Jump to content

I Still Don't Know What I'm Doing....

Recommended Posts

About 4 weeks ago, for an anniversary present, my husband finally agreed to let me get a fish tank!!

There were 2 main conditions:

1. It would have to be a small one as we don't have much room. My husband said "bowl" which lead to a tiny argument. I won. We settled on a tank that could fit on a cabinet with room to spare for Hubby's papers. 

2. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES was Hubby to have anything to do with the tank or its upkeep. This was perfectly acceptable to me. It was my hobby and I was quite happy to do everything required. 

We live a little ways from any main pet stores, so I was very happy to discover a little family business shop just 20 minutes away. 

Now the thing about my Hubby is that he does not like wasting petrol. He also likes to hang out with me. So he had to come too - ostensibly "just to pick up a couple of things from the supermarket". Of course. 😏

Into the pet store, we both went. I had a lot of questions about the tank. And surprisingly (ahem) so has Hubby.

A very capable seeming store person swept the poor little ignoramus (me) under their wing and very soon I was kitted out with a 30-litre tank, canister filter, plants, and some gravel for a substrate. When they spoke about a heater I glanced over their shoulder to see Hubby shaking his head. (We live in tropical Queensland)

Now originally we had agreed, Hubby and me, that we will get a cheap 20-litre tank that was about $45. Hubby's wallet has magical properties. Whenever he gets interested in something- or whenever my face assumes a sufficiently disappointed expression, the wallet magically expands. They did have that cheap 20-litre tank. They also had a much nicer 30-litre tank that was $60. I looked at the tank and looked at Hubby. I got the 30-litre tank. 

I had done a little research, but the internet is a big and confusing place, and the store person was supremely competent-seeming. I asked about tank cycling. I had a dreary vision of a long month of waiting while this mysterious thing called "cycling a tank" happened. I am not a patient person and a month is an awfully long time.

"Oh typically I recommend waiting a week- but you have live plants so I'd probably only wait about 3 days"

Suddenly the sun came out and everything was all rosy and shiny. 3 days!! 

I was excited. Hubby paid for the stuff and we brought it home. (Hubby wasn't going to be doing anything of course.)

I took the tank up the stairs and put it in its place on the cabinet. Then I began to get it set up, interrupted every 2 minutes or so.

"Are you going to rinse the gravel out?"

"Oh no, I don't think so. See on the packet it says it's been rinsed three times already."

"What are you going to use to fill up the tank with?"

"Umm... this jug?"

"No. Don't use that. Use this!"

Hubby swaps my jug for another bigger one.

"Are you going to use buckets? What about clearing up this space so you have more room to work. Make it easy on yourself..."

And so it goes. 

After about an hour everything is in place.

I've put the substrate in. I've added the filter and pressed it to the back of the tank.

Somebody (I won't say who) fed the filter cord up over the tall cupboard and organized how it would get to the wall socket.

Somebody (I won't say who) cleared a space on our small dining table and moved chairs out of the way.

Somebody (I won't say who) helped me with the bucket as I slowly started filling the tank with water.

After we all finished that same Somebody reiterated how he wasn't going to have anything to do with my new hobby and went back to listening to the radio.

I sighed happily, drew up a dining chair and looked at the new tank. 

But it looked so empty! It just had two live plants whose names I was happily ignorant of but had been recommended as 'easy'. I felt proud of them. They were alive and in the water. They were my responsibility. I looked at the tank and thought about how I wanted to keep everything as natural as possible, and how I wanted to make sure everything was as healthy and as happy as can be. I thought about how as a child I'd used to have a fish tank but how all the fish kept dying.

"That was because I overstocked!" I thought proudly. "I've done my research and I know about overstocking now. I won't make that mistake again. My fish will be healthy!"

Uneasily I wondered about this mysterious thing called "water parameters". People insisted on asking about them when answering questions in fish forums. People did science-y things with test kits to find out what they were. The thing is I'd looked up how much those same test kits cost in the store and they were expensive. As in very expensive, especially on our little budget.

I thought of poor old Hubby and his expanding wallet and didn't want to do that to him.

