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  Science > Biology > Animals > Aquariums
Lankomumo reitingas Print version Print version
Starting an Aquarium. The Hard Way.

My name is Nischint Sohal and I reside in Bombay. As of now, my current setups are:

Tank Name: Asgard
Tank Dimensions: 30 inches (length) x 16 inches (width) x 18 inches (height).
Tank Volume: 35 odd gallons.
Filtration: Submersible sponge filter (Bodyguard APF800 Water filter).
Heater: Submersible thermostatic heater kept at 28 degrees Celsuis.
Aeration: Two water baby airstones attached to two air pumps.
Lighting: One tubelight (aquarium light).
Gravel: White pebbles, mixed with some coloured gravel.
Rocks: Five or six palm sized rocks of different colours.
Driftwood: Seven inches high, three inches length and two inches width, with holes.
Plants: One fake anachris plant, one vallisneria and four common plants (Don't know the name).
Fish: 2 marble angels (pair), about six months old, six inches high. 2 white angels, about two months old, 2 inches high. 1 black angel, about three months old, 4 inches high. 2 male kissing gouramis, about three months old, two inches long. 2 black lyretail mollies (pair), about three months old, one inch long. 1 black male sailfin molly, about two months old, one inch long. 1 common pleco, about three months old, seven inches long.
Maintainance: Fill in water that is lost due to evaporation every week. 20% water changes with gravel vaccum once a fortnight. Filter is cleaned every fortnight.
Feeding: Feeding twice a day, with pellets and dry worms. Once a week, live worms for the whole day. Once a week, daphnia for the whole day.

Tank Name: Arena
Tank Dimensions: 18 inches (length) x 9 inches (width) x 12 inches (height).
Tank Volume: 10 odd gallons.
Filtration: DIY Under gravel filter.
Heater: None.
Aeration: Attached to the UGF, thereby serving the dual purpose of a working UGF and aeration.
Lighting: Room lighting, but in two days, will get a 9 watt Philips ecotone tube.
Gravel: Golden sand, mixed with white and reddish pebbles.
Rocks: None.
Driftwood: Three inches high, six inches length and three inches width, rounded piece with one "branch" coming out.
Plants: Six small common plants (Don't know the name).
Fish: 6 neon tetras, about one month old, 0.5 inches long. 6 black stripe tetras, about one month old, 1 inch long. 1 common pleco, about one month old, two inches long.
Maintainance: Fill in water that is lost due to evaporation every week. 20% water changes with gravel vaccum once a fortnight.
Feeding: Used to feed twice a day, with crushed pellets and sprinkled dry worms, and offer live worms once a week. Have started using daphnia a lot, by dumping them in the tank. If the fish don't finish them, they swim around and are slowly eaten as they grow bigger.

Tank Name: Atlantis (bowl)
Tank Dimensions: 12 inches (diameter).
Tank Volume: 5 odd gallons.
Filtration: None.
Heater: None.
Aeration: None, but I use my fingers to move the water once a day.
Lighting: None, room lighting is sufficient.
Gravel: Small reddish sand.
Rocks: None, but there's a plastic boat with a fisherman in it (used as a bed, I think).
Driftwood: None.
Plants: One small common plant (Don't know the name).
Fish: 1 blue betta, about one month old, two inches long.
Maintainance: Change 100% water every time the bowl looks dirty, and cleaning the gravel, bowl and the plastic boat.
Feeding: Feeding twice a day, with dry worms. Once a week, live worms for the whole day. Once a week, daphnia for the whole day.

So that's pretty much about it. There is a whole lot of history that has gone behind this final setup of mine. Not in terms of time, but trouble and effort, in just four months.

Sometime in November 2002, since I got a new room, I felt quite lonely in it. So I lamented to my girlfriend about how I wished I could keep a small pet somewhere who would give me some company. And the smart girl that she is, she gave me a goldfish bowl, roughly 11 inches in diameter, with two angelfish in it, since the store owner didn't have any good goldfish yet.

So that bowl became Atlantis, with Hades and Phera as it's main inhabitants, who have now grown into my most beautiful fish. There was of course, a half inch of gravel called Gravel, a plastic boat with a plastic fisherman in it, called Midas, since he seemed to have caught a goldfish on his line. And of course, I have Aeroguy, the aerator pump of this little present.

I made water changes every week, fed them pellets twice a day, and every four days I fed them tubifex worms for two days. Hades became a little aggressive, wherein if food was introduced, he'd just barge ahead and grab as many pellets as he could in his mouth. I, in my insurmountable naiveness, thought it was quite unfair to Phera, so instead of dropping just two pellets, I dropped in at least six. If it wasn't consumed in 10 minutes, I'd remove the floating pellets with my net.

