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The possibilities

It’s been a month since I’ve set up the tank.  Having a planted tank with no fish is kind of like having a perpetual blank canvas. Aquariums aren’t as much pets as they are living art kinda’? Sorta? I mean, it’s rectangular and you can’t touch what’s behind the glass (not all the time anyway). And it’s pleasing to look at. Calming. I know that eventually I’m going to fill it with something but for now, it’s nice to have the infinite possibilities and have a running list of what my tank might become with a laundry list of potential inhabitants.

Not all, but some combination of:

  • Shrimp (Red cherry/ghost)
  • Killifish – American Flagfish; Lyretail – cool water fish, would complement the cories nicely
  • Corydoras – Sterbai or Paleatus – they prefer cooler water which might not mix with the blue rams.  Sterbai might be more heat tolerant.
  • Boesemani Rainbowfish – a schooling fish, so either the cories or the rainbowfish, but not both
  • Endler’s Livebearer – but they might prefer a little salt which would not mix with cories.
  • German Blue Rams – could be a shrimp eater
  • Betta – love them, but concerned about horrible breeding conditions
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnow – compatible with cool water cories and shrimp safe



Feels so light and bouncy.

By the way, while I was at the salon, the radio started playing Christmas music!! It’s not even Thanksgiving yet. We (customers and staff alike) all agreed, change the station! I like Christmas music. It’s so festive. And twinkly lights are so nice to have in the dark winter days. But not before Thanksgiving. Let me enjoy and savor one thing at a time.

Contrary Mary

Here’s how my garden grows:
After waiting for half a year, the snake plant leaves have finally sprouted a new leaf. For the longest time, I had just these leaf pieces sticking up from the dirt and even though they stayed green, it almost looked like they weren’t going to take. Sometimes I even forgot to water them because they didn’t show any visible growth. The only thing that kept me on them was anytime I tried pulling the leaves up, they didn’t budge. That told me they rooted.

I got a new cutting from a coworker. I’d been wanting an arrowhead vine for a while to add to my collection.

And I’ve also rescued this pitiful looking planter from work. It wasn’t getting any water or much light. I’m hoping to revive it and bring it back but I might cheat and plant some of my own cuttings to get it looking fuller. I’m not sure yet. For now I’m just trying to salvage the survivors.

And speaking of survivors, here are some survivors from my aquatic garden.
Leopard vallisneria with a couple of new leaves after a major meltdown.

Rotala indica finally growing new leaves at the top after its original leaves all melted. You can see the drifty stuff along the stem. Those were all its original leaves. That’s what I mean by melt. They get soft then rot off.

And even though my amazon sword’s outer leaves turned brown it’s grown some new ones from the center to make up for it.

They’re alive!

My de-chloraminator hasn’t arrived yet but as of last week, I think my plants are done melting for the most part.  I’m seeing new growth and even a few that melted down to nubbins are starting to sprout new growth.  For example my Vallisneria spiralis ‘Leopard’ arrived as a multi-leafed foot-long plant and melted down to maybe 2 inches of 3 leaves.  I considered throwing it out, giving it up for goners, but in one week, I’ve observed 2 new baby leaves, one about 2 inches now, and the other 1 inch.

Another, the Rotala indica, melted down to just stems.  I left them because the stems were green and sturdy.  Now they all have new growth at the top of about 1/2  a centimeter.  I guess everybody just needed some time to adjust.

The only plants certainly gone with no traces remaining are the Bacopa caroliniana and Ludwigia repens.  They were ones that the Internet all agreed were great for beginners.  Grow like weeds.  Will take over your tank.  Will grow even in the crappiest conditions.

The growing plants are so cool to view that I’m holding off on adding any creatures.  It’s like instead of having an aquarium of fish, I have an aquatic garden.  They don’t do anything but I just like sitting there and staring at ’em.  Some aquatic plants grow noticeably fast and it’s encouraging to see that they have adjusted to the environment I’ve set up.  So far, I’ve done weekly water changes of about 1 or 2 gallons.  It’s not much but it gives me enough to water my regular plants and then I dose my aquarium with fertilizer afterwards.


Chlorine vs. Chloramine

With no treatment, chlorine dissapates after about a day or two.  Chloramine can last for weeks in the water.  I had been using Chlor-Out which only treats chlorine, as my dechlorinator not realizing our local water uses chloramine.  So maybe that’s why I was getting all that meltage.  I’ve ordered Seachem’s Prime which treats chloramine.  Hang in there little plants!

This is why I’m not getting animals until the plants get established.  If whatever it is I’m doing can’t support plants, it’d be a wonder how animals could survive. Not totally sound logic given that plants like ammonia and animals would belly up with ammonia but, at least it’ll get me that much closer to creating an environment that can sustain animals.

Not so sturdy plants

When I ordered my batch of aquatic plants I made sure to read all sorts of aquarium forums, plant websites, and even watched YouTube videos. I consulted the great and mighty Internet! In fact some of the plants I chose are even banned from some states (e.g. Hygrophila difformis from CA, AZ, TX, LA, EU) because they’re considered invasive and too risky if any bits got out in the wild! It means if you just dumped a piece in a lake it would take over! So I dumped them in my tank and they melt. They slowly lose their leaves. Then their stems get dark and soft and mushy and they just die. And now it feels like half of my plants are stuck on the intake of the power filter.

