December 28, 2010

Bigger Fish Tank

One of my manual tweets from the other day was "We felt our fish were insufficiently happy, so we spent $80."

We had a 2.5-gallon tank, with two tiny minnows in it (the kind that look exactly like goldfish ((to us)) but have a much smaller maximum expected adult size) (not the kind that turn into frogs: that's tadpoles). We went to the pet store to buy new filters for the tank, and we saw they had the 14-gallon tank kit marked from $90 down to $40, and we said, "Oh, okay." Then we bought more stuff to put in it, because there was more room in the new tank for stuff. Plus we needed to buy larger filters.

I'd been planning to get a larger tank (the smaller one was a test, to see if we were a family that would enjoy pet fish), but I'd been balking because the tank KIT (which I wanted so I wouldn't have to make decisions about a filter and a light and a heater and a lid and etc.) is so much more expensive than the plain TANK, which periodically goes on a "$1/gallon" sale (but then requires the filter decision and the heater decision and so forth, which makes me do Panicky Math, and Panicky Math leads to "Never mind! Forget it!").

Crap and also yay: I just went on Amazon to see if they had the tank so I could show you the kit-ness of it, and they don't have the same tank (here's the 10-gallon version, which our 14-gallon tank brags about being "40% larger than," and thank you for doing that DIFFICULT and EXTREMELY USEFUL math, Aqueon!), but they do have the replacement filters for 2/3rds of the SALE price I just paid for them at the pet store. Well, in six months I'm getting a GREAT DEAL on replacement filters, MARK MY WORDS.

So we brought the new tank home, and the first step was finding a new place for the fish tank to live: a 2.5-gallon tank holds about 20 pounds of water so it can live on a book shelf, but a 14-gallon tank is about 112 pounds of water and needs something I would let someone Rob's size JUMP on). We're using a heavy 1970s dark pine cabinet we bought at Goodwill for 1/4th the price of an on-sale fish tank kit, back when we were in the first half of our 20s.

Then it was a matter of moving the fish. I don't know if you have ever done fish, but they are a bit tricky. They live in WATER, you see. Transferring them from one water to another water (especially when the first water is in a nice nitrogen cycle and the new water is not) is risky and difficult. It took a couple of days, but now they are in their new tank:

You cannot see the fish in this picture.
This is because one of them is in the "broken jug" and the other is behind a plant.
It is not because I am just pretending to have pet fish.
Of what use would that be?

And we are on Dead Fish watch. We want to add more fish now that we have room, and we are thinking we might even use the heater so we can add something other than minnows or goldfish, but we need to wait awhile to make sure this new water is working out. (I feel nervous about really filling it all the way to the top the way the instructions say. I also feel nervous about not following instructions. We'll see what conquers what.)

Notice that our new tank has, along with a new "broken jug" and the old turret and a couple of new fake plants, a T-rex. Henry wanted to do a whole dinosaur theme (there was also a stegosaurus and some other dinosaur, plus two dinosaur skeletons), but I am not yet sure about Tank Decor and didn't want to commit to dinosaurs.

Now, I have a question for those of you who have experience with fish. No, two questions. No, THREE questions:

1. Should I get them some taller plants?

2. If we do start using the filter and branching out into freshwater fish, what's a good type to add first?

3. Really? Fill it all the way to the bottom of the black rim?


Anonymous said...

Neons. I love 'em. Plus get one of those sucker fish that eats gunk and will help keep your tank clean. Make friends with your pet store person - they can advise you on how many fish your tank will hold, types to get, etc. The more fish you have, the quicker the tank gets dirty. Just sayin.

Water to the brim - you will lose some via evaporation.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

Fish make me nervous. They are so... slippery and fragile and can't make any noises to tell you if you are doing things wrong.

So I applaud you for not only OWNING the fish but for "rocking the boat," so to speak, tank-wise.

Becs said...

This is all stuff I've learned from my boyfriend, who is a Fish Person, whereas I've always been a Fuzzy Pet Person. Love the fish now, though I do get nervous about handling them when necessary!

