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Hi Everyone!

I am Sandra, and I live in Wilmington NC. I always wanted an aquarium. but was totally petrified to start because I know absolutely NOTHING about starting one, keeping one, fish.. NADA. I finally decided to take the leap, and purchased a 20 gallon tall aquarium kit. The only thing I did know is that I wanted to have real plants, rocks, landscape, besides that stared a ground zero. Here's how it started, and where I am not. I an in this group to get as much support as I can, so I can grow and learn to eventually graduate to a larger tank and not be as stressed as I am now. 

On Dec 18th went to the local pet store purchase a aquarium starter kit (YAY me). I purchased a beginner aquarium plant package on line, and went to a local fish aquarium store, and purchased the following: 1 Mountain Rock, 1 Dragon Stone, a beautiful piece of drift wood (that was in an established aquarium in the store) bag of Eco complete black substrate, and Este Shallow creek pebble stone. Brought all my toys home, and set it all up. I was stoked!

ON Dec 22nd(different store btw), brought my water to be tested (mistake #1), they said it was great. I explained that this was a brand new tank , and they said I could have fish. so guess what I did.. got 3 guppies and a mystery snail. brought everyone home, floated them in the tank for 20 min, and let them go. On Dec 24th, guppy # 1 died. I was devastated. I checked my water with the test strips, all looked fine per the bottle parameters. Dec 26th, I did a 25% water change, a little clean up fed the fish and called it a day. Dec 28th, here I go again, (mistake # 2) purchased 2 cory cat fish (which I am obsessed with) followed the same process, and let them into the tank. I also got a bubble stone for the aquarium. On Dec 30th, another guppy dies. Now I am under the impression I am doing something very wrong. I send out a desperate plea to my FB friends for ANYONE who has aquarium experience to please advise. 

A friend jumps in and helps me to begin to understand the cycling process, and sends me a video from Cory, and that is how I have begun to understand my mistakes and learn how to save what I have left. Here is what I have done up to now to try to fix my rookie mistakes. First thing, my friend told me to get Seachem prime (no one told me I had to prime my tap water.. ya..ugh), I got the API fresh water kit (because up till then was not even looking at ammonia). I purchased an aquarium heater that I can actually calibrate and control, a digital thermometer to maintain my water temp and a timer for my lights. I don't even know what I would do if my friend didn't come to my rescue and refer me to aquarium co op. I believe my results would have been worse (not saying that things can't change now.. but working hard to save them).

Currently, I am letting my tank cycle, doing chemistry daily, doing water changes every second day (20%), feeding the fish every second day (very little). I watches Cory's video (big fan here!), and purchased reusable Filter medium (one for the internal and an external one as well), as currently have the ready made stuff that comes with the Aqueon quiet flow filter I have. Which is just not great. 

So, here I am. I made mistakes but will NOT give up! I look forward to learning from this forum. 

ps: I can't seem to get my picture to rotate. 

 

20201231_152304.jpg

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making mistakes is just a part of the hobby, they make you stronger and you learn from it. When releasing your fish into your aquarium did you poor the entire contents of the bag including the water or did you just put the fish in?

your aquarium setup looks absolutley gorgeous. 

You said you bought 2 corydoras, I would get at least 2 more they are schooling fish and need lots of buddies. 

I know you didnt ask for this, but I'm gonna say it anyways, here are some stocking suggestions... (obviously wait a bit before adding another fish)

-A Betta, yes bettas can be kept with other fish as long as your other  fish are peacful (so far all the fish you put in would work with a betta) before purchasing your betta your gonna wanna make sure it has peacful temperment. Heres how to tell if it does or doesn't: Put your finger in their tank, observe what he/ she is doing. Is it flaring at it? if so don't get as it probably wont do well in a community tank, does it nip at it? if so proceed with caution, or does it leave your finger alone? if so, you bag ehm up!!

-Angelfish, maybe I'm a bit biest because there my favorite fish but one will do fine in a 20gal high. they are so pretty, absoloute pigs, and have great persanlity 

-Danios, danios will be up at the top of your tank, you'll wanna make sure you get a few of 'ehm as they are a schooling fish, at least 4.

