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New Aquarium

Discussion in 'Members Hobbies' started by Fat Controller, Sep 2, 2018.

  1. Fat Controller

    Fat Controller Cuddly Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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    Well, new to me!

    Apologies to those of you that have read some of this elsewhere (@shiney, @wiseowl, @ricky101, @Sian in Belgium)

    I won't go into all the details, as they are someone else's business, but we are about to become the owners of a 4ft, 300 litre fish tank. The information as I understand it at the moment is that it is relatively new (less than a year, apparently), empty and dry, and is coming with a 1800 litre per hour filter, a 300w heater, a hood with LED lighting, gravel, and some plastic ornaments/plants.

    I have just under four weeks until I start to return to work, so whilst I am not in a position financially to go filling the tank with fish straight away, I am tempted to get it going as I am aware that it takes a number of weeks to cycle the water before fish can go in? We agreed to take this tank quite late on last night, and then ran (well, I hobbled :snorky:) round with a measuring tape to see where we could fit it in :redface:. We have no choice but to put it in its final home, as we have nowhere else to put it, so having it sitting empty for months would make it an eyesore.

    Nosing about online last night, I see that plant bundles are plentiful, and a hell of a lot cheaper than I remember - I found one where it was 50 plants for £10, so I am tempted to get them fairly quickly and get them into the tank - at least that way, it looks as though something is going on.

    I have always loved Neon Tetras, and they appear to be fairly cheap, so they are likely to be some of the first residents. I also love Angel fish, but have read that they can be aggressive toward the likes of Neons? We had them both co-existing in our tank years ago, and I don't recall any problems, but it was a very long time ago.

    Through time, I would like to add a plec or two, as they are interesting fellows and help to keep the tank clean; I am also thinking of maybe fish like gouramis, rasboras and bettas - again, as long as they will co-exist.

    There should be tons of room in a 4ft tank, so hopefully if I get it right, there will be a nice balance of plants, fish and decoration.
     
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    • Fat Controller

      Fat Controller Cuddly Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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      OK - as I have had a day where I am about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike, I have been doing a bit of reading and a bit of thinking, and thereby the questions are now coming up:

      • Would I need to put some sort of substrate under the gravel (assuming that it hasn't already got some) to allow real plants to grow instead of plastic ones?
      • What about air stones/curtains - are they still a thing and are they still recommended?
      • I am working on the basis that it will need to be cleaned when it arrives (not saying that they are not clean people, but I am a bit OCD about things like that) - what cleaning chemicals are safe to use, if rinsed thoroughly? Specifically, would a solution of VWP be OK?
      • Once I fill it, and get all the pumps/filters running, what do I then need to do (and for how long) to cycle the tank?
      • When the tank is then ready, if I do not add any fish, or only add a few fish as a starter, will that be OK (assuming pumps/filters continue to be operated)?
      • Any suggestions for fish to start learning about and looking at, that might be good tank mates?
       
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      • ricky101

        ricky101 Super Gardener

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        Hi,

        A lot of questions there so will try an give some answers but will probably end up giving you more questions.:biggrin:

        Thats a big 4ft tank, typically 4ft is 200ltrs so expect yours will be quiet high and / or deep ?

        Does it come with a stand as that going to need to be quiet strong to take 300kg.

        Sounds like you have been given most of the expensive control equipment partic the lighting though afraid led lighting is not my thing as it can give quiet a lot of 'spillage' into the room.
        Are the leds geared for Marines or Trop/Plants ? - are the colours adjustable ?

        Does it come with any form of heating and lighting controllers, if not there are some popular ready made one cheap enough or you can use a micro controller if thats your thing, have some working projects / code if you need any.

        Those plants bundles can be good, just depends on what they have imported and how good they are on the day, better sooner rather than in the winter when they often stop selling.

        Have you given any thought to a proper substrate for the plants, the first thing into the tank really; I'm a bit out of touch with the current methods, but think most are miles better than just gravel.
        Same with C02, various ways of adding some into the tank, as it can really help with plant growth.
        Think for both you need to visit some of the planted tank forums to gen up on the latest various ways.

