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New to the Hobby


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Hi Everyone!

I'm new to the hobby and started my first aquarium today! I am excited and thought I'd share the process.

I have been watching the awesome videos by Aquarium Co-op on YouTube and reading their informative articles. I finally made the leap and setup my own tank.

I favor the planted community nano tanks with centerpiece fish. Luckily for me, Aquarium Co-op has a ton of helpful resources to get a beginner started.

I bought a simple 10-gallon tank from my local Petco and it just happened to be on sale. I also purchased a hinged glass lid and aquarium stand. 

I ordered a black background cling for the aquarium but forgot to get it large enough for the sides. I went with it anyways, and it'll just have to do. 

Then I visited my local fish store and picked a few rainbow rocks and pieces of spider wood for the hardscape. I scrubbed the rocks and soaked them for 2 days until they rinsed clear. The spider wood soaked for 3 days to clean it, remove some tannin, and get it to sink. 

I went to Petsmart for substrate. It was a challenge to find inert pea size gravel that would be perfect for plants but also whatever bottom dweller (clean up crew) I decide to stock. I chose a 20 lb bag of Aqua Natural Black Opal. I tried to avoid a pure black substrate to mitigate the appearance of future fish waste, algae, etc., but the color options were limited. Luckily the black opal substrate had a decent mix of brown to provide what I hope is some camouflage for those distractors.

I used a little more than half the bag of substrate. I washed it 7 times before it ran clear and it appeared clean. I have no eye for balance or aquascaping, and this step caused me the most trouble. I put down a thin layer of substrate, then started placing the rainbow rocks in the tank. Once they were placed and settled, I added the 2 small spider wood pieces. I then added a bit more substrate to fill in gaps between the rocks. Then I waited a few hours for my delivery from Aquarium Co-op to arrive.

My order from Aquarium Co-op included:

-50 Watt Heater (Co-op brand)

-USB Nano Air Pump, Airline Tubing, Check Valve, Coarse Sponge Filter Small (Co-op brand), Ziss Air Stone

-Easy Plant LED 20 inch Light (Co-op brand), Kasa Wi-Fi timer

-Easy Green All-In-One Fertilizer 120 ml, Easy Root Tabs 20 Capsules, Multi-Test Strips 25 strips (Co-op brand), Fritz Zyme 7 Live Bacteria 8 oz, Fritz Complete Water Conditioner 8 oz

-Planting Tweezers, Super Glue Gel

-Water Sprite x2, Java Fern x2, Cryptocoryne Lucens x2, Tiger Lotus Bulb x1

I placed the heater at the bottom of the tank and tried angling it at about 45 degrees. Then I added the filter to get an idea of where it would sit for the remaining aquascaping steps.

I was nervous when the plants arrived and wanted to get them in the tank relatively quickly. I laid down the root tabs in a grid like pattern around the hardscape. I covered the tabs with the remaining substrate. I started with planting the Crypto. I added a small amount of water to help support the stems and leaves, and used the tweezers to plant them. I made sure the base wasn't covered by gravel and only the roots were covered. I debated with myself to trim the existing stems and leaves off, anticipating them to melt anyways but I decided against it. I wanted the full plant to help guide me visually while placing them. I made sure there were root tabs directly under each Crypto.

Then I moved on to the Java Fern. I thought I would use the super glue to place them on the hardscape but I ended up not using it. The Java Fern were much larger than I anticipated and once I placed them they dwarfed the hardscape, really highlighting how little prepared I was but it will have to work. I placed them in nooks and crannies between the rocks. 

I added more water at this point to help support the long stems of the Water Sprite. I initially planned on floating one bundle while it acclimated and started to produce roots but I ended up planting both in the substrate. I'm hoping that wasn't a mistake but there are root tabs under each.

I placed the Tiger Lily Bulb behind the hardscape with the long term plan for it to grow out and fill in the background. It is sitting on top of the substrate with a root tab just below. There was one root visible so I turned the bulb with the root side down hoping it would take hold.

At this point I started to slowly add the remaining water to the tank. I used a 3 cup measuring container to slowly pour it over my hand to reduce disturbing the plants and not dislodging them. Once the tank was filled I place the lid on, turned on the air filter, and the lights. Then I dosed the tank with the Fritz water conditioner. 

While I waited 30 minutes for the heater to acclimate to the water temperature before turning it on, I setup the Kasa Wi-Fi timer for the lights. 

I set the lights at 40% and running on a 7 hour timer. Hopefully this will prevent extreme algae growth. About 40 minutes passed then I turned on the heater and set it to 74 degrees. At this point I added 1/4 cup of Fritz live bacteria and 15 drops of All-In-One Fertilizer.

I waited about 30 minutes before doing my first water test to get a baseline. My water tested as follows:

Nitrate 10-25 ppm 

Nitrite 0 ppm

Hardness purple/hard

Buffer 180ish high

pH 7.6-8.0

Chlorine 0 ppm

I live in Las Vegas and have very poor water quality. 

I forgot I wanted to add a catappa leaf, which I will do before fish are added. Now I get to watch the ecosystem grow and mature. I plan to add a Nerite Snail in a few days and continue testing water.

I have several fish stocking list ideas written down. I'm sure I'll change my mind countless times over the next several weeks as my tank grows.

A big thank you to Cory and Aquarium Co-op for producing amazing educational articles and videos. I'm glad to have finally joined the hobby!


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Stocking Ideas

I like this article from Aquarium Co-Op with different options for the centerpiece community tank. 

I'm not a huge fan of livebearers or super active fish with frenetic energy. I enjoy the centerpiece fish that cruises around the tank and interacts with its ecosystem. I really like female betta fish and honey gourami. 

I keep waffling back and forth between a honey gourami with green neon tetra, or female powder blue dwarf gourami with chili rasbora. I would also be open to trying endler's livebearers with a gourami or female betta due to the endler's hardiness. I don't mind if the livebearers breed as long as there are other fish to predate upon the fry and keep the population under control.

The scarlet badis is another viable option, maybe with exclamation point rasbora.

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