Help a newbie fishkeeper

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Aquarium Advice Apprentice
Apr 18, 2023
Hi all! I am new to the hobby and in need of guidance. I have a 29 gallon tank lightly planted but soon to be moderately planted. It has 3 ottos, 2 guppies (m/f), 6 Cardinal tetras, 6 rummynose tetras, 1 GBR and one Honey Gourami. It is a peaceful community. Temp: 78-80 unsure which thermometer is lying ��

1. Am I overstocked?

2. What smallest bottom dweller would you recommend for this temp? I am considering Cory cats but concerned about temps and overstocking since I’d would need to get 4-6

3. I’d like to get pigmy hatchet fish (6). Good idea/bad?

4. Would it be nuts to add Cory cats and hatchets to my set-up?

5. How about a Neon Blue Dwarf Gourami? Would it fight with any other fish. I would love 3 centerpiece but I know my tank is small.
No you arent overstocked.

6 panda corys would work ok. Its on the warm side in your tank but ive kept them ok at your temperature. What i would say is your temperature is on the cool side for the ram. It would be better in the 84 to 86f range. With the exception of the rummynose tetras and possibly the guppies that would be too warm for the rest of the fish you have or plan to get.

I would have concern with the M/F ratio of the guppies. They will breed, and if the fry dont get eaten by the other fish expect to have a guppy population explosion. The male will also harass the female, if you want to mix male and female guppies 1M/3F is really the minimum to avoid the females being overly harassed and stressed.
Would sterbai cory be too large for my tank. I read they do better in warmer water.

Agreed, my tank is not warm enough for the Ram. I will be smarter next time

Would adding 6 pigmy hatchets and 4-5 sterbai cory push me towards overstocked.
Hi and welcome to the forum :)

How long has the tank been set up?

Is the filter established?
How often do you clean the filter and how do you clean the filter?

How often do you feed the fish and what do you feed the fish?

How often do you do water changes and how much do you change?
Do you gravel clean the substrate when you do a water change?
Do you dechlorinate the new water before adding it to the aquarium?

What are the tank dimensions (length x width x height)?

These are all things that need to be taken into consideration when stocking an aquarium. You also need to know the temperament of the fish and how much space they need to move around without being stressed by other fish in the area. You also need to know the water chemistry (pH, GH & KH).


What is the GH (general hardness), KH (carbonate hardness) and pH of your water supply?
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.


Avoid dwarf gouramis (Colisa lalius) and all their colour forms (this includes the neon blue dwarf gourami). They are regularly infected with the Gourami Iridovirus and or Fish Tuberculosis (TB), neither of which can be treated and both diseases remain in the aquarium until you disinfect everything, and that includes the fish in the tank.
Thank you! Happy to be here!

Tank was set up this past Saturday. It is about 30 long and 19 high. I will use a pre-filter sponge for the intake (ordered). Plan to change filter (that came with the tank) once a month.

I did instant cycling by using an old filter from a local fish store. I stocked the same day a few hours later with 4 fish. Then added the rest next day. I am also using seachem stability daily. I made sure water was warm and conditioned before adding fish. I tested twice a day with tetra strips and all looked good. I know it was risky but all worked out.

My water is soft. Low alkalinity (trying to correct that slow with soda). Ph is between slightly acidic and neutral. I use test strips as I am a newbie.

I have about 5 plants in the aquarium. Going to add 6 more.

Substrate is very small gravel. I plan to vacuum it and change water (5-10 gallons at a time every 2-3 weeks). Does this make sense?

I feed fish twice a day (a pinch)
Don't change the filter media/ materials unless they start to break down (fall apart). The filter media becomes home to beneficial bacteria that keep the ammonia and nitrite levels at 0ppm. If you replace the media every month, you get rid of the good bacteria and can get ammonia and or nitrite readings that kill the fish.

Established filters (more than 2 months old) can be cleaned once a month but you squeeze or wash the filter media in a bucket of aquarium water. When the media is clean, you put it back in the filter, and tip the bucket of dirty water on the lawn outside.


You only need to test the water once a day for the first month or so and then once a week (or once every few weeks) after the filter has finished cycling (developing the good bacteria that keeps ammonia and nitrite at 0).


If you want to raise the pH of the water, add some shells, dead coral rubble, or limestone rock. These are all made from calcium carbonate and will increase the pH and KH. You don't want to raise the pH and KH too much because most of the fish you have naturally occur in soft acidic water (pH below 7.0 and GH below 100ppm). The guppies are the exception to this and they do best in water with a pH above 7.0 and a GH around 200ppm. Unfortunately, if you keep soft water fishes in hard water (or vice versa), they usually die sooner. Ideally you would have guppies in one tank with hard water and the other fish in a second tank with soft water.


I would do a 50% water change and gravel clean the substrate every week. This will help keep the water cleaner and stop the water quality deteriorating over time.
Make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it's added to the tank.

If you start to get ammonia or nitrite readings, reduce feeding to once a day or once every second day, and do a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate every day until the levels are back to 0ppm.
How many fish you can have in a given tank depends on a few things...
1) How big they are.
2) How "dirty' they are over all.
3) Your water change routine.
So, there are no rules set in stone for this .

In a cycled tank there will be no Ammonia or Nitrite.
You will just have to keep the Nitrate level down to a safe level and even what is a "safe" Nitrate level can never be agreed upon.
Water changes are just to keep the Nitrate level down in a cycled tank.
BTW, plants need some Nitrate to grow and flourish.
You want a balance just as nature usually provides for fish.

Do not confuse Nitrite with Nitrate :)
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