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El Diablo

Aquarium Homies Thread

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First aquarium and it's time to clean it. Just a little plexiglass thing, 2.5 gallons, home to a Betta. It developed an algae problem a week or so ago and the water is a bit cloudy now and the sides are a bit slimy. Walk me thru this, please.

 

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mechanical cleaning is the best bet.  You probably need to do a partial water replacement.  What kind of filter are you using?

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New tank?  If you just filled it recently it may just be cycling in the good bacteria.  I just changed to a aquaponic tank a month ago and it had been awhile since I had started a new aquarium and had forgotten that the water cycles and will appear cloudy 2-5 days.  If it is a new fill, just wait a few days and see if it goes away.  Do use water conditioners and good bacteria adds.  Don't use anything out of a bottle to clear the water, let it happen naturally if possible.

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The tank is established, it's a couple of months old right now. I plan to take the one fish out while doing the water change and cleaning. I've got a length of tubing to drain the tank with but I'm not really sure how much water to take out initially. I'm afraid to disturb the bottom of the tank and stir up whatever sediment and bacteria are in the gravel. I guess drain it down enough that I can put my hand in there, gently wipe the sides where the algae is and then syphon most of the rest of the water out? How do I go about refilling the tank so as to not disturb the gravel/good muck at the bottom?

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since it's only 2.5g i would drain all the water, or as much as possible, then take it out to the backyard and rinse with a water hose until it's clean.  use the scouring side of a clean sponge to get the algae off the sides.   dont forget chlorine remover before putting the betta back.

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3 hours ago, thrillhammer said:

since it's only 2.5g i would drain all the water, or as much as possible, then take it out to the backyard and rinse with a water hose until it's clean.  use the scouring side of a clean sponge to get the algae off the sides.   dont forget chlorine remover before putting the betta back.

What about all the good stuff that lives in the gravel? Surely people don't start their aquariums from scratch every time the water or tank needs a cleaning, right?

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14 hours ago, El Diablo said:

What about all the good stuff that lives in the gravel? Surely people don't start their aquariums from scratch every time the water or tank needs a cleaning, right?

it really depends.  on a large tank(29 gal+), i did water changes every couple of months, but once a year i'd do a complete clean, including the gravel and underneath the undergravel filter, scrub the slime and algae off the sides, etc.  on a small tank like his, i'd do complete cleans once a month.  

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3 hours ago, Jerry Callo said:

You're overthinking this.  Your fish could live in lukewarm hot dog water.

Probably so but I'm trying to provide him an environment that's a little bit better than your moms snatch. :D

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9 hours ago, thrillhammer said:

it really depends.  on a large tank(29 gal+), i did water changes every couple of months, but once a year i'd do a complete clean, including the gravel and underneath the undergravel filter, scrub the slime and algae off the sides, etc.  on a small tank like his, i'd do complete cleans once a month.  

Any tricks to refilling it so as to not stir up a lot of debris?

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Well, as it turns out you were right about just emptying the thing out. I didn't dump the gravel out and rinse it but I did just pick up the tank and pour the last of the water out once I had it siphoned down. The filter and pump are self contained so I just refilled it thru the top of that assembly. It's still cloudy af but I'll let it circulate for awhile like I did before I ever put the fish in there the first time and it should clear up. 

Being that it's acrylic I didn't scrub anything, just used a soft cotton cloth to wipe down the sides. I think I'll go to the store this weekend and pick up a few snails to help keep up with the algae. The tank is on a counter between the kitchen and the dining room far away from any natural light so hopefully algae won't be much of an issue if I get some little helpers in there.

I'll post a pic once I get the dude back in there.

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never owned an acrylic tank so not sure how that works as far as scratching though.  my advice assumed it was glass.  when i said take it to the backyard and rinse it, i mean run water in it, run your hands in the gravel, dump, repeat, until the water is clear.  you should do that about once a month or whenever you notice the water turning yellow.  

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The water cleared up pretty quickly, the filtration system is just fine for a tank that size and so I went ahead and put the fish back in late last night. He seems happy as hell again.

