Saturday, September 15, 2018

How to Disinfect a Used or Contaminated Aquarium with Bleach

So you just went through the horrors of dealing with a massive disease outbreak in your fish tank and you want to know how to nuke those nasties out of orbit. Keep reading to find out how to use bleach (yes, bleach) to thoroughly disinfect your aquarium, aquarium equipment, and accessories.

Materials for Bleaching

Okay, first things first: gather your materials. I put on latex gloves and old clothes that can get ruined. Also, get some bleach, a measuring cup, siphon or container for emptying out the tank, washrag or sponge to clean surfaces, and spray bottle (optional).

Should I Bleach It or Toss It?

Bleach anything that may have been exposed to the fish water, even accidental drips from your hands. So besides the tank, you'll need to clean the filter, heater, aquarium dรฉcor, nets, siphon, algae scrubbers, buckets you used, etc. Be aware that some of this stuff may get discolored because you're working with, well, bleach.

Some people say gravel is ok to bleach, but I personally dump all substrate (especially since I like to use sand and aquascaping soil). I also don’t bleach live plants, biomedia, filter floss, driftwood… anything super porous or closed off that might be able to retain the bleach.

Disinfecting Instructions

  1. First, wash off all the debris with warm water. Don’t use any soap or other detergents (especially ammonia-based cleaners) that may react with the bleach
  2. The next step is to make your bleach solution. Just a safety reminder: bleach is dangerous if not properly handled. Read the bottle for the full warnings, but don’t ingest it, don’t let it come in contact with your mushy body parts, and use it in a well-ventilated area (like outside). The recommended concentration I make is a 1 part bleach for 10 parts water (preferably hot water). In most stores near my area, they only sell 8% concentrated bleach (not 5% regular bleach), so that comes out to about 1 cup of concentrated bleach per 1 gallon of water. See the CDC instructions for more details.
  3. To clean the aquarium, you can fill up the entire tank with the bleach solution and wipe down the outside with a washrag or sponge. You can also use a spray bottle to spray and wipe down all the surfaces. Let it sit for 10 min, rinse with tap water at least twice, and then let it air dry completely so that the bleach breaks down into harmless compounds (mostly salt and water).
  4. To disinfect equipment or dรฉcor with lots of crevices, completely submerge and soak them in a bucket of the bleach solution (or in the tank itself). Rotate and agitate the items in the solution to get rid of any air pockets or bubbles. Soak for 10 minutes, rinse with water a couple of times, and air dry.
  5. For a canister filter where you can’t submerge it, throw away all filter media and run the bleach water through the empty canister filter for 10 minutes. Don’t forget to use the bleach solution to wipe the outside surfaces of the filter, tubing, etc. Then flush out the filter by running it a couple of times with clean tap water mixed with lots of extra dechlorinator. Empty out the water and let it dry completely for the next 2 weeks or more.

Lesson Learned

Do not let anything that is even slightly damp with bleach solution back into your aquarium. Remember the canister filter that I cleaned out? Yeah, after a few days of drying, I set up the entire aquarium again and put my axolotl in it. Unfortunately there was a tiny bit of bleach left in the closed-off motor compartment of the canister, and it was enough to kill her. ๐Ÿ˜ญ So the second time around, I let the canister filter sit empty for multiple weeks to make sure it was completely dry. To make extra sure all the bleach is gone, you can buy a test kit that measures chlorine levels. And when adding animals, maybe put a cheap, delicate plant (like java moss or some plant trimmings) or a pest snail in first, kind of like a canary in the mine, before you add your expensive dragon puffer.

The BEEP Rating

So how beneficial, easy, efficient, and proven is this method? In other words, what’s the BEEP rating? Well, given that the CDC recommends it for disaster zones and tons of aquarists have successfully used it for their aquariums, it’s definitely beneficial, efficient, and proven. However, I’m going to give it 3 out of 5 stars for how easy it is. You're working with bleach, there’s some measuring involved, and you have to make sure that everything is completely dry before reusing it. But in my opinion, this method is absolutely BEEP-worthy and I regularly incorporate bleach cleaning for used and contaminated aquarium stuff.

