Petco Online Rep Experience

I often feel like most people (or at least myself) with pet fish (or perhaps not just with fish) often question another persons aquatic,etc advice. I often find doing research and experimenting is generally the best route to take (that's why I have this blog in the first place, right?! hah). Onto my point...

I recently decided to see how Petco's Online Interactive Rep Chat was and I quickly began talking to an online Petco representative named "Abby" whom I asked "aside from appearances, what is the difference between the Aqueon Pro and the regular Aqueon aquarium heater?". The response I ultimately got from her was based on the customer reviews she had read, and so Abby's response was that the Pro series supposedly lasts longer. Seriously, that's all that she could tell me...well, that and how they currently are having a sale on the item (like duh, its Black Friday week, heh).

Overall, this Petco Chat help line was not really anymore helpful to me than what I could have learned on my own and both of these items have a lifetime warranty. So, her response really tells me that aside from looks... they are the same. Was this the response I was looking for...not really, I was desiring more since both the items according to her are basically the same since I know they both have a lifetime warranty, and yet the Pro costs more, and... for what reason? Well, we already know Abby can't really help us so... that's where I come in.

Actually, I already knew the answer as to what the difference was between the two heaters (or at least one) from my own personal knowledge. The difference is that the Pro heater is fully submersible underwater which allows it to be added anywhere inside the aquarium and positioned in any direction; the regular heater can only be positioned vertically as the top part of the device is marked showing a waterline, this waterline means that you are not suppose to fully submerse this heater underwater. Although they both say on the label they are "submersible" this does not mean they are fully submersible however, you may not realize this until you open the package and read the directions/warnings inside. Although, one way to know if it is or not is to look at the device itself and if it shows a marked waterline on it, then it's more than likely NOT fully submersible.

So, based on this Petco experience, I really doubt I'll be asking them for advice online anytime soon. Of course if they start getting more knowledgeable people working for them I might ask for advice, but even then I'll probably still be a bit skeptic.

*Aside from other things on Petco I came across their fish forum online and I could not agree more with THIS article on fish rights which, I think all us fish fanatics and lovers can agree with, thanks TacoLuv for posting.


Aquarium Bacteria - Good and Bad

Often I hear people talking about aquarium bacteria when dealing with established filtration media, gravel, etc. In my personal opinion once a tank is started it begins to accumulate some type of bacteria and such throughout the entire tank and not just one particular area.

I am uncertain as to what extent people seem to think they have "good bacteria" in their aquarium. What are the qualifications for this "good bacteria" and what are their standards, because what one person may consider "good" the next person may not. You could base this off many factors like healthy fish, clean water, growing plants, breeding fish, etc but... that also varies from person to person, and tank to tank. So in my personal opinion, I don't think those factors should make anyone think they have the best bacteria and healthiest setup for there aquatic friends. Nearly any aquarium can take an unhealthy turn for the worse and vice versa, and some fish and plants can still flourish in not-so-great conditions.

If you want to consider a cycled aquarium as having "good bacteria" I would not state that, I would just say that it is an established aquarium. I also don't find that having an established aquarium has really helped kick start any new aquarium of mine to help it cycle faster...maybe others have had luck with this but adding gravel from an established tank or filtration media did not work for me (although you will find another post on here of a product that did cycle my aquarium rapidly).

So, I hope this post perhaps helps anyone else that is having issues or also struggles with this topic. Keep in mind that this is my personal opinion and what has been my past experience with this issue. I would love to hear others comments and opinions on this topic as well.


Fish Updates

Here is a photo of one of the first batch of fry that my original female guppy (who recently passed away) and one of her sons reproduced, these fry are now 6 weeks old this week and in my opinion have been growing rapidly (they all basically look like this thus far) as they are about an inch in length now.
Here are the original female guppy's first offspring (to which the father is unknown and the mother is now deceased as mentioned before). These two males were the ones that reproduced this current batch of 6 week old fry and are the only 2 fully matured males I currently have. I don't plan on breeding these two again until the 6 week old female fry are mature. These two have also reproduced with there sisters in my other tank and those fry are around 3-4 weeks old now and seem a bit slow growing.
Male guppies at 7.5 months old
Some people have asked me how Mr.Moto my blue veil-tail betta is doing and he's doing just fine although I think he has been wanting to breed for some time now, but I do not plan to breed betta's due to there general temperment and the amount of space it will ultimately consume for me. Today I placed him back into his smaller Cubus tank while I clean out his Mini-Bow. As you can see his coloring has changed yet again. Mr. Moto's head area has turned mostly black in color and he has odd white lines that run vertically between the mouth to gill area, which I think may be a breeding identifer as well as the white area running under his belly. The horizontal stripes along his sides though are what I call his "stress stripes" which didn't start to appear until I moved him back into his Cubus (the tank change and move can cause that to happen obviously but they will go away when he feels more at ease). I also have never noticed the tiny black line of dots on his lower under-belly fin, perhaps that's also a breeding sign.
Click to Enlarge



This week as I checked on my female guppy tank I noticed my main fish mom (the one that started all the current guppies I have) had developed a case of dropsy. I don't think I've had a fish get dropsy since about 5yrs back when I had some zebra danio's. I treated the tank with Maracyn Two and Mardel CopperSafe and within a few hours the female had unfortunately passed away. All my other fish seem to be doing fine, I moved the fry into the male guppy tank after 24/hrs of treatment and left the other adult females in the treated tank which I will clean out this coming week.

What's Dropsy?
Dropsy is a bit difficult to diagnose but it is generally a bacterial infection which could be introduced through poor water quality (high in nitrates). It could also be kidney/heart failure (possibly due to too many water chemicals), excess fluid to the liver, or other possible causes. It could possibly be contagious.

Dropsy Characteristics?
Rapid Breathing, Protruding Scales, and Bloated Body. In early and latter stages of dropsy you may notice the fish going to the surface often for air, possible lack of appetite, or even spends most of its time at the top or bottom of the aquarium. There may also be a change in color (female guppies tend to turn a bit gray on the body).

Dropsy Treatment?
As dropsy is hard to diagnose it makes it difficult to treat. Moving the fish to a quarantine tank may make matters worse due to the stress it will cause on the ill fish. If the fish is already showing the bloated spiny appearance than chances of survival are probably slim. An aquarium salt bath may help to draw out the fluid in the fish. Some medications that may help are penicillin, tetracycline, and nalidixic acid. Water changes and clean water are a must to help prevent fish from getting dropsy.

