Saturday, June 8, 2019

Why I Rarely Post on Aquarium Facebook Groups

It’s a harsh world out there for new fish keepers. 😲 Hope you enjoy my second comedy sketch for the “Fish Room Lolz” series! (True story: for the longest time, I was afraid of telling anyone online the size of my aquariums.)

Other Fishy Skits
New aquarium hobbyists be like
Goldfish experts be like
4 Stages of New Fish Keepers

Question of the Day

What are some good ways to help and encourage beginners in the fish keeping hobby? Comment below to share your ideas 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! ğŸŽ®❤️🐟

Saturday, June 1, 2019

4 Easy Setups for a 20-Gallon Aquarium

You know the saying, “bigger is better”? Well, some of us don’t have the space to keep a huge aquarium or tons of tanks. Keep reading for some creative aquarium setup ideas if you’re constrained to a maximum of 20 gallons like me.

I currently own 3 “nano tanks” – the biggest of which only holds 20 gallons. In my family, my husband Mr. Gamer is a collector of All. Sorts. Of. Things. And I’m more of a minimalist, so I don’t really have the space or even desire to get a larger aquarium right now. However, that means I’ve had to get pretty creative when it comes to optimizing the enjoyment I get from my 20-gallon tank. Like many of you, I get bored with my setups. I want to try new fish, new plants, new equipment… but I’m limited to the same size glass box. So here are four different ideas of what I’ve kept in a 20-gallon tank over the years – the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Tank Setup #1: Community Tank for Beginners

My first setup was a basic community tank inspired by the beautiful aquascapes I saw on Pinterest. It used natural-looking fake plants from PetSmart and black gravel, which was eventually replaced with black sand. For stocking, we've got albino cory catfish as bottom dwellers, neon tetras in the middle, and then marbled hatchetfish up top. The hatchetfish promptly died of ich, which is when I learned the importance of quarantine.

So I replaced them with another top level swimmer, furcatus or forktail rainbowfish. Very lively and entertaining, but I didn’t realize that smaller Pseudomugil rainbowfish tend to have shorter lifespans. The centerpiece fish was a German blue ram, which eventually died because they like hotter temperatures above 80°F. Other centerpiece fish I kept at various times included a honey gourami and a male betta fish, who did surprisingly well in a community tank and actually stopped biting his tail once he had other tankmates to distract him.

20-gallon beginner fish tank with natural looking fake plants

This tank crashed because of improper quarantine that introduced a fast-killing disease called columnaris. Awesome. I’ll make an article on treating columnaris in the future, but by the time I figured out what it was, almost everything had died.

Tank Setup #2: Axolotl Aquarium

I seriously wanted to rage quit the hobby at this point. All that time and money poured into this aquarium obsession, and I was left emotionally drained. This is when I left the fish world and took my detour into keeping axolotls. Still kept the same fake plant decor, but had a totally new set of challenges with keeping the water cold and clean enough. After my experiences, I would recommend only keeping one adult axolotl in a 20-gallon tank because of their heavy bioload, and even then, a 20 gallon long aquarium is preferred. But, if you’re looking for an unusual underwater alternative to fish, give axolotls a try because they’re super cool and very derpy.

20-gallon axolotl aquarium

Tank Setup #3: Planted Tank for Beginners

After my axolotls passed away, I took another long break before starting tank setup #3 – the beginner planted aquarium! The decorations consisted of seiryu stone and spiderwood as the hardscape, as well as easy live aquarium plants like anubias and java fern. No more collectoritis for me – this tank focused on three fish species: a school of albino cory catfish, a school of green neon tetras, and a honey gourami as the centerpiece (plus some amano shrimp as the algae clean-up crew). If you’re looking for fun breeding projects that aren’t livebearers, the cory catfish and honey gouramis were both fairly easy to breed, and I quickly grew the number of fish I owned.

20-gallon beginner planted aquarium

After a year with this setup, I was ready to try something new! Got my first-time experience selling fish and plants at my local club auction, which was really exciting and I was happy to see them go to other hobbyists who will take care of them.

