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Old 05-08-2011, 03:18 PM   #1 
Alphafish
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Who's ready for an annoying 'help me' post?

So I need help with the set up of a 5 Gallon aquarium. Also more clear instructions about cycling the aquarium water.
I haven't had my tank set up yet, nor have I purchased any fish. I have read various information on this site and other sites about betta fish care. However, I'm still kind of confused. Once I have the tank *properly* set up I'll add the betta fish, and maybe later on I'll add a live plant and an Otocinclus Catfish(if I'm able to).
These are the things and supplies I already have: Hawkeye 5 gal Tank, which has a light and whisper power filter(link: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Hawkeye-5-...arium/14660258), a floating thermometer, net, plastic plant, some different kinds of food, and 'StonyRiver' gravel. Oh and the aquarium came with a sample of water conditioner.
This is what I'm planning and allowed to get: heater, a cave hiding place, maybe an oto
catfish and live plant later on.
Stuff I'm seemingly not allowed to have: water test kit...and other expensive things that I don't know about right now, because my Mom already bought me the tank and agreed about the heater, so understandably she doesn't want to spend 30+ dollars on a water test kit...
Some things I'm confused about is setting up the tank, testing the water parameters and this 'water cyle' thing. People have been saying that water test strips are inaccurate, but aren't they better than nothing? Of course I'll try to get a water test kit... I guess there isn't a way around that, because the kit is needed for the cycle and the health of the fish. I don't understand the alternative testing methods of water parameters, besides those strip things. What kind of equipment is that? Some kind of electronic device?

How frequent should water changes be for a 5 gallon tank and how much water should be added/removed? Should I have my aquarium running (empty of fish) for a month for the cycle process?
What heaters are good? Is a heater that requires no manual adjustment, a heater that already has a set temperature okay, if I have a thermometer to see if anything is wrong?
Sorry about the longish post, I probably have other questions but I can't remember them right now. I'll double check stickys and other posts to see if my questions are already answered

Last edited by Alphafish; 05-08-2011 at 03:24 PM.
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Old 05-08-2011, 04:34 PM   #2 
LolaQuigs
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I would not recommend any fish other than a betta in a five gallon. Ottos need to be in groups, so they need a larger tank.

Accurate testing is really important; I've never used the strips so I don't know how inaccurate they are, but I have definitely heard that they are. Until you can afford a liquid kit, you could take a sample of your water into the local fish store and ask them to test it for you.

What method are you going to use to cycle, fishless or fish-in? If you are doing a fishless cycle, don't make any water changes until the very end when the ammonia and nitrites both read 0 (this means your tank is cycled); your nitrates will be high though, and this is why you'll want to do a water change: to bring them down. If you are doing a fish-in cycle, knowing your parameters will help you determine when you need to make a water change. As a general rule of thumb, I usually do two 50% changes per week on my fish-in cycling 5 gallon, but testing the water will help you determine exactly when and how often.

I highly recommend an adjustable heater over a preset one. Preset ones are inaccurate and often don't work. I've wasted a lot of money on them, so I always try to discourage people from getting them. I use the 25 watt Hagen Elite on my 2.5 gallon and 5 gallon tanks, and it works beautifully. It's not tremendously expensive either, you can find brand new ones from a seller on amazon for around $10.00, not including shipping.
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Old 05-08-2011, 04:38 PM   #3 
Oldfishlady
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Welcome to the forum and to the wonderful world of Betta keeping...its a great hobby.......

Although I highly recommend test kit to test the water on a regular basis...you don't have to have one to cycle or keep fish successfully...the test kit does make it a bit easier and takes the guessing out of it...but a good test kit can cost some money......you can also take water to the pet shop to have it tested for Free if needed.....

True, the test strips are said to not be as accurate as the liquid reagent type...I have and use both types and found them to be pretty close or at least to get a ball-park idea.....the best water test kit....is you, the hobbyist from observation...watch the fish and any sign or change in behavior...make a 50% water only change using like temp dechlorinated water......thats usually what you will do after the water test too....water change with skewed readings....

Nitrogen cycle-you can safely cycle the tank with the Betta and without a test kit provided that you are willing and able to make the needed water changes to keep the fish safe.....

