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Aquarium Advice Newbie
Apr 19, 2023
Hey all, my name's Kasper, I'm 28, and recently got into fishkeeping. We have a couple aquariums at my workplace and it's made me really want to get my own, so I started getting all the necessary equipment back in November, I think, of last year and I'm really close to being able to get a fish!

The plan from the start has been to get one male betta in my 10 gallon tank and if it turns into "multi-tank syndrome" so be it!

For a little tragic backstory: In high school a friend and I decided to get a fish together. We busted out an old tank from storage, filled it up from the tap, bought a fish from Wal-Mart and plopped him in. A week later the poor little guy was dead, and he spent his last week curled up in a bottom corner of the tank. Being uneducated teens, we blamed the store.

Now that I've been reading about how to properly care for fish I realize the horrible mistake we made back then and I will never not feel guilty about it for the rest of my life, so I've been working really hard to make sure I know as much as I can before I risk another fish's life and that this tank is absolutely ready to go.

I have a million and one questions and going down the google rabbit hole is just adding more, so here I am, nice to meet ya :fish2:
Hi Kasper and welcome to the forum :)

It seems complicated and never ending when you first start out keeping fish but it settles down over time and becomes easier. The main thing to learn about is the filter cycle whereby you let good bacteria develop in filter media/ materials and these help keep ammonia and nitrite levels at 0ppm, and this makes a huge difference to fish health.

The next thing is to ask for help with sick fish asap and not start guessing about problems and adding all sorts of chemical cocktails to the tank. The sooner you ask for help with a sick fish, the more chance it has of surviving. Below is my version of first aid for fish and is what people should do if their fish starts looking unwell or acting odd. The first aid usually helps fix the problem or buys you time to try and figure out what is going on.


In the mean time you should find out what the GH (general hardness), KH (carbonate hardness) and pH of your water supply is. This information can usually be obtained from your water supply company's website (Water Analysis Report) or by telephoning them. If they can't help you, take a glass full of tap water to the local pet shop and get them to test it for you. Write the results down (in numbers) when they do the tests. And ask them what the results are in (eg: ppm, dGH, or something else).

Depending on what the GH of your water is, will determine what fish you should keep.

Angelfish, discus, most tetras, most barbs, Bettas, gouramis, rasbora, Corydoras and small species of suckermouth catfish all occur in soft water (GH below 150ppm) and a pH below 7.0.

Livebearers (guppies, platies, swordtails, mollies), rainbowfish and goldfish occur in medium hard water with a GH around 200-250ppm and a pH above 7.0.

If you have very hard water (GH above 300ppm) then look at African Rift Lake cichlids, or use distilled or reverse osmosis water to reduce the GH and keep fishes from softer water.


Test the water for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH.

Wipe the inside of the glass down with a clean fish sponge. This removes the biofilm on the glass and the biofilm will contain lots of harmful bacteria, fungus, protozoans and various other microscopic life forms.

Do a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate every day for a week or until the problem is identified. The water changes and gravel cleaning will reduce the number of disease organisms in the water and provide a cleaner environment for the fish to recover in. It also removes a lot of the gunk and this means any medication can work on treating the fish instead of being wasted killing the pathogens in the gunk.
Make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it is added to the tank.

Clean the filter if it hasn't been done in the last 2 weeks. However, if the filter is less than 6 weeks old, do not clean it. Wash the filter materials/ media in a bucket of tank water and re-use the media. Tip the bucket of dirty water on the garden/ lawn. Cleaning the filter means less gunk and cleaner water with fewer pathogens so any medication (if needed) will work more effectively on the fish.

Increase surface turbulence/ aeration to maximise the dissolved oxygen in the water.

Start a new thread asking for help and post clear pictures and video of the fish so we can check them for diseases. You can also post information about how long the tank has been set up for, normal maintenance schedule (gravel and filter cleaning, water changes, etc), how long you have had the fish and if you have added anything to the tank in the 2 weeks before this started.
Hey Colin thanks for the info! I've got the nitrogen cycle going now, I just have to wait for it to hit 0 ammonia and nitrite faster, but I've not nitrite and nitrate present! So soon, hopefully it'll be ready for a fish!

I really appreciate the First Aid info you shared, I have some basic medicines ready to go just in case but diagnosing a fish would be the hard part, and I'm glad I found this community so I don't have to go about it alone and potentially make a sick fish even worse.
Don't bother testing for nitrate until the filter has finished cycling. Nitrate test kits read nitrite as nitrate and give you a false reading. Wait until the ammonia and nitrite have both gone up and then come back down to 0ppm before testing for nitrate.
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