*These remedies are only what I've researched on the Internet thus far and may/may not work.


Tail Split Remedy

A ginkgo leaf looks similar to a tail split

After moving my male guppies back into there 10gal aquarium last week I noticed one of my males had a tail split straight down the middle of his tail to the base. Tail splits can occur for many different reasons such as...water parameter changes, fighting, or even getting snagged on aquarium decor. After waiting about 2 days to see if his tail was going to mend itself, it really didn't seem to be so I took a shot at trying to correct the issue.
I decided to pour in a bit of PimaFix (originally I was going to try Melafix but I couldn't locate my bottle of it) into my 10gal aquarium. By the next day I shocked to see that his tail was halfway repaired! So I continued putting in 1-2 capfuls of PimaFix into the aquarium every day (I actually didn't remove the carbon from my filtration either) and in under a week, his tail split was basically gone. Click here to see how it helped my gold barbs in the past as well.

What's PimaFix?
PimaFix's active ingredient is Pimenta Racemosa (1.0% in the API brand I used) which is a bay rum oil that comes from the West Indian bay tree (or bay rum tree) which is part of the myrtle tree family. Common remedy uses for Pimenta Racemosa are for colds, flu's, digestion and insect repellent. PimaFix claims to rapidly treat internal and external fungal infections on fish as it's an anti-fungal product. It also claims to help cottony growth and reddening on fins and body.


Guppy Updates

Today my first guppy (the original store bought pregnant guppy that started this strain) gave birth to her sons fry (yes, that sounds weird but true). I now have at least 20+ new fry and I believe her daughters are also pregnant from there brothers so, I'm sure I'll end up with more fry at some point in the near future. I am hoping that with my new fry I will be able to perfect the strain a bit however, there are many other factors to consider but I'd rather not make things too complicated. In the mean time, I have 3 months before the new fry has mature males to breed (from my past experience it usually takes the females twice as long to fully mature for breeding) and I have put the mature males into a separate tank from the females and new fry as I don't want them to breed together again. Keep in mind that a female guppy can continue giving birth months after she has dropped one batch of fry without having mated again (this additional batch has always been a low number of new fry for me though as it's generally just one fry born but I'm sure it could vary).


How to Remove Nitrite

Nitrite NO2 Ion
After having cleaned out my entire 10gal aquarium (as you may have seen from my previous posts) and replacing all the gravel substrate I didn't check my water quality since I had ran out of test strips and had added my male guppies to the tank within 24hrs I believe (obviously the tank needed to cycle). Well, that resulted in losing one of my male guppies after a few days (the reason why my guppies weren't being active in the first place) and luckily I was able to move my 2 remaining male guppies back into there old aquarium with the females and they made a speedy full recovery in 1-3days.

So now that I have test strips I realized, yes, I did have a nitrite issue (no ammonia though in case you were wondering). The only time I ever have a nitrite issue is when I replace the substrate. Generally I'd clean the entire tank out again (rinsing all the decor and such as well) and it would rid me of my nitrite issue (which sounds weird but it has worked for me in the past). So I decided I didn't want to go through the headache of cleaning my tank out again and wanted to find a product that could rid my tank of nitrite (as my nitrite level ranged from 0.5 - 3.0).

I was extremely skeptical I'd even find a product that could actually eliminate nitrite, especially having really hard well-water, which is generally pretty stubborn to alter. So, I went into PetSmart having no luck finding what I had initially been looking for and then I finally found ONE product in the whole store that day (which happened to be a bit pricey as well), it being my only option without having to go on a major product hunt I purchased a small bottle of... Tetra SafeStart.

I got home, followed the directions... removed the carbon filter, shook the bottle of Tetra SafeStart and poured in 1/3 of the bottle into my 10gal tank. Less then 10hrs later I tested the water and...NO nitrite whatsoever! It's seriously a miracle product which I can now recommend to you if you're battling nitrite. This product also claims to remove ammonia although, I had no ammonia so I'm not sure if it will combat that or not.

*Update* It has been months now since using Tetra SafeStart and I have not had a nitrite issue since I first began using this product. I know how some products can seem to work for a very short time (if at all) but that was not an issue when I used this. Or it is possible this product worked long enough for my tank to catch up in the cycling process before this product could have possibly ever worn off. So, I still really recommend trying this if you're having similar issues as I did because it worked perfectly for me.


Rain Water pH

According to Wikipedia the pH in rain water can vary depending on your location. Since it has been pouring rain here recently (around the DC area) I decided to make the best of it by capturing some falling rain drops in a cup and then testing it using the Tetra 6-in-1 EasyStrips.

My Results...

Nitrate = 0 Safe
Nitrite = 0 Safe
Hardness/GH = 0 Very Soft
Chlorine = 0 Safe
Alkalinity/KH = 0 Low
pH = 6.2 Acidic


Aquarium Update - Part 2

This past weekend when I actually had some downtime I worked on my aquarium yet again and achieved most of what needed to get done from my previous aquarium update on here.
Click to Enlarge
I got my light fixture setup and attached to the wall now, and I decided to move the decor around as before it looked like a pile of leaves stuffed into the corner or something. I also decided to use a matte finish trash bag as my background which I layered and cut to fit the back of the tank and attached it with a bit of clear tape. I changed the placement of my filter and heater to better disguise it in the back behind the decor a bit. I haven't added any additional fish to my tank yet and find it odd that without female guppies in my tank my males spend most of the day hiding and lazing around. Aside from what I set out to do I also did a little more tank maintenance and changed out about 3L worth of water (since it got a bit cloudy throughout the week) and tried my best to scrub off the calcium buildup (is there an easier way to remove that stuff?!).

I'm in debate about changing out the mopani driftwood with branches as I loath having to clean and soak new wood. I'm also in debate about getting a glass top over the tank as they don't always hold up too well and require more tank maintenance on my end since my well-water is really hard.