As I looked at the tank other vague bits of researched detail came into my head. "I never need to do a water change because I have a planted tank...", "A heavily planted tank pretty much takes care of itself." "This is my 'no-filter' method of keeping tanks -just use plants!" I thought of the store person's confidence with the tank cycling being okay- all because I bought a couple of live plants. 

I decided that I needed more plants.

The next day I said I'd like to go to the fish store to buy some more plants. Hubby asked why.

 "Plants make the tank healthy. The more plants the healthier the tank will be." I said vaguely.

So off we go to the pet store. Hubby came too. Why exactly, he didn't specify- again.

I was proud of my restraint. We had waited a whole 24 hours before coming back! Also, I was only going to buy a couple more plants. And maybe some snails. I had vague memories of reading stuff like "Fish can help cycling the tank because they add ammonia and then bacteria work on ammonia and the tank cycles."

Soooo maybe I'd get some "unimportant" fish too, like tetras, and leave buying the special pet fish (I planned to buy a betta) for a week so the tank could finish that mysterious "cycling" thing.

 Along came that competent store person.

 "There's no reason why she can't get them all now", the competent store person says to my husband.

 Oooohh, yes! Get them all now! I was going to care for them all carefully and monitor them closely until the tank had cycled. The store person said they would be fine, so everything would work out, right?

Suddenly I doubted. I asked about water parameters. The store person handed me a ph testing kit. "This is the critical one. As long as it stays in this neutral range here" - a vague wave towards the colour chart - "everything will be fine."

Hubby opened his wallet again and I walked away extremely happy. 

I had 3 cardinal tetras, 3 black neon tetras, 1 glowlight tetra, 2 bristlenose catfish and one lovely purple-blue-red betta fish that I named Alphonso. I didn't know what the names of the different tetra types were. I had also been told that getting different tetra types were fine - "they all school together."

They went into the tank after 30 minutes. I watched them "settle in." Hubby asked if I was happy. I said "yes!"

For the next two weeks, I religiously checked my ph levels every 3 or 4 days. I forgot that there was a neutral 'range' and just aimed for the exact middle of the chart. If my ph level was not exactly 7.0, I added the correct powder. 

I delighted when the fish started coming to the surface at feeding time after only two days. I watched as the betta lazily chased away the tetras that got too close to him. I researched and found that the correct name for tetras with the black stripe was "Black Neons" and the blue ones "Cardinals", but I still called the orange tetra (glowlights) "the orange-y tetra".

"Disinterested" Hubby also started pulling up the dining chair. He liked to count the snails that mysteriously appeared with the new plants and to make comments on the way the tetras water surfed the filter outlet.

Then my fish started to die. First the smallest fish, the 3 cardinal tetras, died. Then my cute little catfish disappeared, and finally, my poor betta's tail started to rot.

I went to the pet shop person who kindly gave me anti-fungal medication in a small zip-lock bag and some aquarium salts.

"Do a complete water change and take everything out. Add one teaspoon of aquarium salts and 3ml of fungal medication. Then do it again after a week and see how it turns out."

Slowly my betta started to heal. The rotting parts of his tail disappeared. I felt confident again. My husband's mood improved. (Again, nothing to do with the fish, of course! 😏)

I kept an eagle eye on that ph level though! As soon as it edged up slightly I added the ph down powders.

I bought some cory bronzes to replace the catfish. "They're not a schooling fish, so you'll be fine if you just get one or two," said the pet store person. 

My betta went on a rampage. He chased the cory bronzes up and down the tank. He chased them so hard that he went "smack" into the gravel. (I heard it.)

Hubby talked about taking the cories back. I watched anxiously wondering if the store would even accept them and hoping desperately poor Alphonso would calm down. The next day Alphonso was quiet again, but I noticed white stuff around his mouth.

I did some research and found out about columnaris. "Oh no!"

It was then that I began to lose some confidence in the pet store person, nice as they'd been. I decided I needed expert help. The Aquarium Co-Op channel on YouTube had been a source of info and entertainment for me for about two weeks. They seemed like nice, down-to-earth people who were really fanatical and knowledge about fish, while still not being the type to devour someone messily over a mistake. So I searched the site, spotted C.A.R.E and made my first post here.