Tank Setup #4: "Shy Guys" Jungle Tank

Today I’m currently on setup #4 with this 20-gallon aquarium – the Shy Guys jungle tank. I’ll go into more detail in future posts on my plant selection and stocking choices, but given my struggles with algae in a tank full of slow-growing plants like anubias, I wanted to try creating a more heavily planted jungle-style aquarium using some faster-growing, beginner plants. I also deliberately chose fish and invertebrates that are all considered super shy (hence the “Shy Guys” theme) because there are certain species I’ve always wanted to try but I heard they hide all the time. So what would happen if I got a whole aquarium of timid creatures? Hmm…

20-gallon jungle style planted tank

In the future, I have many more plans for this tank. I’d like to do more breeding projects, or perhaps keep some coldwater fish, or maybe once this tank is really established and good at growing plants – try to do a planted axolotl tank? I’m kind of torn since axolotls can live a really long time, so I don’t want to get one until I’ve kept some of my bucket list nano fish… or until I’m able to get another tank. ğŸ˜‰

Question of the Day

Let me know in the comments below what aquarium themes or stocking ideas you would recommend trying in a 20-gallon tank. As always, 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! ğŸŽ®❤️🐟

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Top Fish to Avoid in a Planted Aquarium

Don’t you hate it when you’ve got beautifully planted tank and your brand-new fish demolishes everything? Keep watching to find out who made it on my list of notorious plant destroyers that you should avoid.

I’ve spent the better part of this year researching the perfect plants, hunting them down, and then carefully nurturing them in a 20-gallon aquarium. After months of growing without interference, it’s now time to add fish. But the last thing I want to do is accidentally add some creature that would turn this lush jungle into a deserted wasteland. I know saltwater fish are usually labeled as “reef safe” or not. So why don’t they do that with freshwater fish and plants? I did a little digging on the Internet and came up with three categories of fish: those that are definitely dangerous to plants, those that might be a little risky, and those that I heard a rumor from a friend of a friend about. So, don’t forget to comment below with any fish or invertebrates you’d add to the list.

The Chronic Offenders

  • Silver dollar fish
  • Monos and scats (brackish water)
  • Buenos Aires tetras
  • Goldfish and koi
  • Many types of African or larger cichlids (e.g., mbunas, uaru cichlids, flowerhorns, oscars)
  • Monster fish in general (e.g. stingrays, large catfish and plecos, pacus)
  • Larger crayfish
Buenos Aires tetras
Buenos Aires tetras (source)

There are many articles that suggest "goldfish-safe" or "cichlid-safe" plants, such as:
  • Anubias, java fern and java moss that can be attached to rocks to avoid uprooting
  • Fast growing vallisneria or hornwort
  • Large potted plants like an Amazon sword
  • Certain floating plants or plants that grow above water like pothos
Planted tank with albino cory catfish, java fern, and anubias
Java fern and anubias attached to hardscape

The Casual Snackers

  • Mollies
  • Florida flagfish
  • Larger gouramis
  • Bristlenose plecos (specifically likes Amazon swords)
Orange balloon molly fish
Balloon molly fish

The Rumored Bad Boys

  • A bala shark tore up carpeting plants
  • Siamese algae eaters mowed down newly planted vallisneria
  • Larger snails such as black devil snails (Faunus ater), Columbian ramshorn snails (Marisa cornuarietis), Sulawesi rabbit snail (Tylomelania gemmifera), and some of the largest species of apple snails (Pomacea canaliculata)
Orange rabbit snail
Sulawesi rabbit snail (source)

Thankfully, none of the fish I got for this community tank are on this list so I think I’m safe for now. Honestly, the greatest danger to my plants is my own black thumb, so ya’ll can be praying for me. 😉

Question of the Day

What fish or inverts would you add to this list? 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! ğŸŽ®❤️🐟

Saturday, May 11, 2019

How to Protect Your Fish from Heater Failure

Have you heard horror stories of aquarium heaters malfunctioning and frying an entire tank of fish? It’s happened to me before, so today I’m going to talk about heater controllers and whether or not they’re worth using.

Back when I was a beginner, I made the poor decision to buy a batch of used aquarium heaters. Gonna cut to the chase and recommend you never do that. Sure they’re only $5 a piece, but you don’t know how old they are, if the previous owner properly waited 30 minutes before turning it on, if they turned it off during water changes, etc. I had set up a quarantine tank with one of these used heaters and a few days later my husband Mr. Gamer noticed condensation and rust forming inside the glass heater tube. Oh no! Never again...

