Saturday, January 19, 2019

How to Care for Green Neon Tetras

Search for the perfect school of nano fish to light up your planted aquarium? Look no further than the green neon tetra, or Paracheirodon simulans! Keep reading to find out how to care for them and what makes them such a popular choice in the aquascaping world.

What's the Difference Between Cardinal, Neon, and Green Neon Tetras?

You’re right – all of them have a blue horizontal stripe with some red underneath it. Cardinals are the biggest, and in my aquarium, you predominantly saw the red color more than anything. Neon tetras are the cheapest with only half a red stripe. And green neons? Well, they’re the smallest, barely have any red, and aren’t as common as their cousins. So what’s the big deal? I mean, I almost totally passed over them myself if it hadn’t been for my husband (the one with the art degree) convincing me to get them.

cardinal tetra vs. neon tetra vs. green neon tetra
Cardinal tetras vs. neon tetras vs. green neon tetras (from left to right)

The reason why you’ll often see aquascapers play with green neon tetras is because they strike the perfect balance between being brightly colored yet blending with the background, meaning they don’t detract too much attention from the planted scape. There’s something magical about seeing that flash of brilliant turquoise from across the room, even when the aquarium lights are off. And make sure you watch them when the lights come on, at least once, because their stripe becomes like royal blue glitter, almost sparkly violet, that is unbelievable to behold.

Care Sheet for Green Neon Tetras

Black waters of the Rio Negro (source)
Okay, now that I’ve hopefully convinced you to give them a shot, here is the standard care info for green neon tetras.

  • Habitat: South American black water river basins, overgrown trees, leaf litter, sandy substrate
  • Temperature: 75-84°F (and higher)
  • pH: prefers acidic (but I had no problems keeping my wild-caught tetras at 8.0 pH)
  • Water Hardness: very soft
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Size: 1 inch long (where females are slightly larger and rounder looking)
  • Tank Mates: peaceful nano fish that aren't big enough to eat them
  • Stocking: at least 6 to 10 tetras in a 10-gallon tank (more is better though)
  • Swimming Area: middle of the tank
  • Breeding: egg scatterers (can be difficult to raise since the eggs are light sensitive)

What Foods Should I Feed Green Neon Tetras?

When I purchased them in December, my wild-caught green neons were miniscule at only half an inch long, so I actually had some trouble feeding them at first because all my normal foods were too big for their mouths! So if you get them young, I found that they like crushed up flakes, crushed up dried bloodworms, and Hikari micro pellets, but the New Life Spectrum community pellets were too large. The fish store I got them from also recommended feeding them live or frozen baby brine shrimp, cyclops, and daphnia.

green neon tetras, albino cory catfish, and honey gourami in a 20-gallon planted community tank

Eventually they also learned to eat Repashy gel food. My cory catfish would tear into the big chunk I dropped, and the green neon tetras would linger on the outskirts, picking off the messy, little particles that floated off.

What Tank Mates Can You Keep with Green Neon Tetras?

Because they won’t swarm to food as quickly as some other fish, only keep them with mild-mannered fish who will give them a chance to eat and who they feel safe swimming around, like my cory catfish and honey gourami. In fact, the creature they were most afraid of was me! But if I sat down in front of the tank and didn’t move, they’d eventually come out again and start exploring. As shyer creatures, they really do enjoy a heavily planted or densely decorated aquarium with lots of hiding spots they can dart in and out of. That being said, if you ever need to catch them, it’s a huge pain so make sure to read my tutorial on catching aquarium fish.

green neon tetras like heavily planted aquariums

Pet Rating for the Green Neon Tetra

Overall, the green neon tetra is a very striking, colorful nano fish that definitely gets high scores for attractiveness. Not a ton of individual personality, but they do tend to shoal well together. They're pretty hardy and easy to care for, as long as you have food small enough for them to eat and no greedy or aggressive tankmates. Unfortunately, they're a little harder to source. I haven’t seen them in major pet stores like Petco and PetSmart, so you’d need to find a local fish store that can get them in or order them online.
  • Attractiveness: 5/5
  • Hardiness: 5/5
  • Ease of Care: 4/5
  • Availability: 3.5/5

green neon tetras at the local fish store

Hope you enjoyed my take on green neon tetras and my first care guide in a while. If you’d like to see more, I’ve put together a list for you with all my species spotlights. Take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you in the next post!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for practical fish care tips for busy aquarists and follow me on Instagram for more updates! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

