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Old 10-06-2010, 11:12 AM   #1
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Question Newbie in need of Instruction

Let me start off by saying I acknowledge I am a clueless beginner however I want to go forward as a responsible Aquarium owner, so I am here asking for advice from those more knowledgeable then me. I know I am going to need to get a larger aquarium ASAP, but I need some helpful instruction to get me through my current situation.

Two and half weeks ago my huband took our children to the State Fair and let them win three small (about 1 inch) feeder type goldfish. My immediate reaction was to go out and purchase a 5 gallon rectangular aquarium. I also bought a 5-15 gallon filter system. One day three I did a 50% water change. 1 of the fish died on the evening of day 3, one the morning of day 4, and the last the morning of day 5. I changed the filter and did another 50% water change and then at the one week mark, my children were asking for more fish. Being new to fish care, I did an online search and decided that some Zebra danios and Pristella Tetra would be good beginner fish for us. Not knowing that Zebrafish really need to be in a larger group and are a busy fish not suited to such a small aquarium, I proceeded to the pet store and bought two Zebrafish and three Pristella tetra. We've had the Zebrafish/tetra for 10 days now. I did a 50% water change on day three and day 7. After watching the Zebrafish interect with each other, I realized just how clueless I was, I started doing some more online reading and read about the Nitrogen cycle. I went out yesterday and bought some water test strips from Walmart and tested my water this morning. My results:

PH: Between 6.8-7.2
Alkalinity: Between 80-120 ppm
Hardness: 75 ppm
Nitrites: Between 1-2 ppm
Nitrates: Under 20 ppm

From what I've read, Nitrites should ideally be at 0. I am assuming mine are high because the tank is new? What should I do to get them lower? Any thoughts or advice on what to do from this point would be sincerely appreciated. Although I was thrown into aquarium care rather abruptly, I've found I enjoy the fish and want to learn how to care for them properly.
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Old 10-06-2010, 11:37 AM   #2
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Okay my first suggestion is to get a liquid test kit instead of those test strips if you can.
And the best thing to get those nitrites down is to do several wahter changes and keep the number as low as you can here is a thread for you to read about your situation http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...ow-116287.html
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Old 10-06-2010, 12:49 PM   #3
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Thank you for the quick response. I will have to make the trek to the petstore as the only liquid test Wmart had was for Ph, but that I can do. How often do I do the water changes? Did a 25% change this morning after I posted and tested again about 1hr later with only a small change in the test results.

I should add I guess that I've been using gallon jugs of tap water that I've left to sit and have treated with Aquasafe Plus for my water changes.
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Old 10-06-2010, 01:05 PM   #4
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i believe you can order the master liquid test kit online from walmart online and have them ship it to your store for 18. i got mine from petsmart for 32
and you should do the water changes as often as you need too. your main goal is to get the nitrite down as low as you possible can. most people suggest a good level is below .25 ppm so you need to aim for that amount.
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Old 10-06-2010, 01:35 PM   #5
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After following the link you gave me and reading, the thought occured to me to test my tap water. The test strip showed much the same results and when I tested my tank water, so apparently my water has Nitrites in it? I really need to get a liquid test kit quick because I am pretty lost as to just what the Nitrite level really is with the test strips which leaves me at a loss as to how often to change my water. I'm sure I wasn't doing enough changes previously since my tank is still new but am a bit confused because if my water has nitrates in it, changing the water in the tank isn't going to help?!
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Old 10-06-2010, 01:50 PM   #6
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The strips are often inaccurate... also, you're not testing ammonia, which is rather important at this stage in the game.

Consider taking the fish back to the store. If your kids really want fish, a (one) betta will be very happy in a 5 gallon-- AFTER it's been cycled.
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Old 10-06-2010, 02:28 PM   #7
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So my Nitrite level in my tap water might be fine?

I had grabbed a box of amonia clear tabs when we first bought the aquarium because I rembered from childhood just how often goldfish needed water changes. I stuck one of those in my gallon jug of tab water and retested. The nitrite pad on the test strip was considerable lighter with that test.

Will the petstore take them back after their "warranty period" has expired?
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Old 10-06-2010, 02:59 PM   #8
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As another newbie, I will tell you in a nut shell what I think will help you (anyone out there correct me if I'm wrong, I have some background knowledge on this since I'm a chemist but most I've picked up from reading and 3month experience with my aquarium)

Cycling your tank means growing the bacterial colonies that turn ammonia (fish waste and toxic to fish) into nitrites (also toxic to fish) and nitrites into nitrates (much less toxic to fish). These bacteria live in your filter/subtrates and decorations but they grow fairly slowly so cycling takes anywhere between 4-6 weeks. (You can shorten this if you add some media from an established tank)

Don't believe the stores when they tell you to set up your tank and add fish after 72 hrs (that's what happened to me) they just want to sell you fish. Likewise don't believe they will know what kind of fish can go in your tank given your tank size and occupants again, they just want to sell you fish.

