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Discussion Starter #1
Well, I have decided to take up yet another hobby and start myself up a small tropical freshwater aquarium. It will be my first time keeping tropical fish, and I've done the right thing and not jumped right into everything. I have been doing research for several months online (as well as at the library) on the basics of keeping tropical fish, so I'm familiar with the seemingly endless options available to me. However, I would like to get some opinions directly from those who have experience. Here's my situation:

I have a 15 gallon tank that housed 2 goldfish happily for 9 years (and to think, I won them at a carnival). They were completely disease free (at least from what I could tell), and I enjoyed them a lot...except for the almost daily cleanings. I live in the country, so I used regular tap water for them (the water is from a well, thus it is not treated with chemicals). My last goldfish passed on in May of this year, and the tank has been sitting empty ever since. I am wanting to use this 15 gallon tank for my future tropical freshwater set up, but I'm wondering if it would be safe. I know that goldfish produce A LOT of waste, thus resulting in insanely high ammonia levels. Would this effect my tropical setup even if the tank has been empty for several months?

Also, since I have not purchased any fish, I would like some suggestions as to what kind of community I should establish. I enjoy the looks of the Bettas as well the Fancy Guppies. I also read somewhere that a dwarf cichlid tank would be very colorful as well. I would like to have some specific suggestions on what YOU would put in my 15 gallon aquarium.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! :)
 

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Welcome to the hobby! I would like to say that the fact you're researching things first is a great step on your part. As for the goldfish I will say it before someone else does, they need a much larger aquarium but that said I understand that is how a lot of people get into this hobby is from fair goldfish and are not informed on the proper care. I will let you research their requirements on your own but since you no longer have them it doesn't really matter at this point.

Anyways, I will try to answer some of your questions... Your tank should be fine I personally would drain it if you haven't already and let everything dry out and there is various ways to sterilize things. The fact that you haven't had any fish in the tank and if it is still in fact up and running you have already lost your cycle due to the fact that the bacteria needs a source of food to survive, so in either case you will need to cycle the tank again. This is a very controversial topic on which way to go about doing so, I will mention the types of methods and let you research them and determine which way you would like to go about it.

There is the classic way of adding a few hardy fish and letting time do it thing and risk harming the fish. There is fishless cycling using ammonia to do it. There is a seeding a tank from an established tank ( you can ask a friend or a fish store for some filter squeezings if you don't have another tank yourself, which I am assuming you don't). There is "instant" cycling using Biospira but I don't think it is made anymore and the inventor has branched out and relabeled it under a different name but I can't recall what it is right now. I have done all of these methods with the exception of fishless as I have never had to go about it in this manner and personally have a hard time buying into it, I have seen too many have too many problems with this method for me to personally use it, but that is just my personal opinion for my tanks and I am not discouraging you from using this method. With all that said I will let you form the best option for you, if you research it and you will a ton of different opinions and options.

Your interest in fish are good ones for a beginner but there is a catch with the bettas and guppies. The two can cause some problems when put together. The reason is that the bettas natural instinct to fight over territory with other male bettas can be a problem do to the fancy guppy and it's flowing fins. The betta can sometimes can not determine the difference in the fins of another male betta and a fancy guppy male. This can cause issues if you happen to come across a male like this, some female bettas have this issue as well. So with that said I wouldn't recommend it if you don't have another tank to move one of the other to just in case it becomes an issue.

As for what I would personally do with your tank, I would personally get a school of 4-6 White cloud mountain minnows Tanicthys albonubes, a male betta, and 3-6 Albino Corydoras aeneus, some people call them albino corycats. While this once they are full grown is a bit more that the "rule" of 1 inch per gallon this is a pretty safe setup of a hardy fish and you will get activity at all levels of the tank.

Also, if you don't already have one you will need to purchase a heater for your tank as well. I would suggest a nice submergable heater, as you have more options on placement and they are making shatter proof models now as well. I would also look into some easy live plants like java moss, java ferns and some anubias.