Going forward I won't let it go as long as I did this time without cleaning. The filter was pretty freaking nasty. I bought a bunch of the filters when I found them online because everywhere I read up on the tank people were bitching about the filters not being available. I got the tank at PetSmart and apparently they don't even carry the filters. I've got enough now to last close to a year with monthly changes.

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The fish tank experience is going so well that I think I'm going to up my game a bit. I found a 29 gal tank on Craigslist for $40, comes with a stand and light. I'll prolly pull the trigger on it if the seller calls me back.

So where do I start? Pump, filter, gravel... what all do I need beyond that? I'm truly a noob here but want to get learned. 

I'm not impatient at all so it would be fine for me to just set the thing up and let it run for a good while to learn how to keep up with the maintenance. How would a tank do with just water in it? Would algae grow? Would that be a good way to start? Just a tank and whatever critters that would keep it clean at its most basic? Or jump in with some cheap fish and learn on the fly?

HALP! I think I may have the fish tank bug.

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On 5/5/2018 at 8:40 AM, El Diablo said:

The fish tank experience is going so well that I think I'm going to up my game a bit. I found a 29 gal tank on Craigslist for $40, comes with a stand and light. I'll prolly pull the trigger on it if the seller calls me back.

So where do I start? Pump, filter, gravel... what all do I need beyond that? I'm truly a noob here but want to get learned. 

I'm not impatient at all so it would be fine for me to just set the thing up and let it run for a good while to learn how to keep up with the maintenance. How would a tank do with just water in it? Would algae grow? Would that be a good way to start? Just a tank and whatever critters that would keep it clean at its most basic? Or jump in with some cheap fish and learn on the fly?

HALP! I think I may have the fish tank bug.

If you got powerheads for your undergravel filter you wouldnt need a pump.  otherwise, gravel, filter, plants, rocks.  i assume you're going freshwater, which is wise for newcomers.  algae won't be a big issue unless you have the tank set up where sunlight hits it.  no need to let it run any longer than 3 days before putting fish in it.  

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Along that line, if the tank is somewhere where noise is an issue, then a powerhead is a better choice over a pump. Great pumps are nearly silent, but are also more expensive. Or you need to put them in a cabinet to block the noise.

But - it also depends what fish you plan to have. A powerhead, even a small one, will have more water circulation (and better filtration) than a pump. The downside is some fish will get fatigued from high circulation and will die easier. This can be ameliorated with decor layout, providing structures and rocks that create eddies, areas of calm current.

As a beginner, don't do plants. They're a maintenance nightmare. Be careful with wood decorations, make sure they're aquarium safe, or they will leach chemicals or color into the water.

Start with undergravel filter, gravel, a few rocks, and a powerhead. Wash everything well, no soap. Be really careful with soap, it is incredibly toxic to fish in very small quantities. Traces left on your hands or on equipment after washing can really ruin your day. Let the system run for a few days, then ask a local shop for a cup of their tank water and pour it in. That'll give you a starter bacterial colony. A week later, go buy a goldfish or 2. They're about the hardiest of the fish you can raise (other than that Betta, and those don't socialize well), and will provide biomass to "fuel" the tank. When you put the goldfish in, float their baggie in the tank for 30min to allow water temp to gradually equalize, and then pour the whole baggie into your tank so you also get the bacteria in the water.

At that point you can start feeding - feed less than you think. Fish will quickly die from overfeeding, if they don't the water quality will still suffer from it. Underfeeding is pretty obvious, skinny fish and they'll try to aggressively nibble on each others' fins. Always err on the side of underfeeding.

That'll get you started - from there you can get the routine of regular partial water changes, add other fish, add plants, etc. The one thing to watch out for with goldfish - goldfish will grow as large as food and environment allow, so those 2 fish, if you keep them, will grow to be all the tank can hold. When you consider other fish, you need to consider how aggressive they are. Goldfish are fairly aggressive, so a passive fish will get bullied and nibbled and die quickly.