Recent Aquarium Setup - Part 1

I decided to create a blackwater style aquarium however, it's not a true biotope and I think it looks nice for fall time which is really just around the corner. I put only my male guppies in this tank to separate them from my females and also because their colors looked nice with the foliage. I am considering buying a few tetra's to add to this setup (won't say which ones yet, it'll be a surprise!).
Click to Enlarge
To achieve this look was pretty cheap, I bought a 25lb bag of black gravel (Petco) however, I think half the bag would've been a decent amount of substrate for my 10gal as this looks a bit much for my personal preference. On the plus side, I want to get rid of the black and white gravel in my other 10gal, so when I get around to cleaning that tank then I'll probably remove half the substrate from my new tank into that one (helps prevent new tank syndrome as well).

I found a 5ft faux maple leaf garland and a faux oak bouquet at the Dollar Tree. I rinsed these as their was a small amount of dye that washed off from them. I then placed the maple garland at the bottom of the tank, poured my gravel on top and pulled up a few of the maple leaves out from the gravel. As a side note, if you cut the stem off from the leaf it does not float on top the water but rather sinks to the bottom. I then had some smooth black substrate stones (Petco) and placed a handful or two of those around the top of the gravel to help break up the overly gravel look it was giving off in the tank.

The piece of Mopani driftwood in my tank I have had for awhile now which I also got from the pet store. I had originally planned to find some dry branches to clean and put into the tank but haven't got around to that yet. I cut the stems off of my oak leaf bouquet, only leaving 2 stems attached to the original base, then I lightly pushed and arranged the stems into the gravel behind the Mopani.

I did buy a new aquarium heater which claims to heat up to 20 gallons, it's fully submersible and is made by Aqueon (I will do a review of this at some point). Once I get the temperature set properly in this tank I'll move it from the side of the tank to the back. I also bought a new filter cartridge for my 20gal Aqueon filter because I only had the medium sized cartridges and needed large ones for this model.

I cut open a brown paper Pollo bag which I had on hand and used it as my background, and I think it turned out better than I was expecting. However, I'm thinking of switching out the paper bag with a black trash bag. The black background will allow better viewing so that the filter intake tube and my new tank heater won't look as visible.

The green breeding grass (Petco) floating on top the water was just intended to be temporary to help the guppies feel more at ease since I took it out of my other tank setup. Also the lighting is from an aquarium hood (Petco) which I had previously as I haven't setup the other light fixture (IKEA) for this tank yet, once its changed the water won't look as bright white but more yellow in color.

That's it for my new setup, let me know your thoughts or comments.


Guppy Updates - Updated

My male guppy fry just reached 5 months of age (getting close to full adult hood). They have gained a lot of color in their tails over the last month and have been chasing the females constantly. The males tails are still growing longer at this stage where the females tail growth has basically stopped since last month. The color pattern on the males has definitely been changing and enhancing a lot more in color over the past month. The females appear to look just like their mother. The males have developed an interesting spotted color scheme on their body, similar to that of an endler guppy.
Click to Enlarge (around 5 months of age)
Around 2 months or so ago the Mother guppy gave birth to another female fry. It is common for guppies to give birth without having mated again.
Male Color Description
Half tuxedo body, inherited from the mother I'd assume since she has this characteristic. Possible endler guppy body type with orange spot on the top of head and upper sides of body. A solid pale blue/white stripe which runs all the way down the top of the back. The dorsal fin is pale blue/white and orange at the base. The pectoral fins are also pale blue/white.The caudal fin appears to be an orange color shade and has become more orange this past month where it had looked half yellow before. At this stage the caudal is still in the growing process so I am not sure the outcome of the tail shape yet although it looks like it could become a possible delta or flag shape thus far.


Night of the Guppy

As I was randomly surfing the web on guppies tonight I came across this unique fictional vampire guppy story called "Night of the Guppy". It's pretty funny at times and only 3 chapters long, but it's a free read so check it out if you got some free time, made me smile!
Click Here to Read!


Blackwater Aquarium - Get the Look

Blackwater aquariums are not your typical looking tank as they generally have dark tea colored water, low lighting and generally have a lack in plant life. Below you'll find a few simple ways I came up with to create an aquarium that looks like or is a blackwater biotope type of aquarium.
In a blackwater aquarium it can often be a daunting task for live plants to survive in this type of environment as it usually has low light levels. Generally blackwater biotopes have soft water and plants possibly wouldn't thrive beneath the water. I'd recommend choosing bulbs that give off more yellow lighting in this type of aquarium and have a low wattage which will make the tank a bit more dim than bright. However, in a true blackwater biotope it is possible to use other types of lighting although I personally don't like white light blazing through this type of biotope. It is common for blackwater aquariums to be so dimly lit that it is often difficult to view the fish in the aquarium.
Due to the low light levels and low pH in a blackwater biotope most plants aren't going to thrive too well here. In my opinion you may be better off using fake plants if any at all (choose green plants that have a yellow or red tone given to them as these may look best). For a more natural approach use live or fake plants that sit/float near the surface of the water for the best success rate for live plants or the most natural looking blackwater aquarium.
The most typical decor found in a blackwater aquarium is often some type of wood and for good reason since it can help lower pH which is needed for true blackwater environments. The incorporation of stones/rocks/etc can be used as well. Blackwater environments will generally have a black background or one that is a bit burnish in color (think of deep orange and red colors that occur in autumn). The substrate may be covered in autumn colored leaves (real or fake) such as oak. Gravel substrate is generally black or a natural color although it's probably more common in a true blackwater environment to find natural colored sand or black colored soil. Keep in mind that a white substrate will probably appear more yellowish in a true blackwater type of environment and by using a black colored background it will help create more depth to the tank itself.
Water Quality
There are chemicals on the market which can help to lower the pH in an aquarium if your pH is not on the soft side (a pH lower than 7.0 is acidic and considered to be soft water) for a true blackwater environment. Blackwater in nature can be as low as a 3.0 pH although in an aquarium this may become a bit too unstable for brackish fish. There are also natural methods which can be used to help lower pH such as alder cones, bogwood, peat, almond leaves, etc. If your aquarium is not a true blackwater aquarium use older aquarium driftwood, low watt yellow lighting and some peat extracts which can help your water look more yellow in color without possibly altering it to the extremes of a pH below 7.0. Blackwater environments generally have slow moving water so you'll probably want to avoid using forceful powerhead filters.
Water Temperature
Upon doing some reaseach (although I am not totally certain how accurate this blackwater reading is) I found that an average blackwater temperature is possibly around 82.7°F but ranges from 76.3°F to 89°F.
Additional Tips
Keep in mind that the use of carbon can tend to remove certain chemicals from your water and remove the coloration from your blackwater biotope. Here's a little inspo link I found online to someone who created their own blackwater biotope.


