New Friends: Ghost Shrimp and a Marimo Moss Ball

I’ve been tossing around the idea of getting live plants in my aquarium for quite a while. It’s a little daunting, why mess with a good thing, right? But I found some live plant solutions that might just fit my needs.

I’ve ordered a batch of Java moss, which is essentially a weed. Unfortunately, none of the local pet huts carried the moss. The pros, for me, are that it readily grows, does not need a particular substrate and will over run your tank. Perfect! My plan is to let the moss overrun the bottom of the tank, almost like a carpet. Next, I am going to get some driftwood for it to adhere to and grow along that as decor. My rainbow rock and large pebbles will be kept moss free (damn, I have to clean them!) to provide contrast.

For today, step two of this project, I purchased some Ghost Shrimp. Ghost shrimp help groom the plants at eat leftover food/waste in the tank. With a whole carpet of moss, tank cleaning is going to have to be reworked. And who the heck doesn’t like Ghost Shrimp???

wpid-20140801_103156.jpgthey’re kind of adorable…

Back back back in the day when I worked at the petstore, we had a pet Ghost Shrimp named Hank. We had gotten a shipment of them and after they had all sold, Hank was left. We set up a little aquarium for him in the back room and it was Hank’s House. Yes, we were bored.

Hank had a beautiful life for an animal that is normally food.

Hopefully, my fish will leave the shrimp alone. I fed them when I stuck the shrimp in, so they don’t seem to be all that interested. Plus, the shrimp are pretty decent size and there are a lot of hiding spaces in my tank. Some of the shrimp have eggs, I believe they are called saddles, under them. Whoo hoo! Send in the babies!

Lastly, I also purchased a Marimo Moss ball. (DUH IT’S A PLANT AND I CAN HOARD IT!)

wpid-20140801_102828.jpgit’s fuzzy.

From what I gather, they are very hardy and continue to grow larger and larger. Also, you can propagate them. Part of my line of thought is to propagate these into smaller ones and then make little decorative aquariums, with just the balls. You can check some out online, they look amazing. I could use some jars, wine glasses, et cetera. I could even add a shrimp, PROVIDED THEY BREED SUCCESSFULLY DID YOU HEAR THAT SHRIMP??? Which I think would be super cute in a little vase. So, there’s that. More, hopefully in the future.

wpid-20140801_103339.jpg“I CLAIM THIS MOSS BALL FOR THE GHOST SHRIMP” -Hank and the Hankettes.

I will update when my java moss arrives! Whoo hoo!

Keep Fish: How To Clean A Fishtank

Hello everyone! As promised, I am going to start writing about fishtank care! I only deal with FRESH WATER tanks. Just so you know.

I decided to start with the most dreaded and over-worried about part of keeping a fish tank. Cleaning it. I figure, if you’re interested in keeping fish, maintenance is the scariest part. My credentials:

  • Over ten years of fish keeping
  • 5 years professionally at a store
  • My fish breed, a lot

I’ve had fish since I was 16, my uncle bought me my first tank and I still have it, locked and loaded today. I worked at a fabulous pet store that had an amazing array of fish for 5 years, and learned just about everything I could. Also, I have insight on common mistakes, simple errors and common complaints. I am going to debunk as many as I can! Starting with:

Cleaning A Fish Tank Is Hard

Absolutely not! If I had a dollar for every person that over-worried their tank, man, I would be loaded. Seems to me that every tank I run into suffers from Over Mothering. Here’s a tip: Less is better. Let’s talk about the main requirements for keeping a clean tank:

  • Change 25% of the tank’s water via a gravel vacuum, once a month
  • Change filter cartridge , once a month (preferably not the same day you clean, more on that later)
  • Scrape off algea
  • Do NOT overfeed

That, my friends, is it. In a nutshell, that is all you have to do to keep a clean tank. Now, why do people have problems with this? Well, I can tell you that 99.99999% of the time the following conversations would happen at the pet store:

Customer: “My fish tank is cloudy.”

Me: “When did you change the water?”

C: “Yesterday.”

M: “How much did you take out?”

C: “Well, it was cloudy, so I took out (enter ridiculous percent or all here).”

OR

Customer: “My fish tank is cloudy and I just started it yesterday, should I do a water change?”

Me: “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!”

Do you see a correlation there? Cloudy water DOES NOT equal immediate water change. And this is why, in very basic terms. Fish make poop. There is a bacteria that eats their poop. When you drop new fish into a tank, or remove a lot of the existing bacteria (example: extreme water change) the bacteria reproduces like mad to eat the sudden abundance of food/poop. The water turns a cloudy white, due to this.ย  Here is a link that very nicely sums it up. I couldn’t say it better myself. So, you start a fish tank, you change the water too much/often, you fall into a vicious cycle of WHY IS MY TANK ALWAYS CLOUDY?

So, heed my words:

I don’t care how cloudy your tank is. Only remove 25% at a time.

In fact, if it’s cloudy, I wouldn’t change it at all. Wait for the bacteria levels to even themselves out. The water will clear. Wait a whole month after that.

Now that you all understand that, let’s move on to how to go about this cleaning business. You’ll need things.

wpid-20140611_165537.jpggravel vacuum/siphon, sponge/scraper for algae, big bucket, water conditioner, aquarium salt (optional and much argued), towel

Gravel Vacuum/Siphon: The whole point of cleaning a fish tank is to get out the dirty water. The dirtiest water is hiding in the gravel. The vacuum works by sucking out that water and leaving the gravel behind.