5 Tips for Starting Your First Planted Aquarium

So you’re wanting to make the switch from fake to live aquarium plants, and you’ve already done a bunch of research on lighting, substrate, and so forth. I’m going to let you in on the 5 things I wish I knew about planted tanks that most beginner tutorials never cover. I'm not talking about basic level 1 knowledge like “Put your lights on a timer,” but more like level 2 stuff that you don’t figure out until way later when you happen hear a random comment in a 4-hour live stream.

Now I really like the natural look for my aquariums, which I initially tried to imitate using fake plant decor. However, I eventually decided to try live plants because everyone was going on and on about how great it naturally improves water quality, and you know me, I’ll try anything that saves me time.

Fish tank with natural-looking fake plants

Tip #1: New planted tanks will get algae

The first thing I learned is that planted tanks don’t necessarily save time (at least at first). With my fake aquarium decor, I never turned on the lights unless I was standing directly in front of the tank because my parents taught me not to waste electricity. That also means I never had algae growth. The fact is new planted tanks will get algae and that’s normal. In the beginning stages as your plants are getting settled, you’ll have to spend the time removing algae regularly, scraping down the walls, and keeping on top of water changes to reduce excess nutrients.

One time I let my newly planted betta tank go for two weeks without a water change, and when I came back from vacation, I had a massive brown algae explosion! Lesson learned, for sure.

Algae in a new planted betta tank

Tip #2: Don't fertilize as soon as you get the plants

Contrary to your natural inclination, don't fertilize right after you set up your new planted tank. Because the plants are still in shock and getting used to the new water parameters or substrate they’re in, they’re not going to grow a lot at first. Once they’ve gotten settled in and a little more rooted, then start slowly adding your root tabs and water column fertilizers – maybe at quarter or half strength at first, and then gradually increasing it to a balanced amount. Excess nutrients in those early days will lead to more algae.

Using Seachem Flourish tabs in a planted betta tank

Tip #3: Fast growing plants die quickly & slow growing plants die slowly

Speaking of which, you often hear people say that you should use fast growing plants in your newly planted aquarium so they can suck up the excess nutrients very quickly and starve out the algae. Well, just remember tip #3: fast-growing plants tend to die quickly, whereas slow-growing plants will die more slowly. As you’re learning how to grow plants underwater, slow-growing plants are a little more forgiving and will give you some time to react to those yellowing leaves you see and adjust accordingly, and usually they’ll recover and bounce back. Whereas fast growing plants will just die and then you’re out the money.

sad and happy buce in planted aquarium

Tip #4: Plants will die, but consider it money well-spent

With regards to moolah, just start with the expectation that plants will die on you, even the beginner ones that are supposedly bulletproof. I have killed java fern, anubias, vallisneria, and even a floating plant. I mean, some of these things are practically invasive if you hear people talk, and yet I’ve managed to massacre them all for one reason or another. Part of me was like, “Wow, I just flushed $30 down the toilet.” But the advice I heard was, “Consider this learning experience like a workshop.” You might spend $30 on a workshop to learn about planted tanks, right? So this is just the hands-on, real-world version of it in your home, where you get to learn from your mistakes first hand and do things differently next time.

dying, disintegrating dwarf water lettuce in fish tank

Tip #5: Get your plants from local fish auctions or hobbyists that live near you

Rather than spending the big bucks on plants that have been shipped to a fish store or are purchased from an online retailer, try buying from local hobbyists. Plants sold that way are generally much cheaper, you don’t have to pay for or possibly have them damaged in shipping, and they’ve usually already been acclimated to living in water parameters similar to yours. Sometimes certain plants just won't thrive in your water. But you know what, your fellow fish keepers living in the same area know what plants do work, so follow their recommendations and ask for a few clippings from their tanks.