Creating Depth in an AquaScape - Simple Tips

When it comes to picking an aquarium background to go with your substrate here's what I recommend.
If you choose a dark background like black, you'll generally want your substrate to be light in color in order to create a sense of depth in your aquarium.
So that also means, if you have a light colored background or perhaps no background with natural light coming through you'll probably want to go with a darker substrate such as black.
For those of you that perhaps have a dark background and dark substrate you'll want to add in tank decor that's light in color, like a lot of lush green plants for instance.
So if you perhaps have a light background and substrate you'll want your decor to be darker/deeper in color.
Black is great for making decor/plants appear fuller than they are by creating a shadowing affect under decor/plants. That being said if you have a light colored substrate and want to add depth you could always use dark colored stones around the areas you want to add more depth to. Or if you have dark substate use light colored stones/pebbles/etc in the areas you want to highlight.


Guppy Origins and Environment

Guppies are native to areas around the northeast side of South America. Which include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Brazil, Guyana, Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Venezuela. To better re-create a guppies biotope in an aquarium, you'll probably want to research the Amazon River and Rainforest areas.

You'll find such plants like Amazon Swords at your local petstore that are obviously native to the Amazon. Other native plants are Sagittaria, Ludwiga, Syngonium, Myriophyllum, Caladium, Orchid, Giant Water Lillies, AnthuriumBromeliad and Cabomba to name a few. Other South American fish you may come across locally are certain cichlids, discuss, angelfish, rams, cory's, oscars, tetras, barbs, gouramis, and killifish. Your best bet to re-creating that rainforest feel in your aquarium is to also check the reptile isle at your local petstore as they have lots of rainforest/jungle inspired decor which you may be able to use in your aquarium.
Keep in mind that South America consists of (3) major water types...whitewater, clearwater (blue water), and blackwater.

(1) Whitewater rivers pick up large amounts of sediment from the Andes giving the water a muddy-brown color. Whitewater receives its name from the white foam of the rapids of the upper regions. Whitewater rivers lack abundant plant life. Most aquarium species are found in quiet, backwater areas like oxbow lakes. The water properties of whitewater rivers are a pH from 6.8-7.1 and a dH of 3-5. The best example of a whitewater river is the Amazon River.

(2) Clear or blue water rivers are tributaries which flow through ancient Brazilian and Guyana rock beds where little sediment is released into the rivers. The water of these rivers is very clear and allows plant growth. Clearwater rivers have a pH of 6.9-7.5 and a water hardness of 5-12 dH. The Rio Xingu and the Rio Tocantins are such rivers.

(3) Blackwater rivers are nutrient poor and tea or black in color from the tanic acid released from decaying vegetation. Blackwater has been compared to distilled water due to its lack of dissolved minerals. Blackwater rivers are acidic and have a pH of 6.0 with little measurable water hardness (0 dH). The Rio Negro is the most famous of the blackwater rivers.


Betta Eating Behavior

Recently I've noticed that Mr. Moto (my blue veil-tail Betta) hasn't been eating the way he use to. His Cubus tank is also getting dirtier than normal lately as the flake food is gradually building along the gravel. So, I moved Mr. Moto into a clean MiniBow 2.5gal tank to monitor the issue. I saw that he'll eat a flake and a few seconds later spit it out. Some of the food is apparently breaking down in his mouth and going out through his gills, thus causing a cloud of flake food particles to come out.

I did some research where a few others stated having the same issue and I'm not convinced that this is normal behavior. Mr. Moto also seems to rest more on the bottom of the tank which also isn't like him as he usually rests on top of his plants. He is still occasionally active throughout the day, no signs of illness or fungus and he still attempts to eat.

So here's what I did which seems to have stopped the issue...

Step 1: Do a complete tank cleaning.
Step 2: Do not feed the fish for an entire day (24hrs).
Step 3: The next day only feed the Betta 4 big flakes (about 1 cm diameter) throughout the entire day. You should not see any food coming out through his gills.
Step 4: Only feed the Betta once a day (try to do this the same time every day), a very small pinch of food from here on out.

Keep in mind that Betta's love to eat, but you should never overfeed it. Although your Betta may look hungry and keep eating, I wouldn't feed it more than this. Your Betta more than likely will not starve either. Also, I still have not figured out why Mr. Moto keeps resting on the bottom of the tank but I will continue to closely monitor him.


DIY Aquarium Planter

I decided to create my own aquarium planter. This is basically a simple 2Liter bottle that sits on top of the aquarium as a planter. The plant receives water and nutrients from the established aquarium and gets its light and such from above the aquarium.

What you'll need...

1, 2Liter Plastic Bottle with Cap (you can add more if you want)
1inch thick piece of Wood/Glass/Hard Plastic (this will act as your aquarium lid)
Aquarium Silicon (or adhesive of your choosing)
Aquarium filled with water (and other living inhabitants)

Step 1: Cut your 2Liter bottle in half or at an angle (like the above image). You can choose to discard the base at this time or keep it to support the top half of the bottle until the unit is complete.
Step 2: Using a thick piece of Wood/Glass/Plastic (your choice as long as it can sit on top your tank), drill a hole that will fit your bottle cap. You'll also want to drill a small hole in the top of your bottle cap (this will allow the roots to be pulled through the base later).
Step 3: Apply the Aquarium Silicon (or adhesive of your choice) inside the drilled hole in your Wood/Glass/Plastic. With the cap screwed tightly onto the top half of your bottle you'll than push it into your drilled hole with the adhesive in the Wood/Glass/Plastic. Be sure to position the top half of the bottle the way you want your planter to be displayed later once the adhesive has dried completely.
Step 4: Once the adhesive is dry you can than choose to unscrew the bottle from your Wood/Glass/Plastic and the cap should stay securely inside the Wood/Glass/Plastic hole. This will help if you ever want to clean out your planter later on.
Step 5: You can then add your plant into the top of the 2Liter bottle, make sure it is screwed securely back in place on your Wood/Glass/Plastic. Be sure the roots have been pulled through your unit and can reach the water in the aquarium.

