A Humble Beginning
Hello to the wonderful Aquatic Community! I wanted to start a thread to help glean some knowledge, insight, wisdom, and courage for my hopefully upcoming freshwater aquarium. I am brand new to the world of aquatics and aquariums aside from a childhood tank and a college betta bowl. However, I'm eager to learn and absorb all that I can. I tend to ask question after question, so hopefully it won't get too wearisome for those of you who choose to respond to my inquiries. But from the lurking I've been doing, it seems like there are plenty out there who want to help. So to those of who you fall into that category, let the marathon begin. (I apologize now for the length of this post. For those of you who read it, thank you!)
Currently my aquarium goal is more of a long term goal. I know there is plenty more I need to learn and read up on before I dive into things. Plus (and I'll go further into detail about this in a question I have) I still need to check off step number one: convincing the Mrs. that this is a good idea. ......anyone else been there? It'll take some work I think. Anyway...
Here is what I have been thinking about. I guess you could call this the beginning dream, but one I know will morph and change as I continue to learn the basics. My current hope is to start with a smaller 10-20g tank. I've read many things that say a smaller tank is typically a little more difficult to maintain than a larger tank. But seeing as Mrs. Switch isn't on board with any tank at the moment, my best hope will be a smaller tank. I already have a tank lined up I'll be getting for free of Freecycle. The current owner can't remember the size, but from the picture I have, it looks to be a 10g tank. As long as it's in good condition, I'll most likely move ahead with that. I also plan on beginning with a fishless cycle of the tank. How's that for reading up on some stuff already!
So, a couple of questions to start with; even though I know these aren't necessarily the first questions I NEED to be asking:
My wife's biggest concern is that this tank will just turn into a giant algae bowl. She had a family tank growing up that apparently did just that and is convinced that all tanks end up that way. Is this true of beginners? Or is there a way to overcome this obstacle? I know the answer is yes, but I would love some details. For example, does the presence of live plants help reduce algae build up? Would shrimp and snails cut back on the green stuff (Ha, I know pleco's aren't the way to go now thanks to AC)? A higher quality substrate? I know the biggest thing is consistent and regular monitoring of the water chemistry and water changes, but how much can the other stuff help?
Realistically, what fish would I be limited to with a 10g tank? That may be WAY to big of an answer as the list could be many times longer than I think it is, but I'm just curious. I love some of the "larger" tetras like the Black Skirt, but from what I've read I really need a school of 10 or so, and the 10g seems like it might just be too small. Neon tetras and guppys are okay, but they just don't seem to catch my eye as much. My apologies if that offends anyone. I don't mean to belittle the neon and guppy lovers out there! Thoughts on this?
Now, I know asking a question like this might make me seem like an unqualified individual who should avoid starting down this road, but hopefully the spirit behind the question can shine through. Typically how many minutes, hours, days a week should I expect to invest into tank maintenance? I don't mean daily feedings, but more watery chemistry, water changes, etc... Again, hopefully red flags aren't waiving right now, but it's a legitimate question I've been wondering and I figured this was the community to ask it in.
Well, I think I'll stop with that and give your brains a break. If you've made it this far, job well done. Hopefully I haven't exhausted you to the point of not wanting to answer. I appreciate any time you spend answering my questions or coaching me in the right direction. Even though this may be a bit in the distance, I figure it's not too early to start learning. Thanks!
The difference between a beginner and and advanced aquarist is that the latter has made the mistakes and learned from it.
OK, algae. It can happen, doesn't need to be. Plants help, a realistic water change (10g, I'd say 30-50% weekly) schedule. No direct sunlight and a timer on the lights to restrict them to about 9 hours. Also don't change too much filter media at once. Follow this and you can keep your tank look pleasant without specialst animals.
Some algae isn't necessarily a bad thing. I've temporarily lost the hair algae on the wood because of my ph drop but I enjoyed the look of it.
Fish... perhaps a pair of something big? A 10g could house a pair of badis or just maybe one of the smaller apistogramma species.
Timing... water test is 5 minutes tops. Weekly.. let's say an hour on water change and pruning. It's a very legitimate question, if you are unwilling or unable (if, not saying you are) to commit the time needed you better find out now than after getting a tank.
Top newbie tip: Read about cycling and the nitrogene cycle. That makes the difference between a good start in the hobby and yet another "help my fish are dying". You will probably still make mistakes but with a bit of luck no deadly ones.
As Dutchie says, no direct sunlight, and realistic light times keep the algae under control. 10 gallon is fairly restrictive for school sizes for the larger tetras, if you can get the other half on board a 20 would widen your scope considerably. As far as invested time goes, my 4 tanks (from a 130 down to a 6) cost me about 2 1/2 to 3 hours a week, and I do 60 - 70% water changes on all of them.
Good luck, and good on you for asking the questions before diving in head first as most of us did
Something I forgot.
has some suggestions for a 10 gallon. I don't agree with all of these but there's some good options there and it certainly is a good starting point.
Thanks for the couple of fast replies and encouraging words!
