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ChrissieA

Maintaining water quality in an overstocked tank

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So, needless to say I set everything up wrong from the outset and have been playing catch up ever since. My tank is overstocked and that's not going to change in the next few months, although I'm slowly tightening the pressure screws on my bf :)

I've been researching this site and reading everything (decent) I can find about maintaining the water quality (space isn't so much of an issue yet as my fishies are smallish). I guess I'm just after either confirmation that I'm on track or corrections before I make more costly mistakes!

I have a 140L tank, moderately planted. It's been established about 4-4.5 months. I have 3 fish, common, comet and shubunkin, the largest is about 9cm standard length, the smallest is about 4-5cm-ish standard. I have just under 6x canister filtration per hour.

I only started testing ammonia, nitrite and nitrate 6 weeks ago but they're always all zero. KH is 6. My ph is 7.2 for both tap and tank.

Money is an issue but we've been looking at a DIY canister to get a bit more filtration... Do you guys think I need this? I've read there's no such thing as too much filtration, only too much flow? It seems to me that given my parameters are all zero my current cycle is adequate. Would you recommend more filtration? And if so, should I do that now, or a bit later?

I was also thinking of adding crushed coral to the DIY canister to increase the KH a little. I know it's recommended to be over 100, but I'm only just there. Would this be advisable?

As far as water changes go, with the panic of being overstocked I'm currently doing 2 80% changes weekly with the exception of the few weeks I was treating for flukes when I followed the product recommendations on WC's. Again, I know you can't change too much water but could I get away with less at the moment given my parameters are always zero? I'm doing these with a bucket so it's time consuming. I'm hoping to draw on your experience here! If you guys think I need the same or more I'll do it... Your info has been brilliant so far, but I don't want to have to do huge regular water changes just for the sake of it... I hope that makes sense, I want to 'manage' the overstocking and do the best for my fish, but I don't want to exhaust myself unnecessarily either. I'll go with your suggestions :)

Is there anything else I could/should be doing?

I should add my fish are currently very happy and healthy!

Edited by ChrissieA

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Hello! You are doing a great job. Let's see if there are any additional things for you to do without spending too much more money.

What type of water test kit do you use? Two 80% wc per week sound good with your stocking, but if you are testing using strips you may not be getting accurate readings. Drops are more accurate.

To raise kh, you can use plain baking soda. Very affordable. See link below my signature for that information.

What type of media do you have in your filter?

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If your tank and tap pH are stable at 7.2, personally I wouldn't mess with the KH.  :D

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This is a big if, but.. IF you have a garden hose lying around and it works out that you can simply syphon water from the tank (out the door, out a window if the tank is near one, etc), and refill with the hose attached to the tap, you could save yourself a lot of trouble and heavy bucket lifting! :flex: 

(sor.ry that was such a lengthy sentence :ignore

 

I would keep up with 2 water changes per week, or as close to that as I could manage, but that's just me. :)

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Hey Lisa, I'm using colombo (Dutch brand I believe) test drops for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. I use strips for kh, gh and ph, only because I bought them before being told they weren't accurate lol. Once I use them up I'll switch to drops for them too, and probably to API seeing as everyone here seems to use that brand!

I did read about baking soda, I was a little worried about shifting my tank pH with the baking soda seeing as my tap a,d tank are the same ph and I'm doing big water changes... Is that an issue? I'm just not very confident with all this yet and didn't want to create more mess for myself.

I have ceramic rings in the filter and thankfully a thick sponge because my filter gets manky! One of my fish is a plant annihilater so there's always a lot of gunk in there.

What are your thoughts on adding a home made canister?

Thank you for your help :)

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Am I right in thinking that you are only 4 us gal overstocked? Or is it different because you have single tails?

Apologies for my not very helpful post, I was just curious :)

Also, how come your nitrates are always 0?

I wish mine were! :teehee

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Tank you for replying guys :) they're definately stable.. At least for the 6 or so weeks I've been testing hehe. I guess I was trying to preempt any potential change in tap ph, seeing as I'll be at it's mercy. That being said I really have no idea whether the town changing the water ph is even a thing?

You know I never thought about the hose....I did ask about equipment previously but ruled it out due to cash... Is there any issue with the hose? I suppose I just have to make sure it's clean.. Ie run water through it for a while first... And maybe the water temp is an issue... I'm definately going to look into that..

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I wish I was only 4us gallons overstocked... By my calculations (or googles, Aussies don't work in gallons! Lol) I have 36 gallons... So 12.something per fish :( which wasn't even a goldfish rookie error, just a stupid one!

I have no Idea why nitrates are zero but I believe it's the plants. I don't know what they're using it for because it certainly isn't growth!