About two or three helpful responses later I decided to throw the pet store person's advice completely out the window and start fresh, depending only on C.A.R.E. input. There were too many contradictions and I figured the people actually keeping fish- not selling them- would be the ones who actually had an idea of what to do.

Poor Alphonso finally succumbed but I have some good advisors now.  I also have something else to thank C.A.R.E. for- My hubby has been reading the forum and based on what he read went and bought me an aquarium testing kit! Yay! (Now I can give you all those funny numbers. :classic_wink:)

I still don't know what I'm doing.

This is why I started this journal. Hopefully, with the help of C.A.R.E forum members, the "tank cycling" thing will be less and less of a mystery and my next betta may actually survive.

Hubby agrees. He's tired of watching fish die. It depresses him. This is why he loaned me the money to buy Seachem Prime and Seachem Stability.

(But he doesn't want to get involved, of course. )


  • Like 6
  • Love 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bladder snails are terrific.  🙂. Be sure to feed your mystery snail fresh blanched veggies.  They cannot survive on leftover food and algae. The do enjoy algae wafers to ensure complete nutrition. They do need calcium for strong healthy shell development.. wondershells are a safe and easy way to provide this. 

I do hope as you learn your hobby will bring you 100 times the joy of the heartbreak you have been through to get there.  Pet store folks are usually salespeople who often have no actual fish keeping knowledge.

...my hubby has one of those magical wallets that can’t stand to see me sad or have things be harder than they need 🙂 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ps I would recommend removing any egg sacs you see. For every one you see there are 3 more. I would let one hatch it’s neat to see takes about 5 days. I keep bladders on purpose but if you overfeed which I do for my mystery snails they will overpopulate and you run a risk of it overloading your tanks bioload capacity if you leave all the clutch. They are mother nature’s master gardeners and will keep your plants beautiful and clean the hard to get to nooks and crannies.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your story was a joy to read, I exclaimed "Oh noooooo," at the advice that pet store clerk was giving you. I'm so glad you're on the right path now!

I wish my hubby would get more involved with my tanks, any interest he shows is always a rare treat. He does help me figure things out sometimes, like using a pump to do water changes and putting two long hoses together that will reach my tanks from the sink. And he did name my Electric Blue Acara (Tesla). He likes to watch my snails, but he probably only notices them because they're in the kitchen! 😄 I think he's just happy I have something I enjoy so much and leaves me to it.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

I've done another test now. This cycle thing is still a bit confusing.

Now maybe it's just me but it looks like that is reading 0ppm ammonia?


Nitrite and nitrate levels are the same.



I have been dosing the tank every day with Seachem Prime and Seachem Stability for nearly two weeks now. And a 25% water change every two days.

@xXInkedPhoenixX Do you advise keeping up the daily doses still? Only asking 'cause I'm already half way through both bottles. (Could only afford to get the 50ml ones)

The tank looks happy and healthy and the plants are flourishing too. 🙂


Edited by HonourWest
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If it's been 7 days since your last addition of fish you can quit Stability for sure- if not just continue that for the rest of 7 days to be safe. You can absolutely start only using Prime as water treatment and not have to dose daily- only when you change water. When you can afford it, get yourself another bottle of Prime. Stability will only be needed when you add fish to the aquarium. That's not absolutely necessary though- it's just a failsafe. I only use Prime when I change water and for me that's not very often- most times I'm only doing it to vacuum up old food left behind by the Otos and Snails not so much for my Harlequins or Neons as they pretty much eat all their foods. 


Your tank is looking a lot healthier!!

Edited by xXInkedPhoenixX
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your water testing looks great. You can probably cut back to 1x a week on that for now as well and let the Nitrates come up a little. If next time you test the Nitrates are over 20 do a small water change, and absolutely change water if the ammmonia or nitrite are over 0. 

Always observe your fish, if they start acting funny at all it's probably time to test the water and see if anything there is the cause. 

Edited by xXInkedPhoenixX
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

I happily told Hubby 2 days ago that ammonia was at 0ppm.

