Jump to content

Beginner's attempt to keep fish


Recommended Posts

After eyeing fish in the local pet stores for a while, at the end of August me and my husband decided to start our aquarium journey. Figured I'll start the journal as a way to keep up with the progress and share pictures as well as new things learned along the way.

20 gallon community tank

The start

We bought one of those 20 gallon starter kits, set it up, and after few weeks decided to proceed with a fish-in cycle - I had loads of free time to monitor the tank and we kind of gave in to the excitement of getting fish sooner rather than later. We got two mollies (assured by the store they're males; turned out to be two girls), a platy (which we thought was a molly - talk about doing the research about fish you're buying 😄), a peppered cory, and an albino bristlenose pleco. With the help of some plants, twice a day water testing and very frequent small water changes, few weeks later the tank was successfully cycled with no big ammonia/nitrite spikes and I felt like I could finally relax and enjoy the aquarium. 

Initial setup of the aquarium:


Over time we got some upgrades to the filter system, an airstone, more plants, few more platies, peppered cories, ember tetras, two nerite snails, and a dwarf gourami. Our mollies grew fast and started to get increasingly aggressive to other fish in the aquarium, especially when food was involved. After giving it some thought, it seemed like giving them back to the pet store would be the best decision - avoiding aggression, reducing stocking, less of a "fish salad", and hopefully happier life for mollies. The day before we went to the pet store, of course, they decided to leave us a gift of 9 baby mollies that are happily growing and will be rehomed when they're a little bigger. Which brings me to...



It's quite amazing to see how much everything has grown. Aquarium is quite heavily stocked but water parameters seem to be perfectly stable, plants are growing, fish seem happy - I guess it's fine? This turned from "having some fish would be pretty cool" to being a source of happiness I wouldn't have thought it could be. Honestly could spend hours just watching them do their thing (and sometimes I do 😄).

Tank inhabitants: 


Morka (Sunburst platy)
Our first platy, shy small boy that tends to hang out alone more often than not and doesn't go for food too aggressively. The moment a female platy was introduced to the tank he jumped straight to mating with her though.


Mickey (Mickey mouse platy)
We thought he was a female but as he matured, his anal fin changed shape to definitely male. A bit more aggressive boy, nearly twice the size of Morka. Occasionally chases other platies away from food and eats like a madman. Never seen him attempt to mate with either of our platy girls, although he has developed an unhealthy obsession with currently very pregnant Panda platy - quick google search seems to suggest he senses she's about to give birth and he's trying to snack on the babies?  

Panda (Panda platy)
Currently in process of giving birth slowly - one fry appeared two days ago, couldn't spot more but they seem to be very good at hiding. Still looks pregnant. Loves bloodworms and nibbling on my fingers when I'm doing aquarium maintenance.


Babe (Blue wag platy)
Cute small girl we got recently to try to balance sex ratio a little. Mostly ignored by other platies, although Morka definitely did the deed with her at least few times already.


The newborn
Our firstborn platy baby, with parents being Panda and most likely Morka - very curious how it (and other babies) will color up as they grow. Most likely will all be rehomed when they're bigger but the adventure of raising them and seeing them develop sounds really exciting. Besides, it's so cute! One of the surprise baby mollies can also be seen in the picture.


Neon blue dwarf gourami

Gary initially was very shy and would spend his days hiding behind plants in the corner of the tank. This sweet boy can spend hours swimming laps back and forth between airstone and sponge filter bubbles, getting pushed up and on his side by the stream. When he gets bored of that, he loves nibbling on my beautiful weeping moss I'm attempting to grow on the driftwood, to the point where top of driftwood is now nearly moss-free and there's loads of moss strands all over the tank. He also has been trained to come up to the finger and spit water at it to get food. In fact, he gets so excited to do it that he often forgets to actually eat the food and platies snipe it from him.