Note: You don't need the tank lid to be as wide as the tank so long as it can rest safely on top the tank length wise. You could also make a hinged door that can be lifted up to feed your fish if you do decide to cover the entire top of the aquarium. Or even create a box type hood where you could attach lighting underneath for an all around planted or lighted aquarium.


Natural Aquarium

In this day and age who would've ever heard of a planted tank that runs perfectly without the use of high end fertilizers and chemicals (or any for that matter), and without power filters and co2 injections?! Okay, so perhaps that's how it works in fresh water lakes and ponds, but it can also work for you at home! A great site I recently came across is Natural Aquariums. At N.A. they have been creating natural aquariums since the 80's and have broken down their aquarium setups for everyone else out there that is interested in doing something like this.
Here's how a basic setup of theirs works and what you'll need to get started.

-10 Gallon Aquarium (or larger, your choice really)
-Two 40Watt Bulbs, cool-white/day-light fluorescent shop lights (of you can use 2 aquarium grow lights)
-Plenty of aquarium type plants (they have a list on their site), they recommend Amazon Swords, Cryptocorynes, Anubias, Java Moss, Ferns, Hornwort, Najas Guadalupensis and Rotala Indiva.
-Air Pump *Optional*
-Occasional/Frequent Water Changes (Gravel Vacuum & Bucket will help during this time) as well as trimming plants.
-Aquarium Heater (for those who live in cold conditions) *Optional*
-Small Fish (preferably ones that work well with your tap water and don't devour plants) and of course fish food.
-Aquarium Chlorine Remover (Depending on your tap water quality), you could possibly need other chemicals depending on your water as well but they keep things pretty chemical free. An RO Filter would also work great if you're really trying to be chemical free.
-Gravel Substrate (the typical pea sized gravel kind, avoid sand substrates)
-Peat and Wood (these can help to naturally lower pH) *Optional*
-Invertebrates such as Malayan Live-bearing Snails (these will help to clean your gravel)

According to N.A. it's all about finding the right combination of fish, plants, lighting and invertebrates that will work best in your tank setup and your water conditions while trying to avoid filtration systems, chemicals and all that fancy overpriced stuff in between.


DIY Hairgrass Tutorial

Click to Enlarge
I haven't done this yet but I got the idea that hairgrass looks much like string up-close and thus thought this would be a neat idea after seeing the photo's of live hairgrass in the above aquarium.

What you'll need...

Flat Slate
Cotton or Nylon Sewing String (preferably 2 different shades of grassy green)
Aquarium Silicone
Click to Enlarge
Step 1: Hold your slate in one hand.
Step 2: Wrap your string tightly around your slate, the more string you wrap around the fuller your faux hairgrass will look when you're done.
Step 3: Lay your slate on a flat surface with the bottom side up. Using aquarium silicone spread it over-top all the string, this will keep it all in place later. Let the silicone dry, this can take 24-48hrs.
Step 4: Once your silicone has dried you'll then flip your slate over. Take your scissors and cut the string apart down the center.
Step 5: Spread the string open off of the slate.
Step 6: To make your faux hairgrass look more realistic trim the string at different lengths. Rinse thoroughly once complete and place into your aquarium.

Fish Vs. Filter Intake

For whatever reason Mr. Moto (my blue veil-tail Betta) likes curling his tail around the filter intake and having his tail sucked up into the tube. He always does this intentionally, it's not like he doesn't realize it isn't happening, he even falls asleep and is perfectly content. However, in him doing this odd ritual his fins seem to be looking a bit rugged to say the least. Here's my quick fix to keep this from happening...

Cut the toe off a nylon pantyhose (you can usually get these for free at lady shoe stores), make sure it's clean of course. You'll want the piece to be long enough just to cover the intake on the filter tube. Once covered, keep in place with a rubber-band and problem solved.
Click to Enlarge
This method is also good if you have small fry that you don't want to get sucked up into your filtration. The downside is that this doesn't allow big pieces of debris to get filtered out.


Maturing Guppy Fry

As it's nearing the beginning of May, my guppy fry will then be reaching three months of age, they're currently around half the size of their mother (nearly one inch in length) and I am sure they're going to start growing more rapidly at this stage as they're taking on more food now. I have decided to finally clean out my other 10 gallon aquarium this coming weekend in order to have it setup before the males mature and begin chasing my females around (as I don't want to go overboard on the breeding ordeal right now). It appears about half my fry are male/female this time around. They all look very similar to their mother (showing a tuxedo body) which is slightly disappointing because I was hoping they would show different characteristics in order to better identify what their father looked like (perhaps he was similar to the mother in this case) but this could change in the males as they begin to mature more.


Cat Cubus

Sometimes you can find inspiration in the oddest of items and today I found myself feeling inspired by a Japanese soap pump. I thought "how cute if this was a fish tank" (as it's really hard to find a kawaii looking aquarium on the net). So, I decided to re-create Mr. Moto's Marina Cubus into something kawaii/cute.
kawaii soap pump
What you'll need to achieve my design below is ...
Mr. Moto and Marimo
Paper (I printed out the online image I used)
Clear Tape
Fun-Foam Board (I used white and pink)
Double-Sided Velcro Tape
Marina Cubus tank or similar (if you don't already have one)

The Background
I found the face image online and edited it to fit my aquarium however, you could always design your own or take a sheet of paper and draw your own by hand. Cut out the image to fit the backside of your aquarium, place it on the outside of the tank and adhere it with some clear tape. If you can't laminate your paper background then be careful not to get it wet.

The Foreground
I thought it'd be cute to create and cut out animal ears with some white fun-foam board that matched my background. I then cut out two pink triangles and glued them inside the ear cutout. I then adhered the ears to the tank using some double-sided velcro tape at the top of the tank and the bottom backside of my ear cutouts.

I love how the Cubus light looks like it's the cats tail. I think this came out looking really cute and I hope you enjoy it to! BTW, aquarium filter and gravel is optional but I personally prefer it.


Brown Algae - Part 2 (Success)

As stated in my previous brown algae post I have found a quick remedy for eliminating my current brown algae issue.

I first tried using a capful of Tetra EasyBalance with Nitraban to my 10 gallon tank however, this did not eliminate the brown algae and it continued to worsen. I have also read from others online that most chemicals which are supposed to help eliminate algae do not seem to be effective for the most part, so I opted to take a less chemically evasive route as the product did nothing to eliminate brown algae or lower my nitrate levels for that matter (I have yet to purchase a phosphate test kit therefore I am not sure if that product had any affect on it).

