Thursday, June 4, 2020

Check Out My New Blog Posts at!

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I just started my dream job working for Aquarium Co-Op! I actually majored in electrical engineering, and for the past decade or so, I've been creating marketing content for engineering companies. Then in 2015, I got into the fish keeping hobby and started making YouTube videos about aquarium fish in 2018. Around the same time, I heard that Aquarium Co-Op was looking for some marketing help, so I began writing blog posts for them as a contractor. Fast-forward to today, and I'm now working as a full-time content strategist in the aquarium industry!

If you'd like to see more awesome aquarium articles written by me, please visit and subscribe to their weekly e-newsletter so you won't miss a thing. Thank you for joining me on my journey, and I look forward to seeing you there!

P.S. I still release weekly aquarium tutorials on my YouTube channel, Girl Talks Fish. If you'd like to see what kind of stuff I do for my job at Aquarium Co-Op, check out this video:

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Best Foods to Feed Your Cherry Shrimp

So, you got your first cherry shrimp but have no idea what to feed them! Keep reading to find out what my shrimp go crazy for versus what they avoid like the plague.

When I started my first shrimp breeding tank, I was really nervous about what to feed them. I heard things like:
  • “Feed mostly vegetables; don’t want to bloat them with too much protein."
  • "Wait, they need enough protein to breed or they’ll cannibalize each other."
  • "What about essential minerals for proper molting?"
  • "Above all… don’t feed them too much!”
Gah, it’s enough to make anyone go insane! Lucky for you, one of my favorite things to do is feed my shrimp random stuff and see what happens. There’s nothing like seeing a horde of shrimp swarm on food like ants on a piece of candy. At this point, I’ve fed my red cherry shrimp at least 30 different foods, so I’m going to quickly summarize the results for you.

Biofilm and Algae

I’d say the #1 important thing for your tank is to grow tons and tons of biofilm and algae because it’s something that both adults and babies can eat and have 24/7 access to, day or night. Algae, of course, is very easy to grow. Just leave your lights on for 8-12 hours a day, and you should grow a healthy crop of on your walls and various surfaces. I scrape the front panel of the aquarium for viewing purposes and leave the other 3 walls to get nice and green.

The next important step is to provide lots of moss, fluffy plants, and floating plants with fuzzy roots… anything that easily traps food particles floating in the water. Not only do they provide safe hiding spots for babies, but also the shrimplets can just park in one area and eat all the yummy crumbs that get caught. Even sponge filters are a great spot for shrimp to graze on because it continually sucks in food in the water column.

Now let’s talk about how to actively grow biofilm – that slimy coating of bacteria and other microorganisms that grows on all underwater surfaces and happens to be what cherry shrimp naturally eat in the wild. One way to grow biofilm is to use dried catappa leaves or Indian almond leaves. There are many other kinds of aquatic botanicals that are suitable for shrimp, but if you get the large catappa leaves that are bigger than your hand, feed one Indian almond leaf per 20 gallons about once a month. For me, I cut off half a leaf for my 10-gallon tank, and whenever I start to see holes in the first leaf, I add a second piece because it takes at least a week before the leaf stops floating at the surface and actually starts breaking down. If you’re going out of town, soak several leaves in a bucket of water for 3 weeks so that they get really slimy with biofilm, and then drop them in your shrimp tanks as a long-lasting vacation food.

Cholla wood and Malaysian driftwood are both softer woods that are also great for breaking down
more quickly and growing yummy biofilm for shrimp. Just a heads up, adding all these leaves and driftwoods will add tannins and give your aquarium water a slight brownish tint. However, with the amount of botanicals I’m using, I hardly notice the color change at all until I do a water change.

If you’re looking for an actual jar of food you can buy to feed your shrimp babies and greatly increase their survival rate, get Bacter AE. It’s basically a powder food that spreads all throughout the tank and contains microorganisms and other nutritious compounds that boost the growth of biofilm. It comes with a little measuring spoon with dosing instructions on the back, but for my 10-gallon tank, I feed about one-fourth a scoop at least once a week. You can also make your own DIY powder food by crushing up fish flakes and algae wafers using a little coffee grinder.