Peppered corydoras

The only fish species we had problems with. Initially we had five of them, there are only three remaining now.
Our first cory seemed fine but he always had kind of larger and fully black eyes with no brown iris, as if he only had a large black pupil. After around a month he stopped eating and swimming. Not knowing what was the issue, I setup a quarantine tank and tried to treat him with anti-parasite and antibiotic meds. Antibiotics cleared up his eyes and the brown iris appeared, he started eating a little. At that point he was very weak though, and I literally had to nudge food right next to his mouth. Sadly he never recovered.
The other cory showed no signs of illness and then just turned up dead last week - water parameters were fine, all other fish seem perfectly healthy. Still baffled by it and hoping other corydoras/fish will be fine.

The remaining three corys (Chunk, Stumpy, and Ghostie) are happily sifting through sand, wiggling their little tails and resting on plants in weirdest positions. Stumpy (in the picture) is missing a fin, got him for free from PetSmart for being "defective". He seems to have no problems swimming with his cute little pirate hook of a fin 🙂 


Albino bristlenose pleco

Albie, the restless vacuum of the tank. Always eating, always pooping like crazy (I swear I have seen his poop twice his size still attached to him, wiggling as if it was a second tail) , and already at least doubled in size. 


Ember tetras

Tiny fast orange sparkles, not named. Got a school of 12, it's fascinating to watch them zooming around the tank all together. Impossible to get a good picture of them though, haha.



  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome and a great intro journal! 
Mollies do better in groups so they can focus their energies on each other not externally. Keeping all females or males can work as long as there are 5’or more. I have a total soft spot for platys and totally get why you’re in love with them. The varieties of color and pattern feel endless. A couple of rabbit holes to go down - hifin variatus platys and teacup varieties. 
Looks like you have a female bristlenose. They tend to be a bit bigger than the males and reach maturity quicker so bigger now but once they get to 3-5” they slow down on growth. She will get girthier as she grows as well. 
Male dwarf gourami are notorious jerks. There are exceptions and I’m glad you have other tanks to house fish in case something goes down. 
Sorry about your corys. QT is a must with any big box store fish. I’d give them the med trio at a minimum. Even from experienced and renowned breeders you can get diseased fish so always qt. 
Have fun and once again welcome! 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looks like a fabulous start. Yes fishkeeping is very addicting. I also spend way to many hours just staring at my fish watching each tiny nuance of behavior. I’m so happy you didn’t have major startup issues. Your bristlenose is adorable. 

On 11/4/2021 at 2:35 AM, Beardedbillygoat1975 said:

Looks like you have a female bristlenose.

How can you tell. I would love to keep a few girls of my babies but I only can tell when they are 9-10 months and grow whiskers. I would be deliriously happy if I could. Please share. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you! High fin platies are gorgeous, might consider them in the future. Would also be curious about telling young bristlenose's gender, mine's probably around three months old, four at most. I thought you can't tell the gender until they are way older 😮

News in the tank - molly babies stopped hiding between plants and came out in the open to munch on algae wafer piece. First time seeing them all out like this, so adorable


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

I guess I'll add a little intro to my other tank as well, not planning any changes there in near future but you never know.

5.5 gallon betta tank

Walking past those sad little betta cups finally got to us and we setup a 5 gallon tank for a betta. I used it as a chance to make a java moss bonsai tree - love how they look and wanted one ever since I saw them but it doesn't really fit in the 20 gallon tank. After tank was setup, we picked out the saddest looking betta in Petco.

Ely, on the day we got him:


Ely now:


Love how much he colored up. Very active and inquisitive little guy, it's really entertaining to watch him move half an inch, stop, raise his dorsal fin, stare at something for a moment, and then repeat the same process over and over again. Ely already gave me a heart attack by sleeping in position that only dead fish should be in, learned to jump to the finger to get the food and comes rushing to the surface when I wiggle my finger near the lid opening. He also loves resting in the tree:



The tank itself sits on my desk and has no background. View from both sides:




Aside from Ely, there's an increasing amount of ramshorn and bladder snails that must have hitchhiked on the plant. They're pretty cool looking and I don't mind them but might need to do some population control soon. Ely eats all of his food - I watch him swallow all the pellets and bloodworms, so overfeeding shouldn't be the reason for them multiplying so much? 

