After the failure for the first two times, I kept admiring people who could successfully maintain an aquarium. But I realized that it was me who was doing something wrong (in fact there were several things I was doing wrong). My wife suggested me to find someone who already had maintained an aquarium successfully. I however didn’t know anybody who had an aquarium (except the Chinese restaurant I go to – but that doesn’t count). So the internet came to the rescue and I started researching aquarium stuff for some time. I landed on a website called as AquariumAdvice.com. This is a community of people who breathe aquarium – this is where I first learnt what a nitrogen cycle is and how it affected a tank. Also got introduced to the exciting technique of fishless cycling – the process of using raw ammonia instead of fish, to develop the nitrogen cycle .More details can be found athttp://www.tomgriffin.com/aquamag/cycling.html and http://www.tomgriffin.com/aquamag/cycle2.html.
I understood all the newbie mistakes committed and realized my 3 gallon was too small a tank. So I had to find a proper habitants for this tank. Initially I was thinking in terms of White Cloud Mountain Minnows, as these are cold water fish and tend to be less than 2 inch. Though later on I learnt that they need much more swimming space than 3 gallons. Several of the members of aquariumadvice.com were pointing to a fish called as Betta – Betta splendens or Siamese fighting fish – the beautiful fish that are sold in those small cups. I had managed to completely ignore this beautiful fish during my 2 bouts of failures.
So I gave a serious thought to this fish and researched on what this fish likes to eat, temperature of water it needs, possible tank mates etc.
In the meantime , I started doing fishless cycling of the tank . It doesn’t get any easier than this. Take care though that the ammonia you use is free of surfactants. Easy test for this – shake the ammonia bottle and if it fizzles/ gives bubbles DON’T use it ! I got my ammonia from Kroger for 99cents and I was set. I kept adding ammonia till there was an ammonia spike in the tank (5ppm), after which I kept adding half of the ammonia I was adding before. Soon enough I got a nitrite spike which lead to a nitrate spike. Finally the ammonia and nitrite readings went to 0 and after a quick 50-60% water change (to remove the nitrates), the tank was ready for its dwellers. You can check my water parameters table here
We bought a beautiful turquoise blue betta (called Nigel) and introduced him to the tank. He immediately surveyed his new home and was soon enough swimming happily in his bachelor pad. We had never seen a fish really happy in our tank before. So I guess the fishless cycling helped. Later on we also added a ghost shrimp as cleaning crew to the tank. I was warned that a betta may or may not eat the ghost shrimp. In our case the betta ignored the shrimpo and they are living happily in the tank now. We also have a live java moss and 3-4 aponogeton plants – the kind which are sold in the form of bulbs in Walmart.The tank is looking like its taking shape. **touch wood**
Moving ahead we have got a new 30 gallon tank and we are using Schultz’s Aquatic soil as a substrate. We are still setting this tank up and are thinking of a semi-aggressive community – 6 tiger barbs , 4 serpae tetra, 1 red tailed or rainbow shark and perhaps some yo-yo loach I will post pictures as soon as we are done.
That ends our journey for now. Hopefully it was helpful to a newbie, fascinating to a stranger and gave a “me-too” kind of feeling to the experienced aquarist !
UPDATE : April 2012 : After years of enjoying the aquarium and various fish I currently have a 55 gallon tank. It has Eco-complete Substrate which is great for plants. I upgraded to In-line heater as well as RENA XP3 canister filter. For lighting it has a 130 Watts Fluorescent light. This setup allowed me to add several live plants and currently the tank has the following plants : Anubias Nana, Petite Nana,Echinodorus amazonicus, Crypt bekettii, Java Fern, Alternanthera Reinekli v. ‘roseafolio’, Glossostigma , Ludwigia Repens as well as a few varieties of Aponogoten plants.
The tank has 7 Mickey Mouse platies (one of which was born and survived in the tank), 4 Minor tetras, 4 Neon tetras, 3 Cory cats (one of them is more than 6 years old), 1 Albino Rainbow shark and 1 Algae eater. All plants and fish look pretty healthy and are treat to watch. Both Malaika and Sanaa enjoy watching them and that is the fun part of it 🙂