Favorite Foods for Shrimp

To be labeled a favorite food means that as soon as I drop it in, the whole tank swarms it. So far, I haven’t bought that many specialty shrimp foods, but the two I’ve tried are definitely on the list – MK-Breed Cheeseburger (which is an all-in-one, comprehensive food) and Shrimp King Mineral (which provides extra minerals that help with molting and such). Both break down quickly, allow shrimp of all sizes to share without a ton of fighting, and get eaten very quickly without any leftovers.

Their favorite vegetable is canned green beans, by far. I like the French cut version because then the softer insides of the bean are easily accessible.

Finally, they go nuts for Repashy gel food. I’ve tried Community Plus and Soilent Green so far, and they’re great. Repashy is very soft and flakes off into tons of floating particles for the babies to eat. Plus, you can also feed them the straight powder form if you like.

Treat Foods for Shrimp

This category of foods are also favorites for my shrimp, but I don’t feed them as often and use them as occasional treats. They love any kind of powdered food, whether it’s crushed-up flakes, powdered fry food, or Sera O-Nip tabs (which breaks down into a million particles).

Their second favorite vegetable is canned carrot slices. I should probably feed it more and see if the beta carotene enhances their red coloration. Lastly, you can feed frozen foods of any type (like bloodworms, daphnia, and baby brine shrimp). They’re excellent protein sources that help promote breeding, but the adults seem to hog them all, leaving nothing for the juveniles.

Rejected Shrimp Foods

And then we have the foods that my shrimp just hated for one reason or another. For prepared foods, I tried Hikari Crab Cuisine and algae wafers, which are both nutritionally great, but they don’t break down quickly so only the adults get to eat them. They’d probably be just fine if I crushed them up in the coffee grinder. I also got a free sample of Ocean Nutrition shrimp wafers, but nobody would touch them.

Now, in the fish world, live foods are touted as the best thing you can feed them, but don’t try it with cherry shrimp. They are called scavengers for a reason and won’t even eat live baby brine shrimp or the seed shrimp I see crawling all over the algae-covered walls.

When it comes to vegetables, mine are super picky and don’t like anything remotely tough, like spinach, Brussel sprouts, peas, and okra. I’m not saying they wouldn’t have eventually eaten them if there was nothing else around, but that’s not a great review. Even zucchini squash attracted very few shrimp, but 24 hours later, it did somehow get consumed. (P.S. Other people have told me that I didn't cook the vegetables long enough, so maybe try boiling them until they become very mushy.)

Future Shrimp Foods to Try

Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of every shrimp food in the world, so there’s a ton of stuff
I still want to experiment with like:

  • Other blackwater botanicals to make biofilm
  • Snowflake food (aka soybean shells)
  • Shrimp lollies
  • Spirulina algae powder
  • Bee pollen
  • Dandelion, nettles, mulberry leaves… the list is endless!

Question of the Day

What's your favorite food to feed shrimp? 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, August 10, 2019

FROGBIT CARE GUIDE | How to Grow, Propagate & Contain It

Interested in getting floating plants for your aquarium? Try Amazon frogbit! Keep reading as I talk about why it’s so awesome, the best ways to grow it, and how to keep it from getting out of control.

I don’t know why I didn’t try floating plants before. I think I’m generally afraid of invasive things taking over my aquariums – whether they’re snails, guppies, or plants! But when I was researching plants for my Shy Guys tank, I really liked the jungle-y look of floating plants and the way it gives everything a green tint. I just haven’t much luck keeping them alive. My first floating plant was dwarf water lettuce, which I still love, but all the long roots fell off and the leaves disintegrated away. Same thing happened to my red root floaters – just massive amounts of die-off and melting. I did manage to save a few, but that’s a story for another time.

Finally, I discovered Amazon frogbit, also known as Limnobium laevigatum or smooth frogbit , and it’s awesome! It comes from tropical slow-moving waters in Central and South America, and unfortunately has become an invasive species in the United States via California. Therefore, do not flush this stuff down your toilet or put it in outside ponds where it can accidentally get caught on some bird’s foot and spread.

