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Category: Tropical

Author: Ants (7:15 pm)
Saturday, the water has cleared up nicely and my ammonia plus syringes have arrived. Yay, I can start cycling my tank. I'm following the excellent guide here:


I chose the ammonia version as the "fish food" method seems too risky, how much food and when to add it seem like an accident waiting to happen and I've read a couple of forum posts involving this method which don't look like they have been particularly successful!

A test of my water parameters gives me Ammonia (NH4), Nitrite (NO2), and Nitrate (NO3) readings of ZERO with a PH of around 7.4.

To cycle the tank I should be aiming to have 3ppm of ammonia in my tank at the start of each day, this should get converted to nitrites and finally to nitrates by the filter bacteria. Once the tank is capable of converting 3ppm of ammonia into nitrate each day the tank is cycled and ready for fish. (The tank readings should be zero ammonia and zero nitrites 24hrs after adding 3ppm ammonia to the system)

Using the handy calculator at the bottom of the guide I calculate that to add 3ppm ammonia to my tank I have to add 1.5ml, this works out as 0.5ml is roughly 1pmm a nice easy calculation.

|_Day_|_Ammonia_______________|_Nitrite_|_Nitrate_| Notes
|__1__|_0 -> add 1.5ml (3ppm) ______|___0___|___0___| Add Carbon to filter
|__2__|_2 -> add 0.5ml (1ppm) ______|___0___|___0___| Added air pump/air stone
|__3__|_2 -> add 0.5ml (1ppm) ______|___0___|___0___|
|__4__|_2 -> add 0.5ml (1ppm) ______|___1___|___5___| Nitrites and Nitrates first appear in tank
|__5__|_1 -> add 1.0ml (2ppm) ______|___2___|___5___| Replanted a plant disloged by airline.
|__6__|_0.25 -> add 1.3ml (1.75ppm)__|___5___|__10___| Snails start appearing in the tank
|__7__|_0 -> add 1.5ml (3ppm)______|___5___|__20___| ammonia -> nitrite cycle is established?
|__8__|_0 -> add 1.5ml (3ppm)______|___5___|__20___| 15Liter (approx 30%) water change
|__9__|_0 -> add 1.5ml (3ppm)______|___5___| no test |
|_10__|_0 -> add 1.5ml (3ppm)______|___2___|__20___| 10Liter (20%) water change
|_11__|_0 -> add 1.5ml (3ppm)______|___0___|__10___|
|_12__|_0 -> add 1.5ml (3ppm)______|___0___|__20___| Nitrite -> Nitratre cycle established?
|_13__|_0 -> add 1.5ml (3ppm)______|___0___|__20___| 10Liter (20%) water change
|_14__|_0 -> add 1.5ml (3ppm)______|___0___|__40___|
|_15__|_0 -> add 1.5ml (3ppm)______|___0___|__40___| approx 70% water change
|_16__|_0 -> STOP ADDING!_______|___0___|___5___| FISH IN!

So it took me 2 weeks to cycle the tank, looks like some of the old filter bacteria survived. From a standing start this process should/could take 4 to 6 weeks. If you know someone who keeps fish you may be able to get some used filter media and tank water from them to achieve the same result.

A bag of carbon was added to the filter because the wood was turning the water brown. This is a natural process as the wood leaches tannins into the water which can last for months and I didn't fancy boiling the wood for several hours as some people suggest! Whilst not harmful to the fish (some species may even find it beneficial) it can look unsightly, the carbon will remove some of this (and other unwanted toxins) from the water. That's now almost due to be removed as it apparently loses it's effectiveness after 5-6 weeks and can even start leaching any toxins it's collected back into the water.

The air pump/air stone were added because I was getting a film over the surface of the tank, which could indicate inadequate surface movement and low oxygen exchange. I later changed the pump which had become noisy and fitted a spray bar which also increases surface agitation. In a planted tank the plants will produce oxygen, BUT this only happens whilst the lights are on, in the dark the plants will also use oxygen (and give out carbon dioxide) so an air pump may be required to stop O2 levels dropping too low in the night. This is on 24/7 at the moment, but I'm wondering if it might be better to add a timer and only have this on when the lights are off? (comments are welcome below)

Part way through the process I started noticing "brown dust" appearing on some of the plants. At first I thought this might be something falling into the tank, but an online search revealed that this was brown diatoms (a type of algae) which are absorbing silicates in the tank (from the substrate etc.). This is apparently quite common in newly cycled tanks, and should eventually settle by itself. It can be "wafted off" plants by moving the water around them or removed by vacuuming them when doing water changes.