These are all low light plants, meaning you don't need to get a special light to keep them alive, while a stronger light will not harm them it's not a requirement to keep them alive. The benefit of live plants is also the fact they help to keep the water stay cleaning from toxins if they are healthy and happy. You might not want to start off with live plants but it's just a suggestion. I personally never set up a tank without some sort of live plant in them but that's just me.

Welcome again to the hobby and I wish you luck and hope this didn't add too many more questions and helped you a bit. Feel free to ask any questions and I will try to answer any you might have or I am sure someone will come along and help out. I don't know I am new to this place as well so I am not 100% how active this place is yet.
 

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Thanks so much for your reply! You definitely answered my questions. The tank has been drained for several months, so I will definitely need to start the cycle up again. I have heard of people doing this with Zebra Danios, and that got me thinking as to whether or not I could do this using minnows from my stream. We have an abundance of Mountain Redbelly Dace (Phoxinus oreas) here in our stream. The only question this raises is the possibility of diseases they may bring with them, however after researching Phoxinus oreas I've found that they are very resilient and hardy fish with no common issues with disease (which helps explain why we have so many here). I understand that this doesn't completely rule out the possibility, but neither does buying from a pet store. If this idea throws a red flag with anyone, let me know and I'll just get some Danios. I just figured I'd try to use my resources. :) I'll also be purchasing a heater as well as all of the necessary testing supplies soon. If I use the Daces to start the cycle, I won't need to buy the heater right away anyway.

I will also do some research on the fish that you recommended. I thought about Cory cats but I wasn't sure if they were compatible with Bettas or not. I will probably end up getting a new 5 gallon if I decide to get both the Betta and some Fancy Guppies. It never occurred to me that they may present a problem because of their flowing fins, but it makes perfect sense. Thanks for that info. Are there any other colorful or interesting fish that would mix well with either the bettas or the guppies? I love options, as you can tell! Thanks again for the very helpful info Jubs.
 

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There is the classic way of adding a few hardy fish and letting time do it thing and risk harming the fish. There is fishless cycling using ammonia to do it. There is a seeding a tank from an established tank ( you can ask a friend or a fish store for some filter squeezings if you don't have another tank yourself, which I am assuming you don't). There is "instant" cycling using Biospira but I don't think it is made anymore and the inventor has branched out and relabeled it under a different name but I can't recall what it is right now. I have done all of these methods with the exception of fishless as I have never had to go about it in this manner and personally have a hard time buying into it, I have seen too many have too many problems with this method for me to personally use it, but that is just my personal opinion for my tanks and I am not discouraging you from using this method. With all that said I will let you form the best option for you, if you research it and you will a ton of different opinions and options.

Your interest in fish are good ones for a beginner but there is a catch with the bettas and guppies. The two can cause some problems when put together. The reason is that the bettas natural instinct to fight over territory with other male bettas can be a problem do to the fancy guppy and it's flowing fins. The betta can sometimes can not determine the difference in the fins of another male betta and a fancy guppy male.

As for what I would personally do with your tank, I would personally get a school of 4-6 White cloud mountain minnows Tanicthys albonubes, a male betta, and 3-6 Albino Corydoras aeneus, some people call them albino corycats. While this once they are full grown is a bit more that the "rule" of 1 inch per gallon this is a pretty safe setup of a hardy fish and you will get activity at all levels of the tank.
Just a few thing I wish to make comment on. First, the Bio-spira for the Freshwater tanks is being made under the new name of SAFESTART by Tetra. It is the same product but no longer requires refrigeration and special handling so many more people will be able to afford it, if they can find it. Second, there is another product out there if you can find a place that handles it called Turbostart 700 that is the same thing as a Bio-spira product but DOES require special handling (refrigeration) and is wonderful. It is used by big aquariums all over to do their cycle process and can be sold in a small bottle (as small as one ounce). The big cost is in the shipping.

