Fresh Water Aquarium High’s and Low’s

First some good news– week 8 and my aquarium is fully cycled! The brown algae problem has seemed to have corrected itself. I have a healthy bacteria colony doing it’s part in my aquarium and taking care of the ammonia and nitrites. This has cleared up the brown algae. I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely convinced I’d get past the algae issue. I’m past it and what a relief!

Now for some bad news– I lost 2 guppies! One was killed in a fight. The other sadly disappeared after an unfortunate fish-out-of-water incident. I recovered him from the back of the aquarium stand and placed him back in the aquarium. All seemed fine. The following morning he was gone! No body. Nothing.

I Have My Theories

I did some upgrades to the aquarium over the past week. It’s a work in progress in figuring out how best circumvent the kit aquarium hood and breed the guppies. But, change is good, right?

New High Tech Filter

The first change I made was the clip-on filter. This is the third filter I’ve had with this aquarium. I bought a Tetra Whisper EX 45 Filter when I started this tank. I didn’t trust the PetSmart filter that came with the aquarium kit. 20 years ago Tetra was the go to brand for all things in the aquarium world. I’m starting to think they’ve lost their luster since I’ve been away.

The filter only had a single carbon filter cartridge for filtration and some brushes for bacteria retention. It’s an old school set-up and worked well until I cleaned the propeller. After removing the propeller I was unable to get it back in place just right. It became unbearably noisy. I did make several attempts to fix it, but it just wasn’t having it.

I nixed the Tetra filter. I tried the TopFin filter that came with the aquarium kit. That filter was useless. I then opted for a more modern AquaClear Power Filter after reading some recommendations. I really like this filter. It has a flow control valve and is super quiet. What I really like most about it is the “media basket”. The media basket contains 3 stages of filtration out of the box. The first stage is a bacteria retaining sponge. The second is common black carbon and third is active carbon.

AquaClear Power Filter
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I really like this AquaClear Filter. It’s simple, but very effective. Great design!

Customization is King!

When the AquaClear Filter arrived I was really lost when I tried to assemble it! I read and reread the the instructions and was finally able to assemble it. Now that I understand the filter I really like it’s concept. It’s quite simple and effective.

I read a little about the filter and learned I can customize the filter media to suit my needs. I’ll make some changes in the near future once the carbon is fully acclimated. Stay tuned.

Back to My Theory

As I mentioned before I had 6 male guppies. They were all getting along fairly well. A little nipping but nothing serious. The morning after I installed the new filter I found a dead guppy in the tank. I immediately tested the water thinking maybe the filter threw my cycle out of balance. The water was fine.

It was a like a switch had been turned on and the guppies were now in a sequel to the movie Fight Club. They ganged up and killed the weakest of the brood. Now they were swirling around their next victim.

I believe the fighting started because of the filter change. The only other explanation that I can think of is that they are in some sort of mating cycle. I would think the females would dictate any such cycle. I don’t know at this point. I know if reached out to the interwebs and asked what triggered my guppies the answer would be “Boys just being boys, add females to fix it.” I don’t want to add females now. I want to develop my plants and not stress my water cycle. I may be wrong here, but that’s how I’m going for now.

Enter The Gulag

Fortunately, I had just purchased this Fluval Muli-Chamber Holding and Breeding Box. For now I’m keeping the guppies separated with a breeding tank. I can divide it into 3 separate sections, or cells. I was going to set it aside for now and use it for guppy breeding when I decided to move forward with introducing females.

Fluval Muli-Chamber Holding and Breeding Box
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This breeding/holding tank is ingenious. It circulates the water from the tank through it. I’ll use it when acclimating new fish to the aquarium as well.

The Gulag, which we affectionately call it, works really well. It only has 3 chambers and that left 2 guppies to swim together in the aquarium. I couldn’t find a pair that wouldn’t fight. I switched them out several times and that’s what led to the fatal out of water incident.

I wanted the holding tank on the side of my aquarium for easy access, but it doesn’t fit well on the lip of my aquarium. I had to put on the back and prop it with sponge between the wall and the holding tank. This holds the tank level and securely. But, makes it hard to access the tank when trying to remove fish from it.

Well, now there are only 4 guppies left. One lucky fellow get’s the entire aquarium to himself while the other three are stuck in the Gulag. I’m not motivated in swapping anyone out just yet with the incident still fresh on my mind.

My Plants!

Enough about Gulags and dead guppies! Time to focus on my plants. It’s been at least 6 weeks since I introduced live plants into my aquarium. I started with some Vallisneria, the Italian version. I also had some Dwarf Baby Tears, but the barbs grazed on them like the hungry cows that they are.

I switched the Baby Tears for some Dwarf Sagittaria. I also have 1 Amazon Sword plant. The barbs do nip at the leaves, but not as much. I think they don’t like the larger leaves. The Baby Tears had small leaves that fit perfectly in their all consuming mouths. The plants I have now have large leaves.

Long Live the Vallisneria

Vallisneria aquatic plant.

It looks sparse now, but I’m hoping within 3-6 months I’ll have a complete background.

After reading many recommendations that Vallisneria was a good beginner plant I decided to give it a try. I’m happy that I did. The plant will produce “runners” or offspring plants. I already have 2 such offspring plants. One of those 2 already reaches half way to the top of my tank. I only used 1 root tab and sporadic feeding with Easy Green, the most recommended aquatic plant fertilizer in the entire universe.

I need to figure out how best to separate and propagate the Vallisneria. I’ll wait until I have several offspring plants before I make any attempts to move them around. These plants will grow very tall and will provide a nice background to my aquarium.

Dwarf Sagittaria

I really like the Dwarf Sagittaria as a mid-ground plant. It didn’t take off as quickly as the Vallisneria did, but it’s doing quite well. It too will branch off and propagate new plants. I’ve seen 2-3 such new plants so far. The plants will grow to about 4-6 inches high. They will provide a lot of cover for any bottom dwelling fish or invertebrates, such as the Amano Shrimp I have.

The brown algae took a toll on the Sagittaria. I trimmed them back to get rid of the leaves that were covered with the algae. Since, then the plants have taken on a new life. Although, this week some of the leaves seem to be a little pale. I’ll keep an eye on that. I may need to do some more triming.

Dwarf Sagittaria

The Dwarf Sagittaria plants are doing well. I really think they will blend well with the Vallisneria once my tank matures.

The Mighty Amazon Sword!

Amazon Sword

I’m really curious to see where this Amazon Sword goes. I’m glad I made the decision to plant it in the back corner.

The Amazon Sword has been in my tank for about 4 weeks now. It took a long time for it to acclimate. It didn’t melt, but it just stayed stagnate. Last week I added another root tab under it and that helped.

This week I saw one of the stems open up 4 new leaves. There’s also a couple of new leaves at the base. This plant will get really big, so I’ll have to be methodical in trimming it regularly. I am hoping this plant will provide some cover and maybe a place for the Gold Barbs to lay eggs.

A New Light

Hygg er Aquarium Light

I really like this light, although I don’t think it’s going to be the last light I buy for this aquarium.

I upgraded to a new light. I bought this one off of Amazon from a company called Hygger. It works really well. I can adjust the brightness, which I really like. It has a full spectrum and the plants seem to have reacted nicely to it.

Right now I have no lid. I custom ordered a couple pieces of plexi-glass. I’m going to create a clear lid with a hinge I bought from Pet Mountain. I am really curious to see if it will work.

The plexi-glass will arrive this week. I had meant to put all these components together when all the pieces were here. However, the filter and guppy drama forced me to start putting it together sooner. I’ll post an update in a week or two.