The beneficial bacteria that cycle the tank are sticky and adhere to everything inside the tank-on the walls, decorations, plants both live and fake, in the top layer of the substrate and in the filter media...very little are in the water column itself and so water only changes will not hurt or stall the cycling process...but over cleaning can.......

In a 5gal filtered tank with one Betta-during the cycling process (4-8wks) make twice weekly water changes...1-50% water only and 1-50% with substrate vacuuming and a water only change anytime you see a behavior change.

Once the nitrogen cycle has established...1-50% with vacuum weekly

Filter media-unless the water flow has slowed-you don't want to do anything with the filter media until the nitrogen cycle has established and then you only want to give it a swish/rinse in old tank water with a water change a couple of times a month

If you plan to use carbon (not needed) you will need to change the carbon per package directions usually every 3-4 weeks-if the filter media is the type that is both the sponge and carbon in one-cut the old sponge off and place in the filter box with the new media to seed it-otherwise you may have an ammonia spike...but I would still recommend that you make 1 extra water only change the week you change it out....

Carbon is not really needed...its more of a personal choice since a water change will do the same thing.....

If not using carbon-you only need to change the filter media when it is falling apart....2-3 times a year.....just rinse/swish in old tank water to get the big pieces of gunk off....you want the filter media to look dirty...this is good bacteria.....Its important that the filter runs 24/7-when turned off for more than 6hr the beneficial bacteria can die from lack of oxygen.....

Remember-to-wash hands before and after working on the tank, unplug both the heater and filter when making water changes and use like temp water with re-fills so not to cause temp shock problems and ALWAYS use dechlorinator with any new water added to the tank

In a 5gal tank....its not big enough for other fish and really too small for a proper school of Ottos anyway...shrimp, snail and live plants are all great tank mates for the small tanks...but be aware some Bettas may view shrimp and snail as food.....every Betta is different in their tolerance.....

Good luck and look forward to seeing pic once you get it all setup and get you new wet-pet......
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Old 05-08-2011, 04:53 PM   #4 
laughing
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alphafish View Post
So I need help with the set up of a 5 Gallon aquarium. Also more clear instructions about cycling the aquarium water.
I haven't had my tank set up yet, nor have I purchased any fish. I have read various information on this site and other sites about betta fish care. However, I'm still kind of confused. Once I have the tank *properly* set up I'll add the betta fish, and maybe later on I'll add a live plant and an Otocinclus Catfish(if I'm able to).
These are the things and supplies I already have: Hawkeye 5 gal Tank, which has a light and whisper power filter(link: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Hawkeye-5-...arium/14660258), a floating thermometer, net, plastic plant, some different kinds of food, and 'StonyRiver' gravel. Oh and the aquarium came with a sample of water conditioner.
This is what I'm planning and allowed to get: heater, a cave hiding place, maybe an oto
catfish and live plant later on.
Stuff I'm seemingly not allowed to have: water test kit...and other expensive things that I don't know about right now, because my Mom already bought me the tank and agreed about the heater, so understandably she doesn't want to spend 30+ dollars on a water test kit...
Some things I'm confused about is setting up the tank, testing the water parameters and this 'water cyle' thing. People have been saying that water test strips are inaccurate, but aren't they better than nothing? Of course I'll try to get a water test kit... I guess there isn't a way around that, because the kit is needed for the cycle and the health of the fish. I don't understand the alternative testing methods of water parameters, besides those strip things. What kind of equipment is that? Some kind of electronic device?

How frequent should water changes be for a 5 gallon tank and how much water should be added/removed? Should I have my aquarium running (empty of fish) for a month for the cycle process?
What heaters are good? Is a heater that requires no manual adjustment, a heater that already has a set temperature okay, if I have a thermometer to see if anything is wrong?
Sorry about the longish post, I probably have other questions but I can't remember them right now. I'll double check stickys and other posts to see if my questions are already answered
It's perfectly okay to not have a test kit right now. Most local pet stores (PetSmart, PetCo, etc.) do free water testing for you. Simply bring in a little baggy and they'll do it! Of course it's just your ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites usually but it's better than nothing.

To cycle a tank is SUPER easy. But for a 5 gallon you don't have to. Basically you add something that will cause ammonia (fish, fish food, etc.) and allow bacteria to grow for nitrates & nitrites to build up. So without the fish many people will add fish food or shrimp into the tanks for the bacteria growth. Then you clean the water and gravel but keep the filter media (the cartridge thing) and any decor left alone so the bacteria can spread again.

