Starting an Aquarium

Discussion in 'General Freshwater Aquarium Keeping' started by JesseVoss, Jun 4, 2018.

  1. JesseVoss

    JesseVoss New Member


    So while the C&CF guys talk about cooling their rigs with fish tanks all the time, my searches for a thread about starting my own small freshwater tank have been fruitless. "Can't find a thread? Start one!!" Right? So here goes:I've read a lot of the material on Freshwater Aquariums and a couple other places, but I am loath to believe all I read on the 'net. So, with that in mind, for all those who have done this before, what should I know? My wife wants to get the kids fish for Christmas and I want to do it right. We've been through the "betta in a bowl" scenario with nieces/nephews, but I'd like to get something a little more elaborate. From what I have read it seems I ought to start with a 20 gallon or so tank purchased in a kit with the hood/light/filter/sundries. Smaller tanks seem to be frowned upon because of start up troubles involving water chemistry, filter bacteria growth time, etc. This undertaking seems expensive enough that I would really hate to get it wrong from the get-go. I don't want to be one of those people who puts a tank on their front lawn with a sign saying "please take me!" after experiencing epidemics among my water dwelling friends.So what do you experienced fishy people recommend as far as hardware (tank, etc.) and software (fishies) for a complete n00b who is enthusiastic yet clueless?

    Please help.

    I did not find the right solution from the internet.

    Motion graphics animation studio

  2. Megan

    Megan Advisory Board Staff Member


    I'd actually go bigger than a 20 if you can, although it is better than a ten. If you need to stick to a twenty you need to decide between a 20 long and a twenty high. Longs are nice for corydoras which are fun little fish to watch as they travel in groups of 6 or more and play with each other. A twenty high could house one pair of angelfish as they need more vertical space.

    If you start from scratch you need to cycle the tank which you can do with or without fish, but it is very stressful on fish to use them that way. People generally use inexpensive fish they later get rid of to do this. If you have a filter with established beneficial bacteria, you can add the fish you want right away. I'd be happy to give you a sponge filter that already has the good bacteria in it to start you out.

    I'd use sand for your substrate instead of gravel because you can vacuum the waste off the surface. With gravel the wastes get lodged between the chunks of gravel and are harder to get at.

    Use a declorinator to treat your tap water- I like Seachem Prime can order from

    Don't add a ton of fish at once unless you decide on a group of cories because you can overwhelm the good bacteria.

    As far as water changes go, I change between 20-50% of my water weekly. Getting a python to do water changes is a good idea. You will need to go to Home Depot or Menards to get a metal adapter to screw into your nearest faucet to attach the python. You could also just use a length of clear plastic tubing to siphon water into a 5 gallon bucket with a tank as small as a 20g. Cheaper, but you risk swallowing dirty water.

    I'm sure I'll think of more advice to add and others will chime in as well.
  3. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    As the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat, the same goes for aquariums. Bigger is often better but it really depends on the type of fish you want in your aquarium. My suggestion would be to go to one of the local fish stores (often abbreviated lfs) and look through the tanks. Here in Madison one of the better options is Living Art on Gammon Rd. Note some fish that you like and may want to keep. Ask questions while you are there and feel free to ask them here as well. You may pick fish that need a larger aquarium or a smaller one, then determine if the level of care required for those fish will work for your desired level of commitment. Most fish are fairly easy to keep with a few basic principles but there are some that are much more demanding.

    As far as Megan's advice, everyone does things slightly differently so I will give you my perspective-
    Starting with a cycled sponge filter is the best way to get your beneficial bacteria going, you would be well served to take Megan up on that offer.
    Sand substrate is not always best, I think its easier to clean gravel becuse it doesn't get sucked up when you siphon like sand will but you can clean it by gravel vacuuming. However many bottom dwelling fish prefer sand substrates.
    Dechlorinator is useful if needed, if you have a water softener you may not need it, I personally don't use one most of the time. However, it rarely does any harm so go ahead and use it, chlorine is very harmful but dissapates within 24 hours
    The size of your tank will determine how many fish you can safely add, that cycled sponge will help protect against adding too many fish at once to some extent, schooling fish are often best added as a whole school.
    For water changes, a python is indispensible, worth every penny. It makes water changes less of a chore and you will be more willing to do them.
    Learn about the nitrogen cycle, understanding how it works in an aquarium will help you understand the need for tank maintenance.
  4. waterboy

