Aquarium Hobbyists - Help a Newbie Start Out!

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by PeteyG, Jul 28, 2003.

  1. PeteyG

    PeteyG Stunt Coordinator

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    I've done a search on the forum and came across a good thread from a while back about starting a 55g tank. I've been doing some research and initial readings about starting a tank and wanted to start a new thread to ask a few questions.

    First, a little bit about what I'm looking to do. I currently live in NYC and just bought a house in the burbs - Northern NJ, so now that I will have more than 2 rooms, I can start my tank (space is a precious commodity in a NYC apt [​IMG] ). I am leaning toward a freshwater tank with cichlids to get me back into the hobby (it's been close to 15 years since I've had a tank). I am open to starting a saltwater tank, however I fear the amount of time and maintenance that may go into it (please let me know if my preconceived notions are off).

    I have the opportunity to get a free 75g tank which is a great start, but it's only the tank (no stand, hood, etc.) So the first question I have is - do you think it would be more expensive to get a stand, hood and light separate for the 75g vs. buying a 55g kit that had that included? Does anyone have any ballpark figures as costs involved?

    Also, any recommendations anyone has to what filters, heaters, and other equipment you have used would be great as well. I have been reading mixed views on types of filters, some people say 2 HOB filters would be more than enough, others say a canister filter, and some say a combination of both - so advice here is greatly appreciated!

    Any general rules of thumb, tips, hints, etc would be great. Also, for those in the NJ area - any local fish stores besides the Petco/Petsmart variety that you can refer me to would be great.

    Thanks in advance - help me get addicted to yet another hobby!!

    Pete
     
  2. Drew Bethel

    Drew Bethel Screenwriter

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    I bought a 55 gal tank for Walmart for about $150 and it included a heater, light, hood, filter, etc. The filter was pretty crap though.

    The filter and heater are probably the most critical equipment. I highly recommend the Emperor 400 with the bio wheel. I used to have all sorts of ammonia problems with the el cheapo filter that came with the kit. The Emperor can filter about 400 gallons per hour and should enough for a 55 gal tank. If you go with a 75 gal tank you may want a smaller filter to supplement the Emperor.

    The heater that came with the kit is still holding up since I purchased it early in the year. I actually had to unplug it because the tank can get really warm in the summer. Again, I have one big heater for my 55 gal but I know some people recommend two in case one goes bad.
     
  3. Craig LeBlanc

    Craig LeBlanc Stunt Coordinator

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    As for a stand 75gal tank, check out your local classifieds or even better, checkout some of the aquarium related forums out there...there are tons of good deals to be found.

    As for filtration and heaters, you can't go wrong with Ebo Jager heaters...they are little more expensive than the bargain brands, but they are worth it! I'd say 2 150watt heaters should do for the 55gal or even the 75. For filtration, I would think about going with a combo of HOBs and a canister. Your choices depend on how much money you want to spend... a high quality canister, such as Eheim, are nice if you can foot the bill, but if not - try a Fluval 304 or a Filstar XP1. I would supplement the canister with Aquaclear 300 (pretty cheap, around $20 online) and use 2 foam inserts to allow for a very large area for beneficial bacteria. This should also allow for a good amount of surface agitation for oxygenation of your water column.

    What species of fish are you thinking about? SA/CA cichlids or african cichlids? You can probably get about 15-18 Lake Malawi mbuna species into the 55gal and few more to the 75. As they say, a 55gal is a large tank for small fish and a 75gal is a small tank for large fish! If you're thinking about new world cichlids, you can go with dwarf species, convicts, jack dempseys, severums... there are quite a few choices. If you want to get into the more medium size new worlds, the 75gal will serve you better... the 48x18" footprint will allow for fish that get to about 12-14" long a lot better than the 55's 48x12".

    Here's a couple web sites, all have excelent member forums, for you to checkout:

    http://www.aquariacentral.com/

    http://www.predatoryfish.net/

    http://www.cichlid-forum.com/

    For buying high quality SA/CA cichlids, check out Jeff Rapps' webpage (he's located in NJ I believe?):

    http://www.tangledupincichlids.com/

    Predatory fish deals more with new world species and cichlid-forum deals more with africans (and has a very good selection of articles with good species prfile pages).

    I think you will have lots of luck with your geographical location...I know there are quite a few people on predatoryfish that are in NJ...