ludwigia repens or broadleaf ludwigia in a planted tank
My new ludwigia repens I bought from a local aquarist ๐Ÿ˜

In my plant keeping journey, I’ve definitely seen the amazing impact live plants have on reducing my nitrate levels in aquariums, and with the help of these level 2 hints, I've been a lot more successful keeping them alive. Huge thanks to my fellow aquarists for sharing their knowledge. Because of them, my eyes have been opened to so many beautiful species that I can’t wait to try!

Related Links
How to Set Up an Easy Betta Planted Tank
Bucephalandra Care Guide
Plant Dip for Snails

Question of the Day

What tips do you wish you knew before starting your first planted tank? Comment below to share your experiences because I’d love to hear them. Take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you next time!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for practical fish care tips for busy aquarists and follow me on Instagram for more updates! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Saturday, January 12, 2019

3 Ways to Catch Aquarium Fish

Need to catch some fish from your aquarium but you’re dreading it because of how fast and wily they are? Keeping watching as I follow the preferred methods of 3 famous FishTubers to see which one works the best!

Recently I recently decided to rehome all the fish in my 20-gallon community tank, so I wanted to try some different techniques that I’ve seen online on how to catch aquarium fish. In today’s line-up, we'll be comparing the methods used by Lucas Bretz from LRB Aquatics versus Rachel O’Leary (aka Msjinkzd) versus Cory McElroy of Aquarium Co-Op.

Lucas Bretz vs. Rachel O'Leary vs. Cory McElroy
Lucas vs. Rachel vs. Cory – Who has the best fish catching technique?

Method 1: Amateur Hour

Before we begin, let’s first see how most people catch fish – using a net and dumb luck. If you’ve got derpy, slower fish like cory catfish, this method will probably do just fine. However, if you’re trying to catch fast, little fish like green neon tetras, I’m telling you right now that you ain’t never catching nuthin’. Especially in an aquarium that’s heavily planted or has lots of dรฉcor as obstacles.

catching aquarium fish with a net in a planted tank
There's no way I'm going to catch those zippy, nano fish!

Method 2: Ninja Mode

So I was watching Lucas from LRB Aquatics who boasts a fish room of 200+ tanks, and he mentioned catching fish at night when they’re sleepy. The two bonus tips he also utilizes are 1) moving slowly as to not freak the fish out and 2) bringing two nets so you can use the little net to corral the fish into the bigger net. I didn’t have great luck with this method since my cory catfish were already awake at 6 a.m. when I tried to catch them, so maybe next time I'll need to try 4 a.m. ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

Lucas Bretz using two nets to catch rainbowfish
Lucas using two nets to catch rainbowfish (source)

Method 3: Shotgun Approach

Rachel O’Leary of imports and sells nano fish for a living, so she has lots of practice netting them out. When she’s moving fish during summer tubbing, I see her lower the water level, remove all the plants and hardscape in the way, and then just sweep a large net back and forth in the remaining water. I didn’t feel like tearing down my aquascape, so I settled for just lowering the water.

Rachel O'Leary clearing out a tank
Rachel O'Leary clearing out a tank (source)

I think this method is great if you need to move all the fish in a tank, but it’s not as useful if you want to catch 1 specific nano fish. (Although I suppose you could always remove all the fish into a smaller container and then pick out your intended target.) Also, bonus tip: don’t lower the water too much or your fish may have problems swimming into the net.

Method 4: The Trapdoor

Cory Elway from Aquarium Co-Op owns his own fish store, and he has a very effective fish catching tutorial. Rather than using two nets, he recommends using one large net and your hand to corral the fish, since your hand can move much faster than a net with lots of water resistance. All you do is set up the net in a corner with one end open like a trap, slowly guide the fish in with your hand, and then close the net so that the fish are sealed inside against the tank wall. Using this technique, I was amazingly able to scoop out two specific green neon tetras that were diseased and needed to be treated.