I spent a good part of the weekend siphoning out some of the mushy floaty bits. The Bacopa caroliniana and Ludwigia repens are all gone. There’s no hope of salvaging either of them.

I got 2 other plants to replace them. And now here’s my new list of plants:

  • Vallisneria spiralis ‘Leopard’ – 1″ or 2″ nubbin left
  • Ludwigia repens
  • Rotala indica
  • Bacopa caroliniana
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Green’
  • Hydrocotyle leucocephala (Brazilian Pennywort)
  • Amazon Sword
  • Lace Java Fern (Windelov’s Fern)
  • Hygrophila difformis – 1″ pieces floating about
  • Java moss
  • Hemianthus callitrichoides ”Cuba”
  • Marimo ball
  • Anubias barteri nana – added this weekend
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Red’ – added this weekend

My goal is to just get these plants established and growing.  New leaves, propagation, off shoots – anything but melting.

I got the 2 new plants from PetSmart. I’m not a fan of Pet-Smart/Co but they sell cultured plants that are grown in clean gel so they’re free of disease and snails.  I can get them online too but for only 2 plants, it’s not worth the shipping costs.  While I was there the store guy there was giving such bad advice to folks. It pained me to hear him talk about adding Stress Coat and other garbage into tanks.  One lady asked if she should replace her filter floss regularly and Store Guy said yes.  I tried to keep my trap shut, mind my own business, but then I couldn’t take it anymore and just interjected to tell her I would just take it out and rinse it in the dirty water when I do a water change.  That way I keep all that bacteria in the floss.  I’d only replace the floss when it’s falling apart.

They should just look stuff up on the Internet. Except sometimes the Internet underestimates how good beginners are at killing things.  Like my stupid plants.

Slowly coming together

It took a lot of shuffling furniture around but I finally settled on a nice little corner between a window and bookcase in the living room.


I picked up as many used items as I could to reuse.
I got a 29 gallon tank, heater, filter, gravel, driftwood, and a few rocks big and small.


Then I bought a new LED light and it’s already starting to look like a proper aquarium. It’s the light that does the trick.

Despite all my planning and reading and researching, I still messed up. I ordered my plants before the fertilizers. I could’ve added the root tabs after, but I decided to wait. And in the meantime, the plants languished in this here bucket.
In hindsight, I could’ve set up the tank with the plants then added the fertilizers after. Duh. But the bucket soak helped me treat the plants of any buggies, hitchhikers, and trespassers. I saw a snail in the bucket but I didn’t see it again when I was assembling and planting.

And here is the planting. This is right before I added water. I used superglue gel to glue some stems that were hard to get in the gravel or ones that shouldn’t be in gravel (java fern) onto medium rocks.


The new best seat in the house. The first thing I notice when I walk into the living room is how loud the water filter is. The tinkling of water is soothing but loud too. It sounds like a fish tank. With the plants, I won’t be installing an air pump.

Sturdy plants coming

Today, my order of the LED light fixture arrived.  I got the Aqueon LED Modular light fixture. It’s not that bright, even with all three LED lamps installed, but I like that the LEDs are replaceable in case something burns out.  Yes – I’ve had LED bulbs burn out (in less than a year too; made in China of course).

I placed an order of aquatic plants from and it should arrive tomorrow or Saturday.  Here’s what’s coming:

  1. Vallisneria spiralis ‘Leopard’
  2. Ludwigia repens
  3. Rotala rotundifolia
  4. Bacopa caroliniana
  5. Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Green’
  6. Hydrocotyle leucocephala (Brazilian Pennywort)
  7. Amazon Sword
  8. Lace Java Fern (Windelov’s Fern)
  9. Hygrophila difformis
  10. Java moss
  11. Hemianthus callitrichoides ”Cuba”
  12. Marimo ball

Gosh it didn’t seem like a lot at the time, but now typing it all out, it seems like a lot.

Except for the HC Cuba, they’re all supposed to be easy to grow; good for beginners and aren’t too demanding with the light.  I’m partly counting on the fact that the tank is by a window for extra light and partly counting on the durability of these plants to “grow like weeds” even under moderate conditions.

This weekend I plan to add the plants and then start cycling the tank.

Current plan:

  • 6 Sterbai Corydoras
  • 10(?) Red cherry shrimp
  • 2 German Blue Rams (maybe)




Practice in patience

One small detail.  Not having a hose from a big (outdoor) faucet, I will have to literally carry 29 (maybe more like 25) gallons of water to fill the tank.  That’s a lot of hauling water from the kitchen sink and running it to the tank.  I wish I’d saved all my 2.5 liter bottles of vinegar now.  Maybe this will be an opportunity for me to practice mindfulness if I do nothing but focus on the task at hand.  Needless to say, my tank is currently full of nothing but air right now.  Air and gravel.