    I'm currently keeping in my 55gal and 20gal:

    4" Green Terror : http://executor.hil.unb.ca/craig/ima...T/page_01.html
    3" Convict : http://executor.hil.unb.ca/craig/ima...t/page_01.html
    2" Jack Dempsey (no pics yet)

    My username on those forums is DarthV.
     
  4. Drew Bethel

    Drew Bethel Screenwriter

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    Shop around for prices but if you're going to buy new stuff I'd check out:

    www.bigalsonline.com

    You local store cannot touc their prices...I bought my Emperor and a bunch of replacement filters from them. I also bought a 50 foot Python to clean gravel and change water.
     
  5. Craig LeBlanc

    Craig LeBlanc Stunt Coordinator

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    Yep, you can't beat BigAls for most prices. I actually just ordered some supplies from http://www.petsolutions.com/ last night. Their prices were pretty much the same as BigAls, but they ship to Canada...BigAls will as well, but at much inflated prices!

    The one reason I prefer Aquaclear filters over the Biowheel based ones (emperor 280/400) is that they are more quiet, cheaper and media replacement is something done less often. I use 2 sponges in mine, basically doubling the amount of mechanical and biological filtration...and for the most part, I never bother with any of the ammonia removers or activated carbon. But I think the emperor and aquaclears are pretty much on par with each other...just a matter of personal preference.
     
  6. Chad Isaacs

    Chad Isaacs Supporting Actor

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    Well,hate to say it but I just got rid of my last tank.I was sad to do it as I had watched my oscars grow from about the size of my thumb to the size of my foot.

    I am hoping to have a new setup running within a year,mabey two.I would love another oscar tank but I also want an african tank...and you cannot mix them.THey need different water and do not like each other so much.

    I will probably start with babies again and in one tank or the othr i really want a ghost knife.

    I also had a jaguar at one point,but he was very MEAN.I was feeding him one day and he jumped about afoot out of the water and bit my lip and drew blood.

    Anyway,back to your needs...

    The tank at walmart runs about $150 as mentioned,but you really do need new filters.I have always like Aqua Clear,And you will need a good heater.My oscars constantly played with the ones I have and broke a couple as well,So I ended up getting one you can lay along the gravel line,a bit more pricy but worth it!The tank at walmart does not come with a stand and I think they run about another $50.

    I think I would take the free 75 gallon.You can build a very sturdy stand very easily out of 2x4 lumber and cover it with paneling.It can be as cheap or nice looking as you want it to be.

    Ok for water changing.They sell kits called Python,but I made one myself using a water bed drain/fill kit and a 25' legenth of marine hose.its supposed to be safer than garden hose..and can be found in camping supplies.I have always had to get an adaptor to hook the drain/fill kit to the faucet but they are $1 and change.The total for the whole kit is usually $10-15 and the python runs about $50

    The most important tip I can give,have fun.Realize some fish might die regardless how perfect you keep everything,then again you can get fish so hardy you cannot kill them.
     
  7. Craig LeBlanc

    Craig LeBlanc Stunt Coordinator

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    Definitely read up about CYCLING your tank before buying fish.

    Chad,

    Oscars are fun fish...very personable! And you are right about Jags...nasty nasty fish...all mouth, teeth, stomach and attitude!
     
  8. Drew Bethel

    Drew Bethel Screenwriter

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    Be sure to get your basic water testers as well, ammonia, chlorine, ph, etc.

    I lost two lovely tin foil barbs (with red fins) last month. We were leaving to go on a two week holiday and I wanted to give the tank a 20% water change. Well, I forgot to de-chlorinate the buckets of water I put in and within hours the barbs passed away. I was bummed as hell!

    My resilient black skirts and molly survived though. I've since bought two new tin foil bards and you can bet your arse I'll be super careful next time i do a water change.
     
  9. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Pete, I'm told that a common misconception is that a saltwater tank requires more work than a freshwater one. Personally, I've never done a salt tank, but I'm open to the idea. [​IMG]

    I'm currently running a 55g tank.

     
  10. PeteyG

    PeteyG Stunt Coordinator

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    Wow - Thanks for the replies!! Lots of info to digest, which of course leads to more questions!

    Thanks for all the great links - they have been a tremendous help so far and I haven't even gotten to all of them yet [​IMG] It seems that Big Al's has crazy prices - Drew & Craig - have you had good success with your purchases (if any) from them?