One general warning, be sure you read up on the general rule of thumb for how many inches of fish a given amount of water surface area can support, oxygen-wise. Load up a tank too much and you'll have a bunch of dying fish at the surface gasping for air, or you'll have a chemical issue that requires emergency water changes and becomes a huge hassle to fix.

Start slow, and change slow. Add fish one or two at a time. Change components or decor a section at a time.

Have fun! I used to keep a bunch of huge tanks around the house, can't any more because of travel.

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Thanks for all the good info. The guy with the 29 gal. tank didn't call back so I guess I'll keep looking. I hate to buy retail (see the cheap bastard thread in LULZ). I'm in no hurry. I have a Betta already and added a snail to his tank a month or so ago. I think I'm ready to try something a little more challenging. I think I have a decent grip on maintaining the water now and that is my biggest concern. Thanks again, if I take the plunge I'll keep y'all posted.

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One additional note since you're back on the hunt: it's counterintuitive to a beginner, but with aquariums, the larger the tank, the more forgiving it is. You have more surface area for oxygen, more gravel area for filtration, and more water to dilute any chemical issues. The larger tanks are also very difficult to move, so are often for sale very cheap on Craigslist and such. If you have the space and the interest (and a friend and truck to move it), don't be afraid to snap up someone's 100gal with lights, decor, and filtration all included for dirt cheap.

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On 5/7/2018 at 10:34 PM, Sam Lin said:

then ask a local shop for a cup of their tank water and pour it in. That'll give you a starter bacterial colony.

That will also give you any disease that store water has in it. Ain’t no way in fuck I’m putting store water in a tank. Plenty of products out there with bacteria for seeding. 

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Prolly just take some that I siphon out of the little tank anyway and use it for starter bacteria.

I'll admit I'm a bit confused by some of what you've posted. The whole filtration thing for starters. I think we had a tank with an undergravel filter when I was a kid. Basically it was a perforated plastic platform that the gravel sat on and the water was drawn from the bottom.

If I have that part right then it's just the powerhead part that I'm a bit confused by. How is the water filtered at the powerhead and how is it returned to the tank? What sort of maintenance is needed for the filter media?

TIA

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starter bacteria is overrated and not necessary.  

the powerhead is just a substitute for the pump and airstone.  your undergravel filter will work just the same.  the powerhead creates flow down through the gravel bed, under the filter plate, and up the lift tubes.  a box filter on the back will serve the same purpose, most people use both (especially in a large tank).

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10 hours ago, thunderlounge said:

That will also give you any disease that store water has in it. Ain’t no way in fuck I’m putting store water in a tank. Plenty of products out there with bacteria for seeding. 

You're adding some amount of store disease every time you add a new fish, unless you use a quarantine tank for X time. When you're starting a new tank with no fish, the entire tank acts as the quarantine tank for the cup of store water for X time. I didn't specify it, but common sense does say to get water from a tank that looks healthy, if the fish are dead or diseased or just look miserable, don't get that water.

Yes you can just take water from your existing tank.

8 hours ago, El Diablo said:

I'll admit I'm a bit confused by some of what you've posted. The whole filtration thing for starters. I think we had a tank with an undergravel filter when I was a kid. Basically it was a perforated plastic platform that the gravel sat on and the water was drawn from the bottom.

If I have that part right then it's just the powerhead part that I'm a bit confused by. How is the water filtered at the powerhead and how is it returned to the tank? What sort of maintenance is needed for the filter media?

On an undergravel filter, whether you use a pump and airstone in the lift tube, or a powerhead at the top of the lift tube, the goal is the same - to move water up the lift tube. The powerhead is much more efficient at this (moves much more water). The filtration in both cases is performed by the gravel itself, and maintenance is the same, water changes with a gravel siphon.

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I found a guy with two tanks for sale and want some Surly opinions. Each tank with stand is $100. One has a cabinet style stand the other is an open frame with glass top.

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They are both bare bones and I'll have to buy lights etc... but I think the price is fair.

I'm leaning towards the open frame because of the flexibility of options for the space underneath and the lighter weight but am a little nervous about the supposed glass top. 