    waterboy Active Member

    I think this is the best advice for a beginner. Understand how the nitrogen cycle works and you are 75% of the way. Without this knowledge it is very difficult to keep fish. Fish in cycling takes a LOT of water changes. Whereas fishless cycling (with ammonia) requires a test kit and LOTS of patience. A test kit is probably the first (of many) investment you should make. While cycling the tank, check out fish forums and research what type of fish you would like to keep. People on the forums are a great source of information.

    Big fish small fish, sand gravel or rocks, plants or not, are all personal choices and everyone has a different opinion. Start out slow and easy. One great thing to have with any fish keeping endeavor is lots of patience.
    Aqua-b and Sean S like this.
  5. Tom

    Tom Active Member

    I agree with Dale (Waterboy) When I first started in this hobby I had ZERO patience. One of The Very Many things Dale taught me was PATIENCE
    PATIENCE, PATIENCE. Guess what? It works. With Patience good things will happen in your fish room.
  6. terry

    terry Member

    I bought a kit once and found the filtration inadequate, the plastic cover unappealing and the lighting nonconducive for plant growth.
  7. Megan

    Megan Advisory Board Staff Member

    I agree with Terry. I'd buy a tank, a glass lid, a sponge filter (which I have offered to give you) and a good LED light. In the long run you will be happier.
    Tom likes this.
  8. followyourshadow

    followyourshadow Advisory Board Staff Member

    Often times peole will bring their spare tanks, lights, filters, etc. to our monthly meetings and put them in the auction. And of course there's always lots of fish and other tank items.

    We have a meeting this Saturday!
  9. Megan

    Megan Advisory Board Staff Member

    I had a doctor appt yesterday and the nutritionist has a tank she'd like to sell. It's a 55g so most hobbyists wouldn't want it so it should sell inexpensively. Has lids and lights and stand. A very nice stand. I told her she could prob expect $125 for the setup. Let me know if you interested.
  10. Megan

    Megan Advisory Board Staff Member

    Its brand new, btw
  11. fishlady

    fishlady Well-Known Member

    Hi, I'm pat and I live in Jefferson. If this is your first aquarium and your not sure what to get or how to start. I have a set up here I am not using that you can have. Depending on where you live I might be able to deliver and set up for you and try my best to explain how it all works. The set up is a 30 xh (extra high) or if you prefer I could also change that out for a standard 20 h (high). Just let me know.
    Aqua-b, SteveS and terry like this.
  12. Aqua-b

    Aqua-b New Member

    I agree with all the posts here and thank you for asking. There is a lot of great advice. Many times I go into pet stores and seeing people pick out “feeder goldfish” and want to put them in a bowl. Even when they are told that they need a much bigger tank and a cycle, they only have the wanting of the fish on their minds. It’s temptimg to want a fish right now, but for the fish’s well being, it is imperative that you cycle first. I myself have watched a lot of videos on YouTube, filtering through what i find useful or not. I do a lot of DIY because you’ll find that commercial products are not always the best and they will charge you an arm and a leg. Take people up on the offer of seeded media, I start up my tanks with a well established lava rocks or scrubbies all the time. Best to start slow on the fish, don’t toss a bunch in at a time. Do a little more research. I started out by watching videos by DIY Joey, aquapros, and others on YouTube and most of all have fun. The longer you have your tank running, the less maintenance you’ll need. Once you’re comfortable, it’ll be a piece of cake. Good luck and happy fishkeeping. Oh, and I second Sean, living art is my favorite fish store by far in Madison. And like water boy said, understanding the nitrogen cycle is huge. It’s the difference between life and death with your fishies
  13. Aqua-b

    Aqua-b New Member

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