    So some minor decisions have been made, I am definitely going to go with the 75g tank. I figure I might as well start big right? I've found some good info on building my own stand which will be the better/cheaper way to go. This way I'll be able to stain the stand a color to match the furniture that'll be in the office. For the hood, I'll go with a basic glass top & light. No need for the full canopy at this point. I won't be going with live plants so lighting won't be too much of a factor.

    As for fish - not sure what type of cichlids I am going to go with. I don't think I want anything to aggressive, and I know I would like as colorful fish as I can get that will also grow nicely and live long (don't we all?!?! [​IMG]) . Any suggestions, success stories?

    As for filters (and some more questions) - as per the recommendations of everyone here (and other sites) - I am leaning toward a canister filter. How easy is the maintenance on these filters? How often do you need to change the filters, clean, etc? Spending the extra $$ on an Eheim now really be worth it? Would a canister filter really help with the flow - or would an additional HOT/HOB filter be more beneficial to the flow?

    As for fishless cycling the tank to start - I think this is the way to go (from all that I've read) - does anyone have any pointers/tips against this method?

    Thanks again for all the suggestions and advice. I really appreciate the help in setting my tank up properly the first time!!

    Pete
     
  11. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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  12. Craig LeBlanc

    Craig LeBlanc Stunt Coordinator

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    Fishless cycle is the only way to go. It is faster than cycling with fish and won't put any undue stress on any fish.

    I agree that Eheim is the way to go if you have the extra money.. I've only heard positive things about them. You don't have to clean the canisters as often, every 2-3 months...for me, that entails rinsing the foam prefilter (in dechlored water!) removing the filter floss from the bottom media basket, rotating the floss in the middle basket to the bottom and putting new floss into the middle. I might quickly rinse biomax ceramic rings as well. You will also need to clean out the hoses, as they will get gunked up from time to time. I'm almost thinking about buying a 2nd set of hoses, so I can quickly switch and then clean the dirty hoses at a later time.

    I would supplement the canister with a HOB filter, they are cheap and decently effective. I rinse out the foam inserts in my aquaclears every 2 weeks or so. I also would recommend using 2 foams and not bothering with the ammorid or carbon bags (unless there is a specific need for them). The HOBs also make it easy to add things like activated carbon (to remove medications or tannins from driftwood discolored water).

    As for fish, there is a cichlid for all tastes. The 75gal will allow you to experience a very high percentage of them. You said you don't want anything too aggressive, but I guess that depends on your definition of aggressive. Oscars and blue acaras are considered to be very laid back cichlids, but they are still more aggressive than your garden variety tropical fish.

    I have a Green Terror and a Convict in my 55gal tank right now. I'll adding a Jack Dempsey next week. They are all about mid-road for cichlid aggression. The dempsey and green terror (they aren't really terrors, just the name) are pretty colorful fish. All 3 are pretty personable, but most dempseys are a little on the shy side.

    Here's some pics of my Green Terror:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    and my convict

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Great lookin fish there Craig! [​IMG]
     
  14. PeteyG

    PeteyG Stunt Coordinator

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    Wow - Great pics of the fish Craig!! Thanks for all the info and advice.

    Tony - thanks for the book recommendations and the link to Tom's site - very, very helpful.

    I think I will probably bite the bullet and get an eheim, it seems that they are highly regarded by most people. I can get the Eheim Ecco filters from BigAls' for the same price as some of the other canister filters (the Eheim Pro series are a bit out of the price range). Are either of you familiar with the Ecco series?

    I'm absorbing all the info I can, and it's only getting more and more anxious to start the tank going!

    Thanks again!!

    Pete
     
  15. BryanZ

    BryanZ Screenwriter

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    I'm going to be getting a 10G nano-reef going sometime soon, hopefully within the next three months. No doubt freshwater is cheaper and they aren't kidding when they say the tank is the cheapest part of the whole setup. I've got a 55G tank too that will just be dormant. Moving a 55G from a second floor apartment just isn't my idea of a good time, if you know what I mean. Also need to buy sand, build the canopy, install lighting, etc. So far I have $175 invested in the 10. Lights, canopy, sand, refractometer, powerhead, and heater. No fish or rock. Yet. Some say crack is cheaper. I'm beginning to think they may be right. [​IMG]

    Saltwater aquariums. The other addicting hobby. [​IMG]
     
  16. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    I miss my reef. I sold off all my liverock and fish, clams, and corals before I moved and haven't got it back up yet [​IMG]
     

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