        Though never had Angels also been told by the shop keepers that they can kill smaller tetras etc but in such a large tank and some tall plants think you might get away with it.

        To me the biggest two problems with trops is lack of filtration, partic when folk clean the media with tap water and kill off the good bacteria, so its quiet good to have a small second system say in the back of the tank, which you can readily hide in your large tank, plus it will add more circulation which you might need in such a large tank.

        The other is whitespot, the local shops may say they have been quarantined but often not by them or at all ,so you add them to you tank and then loose the whole tank ! so if you can use a separate little tank to do you own quarantining its very worth while.

        hth
         
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        • ricky101

          ricky101 Super Gardener

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          1 Yes, as in my previous reply

          2 No, not in a planted tank as the plants oxygenate the water and use the C02 add in.

          If you have a lot of surface agitation from an air stone etc you destroy that balance.

          You can also buy various additives to feed the plants as on the land.

          3 VWP , a new one on me, though would suggest you avoid any really strong stuff as it might soak into the silicone and release later.
          A magnetic cleaner, the green scotchbright or a razor/stanley blade window/glass cleaner tool are what I would use, though carefully as you can scratch the glass.


          4. Would suggest you connect it all up with the pumps, heater, lights etc and test it all out like that for a day or three to ensure no leaks and to see how the water and pumps flow around the tank, you will doubtless need to make various adjustments but better to do it now before you and any substrate or fish.

          Then dump that water and put in your substrate and then carefully and slowly add in the new water. An idea what your water is like, does it need conditioning ?

          You can buy various starter cultures and they have there own instructions on how to cycle the filter.
          Again the web forums or your local shop should be able to advise on the current better ones to use.

          5. Only add a few fish at a time, usually starting with the smaller most timid first, as the filter media / bacteria needs to be built up to handle the new stock.
          Add too many and the filter cannot cope, so their waste, Ammonia etc will start to poison them.

          6. Tetras, Neons or my favs, Cardinals, I would happily add 6 - 10 of them in a tank that size once its been cycled.
           
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          • Fat Controller

            Fat Controller Cuddly Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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            Hi @ricky101, and thanks :)

            It is coming complete with its stand - oddly enough, I initially asked if we could take it minus the stand, as we have a large oak sideboard that is really sturdy, but was persuaded out of that given the weight involved, and the fact that our sideboard may not have a completely flat surface, or support where the tank needs it - that, and the risk of it slipping/tipping, with me being in my current condition especially.... well, it made sense to keep it with its cabinet. I don't know the actual tank dimensions, but I could ask.... I will send a text now, and post back if/when I get an answer.

            The lighting is geared for tropical as far as I know - light spillage into the room won't be too much of an issue where we are going to put it, and I suppose on the odd occasion it is a problem, we can switch the light off? Presumably, they will need periods of darkness the same as we do?

            I am told the filter with it is 1800 litres per hour, so is that sufficient or am I looking at another filter before I get it up and running? And is there a way to clean the filters without knackering all the good bacteria? I assume that question might well have to wait until I know what type of filter it is? Or are you saying a second filter is best, and then clean them in staggered fashion so that one of them is always populated with bacteria?

            Regarding the substrate, that one only occurred to me when I was looking at the plants - I just assumed that they wouldn't grow in gravel, so would need something underneath it? I assume that is the way to do it?

            How would I add CO2 into the tank? I presume that is for the plants?

            Sorry for all the questions, but I am a bit touchy when it comes to animal welfare, so I am keen that I take my time in setting the thing up and make sure that any fish we do get are happy and healthy.
             
          • Fat Controller

            Fat Controller Cuddly Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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            OK - tank is 48" wide, 28" high, and 16" deep (roughly), and I am told that the filter is built in and runs the length of the tank - so presumably that means it is at the bottom? How on earth does that get cleaned?
             
          • Sian in Belgium

            Sian in Belgium Total Gardener

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            I have to admit, I set up my "plant tank" with just gravel. A fine gravel at the bottom, with a slightly coarser one on top (I had a lovely big plec who loved a good ol' rummage!).