Frogbit is also known as South American spongeplant because it has thick, spatula-shaped leaves with spongy undersides that help with buoyancy. Supposedly snails like to eat the spongy parts, so just follow my plant dip tutorial and treat it with alum.

Pros and Cons of Frogbit

I really like this floating plant because the leaves are about 1-2 cm in diameter (at least in my tanks), so even though it can grow quickly, it’s much easier to remove than tiny little duckweed. I also love the long, fuzzy roots because they provide great hiding spots for shy fish and trap food for babies and shrimp to graze on. Finally, it’s great at removing excess nutrients from the water and totally got rid of all the stubborn algae in my betta tank.

However, I don’t like how floating plants get all of your arm and siphon when you’re trying to do water changes, so that was something I definitely had to get used to. Also, they readily multiply to the point where they cover the entire surface of your aquarium. That’s bad because a) the other plants don’t get enough light and b) your fish don’t get enough air because you need good surface agitation for oxygen to get replenished in your aquarium water. So, if you see your fish kinda acting lethargic or gasping at the surface, make sure to remove a bunch of frogbit or learn to contain it (details below).

Frogbit floating plants stuck on hand during water changes

How to Grow Frogbit

Everyone always says, “It’s so easy to grow, you don’t have to do anything!” But I’ve found that frogbit does best with the following conditions:
That’s also why frogbit is so hard to ship because the roots all snap off and the leaves melt if they get flipped over in the water. Luckily if you have at least a couple of surviving leaves with roots, you can usually grow a bunch more in no time.

How to Propagate Frogbit

As with most floating plants, frogbit is super easy to propagate. In the wild, they produce seeds from small white flowers, but in aquariums, they mostly spread via runners. Some people proactively pinch the new plantlets off, but I like to leave the baby plants or as long as possible (until they fall off on their own) because they seem to grow bigger and faster when they’re sharing nutrients with the mother plant.

How to Contain Frogbit

Okay, there are many reasons why you might want to do this, such as:
  1. You need good surface agitation so that your fish get enough oxygen, but you want to keep the frogbit away from the areas with the strongest current so they won’t die
  2. It’s really annoying to have your arm covered with floating plants every time you do a water change, especially when they fall outside the tank and make a mess of things
  3. You want to make sure the other plants down below get enough light
In fact, for the Shy Guys tank, I wanted the frogbit to provide shade for the slow-growing anubias, but not cover up my fast-growing background plants. So, I made a ring out of airline tubing using a hot glue gun, and I clipped one end of the loop to an airline holder to keep it in place. When it’s time to do a water change, I unhook the loop from the airline holder and it floats on the water surface, containing all the frogbit even as the water level falls and rises.

Using airline tubing loop to contain frogbit floating plants

Why is My Frogbit Dying?

I actually have 3 tanks that grow frogbit and interestingly enough, they do better in some environments than others.

#1 Betta Tank
This tank gets the most amount of light since the lid entirely made of glass (no hinge). The flow is relatively slow (using a USB nano air pump and sponge filter), and the frogbit is allowed to freely move (which means they take take turns getting under the strongest light). Therefore, the frogbit in here has the largest leaves out of all the tanks, reproduces the most quickly, and lowers the nitrates to only 5 ppm.

#2 Community Tank
The frogbit is contained and a bit overcrowded. Therefore, leaves don’t grow as big, but they do have the longest, lushest roots (because they’re protected from breakage and the tank is fairly deep). Also, I noticed that in one area of the tank, the frogbit always turned brown and mushy. It turns out that that section wasn’t getting enough light because the black plastic hood was blocking it, so I switched over to an all-glass top that hopefully will allow more light to spread.

#3 Shrimp Tank
The frogbit does the worst in this tank – the leaves stay tiny, turn yellow and develop holes, and then the shrimp eat them when they die. Now, there’s plenty of nutrients from the shrimp waste, but it looks like I still need to add more liquid fertilizers.