Edit: Forgot to specify the size of the tanks. They're both 55 gal tanks, dimensions are 48" x 12" x 21".

Whichever one I go with it will be a freshwater tank.

Thoughts?

Edited by El Diablo

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That's the one I'm going with. It's a bit rough looking but it can be cleaned up. The couple that has it are going to deliver it too. She said it does have a glass top that comes with it so that will save me a few dollars as that is what I was going to get, along with a strip light to go on top. I think I'll probably do a planted community tank of some variety. Time to plan!

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Tank was delivered today, the guy threw in a 200w heater so that was nice. I've been looking at filters and I think I've settled on a canister filter, an Eheim. They seem to get good reviews and a suitable one isn't terribly expensive. Anyone have any experience with the brand? I'm looking at the Classic 350.

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Eheim would be good for your setup, yep. 

I do recommend a size or so bigger than their recommendations though, and that goes for any commercial filter. 

Edited by thunderlounge

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Eheim is probably the only one that I've looked at that gave actual tank size that it fits. They also will say "good for up to X gallons" like most other manufacturers and that 'X' can be pretty outrageous. But from what I've read a good rule of thumb is 3X-5X tank size = gph, and that pump comes in right at the 3X using Eheims "realistic" number. Plus I plan on tweaking the media a bit and that unit has enough room to cram a good bit more biological goodies into.  I'll look at the 600 again before I pull the trigger though the way I'm planning to load it, it might just be overkill big time, not to mention the amount of flow. The 350 is rated for up to 92 gals (the crazy number), a 55 gal tank on that quality pump should be fine. That 600 (the next step up in that line of filters) is rated up to 180 gals which using the "crazy" number (300) puts it at 6X my tank volume.

There's a guy goes by the name "PondGuru", might be British, anyway he's a bit of a filter freak and he's got me convinced that most pumps can be made more efficient fairly easily. He's hawking some media in his videos but is very honest about it and makes no claims that what he's doing cannot be done with media other than his. There's a lot of idiots out there spouting opinions on fishkeeping that I've seen just since I've become interested and he's no fool.

He points out in one vid that the Eheim has a "polishing" filter at the top and how basically useless that is. That space can be better utilized for biological. He also doesn't see a use for carbon/charcoal unless you know you have something specific to deal with. He also points out that many filters have some empty space where the water first enters and he advocates putting some mechanical filtration there to grab the largest sludge before it even gets into the sponges. I'm not sure I buy that, seems like you're asking to have to service the lower strata more frequently than would be normal but I may give that a shot at some point.

Am I being duped? Thoughts?

Edited by El Diablo

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Keep in mind my comment above about powerheads and water currents fatiguing fish. With an external canister filter this becomes an even larger concern. How you return the water, what kind of baffling, and what kind of decor around that area will be important.

Thoughts? Buy something and start, don't research this to death. You can always upgrade or modify later, and as a starter tank you'll never need the 10% tweaks you're talking about.

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Thanks for the thoughts, Sam. I'll keep in mind the flow and fish fatigue. One of my brothers is a civil engineer specializing in hydraulics and I know that he will have some good ideas on how to lessen the effects of the turbulence that the inflow might create.

I'm not going to research this thing to death but I will plan according to my vision for what I want in my first tank. There's enough information out there that this doesn't have to be a shit show.

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Unc, you’re off to a good start. If, and that’s a big if, you don’t load heavily then the 350 should be ok for the time being. You can use all kinds of things to redirect the return flow, so it isn’t that big of a challenge. 

Just do keep in mind that when you see a tank-size rating where it says something like, “good up to 150gal” or whatever, that it means on a light bioload for the max number. I always try to double what the average is. So for a 55gal tank, I’d look for something rated for at least 100gal, if not 150gal.  (This is coming from a reef/saltwater perspective though, and the personal knowledge that saying “just one more fish” is never enough. :D)

If you can keep yourself in check, you’ll do just fine. 