Catching green neon tetras using the trapdoor method

Last Ditch Effort: Combining All Methods

However, when I had to catch all 14 green neon tetras in the tank, I got every single one of them except one particularly sneaky tetra, who was just impossible to nab. Eventually, I had to combine Rachel’s and Cory’s methods. I lowered the water, disassembled almost my entire aquascape (๐Ÿ˜ญ), and used the trapdoor technique.

Also, I added my own little twist and enlisted the help of my husband and eagle-eyed son as extra sets of eyes to spot the fish. From above, these little stinkers are dark grey and are invisible on my black substrate. Together, the Gamer’s Wife family proceeded to defeat the last remaining green neon tetra so he could join his brothers and sisters!

Personally, I like Cory’s fish store method because it’s highly effective and usually doesn’t involve removing decor, but as you can tell with the tiny green neon tetras, there was no way I was going to catch that last one without combining all available techniques.

Question of the Day

What’s your best trick for catching fish? Comment below to share your experiences because I’d love to hear them . Take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you next time!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for practical fish care tips for busy aquarists and follow me on Instagram for more updates! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

4 Stages of Being a New Fish Keeper

Who else can remember those early days of being a new fish keeper? ๐Ÿ˜‚ Hope you enjoy my first comedy skit for the “Fish Room Lolz” series!

Other Fishy Skits
New aquarium hobbyists be like
23 Phases of a Water Change
Goldfish experts be like

Question of the Day

*What cringe-worthy thing did you do as a new fish keeper?” Comment below to share your funny stories, and check out my Instagram for more updates! Don’t forget to take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you next time!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for practical fish care tips for busy aquarists! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Saturday, January 5, 2019

How to Breed and Raise Honey Gourami Fry

Are you looking for an interesting, little breeding project? Try honey gouramis! They’re easy to breed, they make cool bubble nests, and it’s a fun challenge to raise the fry. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions and some best practices I learned!

How to Breed Honey Gouramis

After all the enjoyment I got out of raising cory catfish fry, I absolutely got baby fever and was like, “Ooo, what else can I breed?” Turns out my honey gourami Pikachu is pretty easy to breed, so I set about finding him a wife.
  1. Gouramis breed and hatch very quickly, so before you introduce the potential parents, start your infusoria culture now.
  2. For the breeding tank, I set up a 10-gallon aquarium with the heater raised to 82°F. 
  3. To make it easier to build a bubble nest, lower water to 6 to 8 inches high and keep water surface agitation at a minimum with a gentle sponge filter. Also, add floating plants or large leaves on the surface so that it’s easy to build nest. I used both floating fake plants and an upside-down plastic cup cut in half (inspired by betta breeders), and the male chose to build his nest under the cup.

    honey gourami bubble nest site using floating plants and plastic cup
    Male honey gourami creating a bubble nest under a plastic cup

  4. Condition the parents by feeding them well with live and frozen foods several times a day, imitating favorable conditions for their fry. I was able to trigger breeding by feeding live baby brine shrimp. The male in breeding dress turns vibrantly colored with a black-blue throat and abdomen, while the female becomes plump with eggs.

    conditioning male and female honey gourami for breeding
    Female and male honey gourami eating live baby brine shrimp in breeding tank
  5. After making a suitable bubble nest, the male will embrace the female multiple times so that she drops her eggs and he gathers them up into his nest. Once she is emptied of eggs, he will chase her away from the nest and you can remove her from the breeding tank.
  6. I found a study from India saying their honey gouramis laid 200 to 400 eggs per batch, with a 33% survival rate where most deaths occurred among the 7- to 15-day-old fry. However since my gouramis were first-time parents, they laid like ten eggs that produced two healthy fry in end. 
  7. The eggs hatch after 24 to 36 hours and then become free swimming after another one to two days, during which time you can remove the male.
male honey gourami protecting his bubble nest of newly laid eggs
Male honey gourami spitting out fertilized eggs into his bubble nest

How to Raise Honey Gourami Fry

  1. For the fry tank (which was the same as my breeding tank), multiple sources said that high humidity was important for the fry’s developing labyrinth organ, so I sealed the top of my tank with saran wrap.
  2. At 1-day-old, the fry look like tiny black tadpoles with a huge yolk sac attached. Because they aren’t totally free swimming yet, they stayed close to surfaces like aquarium dรฉcor and even the glass. You can begin feeding them once they become free swimming.