A little about my room and lifestyle. Since I am home almost all the time, I could take care of the fish. Only at night, for at least 12 hours, the air-conditioning would be on. This resulted in Atlantis getting a little chilly, but when morning came I switched off the air-conditioning and opened the windows for some fresh warm air to come in.

After a month, in December 2002, I thought I could use a proper big tank. Unfortunately, my dad decided to help out in this matter. So he arranged for the tank, with a well-known store owner in the city. The length of the tank is 30 inches, the width is 16 inches and the depth is 18 inches. This tank then became what is now, Asgard. The store owner also sold us the thermostatic heater, submersible filter, two aerator pumps, one fake anachris plant, a whole bunch of gravel (which he said was "clean") and the medicines + de-chlorinating agents + dry food flakes + freeze dried worms + a large net.
Total cost? Rs 6000 (US$126). Too much, as I found out much, much, MUCH later.

As for the fish, I had in mind this perfect system. I wanted the tank to exist in such a way that it would require minimal care but would still be well appreciated. To this end, I thought of using two guppies, two goldfish, two platys, two Pakistani or Yo-yo loaches (do they really roll over and play dead?) and two swordtails. Plus I thought I'd add the angelfish in later, since the bowl was too cruel for them.

Now the store owner and Dad got into this discussion where they thought that instead of leaving the decision to me of which fish to buy, the store owner would decide himself, plus Dad wanted some extras. So he gave us four orange goldfish, two black goldfish, two white goldfish, two rainbow goldfish and five platys. Since Dad is a sucker for looks, he decided to buy two koi, which were about 6" in length. He also bought a Silver Arowana for its Feng Shui thing about good luck, and almost made the deal to get four Discus fish, until he realized that they were expensive, so he didn't get the discus. Total cost of fish? Rs 3000 (US$63). Again, too much money.

The Arowana (called The Judge, coz he looked like one) stayed on top, the fully-matured rainbow goldfish (Frey and Freya) and the other fish inhabited the tank. When I got home with all the supplies, I cleaned the gravel, for over three hours, just to make sure it was clean. After everything was in place, I placed the bags containing the fish for about 30 minutes, then did the 1/4 cup thing, until all the fish were in the tank. Note that I did not have a light yet, since the canopy was to be constructed in my Dad's workshop (he's an architect), and nor did I have the canopy itself.

After about a day, the water started getting greenish and very hazy. Visibility was low, even from above the tank, and the fish seemed a little perturbed. I figured it was becoz there was no light, so just made sure to pester my dad for the canopy and light. And then the unexpected happened.

I slept a little late, at about 7:00 am. At 8:30 am, my brother woke me up, saying one of my fish was on the floor. Apparently, the Arowana (Judge) jumped out of the tank, and fell four feet on the ground, where it lay there, for perhaps 30 minutes, without water and without any warmth, since the air-conditioning was on. When I inspected it, I found that it's gills were still a little active. So I put it in a large tub, with aeration and some warm de-chlorinated water. I waited and thankfully, Judge began breathing fine, though he wouldn't move. See, when he fell down, he must have broken his spine or something, coz while normally he was very fluid, now he just had an erect body and he'd float upwards in the water. I know, I know, you might think it was dead, but I clearly saw gills move, not once but many times. But it was all too much for Judge and he died. What was disheartening was that not only did he die a horrible horrible death, but he also died becoz of my negligence in getting a canopy. Instead of flushing him down the toilet or burying him where animals could get to him, I, in my emotional state, decided to follow the Hindu tradition of burning his body. Which I did. He burned little, not all, but I couldn't bear to look, so I just let the fire burn and left the scene.

Obviously, I had hardly slept and now couldn't even sleep in peace for fear of causing harm to the other fish. So I got my Dad to hurry up on the canopy and light, while I moved the fish to a large tub, with proper aeration. I then spent at least 11 hours, thoroughly cleaning the gravel, handful by handful, in hot running water. As I was doing this, the two layers of gravel I had, now began to get mixed. I had a bottom layer of white gravel, and an upper one of coloured gravel. Then I cleaned the filter and the sponge, which had turned from a bright yellow to a dull smelly green, and the heater too. The canopy still wasn't ready, but I was adamant. Above the tank there is a shelf. I got a long rectangular shape cut into it, where I placed the light tube and got the necessary modifications to my shelf. Then, after the gravel had been thoroughly cleaned, I got the tank cleaned. The water inside the tank was all dirty smelly brown and I had to wear gloves, just to make sure I didn't get anything on my hands which might be bad for me.

After everything was absolutely clean, not foul-smelling and generally done, I again set up the aquarium. Earlier, I had just placed the gravel in a flat way, but this time, I made sure it had a slope, for food debris to roll down the tank, if possible. While in the tub, three platys managed to jump out of the tub and were flapping about on the floor, but since I was at hand I managed to save their lives.

