All-Natural Aquarium Glass Cleaner - DIY

I actually found an amazing all natural glass cleaner online and I altered it slightly for better use on aquarium glass. I found a lot of DIY window cleaners online which used alcohol and I didn't like the idea of having that near my aquarium inhabitants, nor using vinegar regularly on aquarium glass because it can eat away at silicone. This recipe uses tea which is acidic in pH but it's more natural and makes me think more of a blackwater habitat so, I don't feel it's going to affect the silicone.
What you'll need...
1 - Spray Bottle (that holds at least 1 Cup of fluid)
1 Cup - Distilled Water, hot
3 Tea Bags - Black Tea, Organic (or English Breakfast; Irish Breakfast; Classic Black; Wild Forest Black)

Steep the tea bags in the cup of hot water for 5 minutes, remove tea bags, and allow to cool. Pour the tea into the spray bottle and attach the sprayer. Shake mixture before use and spray on glass. Wipe vigorously with a paper towel or cloth until the surface is dry.

Side Note: Don't be like me and try drinking this, it's extremely bitter (bleh).


Cost Effective Media

Having used canister filters for awhile now and a bunch of different types of media I decided to share what I feel are some of the best and most cost-effective media items you can get.

Course Media
Typically I find most course media is some type of porous plastic material, similar to that of a shower pouf. That being said you could use a shower pouf, however like a lot of others out there you can step into your Dollar General Store and pick up a 6-pack of plastic scouring pads for $1. I honestly love using these scouring pads more so than course media made for an aquarium because they collect a lot of muck inside the pads. Most of this plastic media can be easily hosed out and reused numerous times before you find the need to possibly replace it, which makes it some of the most cost effective media you'll come across. Also, if your plastic media is like that of Easter grass you should probably just toss it because loose stuff like that doesn't hold together and won't do as good of a job at collecting big muck particles.

Medium Media
Foam Media is generally used as a medium grade media, and I have found this may be most similar to thin foam mattress toppers, and the one with crates in them will allow for a bigger surface area for bacteria and such to accumulate. Keep in mind if you try using a foam topper that it isn't treated with odd chemicals or something (or perhaps soaking/rinsing it well may help if you detect odd smells). Foam media tends to rinse out pretty well to be reused again but may require a bit more squeezing compared to the course media. I also find many people tend to skip out on this type of media so, it's up to you to decide if you want to use this or not.

Fine Media
A lot of people like to buy polyester quilt batting from a craft store (or similar) to use as fine filter media. Keep in mind that this material needs to be replaced more often than your other media because I have found it generally breaks down after a month or two and it becomes almost sludge-like and difficult to clean thoroughly (so just toss it after a month). This is also one of the most important types of media to have in your filter as it keeps the finest muck particles out of your good biological media. You'll want to make sure the batting is 100% polyester, is not mildew resistant, and doesn't contain any additives.

Special Media
There are tons of gimmick media type products on the market from media claiming to reduce nitrates to clarifying water. Take these types of products with a "grain of salt" (as the saying goes), and know that some of these things may not do much of anything and may just cost you more money in the long run. A lot of people love to use carbon based media and honestly I don't notice significant changes from using it whether it's in pad-form or a loose form that you place into a filter sock. Carbon can be good or bad as it can possibly remove any water treatments from your tank and create clearer water. There's also Seachem Purigen which is popular to some people and while I'm not sure what impurities this stuff removes it does change color over time (so it must do something, right?), but don't expect miracles with any of this stuff. If you don't notice changes in your tank, water stats, or with your aquariums' inhabitants than I'd say it's probably just a waste of money in the long run. Also, if your media is decent, setup properly, and your filter has had time to cycle (at least a month) then you really shouldn't have a bunch of problems with your tank water (although some inhabitants do prefer certain types of water over others, in which case you may need something like an RO filter). More natural items people use to help with their water stats are things like seashells, driftwood, or peat, but these items may be unreliable or hard to adjust.

Biological Media
Some of the best biological media that's also the most cost effective is natural lava rock (just be a bit wary of chemicals in some of these). Most people will probably suggest rinsing out your media every month, but it's been said you should replace your biological media every 6 months (especially if you want to avoid possible health issues with your aquatic friends down the road). Although I recently spoke to another aquarist who stated "some manufacturers will tell you to replace the biological media every 6 months but that is ridiculous - the media should be nicely bedded in with aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. The anaerobic bacteria generally take 4-6 months to get established but aerobic should only take 2-3", so to each their own. To clean your media a bit more thoroughly of possible nasties that could be lingering around... a friend of mine suggested using equal parts water and vinegar (a gallon of vinegar is also fairly inexpensive and it's great for removing hard water build-up on your tank). Keep in mind this vinegar solution will not eliminate all nasties, which is why you should eventually replace it. To help kick start your bio media you'll probably want to invest in some bacteria balls as this will help you avoid water cycle issues (but still be sure to keep a close eye on your water stats during this time, just in case). You'll probably want around 2.5 to 5lbs of bio media per 30 gallons of water in your canister setup in order to better sustain your aquarium's bio-load. Also, if the lava rocks are too bulky you can easily hit them with a hammer or ax to break them into smaller pieces. As a side note, avoid buying ceramic rings as its smooth surface won't allow bacteria to build and accumulate, but its best use is redirecting water inside your filter (just in case you got some of this for free with your filter setup and don't want to waste it). 


Proper Aquarium Size for a Betta

Often I find people wanting to put a betta fish in any type of tiny vase looking object around, and while you may be able to keep a betta fish alive in something like that, it may not be the healthiest of habitats for your betta. Now read closely as I am about to divulge to you my discovery on what size tank you should actually have for a betta fish. The minimum size tank you should have for a single betta fish is... 10 gallons! If you're thinking this is too big for a betta fish than hear me out.

If you have ever put a betta fish in a 20-gallon breeder tank (or perhaps larger) than monitor the betta's swim pattern by measuring its distance swam before it pauses. I found that a betta fish will swim close to half the length of a 20-gal breeder tank before it pauses briefly and continues swimming again at about this same distance every time. Which makes a 10-gal aquarium the ideal size in length for a betta fish. Now, this probably seems like it's a very roomy tank for a betta, but you can try adding a few smaller fish into this setup as well because let's not forget that a 10-gal tank also has width and height to it. While my betta was also in this bigger 20-gallon tank for over a month I also discovered its fins began to grow out more, which was not something I had ever seen happen before with a betta fish kept in these 3-gallon (or smaller) environments, and to myself that's even further reasoning as to why a betta shouldn't be kept in a tiny environment (a bigger environment will generally have more stable conditions as well).

Betta's I would say are close to 2-inches in length at adult size, which means you may be able to get away with adding several neon tetra's which are about 1-inch in length (be sure to do research on tank mates for your betta because they don't get along well with numerous types of other fish such as other betta fish, guppies, goldfish, etc.). There may be some exceptions to this rule of tank mates, but I prefer not to risk it as it can cause fish injury, death, or having to return tank mates. An aquarium should be fairly stress-free for all its inhabitants.

You should be able to find a 10-gallon aquarium for a mere $10 in-store at Petco (they have a $1 per gallon sale about twice a year and I found select Petco's may always carry the 10-gal's for $10), and it's money well spent for a healthy betta fish habitat. You can also find inexpensive secondhand aquariums from Craigslist, LetGo, local antique shops, and sometimes even yard sales. In terms of cost for aquariums, I generally stick with the $1 per gallon rule, and no more than $4 per gallon for larger used aquariums (if the aquarium has a lid, etc. than obviously, the cost will be a bit more).