Help! With everything! Beginner! - Aquarium Forum
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  • 1 Post By newbie99
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 07-29-2017, 05:10 PM Thread Starter
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Help! With everything! Beginner!

Hi all...

I'm a little nervous for your answers because I was so unprepared for this and definitely misinformed by the kid who sold me my stuff at the pet store (Shocker) Boy is there more to it than just putting some water in a tank and cleaning it out!! So let me just start by saying these are my first pets to call my own, my parents will only let me have fish, and I was very excited and anxious to get them, so I just went out impulsively thinking a worker would be able to help me with all my questions, right? Wrong. After reading through forums like this I realize he, and I knew NOTHING, and Iprobably should not have got the fish that day. However, I'm already weirdly attached to them and taking them back/rehoming them isn't an option.. I've learned a lot and I think I'm doing ok and will continue to do ok.. I just need to check, and get a play by play. I don't want anything to happen to the fishies. I just have so many questions, so I'm sorry in advance. I'll try to number them so they stick out.

I have a 5.5 gal tank with a bottom feeder (forget what kind, pretty sure a pleco?), a Dalmatian mollie & a tetra. I now know this tank is too small for these guys, but the pleco and tetra are babies and I do plan on upgrading within the year as long as I get this whole thing down. I also now know the tetra is a schooling fish, another reason to upgrade since I don't think I should put another fish in this tank.

1) FOOD: I feed them tropical flakes, twice a day, and drop in an algae thin or 2 for the pleco. I now am thinking maybe this is too much.. Should I be feeding them only once a day? What about fasting them a day a week? The mollie seems hungry for anything at all times and eats pretty much all the feed, even eats the algae tablet.. I'm not even sure the tetra is getting anything. Th

2) CYCLING/CLEANING: For cleaning/maintenance I bought stress coat and stress zyme, a gravel vaccuum that I reckon also works for siphoning (?), and strips to test pH, hardness, nitrate & nitrite. Im running a simple whisper filter. I need to get ammonia strips ASAP.... I didn't even know cycling and the nitrogen cycle existed until after I already set the tank up (Foolish I know. As I already mentioned I was impulsive and very misinformed.) Right now I'm trying to cycle it even though the fish are in, and from my research I'm under the impression I shouldn't be changing the water as often as it may interrupt the cycle... should I be doing 10% once or twice a week now? My nitrite and nitrate readings are actually fine.. I'm just unsure about the ammonia. Also, what kind of water conditioner should I get to add to the tap water that will be introduced to the tank? For my tank, how often should it be cleaned once cycling is complete and how much of the water should I change? Should I leave fish in the tank while cleaning? The vacuum just seems so big and they're so small..

3) PLANTS: Im thinking of replacing my fake plant with a live one but have no clue how to introduce it to the tank.. it may be a bad idea since the fish are already in a new environment & I don't want to stress them, or mess with cycling I'm trying to accomplish.. any suggestions what types, if any I should get?
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 07-31-2017, 11:09 AM
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Re: Help! With everything! Beginner!

You need to do a number of things right away -

Do 50% water changes daily, maybe even a couple changes daily. You want to avoid having your ammonia spike. Make sure you use dechlorinator when performing your water changes.

Find a local fish store (not a chain) and see if they can give you a baggy of filter media that is already established, this may be enough to avoid problems.

There is no reason to feed your fish twice a day and in s small tank like yours it will make a mess. I feed my fish every other day.

You are very overstocked for your size tank and this can lead to disease, stress, etc. You might wish to consider rehoming your fish at a local fish store and if you are limited to a 5 gallon, stock it accordingly.
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 07-31-2017, 11:27 PM
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Re: Help! With everything! Beginner!

I'd suggest bringing the pleco back to the pet store. If it's a common pleco, they're huge fish and need a very large tank. The tetra and molly should survive in the 5.5 gallon until you can get them a bigger tank as long as you do frequent water changes. I agree that you'll need to do 50% water changes daily until the tank is cycled.

1) Feeding your fish a small amount once per day should be fine.

2) I recommend that you invest in a liquid test kit as the test strips are known to be inaccurate. The nitrifying bacteria are not in the water column; they will grow primarily in your filter and gravel bed, so water changes will not interrupt the cycle. Water changes will help to protect your fish from ammonia and nitrite spikes during this time. Seachem's Prime is a very good water conditioner that will also help to protect your fish while the tank cycles. You need only 2 drops of Prime per gallon of tap water.

You should absolutely leave the fish in the tank while you clean it. Moving them out of the tank every time you clean it is only going to cause more stress. The gravel vacuum you have is probably meant for a larger tank; look for a mini gravel vac/siphon designed for small tanks.

3) Java fern and marimo moss balls are great easy live plant choices that don't require any special lighting or fertilizers to survive. Introducing live plants won't mess up the nitrogen cycle or stress your fish out.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-16-2017, 10:57 AM
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Re: Help! With everything! Beginner!

Originally Posted by newbie99 View Post
1.) I have a 5.5 gal tank with a bottom feeder (forget what kind, pretty sure a pleco?), a Dalmatian mollie & a tetra.

