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New 20 Gallon Starter Tank - Advice? :)

HevvyC

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Hey guys, I've just bought a 100L/ 20 gallon tank and I'm waiting to pick it up at the moment. Very excited! It comes with 2 internal filters (both Aquael 700) and a heater which is great.

I was looking into keeping some honey gouramis, platies, neon tetras and maybe some leopard cory's? Nice and simple to start off with. Can anyone advise me on how many of each I could keep safely in a tank this size? And perhaps the best sexes to keep together peacefully.

I am planning to plant the tank heavily for my gouramis - I was planning to use Tetra complete substrate, with gravel on top. I have also found a CO2 diffuser to add to the tank and some plant fertiliser to help the plants flourish. The tank has a tube light. Is there anything else I'll need for successful plant growth?

And lastly - how does gravel cleaning work when you have a planted tank with substrate below? Any tips would be appreciated. I have found a chemical online that helps to keep the gravel clean but it does state that you still need to get in there and remove debris.

Many thanks in advance for any comments - it means a lot that you all take time out of your day to help and advise other fish-keepers!
 

essjay

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This explains how to cycle the tank https://www.fishforums.net/threads/cycling-your-new-fresh-water-tank-read-this-first.421488/
However, you plan on heavily planting the tank so this may not be necessary. If you plant the tank, then wait until you are certain the plants are thriving and not about to die, you can add fish a few at a time, checking daily after each addition to make sure the plants are taking up all the ammonia. Plants use ammonia as food, and they don't turn it into nitrite.

Cories do better on sand rather than gravel. And you need to make sure that the plant substrate is not one that leaches ammonia into the water.

We also need to check with you is the hardness of your tap water. You both soft and hard water fish in your list, and depending on your tap water hardness, one or other will not be happy.
Gouramis, neon tetras and cories are soft water fish. If they are kept in hard water calcium will build up in their internal organs and they will live a shortened lifespan; platies are hard water fish, and if kept in soft water they will suffer calcium depletion and be more susceptible to illness.
Plants also have preferences for hard or soft water
Look on your water provider's website, they should give your hardness somewhere. We need a number and the unit of measurement (there are several) rather than some vague words.

Once we know the hardness, we will be able to give better advice on fish and plants.
 

Retired Viking

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The nitrogen cycle and water type is extremely important. I am new to having live plants after years of plastic. I have neon tetras and you should have at least 6 if not more, some say up to 15. I have 9 in my 55 gallon tank. A 20 gallon tank can get crowded depending on the type of fish, many need to be with schools of their own kind. I went with easy plants that absorb what they need though their leaves and stems. Like Java Fern which roots only are there to attach them to something. I also have moneyworth, jungle vale, anachris, Hornwort, African water fern and some others. You can plant them and do not need to worry about soil. You can also try and do a silent cycle which is what I did.
 
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HevvyC

HevvyC

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Byron

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Agree with what others have posted, particularly the no-cycle method if live plants are intended. And we do need to know the source water parameters.

But it would help to have a couple of things clarified. You mention planning to use Tetra Complete substrate...is this already acquired or just in the thinking stage? I ask because it will make a big difference and it is frankly not necessary. Also, related, the gravel...sand is much better, especially for substrate fish like cories. And the CO2 diffuser...again this is not really going to benefit so if it is not a definite, might be best to leave it out.

Light is the single most important aspect when it comes to plants (it also affects fish, that's another issue to leave for now). Is the tube fluorescent T8, or fluorescent T5, or LED? And do you have any data re spectrum and intensity for this? Might find this on their website.
 
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HevvyC

HevvyC

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This explains how to cycle the tank https://www.fishforums.net/threads/cycling-your-new-fresh-water-tank-read-this-first.421488/
However, you plan on heavily planting the tank so this may not be necessary. If you plant the tank, then wait until you are certain the plants are thriving and not about to die, you can add fish a few at a time, checking daily after each addition to make sure the plants are taking up all the ammonia. Plants use ammonia as food, and they don't turn it into nitrite.

Cories do better on sand rather than gravel. And you need to make sure that the plant substrate is not one that leaches ammonia into the water.