 

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The "PondGuru" guy I mentioned was throwing some numbers around during one of his vids and I think that his "system", for lack of a better word, is based on bioload. I don't remember how he arrived at it but basically X amount of biological material will efficiently handle Y amount of waste.

My initial goal is to just get some fish and plants into the tank and keep them alive and the water healthy for a while. The guy I got my tank from is into saltwater now but of course has done fresh and he said "Get ya some Tetras, you'll be fine" and so that's probably what I'll do. I'll get something small that schools and looks okay to start. Give it a few months and then see what develops. As I said, my main goal is to just keep some healthy water and oh yeah, there's some fish in it too.

As to the issue of turbulence/flow, I talked to one of my bosses this morning, he used to do saltwater until he had kids and a new house, and for him he needed the flow because of what he had in the tank. But in that conversation he also suggested just directing the flow across the top of the tank from one end to the other. Yeah, probably no fish will want to fuck around in the upper layer but by having it traverse the length of the tank it should be pretty dissipated by the time it reaches the far wall. The 350 also comes with a spray bar which I might also use and point it the same way, across the length of the tank.

Thanks for all the suggestions everyone, I'll be taking pictures as this project goes along and will post at some point.

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Oh, and had another thought...the filter guy I've mentioned, I don't know if he realizes that filters/pumps are built for a certain amount of backpressure and that increasing the amount of media in the pump increases the amount of backpressure reducing flow and affecting pump life/stress. He seems pretty bright but you just never know.

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Flowing across the top of the tank rules out keeping guppies or mollies, which to me is unfortunate; they're one of the fun parts of freshwater with live births and great colors. Saltwater comparatively has few top-feeders. Also, if you really go crazy with it, also makes feeding flake/floating food a pain. With a school of tetras, go for it - you can always adjust this stuff later in 20 seconds.

I wouldn't worry about filter backpressure from adding media, it likely won't be more than caused by severely clogged media on a "stock" filter, and also doesn't take into account the vastly differing tubing lengths in various plumbing layouts. The filters are magnetic impellers, there really is no load on them. The impeller itself is a cheapo service item and usually only breaks if something like gravel gets into the suction pipe and crashes it, and I've sent plenty of small gravel through (accidentally) with no issues.

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See, that's the kind of stuff I would not have known without you guys. Google-fu tells me I can pretty much restrict the output flow without damaging the pump, something that is counter intuitive to me but is the case here. I'm planning on having both rooted and floating plants but of course they won't be fully developed for a little while so I may end up messing with the flow rate. We'll see. Some of the goodies I've ordered should be showing up in the next few days, I has the excite.

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If doing a ton of plants you made need to look into some CO2, as well as some type or aeration. Remember that plants  produce oxygen during the day, but consume it at night. 

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I'm not too interested in plants, just want some to give it a nice look and provide some shelter for the fish that might want it. I have no plans or interest to plant so heavily that I have to augment CO2. I know some of the plants I've looked at can grow like a motherfucker, others are pretty slow growing. I expect I'll have some of each and then gradually trim out the fast growing ones. I don't want to be a gardener.

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So is a Python or something similar an essential? If so, what's a cheaper but adequate substitute? They're right proud of their products.

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I did my water changes with a dumb gravel siphon and 2 5gal buckets for years. Got a few mouthfuls of water over the years, didn't die:

https://www.amazon.com/Python-Pro-Clean-Aquarium-Gravel-Washer/dp/B0002APRVK/ref=sr_1_6?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1527131561&sr=1-6&keywords=siphon

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6LU3F3/ref=psdc_2975470011_t3_B0002APRVK

With a big tank lightly loaded like yours, you can go a long time between changes (another benefit of big tanks). Do it a few times with the $4 siphon, and if you hate it, pay up for the convenience of a Python or similar that has the hose hookup and needs no buckets.

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I've got a cheap hand siphon already so I'll see if that's all I need.

I found a thread on one of the many aquarium discussion forums that I've started reading. The OP on that thread is starting a 55 gallon tank from scratch, very similar to what I'm doing, noob and all.

They're about a month or so ahead of me which is nice for following along and they seem to be going along at about the same pace, piecing things together a little at a time.

