New member in need of a lot of help please

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Aquarium Advice Newbie
Joined
Feb 22, 2024
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4
Hello everyone! I joined this site to learn more about responsible fish-keeping and building aquariums. To be honest, I'm in desperate need of advice right now.

I fell into a trap about two weeks ago when I got some terrible advice from the pet shop and ended up buying my son a small 12L beginner fish tank set with 6 white cloud mountain minnows (3 are white and 3 are black I think?). I was told to just set up the tank (clean the gravel and ornaments, dechlorinate water and run the filter for 24 hours) and then put the fish in. I got all my advice from my dad who used to own fish and the guy at the pet shop which now looking back was absolutely awful and I've been having numerous problems but I want to save these fish so could really use some help (I'm an absolute noob).

After a few days from putting the fish in, I noticed the water clouded up which I associated with bacterial bloom, but I also had an overfeeding problem (kids fed too much food) and the filter got really clogged so I had to do a partial water change and then got some debris out of the filter (rinsed the filter medium in old tank water). The following week, I noticed some fish darkening their colour and some losing their colour, but they were eating fine and swimming around okay but hanging around the filter a lot. I got some water testing strips and saw the ammonia was high but all other parameters were fine, so I've done daily water changes (20%) skipped a day on feeding and cleaned a LOT of leftover food from the gravel and bottom of the tank. I've done my best to not touch the filter media or move the fish, and their colours are normalizing now after the ammonia levels dropped but am still proceeding with daily water changes until it gets to safe levels, minimal feeding and removal of leftover food and I've also added a small airstone just in case.

I know I screwed up not cycling the tank and stressing these poor fish, so I researched and I've bought: a 42 Litre tank, black gravel-sand for the substrate, java moss + a driftwood ornament to strap it to (I mistakenly bought an ornament instead of actual driftwood :( ), java fern, a new filter for the tank size. My plan is to cycle this new tank setup as soon as it arrives and move the fish over as soon as possible while constantly maintaining the fish in their original tank.

I don't exactly know how to setup the new tank so would really appreciate any advice on how to set up the new tank properly and if I can make it easier on the fish in the tank at the moment. I was considering washing and quarantining the java moss for a week and adding it to the tank to help control the ammonia levels, but the tank hasn't cycled yet so I'm unsure. I do notice what I think are ammonia burns around the gills so that's my main reason for wanting to get a plant in asap.

Any help is greatly appreciated thank you so much :)
 
Sadly, ammonia damage to the gills does not always heal no matter what you do so for starters, you have to be prepared to lose these fish.
Doing "fish in" cycling had been the only way to cycle a tank for decades so it's not something new. It requires frequent water changes with a low bioload ( fish/animal life) and time. It can take months to do it this way but with a low bioload and frequent water changes, the fish will be fine. The big problem was the over feeding. That is an ammonia source that can collect anywhere in the tank ( i.e. the gravel, the filter, the decorations, etc) and keeps breaking down causing ammonia. It's not until you have a good bacteria bed that a little overfeeding is not an issue.

You have the option with the new tank of either doing a " fish in" or "Fish less" cycling. To do the fish less cycling, you need to add ammonia ( you can use any ammonia that has no additives or scents. I get mine from the dollar store) and maintain it at 2 ppm. As your bacteria bed grows, the ammonia will be converted to nitrite then to nitrate. This will take some time to happen so it won't be instant. You can speed up the process by adding a " bacteria in a bottle" product but to be honest, most of the ones on the market do not really work or work well. The only one I've had any success with is Fritzyme #7 made by Fritz Aquatics. This will cut down the time from months to weeks for the cycling process to be complete. ( If you need more explanation on the cycling process, just let us know. )

To be honest, if your small tank is still active, the odds are the small tank will cycle in the same amount of time now that the new tank will take doing a fishless cycle. So the choice is yours on which way you want to cycle your aquarium.

