Fish Tank Help

I have a 30 gallon fresh water fish tank, with a tetra filter and air supply i want to put a combination of Zebra Danois, Cherry Barbs, Kuhli Loaches, and Platies just want some input about care and set up. I have been running the tank empty for 4 days now and testing for Nitrate and Nitrite are both 0, but ph is around 8.4, alkalinity high around 300 ppm, very hard water as well. I put Jungle Start Right in the tank. I am some what of a beginner, I have had gold fish and guppies in a 10 gallon tank before.

What kind of help do you need? You won’t have any nitrite or nitrate in the tank because there aren’t any fish in it. Those come from the break down of waste. 30 gallons isn’t a huge tank, but freshwater fish can survive in pretty densely populated tanks. You can get additives to lower the pH. You’ll need a gravel vacuum cleaner, it’s just a hose and some pipe, and a couple of 5 gallon buckets. You use the vacuum cleaner on the gravel, draining water for frequent water changes into one of the buckets. The other bucket should already be filled with fresh water which has been sitting for at least a day to let the chlorine and ammonia to escape. To be safe, use the conditioner also. Put a rock or something in the bottom bucket if you nest the two together to keep them from getting stuck to each other. For a small tank I’d suggest plastic plants to give the fish some hiding spots and privacy.

That’s going to be a really full tank. You should keep a bare minimum of 5 danios and 5 barbs each. Both are schooling fish and will be pretty unhappy with less than that. Ideally I would recommend a few more of each… but not in a tank that small. And while not schooling the platys and loaches will be happier if there are 3 or more of each of them too. I would probably drop at least one set of fish. You are really looking at more like a 40 gallon tank to hold the fish you want. If you have a really good filter (what is the GPH rating on your filter?), and are willing to do aggressive water changes (50% twice a week indefinitely) you might be able to keep that many. But I would reduce your fish by a quarter.

And the ones I would drop is the loaches. Your PH is simply too high. The others will all do ok. None of them will be happy with it, but they should be ok. But your loaches aren’t going to make it in a highly alkaline water like yours. So 5 zebra danios, 5 cherry barbs, and 3 platys is about right for your tank.

When you add fish add them in as small of groups as you can get away with. 2-3 at a time would be ideal… except you should probably do the schoolers in groups of five. Then give the tank a week or two to adjust to the new stocking level, before you add any new fish. And plan on frequent water changes (say 10 gallons every few days) until the tank is fully stocked and has been for a couple of weeks.

You have to let the good bacteria build up and patience is a virtue there. Check ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate daily. You should see each one do a little spike in turn. Once you can keep all three as non-measureable with only a single water change per week, you will be done. Cycling a new tank usually takes about six weeks or so. So you should expect to take at least that long before you are fully stocked.

The nitrogen cycle takes roughly 30 days to stabilize. Look up some aquarium or fish-keeping sites on the 'Net and read up on the nitrogen cycle (it would be re-inventing the wheel for me to try and type it out in this thread); there are supposedly ways to get the cycle underway without putting any fish in peril, then add the fish afterwards.

You could do what I do, which is buy a 5 or so of the cheapest fish, which usually tend to be the hardiest, and add them to the tank and see how it goes.

Add the rest over the next few weeks as long as everything seems ok.

I try to do regular water changes, but I’m not nearly as consistent about it as recommended. My fish seem to survive… though I did have one bad water quality crash (after a water change) that killed all five of my rainbows and had the rest of the fish gasping for air on the surface.

I haven’t kept fish for a long time, and even longer for freshwater fish, but I’ll express my doubts that the nitrogen cycle can ever be stabilized in a 30 gallon tank with a Tetra filter with anything but frequent water changes.

The nitrate and nitrite will rise as soon as ammonia from fish food and fish waste are broken down. You will see a bacterial bloom making you tank look cloudy. This is normal, but you want to make sure you ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels don’t become toxic. Do a 10% water change every day until your cycle is over. Some live plants such as water wisteria, which can grow in regular aquarium gravel and feed on the ammonia. If any waste product does reach dangerous levels, do a 50% water change. It would have been to have done a fishless cycle instead.

Don’t change the filter pad. If you do, you’ll disrupt your aquarium nitrogen cycle. If it’s dirty, just wipe off any dirt/crude in the aquarium water you just drain during the water change. Don’t rinse and squeeze it like a sponge. Also, use the same water, never fresh water, to prime the filter if you have to restart it.

Also, if you keep them, buy a cave decoration for your kuhli loaches as they are nocturnal and need a place to hide. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see them for days, if not weeks.

When I kept aquaria I kept them heavily planted and lightly stocked. Keeping plants thriving requires another level of knowledge than fish keeping (google aquascaping), but I did it long before the internet (we had an international mimeographed newsletter!) and most of my set up was scavenged/home made.

The advantages of that system is that your fish will show colors and breeding behaviors they will never show in a typical overstocked box of water. It’s far prettier. Water changes for me: 15 to 20% every couple weeks. The whole thing is alive.

I recommend it. 30 gallon is a minimal size. My 150 was so cool. The 1989 California earthquake broke all my tanks and my heart, I never really got back into it.

Thanks guys for the tips, but I think I’m going to get 2 angels, and three Hatchets. I’ll look into the nitrogen cycle a little more but I don’t think I want live plants. Is there any particular place to put a heater?