First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Tain't fresh, and tain't marine! Talk about brackish setups.
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silvershadow
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First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by silvershadow » Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:00 pm

The time has finally come for me to set up my first puffer tank. My first tank ever, in fact.
I want to ensure that my puffy new friend has the best living conditions I can provide for him/her. To that end, I would appreciate any advise you can offer, regarding tank set up and management. Specifically any changes I have to make before adding fish.
I have set aside this weekend, to set up the tank and will begin cycling some time next week, if all goes to plan.

The fish in question will be a single figure 8 puffer.

The tank is a 160 litre (100x40x40 cm.) with a full cover hood.
Lighting is provided by two 30 watt 10000K tubes. Soft moonlight will be added to this when I find the time to make it.
The substrate will be 1/3 2-4mm black granite gravel, 1/3 dark grey granite gravel and 1/3 1,5-2,5mm deep black glass gravel. The glass gravel, I have only ever seen here in Denmark (where it is also made). It is of course made for this purpose, and is safe even for burrowing fish.

I have massive amounts of grey and black granite in various shapes and sizes, for making hiding places and things for the fish to investigate.

I plan on making this a moderately planted tank, with mainly grass like plants and java moss.
During "light hours" I will be adding Co2, and air after lights out.

I have two canister filters ready to go, and a third one on the way to have as a spare (all 1200 litre/hour).
To aid in water changes, I also have a 10000 litre/hour pump (Variable power), hooked up to a 80 litre tub.
I am currently looking for large battery to serve as back up power supply, in case of a power failure.

When the time comes for cycling the tank, I have filter media from a healthy, established tank waiting for me. And naturally I have a hydrometer and liquid test kits.

In addition to the main tank, I have a small 25 litre for shrimp and snails (RCS and rams horn).

So... Now to the questions.

Is the tank set up OK as it is? Is there something I could/should change?

I would like to have enough snails and shrimp to feed my puffer, without having to buy and quarantine new ones all the time. How many should I get in order to keep a good stock without the little critters breeding out of control? If need be, I will get a larger tank for them.

Could I possibly keep a colony of snails or shrimp in the puffer tank, or would the puffer just eat them all before they have a chance to multiply? Again, I don't want to put in so many, that they end up taking over.

Is there any difference in marine salt? Are there better brands or should I just get whatever the LFS has in stock?

How many hours of light should per day would be optimal? I keep reading different numbers, but does the fish have any preferences?

Any advise and ideas would be greatly appreciated.

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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by J-P » Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:33 pm

boy does this sound familiar :)

It sounds like you have done a lot of research.

Point a) Start the cycle ASAP

"I would like to have enough snails and shrimp to feed my puffer, without having to buy and quarantine new ones all the time. How many should I get in order to keep a good stock without the little critters breeding out of control? If need be, I will get a larger tank for them."
Point b) depending on the puffer and more importantly, your feeding habits, you will unlikely be able to sustain the puffer's appetite with your own foods (initially at least). This will take time and you will find an equilibrium. It really is trial and error, and more error.

"Could I possibly keep a colony of snails or shrimp in the puffer tank, or would the puffer just eat them all before they have a chance to multiply? Again, I don't want to put in so many, that they end up taking over. "
Point c) No .. unfortunately. I kept 100's of snails and 100's shrimp in my main tank prior to adding 3 SAPs. Once I added the puffers the decimated the population and I had to get a separate grow out tank.

"How many hours of light should per day would be optimal? I keep reading different numbers, but does the fish have any preferences?"
Point d) 6-8 hours (lights on) is fine depending on how much ambient light and direct sunlight you are receiving.

This is just my personal experience, and I know I didn't answer all your questions, but I am sure others can fill in the gaps and may offer other opinions :)
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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by jtbadco » Fri Oct 29, 2010 5:10 pm

Sounds like you've got a good start.

I prefer sand substrate over gravel myself due to the mess...but If you vacuum the gravel regularily it should be fine.

I think a colony of 50-100 each of snails and shrimp will give you enough to feed the puffer from stock until they start to breed on their own. Feeder snails should be about the size of the puffers eye. A separate tank is necessary IMO,...some puffers will live with certain tankmates...but once they discover that something is food, they eat it.

I highly recommend Marbled Crayfish as a food source for your puffer if they are available and legal in your area. They are very easy to keep and spawn huge numbers.

As for light cycle, I go with a regular day/night cycle....but you will need to establish a balance in your tank depending on the actual growth from your lights. You can increase/decrease according to the needs of your plants and to avoid algae.

I use Instant Ocean but that is the only salt I have experience with. It has worked very well for me for five years.

HTH
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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by purplecandle » Fri Oct 29, 2010 7:32 pm

I really like this guy!

I did not read a mention of test kits. You need a liquid master test to monitor your cycle and your levels once you have the fish..you at least need tests for ammonia, nitrate and nitrite.

