<3 fish, very new, very confused, looking for good information

Forums Introductions Introductions <3 fish, very new, very confused, looking for good information

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    Hi,  I live in Sandy Springs and basically inherited a community tank with 2 white skirt tetras, an albino cory catfish (I think), and 3 female bettas.  I have 2 female bettas and 1 male betta living in 3 separate tanks.

    I’m basically in a crash course here, as I’ve only had these fish for 2 weeks and have never taken care of fish before this.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  I have chemicals that I don’t know how to use, and so on.  I don’t know which websites to trust, as there is contradictory information online and people at pet stores are giving me information I am as sure as can be is inaccurate despite my ignorance of fish generally (such as when one employee proceeded to tell me that bettas live in forest rivers), and I’m afraid I’m going to kill all these fish before I learn what I need to know.  I have ordered so much stuff already, some of which have proven to be expensive mistakes.  I have been overfeeding my fish, apparently.  I don’t know how to ensure that everyone in the community tank gets to eat harmoniously with the other fish without continuing to put way too much food out.  I also just discovered that they need heaters, but every review I read has horror stories about boiled fish, so I’m just spinning in circles here.

    My first question is about the apparently critical “nitrogen cycle”.  What exactly is this, in simple terms?  How do I get this started or ensure that it completes?  What do I need to do to get my aquariums safe?  Everyone is in new water in new tanks because of the move from their former home to mine.  I have a lot of chemicals, especially from API and Seachem, but honestly don’t know how to use these correctly in combination.  I need to do something with my aquariums this weekend, either a water change (which various sources say should be anywhere between 10%-50% of water) and I don’t know what to add back or how much.  I am concerned by how slimy some of the things I’ve put in the tank have become.  I try to keep them clean, but is this slime from too many chemicals I’m adding or is this an expected, natural bacteria that is supposed to flourish in every tank?

    Some mistakes I know I’ve made but don’t know how to correct:

    I’ve got one betta tank that looks like tea despite 2 water changes in 1 week because I put an aquarium safe cholla log in there before I realized that it didn’t mean that the log had already been boiled and before I learned that more tank water changes is not better.  I’ve removed the log and am soaking it in Prime-treated water.  I don’t know how to clean this tank now and when I topped off the water, it really looked like the gravel and water needed cleaning.

    I’ve been rearranging the community tank as things have come in, and believe I’ve stressed the fish.  The filter also just stopped working, and because I’m Deaf, I didn’t notice that even though I look for each fish almost obsessively to make sure all are still alive and that no one is bullying anyone else.  I believe it was not running for 24 hours.  I just ran out for an emergency filter and got that up.

    I also read that tetras do not do well in groups of less than 6.  As it is so risky to the fish for me to bring anyone new into our home, I don’t know how to best deal with this.  One of the tetras spends a lot of time hiding in one of the little caves I put in there, but in the beginning, they swam around together.

    I’m desperate for help.  I won’t be insulted if anyone talks to me in the manner of a “For Dummies” book; in fact, I need elaboration and expansion on information, I don’t know the terminology, and I need a solid starting point and direction.

    Thank you so much for any information you are able to provide.


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