2.) I also now know the tetra is a schooling fish, another reason to upgrade since I don't think I should put another fish in this tank.

3.) Should I be feeding them only once a day? What about fasting them a day a week?

4.) CYCLING/CLEANING: Should I be doing 10% once or twice a week now? Also, what kind of water conditioner should I get to add to the tap water that will be introduced to the tank? For my tank, how often should it be cleaned once cycling is complete and how much of the water should I change? Should I leave fish in the tank while cleaning?

5.) PLANTS: Any suggestions what types, if any I should get?
Hello, and welcome to the forum and the hobby! Without further adue, let's get started on your quesions:

1.) You are overstocked, no ifs ands or buts about it. However, it's an easy fix - Craigslist and any other classifieds website (in SLC, Utah, there used to be a great classifieds page sponsored by the local news agency, KSL) are great places to go for entire setups for pennies on the dollar compared to new gear. You should be able to double the tank size to a 10 gallon for $50 or less. Meet in a public place, ensure that everything turns on via an outlet, if you can get to one, and check for things like the integrity of the silicone sealant on the tank corners, the integrity of the top and bottom trim pieces.

2.) When adding fish to whatever tank you end up with, use your 5.5 gallon as a quarantine tank. Put the new fish in the quarantine tank for a week or so, and then if they're still alive & healthy, add them to the main tank. And only buy 3 at a time or less, as adding a large amount of fish at once can cause a mini cycle. I would add a few more tetras, and maybe a snail or three, but that's about it.

3.) I feed twice a week, sometimes less. Fish are definitely not used to getting food every day in the wild, and on long vacations I don't feed them for up to 2 weeks. Also, try and mix up their food a little, between veggies and protein. A straight diet of protein can cause constipation (just like in Humans), and flake food is mostly protein. You can blanch some zucchini, spinach, or other lettuce and hang it on the tank wall or just drop it in, and your fish (especially the pleco) will thank you. Be careful not to feed too much (freeze the rest for a later date), or it will go to rot and foul the tank.

4.) Loaded question, depending on which plants you add - in a standard tank with plastic decorations, I would change 50% of the water once a week. More frequently when cycling. The only time you don't want to change that much is if the water looks cloudy, indicative of either a bacteria bloom or green water (algae). You can tell whether it's bacteria or green water by dipping a paper towel in the water and checking the water color against a white background. Also, with no plants with a root system, I would vacuum the gravel once a week as well. To vacuum, I would start the siphon (using my mouth), and then stick the large end of the siphon into the gravel and move it around. You'd be surprised how gross the water is when you suck out all the mulm in the bottom of the tank. Then, use the spent water to water any house plants, garden, etc. you might want to do (plants LOVE fish waste, check out a neat farming style called Aquaponics).

With that being said, the more plants you add the less water changes and vacuuming you'll have to do. Plants with a root system clean/aerate the gravel for you, and actually are healthier the dirtier the gravel is. Plants like moss, ferns, etc. that have shallow or no root system but absorb most of their nutrients from the water make it so you don't have to change water as often. In my full planted setup, I've never vacuumed the gravel (tank has been running 3 years), and I change 50% of my water once every 2 to 3 weeks.

Stress Coat and Stress Zyme are great additives, the only thing you'll need is a Tap Water Conditioner, and it will be labeled as such at the store. I've heard great things about SeaChem Prime, but it's expensive. I use API Tap Water Conditioner.

And leave the fish in the tank. They'll be totally fine. But watch out about accidentally bumping the pleco - they have spines in their dorsal and pectoral fins.

5.) Plants! Yay! For ease of use, get something like Marimo Moss, Java Moss, or Java Fern, as stated. They grow anchored to things like driftwood and rocks, and require a simple liquid plant food dosed directly into the tank (such as API LeafZone or SeaChem Flourish). They do a great job of eating ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, as well as some of the lesser nutrients like phosphate and sulfate. You might get some hitchhiker snails with the plants - let them go! They'll multiply until the tank is clean, then their numbers will dwindle to match the food supply. They might be unsightly at first, but give them time. Alternatively, you could harvest a bunch of them (use a piece of blanched zucchini and when it's loaded with snails, grab it and throw it in a bag) and send them to me or someone else with a autolinking image.

Lastly, some tips -
Get a piece of driftwood for the pleco, they like to rasp on the wood, and if it has a cool hidey hole they'll make it into their cave/lair.

Get a light timer at the grocery store so you can give your fish/plants a good daylight cycle. I would suggest only running the lights for 6 to 8 hours a day to prevent an algae bloom.

Get rid of the carbon in your filter. Keep a bag or three handy to strain out medications if you have to dose them, but if you're adding live plants carbon can do more harm than good. It absorbs nutrients from the water that the plants would benefit from, and old carbon can leech toxic levels of phosphate into the water.

Let us know if you have any further questions! Hope this helps.

ClearForLife 10G Acrylic, 4 HET rasboras, ~80 RCS, various snails. Ludwigia repens, various moss. Eheim 2211 Canister, 50W heater, Finnex FugeRay Planted+ 17W LED.

"Give me your penchant and I shall grant you deliverance." - Falcor
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