my mollies were much better. The next day I went back to have my water tested again, and without giving me all of the numbers Petsmart said that my ammonia was WAY too high, and I should do another 25% wc and then 20% changes once a week to bring the ammonia safely down, and that I could use an ammonia remover at first to help. So I went home and did yet another wc. 4 days later, on my usual wc day I did another water change just to get back on my schedule.

Then I started doing more and more research and looking through tons of threads on this site, and started to see that I have been the cause of all of my own grief! So today I went and bought an API master water test kit. I tested my new 55 gallon tank that I just set up because it is day 3 after adding the first fish, and all of my levels are the same as my tap water, so I know it is still okay, and I will continue to test every day. I am doing fish-in cycling because my husband refused to do fishless, but that is another story.

Back to my 20 gallon, on first test today the pH is 7.6, Ammonia 0-0.25 (hard to tell), Nitrite 5.0, Nitrate 80. So I did a 50 % wc and waited over an hour and retested, and it is now Amm: 0-0.25, Nitrite 2.0-5.0 (definitely not quite 5), and Nitrate 20-30. (Tap water is pH 7.6, Ammonia 0-0.25, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 5). I use Prime water conditioner. I was using Stability with the tank early on, but I am really over chemicals, so no more. With the last two water changes I did not add aquarium salt, because it has been at least a week since the mollies had spots.

So here are some catches that will certainly be annoying in giving me advice: The fish store will not take any fish back, and I have no one to whom I can give any of the fish. My husband is going to flip if I even think of getting another tank, but I have a brand new 5.5 gallon tank that is empty (was my quarantine tank for the goldie for 2 days).

Now to the questions:
1. How often should I do partial water changes on the 20 gal. tank to keep it clean? At Petsmart they said no more than once a week because I will cause other problems, but the water obviously needs more changing. Will I harm the fish or disrupt the cycle by changing more often? Isn't it worse for the fish in the toxic environment?
2. Looking at the stats below, and knowing the story of my unhealthy 20 gallon, would you recommend transferring any of the fish to the 55 gallon (say the dojo loach? or the cat?). I really want to be careful with the new tank.
3. On top of all of my other mistakes I got 1 male and 1 female molly, and the male is relentlessly breeding with the poor female! He will not leave her alone. I would really like to get one or two more females to help her out, but that would require moving some fish out, or over loading this tank even further which I cannot bring myself to do. Any thoughts?

Sorry for the novel, just wanted to give as much of the story as possible. I know I made a ton of mistakes and I am now willing to spend the time trying to learn this new hobby, but I feel like I need someone with more experience to help me start to get on the right track. There is so much information out there that I am getting overwhelmed and confused about what to do.

Fire away! I know I deserve it!
1. Forget what petsmart told you about more than one water change a week will do more harm than good. You have a good test kit which is good and absolutely essential to this hobby! In a nutshell, since your doing a fish in cycle (which isn't impossible so keep your chin up!) do a water change anytime your ammonia and nitrite get above .25ppm and Nitrates should be kept at 20ppm or below. Once your water params are 0ppm ammonia and nitrite and only nitrates showing up (keep this level at 20 or below). How many fish do you have again?
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Old 11-27-2012, 05:37 PM   #3
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sorry, I thought it would show up in my post:
20 Gallon FW Tropical Community Aquarium: 2 Platys, 2 Mollies, 4 Fluorescent Danios, 2 GloFish Electric Green Tetras, 1 Dojo Loach, 1 Cory Catfish (I think?), and 2 african dwarf frogs.

55 Gallon FW: 2 Silver Dollars, 2 Bala Sharks and 1 Spotted Pleco
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Old 11-27-2012, 05:47 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RADF814
sorry, I thought it would show up in my post:
20 Gallon FW Tropical Community Aquarium: 2 Platys, 2 Mollies, 4 Fluorescent Danios, 2 GloFish Electric Green Tetras, 1 Dojo Loach, 1 Cory Catfish (I think?), and 2 african dwarf frogs.