And that next week I might look at getting my next betta fish (depending on water parameters.)

Yesterday afternoon Hubby takes me to one of the big pet stores that are about 30 minutes away. He didn't tell me he was taking me to a pet store. I thought he was just getting a hair cut.

And then he tells me to pick out my betta.

I mean seriously what could I do? What would you do if the one person who you loved most in the world went to such trouble to surprise you?

I tried. I really did. 

Me: "Well, um, don't you think, since we might be coming in again next week, we could get it then... ?"

Me: "Wouldn't it be more convenient if...?"

Me: "Well I was just thinking of the water parameters and-"

Hubby with a hurt expression: "But you told me that ammonia was 0ppm!"

Me: "......"

Meet Gippy.


Now the funny thing about Gippy is that I mentioned that we had tetras in the tank to the store people.

The store people became uneasy. 

"The betta might eat them."

My hubby became uneasy.

"I hope he doesn't eat our tetras."

I explained I'd had a betta in the tank with them before. I explained that the tank was planted. There were lots of hiding places for the tetras.

The store people relaxed slightly, hearing this. So did Hubby.

He still had a niggling worry. I got to hear about it on the drive home in between our mini arguments over betta names.

Me: "What about Saturn- I like that planet and he makes me think of space and planets with those colours."

Hubby: "Nah. Saturn sounds too much like Satan."

I thought again... 

Me: "Telsa! After Nikola Tesla!"

Hubby: "Nah. Make it something easy to remember. Like Alphy"

Me: "Alphy was the name of our last betta! We're not calling him Alphy."

I tried again... red tail... kind of like a cape.. 

Me: "Oh- what about Monte Cristo then. After the Count."

Hubby: "Call him Edmond Dantes. Eddy for short."

I winced. Eddy. Just the sort of plain, simple pragmatic name my husband liked- and I didn't. All the romance had gone out of the Count.

But my husband liked pragmatic names, and I liked quirky,  funny interesting and unique ones.

Suddenly I had an idea... I thought of someone that we both liked and admired immensely. 

"Gipp!" I crowed. "Gippy for short."

"We can call him the Gipper" my husband chortled.

It was weird. It was funny. It was utterly unrelated to anything I'd been thinking about. But somehow it "clicked."

So "Gippy" was named.

Then Hubby wondered out loud about our tetras. I tried to ignore his doubts but they were stealthily contagious. 

What if Gippy did bite the tetras. The tank had only just settled down. I had wanted to wait longer. I wanted the water to be right. My husband had gone to all this trouble to surprise me. And worse still, the betta had not been cheap. Hubby had bought me one of the nicer, expensive ones.

We brought Gippy home. I placed his bag in the water to get the temperature right. I added a bit of tank water so he could adjust to the new parameters. I waited the correct amount of time and let him out of the bag carefully, not allowing the pet store water to contaminate my tank.

"Now for it." I thought. "Now is the time he will start to terrorise the entire tank. Cue the fish deaths."

Gippy darted out of my net, shot to the back of the tank and closeted himself behind the filter.

"Huh." I thought. "Wasn't expecting that. Oh well. He has been on a long trip. He is new. He probably just needs a little time to acclimatise himself."

I pulled out a chair and waited. Gippy waited. Half an hour later we were still waiting 

I moved the filter slightly to give him more room. Slowly, timidly, Gippy came out. He looked around. He went and hid under the log.

Fish feeding time. First the tetras. They darted in and out, snapping up the flakes I left them.

Gippy came to the top from his hiding place. I placed a pellet in front of his mouth.

"Gulp" went Gippy.

Three more pellets followed suit. Gippy swallowed them all happily.

Then he went and hid behind the plants.

"Just checking that I got this right..." I called to my husband. "It was Gippy that was going to terrorise the tetras?"

I looked at Gippy. A tetra was swimming past his nose. Gippy turned his head in the other direction. The tetra moved to nip his fin. Gippy flicked his tail and moved to the back of the tank.

"Gippy is a betta fish." I thought."Bettas are a highly aggressive fish species." I thought.

Maybe someone ought to tell Gippy.