I also really like shrimp and tried to introduce two cheap feeder ghost shrimp to see what Ely would do. He ignored them completely all day but I found them both dead after one night. I decided to give one amano shrimp a shot (logic being - I didn't acclimate ghost shrimp properly, they're cheap feeder shrimp from petco, might have other causes of death than betta), bought it from small local store, took my time very slowly acclimating it. Ely, again, ignored it all day, shrimp munched on stuff and explored the moss, and then I never saw it again. I guess that concludes experiments with shrimp for now. 🙃

  • Like 1
  • Love 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on plecos there are others on the forum who are more learned then me but this is what I’ve gleaned over the years for bristlenose ancistrus plecos:

1)I find when they are stuck to the glass the girls have a wider girdle 

2)the males are longer and leaner not skinny but just overall well proportioned vs the female who seem kind of stunted in the middle they don’t grow longer just wider

3)the albino and reds I’ve always been told the males have a patch of pink to skin color tissue on their neck area just behind their eyes that helps id them as well

Edited by Beardedbillygoat1975
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

The babies in 20 gal have been growing like crazy (I may have been slightly overfeeding the tank haha), starting to look for new home for the mollies - local Petco will take them all if I can't find a better option for rehoming them. The platy baby has doubled in size, colored up more, and is quite hard to distinguish from ember tetras from afar. Based on black edges on fins it seems to be Babe's kid after all - no other platies have fins like that. Guess she was pregnant already when we got her from the store (oh, how unexpected). No other platy babies have been spotted so far, and both platy girls seem to be quite pregnant - fat, round and have very visible gravid spots. Can't wait to see what Panda will eventually pop out.



Ely has been cozying up to me more and more, he actually decided to rest on my hand for a while today while doing water change. Warmed my heart 🙂




  • Like 4
  • Love 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great journal. It is so fun to watch and see baby platies get their adult coloring. I have some that were born in my QT tank and they aren't the color I am trying to breed--mom fish came preloaded from the fish store--but they are growing on me. I just introduced a green lantern male into the tank and I will be eager to see the new babies that arrive in a few months.

I'm a big fan of taking home the saddest fish in a cup, too. It feels good to give a fish the chance for a glow up!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

New platy babies spotted today! They're definitely Panda's, they look just like her. Found three so far, hoping more have survived and they are just very good at hiding. Mickey and Morka have been following Panda's butt religiously for few weeks now so I wouldn't be surprised if majority became a snack for the boys though. They're way too small to take a proper picture of, but I had to try 😁



  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

So as mentioned previously, amano shrimp I put in 5 gal disappeared almost immediately. After few weeks of seeing no sign of it and Ely being suspiciously silent when asked where's the shrimp, I assumed it suffered "death by betta" fate. Imagine my surprise when I saw this just now: 


Shrimp keepers - is this exoskeleton? Is my amano alive and well? 😮

One of the fresh platy babies decided to pose for me today. Seemingly might be white with black and orange spots, if colors stay that way it should be one pretty fish 😍


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

Beautiful babies. I had one lone neocaridina in a guppy grow out tank. I NEVER saw it but found molts. This continued for 5 months until I upgraded the tank to a larger size. I had everything except the gravel and water out of the tank before I found it in the corner. They are sneaky buggers. 

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Yeah, I'm learning that they really are sneaky. I finally saw my shrimp (middle bottom)! Once, then never again since, haha.



Did a little "photoshoot" recently:


Mom and her baby:



Platy baby successfully infiltrated a school of ember tetras:



Synchronized sifting:


"Why eat algae wafer when you can eat a rock?":



My favorite one, attacked by hungry platies 😄: 


  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Babe has been looking like she's about to burst open for few days now. Today I noticed a set of eyes sitting on anubia leaf:


New babies, again! Wonder when we'll get tired of it 😄 spotted two so far, momma is still looking fat, probably more coming tonight.



  • Like 1
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...