We also need to check with you is the hardness of your tap water. You both soft and hard water fish in your list, and depending on your tap water hardness, one or other will not be happy.
Gouramis, neon tetras and cories are soft water fish. If they are kept in hard water calcium will build up in their internal organs and they will live a shortened lifespan; platies are hard water fish, and if kept in soft water they will suffer calcium depletion and be more susceptible to illness.
Plants also have preferences for hard or soft water
Look on your water provider's website, they should give your hardness somewhere. We need a number and the unit of measurement (there are several) rather than some vague words.

Once we know the hardness, we will be able to give better advice on fish and plants.
I should have clarified I am aware of the nitrogen cycle! I am planning on using an aquarium bomb to cycle but if you think plants will do the job that's good news and will save a few pennies.

Just had a look on my water provider's website, here are the parameters -

Your water hardness
117 mg/l CaCO₃
8.20 English degrees or degrees clark
11.72 French degrees
6.56 German degrees
1.17 mmol/l
6.56 Grains per US gallon
8.20 Grains per British Gallon

'This means your water is classified as slightly hard'

If I do decide to get the cory's I will be sure to use sand - when cleaning should I just disturb the top layer to remove debri? And I'm not sure if the Tetra substrate will release ammonia, I would hope not since it's manufactured for fish-keeping! But will be open to any recommendations as long as it is widely available - I am buying most of my supplies online.

Many thanks for the good advice. Regarding the platies - I want my fish to be as healthy as possible so that's really good to know! Any further advice will be much appreciated.
 
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HevvyC

HevvyC

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The nitrogen cycle and water type is extremely important. I am new to having live plants after years of plastic. I have neon tetras and you should have at least 6 if not more, some say up to 15. I have 9 in my 55 gallon tank. A 20 gallon tank can get crowded depending on the type of fish, many need to be with schools of their own kind. I went with easy plants that absorb what they need though their leaves and stems. Like Java Fern which roots only are there to attach them to something. I also have moneyworth, jungle vale, anachris, Hornwort, African water fern and some others. You can plant them and do not need to worry about soil. You can also try and do a silent cycle which is what I did.
I didn't know there were so many plants you could get without the need for soil! Interesting to know. The silent cycle method sounds good, a bit daunting reducing the wait before adding my first lot of fish but obviously I will be testing the water throughout the process. Had no idea that plants were so beneficial when cycling.
 
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HevvyC

HevvyC

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Agree with what others have posted, particularly the no-cycle method if live plants are intended. And we do need to know the source water parameters.

But it would help to have a couple of things clarified. You mention planning to use Tetra Complete substrate...is this already acquired or just in the thinking stage? I ask because it will make a big difference and it is frankly not necessary. Also, related, the gravel...sand is much better, especially for substrate fish like cories. And the CO2 diffuser...again this is not really going to benefit so if it is not a definite, might be best to leave it out.

Light is the single most important aspect when it comes to plants (it also affects fish, that's another issue to leave for now). Is the tube fluorescent T8, or fluorescent T5, or LED? And do you have any data re spectrum and intensity for this? Might find this on their website.
Got the parameters now - and I haven't bought the Tetra substrate yet, so just in the thinking stage. I was watching videos on Youtube of planted tanks which included that kind of soil stuff so I assumed it was a must! I will make sure to get sand instead of gravel when I do go out and buy my bits, this is all really useful info.

I think this is the model tank I'm buying...

completeaquatics.co.uk/aquael-leddy-80?gclid=CjwKCAiA58fvBRAzEiwAQW-hzUvuShW6RBPuOV1uBeV6_XpmQKD_P5wYrZu9tGgsJ1U_xvV8m71NFBoCQEkQAvD_BwE

And I think this might be the light that comes with the tank.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/i/3728553783...xOEvvLc4pxOAe4zKSF5HGv9zN-hXNBvxoC-OcQAvD_BwE
 

essjay

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Your water hardness
117 mg/l CaCO₃
8.20 English degrees or degrees clark
11.72 French degrees
6.56 German degrees
1.17 mmol/l
6.56 Grains per US gallon
8.20 Grains per British Gallon

'This means your water is classified as slightly hard'
The two numbers you need are 117 mg/l CaCo3 - also called ppm - and 6.56 German degrees (also called dH). These are the two units used in fish keeping - some profiles will use one, some the other. This is not really "slightly hard", which is why we always ask for numbers. It is fine for soft water fish but not platies, I'm afraid.
 

seangee

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As you are in the UK argos play sand is probably the most popular. It does need a bit of rinsing though as it contains a lot of dust. If you prefer a dark substrate search for black limpopo sand. Its not actually black - but does require much less rinsing than the argos sand.