I went to my local Petco in search of a new tank-mate that would hopefully consume my brown algae. The Petco did not have any Siamese Algae Eaters (SAE) although it did carry Chinese Algae Eaters (CAE) however, the two fish are quite different as CAE's apparently don't really consume brown algae. Then, I saw they had a small Albino Bristle Nose Pleco (BNP). I was skeptical about buying a Pleco at first since I had one many moons ago and it didn't survive however, I am much more knowledgeable now and so far I've had success with my new Pleco.

Within 2-3 days now my new 2inch Pleco has really cleaned up my brown algae! What a miracle worker my Pleco has been thus far.


Brown Algae - Part 1

Just as I began to wonder why I have never in my many years of aquarium setups ever had algae...I can now officially say that for the first time ever I now have a case of brown algae. There is one main conclusion I came to as to why this has started happening and that reason I found is due to adding a tank heater into my established aquarium (and yes, actually using it more permanently for once). I started keeping my tank at around 68F and higher, it took about 1-2 weeks and I began to notice some ugly brown patchy substance coating its way onto everything in my tank. According to my research, this also has to do with high nitrate levels, silicates and phosphates. Phosphates have never been tested in my aquarium before, so now I will be going to my local pet-store, picking up a p3/p4 test kit and discovering where my tank rates on its scale. My nitrate level is beginning to decrease with more regular water changes and cleaning which now rates at a level 50 in my tank (however, there has been no decrease in brown algae thus far) which is supposedly mid-range according to the test strips I have been using.

There are several ways in which I can try to tackle this issue of brown algae.

Tetra EasyBalance Water Treatment (Said to reduce nitrate and phosphate, I also currently own this, so I will be trying this first.)

Microbe-Lift GSC Gravel & Substrate Cleaner for Aquariums (Said to reduce and bind nutrients including phosphates.)

Tetra Algae Control (Said to control brown algae as well as several other types of algae.)

According to my research there are also means of using live plants in hopes that the plants can out-compete the brown algae in nutrients. There are also certain fish/snails/etc which also consume brown algae.

To be continued...


Betta Fungus

I was recently out of town, only to come back home to my sick Betta Moto who had some type of patchy almost white fungus growing above his head (perhaps it's columnaris?). I decided to treat him with some Maracyn Two, it seemed to clear up almost immediately by the next day (I am very surprised this stuff actually worked!). I also cleaned out his Cubus tank and finished his Maracyn Two treatment per box instructions in a separate container. He is currently back in his clean tank after three days, a bit stressed (still eating though!) but I think he will be back to his normal happy-self in no time. I also decided to add a little PIMAFIX into his clean tank as well just to help aid his fungal issue a little bit more.
Moto's Fungal Patches
I also decided to add a small satchel of carbon to his filtration system to insure he is getting pristine water in his tank while he is still a bit "under the weather". I am also interested to see if the carbon is capable of removing the slimy topcoat that the Betta seems to leave along the top of its tank water, as I am still not sure why this seems to happen or be a common issue with Betta's.


Betta Color Change

Today I noticed that Mr. Moto (my blue veil-tail Betta) seems to change body color/pattern almost instantaneously and I began to wonder why this was happening.
Mr. Moto's bright coloring (left) & stripes and dull coloring (right)
The Analysis
I am pretty certain this change is not due to any drastic water changes since that has not really changed at all and his coloring changes so rapidly depending on him it seems. Sure a Betta or any fish for that matter could change colors due to poor water conditions and such but this does not seem to be Mr. Moto's case.

I also have not changed his diet, he loves to eat the Aqueon Color Enhancing Tropical Flakes and he will really make a pig of himself. He also prefers to eat flakes while they are still floating on top the water, which makes me wonder why Betta pellets are generally what is given to them via pet-store Betta food since they tend to sink to the bottom quickly.

Other people have suggested that these horizontal stripes are "stress stripes" but I really don't see that being the case because he'll change back and forth randomly which seems more mood based than anything. To me signals of fish stress would be...gasping for air, clamped or rapid movement of fins, irregular swim pattern, loss of appetite, pale coloring, etc.

I do wonder if it is either a mating or defense mechanism of camouflage that spikes these color changes. Or perhaps it is just a characteristic only shown in some Betta's as I have read that this is more likely to happen in iridescent colored Betta's. However, I'm not sure Mr. Moto is considered "iridescent". I am not sure why this would be mating related in his case as there are no other Betta's around for him to compete with or for.

The Answer
This color change seems to happen from when he gets excited to when he is in a sleeping stage. He turns a vibrant blue shade when he knows I am paying him attention and he may be getting food (his excited stage). However, when he is in a deep sleep his colors tone down and he develops a dull body color with dark stripes. He also has an in-between color variation of both during these mood changes where the top half of his body will be blue but there will be some dark striping coming through the middle lower half of his body. This would more than likely come in handy during mating courtship where the colors would be bright and vibrant (excitement stage again), and as a defense mechanism to camflouge when he is at a more vulnerable stage (ie. sleeping) and the colors would dull into his stripe stage.


Oscar the Tiger Oscar Cichlid

I recently helped a very good friend of mine start up a tank of his own since he had recently aquired a 10-gallon tank and he knew I was into fish so I could be of assistance. I was quick to learn he had a love for Oscar's, a fish I have yet to own myself...but obviously this is a fish that is said to require much more living space than he currently has in this tank. So...I couldn't sway him toward the smaller line of hearty tetras, guppies, neons, etc and...we decided to push our luck and try our hands at a Oscar regardless.
A few things I have learned and observed about Oscar's...

#1 They apparently grow fast, so his Oscar that is pushing 3 inches may soon get too big for his tank as they can grow over a foot in length.
#2 Their poop looks similar to many turtles I've seen (yes, a bit large) so a good filtration system would really help (however, his 10-20 bio filter probably isn't up for the job).
#3 They are said to be interior decorators...as their size does not stop them from up-rooting plants and moving heavy decor that you strategically placed in your tank.
#4 It's also said Oscar's will jump out of their tank, as for the reasons why...perhaps to see if the water is cleaner on the other side??? or lack their of, heh.
#5 They love to eat and will eat a variety of food however, vitamins B and C are very essential to their health.
#6 They will lay at 45 degree angles, this is mainly to catch prey by acting as if they are a bit dead.
#7 They tend to be more active at night (or perhaps just like dark places in general?).
#8 They can be aggresive and should be placed in a tank with similar sized fish, they will eat small fish.
#9 I have read it could take them a good week or so before they become more active in a new environment.