I currently use Aqueon Pro and Fluval LCD heaters, and they’ve been working well for me so far. However, I found out that many aquarium heaters, no matter how good, tend to eventually die. Now there’s several ways it can fail:
  • It can just stop working and the water gets colder and colder, freezing your fish. 
  • It can stick on and get hotter and hotter until your fish cook to death. 
  • The heater itself can crack and leak toxic compounds into the tank, which is what happened to the King of DIY’s poor freshwater stingrays.
Some people solve this problem by entirely removing all heaters from their aquariums and just heating their entire fish room. That’s not going to work for our family because my tanks are scattered throughout our home and my husband likes to keep the house cold. So, I need to use heaters, but I’d like to minimize the effects of failure if at all possible.

What is a Temperature Controller?

A temperature controller is an extra layer of protection to help maintain proper temperature in your aquarium. How it works is you plug your heater into the controller, plug the controller into the wall outlet, and set the temperature you want the controller to maintain. If your water ever gets too hot, the controller kills the power to the heater, thus preventing it from overheating.

how an aquarium heater controller works
A temperature controller kills the power to the aquarium heater if the water gets too hot.

Yes, if you have an adjustable heater, it’ll have its own internal thermostat to maintain the temperature, but the controller’s thermostat and sensor are supposedly more accurate and having a second thermostat provides an extra safety net. When I looked on Amazon and fish forums, InkBird seemed to be the most popular brand. After reading some reviews, I got the basic ITC-308 model, which comes with one outlet for a heater and one outlet for cooling with a fan or chiller. InkBird also sent me a free ITC-306T (their new dual timer controller) to review, so I’m going to cover the features/differences between the two timers, how to set them up, and then give an honest assessment of what I really think of these InkBird controllers and whether or not they’re necessary.

Features of ITC-308 vs. ITC-306T

Okay, let’s start with the ITC-308 I bought for myself last year. It comes with this display unit, a temperature probe, the two outlets for heating and cooling, and a plug. My favorite feature is that it has alarms for when the temperature is too high or low.

features of the InkBird ITC-308 temperature controller

The new ITC-306T is different because it has two outlets for heating and you can set the heater to hit two different temperatures throughout the day – like a daytime and nighttime mode. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a temperature alarm you can set, which I was surprised to find out.

features of InkBird ITC-306T temperature controller

If you'd like to see how to set them up, view the video above for step-by-step instructions.

Review of InkBird Temperature Controllers

Well, I just got the ITC-306T for review, but I personally wouldn’t get it because I have no need for temperature changes throughout the day. I’m guessing certain reptiles or other pets like distinct daytime and nighttime temperatures. Or maybe if you wanted to make the fish or shrimp you breed hardier and more adaptable to a wide range of temperatures, you could use this. However, the lack of adjustable temperature alarms was a no-go for me.

As for the original ITC-308 I bought, I’m going to be honest and let you know that about 6 months after I set it up, the temperature reading started climbing and climbing to over 100°F, even though my digital thermometer said the water was still at 78°F. I went to InkBird’s website, found out they have a 1-year warranty, and emailed them. The customer rep immediately responded and helped me troubleshoot the issue, told me I had a faulty temperature probe, and sent me a brand-new unit via that arrived two days later. Didn’t have to return the old controller or wait two months for the new one to ship from China or anything.

Final Thoughts: Should You Get a Heater Controller?

I still think it’s worth it to get a temperature controller for any display aquariums or special fish you really care about, just as extra protection against overheating. But for all my other tanks, I’ve started using an industrial digital thermometer by General Tools because it’s very reliable compared to the cheap Zoo Med ones and it has high and low alarm settings that you can program. It won't save your tank from overheating if you're not home, but it’s definitely saved my fish a few times when I forgot to turn on the heater after a water change.

General Tools digital thermometer for fish tanks

If you like the idea of a heater controller and aren’t afraid of DIY projects, the King of DIY has a popular tutorial on how to make your own. Also, huge thanks to Hannah Horinek for being the latest supporter on my Patreon! 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 more updates! ğŸŽ®❤️🐟

Saturday, May 4, 2019

How to Boost Your Betta Fish Tank Filter the EASY Way

Remember that DIY betta tank filter hack I posted last year? Turns out my DIY tricks didn’t work so well in the long run, so here’s the part 2 sequel of lessons I learned and what I would recommend doing instead.