Edited by HonourWest
  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Coupla things while I'm here.

If I'm feeding Gippy twice a day, how many pellets should I feed him at a time? 

I don't want to overfeed but fish are greedy things.

Also, I'm just going to assume that I ought to add Seachem Stability for the next 7 days as well as keeping an eye on my parameters. Should I add Prime as well?

He has a couple of tears in his tail too. Not very big ones but definitely tears. Is this a major concern or just something to keep an eye on?

Edited by HonourWest
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, congrats on Gippy. As before I would just do Stability for the 1st 7 days, any time I add fish it's been my habit. No, you can keep Prime as a way to treat the water for a water change OR in emergency situations if you have another ammonia or nitrie spike. At some point you won't have to rely on chemicals at all to maintain your tank- we are just avoiding you having to deal with a disaster again. I keep the chemicals on hand so that if there is an emergency it can be handled without panic. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes sounds like you should have enough activity in your tank to satisfy you for a while. Plus you'll need to see how Gippy eventually settlles in. He might be shy now but that's because the environment is new, hopefully he'll gain more confidence and won't let the tetras pick on him and vice versa. Keep an eye out for bullying just in case, but my hope for you is that all will be well. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/26/2021 at 1:08 AM, HonourWest said:

I took another test this morning. Everything looks good but I'm wondering about the nitrate levels. Is it an issue if they get too high?







(Sorry for all the thumb photography. This is me holding the card up to the light while taking a photo with my other hand.)

You want to aim for 20ppm -40ppm if you  consistently have high nitrates increase water changes add some quick growing stem plants like Hornwort or floating plants like water lettuce or Amazonian frogbit if your using a nitrogen base fertilizer like easy green half the amount your dosing see if they start to come down

Edited by Colu
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with @Colu but also since you are new, think of nitrates in terms of it being "plant food" just like with fish there is also a point where it is too much and it gets toxic. You want a balance of fish and plants where you get double 0 (ammonia, nitrite) and 20-40 (nitrate)(I aim for 20- everybody has their preference there and 40 of course is absolutely fine! It's hard to tell the difference anyway between those reds). If you have the right balance you will never really have to do a water change unless you want to vacuum your substrate or you have to top off!

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

I have a niggling concern. Is it normal for my betta to have a pronounced belly?

Alphy was a veil-tail and he had a different shape. Gippy is a half-moon. I thought at first it was just the difference in types but now I'm not sure. (I've been reading about bloat in sickness which is the cause of my worry.)

Can someone please reassure me on this? Kinda worried now... (that bloat disease stuff was scary 😟)

I can get more photos if they're needed.




Edited by HonourWest
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmmm. Hoping he's just a fat boy. I looked at your first pics and now and they look the same. Have you seen him pooping? Is he swimming normally or does he seem to struggle? If you have any frozen peas you can try feeding him a few pea pieces, thaw one, open it and cut/break it into segments, feed him whatever he might eat which may be less than a whole pea (their stomachs I have been told are the size of their eyeball so they are easy for fish keepers to overfeed since they can be little water pigs). I might fast the tank the day after (1 fasting day a week is good for them say a lot of people). Keep watching him and see if anything changes. The pea will be good for him no matter what it might be, but I'm hoping he's just fat or constipated. 

Edited by xXInkedPhoenixX
to clarify
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/27/2021 at 9:45 AM, xXInkedPhoenixX said:

Hmmm. Hoping he's just a fat boy. I looked at your first pics and now and they look the same. Have you seen him pooping? Is he swimming normally or does he seem to struggle? If you have any frozen peas you can try feeding him a few pea pieces, thaw one, open it and cut/break it into segments, feed him whatever he might eat which may be less than a whole pea (their stomachs I have been told are the size of their eyeball so they are easy for fish keepers to overfeed since they can be little water pigs). I might fast the tank the day after (1 fasting day a week is good for them say a lot of people). Keep watching him and see if anything changes. The pea will be good for him not matter what it might be, but I'm hoping he's just fat or constipated. 

He hasn't changed his shape since I got him from the pet store.

Everything else seems normal. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...