So, I had to think up some ways for my friends Oscar to survive in such a small environment...of course I'm always up for a little challenge when I'm limited in resources. So...here's the plan for now...

Our Tank Process

We started by cleaning out the old tank and filtration box (dish soap and a scotch brite goes a long way). Dumped out the old clown colored gravel, bought 2 bags of natural looking gravel (rinsed and placed into the clean tank). Had no clue what filter cartridge to buy because I couldn't tell the actual brand of the filter box, however I got lucky and found that the Whisper cartridges fit perfectly as a replacement for the old one we threw out. Also got him to buy some Seachem Prime water conditioner however, Petco did not have the right size of fish net available so...perhaps we need a trip to PetSmart later. We added roughly 8 gallons of luke warm water to the tank, a small amount of Seachem Prime and let the tank run for several hours (this isn't recommended by most aquarist but...the fish has survived thus far) with the Oscar in the bag on top the tank water. We also bought some pellet type cichlid food (recommended by the Petco employee who gave her 2 cents) which Oscar does enjoy eatting.

5 days later, my friend added a few items to the tank...Oscar's laying on the bottom right.
More to do later

Now that we've realized Oscar the Oscar likes to play dead and be inactive I figure we need to get some heavy peices of driftwood (which ugh...takes forever to soak out the tannins from my past experience). The driftwood will help with nitrite levels and such which will probably be a must for a fish like this in such a small environment. I also think this will help Oscar become more active as he'll have some places to hide and feel more secure rather than just a tank with an inch or so of gravel in it. I will also have to show my friend how to do bi-weekly water changes because a messy fish like this is going to need this done to stay healthy (around 2-3 gallons of water changed every other week) and also cleaning/replacing the filter cartridge. A gravel vacuum will also be of use because I'm sure this filter box will not get out everything from the tank so we'll probably need a 5 gallon bucket as well to help move things along. I read that Oscars don't like much water agitation...however I'm hoping that won't be the case because I feel the more water pressure falling from the filter box may be able to keep particles moving and being filtered through (however, that is just my logic whether it's accurate or not). All else fails...we'll go buy some water test strips and try something else.


New Guppies

Pregnant Guppy
The female guppy I bought appears to be a variation of White Tuxedo (correct me if I am perhaps wrong), however when under stress her black tux turns yellow with a black trim. The black appears at the very base of her fins and caudal as well, and her fins also have a bright blue line down the front (which you may not be able to see in the photo). She was pregnant when I bought her (which you can see from her photo above) so it will be interesting to see what her mystery fry will look like (since I don't know her mate) and she has recently given birth in my tank to over a dozen fry that I have found thus far. I had purchased a Blue Tuxedo male guppy at the same time (shown in the background behind the female)I bought the female but he turned out to have a case of fin rot and unfortunately didn't survive the week.
Moto & Marimo Ball
Moto my betta is still doing great and he loves to watch me while I'm laying in bed typing away on Guppy-Guide!


My Marina Cubus Setup

It's not often that I share an entire tank setup however, I had so much fun putting this adorable tiny tank together that I wanted to share it and also share my new pet Betta that I have named Moto!
What I used...
Marina Cubus Glass Betta Kit (0.9L)
White Aquarium Gravel (5LB Bag, used about a cup of gravel)
Blue Male Veiltail Betta
Red Sea Deco Art Nano Filter
RockGarden Tufa Rock Aquarium Plant (Small, I believe all these look different)
Reversible Aquarium Background in Blue/Amazon Waters (Used the blue side and cut it to fit)
Marimo Ball

My Tap Water Additives...
Kordon AmQuel Plus Ammonia Detoxifier
Kordon Fish Protector

P.S. Moto loves napping on the soft Marimo Ball, so cute!


3 Million Dollar Aquarium *Laughable*

I recently saw this article about a 3 million dollar aquarium.
3 Million Dollar Aquarium
Why I find it humorous, because these people wanted a unique aquarium, only to basically end up with one that to me...looks like a regular wall aquarium. Who could tell that this was made of real gold, t-rex, etc?

Not to mention, Oh REALLY...a "dual filtration system, heater, air pump, lighting, CO2 generator, and automatic feeder", LOL...I think these people got ripped off and should have went to PetSmart for that stuff. For that price...it should atleast have a dolphin living in it! hah.


Questions and Answers

You've asked Guppy-Guide your questions, so here are your answers!

Q: How much do I feed my goldfish?
It is about 2cm high 3 1/2cm long (not including tail), I have been giving it a 'large pinch' of the food every night & I've had it since like halfway through last year (so I know i'm not starving it), but the thing is.. I was reading the back of the food thing last night and it said "just enough for your fish to consume in 5 minutes" & my fish eats all the food i give him in like 1minute.

A: Most fish food states however much your fish can consume in 2-3 minutes. Overfeeding a fish can shorten its lifespan overtime. If your fish has been surviving for this long then it is probably getting enough food. Sometimes fish have eyes bigger than their bellies, so if you find your tank water getting dirty rapidly or food particles sinking to the bottom then it is probably too much food (also look and see if you have food stuck in your filtration system). You could try giving it 2 small pinches throughout the day rather than 1 large one once a day to insure all its food does get consumed and it isn't going to starve to death.
Q: Is the Top-Fin 10 good for my 10 gallon tank?

A: According to PetSmart.com these have a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. Here's a list of things you may want to check for to insure it is a good enough filtration system for your tank...

-Is your tank 10gal or smaller?
-Is your tank overstocked with fish?
-How is the water quality with the filtration system?
-Does the filter catch a significant amount of tank debry?
-Do you find the filter to be loud and disturb you?