Question of the Day

How do you clean a used or contaminated aquarium? Comment below with your suggestions to share them with the fish fam community. Don’t forget to take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you next time!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, where I share practical fish care tips to help busy aquarists spend more time enjoying their aquariums! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I Have Terrible Bedside Manner (AKA How to Take Care of Your Sick Husband)

So... basically I’ve been accused of being a robot sometimes. Like, by my own husband, my mother, my brother... It’s because I think my emotion chip got short-circuited when God made me and I ended up with the empathy level of a rock.

Because of this personality trait of mine, one of my “areas of improvement” in our marriage is having a better bedside manner when my husband gets a man cold, uh I mean, is legitimately sick. He grew up with a nurse for a mom, so she’s, like, the ultimate loving, caring mother and I’m definitely not built like that.

So this is what happens when Mr. Gamer is feeling under the weather. I say (in a robotic voice):
  1. What’s wrong?
  2. Do you require medication?
  3. Let me get you said medication.
  4. Is there anything else you need?
Boom, problem solved! I mean, from my standpoint, he’s a grown adult, he knows how bad he feels, and he can call the doctor if he needs immediate medical attention, right?

pain scale

On the flip side, when I’m sick, I do the following:
  1. I inform my husband, “I’m sick with xyz.”
  2. Then I drink lots of fluids, get more sleep, and feed myself medication as needed.
  3. If I need help, I say “Mr. Gamer, I require assistance in this manner” (e.g., “please make dinner tonight”).
  4. Finally, I do whatever it takes to get well as soon as possible since my family needs me.
As you can probably tell, this low level of compassion and empathy doesn’t really fly well with my husband, and it’s been a longtime complaint in our marriage. Thankfully I got together with my amazing friend Alyssa, who is like the sweetest, most considerate woman I know, and she ran me through her response to a man cold, I mean, real illness:
  1. First she tells him “I don’t want you to do anything but rest and recover.” That means she volunteers to do all the chores while he’s sick.
  2. She brings him water or hot lemon ginger tea.
  3. She makes him ramen or congee rice porridge, which is like the Asian version of chicken noodle soup.
  4. She says caring things like “Are you comfortable? Is there anything you want? Maybe you should take a nap.”
tea for a sore throat

Holy cow… Mind. Blown. My husband has always said generic things like “bedside manner” and “compassion,” but I don’t think I really understood what that meant until someone spelled it out for me. I know this is probably super obvious to most of you, but I’m like, “YES! Thank you, Lord Jesus!” And I’m even more excited for Mr. Gamer because now he’s in for a real treat the next time he’s feeling under the weather.

Question of the Day

What are your best tips for taking care of a sick spouse? Comment below with your experiences because I’d love to hear them. And if you know someone who needs a little help in the “bedside manner” department, definitely share this article with them.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, where I share practical fish care tips to help busy aquarists spend more time enjoying their aquariums! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Confessions of a Fish Breeders Award Program (BAP) Veteran

I’m kinda getting interested in breeding aquarium fish, so I interviewed Larry Brown on how he’s managed to breed so many different kinds of fish as a hobbyist (including saltwater fish)! Larry runs the Breeders Award Program for our local fish club, and he gave me a tour of his amazingly diverse fish room. (If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Dustin’s Fish Tanks has released THREE videos featuring his fish room.) Topics include:
▶ What fish are recommended for first-time breeders?
▶ What's the secret for successfully raising fish fry?
▶ What is the Breeders Award Program (BAP)?

Related Links

Confessions of an Aquarium Addict series
Fish Room of a Legend Larry Brown's house

Question of the Day

What kind of aquarium addict would you like to see me interview next? Comment below to share your suggestions because I'd love to hear them. Don't forget to enjoy your aquarium and I’ll see you next time!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, where I share practical fish care tips to help busy aquarists spend more time enjoying their aquariums! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Which Aquarium Filter is Best for Axolotls?