Question of the Day

What's your favorite floating plant? Comment below to let me know what you think. 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, August 3, 2019

New Axolotl Checklist – What Do I Need for My New Axolotl?

Are you getting a new axolotl, but aren’t sure what supplies you need? Check out my personal shopping list of everything I bought to make my axolotls happy and healthy in their new home!

Aquarium and Filtration

20-gallon long tank
Planted tank light
Aquaclear 50 filter
Prefilter intake sponge
Sponge filter
Airline tubing (for sponge filter)
Air pump (for sponge filter)


Fake plants
PetSmart driftwood decor

Cooling Materials

Reflective foil insulation
Small USB fan
USB adapter (for fan)
Command strips (for fan)
Power extension cord (for fan)
Digital thermometer with alarms

Other Supplies

Aquarium stand
Power strip
Water dechlorinator
Axolotl pellets
Aquarium water test kit

Let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions to add to the new axolotl shopping guide. For more tutorials on axolotl care, check out my list of articles here.

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, July 27, 2019

How to Aquascape with Super Glue – 8 Tips

Looking to make a really cool aquascape? Then I hope you’re ready to get your hands sticky! Keep reading to find out 8 tips and tricks for building a planted tank with super glue.

After my last post on adding plants to the Shy Guys jungle tank, I wanted to delve a little deeper into the use of super glue in aquascaping. Cyanoacrylate, the primary ingredient in super glue, is aquarium-safe and is totally a miracle tool for attaching plants to hardscape (compared to hand-tying plants using sewing thread). Over time, I’ve picked up more and more clever ways on how to apply this stuff.

Tip 1: Use super glue gel

For those of you who didn’t know, super glue is commonly used to attach moss and rhizome plants (like anubias and java fern) onto hardscape such as rocks and driftwood. And you don’t want to use regular liquid super glue, but rather super glue gel. The gel type is thicker and easier to manipulate when it comes to attaching delicate plants exactly the way you want.

Liquid super glue versus super glue gel

Tip 2: Glue the roots of the plant

Now when you’re gluing down the rhizome plants, make sure not to glop it all over the rhizome. I’ve totally killed off some anubias nana petite because it was so tiny and I ended up suffocating the plant with glue. Instead, focus on gluing the roots down, and your plant will do just fine.

Tip 3: To avoid sticky hands, use nitrile gloves and the bottle cap

The problem with super glue is that it’s really easy to accidentally get it all over your hands, so wear nitrile gloves to protect your skin. Also, use the cap of the super glue bottle (rather than your fingers) to firmly press the plant down for 30 seconds. Super glue cures fairly quickly in water, but I find that I still need to hold the plant in place for that initial drying period in order to get a firm bond.

use super glue to attach aquarium plants to hardscape

Tip 4: Cover the glue with sand or soil

Word of warning: once the glue is placed in water, it will dry into a white color that a lot of people don’t like (which is another reason why you should use the glue sparingly). However, you can sprinkle and rub in some sand, soil, or other fine substrate into the glue as it’s curing, which totally hides the white color and gives it a more natural appearance.

Super glue in aquarium by StrungOut from ThePlantedTank
White super glue in a planted tank (source: StrungOut)

Tip 5: Use glue and sewing thread for more stability

As awesome as super glue is, unfortunately it’s not always sufficient for holding together top-heavy plants. In my previous video, I mentioned that I have a very large anubias in the Shy Guys tank that hides the sponge filter, and what I did was first glue its roots onto the rock, and then I used some green sewing thread to tie it down for more stability. Without the thread, I find that these taller plants can sometimes fall over and break the glue bond.

anubias rhizome tied to rock with sewing thread

Tip 6: Glue stem plants to rocks to weigh them down

Remember how in my previous post, plants kept floating away from the substrate? Instead of using plant weights, just use a little bit of super glue gel to attach the base of your plant to a small lava rock. (You can use any type of rock, but lava rock is very porous, which gives the roots something to grip onto.) Then bury the whole rock and it’ll keep the plant weighted down until the roots get established. How cool is that!