-Cardinal/ Neon Tetra, they look very simmilar and just like the danio are a schooling fish, get at least 6 of them.

-AND SO MANY OTHER OPTIONS!!!

 

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Hi There~

Thank you so much for your feedback and the fish recommendations, I really appreciate it. to answer your question, I put the fish in the aquarium without the water. I used a net to release them into my tank, but some of the water did get in though. one store said to put some of the water in my tank the other said not to. So, I was not sure which one was right. 

I want to get SO many more fish but want to get the Cory cat fish first of course. I plan to eventually have a school of 6 because they are such awesome little dudes! I have an albino and a peppered. I want to get 2 more albino and 2 more peppered ones for sure. I love all your recommendation's, they are super helpful. I just wish my tank would cycle already so I can add more fish 😞

I keep checking my water chemistry, and the fish to make sure everyone is okay. The water is not clear, but I now that is expected so I am not panicked about it.. 

If and when I get more fish, should I add the some of the water from the pet store to my aquarium?

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Totally agree with lefty o!  Waiting for that first tank to cycle is sooooooooo hard!  Your tank looks beautiful, and it sounds like you've gotten everything you need to get a good cycle going.  Having a piece of driftwood that was in an established tank should give you a boost in the right direction, as should live plants! 

I'd say that it sounds like you have a great setup right now, and it's probably a good idea to keep just doing what you're doing for a while.  Let the filters build up some bacteria.  Get the plants established and growing well (they look great so far!).  Let the cycle progress.  Keep water testing and dosing with prime until the ammonia and nitrites disappear (it can take a while).  Once it's established, it gets so much easier!  I'm getting ready to set up a new tank for the first time in a couple of years, and I keep having to tell myself (sometimes out loud!) all these same things 🙂 

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So I have another question. I have been doing my chemistry DAILY!! and since the first day with the API fresh water testing kit (Dec 31st 2020), my PH has not changed from the between 7.2-7.6 range (I did do a PH high today and it read 7.7). My Ammonia has stayed a 0ppm, my Nitrite, 0ppm and Nitrate 0ppm. Even today same thing.  I was hoping to see a bit of Nitrate by now.. an itty bitty bit.. but NOPE. See yesterdays below. Todays looked exactly the same.. 

I was going to do a water change, as I have been doing them every second day. But should I? I have been feeding my fish every second day (VERY VERY little). 

Is this normal? Should I be doing something different? My tank has been up and running since Dec 18th and fish have been in it since Dec 23rd. 

Maybe I am being inpatient.. I don't know.. my Guppy looks fine (I think?) He swims up and down side to side. Eats like a beast when I feed him. The snail is very active as are the Cory's. 

20210103_095725.jpg

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I shake it like a mad woman.. LOL.. I give them all a bit of a shake/role (I am a nurse), so I am used to being carful with "shaking" but did read on the instructions that the Nitrate bottle #2 needed to be aggressively mixed (Shaking it aggressively haha). 

initially, my cheap filters were getting full in 1 day. now it seems like I don't need to change them as often. they are the pre made ones that came with my kit. I am going to finish them and use the course ones that Cory recommended, and hope it will catch more good stuff and help with the cycling.. fingers crossed.

I was wondering why I was doing a water change when my results are all 0? that is what has me so confused???? 

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The advice to shake the Nitrate test bottles is the best I can come up with too--at my LFS they explained that they form crystals inside, so they also recommend banging them on the counter too--just to get those crystals mixed in.  You could also consider grabbing a bottle of the Tetra 6 in 1 test strips--Cory did a comparison video, and they seem to work well.  They're a lot easier to use, and it might be a nice way to get a "2nd opinion" on the nitrate levels.  The API kits are awesome, but I find the nitrate test in particular to be a little finnicky.

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1 hour ago, Sandra the fish rookie said:

So I have another question. I have been doing my chemistry DAILY!! and since the first day with the API fresh water testing kit (Dec 31st 2020), my PH has not changed from the between 7.2-7.6 range (I did do a PH high today and it read 7.7). My Ammonia has stayed a 0ppm, my Nitrite, 0ppm and Nitrate 0ppm. Even today same thing.  I was hoping to see a bit of Nitrate by now.. an itty bitty bit.. but NOPE. See yesterdays below. Todays looked exactly the same.. 