    1-day-old honey gourami fry with yolk sac, clinging onto glass wall of aquarium
    1-day-old honey gourami fry with yolk sac, clinging onto aquarium wall
  3. Now I took a page from master breeder Greg Sage and heavily fed the fry while maintaining high water quality. For the first 2 weeks, I fed them 5 times a day, alternating between infusoria and a little bit of Hikari First Bites, and I changed 15-20% of the water every day.

    2-week-old honey gourami fry
    2-week-old honey gourami fry
  4. To remove fish waste and uneaten food, I tied a chopstick to one end of some airline tubing, sucked on the other end to start the siphon, and then put that end of the tubing in a net so that it could catch any fry that accidentally got sucked up.
  5. I tried to feed them live baby brine shrimp when they were a week old, but their mouths simply weren’t big enough, so better to wait till they’re 2 weeks old to try. In the beginning, I collected the baby brine shrimp at the 18-hour mark rather than the usual 24 hours, so they would be even smaller than normal. You can tell if the fry are eating properly because they’ll have pink bellies that match the color of the shrimp.

    3-week-old honey gourami fry
    3-week-old honey gourami fry

  6. My honey gouramis grew super-fast on a diet of mostly live baby brine shrimp because it’s so nutritious and the shrimp’s jerky swimming motions really entice their feeding instinct, but you can also feed them liquid fry food, microworms, boiled egg yolk, the straight-up powder form of Repashy, frozen baby brine shrimp, and eventually transition them to ground-up flakes and other prepared foods when they’re 6-weeks to 2 months old.
  7. As they grew bigger and stronger, I gradually decreased feedings to 2-3 times a day and water changes to 2 times a week. Now at 2 months old, they are ¾ to 1 inch long and are ready to sell!
1-month-old honey gourami juvenile
1-month-old honey gourami fry

I really enjoyed breeding my first bubble nesting fish, and I feel like it’s easier than betta fish because the offspring can all grow up together in the same tank without tons of fighting. Figuring out how to feed these itty-bitty fry was a little nerve-wracking since you can’t easily see infusoria and tell how much the fry are eating. However, once you get past the 2-week mark, you’re pretty much on the home stretch and it’s easy going from there!

2-month-old honey gourami fry
2-month-old honey gourami juvenile

Question of the Day

What fish or invert would you like to see me breed next? Comment below to let me know what you think, and view my “Breeding for Fun” playlist if you want to see more this videos like this. Don’t forget to take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you next time!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for practical fish care tips for busy aquarists and follow me on Instagram for more updates! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

All My Pets Tour and Plans for 2019

During my 2-week break from blogging, I came up with all sorts of new plans I want to make to my aquariums… and that’s when I realized I’ve never really discussed all the pets I currently have in one post. So before I start overhauling everything, here is the world’s shortest “All My Pets” tour ever!

Aquarium #1: 20-Gallon Planted Community Tank

Last year I restarted my 20-gallon community tank with the vision of creating a low tech aquascape and lots of peaceful nano fish. I started off with six albino cory catfish (who reproduced like crazy), 15 green neon tetras, a bunch of amano shrimp, and finally Pikachu the honey gourami as the centerpiece. The tank is located right near our entryway, so it’s like the first thing guests see when they come in and it’s a real crowd-pleaser. “Ooo I had no idea aquariums could look like this!”