Anonymous is pretty dead on: algae eater (suckerfish) is important and the water evaporates off, so it's good to keep it topped up. Try to find an aquarium store if you can rather than a big pet store - I've always found better overall advice from employees at the smaller stores. As for other kinds of fish, I love mollies. Easy to keep, pretty patterns, and inexpensive ("my" fish in BF's tank are still limited to cheaper ones just in case).

BF has one taller sword plant and I think it's very nice - gives some balance to the look of the tank as well as chemical balance to the water, which will shift as you add more fish.

Hope that's helpful :)

jen(melty) said...

Hey if you wanted to continue the nitrogen cycle, just take the media out of the old filter, or some planst, and let them float at the top of the new tank for a few weeks.

YES fill it up, as long as there's a cover, no one's gonna jump out.

If you do the heater and add more, I suggest some kind of tetra, like a red serpae, black phantom, or black skirt. The white clouds are a good one too. If you really want to have fun you can add a bunch of tiger barbs! But you need at least 8 or they will fight. I had some with minnows and they generally left each other alone, but I don't think you are supposed to do that.

And yes you should get more plants.. Not necessarily taller, but denser. Fish like to Hide, and the more hiding places there are the more secure they are and the more of the fish you will see because they will be more relaxed about swimming all out in the open.

Jen_Ann_W said...

If you're not adverse to eel-looking fish, a Loach is a neat addition - they're one of the "cleaner" fish that nom the algae off the rocks & plants, and they don't get as big as the catfish-sucker-type. I'll second the Neons and Mollies, they're super easy and very tolerant - some species aren't good "community" fish and will beat up on the others. Just avoid Guppies, unless you want an entire tank FULL of fish - they breed like rabbits.
And yes, fill the tank all the way - the bubblers, filters, and heaters operate based on that amount of water - and yes, get at least one taller plant - fish like to have cover, so they'll probably stick to the bottom of the tank unless there's something up higher they can dart behind.

Alice said...

wow, i'm glad you have so many Fish Knowledgeable Readers here, because i have absolutely no helpful info for you. except yay for dinosaurs in fish tanks!

Sara Hammond said...

Just because I want to be helpful: YES, fill it to the top. :D

And as long as you are sticking with smaller, non-agressive fish, I LOVE neons! And I love the suggestion of finding a smaller store. The people there (often a family business) are very helpful, and you can make a great relationship with them. And ditto the plecostamus (sucker fish). Great for tanks, and they will grow to fit the tank, so don't worry about how big they are going to get. I always get the cheapest (small vs medium or large) because they are hardy fish.

gwen said...

Yay for fish! My then-boyfriend, now-husband bought me what I think is that exact same tank when I moved into a solo office at work, because I was lonely and needed company. The tank worked like a charm; not only did I have my relaxing and companionable fish friends, but everyone in the office loved them and would come in all the time to say hi.


1. I don't think you need taller plants unless you want them.

2. This is the most fun question! This page helped me see options to create a "community," and gave a good sense of how many fish I could reasonably put into my tank without overcrowding:

I echo one of the suggestions others have made -- the suckerfish, or algae eater, is great. Really fun to watch them do their work and help you keep the tank clean... they made me feel like I was being industrious when I was actually doing nothing. The formal name is plecostomus catfish.

I also love zebra danios, which are schooling fish, so you want to get at least three.

Neons and other tetras of all kinds are cool and small, so you can get multiples of them too.

Watch out for ciclids -- they are beautiful but mean and will eat smaller fish.

3. Yup, all the way to the black rim. The filter needs that much water to work properly (and some of it will evaporate over time, too).

jen(melty) said...

Do not get a pleco.. your tank is too small. Sorry to be a wet blanket! Did you know some of them grow to be up to a foot long and even longer? There are varieties that don't get as big, but your tank is still too small.

The concept that fish only grow as big as the tank is an oft-repeated myth and isn't true at all. They do stop growing, because they are stunted, not because it's good for them. You don't need an algae eater, at least not yet, and if you did you'd still have to feed it pellets after it ate all the tank algae.

