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20 gal. high (community?) planted tank


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Hello and good day!


   I thought I could start this thread to document my journey into fish keeping. I figure that it is also a great way to get help when problems arise and/or to get people to bounce ideas off. 😁 

   I mentionned in an intro post that this is my second attempt at fish keeping. My previous setup was about two years ago on this same aquarium. I must unfortunately say that it did not end well. I had a betta who got sick and I did not notice fast enough. So here I am now, starting again.

   My current tank is a 20 gal.US high that has been planted and in water since October 9th.  I had started scaping it a few days before. I have an Aquaclear 30 HoB, an airstone with USB air pump, a Fluval heater (not submersible) and a basic T8 fluorescent light. The substrate is some planted tank I bought in a small aquascaping shop. It just says ''Aquarium Soil, Black Brown Soil'' (that I can read I should add).






My tap water is around:

   - pH 7.8 - 8.0

   - GH 120 mg/L (ppm) (+/- 6.7 dGH)

   - KH 70-80 mg/L (ppm) (+/-4.4 dKH)

Few days after filling it with water (Oct. 13th):

   - pH 7.8

   - GH 60 mg/L (ppm)

   - KH 70 mg/L (ppm)

    - Ammonia 0.50 - 1.00 ppm

   - Nitrites 0.0 ppm

   - Nitrates 0.0 ppm

And my aquarium parameters are currently (dated Oct. 26th):

   - pH 7.4

   - GH 40 ppm (+/- 2.25 dGH)

   - KH 50 ppm (+/- 2.80 dKH)

   - Ammonia 0.25 ppm

   - Nitrites 0.0 ppm

   - Nitrates 5.0 ppm




   My plan is to get the most Neon Tetras I can for my tank without having to do massive and/or frequent water changes. I am thinking anywhere from 12 to 20. After that I might get some Otocinclus, around six to eight. But first, I want to get two or three Nerite snails as I have a lot of decaying plant matter (I do not know if my Vallisneria will pull through 😕).

   Seeing as I am dosing Seachem Stability to help establish bacteria, I am wondering if I can add the Nerites this weekend? Also, I might have to add that I have dosed one pump of Easy-Green twice now (Oct. 21st & 25th) and I did not see a spike in ammonia, nitrites or nitrates.

   As I am writing this, I realise that although my tap water is somewhat hard, I should probably add something like a Wondershell or crushed coral to help increase my GH & KH since it went down so much. 🤔

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I think you could add the nerite snails as longs as the ammonia stays where its at. Plus it will help the tank be a little more seasoned with poop lol. I find neons like a more seasoned tank. All the inbreeding makes them more proned to problems, unstable water seems to kill them. Plus they like more acidic water.  

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   Thanks for the information AtomCatMatt, I do not plan to add the Neon Tetras before an other month. On the other hand, I just got two Nerite snails today. One got pretty active soon after getting into the tank while the other one stayed put for a long time. I wonder if he is going to be ok.

   I checked my water parameters the 31st and they were pretty much the same as the 26th. I then decided to try adding some eggshells to my tank to see if it would raise the GH for my snails. I read about Tums but did not have any on hand. I added 1 gram of cleaned and crushed eggshells and after testing today GH was 60 ppm and KH still at 50 ppm. I will have to follow up to see if this really is a trend or just a fluke. 


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  • 4 weeks later...

Hello again,


   As time goes by, I think more and more of going to get myself some Neon Tetras, so much so that I might do it this week. It has been almost a month since I got my two Nerites. They seem to be happy, going about in the tank on every surface possible. My water parameters are quite stable:

pH 7.5

GH 60 ppm

KH 70 ppm

Ammonia 0.25 ppm

Nitrites 0.0 ppm

Nitrates 0.0 ppm

   I also noticed a few weeks back (Nov. 12th I think) small white "bugs" swimming or hanging on the glass, plants and wood in my aquarium. From what I read they are some kind of tiny  detritivore, so I guess that's good. I like the thought of having an nice ecosystem in tank. If I could get some kind of worm to shift the substrate a little bit that would be nice. Bringing nutrients to the roots of my plants (I'd buy Easy Root Tabs but I don't have access in Canada). 