20-gallon community aquarium with albino cory catfish, honey gourami, green neon tetras, and amano shrimp

Fast-forward to the end of the year, the tank become overrun with baby corys, plus the two additional female honey gouramis I acquired for Pikachu’s harem. So my plan this year is to rehome all the corys and gouramis, maybe even the tetras, and start breeding something else. I’ve never owned plecos before but two of my interviewees, Lily and Chris from Fish for Thought, said that was their favorite fish to breed so I wanna see what the big deal is.

Aquarium #2: 5-Gallon Planted Betta Tank

Soundwave the betta fish has been with me the longest, and halfway through the year, I upgraded him to this beautiful 5-gallon rimless glass aquarium. To be honest, I really struggled with some new planted tank algae issues for a while, which almost made me want to give up and go back to fake decorations, but… I’m finally balancing the light and nutrients so it doesn’t look terrible all the time. But yeah, Soundwave and my little office tank definitely get to stay.

5-gallon planted betta tank

Aquarium #3: 10-gallon Hospital Tank

Haha, I’m really not supposed to have more than 2 tanks (self-imposed limit from lack of time), but this was supposed to replace my quarantine tub because, honestly, plastic tubs are really translucent, making it harder to see any disease symptoms on new fish (which is the whole point). Now it’s become my fry grow-out tank, located next to the kitchen sink for easy, frequent water changes. Near the end of the year I successfully bred my honey gouramis, although these first-time parents only produced two healthy fry, so the babies totally glutted themselves on baby brine shrimp (told you it worked!) and grew like weeds. I mean, it’s only been two months and they’re totally at sellable size. So yeah, it’s time for them to leave the nest and make room for some new babies.

10-gallon quarantine tank for aquarium fish

Kelbi the Family Dog

Our only non-aquatic pet is Kelbi, the world’s quietest, calmest, most submissive doggo ever. Seriously, she’s pretty much spoiled me from ever owning another dog again. So Kelbi, you have to live with us forever – promise!

Ultimately, for 2019, I want to keep things interesting in the fish keeping hobby by continually learning and trying new things for myself, and I want to bring you along on that journey, so we can experience the excitement of cool fish, interesting experiments, and learning from other FishTubers together! Anyway, I’m going to try a little experiment and post twice a week in the month of January. You’ll get my usual fish care tutorials on Saturday (which you can expect one this week) and then like a short, aquarium-related vlog or funny skit to help you get over Wednesday Hump Days. Leave me a comment to let me know you think of that idea. Take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you in the next video!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for practical fish care tips for busy aquarists and follow me on Instagram for daily updates! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Saturday, December 15, 2018

What is the Best First Pet for Kids?

What’s a best first pet for young children? My best friend has three kids all under age 6 and asked me for advice since I’ve kept dogs and cats, parakeets, hamsters, goldfish, hermit crabs, and many “kid-friendly” animals. Watch the video above for my reasons, but personally I would go with a dog or cat since they are so personable and are big enough to for children to hug. However, if you prefer a much smaller pet, a betta fish is a colorful, interactive pet that a 6-year-old could help take care of.

The Cost of Owning a Betta Fish

If you buy everything brand new, probably $100 is the lowest you can go. Shocking, right? (Of course, if you know what you're doing, you can always buy used or second-hand equipment from Craigslist or a fish club auction.) Here’s my shopping list with the most cost-effective options I would use, but let me know in the comments if I’m missing something!

As for ease of care, I just feed my betta fish once a day, but they can easily go longer without food so no need to hire a pet sitter if you’re out for vacation for a week or so. For water changes, you can use the siphon to quickly suck out dirty water. Easy peasy – no more picking up and emptying out the entire aquarium just to clean it... only takes me like 15 minutes a week!

Question of the Day

What pet would you recommend for young kids? Comment below to share your thoughts because I’d love to hear them. Also, merry Christmas and happy New Year! This is my last post for 2018 since I like to take a little break from blogging during major U.S. holidays so I can spend more time with my family (and regain my sanity). Take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you back on January 5th, 2019!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for practical fish care tips for busy aquarists and follow me on Instagram for daily updates! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