Materials I Used

Top Fin® 5 gallon glass aquarium
Filter sponge media
Internal filter
Never clog air stone
Mini sponge filter
Aquatop air pump
USB nano air pump
USB backup battery


How to Reduce Aquarium Filter Flow for Betta Fish
You don't need an Aquarium Filter. You need...
A Great Tank from Amazon?! The MarineLand 5 Gallon Portrait Tank
How to Clean a Betta Fish Tank… the Easy Way!

Question of the Day

Are you a fan of aquarium starter kits or not? 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! ğŸŽ®❤️🐟

Saturday, April 27, 2019

8 Mistakes to Avoid When Breeding Cherry Shrimp

Cherry shrimp are supposedly really easy to breed, but you’re not seeing any babies. Keep reading as I run down my complete checklist for figuring out why!

If you've been following me on social media, you can tell that I've been bitten by the shrimp breeding bug. Several months ago, I got some high-quality red cherry shrimp from a local breeder, set them up in a 10-gallon tank with everything they could possibly want, and then waited… Hmm, why am I not seeing any babies? Everyone says they’re supposed to breed like freshwater cockroaches. Are my dreams of selling hundreds of shrimp for profit completely doomed?? Luckily, there are lots of helpful veterans in the freshwater shrimp community, and after researching their advice, here’s the troubleshooting checklist I came up with:

#1 Water Quality

I know this seems very obvious, but before we go down the rabbit trail of random reasons why your shrimp may not be breeding, let’s make sure we have all the basics covered. Obviously, we don’t want any toxins in the water, such as ammonia, nitrites, and excess nitrates. Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m fine because they’ve been in well-established, cycled tank for ages.” Well, don’t forget that a population explosion could cause your nitrates to creep up, so remember to bring out that water test kit every once in a while. Also, make sure you don’t have any other toxins coming from outside the tank, such as cigarette smoke, harsh cleaning products being used nearby, or not washing your hands thoroughly before putting them in the tank.

As for water parameters, PH is not as important for neocardinas compared to other shrimp species, since they can withstand wide range of 6.0-8.0. Same thing with KH (or carbonate hardness), which can span from 0-8°. However, you should have at least moderately soft to moderately hard water at about 4-14° GH (or general hardness). Also, make sure there’s enough oxygen in the tank. A lot of people like to put shrimp in planted tanks with CO2 injection, so gas levels may be something to watch out for. Certainly, adding a sponge filter or bubbler of some sort will help introduce more oxygen into the water.

Feeding time for red cherry shrimp swarm

#2 Temperature

I wanted to put temperature in its own category because even though cherry shrimp easily live at a wide range of temperatures, they’ll breed more readily at warmer temperatures higher than 72°F (or 22°C). Of course you don’t want to go too far with temperatures hotter than 80°F (or 27°C) because it will shorten the shrimp’s life span and potentially affect the survival rate of eggs and baby shrimp.

#3 Stable Environment

When I first got my shrimp, I kept checking every day for berried females, not realizing that newly acquired shrimp have an adjustment period of approximately one to two months where they’re still getting used to their new environment. Once they get comfortable and start breeding, don’t forget it takes another month on top of that for those eggs to hatch.

With that in mind, don’t be constantly (or rapidly) changing their environments. In fact, that’s why many veterans recommend not doing frequent water changes or, at the very least, only doing small water changes when you do.

Last comment on their environment is tank size. Obviously, if the aquarium is too small, you may run into overcrowding issues quickly where there's not enough food for everyone or the water quality starts suffering. And some people say that if the tank is too big, then the males can’t locate females in time when the ladies are ready to mate.

10-gallon aquarium for breeding red cherry shrimp

#4 Culling

Speaking of males and females, a lot of shrimp keeping veterans recommend a ratio of 1 male to 2 females, or maybe 1 male to 3 females at most because if you don’t have enough males, then they may not be able to catch the female right after she molts. So, point #4 is don’t cull any shrimp while your colony is small. This is actually a mistake I made because I wanted to keep my shrimp as red as possible and unfortunately males don't look very colorful. So if you cull too aggressively too soon, you might accidentally rid yourself of all viable males!

difference between male and female red cherry shrimp

#5 Age of Shrimp

Not only do you need to patiently wait while your new shrimp are getting used to their tank, but also because your shrimp might be too young to breed. Sellers often send juveniles that are only 1/2 to 3/4 inches long, and most shrimp reach sexual maturity when they’re closer to an inch (2.1-2.5 cm) long, depending on the gender. So, wait till they get a little bigger before expecting any monkey business.

