New tank owners, need advice

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New Member
Aug 31, 2021
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Jacksonville, fl
Evening all-

My husband and daughter have decided to enter the tropical fish owner life and we need some guidance. We have a 20gallon tank with all the works(filter, heater, decor).

We got the tank set up and filled with water, did the chemical thing and waited 48 hours to get the fish-im realizing it was probably too quick now. Well... One Betta and 6 tetra came home, adjusted to the water for about 15-20 minutes and then all started dying when they entered the tank. The Betta lasted the longest which was roughly 6 hours but they all died very quick. We have no idea what went wrong..

We bought an API testing kit and it looks like our PH is very high and ammonia is .25. how can I lower the ammonia?

Can any help with next steps so we can get some new fish friends.


Fish Herder
Apr 5, 2021
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Hello, you aren’t the first to have this issue!
Your tank hasn’t been cycled which will be why the fish have died.

Please read the information in the link and cycle your tank before adding any more fish. There is a ‘fish in’ method but this isn’t really recommended because of the risk to the fish.

Also, and this causes great debate, if the Betta was a male, he should be in a tank on his own.


Resident Pleco Hater
Pet of the Month!
Apr 2, 2021
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Hi there!

By 'the chemical thing' do you mean dechlorinater? Because that's very important.

Please wait before you by more fish, get yourself clued up on the nitrogen cycle and get your water to optimal condition first. Nanna has posted a great read that breaks everything down for you. Please ask lots of questions too, there's loads of us here willing to help! 😊


Fish Gatherer
Apr 21, 2020
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You won’t be the first or the last to fall for fish sales people’s eagerness to take as much of your money as quickly as possible. We’ve all been there.

Please read the link provided by nana about cycling your tank.

Personally I’d go with the silent cycling method (planted), it’s the least complicated. Use as many and as much of the Silent Seven plants in your tank as possible: WaterSprite, Water Lettuce, Frogbit, Salvina, Anacharis, Hornwort, Moneywort. Plus others you like and are suitable.

Try to find out your waters hardness and PH from your water suppliers website. This determines which fish are most likely to live long lives in your tank.
Once you’ve done that take a look at and compare the fish you like the look ofs PH aand water hardness requirements. Also obviously tank size, water temp, tank mates etc.
Its the best resource there is. We all on here wish it’d been around when we first started out, some as far back as the 60s.

Oh btw:
Rule 1. Always treat anyone trying to sell you fish or fish related stuff with a degree of scepticism. Some don’t know as much as you think they do, some just don’t care and want your money.

Theres some very very knowledgeable posters on here. Stick around long enough and you’ll meet them. They’ll keep you right. Have fun.


Moderate Moderating Moderator
Staff member
Global Moderator ⚒️
Jul 16, 2013
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Oxfordshire, UK
Hello and welcome to the forum.

As some of the others have pointed out, fishkeeping is a learning process and for beginners it’s a step by step process to build up your knowledge and confidence about this great hobby.

My recommendation is always read and research as much as you can about fishkeeping and the first step is to learn about the fishless cycle and start by reading that article.

Fishless cycling is very basically a process that makes the fish tank safe for all fish and livestock that will occupy your tank.

All live fish and livestock produces ammonia by simply breathing (osmosis) and by toileting in the water.

First thing to be aware of is that this Ammonia is toxic to all live stock and if in high enough numbers it will ultimately lead to their death fairly fast.

The fishless cycle is a method of producing certain beneficial bacteria that will help deal with this ammonia by converting this ammonia into something called nitrite which as it happens is also toxic but to a lesser degree.

And then once ammonia bacteria is established we then need to produce a second type of beneficial bacteria that will deal with this nitrite into something called nitrate.

Again nitrate is also toxic to a certain degree but to a much lesser degree and this nitrate can be dealt with by doing weekly water changes.

All these bacterias will live on all the surface of your fish tank, plants, substrate, glass etc etc but a lot of these beneficial bacteria will actually live inside the filter itself where there is a good flow of ‘food’ (mainly ammonia from livestock) for them to deal with the ammonia and then produces the much less dangerous nitrate and thus therein lies the ‘cycle’ process in a nutshell.

The only way of knowing for certain how much ammonia, nitrite and nitrate that may be present in your fish tank water is by doing a series of water tests which is readily available from LFS (Local Fish Stores) or simple purchasing a test kit online.

A recommended testing kit is API Freshwater test kit which is good value and tests are fairly accurate if tests are carried out correctly. I use this API test kit brand personally (I tend to avoid the cheaper dip test kits which can be inaccurate imho)

One member has already posted a link for this fishless article, which is very good and at first it may seem overwhelming and is a lot of information to take in but once you start learning it becomes easier as you go along.

One step at a time and ask all the questions you like, no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to this hobby so please ask away.

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