            I would set up the tank minus gravel, as a test. Moving large sheets of glued glass can be disrupting. Then run the systems to make sure they are in order....

            Then at least half-empty, put in your gravel(s), and slowly refill, before restarting the filter system. Once the system is running well, and the water has cleared, I would start adding the plants. Fantastic that you can now buy plant bundles!! Personally, I'd leave them for a few weeks to settle in, before adding a few fish at a time. You want them to be well rooted, before trouble-making fish - like birds in the veg patch - come along and pull them out. I think I waited until the Versalis? grass started to send out runners... One of the hardiest of fish (at least when I was last keeping, though these things change with different breeding stock) was mountain minnows. They shoal with any tetras you later add, and are more attractive than most books suggest. Once you have fish, they will fertilise the plants for you!

            I had the light on a 13 hour timer, with the pump running all the time. I didn't do an air-stone - a big filter system does such a rapid circulation, you don't need bubbles as well.

            Most of all - ENJOY!
             
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            • ricky101

              ricky101 Super Gardener

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              Hi,

              Good advice from Sian, which shows it can be done as a simple gravel system or you can go as complex as you like, though perhaps not the best route for beginners.

              That tank fully emptied will need two strong men to lift it in, so be prepared space wise and depending on the stand you do need some form of rubber or polystyrene sheet to take up and unevenness, a full tank on a solid surface can crack !
              Hopefully the stand still has its original mat.

              Its over twenty years since I ran a planted tank, moving to marines after that.
              Thats why I suggest you look up some of the planted trop forums as they should have good Stickies to guide beginners like yourself as I'm sure most of the stuff I used back then has now been superceded.

              Not sure about the in tank filter but I would say thats a plus over the external ones. though others may disagree
              Be interesting to see a pic of how its set up, I'm sure it will be perfectly easy to service !

              When cleaning the filter material you use some of the warm tank water to gently rinse away all the debris, that leaves a lot of the bacteria intact. Using cold tap water just destroys it, so then you tank has little active filtration and you risk loosing your fish.
              Cleaning just half the media at one time reduces any chance of mistakes.

              You need to do periodic partial water changes to keep things fresh, can be done manually but today there are automatic water changers to help avoid that cumbersome procedure.

              What you do need to find out is your Water supply, is it the same as the guy you are getting the tank from ?
              Just that you cannot add raw tap water to the tank as such.
              At least you need some Dechlorinator, cheap and easy, but you may also need to run it though some resin filters etc if it contains a lot on things you don't really want in the tank like Nitrate .
              Ask what he used and if its included - think it will be.

              Sound like a lot to learn but it will come together ok, just don't rush things. :)
               
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              • ricky101

                ricky101 Super Gardener

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                Hi,

                Seems there are a lot of planted tank forums these days.

                Cannot even post any pics of my old tank as we didn't have digital cameras in those days :old:

                This 'best of' includes a uk forum

                {title}

                As said it can be complicated , but think you are best with a simple gravel to start with, you can always add things like co2 etc later if needed.
                 
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                • Fat Controller

                  Fat Controller Cuddly Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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                  Thank you both :)

                  I think I am best sitting on my thoughts until midweek when the thing arrives, then I will know what I have to play with rather than guessing and asking questions by text message.

                  My concern with the in tank filter was how to get to the filter media without emptying the whole tank out, but thinking logically about it, they surely wouldn't design it in such a way that you literally had to empty the tank in its entirety to be able to clean or change the filter media.

                  It isn't coming from all that far away (still within SW London), so the water is the same - hard, with a capital 'F' :heehee:, so I will definitely need some sort of water treatment/stabiliser. Having a read about online, Tetra Aquasafe seems to be highly regarded, and although not cheap at around a tenner a bottle, it also isn't horrendously expensive, as long as I am not going to go through it at a rate of knots.

                  Also reading about, if the plants are not subjected to light that is too bright, and the substrate is supporting them, then the cycle of the tank itself should provide the carbon that the plants need; the current thinking seems to be that you start the tank, add the plants immediately, add a bacterial starter and then let it run for at least a couple of weeks and look for the ammonia, nitrite and then nitrate spikes, after which the tank should settle.