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I should work in litres but spending too much time on Kokos has meant that I find us gallons easier! :o

I always thought it was 20g for the first fish, and 10g for each additional. Maybe that's outdated now? :hmm

Heehee, that makes it sound like your plants are plotting something... :teehee

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Oh... I thought it was 20 for the first and 15 thereafter.... Which would be 50... So I'm 15 short... Haha. That would be good to clarify because if I'm only 4G over I think I can stop my online water chemistry degree lmfao.

I'll have to keep my eye on the plants... I'm definately suspicious! :)

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Stocking recommendations are 20 US gallons with 15 US gallons minimum per fish.

 

Like you wrote your plants are probably helping with the ammonia and nitrates, along with your two 80% wc per week.

 

Since you are using drops, parameters are 0, and doing two 80% wc per week, the baking soda is truly optional. What kind of plants do you have?

 

Regarding the filter, looks like you have a good set-up. For a home made canister, I'm hoping others will chime in with more knowledge than me on this. As the fish get larger, a bit more filtration would be good.

Edited by LisaCGold

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Yeah so definately overstocked :)

I have hornwort and temple plants (according to members here from a previous post) the others I'm not sure... Apparently they're all delicious.

Given it is all stable I might hold off on the kh/ph thing for now and revisit it if anything changes. And seems like the general consensus is 2x 80% WC is about right

I'm definately curious about the filtration, I guess at some point it's going to get harder to maintain. And extra filtration and WC's will be necessary.. More incentive to push for a bigger tank :)

Thank you Lisa, I appreciate the suggestions :)

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Let me make you feel better. Due to a comedy of errors we are 80% done with my larger tank, and my poor fish, all seven of them, have been languishing in a 20 gallon aquarium shoved with plants that are also awaiting the completed build.

7 goldfish.

20 gallons of water.

Other than a ph crash from a filter malfunction a few months back the chemistry has been great. I have a high capacity sponge filter and an overpowered canister on it. I am religious about water changes. I leave algae in place and feed moderately to lightly.

My sweet husband, PTL, just finished the enormous personal project he was stuck on this week, after three months of work (and he already has s full time job). We have a kid project we must complete this weekend. Then fish tank - specifically testing the plumbing and connections with pressure and oiling the cabinetry.

But in the meantime my poor fish get to keep languishing. They're fine. Overstocking is doable if you understand the issues and can account for them (like redox and appropriately sized biological filtration). I always cringe when I tell newbies not to overstock and my tank is like a sardine tin, but they'll fit with room to spare in the new digs that were supposed to be done in August :peeka

Edited by Arctic Mama

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Yeah so definately overstocked :)

Apologies, I was told the 20-10 rule when I first joined Kokos but it must have changed now. I've never needed to keep updated on this issue as my little finned boy has to be kept alone

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Hehe that's life isn't it! Thank you Arctic Mama. It was actually an old post you made stating that you can maintain an overstocked situation if you understand water chemistry that set me on the path of trying to understand it. That, and Sharon saying that it can be managed with excellent filtration and frequent water changes. This site and your input is so valuable.

I guess it just gets a little nerve racking as a beginner... One minute you think you're fine... The next you realise you've really screwed it up, and then you go crazy with the panic and over correcting hehe.

I read the thread on your tank build in the DIY section, it sounds very exciting. I hope we'll get pictures!

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No worries at all Black! On one hand I was kinda hoping you were right because it would make things easier... On the other hand if you were right I was going to keep that from my bf... I still want a bigger tank lol.

I've been following your thread in D&D on googles, I hope his tail is improving, he really is beautiful.

:)

Edited by ChrissieA

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Your fish are not very large, so your stocking level, while not ideal,does not require more than two 50% changes a week to be as clean as an ideally stocked tank with 20 gallons per fish.  

 

If you want to go the DIY route, I strongly suggest you build a pond-type filter something like what I did here.  You can use a container much prettier than I used, and the build is inexpensive and not at all difficult.  It has several advantages over a cannister in addition to price:

 

It actually increases the amount of water in your tank-filter system.  You can add the volume of the filter to the volume of the tank to get the total volume of the system.  You can do that with any external filter, but in this case it really makes a difference.

 

The large volume of the filter increases the complexity of the ecosystem.  We talk about mechanical filtration and nitrification because we don't like dirty tanks and ammonia and nitrite kill fish.  However a big filter grows a jungle of little organisms that share one trait:  they live off the fish waste or off the things that eat fish waste.  Everything produced by one organism in a complex ecosystem is used by some other organism.  

 

With a pond-sized filter (at least 1/10 the volume of the tank/pond) you can use a low turnover.  I recommend the pump turnover volume  per hour be twice the volume of the tank.  Some people prefer 4X, but I think the fish prefer my rate.

 

You can put terrestrial plants in the top of the filter and add phytofiltration.