Once the tank is cycled it is important to keep topping up the ammonia until fish are added to keep the cycle going. You should add the last ammonia 12 to 24 hours before putting fish in, and check ammonia and nitrites are both ZERO with low nitates before going to the local fish shop.

The series of water changes in the final few days was done to remove/dilute the nitrates in the tank, ultimately I had to do a big (approx. 70%) change to get it down to a low starting level. This will hopefully be maintained with smaller weekly changes of around 20% once fish are in the tank.

I hope someone is finding this blog interesting (or helpful). Comments are welcome below.

Next time: The plants.
Category: Tropical

Author: Ants (8:04 pm)
Most of the stuff i've ordered from the internet gradually trickles in through the post during the week, and on friday I get home to find my plants have arrived. I'd better get cracking!

The first thing I need to do is drain all the dirty water from the tank. First beginners mistake of the day... forgetting to unplug the pump and heater first! I quickly unplug them, and decide to leave the rest of the water in my filter area alone, snails or no snails.

The next job is to remove the old substrate, which are white pebbles, which I hate. Removing these from the tank reveals several small medium sized snails, and a handful of worms which I believe are Planeria? I suspect eggs etc. will be throughout the filter system, but I decide to risk it, I do however pour a little boiling water into the bottom of the tank area to try and sterilise that. Voila, one empty tank.

Next up is the substrate. I have 9kg of Eco-complete, this turns out to be about the right amount for my tank. I build this up towards the back of the tank.

Next to go back in the tank is the wood that's been soaking in there for the last week. I pour severeal kettles full of boiling water over it to get rid of any nasties that may have been on there and try to find a pleasing position for it in the tank. It turns out to be a little too wide for the tank in the orientation I like so it's off the the back garden with the wood and a hammer. That's much better, it sits quite nicely in the orientation I want and I dig it into the substrate a little until it feels solid/stable.

Next it's time for the plants to start going in. I've ordered an Anubias, this I know doesn't go in the substrate but gets attached to/grows on the wood. Luckily there are a couple of conventient crevices in the wood which this sits in quite nicely. The rest of the plants were an eBay special where the seller was offering a random selection of any excess stock he had left over by the end of the week, and way more plants have arrived than I need... I could probably plant two tanks!!! I have no idea what any of them are, so I select the ones that I think might look best and guess on how to plant them

Once everything is in place it's time to add some treated water back into the tank and switch everything back on.

The only thing that hasn't arrived so far is the Ammonia, fingers crossed that comes tommorrow so I can start cycling the tank. The water in the tank sould have cleared up by then as well.

Next time: On yer bike! (Tank cycling)
Category: Tropical

Author: Ants (8:10 pm)
So far the tank is filled with the old dirty substrate, some new driftwood and treated water whilst I wait for my other stuff to arrive. Hopefully some of the filter bacteria will survive and allow me to cycle the tank a little quicker.

On tuesday I get home to a bit of a surprise when I turn the light on... Snails!!!! They appear to be the common ramshorn snails I think i've seen in every tank in existence, and they are all fairly small. On thursday though I get an even bigger surprise, literally. As I make my way downstairs in the morning I notice a new "guest" in my tank... a whopping great snail with a conical shell that's almost an inch long! Horrified I manage to pull it out of the tank and decide to feed it to the birds, not what you need at 7am. The local wildlife obviously apprciates it because the shell is empty by the time I get home with a neatly drilled hole in the shell.

In hindsight I should probably have taken photos and got the beastie identified in case it was a beneficial snail rather than a pest.

This of course leaves me with a dilemma as I realise at this stage that even if I remove the existing substrate (bright white pebbles) there are likely to be snails/eggs throughout the filter system, and quite possibly on the wood as it's now been in there for almost a week. This means I'm going to have to sterilise the filter media etc. and start from scratch, or risk it and hope it isn't a problem down the line.