                  The tank itself is pretty much new from what I am led to believe - I think they were right at the start of the hobby themselves when their landlord pulled the rug out from under their feet. They could almost certainly have sold it, but time is short and they preferred to ask around the family, which was nice. Goodness knows what fish were in it, or even when they came out of it, so I will treat it as though it is new (once I have given it a scrub with the Scotchbrite that is)

                  There is a Maidenhead Aquatics branch, in a garden centre and it is only a short distance off the bus route that runs past the end of my road.......... so guess where we are going at some point? I will try and get chatting with someone whilst I am there, and hopefully that will be the start of a nice relationship -- how dangerous is that though, a garden centre and aquatics centre on the same site?? I should probably just give them my credit card at the gate :biggrin:

                  As for rushing, I won't be - firstly, cashflow will make sure of that, but secondly I do not want to go into this half-baked, and end up with a load of casualties on my hands.

                  I will have a look around at some of the forums, but may not join just now - I don't want to over-forum myself :snorky:
                   
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                  • ricky101

                    ricky101 Super Gardener

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                    Hi,

                    The problem with MaidenHead is that some of their prices can be silly, so do check online first to be sure its a fair price.
                    Also being a chain you do find the staff can change frequently and not all are as well versed.

                    Would suggest you look out for the more privately run aquarium shops where the owners are on the shop floor and generally have a better level of experience and advice.
                     
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                    • Fat Controller

                      Fat Controller Cuddly Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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                      Hi Ricky :)

                      Thanks - I will have a look about, as I currently cannot think of anywhere within spitting distance that is a privately run aquarium shop; what about some of the sellers on ebay? There seems to be tons of fish on there, but I am extremely dubious - having said that, some of them have hundreds of thousands of positive feedback, so maybe I am being overly cautious?
                       
                    • ricky101

                      ricky101 Super Gardener

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                      Hi,

                      I have bought plants and dry goods online, and have seen corals offered but buying fish online - thats a big No No from me.

                      Can see its a realistic option for a few, but generally in urban areas no reason not to visit your local aquarium shops.

                      Mainly you do not see and check the stock first and have no idea what the sellers like, then the creature is again bundled up for a 24 hour journey again.

                      As you said you want to look after your pet, though I often have felt from overhearing some folk talk in shops and forums that they regard fish as something quiet expendable, if fact they often almost get into bragging rights about who lost the biggest or most expensive fish :mute::frown:

                      To me they are like any pet; some will feed from your fingers and know you though the glass; even had a manicure from the cleaner shrimps as they love to nibble away.
                       
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                      • Sian in Belgium

                        Sian in Belgium Total Gardener

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                        Hi again.

                        Um, you've probably noticed from my gardening posts that I don't like using chemicals, any chemicals, if I can avoid it.

                        I just wanted to say that I ran a 3ft tropical tank , vibrant green with plant life, crystal clear water, and healthy fish, some of which were as @ricky101 said definitely friendly pets after 10 years of living together. I didn't use any water treatments, balancers, stabilisers or the like. I just used Patience with a capital P. (I know that it's not possible with marine tanks, which is one of the reasons I stayed with tropical)...

                        Leaving the planted tank for 2-3 weeks before adding even a couple of fish helps so much. You can tell when the water is right. Crystal clear, and nothing but a slight "sweet" smell.

                        I didn't have undergravel filtration (I think that it isn't recommended with the "Dutch" method, as you don't want too heavy a water flow disturbing the roots), just a large upright fancy sponge filter in the corner of the tank, hidden behind some sword plants. Two sponges, and I cleaned the bottom one, moving the top one to the bottom, so there was still a culture going on. I think I did it once a week? Maybe a fortnight? Not sure now... The whole idea is that the plants are an integral part of your filtration system, just like a good compost heap is in the garden.