Me personally I currently like the Aqueon Aquarium Power Filters.
Q: My fish is dying, please help?
I've had him for a while now along with 4 others, hes a small oranda and all the others are tiny goldfish. They are in an 80l tank. However he got like red streaks in his tail one day so imedielty took him out and put him in a tempary tank of about 20l with a small filter. I got some fin rot medication and they said it should clear in 5 days, however its getting WORSE its been a week now and his tails horribly all white and stringly and its going onto his body now he is like giving up every so often he stops swimming then floats to the top and goes upside down after a couple of seconds he swims back down to the bottom again. is it the end? or is there something i can do? btw how do you check ph levels?

A: I recently purchased an oranda with fin rot, yours sounds like a similar fungal infection. Unfortunately nothing worked, including Melafix, PimaFix, Aquarium Salt, Clear Water, Water Changes all were among the most recommended remedies I found online (check my blog here if you want to read the story of Maguro).

You can check pH levels using something like Jungle Quick Dip Aquarium Test Strips (I prefer these over the API test strips) from Petco. However, there are many different methods for testing the water which you can probably find at your local petstore.
Q: Help I need a betta expert!
One of my bettas has pop eye, I have put API aquarium salt to help with treatment(not marine salt) and I am currently using Melafix 1. Is pop eye bacterial or fungal? I need to know how long it should be before I see improvement and if I don't see improvement by then what should I do? I have the API fungal treatment if that helps, I can use that later or I can buy the bacterial treatment in the next day or so. The tank is a 5 gal tank with heater and small 5 gal filter, the tank is shared by 2 bettas separated by a divider, please don't say its too small just tell me what to do, should I take out my other betta if I start fungal/bacterial treatment? thanks.

A: Here's a good link on the subject, hope it helps!


Questioners Comment: Thanks that helped a whole lot, I think my fish is getting better after about 3 days by the maracyn stuff, its a new tank so there really isnt much good bacteria yet, thanks so much hopefully my fish will get well.
Q: Is my guppy going to give birth soon?
Ok, i brought my Guppy 2weeks ago at the pet store. week later i kepted checking up on her, and she was heavly pregnant, and the males where chaseing her day in and day out, then i buyed a Fry keeper (protects fry from getting eat) and put her in there and now ive kepted close eye on her for 1week now, And she moves very slowly, and stops in the cornr of tank, breathing heavly and then goes to planted area and back out and continues doing same thing, she isnt eating she only pokes the flake food and stops, her gravid spot is black, and goes abit pinky, i can also see all the fry inside her it looks very impacked.

Today, she pooped out a seethrew long thing what is this?
Also heres somepictures of my guppie.



A: You might be better off putting her in a separate tank with decor for fry to hide in once born, at least 5 gallons with a filtration system that won't suck up any fry being born. She is stressed because for one thing you have isolated her (they are community fish after all) and she is in a small area with little swimming room, hence the white poop. Instead of giving her flake food you should try some freeze-dried brine shrimp (like the Hikari brand) as brine are good to give guppies to induce mating and such. Also a guppy that is near giving birth usually will start isolating herself from other fish and will hang around the bottom of the tank, all you can do is wait at this point. Once she gives birth, you can then remove her from the 5gal tank and the fry will be able to grow adequately without being eaten. I wouldn't worry too much if she does eat any fry because before you know it you will have more guppies then you know what to do with and with adequate fry hiding places she more than likely won't eat them all if any.


Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Filter - Review

Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Filter this was one of the first filtration systems I ever owned so I figured I'd give my review on it since I used it for many years.

The filter itself was decent, it collected a good amount of debris although at times it wasn't enough for my 10gal tank, but with an added air-pump going it definitely helped clear up the water. Buying replacement filters was horrible though because they were bad quality, the carbon was coming out of the cartridge which in turn can be harmful to fish if consumed or perhaps I just bought a bad batch of replacement filters (it was part of the reason I opted to start looking for a new filtration system). Aside from some basic carbon and blue floss I wish it was perhaps more complex and beneficial to the tank however, you can cut the top of the cartridge and replace the old carbon (use a rubber-band to secure it back in place if needed).

The first noticeable glitch I had started with the fan system that intakes the water into the box, the fan wasn't staying where it was supposed to and it was catching inside. To fix the fan I had to remove the tube from the box and press down hard on it to keep it from going out of place, simple fix.

As the filter came of age it was running more slowly than my newer filtration systems. The most useless part of this system is the actual bio-wheel itself, it works at first or sometimes, but generally not at all. Basically the water would run around the bio-wheel and the wheel would sit motionless... I would really just throw that part in the trash to be honest. The bio-wheel is only good if you want to try and keep frogs and crayfish types from crawling into the box (my blue lobster did this once without it on!).

When the system was new it did run a bit more loudly I believe, but it definitely got quieter over time in my opinion as the water had basically become a steady trickling stream rather than a waterfall. You may also notice that as your cartridge gets full of debris the water almost bubbles up through the vent in the filtration lid, which is good if you need an indicator, but bad if you let it go unchanged/cleaned perhaps.

Also the box sometimes needs a jump start when first placed onto the tank, so scoop a couple of cups of water into the box before turning it on. Also, the power at my house is always going off and sometimes the system would not start up on its own and I'd come home to a loud buzzing/grinding noise from the lack of water left in the box for it to start filtering the water out again.

Overall I'd give this system a 3.2 out of 5 since it cleaned better than a lot of other similar filtration systems I have tried but this system could spare some improvement which should've been obvious mistakes to a designer that might've actually used this product before putting it on the market.

Reduce Nitrate (in a new tank)

This will show you how I managed to reduce my nitrate to 0 in clean unestablished tap well-water. Generally my tap-water stats are as stated...

NO3 (Nitrate): 20-40
NO2 (Nitrite): 0
pH: 7.2

I had successfully reduced my nitrate from my fresh tap-water using Jungle Plant Care Solutions Fertilizer and Water Conditioner (Ingredients: Derived from potassium chloride and ferric EDTA. Also contains nonplant food ingredients: 0.1% allantoin) and my stats were as stated (over 12hrs later)...

NO3 (Nitrate): 0
NO2 (Nitrite): 0
pH: 7.8

However, my pH did seem to creep up a bit on me. I also tested this product to see if it had any effect on more established aquarium water which had various chemicals already in it. The stats were as follows...

NO3 (Nitrate): 20-40
NO2 (Nitrite): 0
pH: 7.8

The Jungle product did not seem to alter it at all. So, this test shows that it worked best (for myself at least) during the start of a new setup rather than an already established tank setup. However, results could possibly vary for other people.