I’ve kept fish for most of my life.  I won my first goldfish at a carnival in 1987 when I was a wee lad of 5, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  Within the past 5 years, becoming bored with the ease of goldfish, I started dabbling with tropical fish.  My first attempt was angelfish and some diamond barbs.  I failed, but it was only because I didn’t put enough effort into the task to be quite honest.  Moving from goldfish to anything else can be a challenge in the beginning.  The routine requires much more attention.  When I moved into a much smaller apartment, I was forced to get rid of my tank and surviving fish due to space and weight restrictions.  Well now I’m back at it, and daddy’s got a brand new bag.

Let’s talk about my tank.  It’s a 90 gallon Clear For Life acrylic tank with a blue background.  I prefer acrylic simply because it’s lighter than glass and reduces the weight of the overall setup… not by much, mind you… but every little bit helps.  I use an Eheim Professionel canister filter and a 500gph power-head for water circulation and surface disruption.  This isn’t a marine tank, so a strong current isn’t necessary but you don’t want dead spots forming in the tank (i.e. the water next to the heater is the correct temp, but the water on the other side of the tank is cooler), so a power-head is a plus in a larger tank in my humble opinion… not to mention, the fish seem to thoroughly enjoy playing in the mild currents.  I imagine it feels like a gentle breeze, and who doesn’t like a breeze?

For heat, I’m using a 250w fully submersible heater set to the tune of 87F.  This seems to keep the overall temp at around 80-82.
I set up my tank initially using some zebra danio for a fish-in cycle.  I don’t recommend this after having tried it myself.  It’s just as stressful for the caretaker as it is for the fish, and it’s much easier for things to go wrong.  For example, during my fish-in cycle process I developed a nasty outbreak of ich.  It most likely came from the pet store, but the harsh water conditions didn’t help… and your treatment options are limited because you don’t want to disrupt the bacteria cycle.  I also developed a few separate issues as a direct result of stressed fish in poor water conditions, which can be very difficult to reverse.  Moral of story… don’t do fish-in cycles.  Don’t do it.

Once the water stabilized and the ich was fully eradicated, I began adding fish.  My original plan was for a community tank, but my ADD couldn’t resist and took over the project which has taken more turns than Anne Heche on hiatus.  For this reason, I’ll discuss the fish in separate posts… right now I’ll try to stay focused on the aquarium itself.

My tank is graveled and planted.  I would call it a medium-density setup, but most of the plants are faux.  Toward the end of my cycle process I began adding live plants to replace the faux.  I’ve added a dozen plugs of dwarf hairgrass in hopes it will carpet the tank.  It’s growing like a weed, (pardon the expression), but doesn’t seem to be spreading.  I add fertilizer once a week and do CO2 injections about every third day.  The directions say daily is okay, but I don’t like adding crap to my water if I can avoid it.  Once I’m confident the plants are well rooted and growing, I’ll phase out the carbon injections entirely.  I always advocate a planted tank because it helps complete the chemical food chain found in natural waters.  They’re honestly not that difficult to keep, there are a decent variety that grow in plain ol’ gravel, and your fish will thank you for it.  If you had to live in a glass box for the rest of your life, wouldn’t you be much happier if you could sit in the grass under a tree?  Exactly.


I’ve also added some anubias nana, some wisteria, and Kyoto grass for the background.  It’s pretty sweet.

The tank is kept in a basement, so it gets next-to-zero natural light so I have two light fixtures set up, one with four metal-halide lights and another fixture with four acitinic lights.  I alternate lights to simulate local weather patterns.  If it’s bright and sunny, I kick on all the lights.  If it’s dark and overcast, I only kick on one or two.  I don’t know if this has any effect on the aquarium, but it looks cool.  I assume since light doesn’t occur with the same intensity in the wild day after day after day after day, neither should my aquarium.  It seems reasonable to me that simulating a natural environment as accurately as possible can only benefit the inhabitants. . . but that’s just my opinion.

Before I forget, I should mention that I use freshwater aquarium salt in my water.  It helps prevent a lot of the diseases that require medication, and helps boost the general health of the fish.  Salt doesn’t evaporate, so you should only add salt with your water changes.  If you change out 20 gallons of water, add salt for only the 20 gallons of new water.

If you’re terribly new at fish keeping altogether, I’ll post a separate section talking about bacteria cycles, why it must happen, and what to expect during the process.