Pickles and Dimes said...

Definitely fill the water to the top; it'll evaporate fairly quickly and you'll need to top the tank off every once in awhile.

An algae eater will help control algae growth, plus they're pretty prehistoric-looking, so Henry should be happy. :)

If you just get some cheapy goldfish, they'll grow pretty large. We have a 28-gallon tank, and the 25-cent goldfish we got 7 years ago are so big that cannot be flushed if they die. (They were also a cheap investment if they do.)

You could also get an air stone to hide under one of your decorations to get more water oxygenation/air flow. One of our goldfish must like the bubbles, because he hangs out right in the path.

I think your plants are fine, but you can put whatever you want in there and once they get some algae on them (and they will, trust me), the algae eater will hang upside down on them, snacking.

Have fun - I love fish!

Stimey said...

I really like other people's fish, but I don't think I will ever have fish again. I had them when I was a kid and was so annoyed by having to clean their bowl that I was ready to stab them with a fork. Of course, I think tank cleaning technology has advanced since the '80s, but I have bad memories of super murky tanks and two fish that lived FOREVER.

I understand what you mean about tank decor though. That seems like a BIG decision.

Magic27 said...

Nothing to add here (soooo not a "fish" person) just a comment: I think you are remarkably BRAVE to have fish in a tank in the same house that you have FELINES... I once looked after a neighbour's 2 fish while she was away (oh, the STRESS) and my normally placid, already well into adulthood, bone idle cat went BATSHIT. On the last day, he finally managed to find a way (never worked out how) to get up on the bookshelf where they were and scoop out a ton of water with his paws INTO MY PRINTER which was more or less underneath. The fish survived, but it was pretty touch and go as there really wasn't that much water left. Even with a lid, it would have been hard because before his water-scooping antics, he used to sit as near as he could get and STARE HUNGRILY at those poor fish, for HOURS ON END. Sometimes he added in miaowing for extra torture.
Nope, no more (live) fish in this house, no siree. Not as long as Tom lives and breathes and fantasises about free food swimming about in his home...
PS I'm assuming your house is big enough to be able to have some kind of feline-free zone... My flat most definitely isn't...

Karen said...

I'm just all shades of amazed at how very careful and awesome you are with these fish. My son used 14 cents months and months ago to buy two minnows, and we threw them into a little fish bowl, feed them some goldfish food every day or two, and clean the bowl when it's dirty, and they're still perfectly alive and happy. So i think you're doing just fine.

That said, i'm sure your minnows are the happiest minnows in the city. Especially since most people buy them to feed to their piranhas.

Essie said...

HI there, I'm here via Sam's. We bought the exact same Deluxe tank back in November. We have 3 cats and so far none have tried to hekp themselves to the fish.
I had fish die because the pump suction is too strong. My solution: park a bamboo plant below the pump tube, prferable that the vranches wrap around the black tube part so that the fish won't get stuck to the tube.
Also we added a whole bunch of live plants in the tank, which helps with keeping it clean.
We keep gold fish only but use the water heater thingy anyway to keep it at about 74-76F.

Essie said...

sorry I had to add on.... Do not fill the tank to the rim before checking the instructions for the pump on what water level it works.
I think we have the even more $$$ version that comes with a lamp and heating device.

Anyway... we keep the lid closed, have the light on most of the time and have a jungle of different size of plants in there. Also some fake coral thingy thru which the fish can swim. We have 5 fish: gold fish and black moors. They're friggin hungry 24/7. We rinse the water filter weekly, replaced it last week for the first time. The leaves of the plants and anything else inside the tank gets thise reddish algea build-up. The friendly people at petco told me to just wipe it off. Which we now do and sure enough, that is all the cleaning we have to do. Last week we replaced 3/4 of the water since it was getting greenish. Probably also because the filter needed replacement. Fish have been doing just fine. Good luck!

Jen said...

I'm going to have my husband give you a call.