The reason people cycle a tank is because without this bacteria ammonia builds up and ammonia is toxic to fish. Of course, ammonia doesn't build up to deathly amounts over night in most tanks. If you would like to skip the cycling part just do a 50% water change every few days and a 100% weekly. Just test regularly to make sure your fish is okay!

Personally, I don't cycle because I have 2.5 gallon tanks. I have to clean the tank out before the bacteria can build up anyway!

A heater is great, but a lot of "preset" ones just keep making the water 5* warmer than what it is. So if your water is 85* it's still going to jack it up to 90*. That's why it's better to have one that you can adjust the temperature so they automatically turn off when it hits a certain temperature.

As for a hiding cave, be careful of sharp edges! Run your hands all over it (inside and out) and if it's even slightly pointy/painful do NOT buy. This will rip your poor fish's fins! Nearly anything can be a "hiding spot". Some people use terra cotta pots, mugs, PVC piping, just because it's cheap doesn't mean it's not effective!

For live plants; moss balls and anacharis are some of the simpliest plants you can own. My anacharis is wonderful and my fish LOVE hiding in them. They're a floating plant but can be tethered to the gravel. (Like mine is now.) The moss balls are extremely low maintanence and as long as they get light, they'll strive. Plus, anacharis sucks up ammonia like a fiend. I'd get a bunch! They're cheap, too. ($3 for a BUNCH.) That way you can cut back on water changes, especially if your tank is cycled!!

Bettas don't need a cluttered over-doen tank. My boy has a skull & anacharis. It's simple and bare, but the skull provides SO much hiding for him that's all he needs. The rest of the tank he happily swims around in. Keep that in mind; one safe & good hiding spot is better than a million cluttered spots!

Good luck with your fish!!
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Old 05-08-2011, 05:04 PM   #5 
PewPewPew
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If at all still confused about cycling, I can send you a pm that I send to members who need help, though it's fish-in cycling (since I know you havent bought one yet).
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Old 05-08-2011, 10:09 PM   #6 
Alphafish
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Thank you people, thank you~

Thanks everyone for replying and the advice, it’s very nice of you. I feel less nervous now.
@LolaQuigs: Yeah, I’ve read up on Otos and it was said there should be at least two in a tank, so I guess I shouldn’t get them for my 5 gallon tank. I’ll look for an adjustable heater(and that Hagen one in stores since I can’t use Amazon), I’m not sure where you put heaters within the tank though…I’ll figure it out. I think the instructions that came with my tank said something about heaters. The instructions also said something about 25 percent water changes once a week, and a lot of other people have been saying 50 percent once a week…?
About water cycles – I think I’ll try the fish-in cycle because it’s planned to get the fish on the 12th( and that’s in 4 days!), since my birthday is on the 14th.
@Oldfishlady: So, I should have 50 percent water changes twice weekly during the cycling process. Or 1-50% water changes…? How far apart should the water changes be(I'm confused)? What’s substrate vacuuming? I ‘vacuum’ the gravel? I sure do hope I’m vigilante enough to be ‘the best water test kit’, I look forward to watching my betta fish a lot. I’ll certainly post some pictures, my mom wants to buy a stand and outside the tank there will be some seashells(if there's enough room on the stand)…inside I will add a little bit of decorations, so it should look pretty.
@laughing Moss balls and anacharis seem like cool plants to have, I’ll look around for them. So I should do a 50% water change every few days and a 100% weekly? Maybe I should follow my aquarium instructions…I don’t know, 100% seems too intense, and the 20 to 25 percent suggested by the instructions seems kind of ‘off’…. For decor, I’ll probably have a little bit of shiny glossy rocks with ‘soft’ rounded edges, a hiding spot cave and maybe those plants you mentioned. People use pots and mugs? Do they put a hole in them and turn them upside down or just rest them on the side?
@PewPewPew: I’m still a tiny bit confused about cycling, I think I plan to have fish-in cycling because I’m getting the betta soon. Though I might leave the tank running on it’s own for a couple days, or is that a bad idea? The instructions tell me to leave the tank running by it’s self for a week. I’ll look at setting up the filter instructions now, so I’ll have more time before the arrival of the fish to do stuff and all…The PM sounds like a great idea, I'd love to have a copy.