I was going to do a water change, as I have been doing them every second day. But should I? I have been feeding my fish every second day (VERY VERY little). 

Is this normal? Should I be doing something different? My tank has been up and running since Dec 18th and fish have been in it since Dec 23rd. 

Maybe I am being inpatient.. I don't know.. my Guppy looks fine (I think?) He swims up and down side to side. Eats like a beast when I feed him. The snail is very active as are the Cory's. 

 

You have live plants. They are likely sucking up all the nitrogen/ammonia in the tank. I have a VERY hard time getting my nitrates up over 10ppm, I have to overdose fertilizer to see any. I change water when the mulm gets to me, because I would never have enough nitrates to need to change--I could top off my tanks forever.

You can slow down your water changes.

Edited by Brandy
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Sandra the fish rookie, Welcome to fish keeping! You're going to be an amazing fish keeper. Your tank looks lovely.

I'm probably going to shoot off a bunch of things here that might be questionable. I'd say follow what Cory says! He's really a great teacher. These are just thoughts from things we've tried and found success with . . . so take it all with a few grains of salt! 

(1) As KatieG suggested, one way to boost the bio colony in your tank is to buy wet driftwood from inside tanks at your LFS (local fish store). We've done that a lot. However, you will invariably be bringing along anything that's in their water. Algae . . . micro life . . . there's pros and cons to this idea. However, we do buy wet wood a lot! 

(2) I see you're using a HOB (hang on back) filter. If you can figure out a way to get something with a ton of bio jammed into there, that's another way to engage the cycle. An active sponge from a sponge filter, etc. You could ask an LFS if you could buy an active sponge filter from them, and pay them for a new sponge filter to stick in their tank.

(3) Also . . . some folks do not really trust this approach . . . (maybe even Cory is skeptical in some videos) . . . you can buy a quality bottle of nitrifying bacteria to kick off a fishless cycle. Dr. Tim's Aquatics "One and Only" or Fritz Aquatics "FritzZyme 7 Nitrifying Bacteria for Freshwater Aquariums" have been two products we have used and found to be successful. The key is that your bacteria need to _colonize_ in the tank . . . and this is more than merely being present.

If it were me, I'd try all three! 

If your tank is really cycling, you'll see the Nitrite turn a bit purple as the bacteria colony moves ammonia along through the cycle. 

H.K.Luterman is spot on -- that second bottle of Nitrate test in the API kit really needs a long, severe shake before using. And you'll need to shake your Nitrate Test tube to get the color to settle correctly. 

Be sure you test your water from the tap too. Lots of water has Ammonia in up front. You can also let it rest in a mason jar for a day or two to see if it gasses off, and changes pH. 

One thing you'll see is that many aquarists adjust the placement of their aquarium heater to be low in the tank, parallel with the ground. The reason we do this is that it lowers the risk of a heater overheating and breaking by exposure to air when you do a large water change.

For water changes, down the road, you should definitely look into using a "python" -- it clips to your faucet, runs a hose to your tank, and can quickly drain water out and put fresh water in. No more buckets!!!! 

Edited by Fish Folk
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1 hour ago, Sandra the fish rookie said:

I shake it like a mad woman.. LOL.. I give them all a bit of a shake/role (I am a nurse), so I am used to being carful with "shaking" but did read on the instructions that the Nitrate bottle #2 needed to be aggressively mixed (Shaking it aggressively haha). 

initially, my cheap filters were getting full in 1 day. now it seems like I don't need to change them as often. they are the pre made ones that came with my kit. I am going to finish them and use the course ones that Cory recommended, and hope it will catch more good stuff and help with the cycling.. fingers crossed.

I was wondering why I was doing a water change when my results are all 0? that is what has me so confused???? 

Welcome to the forum.  It sounds like you've made all the same mistakes most of us did when starting out, so you're in good company.

I have several points below, listed in order of importance.  The first one is very important.