55 Gallon FW: 2 Silver Dollars, 2 Bala Sharks and 1 Spotted Pleco
Ok. Definitely keep the pleco in the 55, he will grow to be huge and needs the room, they also have a huge bioload so the more space the better. The Balas and silver dollars need to stay in the 55 as well as they grow to be big and will need the room as well. The mollies I would say move to the 55 as well since they need 30+ gallons because they are so active. That would be my guess as to how to better distribute them. And for future reference once your tanks cycle tetras and any type of cories are schooling fish and need a group of atleast 5. I also read the silver dollars like to school as well. I'm not much help on the loach as I've never had any. Hopefully someone else can chime in and give their opinion. Im no expert by any means but I've had my tanks for going on six months. That is what I would do anyway.
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Old 11-27-2012, 05:48 PM   #5
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Also if you have any other questions about anything please feel free to send me a PM (private message) on here and I will try my best to help you!
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Old 11-27-2012, 05:50 PM   #6
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And another thing that will help with your bioload... If you could get your hands on some filter media from an established and healthy tank that will help immensely. Do you have a locally/privately owned pet store that has fish or is the petsmart the only place available to you?
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Old 11-27-2012, 05:55 PM   #7
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First, ignore any future Petsmart advice unless you have double and triple checked it.
Water changes will NOT stop your cycle, in fact it will help. The bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate also need minerals that come in your water, and if they use all the minerals up the cycle will stall. Replacing the water with new water, adds more minerals, and keeps the cycle going and fish happy. I did a fish in cycle because I couldn't find any reliable pure ammonia I could trust not to have stuff added to it, and I was changing 30-50% of my water every day to keep the levels safe for my fish.
You do have to be careful when you change water that you ALWAYS dechlorinate. Not doing that will kill off the bacteria you have been working so hard to grow. And match the temperature to the temperature in your tank as closely as possible so you don't shock your fish. Turn off the filter and heater while you do your water change so you don't burn out the motor, or over heat your heater. Also, DON"T change your filter media. You don't need to do it nearly as often as the manufacturers say, and it is where most of your bacteria live. Best way is to have a couple different sponges/solid media and only change one at a time. You can clean them if they get too dirty by rinsing them in DIRTY tank water. (Remember, your bacteria live on these, rinsing them in chlorinated tapwater will kill your bacteria.)
I'm assuming you bought a tank kit? If they came with lights, you might want to think about adding some of the easier to grow fast growing plants, like Valisneria. and something like java moss or java fern. Plants use fish waste and nitrate as fertilizers and will help a little with keeping your water cleaner. The plants I mentioned don't need super high lights, and only light fertlilizing. If they are using the fish waste, it will help keep algae from growing by using up those nutrients.
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Old 11-27-2012, 07:58 PM   #8
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Hm, it's tough; you're overstocked already on both tanks. Bala sharks are recommended to be in a group of 5 and they're going to outgrow your tank in terms of size and groupings; the silver dollars should be in groups too. If the Pleco is a common it's going to get too large for a 55 as well. How big are the fish now? I don't know that I'd put the Mollys in with the sharks.

The Loach should be in a group and will outgrow a 20 gal. Maybe put the loach in the 55. That would give it more room and minimize the stocking on the 20 gal some so you could add a couple more female mollys when the tank cycles.

Long-term though you'll need to rehome some of the fish in the 55 or upgrade to a much larger tank.

In terms of your parameters, you definitely want to do more water changes on the 20 to get the nitrites down to <.5. Water changes will not disrupt the cycle and it's the only way to keep the fish safe from ammonia or nitrite burns. Keep an eye on the 55 too; I don't know how long it's been with fish but at some point ammonia is going to start to rise in that tank as well.

Just keep up with the testing and water changes. Try to keep ammonia and nitrite under .5, and do some thinking on your stocking for the 55. If the store won't take them back you can always open up an ad here in the Classifieds section and see if someone can take some of the fish for you, most notably the sharks and maybe the pleco if it's a common.

Here's a guide if you haven't seen it: Guide to Starting a Freshwater Aquarium - Aquarium Advice
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Old 11-27-2012, 08:27 PM   #9
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If you don't mind donating, they will usually at petco take them as a donation only. Some LFS will SOMETIMES take them and give you store credit. Or sell/give away on Craigslist. You definitely need to restock and Your hubby should not dictate above the welfare of an animal. You both are responsible for their welfare. You will end up paying for it in the long run, well you and the fish. I have pretty much had to re-home, put to sleep, and get rid of most of the fish he picked out. They grew too big, ate my plants, caused chaos in the tank or just got too sick to save. or bought disease into the tank and killed 2 of my favorite fish. Then got sick them selves and had to be put down. If no one will take them, don't release them into the wild. Put them to sleep. Its the most humane thing to do as a last resort. I know its harsh but sometimes you have to do what right and its not always easiest.
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:43 PM   #10
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The bala sharks are around 2 inches, the silver dollars are 1.25 inches and the pleco is about 3inches. I figured that I had at least 6 months to a year before we had to get a bigger tank. We figured we would get something over 100, but later. Does it sound like the 20 gallon is still cycling with a high nitrite level?
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:49 PM   #11
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The bala sharks are around 2 inches, the silver dollars are 1.25 inches and the pleco is about 3inches. I figured that I had at least 6 months to a year before we had to get a bigger tank. We figured we would get something over 100, but later. Does it sound like the 20 gallon is still cycling with a high nitrite level?
Sounds like it to me. My ammonia only became trace levels before zeroing out, my nitrates actually showed up like 2 days after my nitrites did and after that all they did was rise and rise until nitrites slowly fell then zeroed out. Every tank is different but that's what happened with mine.
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:52 PM   #12
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The bala sharks are around 2 inches, the silver dollars are 1.25 inches and the pleco is about 3inches. I figured that I had at least 6 months to a year before we had to get a bigger tank. We figured we would get something over 100, but later. Does it sound like the 20 gallon is still cycling with a high nitrite level?
The only issue with keeping fish that have max sizes that arent suitable for the tank they are currently is you risk stunting their growth... But their insides keep growing even though the fish doesn't increase in size. So I would say as soon as your able to get a bigger tank and comfortably (by comfortably i mean financially comfortable) maintain it, do it.
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