Next, with reference to the bettas, no they do not make good community tank fish for a variety of reasons. (not all because of the betta) They tend to not understand how to be community fish. They have been raised in containers where they are the only inhabitant and do not know what is a good friend and what is not. They tend to either despise their tank mates to the point of being aggressive or ignoring them to the point of being in peril from them. Guppies, platies, danios, tetras, gouramis, any semi or fully aggressive fish and some of the more calm smaller fish will attack or harm bettas by at the least nibbling on those fine flowing fins. Then you have a betta with infected fins and will probably lose it. They cannot, as has been said, be put in with any other fish that has long or flowing fins as they do think it is another betta and will attack it as such. Gouramis and other labyrinth organ fish are just as bad. If the betta does not kill the gourami the gourami will kill the betta. It is just something to think about but if you truly want a good community tank then a betta would not be my recommendation.

I do want to commend you on the decision to ask the questions before adding the fish. Too many times people run out the same day they get the tank and buy twice the amount of fish they can safely put into the tank and then want help to know what to do. About the 1" per gallon rule: Please know that this is adult size and for some fish that are considerable waste producers is not really appropriate. Also a snail adds a big bio-load to a tank so consider it very heavy and if you decide to add a snail it will take up the room for at least 3 other fish of the 1"variety. Also be aware the fish you see in the store are generally juveniles so if you see one that you think you cannot live without it is always a good idea to look up its essential information and especially its adult size estimate before the purchase. It will save you a bunch of heartache later.

I do have a recommendation on the heater. I have had wonderful luck with the Visitherm Stealth heaters and they come with a Lifetime warranty. (be sure to keep the box and receipt) I get a spare just in case and then if anything happens I just use the spare while I have the option of getting the old one replaced. (this is the plan but has so far never had to be done) It costs less to run a good heater at the proper wattage than to buy a smaller or cheaper one and have to do frequent replacements. The two things I never skimp on in my tanks are filter and heater but of the two the heater is by far the most important.

Thanks for listening.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the additional info Chickadee. I have decided that I will probably establish a community tank with the fancy guppies first, then possibly get a small 5 gallon tank later on and make that the home of a male betta.

I have learned from keeping other pets over the years that research is the most important part of keeping ANY animal as a pet/hobby. To me it is sad to see someone jump into anything without first doing their homework (you wouldn't try to keep a bulldog in a hamster cage, now would you). The animals end up being the ones who suffer because of this, and a lot of people don't even care. I was in the pet store the other day and fell in love with a Redtail Leopard Catfish. It was a baby, of course. After researching and finding out that they get HUGE, I abandoned the idea of getting one. What worries me is the fact that someone will probably come along, buy it, and stick it in a 20 gallon tank without knowing what they are actually doing.
It is truly a shame that it has to happen to such a beautiful fish.

With that being said, that's why I'm here. I'm here to ask questions to those who have had first-hand experience with this hobby. So far, I've already learned quite a bit, but I know that there is always more to learn. I certainly appreciate the info!
 

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Thank you for caring enough to do the right thing. I know how hard it is to wait and to tell the absolute truth my first fish did not have that priviledge. He was my starter betta who just happened to get lucky because I did not want my tank to smell. I changed out 50% of the water every day without realizing that this was exactly what he needed. So he survived cycling his own tank but it was hard on him anyway. It can be done but it is so much harder and so hard to keep the self discipline going long enough to get the job done.. I got lucky and did not even know it was happening as I did not think to ask any questions for 3 months after I got him. So that is why I am totally impressed with your kindness to your pets.
 
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It has definitely been hard to wait, but it will be well worth it because I feel that my future aquarium will have a better chance at being healthy and successful. The way I see it is that if I'm going to put money and time into something, I might as well do it right. I'm sure I'll make a mistake or two, but that's just part of the learning process. As I said before, I've grown up around animals my whole life (my mother is an animal lover). Right now I have 6 turtles, a dog, 2 cats, and a 4 feet long iguana...all of which eat better than I do! :) In the past, we've had sugar gliders, fancy rats, chameleons, and my aforementioned goldfish which all lived full, happy, and healthy lives (they all died around their maximum age limit in captivity, according to my research).

I will be getting my tank ready to start the cycle process within the next few days. I'm going to just cycle it naturally with some minnows. I hear that the cycling process can take around 3 months. Is this accurate or does it depend on the size of the tank? Thanks once again for the information, and I will check my local pet stores for those heaters that you mentioned. I need to pick up a hood anyway to keep the minnows from jumping.
 