Next time: New tank setup.
Category: Tropical

Author: Ants (8:07 pm)
OK, the tank is "up and running" in the corner of the room with a load of dirty substratre, and the water's going a lovely shade of "builders Tea" thanks to the chunk of aquarium wood I bought. I'd better come up with a plan and start ordering the stuff I need.

My trip to the range yesterday when I picked up the tank already added to my start up cost:

Water conditioner/Interpet starter kit £7
Wood £15
Gravel cleaner £4

Spotted "The 101 Best Freshwater Nano Species" book mentioned in another online artice I was reading and ordered a copy via Amazon for £9 http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0982026250?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00

Half the clips on my aquarium lid are broken, ordered some different ones from Amazon because they look more sturdy, they work great BTW £7 http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00ARAUG84?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o07_s00

Having read this excellent artice on fishless cycling http://www.fishkeeping.co.uk/articles_51/fishless-cycling-article.htm
I'm going to need some ammonia and shyringes £5

Next it's off to eBay... Stick on thermometer £1 (incredibly it works and seems fairly accurate!)
API Master Test KIt £22 (better than the £35 Pets@Home want!!!)
LIve Aquarium plants £6 + £13 (ordered those Weds so they would arrive Fri/Sat)

Found out the heater was inadequate for my need, replacement one is £21
Decided to use the same substrate as Pectek (Bio complete) £26

During the next couple of weeks I also add and air-pump £25
Aquarium scissors/Tweezers £14
LED Light £22
Bag of carbon £5

Thats got me up to about £250 so far, maybe this fiskeeping lark isn't as low cost as I thought! Oh well nothing I can do for now until everything hopefully arrives in the post.

Next time: Snails!!!
Category: Tropical

Author: Ants (9:25 pm)
Having bought my AquaNano 40 tank for £55 from eBay, the tank came "complete" with the light, pump, heater, filter media etc so it seemed like a good deal at the time at less than half the recommended retail price. However I then encountered a few unexpected costs along the way....

The heater clearly wasn't the one supplied with the tank and had no temperature adjustment. The previous owner had been using it for Goldfish, and whilst the heater might have been adequate for maintaing a steady temperature in the tank it certainly wasn't upto scratch for my plans as I want to keep tropical fish. I chose a 75W Eheim one... add £21.

New AquaNano 40 setups come with a modern LED light, mines clearly an older model and came with a flurecent tube. Now there's nothing wrong with that, but the tube was clearly past its best because it was starting to go black at the ends, a sure sign it's about to fail. Factor in the fact that most manufaturers recommend replacing the tube every 6 months, even if it is still working, because the tubes light output will drop and the spectrum will change which wont be good for growing plants. A replacement tube is going to run around £15, luckily for me I find a new LED light from someone who's bought the same tank but plans to keep marine and isn't going to be using it. I manage to win the eBay auction and this keeps the cost down to £22, much better than the £40 I can find it for elsewhere.

The pump although working is quite noisey, which the owner did mention on collection, It's not unbearable but it can get annoying. The pump accessories (spray bar etc.) are also missing. Even on it's lowest setting it creates quite a torrent and although my fish don't seem too bothered by it (yes I have got some in the tank now) I suspect they will be happier without the noise and with a spray bar fitted. Add another £26, hopefully that will arrive by weekend and be fitted when I do a partial water change.

so to sum up my "bargain" £55 tank has actually ended up costing me more like £128!!! What makes it worse I was in my local pets at home at the weekend looking for something else and they have brand new ones on offer for for £120

So should you venture down the used tank route?

If your after a larger more expensive tank then you might just grab yourself a bargain, but at this end of the price range (say sub £150 when new) then unless your sure the tank is absolutely "complete" and everything is in full working order then it might not be worth the trouble or the added expense.
Category: Tropical

Author: Ants (7:57 pm)
OK having decided to have a go at fishkeeping, and being inspired by Pecktec's excellent youtube reviews/tutorials which you can find here:
I go for a look at the fluval edge tanks at my local pets at home one evening. I decide that the 23 Litre tank is waaay to small, and the 46 Litre tank is perhaps a little too pricey and might be difficult to maintain because of the small access area (even for my tiny hands). Nothing else really grabs my attention.