Axolotls are one of the cutest but messiest animals I’ve ever kept in an aquarium, which means you need really good filtration to keep their water clean. But axolotls also get stressed out by strong currents, so what is the best filter to use?

Filtration Basics 101

So just in case you’re new to keeping aquariums, let me quickly cover the 3 basic types of filtration.
  • Mechanical filtration is like a coffee filter, but you use a sponge or filter pad to strain out any debris in the water.
  • Biological filtration refers to beneficial bacteria or live aquarium plants, anything that can consume the toxic ammonia and nitrogen compounds that come from axolotl waste. “Biological media” refers to bio rings, porous rock, and other stuff the beneficial bacteria can grow on.
  • Chemical filtration, such as activated carbon or Purigen resin, isn’t necessary but can be used to remove medications or other impurities from the water.

Top 3 Filters for Axolotls

Okay, now that we’ve covered the basics of aquarium filtration, what exactly do axolotls require? Because they produce so much waste, they need really good filtration. However, bigger, more powerful filters usually have very strong flow, which axolotls hate. Too much current can cause your axolotl to get stressed or even sick!

The trick is to get just enough water turnover in your tank so that you don’t have any stagnant areas for debris to collect. And you also want enough biological filtration to consume the ammonia and nitrogen coming from the axolotl’s waste. So here are the top 3 filters most commonly used with axolotls:

Sponge filter for axolotl tanks

Sponge Filter: Cheap and Easy

A lot of axolotl owners swear by the sponge filter, which I can understand because it’s cheap, won’t break down on ya, is very reliable, has very gentle flow, and provides both mechanical and biological filtration. I would say the cons are: it takes up a lot of room in your tank (since you’ll need a larger sized sponge or even two sponges to handle an axolotl), it won’t pick up the smaller particles in the water, and you’ll have to clean the sponge very regularly to remove all the waste it collects or else it’ll clog up.

Hang-on-back (HOB) Filter: Versatile and Reliable

AquaClear HOB filter for fish tanks
HOB filters like the AquaClear series are probably my top vote for a beginner axolotl keeper who is just getting into the aquarium hobby. You can completely customize the media compartment with anything you want – sponges, bio rings, activated carbon, you name it. And they’re really easy to clean because most of the filter is outside the aquarium, and all you have to do is remove the filter media, swish it around in some tank water, and put it back!

The AquaClear filter has an adjustable flow rate so you can set the current to all-the-way slow. If you want it even slower, you can put some decoration right underneath the waterfall output area or even attach a DIY baffle using a plastic soap dish or sponge like some betta fish owners like to do.

Fluval canister filter for fish tanks

Canister Filter: Powerful and Pricey

On the good/better/best scale, most people think canister filters are king. They’re a lot more powerful, they’re customizable like the AquaClear, and you can baffle the outflow using a spray bar. Plus, they’re super silent like a ninja. The only downsides are they’re usually more expensive if you get a good, UL-rated one, and they can be a little more hassle to clean than a hang-on-back filter.

Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to add some fast-growing beginner plants, because they can suck up ammonia and nitrogen like nobody’s business! Now you will have to account for lower temperatures and lower light, but people have had luck with anubias, java fern, java moss, aquarium lilies, and floating plants. And if you want to try an easy plant that grows outside the tank, stick the roots of a pothos plant into your HOB filter, and it will work wonders for your water quality.

There are a ton of other filters I didn’t cover, like under-gravel filters, sumps, UV filtration, etc. so do your research and I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you. Question of the day: what filter do you like best for axolotls and why? Comment below to share your experiences with the axolotl community. Take time to enjoy your aquariums, and I'll see you next time!

