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  1. Default Buying Used Tanks & advice on setting up a simple tank

    0 Not allowed!
    Hello, all ---

    I'm new to the forums as of today and am researching how to set up a very simple aquarium for my family to enjoy. I am currently looking into buying a used tank, but would like to hear from experienced members which things I should be looking out for in choosing a good one. I am assuming asking about leaks would be an obvious first step, but what other things should I be on the lookout for when examining the setup? I'm a bit worried about bacteria and such, particularly in the filter. I strongly prefer to buy used for environmental reasons but also because new equipment is very expensive where we are and so would prefer to try a secondhand filter if we can clean it thoroughly enough. I did a basic search on the forums and didn't see any responses to this specific question, so please excuse me if I've asked a question that has been covered multiple times (and could you kindly point me in that direction?)

    Most of the basic tanks I've seen on offer second-hand are about 15 gallon tanks (60 liters). I had been thinking of a basic 1 mediumish fish+shrimp or 3 smaller fish setup. Really, I'm looking for the simplest solution I can find at the moment. For the medium fish I've read that bettas, angelfish and dwarf gouramis are good choices. I'm torn about the betta, because I've only been able to find them at one store and they were in absolutely pitiful shape. As tempted as I was to rescue one, I was worried it wouldn't live very long as most of them appeared to be already dead (won't be purchasing anything from that particular store, no worries). I'm not sure if the tank will be really big enough for the angel, either, as I've read conflicting advice as to whether one can really thrive in a 15-gallon tank. That leaves the gourami but tbh I haven't been able to read much on it yet. I do have a strong preference at the moment to have one slower fish versus several little zippy ones for the kids.

    I also haven't yet searched these forums about vacation setups, but will be doing so shortly. If there's a sticky on the topic that I've missed, please let me know!

    Thanks in advance for advice; I'm looking to take it!

  2. #2


    0 Not allowed!
    Hello and welcome to the forum.
    I strongly encourage you to look up all the pinned threads in the beginner's section, especially related to cycling.
    When looking at a used tank, make sure the silicone inside is in good condition and the plastic rims outside are intact.
    What do you mean when you say you are worried about the bacteria? Not quite sure what your question there is...

    As for your setup, are you going by tank size and seeing what fits, or are you picking a species and setting up a tank for it?
    I am going to assume that you will be going with a 15 gallon and then seeing what you can put in there. an angel will certainly not work.
    I personally consider a 30 gallon the minimum tank size for an angel, and some argue that an angel really should not be in a tank smaller than 40 gallons.
    The betta is a personable fish, but thanks to large-scale inbreeding and the terrible conditions they are raised in, they can be prone to developing various illnesses
    for no apparent reason. They will also require higher temperatures than many other species in the hobby, so they will require more electricity to maintain and if I understand correctly you are
    looking to minimize your tank's environmental impact. dwarf gouramis also face the same problems as bettas. Many are sickly even at the store and many are also infected with dwarf gourami iridovirus,
    an incurable disease endemic to the species. For your tank, I'd like to suggest a paradise fish in the same family as bettas and gouramis. They grow to about twice the length of a large betta and are very hardy, low maintenance fish.
    In fact, they were the first fish species that humans were able to keep alive in the beginning stages of modern aquarium keeping. They are gaudy, bold and colorful, and can be kept in an unheated tank(provided your indoor temperature doesn't drop below 16°C). However, they can be quite aggressive so you will likely have to keep one alone in your 15 gallon.

  3. #3


    0 Not allowed!
    Here are a couple of things I always consider when getting a second hand tank:

    Glass chips - I would not buy a tank that has any chips in the glass below the waterline, and some people recomend looking for a completely unchipped tank. The chips/imperfections weaken the glass, and can eventually result in a crack when you least expect it.

    Scratches - Most of the tanks that I got used came with scratches on the inside of the glass from someone giving them extra good scubbings. They drive me nuts, since there is pretty much no way of safely buffing them out on the inside of the tank (most of the polishes you would use tend to be toxic..).

    With used filters, wipe everything inside the filter with chlorine bleach 1:10 solution to kill any bactreria. Chuck out any "soft" media like foam and replace with new stuff. Bioballs and anything else can go for good tumble in half a bucket of bleach solution, and if your filter comes with ceramic rings or other ceramic media, you can boil it to kill EVERYTHING on it. If using bleach, make sure you rinse really well and the double-dose a good dechlorinator in the tank when you put the filter in.

    Angelfish are not suited for a 15 gallon tank, an angel would be much too cramped. They also need a much taller tank than most of the 15 gallon tanks I have seen, which are 2' long x 1' tall by 1' front to back - that's not a lot of space for a fish that can get up to 5" round + fins.

