Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adventures in Fish Keeping, Part Two

My last post was massive and I still have a lot more to say, so I decided to break this off into a different post.  I'm going to talk about plants and equipment probably this time.

Originally I had some plastic plants, which is fine and honestly (dear god) much much easier.  They were what I had inherited from Boyfriend's old supplies.  Then I went to petco (not the one that has sold me excellent fish but the one that sold me a half dead goldfish) and bought some plants.  I ended up buying two that weren't actually aquatic plants (bamboo and arrowroot), one ludwiga (aquatic primrose), and one piece of driftwood.  The bamboo is living very happily in a cup and the arrowroot is in the tank still but I'm keeping a very close eye on it for rot.  The driftwood is dead and thus was fine to begin with (I got a nice curved piece and dug out the gravel from under it and the corys love it).  The ludwiga has grown about 5" total I think since when I bought it over a month ago.

I've enjoyed having the plants, but I did more research and ended up getting an amazon sword (a giant one, easily 14" tall) so that the gourami (who like floating plants which I don't want to deal with) would have something to shade them from the light.  Shortly after I got the amazon sword I got two banana plants which are shorter, so I would have something to put in the front of the tank.  They are growing well and actually starting to put up lily pads.  I'm trying to decide if I want to prune them so they'll stay short or just allow them to grow up.

Eventually I would like to get a carpet/ground cover plant because the substrate (gravel) I inherited from Boyfriend was blue.  I could have switched it out at one point, but when I was buying more substrate for my new tank I was at the point where I need every bit of ammonia eating bacteria I could get, so I didn't want to get rid of the old gravel.  Thus I have a mixture of blue gravel and blue sand, which looks horribly unnatural compared to the rest of my tank, but it gives it character (or something)?

Many sites recommend a finer substrate than gravel for corys, because their barbels (feelers) are delicate, but I haven't had trouble with gravel actually.  Also, sand tends to get sucked up by a gravel siphon/vaccum and that's pretty much the last thing I want.

So, as far as equipment goes for a tank here's the list of what I have, what it does, and why I have it.

  • 20 Gallon High Aqueon Tank- This is obvious as to what it is and why I have it.  I honestly suggest starting with a 20 gallon tank minimum because then you can actually stock a reasonable amount of fish without over crowding.  The generally rule is the every inch of fish needs about a gallon of water.  That is a huge rule of thumb and people will debate you up and down forever about it.  The more fish you have, the more you're going to have to change you're water.  When change you're water, don't scoop out the fish, dump out all the water and then fill it back up.  That will ruin all of your careful cycling and stress the fish out.  Instead siphon out or scoop out 20-30% (50% at the most generally) of the water weekly or every other week.  Also scrub down your glass.  I really wish I had a 30 gallon tank for this group of fish now, but 20 works.
  • Aqueon Versa Glass Top- Many people recommend keeping a lid on a fish tank to keep fish from jumping out.  I don't actually know how common that is, but I have it just in case.  I actually also have a hood (which is not glass, just black plastic and probably the most common top that people would think of) but it let less light in, so I haven't been using it.
  • Aqueon Stock 24" Strip Light- Okay, this is my biggest deficiency.  When growing plants you really should have double the watts per gallon.  There are low light plants, but I don't actually have any.  I only have 17w watts total, so less than even 1w/g.  My plants are doing surprisingly well and I have been adding fertilizer and CO2 (topics for another day) which I believe is helping (or so it appears) rather than harming, which it is possible for it to do.  However, lights have been the most expensive part actually for me so far and that's just for the shitty one I have.  You see, it's not just a matter of replacing the light bulb I have.  I have the highest wattage bulb that they make in the style that my strip light accepts.  In order to get more wattage I would need to actually go out and buy a new strip light and most of the ones that I've looked at that would give me what I need require open top aquariums, which I'm not sure I'm comfortable with.
  • Aqua Clear 20 Filter- I originally had a 30 gallon Aqueon filter but it created way too strong a current, so I swapped it out for this.  I've been thrilled with it.  Filters have three different "media" mechanical, chemical, and biological.  Each takes care of a different part of the water parameters and each is important.  This one's nice because it has three very distinct, easy to see parts.  It is a Hang-on-back style filter (a favorite of freshwater fish keepers) and I love it.  Very quiet.
  • Tetra Whisper 20i- This is an in-tank filter meaning that the majority of it is contained inside the tank.    It takes up a lot of room, but it's quiet and creates very little current (which the gourami appreciate and the danio don't so the danio spend a lot of time in the stream of the aqua clear filter).  I ultimately am using it because I needed more filtration since I am slightly overstocked and when I bought my 40 and 55 gallon tanks it came with them, so why the hell not use it?
  • ViaAqua Heater- When I was keeping goldfish I didn't need a heater because they are coldwater fish.  Then I started keeping tropical fish and I got a set thermostat (non-adjustable) Aqueon one, which heated just fine but didn't keep the water temperature very consistent.  I actually just switched to this one yesterday. So far it tends to be keeping the water quite warm 80 degrees (I'm shooting for 74), so I've been gradually turning it down.
  • Rocket-fin Analog Thermometer- Basically you shove the fins into the substrate and they keep it from turning.  It's fairly nice, if I do get a reef tank, I'll get a digital thermometer.
As far as things outside the tank go I have:
  • API Master Test- An essential water testing kit that lets you know your water parameters.
  • Oxygen Test Kit- Not essential, but for awhile I was having trouble with the amount of oxygen in my water.
  • API Quick Start- Many people scoff, but I highly recommend it if you want to speed up a cycle.  I talk about it in my last post.
  • Seachem's Prime-  This is a water conditioner plus some.  It removes chlorine and chloramine from tap water.  It also detoxifies ammonia and binds nitrites, which means that even if you have a spike in ammonia or nitrites, it won't necessarily kill you fish.  Invest in this, it is well worth your time of any single item I have.
  • Tropical Fish Flakes- Mmm, yummy.
  • Freeze-Dried Bloodworms- To supplement the flakes, really not necessary.
  • Sinking Algae Rounds- I got these for the corys to make sure they were eating.
  • Gravel Siphon- I got this to clean the gravel, but it also works wonderfully to drain old water out of the tank.  Many people say you can go without and you can, but they're so convenient.
So the number on thing I learned about equipment is spend the extra money to get something you really want, because eventually you're going to upgrade and that's going to be expensive.  I don't mean go out and buy a 100 gallon tank, but don't buy the cheapest heater you can find necessarily unless it is well reviewed somewhere.  Spending the extra money upfront will save in the long run.

My male dwarf gourami, the camera doesn't do him justice really, nor does my lighting.

The golden long-finned danio, they are so quick they're hard to get a picture of, this is the best I could manage.  He's in front of one of my banana plants.  A much, much better picture. 

My female gourami.  She's actually almost as big as my male (who is big for a male), so she's huge.

My julii corydoras love the log and don't particularly like when people are right by the glass, so they're hiding.  Have a better picture.

My fish tank as a whole.  I'm rather pleased with the overall look of it actually.

This is one of my normal zebra danio.  As I've said, they're so fast.  A better internet picture.

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