Since you already have the fish in there you can cycle with fish but this will require A LOT more work on your part to keep the fish happy and healthy. Basically you want to do as many partial water changes (PWCs) as necessary to keep your ammonia and nitrites below 0.25ppm. Your nitrates will not accumulate significantly until your tank cycles but once it does most people keep nitrates below 40ppm. In a cycled tank that is not overstocked a weekly 25% PWC should be enough.

While your tank is cycling you will need to test your ammonia/nitrite/nitrate/pH at least daily to make sure the water is safe for your fish, so get that test kit, liquid is more accurate than strips. I had to do 50-75% PWCs every day for 3 weeks in my 20gal tank because I was cycling with fish.

You should use tap water conditioner to get rid of ammonia/chlorine and chloramines in your tap water, if you don't the ammonia can stress/kill your fish and the chlorine and chloramines will kill the bacteria in your tank. I personally like Seachem Prime, but there are lots of other products out there that work well too. (On a side note the products only bind the ammonia so that it is not toxic to fish, but it will still test positive in the liquid test kits until the bacteria in your tank consume it). Also, the water that goes into your tank should match your tank's water in pH and termperature, for pH not more than a 0.2 difference at most.

Another side note on PWCs, a PWC dilutes what is your tank by the fraction of the PWC. For example, if your ammonia is at 2ppm and you did a 50%PWC it would bring it down to 1ppm, a 75% PWC would bring 2ppm down to 0.50ppm. So if you had 2ppm and wanted to bring the level down to below 0.25ppm you could do either 3 succesive 50%PWC, 2 succesive 75%PWC (level would be 0.125ppm by the end) or a combination.

Since the bacteria live in your filter and subtrate don't vacuum your substrate and change your filter cartridge on the same day EVER, this will take too much your good bacteria out and your tank would have to cycle again (though it would probably not take as long as the first time). Also, you don't need to change your filter cartridge every month like the manufacturers say (they just want to sell you filters), just take it out and rinse it in old TANK WATER (like what you take out during PWC), don't rinse it in tap water because the chlorine will kill the bacteria.

Finally, I read that those ammonia reducing products (like the tabs and API ammo-lock) can stall the cycle but I am not 100% sure on this. My experience is that my tank did not cycle at all while I was using ammo-lock.


Sorry for the novel but hope this helps =)
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Old 10-06-2010, 03:12 PM   #9
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Here's an article I just found on the nitrogen cycle

Manage your freshwater aquarium, tropical fishes and plants: Nitrogen Cycle for Dummies
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Old 10-06-2010, 03:53 PM   #10
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Thank you for taking the time to type all that out. I've been reading all afternoon and I have come to one major conclusion- I need to get a liquid water testing kit... Immediately. (Just ordered one with expedited shipping, so hopefully it gets here fast.) I also need to do a PWC every day instead of every few days like I was previously doing.

I read earlier today for the first time about not changing the filter material as reccomended by the manufacturer. Very good to know...I had no idea that was the case.

Question- I've heard Prime mentioned multiple times in my reading this afternoon. I have been using Tetra AquaSafe water conditioner/dechlorinator. Can I continue using this for now or do I really need the Prime?
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Old 10-06-2010, 04:30 PM   #11
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yes aquasafe works, prime just does more stuff more people prefer it.
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Old 10-09-2010, 10:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeremyblevins View Post
yes aquasafe works, prime just does more stuff more people prefer it.
I received my API test kit this afternoon and immediately tested my tank water with the following results:

PH 7.6
Ammonia 2ppm
Nitrites .25ppm

Did a 50% PWC and retested the Amonia and Nitrites with the following results:

Ammonia 1ppm
Nitrites 0ppm

Temp in tank is 77 degrees F. This weekend will be three weeks since I've had the aquarium, 2 weeks since we added the zebrafish/tetra.

Prime helps with Ammonia, correct? I'm not sure that Aquasafe helps with it at all.
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Old 10-10-2010, 12:33 AM   #13
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I understand Prime will make the amonia less toxic to your fish. Not sure about aquasafe, I'm pretty sure not.

Please be sure to keep up with the PWC daily until the tank is cycled.

Also, rehoming the poor fish until you can give them a home in an appropriate sized aquarium that is fully cycled tank is the kindest thing to do.

A betta as suggested earlier would be an excellent choice. You could soften the blow to the kids by including them in monitoring/testing the 5 gal until it is cycled properly.
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Old 10-10-2010, 12:44 AM   #14
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Do a 75% change... you need to get that ammonia below .25ppm and keep it there as long as there are fish present.

Cycling with fish is a LOT of work and wastes a LOT of water-- but is doable, if that's your choice.
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