    It's your call on the bettas - I have had a few pet store "rescues", and most of them improve a little, but rarely live past a year or so from when I bring them home. You could always look for a local breeder though, for a better quality betta, if you really have your heart set on them. A 15 gallon would make a good home for a male betta and some shrimp (although, depending on the betta's personality, it may soon be no shrimp and a fatter betta).

    I have never kept swarf gouramis, but the larger gouramis I have had have been really fantastic and had great personalities (except towards each other), and made great "wet pets".

  4. #4


    0 Not allowed!
    The below can also be helpful to pick out a good used aquarium
    If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
    "Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
    Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info [URL=""]

  5. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    Thanks for all of those very helpful responses!

    "What do you mean when you say you are worried about the bacteria?" Well, it was mainly not being sure whether an intensive bleaching would somehow damage the tank and/or filter, but I think dizzydezzy allayed my fears and had good advice about replacing the soft media in the filter. I know bleach is not necessarily environmentally friendly but in my experience that is the best method for disinfecting by far, though I try not to overdo it.

    "As for your setup, are you going by tank size and seeing what fits, or are you picking a species and setting up a tank for it?" You are correct that I'll plan by tank size for the moment. I'll take angelfish off the list and replace it with a paradise fish -- thanks for the recommendation; that's exactly what I need! I'd love to find nearby online breeders because we've just moved to the boonies and I haven't managed to locate the nearest aquatic store (closest one that I personally know is 4 hours away and I don't remember them even stocking bettas). I'm not in the US so it's a bit slow going for the moment just trying to locate fish that are likely to survive. It was helpful to know the average lifespan of a rescue betta, though.

    The link that Cliff recommended was supremely helpful and much appreciated.

    Thanks again.

  6. #6


    0 Not allowed!
    I hate to confuse newbies but....

    I don't think I'd use bleach. Yes it's a powerful disinfectant but it has a nasty habit of lingering for a long time, especially in porous media like ceramics. I'd opt for boiling ceramics. 5-10 minutes on a slow boil will effectively kill anything. Softer media you might as well replace.

    As to the tank itself, don't know where in the world you are so I cannot recommend any brands. If you're in Europe look for a Juwel Rekord tank. I would advice you to look for something with a hood and lights. Having even a single T8 tube will allow you to use some simple plants. Plants make it easier to keep the water stable and many of the fish you're considering will prefer some plants in the tank. If you're in Europe look for a Juwel Rekord tank.
    Scratches... a few small scratches don't need to be a deal breaker if the price is right. Cleaning vinegar is a good thing to buy, it will dissolve lime and if there's any residue in the tank it won't kill your fish.

    Fish.. depends a bit on your water (check your water company to see if it's hard or soft water). If it's really soft water you could build a tank around some dwarf cichlids or gourami. If it's really hard then consider 2 pair of shell dwelling cichlids like Neolamprologus multifasciatus.

    While you search for your tank go to ebay and order an api master test kit. If the merchant that has that also has some seachem prime order that as well.

  7. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    Thanks for your reply! I'd seen the advice to boil ceramic pieces from dizzydezzy but it was helpful to be reminded, and I've taken careful note of that point. Sorry I wasn't more clear! I did a quick search for a Juwel Rekord tank and they do look nice. There aren't any within driving distance at the moment but I will keep an eye out for those. I did see an offer for a RENA 50L and that particular seller impressed me as knowing what s/he's doing and having the right equipment, but I'd have to do some serious convincing of the spouse as the price is significantly above the people who are selling their tanks for cheap. I'm guessing those are the generic-but-still-a-bit-expensive kits that are sold at the garden centers...

    I'm guessing my water is on the hard side though, so that's another angle I really need to be looking into, I suppose. I'd love to have a few real plants, though!

    Thanks again.

  8. #8


    0 Not allowed!
    Ah, so you are in Europe then? Even if you'd go for shell dwellers it doesn't mean you can't have plants. Anubias for example would work with them

  9. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by talldutchie View Post
    Ah, so you are in Europe then?
    Yes :) so I'm learning to think in liters re tanks. Thanks for the recommendations for the other fish.

    At this point I feel like I'm going in circles and wondering if I've set my budget correctly. I thought if I bought used I could get something very simple set up correctly with a fish and few shrimp + plants for 100 euros, but I'm starting to wonder! There are cheap cheap tanks to be found but only the tank itself, or there are nicer tanks that have a lot of the other necessary supplies but are still missing something I need (light source for plants, decent filter, etc) *or* they come with fish and seem a bit overstocked.

    Thanks again!

  10. #10


    0 Not allowed!
    If you can share some more location information, either here or in a direct message, I'd gladly help you look

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