Related Links
Axolotl Care Guide
The Best Filters for Axolotls and Other Amphibians
Housing Axolotls in Captivity

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, where I share practical fish care tips to help busy aquarists spend more time enjoying their aquariums! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Saturday, September 1, 2018

How to Fix Cloudy Aquarium Water for Axolotls

Axolotls are one of the messiest pets I’ve ever owned, so how do you keep their tank water nice and clear? Well, there's a lot of different reasons why your aquarium water may be cloudy, but if you have a pet axolotl, most likely it’s because of their poop! ๐Ÿ’ฉ These cute little creatures can produce big ol’ brown logs that look like miniature dog turds. Unfortunately, axolotls just seem to have a knack for stepping right on them and then poof, you’ve got poo dust all in the water column. Yuck!

4 Ways to Fix Cloudy Axolotl Water

So to keep your water clean of axolotl poo particles, here are my top four suggestions, listed from least time intensive to most time intensive:

Axolotl poo
Axolotl poo (source: headFeed from

Tip #1: Bigger Tank

Get a bigger tank with more water volume. The more volume you have, the more diluted the waste will be and the clearer the water. This advice can also be rephrased as “Don’t overstock your aquarium.” For example, I started off with two juvenile axolotls in a 20 gallon and they were doing fine. However, as they grew closer to adult size, they were eating more and going to the bathroom more, and that 20 gallon tank just wasn’t gonna cut it anymore.

Tip #2: Better Filtration

Improve your filtration. What does that mean? Get better, bigger, or more filtration. I have a whole video on this topic, but for the purposes of water clarity, focus on improving:
  • Mechanical filtration: You can add filter floss, filter sponges, or filter socks of different porosity that will physically strain out the poo particles. Just remember, the mechanical filtration is just collecting the waste for you, so in order to fully remove the detritus from your aquarium, you’ll have to either throw it away if it’s a one-time use product or wash the mechanical filter media regularly.
  • Water circulation: Consider your water turnover rate. Filters are rated with a “gallons per hour” (or GPH) rating, and the higher that number, the greater the circulation to make sure dirty water actually reaches the filter and isn't stagnating in certain pockets. However, axolotls hate strong currents, so you may need to use a spray bar, a sponge to cover the output, or other type of filter baffle to lessen the flow.
  • Bubble aeration: Cory from Aquarium Co-Op mentioned that air stones and sponge filters can help clear water because they create lots of large bubbles that carry up small particles in the water. And when the bubbles pop at the surface, those particles fly into the air and collect onto your tank lid, for example, which you can then wipe off. So it kinda works like a saltwater protein skimmer.

Water circulation for axolotl tank

Tip #3: Spot Cleaning

Use a turkey baster to manually suck up waste anytime you see it. I know people who spot clean their axolotl’s tank every time they pass it or after each feeding, and it seems to help the tank stay clearer between water changes. (Too much work for me... Plus, I hate sticking my hands in cold water. Brrr!) Also, speaking of feedings, it will help water clarity if you don’t overfeed and make sure to remove any food that isn’t eaten right away.

Tip #4: Water Changes

Finally, the last and most important tip: do more frequent water changes. ๐Ÿ‘ There’s nothing like physically removing a lot of water that will improve not only your water clarity but your water quality as well.

Other Water Clarity Solutions

So there are a couple of cloudy water solutions that I didn’t talk about, like water clarifying chemicals. I personally haven’t used them, but most people I’ve talked to either say that they're only a very temporary solution or they just flat out don’t work. Another solution I didn’t mention for cleaning detritus is UV sterilizers. I think they can really help with algae or bacterial blooms, but they’re not as useful for breaking down large particles like axolotl poop dust.

Other Causes for Cloudy Water

Lastly, I know this article is mostly about how to deal with cloudy water caused by messy axolotls, but if detritus isn’t your issue, here are some other causes of cloudy aquarium water that you may want to look into:
  • Green water caused by free-floating algae: Try decreasing light and nutrients, and consider using a UV sterilizer.
  • Milky water caused by a bacterial bloom: This is usually seen in new tank setups or if you over-clean your filter. Don't do anything (easy peasey). Just wait one to two weeks and it should clear up on its own once the bacteria settles down.
  • Microbubbles caused by your filter: Limit the amount of contact the water has with air (e.g., raise the water level so the water is falling out of the hang-on-back filter doesn't make as much of a splash). Also, make sure filter media is evenly laid out in the media compartment of the filter.
  • Dust coming from your substrate or aquarium dรฉcor: Next time, thoroughly rinse the items before placing them in the tank. Do multiple water changes to remove the dust from the tank.

