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Stocking My 20gal Freshwater Tank!

meamea568

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Hey all, new member and beginner fishkeeper here!

So I'm planning on getting my very first tank soon and wanted some suggestions. I consider myself fairly new to fishkeeping, and the only real experience I have is caring for my sister's male betta and two comet goldfish. However, I have been doing a lot of research, and I understand the cycling process/nitrogen cycle pretty well.

I'm looking at a 20 gallon freshwater tropical tank with the dimensions of 24"L x 12"W x 20"H. How would you recommend I stock it? I would like to have a community tank with several different types of fish, but I'm unsure of which fish are compatible, their effect on the bioload, space in the tank, etc. If it helps at all, I'd really like a dwarf gourami or maybe a few swordtails.

Any advice and suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much! :)
 

BerryAttack

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rummy nose tetras are nice
neon tetras
powder blue gourami
platies
guppies
cories

i would recommend getting starter fish.. they are considered hardy fish and are great for beginners.. and i would not recommend getting any kind of goldfish if you are mixing it with other types of fish because of the water parameters.
 

eaglesaquarium

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Neons, dwarf gouramis and cories are generally not considered the hardiest fish, so they should be added after the tank has been up and running with fish for quite a while. The key is to get some hardy fish (once its cycled) and let them mature the tank, and add the less hardy varieties after a few months.

I'd suggest starting with a group of fish like bloodfin tetras or platies or swordtails, then adding the cories a month or two later, then finally the neons and then the gourami.


A quick piece of advice on live bearers (guppies, platies, swordtails, etc.).... stick to males only unless you like the idea of fry everywhere. ;-)
 
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meamea568

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Okay thanks so much both of you! I'll probably start with swordtails after I cycle the tank. Then for the cories, should I get pygmy cories because of their size? How many of each do you recommend I get, especially the schooling fishes?
 

eaglesaquarium

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Swords will be fine in small numbers. 3 males would be fine, I think. For the cories I'd go with either C. habrosus or C. panda, any smaller than that and you have an issue with them being too small. 6 c. habrosus or panda would work... Platies might work better than swords in terms of size. Platies are a little smaller than swordtails. They come in almost the exact color variations and can actually interbreed.

3 male swords or platies
6 salt and pepper cories or panda cories (personally, I like the pandas a lot, I've got 9 of them.)
6 neon tetra
1 dwarf gourami


That's a bit tight for a 20 gallon, but if you keep up with the water changes and have a very good filter, you should be fine. Just keep up with the water changes, and do slightly larger ones 35-50% weekly to keep the nitrates down.
 
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meamea568

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Now I'm worried about the bioload of the tank being too heavy, especially because this is my first tank and I don't want it to be too hard to take care of.

Are there any other fish with a lighter bioload that I could possibly switch out for the swordtails/platies?
 

eaglesaquarium

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Not really. The bioloads of each of these fish is going to be fairly similar. Honestly, doing a 35-50% water change is not much more work than doing a 25% water change. Feed them sparingly, and the nitrate levels will stay lower.

Remember the stocking list I laid out is going to take about 6 months to get to. You'll be easing into it. The swords will have a very small bioload in the beginning, and the cories won't change that much. These fish will get along nicely, and will make a spectacular display. I've kept all of these fish personally, and can tell you that they will all get along fine.

The swords/platies are the hardiest of these, and should be the first added to the tank.

Another option would be to cut out the neon tetras, and replace them with male endlers. They are smaller than fancy guppies, but are still quite spectacular in their colors as well. As livebearers also, you will want to have males only.

So, another option with a lighter bioload would be:

3 swords/platies
4-6 endlers
6 panda cories/salt and pepper cories
1 dwarf gourami

There is a myriad of options for a 20 gallon community tank. Livebearers generally aren't as picky about numbers as tetras and other schooling varieties. Honestly, I'd be comfortable with the list outlined above, or the first list. It isn't dramatically overstocked, and would actually be much more appropriate than most folks with that size tank. Many folks just jam as many fish in the tank as they see at the pet store, ignoring the fact that the pet store has a far more robust filtration system, and much more water volume than is visible to the customer.



I suppose the real question that I should have asked is about your water parameters. What is your tap water like? Hard/soft, acidic/alkaline?
 
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meamea568

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That sounds great! How often do you imagine I'd have to clean the tank?

My water is hard, and I can't remember whether it is acidic or alkaline. I'll have to test it.
 

eaglesaquarium

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Hard water is best for the liverbearers and less for neons or dwarf gourami.

Weekly is the standard. A quick gravel vac and water change, plus algae removal, etc.
 

BerryAttack

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oh for panda cories they are very sensitive to water stats and are finicky. soo if you do get them make sure your aquarium is very stable and not over crowded etc etc.
 
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meamea568

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After asking around on several different sites, I've decided to take out the swordtails and neons and just get three dwarf gouramis (one male, two females) and then get eight panda cories. Just because this is my first tank, I'd rather understock it and then possibly add more fish later, maybe a smaller schooling fish like the neons.

My water testing kit is coming today, so I'll edit this post or post later when I test my water. Hopefully the pH isn't excessively high and it shouldn't be.
 

eaglesaquarium

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oh for panda cories they are very sensitive to water stats and are finicky. soo if you do get them make sure your aquarium is very stable and not over crowded etc etc.
I'm not the one to talk to about that. My pandas have been breeding (and surviving) at a pretty good clip in my tank without any extra steps being taken by me. 3 successful spawns in the last 6-9 months... 6 individuals have grown to full size now and I literally just saw another TINY little one about 30 minutes ago.
 

BerryAttack

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oh for panda cories they are very sensitive to water stats and are finicky. soo if you do get them make sure your aquarium is very stable and not over crowded etc etc.
I'm not the one to talk to about that. My pandas have been breeding (and surviving) at a pretty good clip in my tank without any extra steps being taken by me. 3 successful spawns in the last 6-9 months... 6 individuals have grown to full size now and I literally just saw another TINY little one about 30 minutes ago.
congrats on your success! always great to have the proper environment for your fish when they spawn. happy and healthy. means your doing something right :)
 

eaglesaquarium

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Thanks. Yeah, it took a while. I lost a few before this all started. I don't think my tank was "seasoned" or "mature" enough for them at first. It was fully cycled... but they didn't like something.

I spent $50 in panda cories to get up to a shoal of 10 (3 were donated to me from an old tank). Those died of old age, I believe, or they didn't fair well with the transfer. The 7 I bought, I lost 4. I was starting to look for other cory options. Then when I had just about given up on them, I saw one little one. Then another, then another. 3 in one spawn - and they are now adults and a few months later the same thing again! I'm about due for another trio... and I did see a tiny one a little less than a week ago. Haven't seen it since though. I'm pretty happy with them. They are more friendly than my other cories.
 

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My setup is doing well so far, but I may have it a bit overstocked... I have 2 albino corys, five black neon-type tetras, and three longfin leopard danios, one apple snail, a dwarf gourami, and a cherry shrimp. You could cut out 2 tetras for a bit smaller bioload, but I love the danios! They're purple and gold, and all the fish get along nicely.
 
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