Also, go ahead a learn where you can get good seafood cheaply..along with snails your puffer should eat a variety of foods that you can find in your local seafood market.

Used Filter media is a good start, but puffers put out so much waste..I would put that used media in, and feed pure ammonia (or use dead shrimp) to build the bacteria up to a level that would be good for a puffer (of course after you know your cycle is working, remove the dead shrimp and do a massive water change before adding puffer :lol: )

Stock up on medicine such as melefix or primafix and medicine to treat for internal parasites. Even if your puffer arrives healthy, chances are you will need one of these medicines in the near future.

Also, will you be using well or city water?
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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by purplecandle » Fri Oct 29, 2010 7:35 pm

I just read you have a 160l tank? 42 gallons?

Have you given any thought to getting two F8's?
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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by Flutter » Fri Oct 29, 2010 7:45 pm

If you have media from another tank then you won't need to go through the regular cycling. Add the used media at the same time you add the fish. Keep an eye on your water parameters but ours have always been fine.

You'll also want to use an aragonite substrate and not the regular aquarium gravels.
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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by Pufferpunk » Fri Oct 29, 2010 10:18 pm

[welcome]
I suggest using aragonite substrate, to keep the pH steady, around 8. Lots of great articles for you to read in our Library.
Start here: library/puffers-in-focus/fig8/.
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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by mairdan13 » Sat Oct 30, 2010 2:57 am

+1 on the aragonite substrate, I just populated my tank a little over a month ago and quickly realised that the substrate I had just wasn't suitable for the messy eaters :) I changed over to aragonite sand and now keeping the tank clean is a breaze! they find the missed food and vacuuming the sand surface is a snap.

i also bought a master test kit last week so I can keep tabs on my tank in case of a crash...

happy days

oh and I've recently setup a snail colony tank. basically a child's starter tank (just a filter and a hood). I purchased a couple of dozen tadpole snails on ebay and let them go. I didn't cycle the tank fully but it's running fine now. from 24 initial snails (losing a few along the way) I now have too many little brown dots in my tank to count :) they're about a fifth of a mm right now and more eggs are showing. I did put some heat in there just to take the edge off but I don't think that's really required.

It really is as simple as that, i do an 80% water change every other day due to the amount of food they need and the waste they produce. feed them lettuce, algae wafers and flake .

i haven't hervested any yet but it won't be long :)
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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by silvershadow » Sat Oct 30, 2010 3:23 am

Answers are in red.
purplecandle wrote:I really like this guy!

I did not read a mention of test kits. You need a liquid master test to monitor your cycle and your levels once you have the fish..you at least need tests for ammonia, nitrate and nitrite.

Got them :D

Also, go ahead a learn where you can get good seafood cheaply..along with snails your puffer should eat a variety of foods that you can find in your local seafood market.

Already talked with the local fish monger. They have just about all forms of shellfish (native to our waters), and everything is freshly caught the same day they sell it. as long as I order a day in advance, they will freeze it for me as well

Stock up on medicine such as melefix or primafix and medicine to treat for internal parasites. Even if your puffer arrives healthy, chances are you will need one of these medicines in the near future.

The main brand around these parts seem to be Tetra. Is that any good?

Also, will you be using well or city water?

I will be using city water.
In Denmark, the municipal water supply is only taken from ground water (no surface water whatsoever), and purified with mechanical and biological filters as well as carbon. As such, it is as close to perfect as it gets, straight from the tap. I have stocked up on water conditioner, just to be on the safe side.
purplecandle wrote:I just read you have a 160l tank? 42 gallons?

Have you given any thought to getting two F8's?
Not really..
As long as the little guy/gal is happy, that is good enough for me. Is there such a thing as to much space for a puffer?

And yes, the volume is 42 US gallons/35 UK gallons. I just prefer the numbers in litres since it is a constant, whereas gallons could be misinterpreted due to the fact that UK and US gallons are not the same.

Flutter wrote: You'll also want to use an aragonite substrate and not the regular aquarium gravels.

I will have a look for it in the LFS today then.
I really like the look of the black glass though. Is there any reason I couldn't use 2/3 aragonite and then the glass for the top layer? The glass is completely neutral so it would only be an aesthetic choice.
About the whole dead shrimp thing..
Will one dead shrimp really do it? I have pure ammonia (24,5 %), but if dumping a shrimp in the tank will feed the bacteria, that would be a good thing.

I really don't want to poke around in the tank to much after the fish goes in, so I would like to get all the plants going in advance. During that time, I would need to keep the bacteria in my filters alive obviously.

With the filters I have (2400L/528 UKg/633 USg per hour), I estimate a turnover rate of around 16-17 when the mass of the substrate and rocks is subtracted from the total tank volume.
Considering that, I was thinking 25% water change per week. Is that enough?