Here is an sample of it in one of my tanks https://www.fishforums.net/threads/lake-inle-nano.448015/page-3#post-3843525
 

Byron

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Got the parameters now - and I haven't bought the Tetra substrate yet, so just in the thinking stage. I was watching videos on Youtube of planted tanks which included that kind of soil stuff so I assumed it was a must! I will make sure to get sand instead of gravel when I do go out and buy my bits, this is all really useful info.
We can go into a bit more detail now that we are pinning things down. Aquarium plants will grow in most any substrate, but the grain size can be problematical if too large. Sand is ideal plant substrate, and it is safe for all fish. Gravel in some specific aquascapes can be effective, but the grain size has to be small enough if plants are intended, and substrate-level fish (cories, loaches, some cichlids, etc) are usually hampered and need sand. The most inexpensive, safest, most natural looking sand is play sand. You're in the UK and other members from there can suggest brands as they have previously in other threads. Never use white sand, it is detrimental to fish. Black can be problematic too, but a darkish tone is best, like the dark grey mix of play sand or the buff tone play sand. This is also inert so no messing with the water chemistry.

Plants need nutrients, and while some plants (depending upon species and numbers) can manage fine with just the naturally-occurring organics from feeding the fish, and water changes, others may need more. Substrate tabs can benefit some substrate-rooted plants such as swords which are heavy feeders, and liquid fertilizer can benefit all plants, particularly floating which are not rooted in the substrate. The aim is to use minimally, as everything in the water gets inside the fish and less of this the better for the fish.

CO2...the primary source is the decomposition of organics in the substrate. In tanks with fish this will generally suffice. Algae can become a nuisance if CO2 is insufficient, and here the light plays into the equation.

I had a look at the light link and that should be good. Another thread had discussions of these same tubes a week or so ago. There are four different spectrum tubes in the photo. The Actinic and the Marine are definitely out, they willnot work over a freshwater planted tank. The "Plant" tube I thought was perhaps less effective that the last tube, whgich has a better colour wavelength. I am assuming this is the tube the text refers to, though it is a bit unclear.
 
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HevvyC

HevvyC

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The two numbers you need are 117 mg/l CaCo3 - also called ppm - and 6.56 German degrees (also called dH). These are the two units used in fish keeping - some profiles will use one, some the other. This is not really "slightly hard", which is why we always ask for numbers. It is fine for soft water fish but not platies, I'm afraid.
Thanks for the info - shame as they are very sweet and colourful but I'd much rather have healthy fish friends.
 
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HevvyC

HevvyC

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As you are in the UK argos play sand is probably the most popular. It does need a bit of rinsing though as it contains a lot of dust. If you prefer a dark substrate search for black limpopo sand. Its not actually black - but does require much less rinsing than the argos sand.

Here is an sample of it in one of my tanks https://www.fishforums.net/threads/lake-inle-nano.448015/page-3#post-3843525
Play sand! I can imagine it's quite a lot cheaper as well. Will have to think about which colour I want now, many thanks. Do you have a rough idea of how many kgs I would need for a tank of my size?
 

Byron

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Play sand! I can imagine it's quite a lot cheaper as well. Will have to think about which colour I want now, many thanks. Do you have a rough idea of how many kgs I would need for a tank of my size?
Play sand tends to come in one or two colour hues/mixres. I have a dark grey which is very nice, there is also a buff sand. Don't know what may be available in the UK.

Avoid white at all cost, it is not well suited to fish. Darker, not meaning black itself, is generally better. Light substrates and light then reflected off them can be stressful on fish.

For your tank, and assuming play sand in the UK comes in 25kg bags like here, one is all you will need. It's always nice to have some left over for later touch-ups, or another tank! You don't want it too deep, I tend to spread it evenly at about 1.5 to 2 inches depth overall (4-5 cm). Then you can push it deeper at the back and shallower at the front, or whatever.
 
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