Finally, the tank was beginning to look like what I initially planned it to look like. The entire thing was beautiful to look at and the fish seemed to love it. Now, just 6 hours later, the water again looked a little hazy. Not greenish, but it was a little less clear than when I first put the fish in.

Later, the haze did clear up. Of course, I did do one thing that might have changed things for me. I think I was overfeeding the fish. The thing is that the koi managed to gobble up a lot of food, and it made me think that the others might not be getting any, that's why I always put in almost double the food. Now, with this reduced feeding, where I feed them twice in 24 hours, every twelve hours, the tank lost its haze completely.

I decided to get rid of some of the fish, since a lot of the websites I visited made me think that my tank was very overcrowded. So I spoke to the store owner, but he refused to take any of the fish back, or even exchange them for smaller fish.

Bastard...

Within the next two weeks, I lost a lot of other fish. Despite my regular water changes, I lost all five platys, found later in various areas of the tank. It was extremely painful to watch this happen, and I almost gave up trying to keep fish. In fact, my koi got so agressive that they killed one of the white goldfish I had, by repeatedly chasing him and nipping his fins. They bashed and pushed him against the glass. I had no other tank to keep him in, and so could not help at all. I did try and keep him in a bucket for short periods of time, whenever it became unbearable to watch.

So finally, I was left with four orange goldfish, two rainbow ones, one white goldfish, and my two koi. I was eager to get all of them off my tank, since it was not only difficult to keep them, but the tank was constantly dirty. After much searching and begging, I finally found a lady near my house who was willing to take the koi from me. Imagine my joy!! She took the koi from me, and in exchange, gave me two white angels, two kissing gouramis and one pleco, who still live in the tank.

I bought Arena at the time, just the tank, and moved all the goldfish there. I again cleaned the whole tank thoroughly, and added my own two angels which my girl had given me, the two white angels and two kissing gouramis I got, and the pleco. Later, I also bought two black angels, but one of them died much later. He was ill from the beginning, and I didn't really see that. He never ate much and I know that none of the other fish did anything to him, but left him alone. I also bought the pair of two lyretail mollies, and then later, got three sailfin mollies. Only one male has survived, and the two females are dead, I think since the males troubled them too much. They died within two days of me putting them in the tank, so I assume they didn't die becoz of any mistake I made.

I also managed to find an excellent store guy near my house, who took all my goldfish, and gave me the tetras I have right now, for free. He helped me a lot in setting up the smaller tank, and I visit him regularly for supplies. He is, by far, the best LFS I have ever visited. Beautiful fish, great care and he's also extremely economical. Since he's more of a hobbyist himself, with some 35 tanks all over his house, we discussed a lot, and even shared information on culturing various live food, especially bloodworms.

Whatever setup I have right now for my big tank, has been around since two months, with absolutely no ill effects. Everyday, I grow prouder of what I managed to achieve. My smaller tank was set up only a month ago, but even those fish are doing well. My betta bowl was actually set up since it was empty. I had moved the angels that were in it, to the big tank, so I thought of keeping one blue betta in the bowl. I've had that setup since the last month.

Of course, at one point, I made a mistake with my small tank. I had a bottom layer of golden sand, and then an upper layer of reddish and white gravel. While feeding the fish, since they were so small, I would sprinkle a lot of dry worms and pellets. As a result, the bottom got very dirty. The water itself was clear, but I didn't like the way the bottom looked. So I cleaned the whole tank, and while doing this, ended up mixing the golden sand with the gravel. Although it looks a little strange now, it seems to be quite okay with the fish.

Recently, I have also become extremely interested in keeping a small saltwater tank, but the costs deter me from investing in the same. I'd love to convert my small tank, Arena, into a saltwater one, but as yet I hardly know where to begin.

This hobby is extremely addictive, and one friend of mine already has a betta bowl in his office. Recently, my girlfriend took Atlantis and kept the betta at home, until her tank is ready. Since she has little space to keep fish, I am planning her tank carefully, making sure not to repeat my past mistakes.

I think that tank will count for a smallest tank contest, it's 12 inches in length, six inches in width and seven inches in height. I plan to keep two bettas, one red, one blue, in the tank, separated with a black or white plastic sheet. However, my girl says that the betta seems very boring, and that her family is asking for a goldfish. I explained to her that a goldfish cannot survive in the small tank for long, so now I'm kinda stuck for ideas about stocking such a small tank.

You have no idea how difficult it's been to get the aquarium setup I have. Not only have there been mental headaches, but in an effort to make sure that the fish are alright, I have wasted loads of time, energy and money. And I don't really make that much money being a writer. I plan to get a 250 gallon monster sometime in the next two months, and this time, I'm going to go for it with a lot of planning, no matter how much time it takes. In the end, it will be better for me, the fish, the hobby itself, and of course, my girlfriend, who sometimes suffers my constant jabbering about fish!

by Nischint Sohal
of Bombay, India
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Lankomumo reitingas

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