#6 Food and Nutrition

This is a very important criteria, and I fully admit that I've made several of these mistakes. If your shrimp aren’t breeding:
  1. Are you feeding them enough protein? Just like how chicken eggs are full of protein, shrimp also need protein to make their eggs. Consider giving them protein foods (like frozen bloodworms) one to two times a week.
  2. Are you feeding them enough, period? Everyone always warns beginner breeders not to overfeed their shrimp tank for fear of having water quality problems, but underfeeding will also cause major problems. Shrimp are tiny little grazers that need constant access to food.
  3. Are they getting enough minerals? I’m going to make a post about the shrimp reproductive process, but females must molt first before they can mate. So, if they don’t have enough calcium and other essential nutrients to successfully molt, you’re not going to get any babies. Personally, my tap water is on the soft side, so I currently use cuttlebone and Shrimp King Mineral food to ensure proper molting.
Red cherry shrimp fighting over Hikari Crab Cuisine pellet

#7 Predation

There’s a reason why all the experts suggest that you keep a species-only tank for breeding shrimp because almost all fish will prey on shrimp, babies and/or adults. If you’re bent on keeping shrimp with fish, make sure you provide lots of cover with hides or heavy foliage and just be okay with the fact that some babies will get eaten. Also, don’t forget that predation also comes in small packages, such as planaria, hydra, and dragonfly nymphs. Fenbendazole dog dewormer is a popular treatment for planaria and hydra. However, dragonflies are super tough and may require you to restart your tank, since most things that kill them will also kill shrimp.

Dragonfly nymph by Dave Huth from Wikipedia
Dragonfly nymph (source: Wikipedia)

#8 No Babies After Seeing Eggs

Finally, let’s consider the case where maybe your shrimp are successfully mating and carrying fertilized eggs, but you’re not seeing any evidence of babies. First off, baby shrimp are super small and they don’t move a lot for the first few days after birth. So if you had a berried female and suddenly the eggs are gone, it could be that they actually hatched but you’re just not seeing them yet.

Another problem may be not having enough biofilm or other baby foods available for the shrimplets. I’ll do a whole post on this later, but I recommend adding Indian almond leaves and cholla wood to grow biofilm, letting lots of algae cover your back and side tank walls, and getting a powdered shrimp food like Bacter AE that will float around the tank so they don’t have to fight the adults to feed.

Also, while you’re doing water changes, make you’re not accidentally sucking them up. I usually move pretty slowly while gravel vacuuming, but just in case, I siphon out the dirty water into a white bucket, use a flashlight to find any escapees, and then return them using a turkey baster.

Red cherry shrimp swarming around food

After a few months of improving my shrimp’s environment and diet, my dreams are finally coming true! I’ve grown from 15 shrimp to a colony of 100 to 200, with more and more babies are popping up every day. Maybe I should start working on my next dream of breeding crystal red shrimp…

Question of the Day

Do you have any tips for breeding cherry 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! ğŸŽ®❤️🐟

Saturday, April 20, 2019

How to Save Your Fish from Chlorine Poisoning

Are your fish suddenly dropping like flies, even though your water test kit says everything’s fine? Might be chlorine poisoning from your tap water, so keep watching to learn the symptoms and how to treat it. Topics include:

▶ What are 4 common causes of chlorine poisoning?
▶ What do the symptoms of chlorine poisoning look like?
▶ How do you treat a fish that has been exposed to chlorine?
▶ How do you prevent chlorine poisoning from happening again?

Materials I Use

Seachem Prime dechlorinator
Fritz Complete water conditioner (with pump head)
Sodium thiosulfate dechlorinator
Tetra 6-in-1 test strips
Quarantine medication trio
Sponge filter


Dead Fish! Don't Make This Mistake When Cleaning Your Aquarium

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for practical fish care tips for busy aquarists and follow me on Instagram for more updates! ğŸŽ®❤️🐟