A further scour round the internet throws up the AquaNano 40 tank by Aqua One, this looks like it will be much better and I like the idea of the filter area/sump which is the entire back section of the tank. Unfortunately it's quite a bit more than the Fluvals so I decide to have a think about it for a few days.

Bored one saturday lunchtime I have a look on eBay to see if I can find anyhing. There's a used AquaNano 40 within 20 minutes drive of my location ending in an hour.... 1 hour later I've bought a used tank for £55.

Pickup was on Sunday lunchtime, I'm glad I ddn't go the whole hog and buy a 125 Litre plus tank as it only just fits in my car (one of the drawbacks of driving an MX-5!). The tank has been emptied of water, but all the gravel and filter media is in there, and it's still wet/damp. I wonder if I can keep the filter cycle going by filling the tank up straight away? A quick stop off on the way home for some tap water conditioner, and some decorative wood which I spotted) and the tanks filled up and running.

Now to decide what to do with it long term.

Next time: Is a second hand tank worth the bother?
Category: Tropical

Author: Ants (8:54 pm)
A colleage at work recently asked me if I new anything about fishkeeping because he was considering having a go. I did keep fish with my dad about 33 years ago, and also considered having another go about 12 years back so did a lot of reading up at that time but was eventually put off by the high costs involved.

Roll on to 2015 and my how things have changed! The advent of Nano tanks has brought the entry level costs down considerably and the tech involved and level of information available seems different from even a dozen or so years ago. This caught my attention and I started considering getting a tank myself and wondering what might be possible..... Many hours of reading articles and forum posts, and the ever useful youtube videos later I was hooked, I had to have a go.

Tune in next time to find out what tank I get.

Oh and by the way my colleage never did end up getting a tank, or any fish :P
Category: Tropical

Author: fishy100 (4:10 am)
I want to share some of my long experience in breeding mollies.

It all started at the age of 8 when I got my first fish tank. This was after a weekend at my grandfather’s house where i saw how he collected the newly born black short fins fry to a breeding box. Since then I maintain most of the time at least one fish tank. I think I tried every known tropical fish there is to get.

Now days I have 4-6 tanks in my home. breeding guppies, swordtails, platys, angelfish and mainly mollies. most of the born fry are given away for free to friends and family.

My method is very simple, I always have between 5-8 females, all mollies kind (balloon ,black, sailfin, ...)

I keep record after each female gave birth: when, what is the temp, how many fry, ... This helps me determined when will be the next drop.

when the time is near and a female is about to give birth, I move her to my “breeding tank”.

It is a 10 gallon tank with thick plants and many rocks which provide a lot of hiding places for the fry to hide.

This tank has the same temp and water quality as the main tank. when the female has been moved, I let her to explore the new tank for a few minutes and then i shut off the lights.

usually in the next morning i get to see a new batch of fry.....

some helpfull videos can be found: 
Category: Tropical

Author: gemmagem (6:52 pm)
So for having my first tank for about two weeks, my glowlights have laid eggs and they have hatched. 120 ltr tank with plastic plants three tall and three bushes, with stones and other ornaments, and a sand substrate.

I managed to save the four that i have found. but one is much darker than the others im thinking this one is a guppy, (as I have them in the same tank).

the LFS was surprised that i have glowlights fry when i went to get some food for them.

Now just waiting to hope i managed to save more and the fry i have grow up nice and healthy. I have read that once they are over 1 cm long they can come out of the nursery.

How does it sound so far....
Category: Tropical

Author: Ruruo (10:37 pm)

Overall I learned so much while preparing this soil tank. The soil part was the most troublesome, because there are also so many great ways of getting it done, but nothing very definitive. This is my humble take at it:

The first thing to decide was the kind of soil I wanted to use for the substrate. From researching online, the most mentioned tried soils that worked were:

Miracle-Gro Organic Potting-Mix
John Innes No2/No3
Mineralised Topsoil

I decided against Miracle-Gro for two reasons:
1. Impossible to find. It's possible to import from overseas, it's quite expensive because of weight.
2. There's many cases, I've read, of people from people who used Miracle-Gro and found the soil to be too rich. If it's added straight into the tank without mineralizing, it will take awhile for the soil to decompose and settle while in the water. There is also an increased risk of the subtrate becoming aenrobic because of gases from decomposing.

