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Bill's Tank Journals: SHANGRI-LA

Bill Smith

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My tanks are scattered throughout my house and office, and I thought it would be fun to share them one at a time. Each has some sort of quirk that makes it special to me or my family. Hope you enjoy!

Coming from the computer world, I have named each of my 12 tanks to make it easier to refer to them in conversation. "Atlantis" is easier to say than "the-top-middle-20-Long-in-the-office-with the-multies"

Welcome to SHANGRI-LA

aka "Livebearer Skittles"


This 20-gallon long is the only tank in in my home with a highly unnatural background. I wanted to give the tank an overtly Asian theme, so the background doesn't convey anything lifelike. I found the dragon imagery online, made some changes with Photoshop, and then sent it out to be printed.

(All links are non-affiliate.)


1. FiltrationGrech CBG-800 hang-on-back filter. I like this filter because its media section can work exactly like the AquaClear line, with foam blocks and lots of space. I added three layers of Aquarium Co-Op coarse sponge pads to the foam block it comes with. I also add a layer of blue-white floss, and I replace that every 1-2 weeks. This filter also has a surface skimmer, but for me, the extra benefit of this filter is the on-board 5 watt UV sterilizer! The whole thing is about $50, but I like combining my equipment when I can.

2. Heater: Orlushy 150 watt submersible heater. I like this brand because the back of it has no printing. I can turn it around facing the glass, yet the setting numbers are on the end, so I can see them from the side.

3. Air: I use an Aquarium Co-Op USB nano pump and a never-clog airstone on the side of the tank opposite the filter.

4. Circulation: I really like the Sun Sun JVP-110 wavemaker pumps, because they are very reliable and very low-cost. A two-pack can be had for under $20 and a four-pack for under $30. I aim mine directly at one of the rocks to disperse the current a bit. I also cover the pumps with these eFlux PreFilter sleeves, which protect the fish from getting sucked into the circulator.

5. Light: I'm really in love with the NICREW ClassicLED plus line of lights. They are quite a bit brighter than the Finnex Stingray, a lot less money, and only 18 watts for a 30" light (vs. 16 watts for Finnex). Sure, they may not last as long and there's not much of a warranty, but at $43 for 30", I'm not concerned.

6. Light timer: One advantage of using NICREW lights is that they have their own line of timers. I use this NICREW single channel timer to handle my day-night cycles, and it can even be programmed to do gradual sunrise/sunset dimming effects! The timer costs $13, which brings the light back up to a Stingray cost, but it's still brighter!

7. Feeder: I use the iLonda wi-fi auto-feeder on all of my tanks larger than 10 gallons. It costs $20 on Amazon, and is shaped exactly like the older Eheim auto-feeders. The down-side is that it must be plugged in (USB power), but the upside is that it can be controlled by wi-fi. I can trigger a feeding manually on my phone by talking to Alexa/Google Home, or on a timed basis. Calling out "OK Google, turn on the feeder" impresses the guests!



1. Substrate: I am using 40 lbs. of Carib-Sea Super Naturals Sunset Gold sand. I had hoped it would be more coarse than it is, but it still looks nice.

2. Rocks: I have six pieces of lava rock set up in a semi-circle, like stone pillars. I put the circulator behind one of them, which helps disperse the water flow a bit.

3. Dragon statue: Just your run-of-the-mill PetSmart decoration.

4. Plants: For greenery, I have a single Anubias nana. Being on its own, there is a lot more involved work keeping the light and nutrients balanced, and the plant is constantly struggling against algae. But I think the overall look is worth the effort!




This is a large livebearer "Skittles" tank, so the intent here was to stock it with a large variety of colors and styles of platies and swordtails, get them fully de-wormed and otherwise medicated well, and then feed them heavily to bring out the colors.

These guys are ALL rescues from PetSmart. They've had a full round of each of the meds in the Med Trio (not just one dose), and are really bulking up and coloring up  fast. The flurry of bright colors and fast motion makes this one of my favorite tanks.

At last count, I had the following:

- 2 koi swordtails
- 1 old pineapple swordail
- 4 sunburst platies
- 2 gold dust platies
- 4 blue wag platies
- 2 red wag platies
- 2 gold mickey mouse platies
- 2 gold twin-bar platies
- 1 panda platy
- 1 hi-fin blue wag platy
- 1 hi-fin orange mickey mouse platy
- 1 black molly
- 1 errant hatchetfish that survived a previous iteration of this tank



I know, that's a lot of fish for 20 gallons. but my maintenance keeps the nitrates at bay: 50% water change and a filter pad cleaning every weekend.

My auto-feeder provides a medium-small amount of Hikari micro wafers twice a day. I also supplement with frozen spirulina brine shrimp almost every day.

I keep this tank on the top of a cheap Home Depot shelf rack in my home office:


Hope you enjoyed, thanks for reading!


Edited by Bill Smith
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I love your idea of the themes!  At this point I only have 1 tank, nd it's just getting started at that, but I already refer to it as my camden yards tank (I'm in Baltimore and therefore an O's fan.)  At this point I have 3 Mickey Mouse Swordtails in there, and plan to get some more, posibly some orange and black marble lyretail mollies, plus a school of Emerald Cories and the focal point of a koi angel.  The goal is to have as much orange and black as possible!  Still won't be anywhere near as intricate as yours, though!

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