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There are hundreds of different fish you could put in.

It depends on the type of fish are offered near you and what type of tank you are looking for.

If you are looking for a tank housing more aggressive fish, I love the look of tiger, ruby and odessa barbs. They are know to nip fins of other fish, but they should be fine together.

If you are looking for great reproducing fish, livebearers are an amazing choice. Guppies are very colorful, and platys, swordtails(my personal favorite) and mollies are good choices. Mollies and "swords" get a little larger, but if you do like mollies, balloon mollies are almost a dwarf of the regular mollies with most of the same colors.

Small community fish of choice are tetras and danios. Danios are EXTREMELY cheap, and EXTREMELY hardy. With a 15g tank, I recommend small tetras. You can pick between neon/cardinal-which are not very hardy, silver-tip, glo-light, black neon, and gold tetras. All of these are very good choices.

If you are looking for a little bit larger fish, Australian Rainbowfish(my profile pic) and Skirt black Widow tetras,and gold skirt are my favorites. Just remember, the rainbowfish only turn really colorful during spawning, but they are cheap and hardy.

Good Luck. Hope this helps. Let us know what you get!
 

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Thanks once again for the suggestion (beautiful rainbowfish by the way!). I'm going to write down a list to bring with me when I visit one of the local shops this week. I've been online visiting various sites and just looking through my seemingly endless options (yup, still researching). Another fish that has caught my interest is the Dwarf Gourami. I think these fish are beautiful. So far I've found that they like planted tanks and they prefer to be kept in groups of 3 or more. If this info appears to be inaccurate, please correct me. However, I am sure my local shop has some. Does anyone have a particular opinion on them?

So now I've got 2 possibilities for a community tank (guppies, cherry barbs, cory cats), or a tank focusing on Dwarf Gouramis as the main attraction. The rainbowfish looks very interesting, although I don't remember seeing them in my local stores. They are certainly beautiful though!
 

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Dwarf Gouramis are beautiful but aggressive fish, like the betta. They do well in a community tank though as long as you do not put more than one in too small a tank. They are very territorial and will fight others if they feel crowded or threatened.

One thing to note about Labyrinth organ fish, do not medicate any of them with Melafix, Bettafix, or any other preparation containing tree oils. They need an unhampered water surface and this puts a slick on the top of the water causing problems with their Labyrinth organ. Melafix and the other meds containing this preparation are wonderful meds and have saved countless fish but for that reason are not good choices for those fish who need to be able to "breathe" at the surface. I have and so have others of my friends found this out the hard way.
 

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Very helpful info once again. I would guess that it would be best to get only one for a 15 gallon tank in that case, especially since I want it to be a community tank. I certainly do not want to overload the tank.

I guess this raises even more questions. Could you use things such as Indian Almond Leaves or Banana Leaves to medicate Dwarf Gouramis in the same way that you would Bettas? Would these harm a community tank? If I needed to isolate the Gouramis and medicate them, what would I use?

Sorry for all of the questions. I just want to make sure that I can give them the care that they deserve! :)
 

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I do not think I would. They are just enough different that this is not something that they share. Some may try it but on the whole while they seem to be affected by the same types of diseases, the same types of cures do not always work. For one thing the virus that attacked the Dwarf Gourami took a while to reach the betta population and when it did the things that had helped the Gouramis did not help the Bettas at all. They are related but not in those ways. We lost a lot of bettas during that time but the Dwarf Gourami population was decimated before that. They were hard to come by for a while and are not too prevalent in some areas yet.
 

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Ok. I will purchase a smaller quarantine tank to use in the unfortunate event that I have a fish become sick. I checked with my local pet store today over the telephone, and they said that they usually keep a good stock of dwarf gouramis on a regular basis. So, I will be looking at them in the coming weeks. I'm going to start my tank cycle next week to get everything ready.

I'll keep everyone posted!
 

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Okay if you are just starting your cycle then you have a while until you need to worry about the fish anyway.
 
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