Tons of noob questions, I know..
I hope you will bare with me.

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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by mairdan13 » Sat Oct 30, 2010 3:43 am

silvershadow wrote:I really like the look of the black glass though. Is there any reason I couldn't use 2/3 aragonite and then the glass for the top layer? The glass is completely neutral so it would only be an aesthetic choice. [/color]

I may be wrong here but i think it's the exposed surface area of the aragonite that increases the KH of the water, and the pH follows...

:)

Here's a string I started when I was thinking about my substrate some good advice in there from the guys...

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=24595
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silvershadow
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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by silvershadow » Sat Oct 30, 2010 6:10 am

Right...

Been to the LFS and they didn't have any aragonite in stock right now. But then again, I'm not in any hurry.

I have asked around a bit, and it seems quite a few people have had great results by putting crushed coral or small pieces of limestone in their filter canisters. Or just putting a few chunks in the tank.
What do you guys think? If the filter idea works, it would be perfect. And since I will be running two rather large filters, I should be able to spare a basket (each filter has 3).

Obviously I would have to monitor KH, GH and PH a few times a day for a while, to make sure I have the right balance, before putting the fish in.

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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by silvershadow » Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:39 pm

Yet another question..

What would be the best combination of filter media?
I currently have Eheim Ehfimech, Eheim Substrat Pro, Eheim Filter Pad (fine and coarse) and filter floss. I am also thinking of adding prefilter Sponges.

And a slightly different one:

I have about 30 carats of small (2-7mm.) uncut emeralds that was left over from a project I did a while back. They could look very nice as part of the substrate. Would they be safe to put in the tank? Emeralds are basically a silicate mineral and contain trace amounts of chromium and vanadium. Is there any chance that any of these could be harmful to the fish?

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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by Flutter » Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:10 pm

I think she got this mixed up with SW ;)

Yes, you can definitely put some aragonite in one of your filters :)

25% water changes will be enough too with one F8 in that tank. The odd person has found that their puffer has done better in a smaller tank but those have been the more aggressive and sedentary ones :) Whatever lucky puffer you get will love to have that much room!
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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by Pufferpunk » Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:30 pm

I think she got this mixed up with SW
Oops, sorry! It's been a long weekend.
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Re: First tank. Help me avoid rookie mistakes.

Post by RTR » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:10 am

OK, the grumpy old man has to chime in.

In my not so humble opinion (I will bet a very large amount of money that I have several times the experience with F-8s as anyone else here), and I may have aggregate experience with the fish approaching that of all the members together, if not exceeding it.

1)The best substrate for F-8s is aragonite, period. To use anything else is going to magnify the instability of the tank and shorten the life if the fish. Low density brackish water does not have sufficient KH to stabilize the water. Crushed coral is a very poor second. Inert substrates will require the dedicated use of one or more canisters, which will require weekly rinsing of its aragonite charge, rinsing of its charge of aragonite, then bleaching or drying, and trading out for an alternate bag of aragonite which will require cleaning and re-processing before being traded off again in a week - and will still not do the same job that the aragonite substrate will do as tank substrate. F-8s need aragonite to support the KH. IME, aragonite is of equal importance with the marine mix. It requires the two things in balance in the tank to provide the water parameters for long life and health for F-8s. With that and decent care, the fish should live at least 15 years and potentially over 20.

2) IMHO & IME, in a one meter tank, one F-8 is the best stocking for these fish. You may get away with two, but I have never had long-term (>10 years) success with such set-ups. I prefer 4-foot tanks if more than one F-8 is to be housed. These are highly active and rather territorial hunter-predators. It may be from sexual issues, but we cannot sex these fish as yet. There will be a top dog and an under-dog. The underdog will be smaller and shorter-lived. If you want two F-8s, set two tanks end-to-end so they can interact visually but not physically or by pheromones. It is far safer. IME, co-housed F-8s do not achieve normal life spans.

3) Raising feeder snails should be do in separate and fresh water tanks, and are best at one species of snail per tank.

4) Are your two tubes separate controlled? That is quite a bit if light for the tank and is likely to generate nuisance algae. I don't think that heavily planted low-end brackish water tanks are very successful or particularly good for F-8s. These fish need as much open swimming and exploration space as possible IME.

5) IME, it is impossible to predict exactly what level of water changes will be required. We all feed differently, and individual fish also eat differently. Judge the need for water partials pragmatically by measuring nitrate build-up and removal. Once the fish is mature, partial percentages do tend to stabilize to some degree. Before that time, it pays to test nitrate. It is not possible to change too much water, it is just time consuming and expensive. Low nitrate in heavily planted tanks does not in any way remove the requirement for routine 50% water partials, as only those will remove the dissolved organics (DOCs - dissolved organic compounds). All, repeat all, heavily planted tank should have minimum 50% weekly water partials. What you cannot easily test can and does hurt water quality.

HTH
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