(Quick note about mineralizing: from what I can gather, mineralizing soil is the repeated process of wetting and drying the soil to allow organic matter (such as chicken manure) in soil decompose into nutrients. It would need to be repeated 4 -5 times. When I was thinking of making this subtrate, I didn't want something that depended on this process, because it summer ended in the U.K, and nothing will dry.

I almost used John Innes No3, but didn't:
1. The soil has a high peat content (about 50%). Peat is acidic, and I've got hard water. Although it sounds good I didn't want to risk messing with the natural water chemistry (my fish and shimp has done well with the local hard water; no point fixing something that isn't broken).
2. It suffers from the same richness problem as Organic Potting mix. Some articles from aquarist planters have suggested to switch No2 instead of No3 because it is less rich and works better.

Using Topsoil:
In the end, I choose Wicks basic topsoil. There's a pretty cool hobbyist on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN9CC2QoIDs) who used topsoil. I came to this decision thanks to the the video and from articles I've read while researching**. From the back of the pack it seems pretty good: sterilized, and chemical-free which is a must for soil going into the tank (there's even a little caution to keep it away from chemicals and fertilizers). After bringing it back home I performed the jar test* on it, and found that a good precentage of the soil was silt, which I think is very good because a lot of riverbeds are known to be made of silt.

I spent just over a week washing, removing floating organic matter, colloidal clay and airing the soil getting it as dry as possible. It was quite fortunate that there was showers during the week, I think it helped soil mineralized a bit. When it got dry enough, I mashed it through a sieve to get larger bits and rock out.

[b[Eventually when I put the soil into the tank: [/b]
1. I considered adding Potash and Dolomite to provide extra fertilization as recommended by some articles, but also read that it wasn't necessary because hard water already contained a minerals that that is provided by those two fertilizers. The way I see it: the less chemicals the better. Anything that I don't have to add I'll not add.

2. I didn't add sphagum peat moss as it seemed to be impossible to find. I would recommend adding it, because almost every article I've read about soil set ups mentions it.

3. Was unsure about how trustworthy craft clay was. It seemed a lot of airdrying clay isn't 100% clay. The only two brands I think may work is DAS Terracotta, or the Hobbycraft basic terracotta clay, neither had a label for 100% pure clay. DAS Terracotta had mixed reviews, and Hobycraft is untried So instead, I used cat litter by SaniCat. The litter is made from 100% red molar clay, which is great. The downside is that it's scented and I had to soak an wash it for two weeks to be be confident that the scent is washed away.

If using cat litter, be sure to find one that is made from 100% clay, is non-clumping and if it's scented wash the heck out of it. Clumping litter will turn into gunk, and cat litter clay will also melt into gunk in water.

*The Soil Jar Test:
Get a timer. Get a jar with a lid.
Half fill the jar with the soil you want to use.
Add a dash of washing detergent.
Shake the heck out of that mixture.

Start the timer:
30 sec: sand
2 min: Silt
2 hours: clay
Over night/24 hours: If the water is clear, and possibly slightly tinted, no worries, it's froml organic matter, and doesn't do any harm.
If the water isn't clear then there is colloidal clay, which is tiny tiny clay particles suspended in the water via the Brownian effect, which is very bad. If there's a lot, then either be prepared to wash the water a lot or use another soil source.

I was quite fortunate that, although the Wick's soil had a lot of colloidal clay, I was able to wash it away until it was clear.

** internet bookmarks:
can post more if necessary. Many articles had reoccuring suggestions on soil:

Chemical free and steralized soil.
Red clay (good CEC - nutrition retention, and a source of iron for plants)
Sphagum peat moss (good CEC, decays to nutriets)
Potash and Dolomite - potash is needed for potassium, dolomite is a type of limestone.




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