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I got my pump and a few other goodies yesterday, water test kit, bigger bottle of water conditioner, some bacteria. I've spent the evening so far dry fitting the pump, cutting lines to length, just generally laying things out and deciding where they'll go. If everything goes according to plan I'll fill the tank and start the cycling process tomorrow. I reckon once I have that going it will probably be a couple of weeks before I do much else to it.

I've decided I'm going to go with black diamond blasting sand for substrate, it's only $8 for 50 lbs at Tractor Supply. Being that it's an abrasive I do wonder if it will be harmful to something like loaches. Whatever, at that price I can rip it out and put in something a bit more gentle if need be.

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Well alrighty then, let's get this shitshow started! Holy fuck, I got the pump all assembled and then realized that a part was missing. Had to go online and lodge a protest with Eheim so we'll see if they respond. I went to Tractor Supply and got 100 pounds of the black blasting sand, threw it into the tank, caused a minor dust storm and then started adding water. LOL. Oh my. I've got about 50 gallons of black water I'm trying to filter into clean, clear water. 

I decided to go ahead and give the pump a try even with the missing part and it seems to be doing just fine though I do want a replacement canister from the mfg. A new filter shouldn't be missing parts. Once I realized the error of my ways with the black dust storm I switched to Plan B: take out the assortment of filter media that came with the unit and just fill it up with mechanical media. Luckily I had ordered an additional 6 or so pounds of the little ceramic rings. 

Hooked it back up loaded with that and topped off with the coarse sponge and let 'er rip. The water's been filtering for about 18 hours now and it's hard to tell if there's any improvement in clarity. Picture time...

o52e0m.jpg

I think it might be a LITTLE bit better today but it's hard to say. I have no plans for the tank regardless, it was going to be a couple of weeks before I went any further so this is just a minor setback. I am wondering if the stuff that's suspended is too small for the mech to handle. I guess I could throw the fine sponge into the canister too. I'll give it another day or so and see what it looks like. 

Anyway, fun, fun, fun! ;) 

As for the pump/filter? It's awesomely quiet. With it in the cabinet you can't even hear it at all. Hell, even with the doors open and standing right there you can barely hear it. The output flow doesn't seem terribly overpowerful or anything either. 

Happy Surly Memorial Day weekend!

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New plan. Dump the water, take out the sand, wash the sand, put in the cleaned sand, refill the tank and try again. Wooooo!!!!!!!!!! I KNEW this was going to be fun i just didn't know HOW MUCH!

Now I know why people will pay good money for clean, washed sand. Will report back.

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Holy hell. Yeah, you needed to wash the sand. A couple inches at a time, in the bottom of a 5gal bucket. Shove a hose down to the bottom and move it around so it stirs the sand around, let the murky water with the fines overflow out the top of the bucket until it flows clear. Pour it into the tank, grab your next batch of sand. If you're losing actual sand, turn the hose down. If you aren't seeing it really tumble around in the bucket, turn the hose up.

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I went back to YouTube and cannot find anyone reporting the cloudiness that I have even after washing the shit one handful at a time. Oh well. I guess this is what the filter is for. 

I'm thinking of using a couple of these for lighting the tank.

https://www.amazon.com/Halogen-Equivalent-Waterproof-Daylight-Floodlight/dp/B01KFU8C7W/ref=pd_lpo_vtph_60_lp_tr_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=XXKZZ3844WTHQG85FA39&dpID=51WT9I7XNcL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=detail

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Never mind on those lights, pulling the trigger on this one.  $40. Amazon tells me that's $100 off list price. Whatever. Read thru about a million pages of reviews and questions and for the price? Fuck it, Lord knows I've done dumber things with a $40 bill.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C7OTJ7C/ref=ask_ql_qh_dp_hza

Oh, and my water has cleared up. The surface of the sand seems to maybe have oxidized or something, it has a weird grayish/greenish cast to it. The cross section against the glass in nice and black still. I'm thinking of lightly raking it and seeing what happens. 

Wheeeeeee!

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