Hope this helps. (y)
 
Personally, if its a choice of keeping the fish in an uncycled aquarium, or moving them to a larger uncycled aquarium, the best thing to do is to move them. More water volume will make the cycling process easier on the fish.

Even going into the larger tank though, 6 fish in an uncycled 40 litres/ 10g tank is going to be hard on them, but significantly less hard than 6 fish in 12 litres/ 3g.
 
Thank you so much for the advice! I was kinda afraid of hearing that I might lose them but I will do my best to keep them alive. I didn't realize how bad the overfeeding was until I cleaned out all the debris but I have taken over the feeding until the tank cycles. I really want to do a fish-less cycle on the new tank because I will be adding plants into that one, but not sure how much it differs from plant-less cycling? Plus, my new tank hasn't arrived yet so it will be a week until that is all set up, which would mean the original tank will be three weeks ahead, but my plants arrive in a few days. I was in two minds if adding a plant would help control the ammonia levels in the original tank, but I think now that would do more harm than good. I will continue to keep up the water changes, monitor the ammonia levels and feed sparingly for the time being. Considering the other advice, I was thinking if I moved the filter media over from the old filter to the new filter when setting up the new tank and putting them in the bigger tank, would that be better for the fish? I'm also lost on what to do with the plants, should I leave them for now and just get a tank cycled or just pop them in with the fish during the cycling process?
 
Java moss will do nothing noticable to control ammonia. If the tank was chock full of java moss, with a very small amount of fish you might see some difference, but 6 fish in 40 litres is going to be a moderate bioload, and the amount of ammonia the moss will absorb will barely be testable.

Adding the plants or not, wont really make much difference to your cycle, but will make a better environment for the fish, so just add the plants.

Unless the small tank has cycled completely before your new tank arrives (very unlikely), i would move the fish. Honestly, it might be impossible to cycle the small tank with 6 fish in there anyway, the bioload might just be too much for the filtration on the small tank to be able to cycle out all the waste. Moving the filter media will help as you suggest.

Be mindful that you need to monitor nitrite levels too. If you arent seeing any nitrite your cycle hasnt even started yet.
 
Honestly thank you all so much, I was having a really hard time figuring everything out but now I know what to do thanks to all of you :) Will be moving the fish as soon as I can in the bigger tank with everything I bought as well as moving over the filter media. The water levels are just fluctuating so much in this small tank I can barely keep up, now for some reason my tap water has gone more acidic which has messed with the pH today...hoping that new air stone I added can save me until I get to the shop tomorrow. Thank you all again!
 
Honestly thank you all so much, I was having a really hard time figuring everything out but now I know what to do thanks to all of you :) Will be moving the fish as soon as I can in the bigger tank with everything I bought as well as moving over the filter media. The water levels are just fluctuating so much in this small tank I can barely keep up, now for some reason my tap water has gone more acidic which has messed with the pH today...hoping that new air stone I added can save me until I get to the shop tomorrow. Thank you all again!

Check your tap water after it sits for 24 hours to gas off. Unfortunately, city water companies can do cleanings and flushings unannounced so you always want to test your water before doing any water changes. Because you are going to be using a small(ish) tank, it wouldn't be a bad idea to set up some water in a sealed bucket or container so that you know you have good water for your water change. 12-14 liters should cover a "routine" water change. When you finish your water change, refill the " new water" bucket for the next water change. Always better to be safe than sorry. (y)
 
Hi all, just wanted to pop in and say thank you again for all your great advice!

The new tank I ordered was leaking so had to wait another 2 weeks for a replacement then got that up and running and moved the fish ASAP and they were soooo happy to have a bigger tank. Their colours came out and they're definitely more active and bigger now. The bigger tank started cycling quickly and now my ammonia levels are negligible but just battling the nitrite spikes now which fingers crossed will be over in a few weeks. Im having to do 50% water changes daily but still showing 2ppm of nitrites, but the fish are doing fine, definitely little hardy dudes lol.

Thanks again for the advice, I learned alot :)
 
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