  • While I usually recommend following package directions, that's not the case with filter media.  I know the filter manufacturers recommend changing them often, but that's terrible advice.  They tell you that because they want to keep selling you filters, but the truth of the matter is that when you throw away filter media you're also throwing away a big portion of your beneficial bacteria colony.  Instead just rinse filter media when needed, and only replace it when it's falling apart.  Many people will recommend rinsing them in a bucket of tank water so the chlorine in tap water doesn't kill the bacteria, but there are differing opinions about that.  After all, if tap water would kill bacteria we wouldn't need disinfectants to clean kitchen surfaces, or our hands.
  • It sounds like you have a filter with the cartridge.  If that's the case I'd recommend cutting it open and removing as much of the carbon as you can.  It's only needed to remove medication.
  • It's true that corydoras do better in groups, and the bigger the group the better.  However, that's referring to a single species.  They will only shoal with corys of a different species if that's their only option.
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13 minutes ago, JettsPapa said:

Instead just rinse filter media when needed, and only replace it when it's falling apart.  Many people will recommend rinsing them in a bucket of tank water so the chlorine in tap water doesn't kill the bacteria, but there are differing opinions about that.  After all, if tap water would kill bacteria we wouldn't need disinfectants to clean kitchen surfaces, or our hands.

This is all excellent advice, but I would like to point out that all bacteria is not remotely the same...

(apologies for the following) 

The kind of bacteria we are concerned about on your hands or kitchen surfaces is usually the pathogenic sort, adapted to being dried out, attacked by stomach acids and digestive enzymes, etc. For those types heavy amounts of chlorine (bleach) or other clensers are definately required to fully kill it. The type in tanks that we want to keep is generally more fragile, as it is not adapted to the same kinds of environments. If it were it would have the potential to become pathogenic. 

There are bacteria adapted to high arsenic environments, and deep high pressure sea environments, and deserts. To living in your gut and DIFFERENT bacteria that only lives in your fish's gut. The bacteria in the ocean would die in freshwater...etc.

</nerd rant>

That said, the amount of bacteria in your media is only a part of what is in the tank, and any killed by rinsing should be rapidly replaced/regrown.

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This is all GREAT advise. Keep it coming.. I am taking it all in.. seriously! 

I was thinking when my light starts to blink (telling me to change it), I was thinking instead of throwing it out (I know.. rookie mistake # 50), I am going to just put it behind one of my plants to help build my bacteria in the tank? like some of you do with your extra sponge filters for QT tanks.. 

Thoughts? I mean.. It has all the stuff filtered from the tank.. can't it just be used to help get me through cycling? 

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22 hours ago, Sandra the fish rookie said:

Hi There~

Thank you so much for your feedback and the fish recommendations, I really appreciate it. to answer your question, I put the fish in the aquarium without the water. I used a net to release them into my tank, but some of the water did get in though. one store said to put some of the water in my tank the other said not to. So, I was not sure which one was right. 

I want to get SO many more fish but want to get the Cory cat fish first of course. I plan to eventually have a school of 6 because they are such awesome little dudes! I have an albino and a peppered. I want to get 2 more albino and 2 more peppered ones for sure. I love all your recommendation's, they are super helpful. I just wish my tank would cycle already so I can add more fish 😞

I keep checking my water chemistry, and the fish to make sure everyone is okay. The water is not clear, but I now that is expected so I am not panicked about it.. 

If and when I get more fish, should I add the some of the water from the pet store to my aquarium?

No I wouldn't add water from the bag into the aquarium it would risk cross contamination

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I just ordered the Fritz Zyme 7 live bacteria and while I was at it.. got the quarantine med trio. Because lets face it.. I will be getting more fish, and will end up with another tank so on and so fourth.. so I better get all my stuff.. including the Just in case stuff. 

a friend of mine had a sick fish, and was running around to find meds.. because after Christmas the stock was low. 

Thanks everyone for your help and support! This is making this process less stressful (although still a bit stressful) the support is great!

 

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2 hours ago, Sandra the fish rookie said:

(I am a nurse),

Cory came to our fish club, and told us that his best customers and best fish keepers were nurses! Kudos to your profession! You spend your career seeking to help others through challenges and keep people well. Yes, some won’t make it... but it’s the credo  “do no harm” ... that will guide you into becoming an awesome hobbyist! 