Tip 7: Use glue to attach driftwood together

In fact, super glue isn’t just for plants; you can also use it to connect driftwood pieces. For example, if you wanted to create an underwater tree, you can attach little sticks to a larger stick (the trunk) with super glue gel and then just chip off any excess glue with an X-acto knife. Check out SerpaDesign’s awesome moss ball tree as an example.

Moss ball tree created with super glue (source: SerpaDesign)

Tip 8: Use glue to attach rocks together

Amazingly, you can actually attach hardscape rocks together to make the perfect aquascape. Jurijs Jutjajevs is a famous German aquascaper who shows off this crazy technique where you rubber band the two rocks together, put a fluffy piece of cigarette filter in the crack in between, and then lightly soak the filter with liquid super glue (not super glue gel that we usually use). I haven’t tried this yet, so check out his tutorial for the full instructions.

attaching hardscape rocks with super glue and cigarette filter

None of my plants or fish or shrimp have ever died from using super glue (except for that first anubias nana petite), so don’t be afraid to use this miracle adhesive to create that dream aquascape stirring around in your head!

Question of the Day

What tips do you have for using super glue in aquariums? 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, July 20, 2019

How to Choose and Add Aquarium Plants

So, you want to start a planted tank but aren’t sure which plants to use. Keep watching as I share how I research different species and plant them to make a lush jungle tank.

Topics include:
▶ How to research aquatic plants
▶ Where to buy live aquarium plants
▶ How to plant aquarium plants
▶ Melting and algae problems with new plants
▶ Aquarium cycling with plants

Materials I Used

Live aquarium plants
Aquascaping tweezers
Lead plant weights
Root tab fertilizer
Super glue gel
Green sewing thread
Aquarium water test kit


Follow the Shy Guys Tank Build
Plant Dip for Snails
How to Plant in Sand Aquariums

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, July 13, 2019

How to Keep Your Aquarium Sand Clean

Want to use sand substrate in your aquarium, but you’re afraid it’ll be hard to clean? Not a problem! Keep reading as I share my easy tips and tricks for keeping your sand clean and animals healthy.

Recently, I released a post explaining the first steps for setting up a planted tank with sand substrate. Several people asked, “How in the world do you keep that sand clean? Won’t it just get sucked up by the siphon if you try to vacuum it?” Great question! I had the same worries when I first switched from gravel to sand because no one wants to use a substrate that’s hard to clean and could trap excess waste that might harm your fish. But after I teach you a few simple techniques, you’ll realize that there’s nothing to it and it’s just like cleaning gravel… almost. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (By the way, I’m going to be talking about using a siphon to vacuum your aquarium substrate, so if you don’t know what that is or how to use one, definitely check out my water changing article.)

Select the Right Sand

Okay, first off, let’s talk about sand selection. Not all sands are created equally, and if you’re using a very fine, lightweight sand, it’s going to get sucked up more easily in your siphon and you may have to add some more sand occasionally. In fact, word to the wise, you’ll also want to prevent sand from getting sucked up by your hang-on-back or canister filter and ruining the motor – which is exactly what happened to my first AquaClear filter. To prevent that from happening, buy a prefilter sponge (which looks like a cylinder with a hole on one side), and stick it on end of your filter’s intake tube. The added bonus it that it’ll grow beneficial bacteria and prevent any fish or plant leaves from getting sucked up too!

I’ve never had any trouble with aggressively vacuuming my substrate because I use the heavier generic-brand sand sold by Petco and PetSmart. Side note, but I prefer black sand versus a lighter color because fish waste doesn’t seem to show up as much. Some people might say, “Well, why don’t you get a brown colored, natural-looking sand to really hide that mulm?” Personally, I think the fish and plants just seem to really pop against a black background and substrate, so that’s why I prefer it.

Black sand from Petco and PetSmart
Large-grained black sand from Petco

As I was saying before, the Petco sand has large particles that rarely get sucked up because they’re too heavy to make it all the way up the tube. The only time I’ve had problems with this is if I’m using my mini siphon, which is about six inches tall. It seems that the tube portion is just short enough to suck up the sand if I’m not paying attention.