Bacterial bloom in cichlid tank
Milky water caused by bacterial bloom (source: Ron deezzee)

Question of the Day

What tips do you have for cleaning up cloudy aquarium water? Comment below to help others in the axolotl community. Don't forget to take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you next time!

Related Links
Axolotl Care Guide

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, where I share practical fish care tips to help busy aquarists spend more time enjoying their aquariums! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Confessions of an Aquarium Society President

Ever wonder what an aquarium society is like and if you should join one? In Part 2 of my series “Confessions of an Aquarium Addict,” I interviewed Ben Rogers, the president of the Colorado Aquarium Society, for a behind-the-scenes look at fish clubs. Topics include:
▶ What are the top things a fish club must do to be successful?
▶ How do you become president of an aquarium society?
▶ What does it take to host an aquarium convention?
▶ Why should fish keepers join a fish club when there's so much online information?

Related Links

Colorado Aquarium Society
The Garden of Eder (our latest aquarium society presenter)
Aquatic Gardeners Association (AGA)

Question of the Day

What kind of aquarium addict would you like to see me interview next? Comment below to share your suggestions because I'd love to hear them. Enjoy your aquarium and I’ll see you next time!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, where I share practical fish care tips to help busy aquarists spend more time enjoying their aquariums! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ

Saturday, August 18, 2018

How to Hide Your Betta’s Reflection | Hack My Betta Tank

Why do Betta Fish Flare at Their Reflections?

A common problem that fish owners see is their pet betta keeps seeing his own reflection in the aquarium wall and he won’t stop flaring at it. The reason why he’s spreading his gills, fins, and tail is because he’s trying to make himself look bigger and scare away the supposed competition from his territory.

This flaring behavior seems to happen most often when:
  • a betta fish is introduced to a new aquarium
  • the tank light is on but the room lights are off
  • the sunlight hits the tank just right during certain parts of the day

Is It Stressful for My Betta to Flare at His Reflection?

So is this really a problem? I mean, it's kind of cool seeing your betta fish displaying all his glory. Well, some bettas will get used to it and eventually ignore their reflection. Sometimes the reflection only shows up for a short while each day, so a little sparring exercise can be good for them. However, in my case I noticed that my betta was extensively flaring for hours at a time at his reflection, and small tears and holes were starting to develop in his finnage. Nothing too serious – they’d always heal up – but then new tears would appear because he was stretching his fins so much for so long. Not good.

Betta fish flaring at his aquarium reflection

How Do I Hide My Betta’s Reflection in His Aquarium?

So there are a few things you can try, like:
  • Move the tank or adjust the angle of the light so that the light doesn’t create a reflection
  • Don’t leave the tank light on more than 8-12 hours (which will also help with algae), and only turn on the tank light during the daytime when the room is also well-lit
  • Plant tall bushy plants (live or fake) that block the offending wall
  • Use a matte, non-reflective background to cover the back and/or sides of the tank

reflective black fish tank background from Petco or Petsmart

The last bullet was the problem for me. I had a black aquarium background from Petco or Petsmart, and it was highly reflective. I ended up swapping it out for a piece of matte, black poster board and taped it to the back of the betta tank. Yay, no more reflection! I think my betta Soundwave actually misses his sparring partner a little, but this will make his home more comfortable and less stressful in the long run. Super easy betta tank hack!

Question of the Day

What tips do you have for preventing your betta fish from flaring at his reflection too much? Comment below to share your experiences with the fish fam community. Enjoy your aquarium and I’ll see you next time!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, where I share practical fish care tips to help busy aquarists spend more time enjoying their aquariums! ๐ŸŽฎ❤️๐ŸŸ