                        Yes, water top-ups are important, as there will be some evaporation, and you remove some water to rinse equipment, filters, etc. I left the water to stand for 48 hours, giving it a good stir 2-3 times during that time. I used one of my wine fermentation buckets, so food-grade plastic. Decanting any water out of the tank into a "normal" bucket, or watering can for the garden (!!).

                        What was the water like where I lived? It was High Wycombe, so some of the hardest water in the country!! When I say we gardened on chalk, it was 6" of flinty grey soil, then solid chalk. We had to use a crowbar to make planting holes for the trees. A good reminder that the sandy soil we have now is a dream in comparison. At least making the planting holes isn't so arduous!
                        So it can be done

                        Oh, and re fish. I would NEVER buy them on line. (It would be like buying a puppy over the net, without seeing the parents!) I needed to see them. I would visit the local branch of Maidenhead Aquatics, and wait for the fish I wanted to come in, to check them. And then wait some more, so the shop "settled" them for a few days, before buying them. I suppose then that the shop was using the various "stabilising" chemicals...? I could sometimes wait weeks until the specimens looked bright, healthy, with their fins intact, held proudly out from their body, rather than clamped and miserable. Eyes clear, and the fish moving around the tank in the appropriate zone, looking alert and interested in their surroundings. You will soon get to know the sight of bright, healthy fish!
                         
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                        • Fat Controller

                          Fat Controller Cuddly Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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                          Well, as it was such a nice morning this morning and we were already out in town, we caught a but a few stops up the road and went for a wander (well, a 'wheel' in my case :heehee:) to the garden centre where the local Maidenhead Aquatics place is, to do some research.

                          We spent ages chatting with one of the staff - she was absolutely lovely - and she has given us some great advice as to how to progress. Stage one, is to clean the tank as per the advice already given here, and she has said to do so using only water (hot) and Scotchbrite, and to avoid the use of any chemicals at all. The same goes for any ornaments and the gravel - however, having watched quite a raft of videos on YouTube last night, all about setting tanks up etc, I am clearer than ever that I actually don't like the plastic plants, and that bulk pack of plants on ebay looked extremely attractive.... the lady in the fish shop was in complete agreement that real plants are the way to go, as they are better for the water and better for the fish.

                          I did bend the old credit card a wee bit (not much left on it to bend to be honest), and bought some fluid to dechlorinate the tap water (our water is so incredibly hard and full of chlorine that it would kill the plants, let alone the fish!), and another bottle of fluid of the 'good' bacteria to get the filter going, and a couple of wee packs of test strips to help me keep an eye on the water as it settles.

                          I have also used the last of my Amazon survey money (need to start getting back into them, especially now!), and bought a heater guard, a wee thermometer, a net and a syphon/gravel cleaner thing.

                          And now the best bit! I went to ask my neighbour if he wouldn't mind being on standby to potentially give a lift with the tank and cabinet when it comes tomorrow - bless him, he has moved more of my furniture this year than he has his own! Well, it transpired that he used to have a tropical aquarium which he got rid of some time ago, but he kept all the rocks that he had as he intended on putting them in a pond; he never built the pond, and said rocks are in a box in his garage - would I like them?!? Errrr, yeah!! So, when he digs them out later this week or over the weekend, I will have some real, tank safe rocks to put amongst the plants. I will scrub them, and think I will also soak them for a while in boiling water, just to be sure that they are as clean as they can be before I put them in the tank.

                          The main advice I was given was to try not to hang about too much - get the tank cleaned, then leak tested with water only, and then get on with the job of setting it up with plants etc and let it cycle for a couple of weeks. She also said to be careful not to let it sit too long after that without some fish, as the water would start to go the other way. Best to pop a few tetras, danios and maybe a couple of clown loaches in there, and then let it settle again for a wee while - thereafter, build up as I wish.

                          Once we think our water is cycled and settled, she wants us to take a sample in with us as they like to check it before they will let us buy any fish (inspires confidence), and has advised that we keep a diary of the fish we have as they want to know that whenever we are buying fish to make sure they are compatible and the tank is not overstocked. And they were also willing to do wee deals if you were buying more than one fish of any type - so whilst their prices weren't cheap, they weren't horrendous either.
                           
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