Salt-Water Aquarium – For Beginners

image (9).jpgOk, I have to fess up – one of my many hobbies (ranging from canning organic mushrooms to archery) has been fish-keeping.  Why?  I once visited a friend at a Massachusetts hospital and was amazed at how tranquil it is to watch the aquatic life.  Ever since, I was hooked.

Like most fish-novices

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I started with a fresh-water tank.   Guppies – aren’t they great?  Fan-tails, fancy, easy-to-breed gups.  The problem became when I graduated from 1 10 gal tank to a 46gal tank – those gups breed like rabbits [though when I’m at a pet-store, I look at their guppies and muse that mine are much more healthy and colorful]. J

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I also got some other ‘inhabitants’ – ghost shrimp, neons, and the ‘african birchers’ [the store card said: Habitat: Community Aquarium].  10 min after I placed my new two birchers – one was absconding with my little neon tetra in his mouth – they are predatory hunters that will eat anything less than 1” in size and can grow to 16’; so I had to place them in a separate tank.  They are the laziest fish (swim-wise), but their muzzles were so cute, I could not return them back to the store.

When I found Nemo…

As corny as it sounds, a new pet-store opened a month ago, featuring some marine life that unless you’re PADI-certified, you (like me) have never seen in person before.  Again, I was hooked (seduced, really).  It’s like, when you look at them – your mind starts singing Sebastian’s ‘Under The Sea’.

After doing some research on salt-water tanks, I bought in.   I purchased a new 10 gal tank [I find these the most appropriate size – not too small/not too big], Pacific Sea Water [pulled my arm muscle big time, hauling the 5 gal boxes, but totally worth it!’, substrate, sand… Plus a couple of inhabitants: a chocolate star-fish and a polyp that raises it’s ‘hairs’ like a 5-o’clock shadow now and then.  No clown fish there, yet.

Helpful Hints:

No matter if you’re starting a fresh or a sea-water aquarium, here are the thing that can save your [fish] life:

  • With the fresh-water: do splurge on the ‘aquarium bacteria’ (depending on the size of the tank you’re looking at $8-$14).  This will cycle the tank immediately, so you won’t have to worry about the built up of ammonia / nor the ‘add 2 fish at a time’ rule.  I had to move a few months ago – no fish has died in this scenario.
  • With the salt-water tank: do follow the best i-net advice of placing the Aragonite substrate (this one you’ll need to wash, as it is as milky as rice) + the Caribbean Sand (no rinsing; a big time-saver!).
    • You WILL need a ‘live rock’ – what it means? Eh, I’m still not sure – I guess a rock that has the beneficial micro-stuff… that ‘s why it costs at least $10.
      • Bonus – some crabby-crabs like to inhabit them, so there’s a good chance you might get a freebie Mr. Crabs.
    • I never put tap water into my tanks [always goes too iffy compared to the $1 store-brand gal’s.]. Yes, when I set up my 46 gal tank early mourn – I was at WalMart, de-stocking the shelves right as the guys were stocking them of water, lol – all about 40+ bottles.
    • So is with the salt-water – if you find the ‘Pacific Water’ boxes at PetCo, or such for $11 for 5 gal – that’s the same price you’d pay for spring water + marine salt, plus do the measuring. Why bother, if it’s there and ready for you?
    • To have a fancy saltwater tank, you don’t have to go ‘all fancy’ [at least not all at once’.
    • As I mentioned, 10 gal seems like the right fit – you can easily de-commission the tank and/or re-purpose it. It is much harder with a bigger tank.
    • Don’t go for the ‘all-included’ tanks (unless on-sale). My salt-water tank cost me $14 +$14 Filter (and I already had the heater and the lightered hood I could use from an old tank), so do your math.   Though, if the Sale is good, and you can get all for under $50 – that’s a steal of a deal!  Go for it!
    • Research your fish’s dietary needs (or better – preferences). I once bought a super-high-quality protein pellet food for my Gups and Gourami – all was left on the floor.  They preferred the crushed flakes!  Of course, those high-protein pellets would cause harmful nitrites. 😮

A Word on the Bettas – the Siamese Fighting Fish:

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Yes, the day I spotted the blue twin-tail Louis [the XIV, cause of his pompous snout when I brought him home], I could not resist.  Bettas are ‘sold’ as the ‘easy/low bio-load fish’ and while it is true – they won’t poop a world of toxic nitrites in one day, which makes them a clean fish…  Bettas will need a tank of their own; they tend to be scared (or at least my Louis, of the installed internal filter that those ½-1.5 gal tanks have – he hates the sound and fury, with a royal passion].   Since they are a ridiculously beautiful fish, and gosh I wish I had a full tank of them (but, NO – they’d kill each other!).

I’m just passing my own experience with the Betta’s  — Louis:

  • Indifferent to the ‘Tetra-Betta brand Floating Pellets’
  • Prefers ‘Omega One Fresh Water Flakes’ – idk why, to be honest… Maybe, they’re smellier than others
  • Since he hates [and hides] at the sound of a filter – I introduced some snails. Water quality seemed to have improve.

If you have a fish-keeping advice or a question, feel free to present it below!

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