Category Archives: Fish Keeping

20140201-224802.jpgAs I mentioned before, Ryan and I were away from the apartment for 4+ weeks. I originally didn’t intent to be away for that long. I knew 3 weeks was a little long, but I knew they would be ok for 2 weeks, and I was willing to risk the extra week. Little did I know that the East coast Polar Vortex had another plans for me. When my flight was canceled, they weren’t able to schedule me on a plane for another WEEK.

Luckily, I was just at my in-laws and I wasn’t stranded in the airport or in a hotel for that extra week. It was pretty lovely and I worked from home.

So, my poor fish. We had 11 fish in a 20 gallon tank. I cleaned the tank before I left and had a timer on the light. (I have plants in there – so I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t die.) I lost 2 fish, which probably became fish food for the rest of the fish (yeaaaaaah…), and my aquaria was infested with red and brown algae. I guess that was to be expected.

All of my rummy nose tetras survived. The neons, though, didn’t do well. My 2 cardinals were fine. The algae just made my tank LOOK SO UGLY. I was pretty depressed about my tank and when I came back, I cut the amount of light to the tank to restrain the growth. (Of course, I also did frequent smaller water changes to keep the nutrients out of the water.) It helped a little bit.

The second step was to buy some extra plans so that they out compete the algae for the light.

The third step, which made me nervous, was to do a bleach dip of the old plants covered in algae. (They won’t be able to get light and they are going to die. My java fern was already turning all sorts of red shades.) I made a solution of 20 parts water and 1 part bleach. I soaked the leaves and stems for 1-3 minutes (depending on how fragile the leaves where) and rubbed off as much algae as I could without damaging the leaves. I also did a quick bleach dip on the new plants to make sure I wasn’t introducing any pests to my aquarium.

I decided to clean much of my cloth plants and my castle, as well. The result is that my aquarium is not as bad to look at again. (Final picture above.) I am so pleased with the extra plants. I hope they survive. I did a quick water change, and I may do another one tomorrow, since I am paranoid about the bleach. (After the bleach solution, I soaked everything in regular tap water for 3-5 minutes, then I soaked them in dechlorinated water for 10+ minutes.)

It’s been a couple of hours + a feeding and so far so good.

Odd Note – The Neon tetras and cardinals were always SO skittish. I think the great hunger of 4 weeks, made them come out of their shell. That, and the fact that there is only 3 blue fish, they sort of joined the rummy nosed school. They follow them around and the result is that they are visible and not skittish anymore. They come out for food, I see them schooling regularly. I was thinking of getting 3 more neons to finish the school, but I may leave well enough alone for now.

So, I was really excited when I saw this tutorial, to create realistic rocky aquarium background using styrofoam insulation and concrete mix. I totally want to try this. Check it out, the example is really good. Coupled with lots of lush real plants, I think this would take it all to the very edge. Here is a similar one.6703f285451873c2b342a472fc1ae7d4-300x160

(Photo Courtesy of DIY Aquarist)

I showed this video to my husband, who… is a painting/hobbyist. And he says, “THIS IS JUST LIKE MAKING TERRAIN! I wanted to get insulation styrofoam for my figures, but the sheet was too damn big. But if you want to do this, we could get it and use it for both our projects!” This is where figure painting hobbyists and aquarium building come together. This is probably why we work, as well.


Another one of my recent hobbies is keeping fish. I have some fish in the office and I’ve kept fish in a small 5 gallon tank at home. In the last year that I really got into this, I found that the 5 gallon was extremely limiting in what I can keep. I honestly wanted a community tank stocked with different fish (and one centerpiece fish). The 5 gallon meant that I could have a single Betta or Gourami, or small shoaling fish (and even then it wasn’t ideal).
I finally sprung for a 20 gallon long that was on sale. I was so excited. I remember dragging my husband with me to the Brooklyn store. We traveled via train, walked a mile, and then browsed, picked up items, and used an Ubercab for the first time. It was the same weekend they were trying to encourage people to use it in NYC outer boroughs, so they took off $20. It was perfect. (On a separate note, Uber was ok, except one driver called me, asked me to canceled and it took forever to get another driver. We were literally almost waiting wondering what to do for 30 minutes. And then it took another 20-30 minutes for the final driver to get here. That being the said, the driver that got us was so nice, and we were so thankful that he drove all that way. Later, Uber waived my cancellation fee from that other driver. I explained to them that the driver actually asked me to cancel. (They waive the first cancellation fee without you asking – since they figured you did not know about the fee.) Overall it was a mixed experience. Uber is more expensive, and hard to catch currently in the outer boroughs, but it is easy to use and the customer service is pretty good. < / long tangent >)

I bought a separate hood, the filters, etc. It took a couple of weeks to assemble all the parts in an affordable way. And I’ve been looking to stock this new aquarium for a long while. I cycled it with guppies I had in the office for the first month after buying the filter. (I have the Penn Plax Cascade 150 and a 20G sponge filter. Then, I traveled to Oregon, etc. So, I didn’t want to add new fish and abandon it so I left the guppies and waited a few more weeks. Of course throughout, I tested with the Master API liquid kit to make sure ammonia was 0, nitrite was 0 and nitrates were low.

I had the rough gravel left over from my 5 gallon and my dark fine gravel is the Caribsea Eco-Complete, which I used because I wanted to experiment with some plants. You can see some Java Fern and Anubias, which are low light plants. The Anubias had a little flower, which wilted, while I was in Oregon (since we left the lights off). The castle and all the fake silk plants were from my 5 gallon.

At work, another coworker hooked me up with someone in my office who was looking to get rid of his neon tetras, since he wanted to try something else. We actually did a fish swap with the guppies that breed at my desk. I gave him one male, 3 females (2 were pregnant), so that should get his swarm of feeder guppies going. I never wanted neon tetras before, but they are gorgeous in the tank. they are so bright blue with that flash of red. Also, I think 2 of them are actually cardinals instead. They are so skittish. I brought them over between Tuesday and Wednesday, so it’s been 2-3 days and they are just starting to come out. Whenever anyone walks by the aquarium (my floor creaks), they still run away, though. I am hoping after a while they come out of their shell a bit more. I am also considering getting more, because I’ve heard larger shoals/schools give them more confidence. I may pick up like 3 more.

There is still more I need to do. I want to make a background for it out of styrofoam and concrete, but I want to get some black backing to start to hide the wires and the wall. I want to add some more color. I think a Gourami center piece and some colorful Platys (bumblebee?). Once day, I would LOVE to get a German Blue Ram, but I think I am going to wait. I want to plant this tank more, too. I want to change the hood light to glolight and get it a bit more heavily planted. I also want to fill the 5 gallon with a dwarf puffer fish and plant it. I have some other projects in store for that one.

There is still a guppy in there that I can’t catch. One also gave birth in there so there are 7 fry that I can count. They are a little larger and quicker, so I don’t think they will get eaten anymore. I’ll see. I would want to take them out once I stock it a little more.

Any comments/feedback is very much appreciated!