Ooh, and this seems like a great site and has info about water changes(http://nippyfish.net/bettas-101/all-...water-changes/). I like the last paragraph there: ‘The first day you measure the ammonia levels should read 0. Continue to measure each day until trace amounts of ammonia become visible. As soon as you see ammonia you know exactly the maximum number of days you can go between water changes. If it takes 6 days for ammonia to present itself you should be doing full water changes every 5 days to avoid any measurable ammonia build-up. If it takes 10 days for your test to show ammonia, then you should do that water change by the 9th day at the latest. If you make any significant changes to your set up (I.e. add a new fish or significantly change the diet) repeat the test to be sure your water changing regimen doesn’t need a change itself.
And that’s pretty much what OFL said, expect the article didn’t mention that it is also needed to monitor your fish for behaviour changes, and change the water then.
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Old 05-08-2011, 10:17 PM   #7 
Luimeril
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we don't have a test kit at all, but i've seen the changes in my own bettas to know when ammonia is too high. if you're willing to take the trip weekly, you could always go to a pet store to get them to test your water. :3 that's what we did when we first learned about cycling. x-X ours was a trial by fire, though.
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Old 05-08-2011, 11:00 PM   #8 
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@laughing Moss balls and anacharis seem like cool plants to have, I’ll look around for them. So I should do a 50% water change every few days and a 100% weekly? Maybe I should follow my aquarium instructions…I don’t know, 100% seems too intense, and the 20 to 25 percent suggested by the instructions seems kind of ‘off’…. For decor, I’ll probably have a little bit of shiny glossy rocks with ‘soft’ rounded edges, a hiding spot cave and maybe those plants you mentioned. People use pots and mugs? Do they put a hole in them and turn them upside down or just rest them on the side?
Yes! There are some really cool ways people use them. One that stuck in my mind was a terra cotta pot with it on it's top (so upside down) with a large break on it's side with a plant growing out of it!

There are cool house hold things you can use to make cheap "decor". Go look at everyone's tanks in the "care" section. There's a sticky. It really gives you wonderful, unique ideas.

For a 5 gallon cycled you shouldn't clean too much. In mine I do about an 80% water change weekly and clean 100% every two weeks to two and a half weeks. But I mean you don't have to do 100% I just like to! I think you could get away fine on 25% once a week and 50% once a week and just really cleaning it whenever it gets cloudy or gross. I'm just paranoid! So like on a Wednesday do a 25% and then on Saturday do 50-70%. That's CYCLED! Remember that!

Yes, get the plants!!! Your fish will love you FOREVER!!
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Old 05-08-2011, 11:14 PM   #9 
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In a 5gal tank....its not big enough for other fish and really too small for a proper school of Ottos anyway...shrimp, snail and live plants are all great tank mates for the small tanks...but be aware some Bettas may view shrimp and snail as food.....every Betta is different in their tolerance.....
My betta, Leroy, is one of those who likes shrimp snacks! I think he wonders sometimes why I don't give him those anymore!
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Old 05-09-2011, 10:03 AM   #10 
Alphafish
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@Luimeril: Yeah, there’s a pet store right across from my school, so I’ll ask them about water testing. Maybe eventually I’ll be able to get a water test kit, but until then my fish will just have to hang on…lol.
@laughing I’ll look at the decor section soon. I’ll probably either do a 25 percent water change on Wednesday and Saturday 50-70%, like you said…or Tuesday 25% and on Friday 50-70% depending on what my parents think is better. I’ll get the plants, but once I do, I don’t know where I’d put them or how I’ll weigh them down correctly, or if they should be in the tank before the Betta arrives.
@LeroyTheBetta Ha, Leroy sounds like an amusing fish…Did you see him eat the shrimp?


Also, I don’t if I should keep the tank running for a week on it’s own… with water in it, and then I’ll plant the plants, then after the plants are planted and the tank ran for (about?) a week I’ll put the fish in. The instructions say I should run the tank for a week so that’s what I’ll try to do. And about cleaning…what do I use, a sponge thing, a vacuum gravel thing…Meh, I’ll figure it out. The fish shouldn’t die, at least I’ll my best so it(he?) will not.

Last edited by Alphafish; 05-09-2011 at 10:04 AM. Reason: error
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