   Going back to the Tetras, I know that the have younger and older ones, the older being more expensive. I am wondering what are the benefits/ downsides of getting them younger and/or older? Also, I know it is highly recommended to quarantine new fish. Seeing as I only have two snails at the moment, could I introduce them to my tank and monitor them there? I do not think that is the best solution, since I have plants and not really any meds available, so I would need to use salt.

Edited by Skeggi
Removed empty quote box.
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Ammonia needs to be zero before adding livestock or you will risk their deaths. Neons are sensitive fish, so I would keep waiting. Maybe add some guppies for a month and move them to another tank. The guppies will help the tank stabilize itself. If all ammonia and nitrites are zero, and plants have been growing well, go ahead and add neons. Start with a group of ten or so, see how they do for a month or so, then add more neons if everything is still good. 

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29 minutes ago, Skeggi said:

@teenage fish Thank you for the input. However, I think that the 0.25 ppm ammonia that shows is a trace amount or some kind of residual picked up by my test kit. From what I read, other have stable tanks and still have the ammonia test show up positive. I will look more into it though. 👍

I don't think any of my aquariums ever yields 'pantone yellow' on an API Freshwater Master Test Kit.


Above is a test I just conducted. The tube on the left is fresh well water from the tap. The tube on the right is that same water after being passed through a 7 stage RODI system. I would probably call that 0.25 ppm ammonia.

Maybe it is just lighting? These two ammonia readings are from an established aquarium and run simultaneously, but depending on lighting they look a little different.


So at the end of the day, if my API Freshwater Master Test Kit tells me I have 0.25 ppm ammonia, I take that with a huge grain of aquarium salt.


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@Daniel Thank you for the information and your time. That is pretty much the same results I have for color when I do my ammonia test. It has been this way every week since Oct. 23rd. I'll work on making myself a quarantine tank now so I can eventually go and get some Neons, yeah!

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I've only just started using them, so I can't vouch for their accuracy yet, but I really like using Seachem's Ammonia Alert, especially for smaller tanks. No testing needed, just hangs in your tank and changes color if there's stuff. 




Edited by Kirsten
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  • 2 weeks later...



   I went I got myself 13 Neon Tetras at my LFS last Friday (the 11th). I placed them in a quarantine tank made of a 35L clear tote (about 9 gal. US) with a small heater I had and a sponge filter that I placed in my main tank for about a week. I floated the bag about 20 minutes, then added 1 cup of tank water, followed by a second one 10 minutes later. After an other 10 or so minutes, I emptied the bag in my net over a bucket before adding the fish to their temporary home. They seemed to settle quite nicely. After about 30 minutes I fed them some frozen baby brine shrimp. Fed them again some BugBites about 30 min. before lights out. From there I will feed BugBites and frozen baby brine shrimp once per day, alternatively.

   The day prior of, and the day of, I also dosed Seachem Stability to my quarantine tote to help establish the biological filter. I also do daily water checks and water changes accordingly to keep water quality up.

   Since I do not have access to meds, I am doing a salt based preventative treatment for my fish. I added 0,1% by volume aquarium salt midday and an other 0.1% salt next morning, for a total of 0.2% salt by volume. That is somewhere in between 1 tbsp. salt/ 3 gal. US and 1 tbsp./ 2 gal. US. I split the doses so it would be less of a shock for the fish. If all goes well, I plan to let them sit in the salt solution for 10 days. From my research, I will then do some water changes to get rid of the salt before feeding granules soaked in a 3% Epsom salt solution. Doing this for 5 days should get rid of internal parasites. 



   I also bought some water wisteria for my main tank to add to the background. I felt like something was missing. Hopefully it is going to grow and fill in fast enough. I did have to relocate one of what I believe are Cryptocorynes and I must say that I am surprised at how much roots have already grown. This brings me to my next point. @Cory if you have a chance (and I know things are moving slower with Covid and that you are very busy) please add Root Tabs to the list of products available in Canada. The ones we have access here, or at least that I found, are crazy expensive, plus I would like to support the Coop!



If any one has tips, warnings or suggestions about this please let me know.

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