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

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.

Setting up

I picked up my 29 gallon tank this weekend.  Along with that, I found a working power filter, air pump, air tubing, heater, gravel, and thermometer.  So I’m almost ready to start my fishless cycling.

This week, I’ll be cleaning everything up.  Scraping the old algae off the tank, rinsing the gravel, washing the driftwood and decorations, and then I’ll be ready to start fishless cycling.  I’d love to get some plants in the tank before I start the cycling process too.
Fishless Cycling –
The short of it is, I need to get some beneficial bacteria in my tank (on the surfaces, gravel, and filter media) that will eat the ammonia (waste) and turn it into nitrites.  Then I need to also get some bacteria that will eat the nitrites and turn it into less harmful nitrates.  So all I have to do is dump ammonia in my tank, crank up the heat a little (80-85 degrees), get the filter and air pump going and leave it alone for a week or so.  Then I’ll add more ammonia (to keep feeding the bacteria), maybe wait another week and then for the final test, after 24 hours of adding more ammonia, the tests for ammonia and nitrites should come out to zero or close to.  Then it’ll be done and I’ll be able to throw in some fish.  I’m thinking I’ll let it run for about a month or two just to be safe.  That’s why I want plants in there.  At least it’ll have something going on in there.  Maybe observable growth.  Something to tide me over until I get fish.
My ideal world (if I could be as greedy as I wanna regardless of tank size)*:
Apistogrammas (they’re beautiful)
Dwarf Rams (German Blues)
Cory cats
Angelfish (a pair maybe)
Dwarf Rams (2 to 4)
Cory cats (6)
*All captive/farm raised because they’re easier to adjust to and will survive better in an aquarium.

The not-so-pretty side of aquariums

Every day I learn something new about some aspect of fish keeping so I’m constantly changing my mind about how I want to set up my tank.  I think that’s the fun part about this hobby.  The planning and possibilities.

The one aspect that I didn’t consider (until now) is how terrible it is to keep fish.  They’re shipped from all over the world.  They’re captured from the wild and many die in the process of getting to your home.  Or they’re raised in a farm and fed a diet of other fish that are captured from the wild or raised in a farm.  They’re kept in tight quarters.  They’re loaded up with antibiotics and antifungals due to the overcrowding.  Then if they’re “lucky” they might end up in a somewhat comfortable tank that will never be big enough because whatever your tank size is will never match the Amazon River.  Not to mention the amount of electricity and water to run the show. All in all, it’s not a great thing for the planet or for the fish.  Any pets really aren’t good in general.  I’ve made my peace with this though because I really enjoy having pets and I want to do something selfish.  Still, I’ll do my best to minimize the impacts and resources and just be cognizant of these factors.

With that in mind, I researched which fish are farm raised and I think I’d rather stick to those fish.  I know it’s not as simple as farm>wild but I think I’m more comfortable with the idea.

Current plan:

  • 29 gallons
  • Substrate – Pool filter sand
  • Hang on back power filter with fishless cycling
  • Plants: Anything easy to grow.  I’ll need to add plant tablets for fertilizer since I’m not using flourite.
  • Possible fish –
    • Acara cichlid
    • Angelfish pair or Dwarf ram cichlid pair
    • Corydoras (4 to 6) – panda, aeneus, adolfoi
    • Gold algae eater

Maybe obsession is an understatement

Maybe what I have is a case of crazy.  It is 3:30 AM and since dinner I have rearranged the furniture for the gajillionth time to try to find a suitable place for an aquarium and then spent the next 7 or so hours reading aquarium forums.

I have been taking photos of our entire place in the hopes of finding that perfect corner.  Literally trying to picture it.  Last night before falling asleep, I figured it all out in my head.  I even managed to find a spot that’s hopefully big enough for the 29 gallon tank.  Originally, I thought I only had space for a 10 gallon which would make it a nano (supersmall) tank that can barely hold anything.  And by anything I mean cory cats.  I want cory cats because they’re cute.  Like little mice in the tank.

So after getting second and third opinions and even trying to poll an unsuspecting coworker who has no idea what my place even looks like, I have finally got it all figured out.  It involved moving a bookcase, a nightstand, a coffee table, two lamps, the couch, some plants, the dining table and chairs, a large mirror, and an end table, to get the 29 gallon tank in here, but it fits and I plan on picking up my tank and equipment this weekend.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to figure out the substrate situation.  I want about a 2″ foundation where I can grow aquatic plants and that will provide a nice visual effect. Originally I was planning to use Seachem’s Flourite Black Sand.  But after reading Planted Tank’s forums, I’ve learned that blasting sand that you can get at hardware stores or pool filter sand is much cheaper and just as good.  But then I considered the cleaning issue – it’s hard to vacuum sand (as opposed to gravel) and the sand could clog our drains, so now I’m back to gravel.  Supposedly, cory cats like sand.  I’ve read that sharp gravel can cut their barbels and I’ve also read that it’s not true.  There’s non-sharp gravel, and I’m leaning towards that.

I’m also browsing around for aquatic plants.  I have no idea what to avoid or what’s easy to grow.  But one thing I don’t like is the ubiquitous presence of snails and other cling-ons that come with the plants.  The last time I tried to bathe my anacharis to get rid of the cling-ons, I killed it.  I don’t know why anyone would bleach their plants.  That’s a death sentence.  I learned today that a saltwater bath would do the trick.  I’ll try that next time.  There are also aquatic plants that are cultured meaning they’re raised in air in a gel medium and they don’t have any buggies on them.

I’m so tired right now I can hardly think straight.  This is a sickness.

Obsession Revival

I got re-bitten by the aquarium bug.  I was discussing watering house plants and how fish tank water is the best stuff and then BING! I started thinking, maybe I don’t want chinchillas.  Maybe I want fish.  Then it was South American fish!  Tetras!  (Aquatic) Plants!  Power filters!  Substrates.  I even rearranged the plants and furniture again to make a corner where I might put said fish tank.

Current plan:

  • 10-20 gallons
  • Flourite black sand
  • Hang-on-back power filter
  • Sponge filter with air pump (Maybe)
  • Aquatic plants – java moss
  • 4-5 Peppered Cory Cat
  • 2 Dwarf Gourami
  • Ghost shrimp (10 to 12)





Just a few weeks shy of 12 years old. We had a feeling it was getting to the end. She still enjoyed her treats but she was a lot less active and just generally slept a good deal more.

She was a good little chinchilla. Had a lot of spunk.
We’ll miss having her. I miss her pellet throwing now.


I played tennis in high school. And by played, I mean I ran around the court chasing after tennis balls each Summer and Fall. It gave my hair natural highlights from the sun and gave my face a horrible tanline from my sunglasses. Even with diligently applied sunscreen. I blame my inability to play, on a racket that was too heavy and poor hand-eye coordination. I’ve since eliminated one issue because now I’m able to lift 10 lb dumbbells and rackets are made of fluffy light marshmallows. I’ll be back to learning how to play this sport again this year. My goal is to learn how to return a ball to the other side of the net within the boundary lines. This should be fun. I will now have to go dig out my cute tennis skirt from high school, which was probably the only reason why I even signed up for tennis in high school, just to have an excuse to wear a cute tennis skirt. My motivation hasn’t changed. Just that this time, I want to play a little bit of tennis while wearing the skirt.

Look Gina! Tennis balls for me to chase!