How to Vacuum Sand Substrate

So, how do you deal with sand that keeps getting sucked up in the siphon? Okay, there are three common methods.

Method 1: Hoover above the sand
If your sand is super fine, don’t stick your siphon tube into it. Instead, use the tube to gently swirl water above the sand and then suck up any detritus that floats up into the water column. The great thing about this method is that you’re not really disturbing your aquascape. The sand is still nice and smooth and undisturbed. However, I believe Rachel O’Leary likes to use a chopstick to stir up the substrate a bit and then hover above with her siphon to suck up whatever gets loosened.

Method 2: Vacuum the sand like gravel
If you’ve got a heavier sand like me and really want to get a deeper cleaning, gravel vacuuming is the way to go. What do I mean by that? Just stick the tube down into the sand like an inch or so, suck up some waste, and then when you lift up the tube, the heavier sand particles will fall while the lighter brown detritus continues to rise. Easy peasy! Just like vacuuming regular gravel. I like to systematically clean the tank bottom in a grid-like pattern: vacuum, raise and release, vacuum, raise and release – rinse and repeat until I’ve cleaned about half the tank. And then next week, I’ll clean the other half or wherever looks dirtiest.

using siphon on black sand in red cherry shrimp tank

Method 3: Crimp the siphon hose
The final method is really useful for my shrimp tank. Honestly, this should be my easiest aquarium to clean because I don’t have to wipe off any algae since it provides extra grazing areas for my shrimp. (Pro tip: use razor blades for algae scrapping to avoid scratching the walls up with sand grains.) Unfortunately, I have a really hard time not sucking up the millions of tiny, clear shrimp babies crawling everywhere. It’s incredibly stressful! So, this principle works for both sand particles and any live animals you don’t want to suck up. Just vacuum like normal, but if I see any baby shrimp in the tube, I clamp down on the hose to stop the flow and wait for the shrimplet to eventually crawl its way out. This works for sand as well. Vacuum, crimp the hose, vacuum some more, and then crimp it to stop. It’s like magic!

More Maintenance Tips for Sand

As awesome as these techniques are, they’re not perfect and some grains may accidentally get sucked up anyway. Because of that, my husband Mr. Gamer really doesn’t want me pouring the wastewater down our sink or toilet and accidentally clogging up our plumbing. Instead I just dump it onto our lawn or use it to water our plants. Win-win situation!

As you refill your aquarium, just realize that sand can be easily disturbed if you aim the hose right at it, so lots of people use plastic bags or colanders to lessen the water pressure and prevent their aquascape from moving around. However, my aquariums are tall enough where I can just aim the spout at a tank wall or maybe some dรฉcor to help dissipate the flow.

plastic bag used to protect sand substrate during water changes

In fact, in my 20-gallon tank, I’m trying to maintain a gentle slope in the substrate where the sand is lower in the front and higher in the back, kinda like stadium seating for the plants. However, gravity and my nosy kuhli loaches tend to flatten the sand over time, so I usually take the opportunity during water changes to manually rebuild my little hill as needed. Boom! Clean tank, clean sand… looks great for about 20 seconds until my fish mess it up again. ๐Ÿ˜œ

Does Sand Substrate Cause Toxic Hydrogen Sulfide Gas?

I know there's been some discussion about deep sand beds potentially creating an environment for anaerobic bacteria to grow and producing pockets of deadly hydrogen sulfide gas. I’m not really worried about it with my Shy Guys jungle tank because a) my substrate isn’t that deep (like 3 inches at most) and b) I regularly stab root tabs into my substrate, which messes up sand a bit. Plus, Jason from Prime Time Aquatics, who happens to be a college professor of microbiology, says he’s actually seen hydrogen sulfide bubbles coming from some of his tanks but he’s also running a lot of sponge filters so it’s never really bothered any of his fish.

If you want to learn about my whole process for setting up a planted tank with sand substrate, check out the series here. 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