Sounds like a complete algae nightmare is avoidable when done correctly. I think my wife is just imagining a tank caked in green goo so thick that you can't even see the fish or plants behind it. The location I think I have mapped out is a bedside-ish type spot. It's in a corner more than 5 or so feet from a window that rarely gets a lot of sunlight. So I feel like that would help with the sunlight aspect. I remember seeing a timer at the local pet store on my last visit and it was reasonably priced, so that shouldn't be an issue. My only follow up question is about the filter media. Maybe it's dumb question...but what is filter media exactly? I see that phrase everywhere, so I know it's important. But coming into this with really no existing knowledge, I can only guess.
Thanks for the wiki link on the 10g stocking. I'll have to look through that a little more. Just browsing, I like the look of the Ember Tetras and Honey Gourami. I think I saw those at the pet store too.
That time commitment seems to line up with right about what I thought it would take. So I'm not shocked and think it's more than doable.
As to cycling and the nitrogen cycle, I've been reading the free ebook and know it has some information. I also read through the fishless cycling in the forums and a couple of articles scattered here and there. Seems to make plenty of sense, though I'm sure I'll have some questions come up in the future. Once the tank is finally a reality I plan on taking a good amount of time to really get it going. Including the full cycling process and a slow addition of fish to the tank to make sure the water chemistry is good and everything. As much as I want to jump into this, I know that's one step that is vital to success.
One question that could probably be answered quickly is my local water. I'm fortunate enough to live on a well system and enjoy fantastic water (from a human perspective). I know one of the biggest things I saw in the cycling thread was about chlorine. Since I'm on a well, would chlorine be an issue? Is there a cheap and easy way to test? Or should I just get dechlorinating chemicals anyway?
Any DIY store and quite a few supermarkets will sell timers. Would be surprised if you'd need to spend more than 10 bucks.
Filter media is whatever you put in your filter. Ceramic noodles, sponges, white floss, whatever.
Well water... that's extremely difficult to determine. If you really want to know you'd need to run a sample trough a mass spectrometer. Chlorine is highly unlikely if you don't add it. A liquid test kit, which you will need anyway, will tell you how hard it is and what the PH is and if there's already any nitrates in it (not unlikely).
Hardness is the main thing in this case. If that's very high you'd be better of to look to species that can deal with that (at least in my opinion, there's quite a few people here who disagree ith me).
Well, I went to pick up a free tank I found nearby today and discovered it was a 20g tank instead of 10g. So that's awesome! Might make it more difficult to convince my wife, but it will also open up some possibilities for fish and tank décor. It's in major need of some cleaning as it looks like it's been outside or in a garage for quite some time. Hopefully it's scratch and crack free! I'll try to post some pictures of it soon. L 24"x W 12" x H 16". That's 20g right?
Good to know about the potential issues with the well water. I'll see if I can't find some information on it.
Hi and welcome to the forum. Good for you for asking questions. You've been given great advice.
One thing that has not been mentioned is filtration. For a 20 gallon you could get by with a HOB (hang on the back) filter. Make sure when you purchase it, you get twice the volume it says it will handle. In other words, don't get a filter for a 20 gallon tank. Get one that will handle 40 gallons - or 2 twenty gallon filters.
Before you take too much time cleaning up your tank, you might want to fill it with water and let it set in the garage or someplace where it doesn't matter if it gets wet for a couple of days to see if it leaks. Not a lot of point cleaning it up if the seals are broken beyond repair.
Good luck and look forward to hearing more from you soon.
30 gal FW:dw gourami, cory cats, ABN pleco, Colombian & Serpae tetra, nerites & mystery snails
5.5 gal FW: crown tail betta
90 gal FW: Blood Parrots, severums, Jurupari, EBJD, congo tetras, angel, dw gourami, mystery snails
90 Gal Journal: http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/aqua...ad.php?t=93939
Spot on FM! :) Fill that sucker up first to check for leaks. Especially watch the seals because they don't really store well. The seals will dry out annnnnd boom. Of course that is an issue that can be easily remedied by resealing.
FM is spot on again with the filtration suggestion. The reason she makes this suggestion is because you have to take into account the volume that the filter media will take up inside the filter. Generally that is about half the volume -- so you'll need double filtration to have just adequate amounts for your tank.
Congrats on the 20G! You'll have a few more options now.
As for brining your wife over to the dark side --- See if you can get her involved. Let her help you pick out some fish (after research of course), talk to her about what you are learning, and just generally make her feel like a part of the process. I know I'd like that :).
130g: 7 Angelfish, 1 Bolivian, 17 Neon Tetras, 14 Serpae Tetras, 9 Kuhli Loaches, 1 Otocinslus, ? Ghost Shrimp
I've noticed that people HATE it when you point out how stupid they are, so now I try to do it politely.
Welcome to the forum Switchfoot55. I agree with the above posts about putting some water in that old tank before investing any elbow grease. If a tank has been sitting empty for a period of time I only fill it 1/3 of the way first, let it sit for an hour, fill another 1/3 and let it sit another hour, and you guessed it, top it off and wait a day or two before committing to cleaning it. Also make sure it is sitting level and supported well. No over hang. A tank needs to sit on a solid surface to support it's weight. A 20 gallon will weigh near 200 pounds when full. If it isn't supported right, you'll hear a crack shortly and that will be that.
Glad to have you aboard.
Warning; Bulldog Pleco guarding my Sons tank now..
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