 

We also hold hands of those who are building their first filter.  

 

 

 

 

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I should work in litres but spending too much time on Kokos has meant that I find us gallons easier! :o

I always thought it was 20g for the first fish, and 10g for each additional. Maybe that's outdated now? :hmm

Heehee, that makes it sound like your plants are plotting something... :teehee

Don't feel bad, Black, it hasn't been long since we had that policy.  (And you find it all over the net.)  I was among the people who wanted a change.  Does it make sense that a fish in a tank all by itself needs 20 gallons of water, while fish in a 100 gallon tank only need 11 gallons apiece?  That's what the 20+10 rule says.  

 

I can think of two explanations of this strange idea.  Perhaps someone thought that goldfish need 10 gallons each, but that a 10 gallon tank doesn't provide enough swimming space for an adult goldfish, so they decided to have 20 gallons for that first fish.  Or perhaps they thought a fish tank corresponds to a human house.  Housing for two people needs little more space than we need for one, and three little more than two.  However a fish tank makes up the world of the fish in it.  Just as two people use up twice the earth's resources as one person, two fish need twice the facilities as does one.

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One 3.5" fish and 2 2" fish is a very small load especially considering they are slim bodied single tails. No rush in my opinion.

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Thanks DP.  I was stupidly reading cm and thinking inches, and even then the load didn't seem very large to me.

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Thank you everyone, I feel much better about it now :)

So I can do 2x 50% as a minimum and more if I have time etc.. That takes the pressure off a bit.

Sharon I like the idea of your DIY filter and increasing the water volume. My tank is in the lounge room where I already have a lot of indoor plants so it would fit right in. If you guys aren't worried about the bio load at the moment I might hold off until the new year and revisit it then. Do you have any sources for info on pond filter systems you'd recommend? I think it would be a good option if I get a bigger tank too. Anything that cuts the cost of the new tank set up will hopefully speed up it's arrival! And if I can't swing a new tank for a while, at least this one will be well filtered.

Hand holding will likely be required :)

I guess I should just use my parameters as a guide.

You've all put my mind at ease :)

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You can get detailed instructions on building a pond biofilter here.  Lots of people here have built these and found the build easier than expected.  It looks complicated because I show the steps in such detail.  You can change a lot of things on these basic filters, some work and some don't.  I have discovered most of what doesn't work,  :( so ask before changing.  For example, you might find the Matala that I use for supporting the bio medium expensive virtually unobtainable.  You cannot replace this with other kinds of filter pads because they lack the rigidity required for a support.  However you can replace it with floor scrubber pads like these.

 

I do not recommend any commercial pond filters for an aquarium or for a small pond.  I make one exception for a small pond  with very small fish.  One of these box filters can work until the fish get bigger and you get around to building an external  biofilter.  Then you can use the box as a "prefilter" holding the pump, and use the bioballs to seed your new biofilter.  These boxes are too big for an aquarium.  

 

Please, just relax.  Currently, you have a system and a water change plan quite adequate for your little fish.   I doubt you will need to upgrade before March or April.

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That's great Sharon, thanks. I definately like your filter ideas. I'll keep my eye on things and look at making the new filter in a few months :)

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I think this is a good topic and I hope that more people chime in.

 

I like shakaho's filter.  It is essentially an above tank sump with similarities to several types of filters that are used on koi ponds and water gardens.

 

I have an old reef tank that is drilled with an overflow.  I was going to put in a below tank sump for the extra water volume etc but wound up with a canister because I was in a time crunch at the time.

 

I also have an in-tank fluidized sand bed.  I built it for about $15 using a 158g SunSun powerhead from Amazon, a short length of CPVC from Lowes and a tall glass from an art store.  If/when I figure out how to upload a video I will post it.  I don't know if I really needed it, but I really just wanted to build it.  I got the instructions from uarujoey DIY fishkeeper (on you tube, face book etc).  He also has some canister builds including a HOB version if you are interested.  I love his videos.

 

You can also make a DIY algae scrubber for pretty cheap.  I think I'm going to try one of those next.

 

There are so many fun things you can make to experiment with and improve your tank if you are so inclined.  For immediate overstocking issues or just to have a back up filter I think you can't go wrong with a sponge filter.  They are very inexpensive and all you need is an airline/pump to get it working.  Good to pair with a battery powered emergency air pump should the power ever go out!

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I don't mean to offend but can you take the fish back and get maybe two fancy instead? Long body goldfish need lots of swimming space.  

Most recommend ponds only, some say you can get away with a long tank and 30 gallons per fish.  I could see having one in my 125 but it seemed my 75 was to small for one. The one I had really could not get up any speed in that short tank.

Good luck with what every you decide is best for you and your fishes well being.

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