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43 minutes ago, Sandra the fish rookie said:

This is all GREAT advise. Keep it coming.. I am taking it all in.. seriously! 

I was thinking when my light starts to blink (telling me to change it), I was thinking instead of throwing it out (I know.. rookie mistake # 50), I am going to just put it behind one of my plants to help build my bacteria in the tank? like some of you do with your extra sponge filters for QT tanks.. 

Thoughts? I mean.. It has all the stuff filtered from the tank.. can't it just be used to help get me through cycling? 

I wouldn't recommend doing that, since the bacteria needs good flow.  I'd rinse it and put it back in the filter.

For the future, I'd recommend not buying one of the kits, since most of the components aren't top quality and you'll eventually want to replace them anyway.  I've gone to all Fluval hang-on-back heaters (they used to be known as AquaClear).  Instead of the cartridge they have the sponge, carbon, and a bag of ceramic media (which also holds beneficial bacteria) as separate components.  I don't use the carbon at all, but keep it on hand in case I ever need it to remove medication.  The sponge is a solid block, so I squeeze it in water to remove the debris when needed and put it back.  It's much easier to clean than the cartridges.

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27 minutes ago, Sandra the fish rookie said:

I just ordered the Fritz Zyme 7 live bacteria and while I was at it.. got the quarantine med trio. Because lets face it.. I will be getting more fish, and will end up with another tank so on and so fourth.. so I better get all my stuff.. including the Just in case stuff. 

a friend of mine had a sick fish, and was running around to find meds.. because after Christmas the stock was low. 

Thanks everyone for your help and support! This is making this process less stressful (although still a bit stressful) the support is great!

 

Yes, thats a great idea! always a good idea to have meds on hand even when your not using them.

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Hi @JettsPapa That is GREAT! I did order the AquaClear foam AND the Fluval Bio Foam (to see which one will work best for my filter) that I believe Cory demonstrated how to put both of these in my Aqueon Quiet Flow pro filter. I am waiting for them to arrive from Amazon because the LFS has no stock at this time. 

My Aqueon filter has a secondary filter section for specialty filters, which I have incase I need them, a carbon, a ammonia and a phosphate remover (all are separate filters). I have a drawer (that is becoming FULL) of stuff. But I am a planner, and just in case "er" . better to have what I need than have an issue and be running around trying to find stuff. 

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3 hours ago, Sandra the fish rookie said:

So I have another question. I have been doing my chemistry DAILY!! and since the first day with the API fresh water testing kit (Dec 31st 2020), my PH has not changed from the between 7.2-7.6 range (I did do a PH high today and it read 7.7). My Ammonia has stayed a 0ppm, my Nitrite, 0ppm and Nitrate 0ppm. Even today same thing.  I was hoping to see a bit of Nitrate by now.. an itty bitty bit.. but NOPE. See yesterdays below. Todays looked exactly the same.. 

I was going to do a water change, as I have been doing them every second day. But should I? I have been feeding my fish every second day (VERY VERY little). 

Is this normal? Should I be doing something different? My tank has been up and running since Dec 18th and fish have been in it since Dec 23rd. 

Maybe I am being inpatient.. I don't know.. my Guppy looks fine (I think?) He swims up and down side to side. Eats like a beast when I feed him. The snail is very active as are the Cory's. 

20210103_095725.jpg

Do waterchanges weekly not every other day. I get why your doing it, but in order for the cycle to start you need amonia in it. Also keep in mind the cycle takes like 4-6 weeks to complete by itself, but the fish should speed up that process as they will cause a source of amonia.

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@James Black When my fish dies.. I FREAKED.. I was like.. OH NO.. decomp! LOL (Nurses.. LOL). I was so afraid that it would make disease in the tank.. so I did a water change, and vacuumed.. And because I am so paranoid that my water (and ME) are killing them.. I was changing water every 2 days.. but now that I am thinking about it (in less panic mode) I am not helping the process. My husband is also a nurse, and he is giggling to himself while I am blogging, reading and panicking over my little fishes.. I volunteer with a pit bull rescue, and have a pit bull and a lab mix.. and was an ER nurse, and an Operating room nurse.. and look at me.. LOL.. frantic over my little fish.. but they are so fragile, and delicate.. 

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