Sponge/Scraper: Scrub off that algae! Algae is a good sign, it means your tank can support life. Yey! However, unsightly. Scrub when you clean the tank. If you have a lot of algae, leave the light on for less hours or reduce the amount of food you feed your fish.

Big Bucket: For holding dirty water/replacing water

Water Conditioner: This removes the chlorine from tap water. It is not negotiable. Chlorine will kill your fish. Also, fish are covered in a “slime coat” which protects them. When stressed, they will drop their “slime coat” and this can lead to definite problems. Often, a water conditioner will have something in it for that. Don’t buy a specific product just for that, buy one that has both.

Aquarium Salt: I’ve seen it argued either way. My personal vote isย  to have it as a remedy for diseases and to put about a teaspoon in when I change the water. I don’t even do that every time, just occasionally. I used it once to cure ich, a common problem and it worked so fast and so efficient I decided I was sold on salt in the aquarium. We never had ich at the petstore, and we regularly salted the aquariums. Also note: Salt does not evaporate out, so only add when you take out water.

Towel: To keep your arm from dripping all over, really? ๐Ÿ˜‰

START TIME: 06/11/14 5:00 pm

wpid-20140611_165525.jpgbefore: we’re filthy!

Wash your hands and arms, up to your pits, please. Your whole arm is going to be in that tank. Well, you’re probably taller than me, so maybe not. Wash anyway.

Next step is to turn the aquarium off. All the lights, everything. Unplug, the cords can hang, and as they are usually in the back of the tank, they shouldn’t get wet. Unplug anyway.

wpid-20140611_165753.jpgthey’re really mad now!

Remove all decor and place into the bucket, as you don’t want it to drip on your floor. I put the heavy stuff in the bottom and the fake plants on top. Why?…glad you asked!

Put the fake plants in a sink with screaming hot water. Put the heavier objects on top to keep them under the water.

wpid-20140611_170124.jpgtoo hot for algae

This step will kill any algae on the rocks or plants. Clever, eh? You could use bleach, but please don’t, ok? Just hot water, it totally works.

Next, get the siphon going. Mine attaches nicely to the bucket.

wpid-20140611_170214.jpgi could kiss the feet of whomever invented this

You have to prime the siphon to get it to work. The bucket needs to be lower than the siphon for this to work. Put the siphon in the tank, fill with water, let drain half way, then back into the tank. And then the siphon will siphon. More info here.

wpid-20140611_170226.jpghalf way empty, put back in tank!

Start at one corner of the tank, put the siphon directly into the gravel, watch the poop get sucked into the bucket, move to the next patch, repeat until you have removed 25% of the water.

wpid-20140611_170344.jpgstraight into the gravel, like so. pretend I turned off the light on my tank, m’kay?

Next, dump the waste water either into your plants, or the toilet or if your fish breed and you are insane, into a tub to dig out baby fish. You probably won’t have babies, but FYI there. If you see “poop that swims down rapidly” in your siphon, it might be a baby. Hey, at least you’ll never have to ever buy fish again?

Replace plants and decor.

Fill your bucket with tepid water. Not too hot, not too cold please.

Add water conditioner and salt (optional) to the bucket. Follow instructions on package.

Dump into tank, carefully.

Repeat for larger tanks. Mine is only 20 gallons and I only remove 5 gallons at a time, hence the five gallon bucket. Works out beautifully.

Wipe down tank, front and sides to remove water droplets. You wouldn’t dare you a glass cleaner, right? Just the towel.

Inspect electrical before plugging back in.

wpid-20140611_172320.jpgta-da!

Now, it looks a bit cloudy because there is a lot of particulate that is floating around. My filter will grab it or it will settle within the hour.

Wash your hands up to the arm pits please!

END TIME 06/11/14 5:32 PM

Please remember I was dancing around and taking pictures! Normally, it’s a twenty minute job!

I hope this at least makes the idea of fish keeping less daunting. So many people are put off by this once a month chore, that it is a real downer. Or they over do it. You can skip taking all the decor out if it’s a busy month. Then you’re looking at 10 minutes, easy. Please note: I did not change out my filter today. I will discuss that later! Hope you enjoyed! ๐Ÿ˜€

The Diamond Tetras are Breeding

Well, this morning I went about cleaning the fish tank, which if you recall, just got populated with Diamond Tetras. And guess what they did? Made babies. Let me get you the whole visual here:

I am siphoning out the tank and as usual, I’m just watching the muck go through and a muck chunk begins to swim down siphon, fast.

*insert an intense amount of curse words*

Now I am fully aware if I have almost siphoned up one baby fish, there’s at least a few I didn’t see. Of course I can’t just dump the crappy water bucket! Noooooo, gotta save those little suckers!

*insert more swearing, very colorful*

So I went with the ol’ tried and true, dump the bucket in the tub with the drain closed and get on my hands and knees with a flashlight and a clear shot glass and look for two teeny tiny eyes and a tail. I found three and I dug pretty hard.

wpid-20140426_101453.jpgthis. this is a shot glass. there is a baby fish in the upper right of the shot glass. this was the bigger one, believe it or not.

Ugh. Normally, I don’t mind so much, I mean I like baby fish, but I wasn’t expecting them this soon! Calm down, tetras!