Checked on my fish tanks this morning to find that my Betta fish had built a huge bubble nest. Overnight. It certainly wasn’t there last night….But look at it now! He has sort of built these nests in his old tank but never at this scale- it was usually nothing more than a small clump of bubbles. Look at this thing though! I’m a little taken aback by the size of this, and the timescale of it (overnight!!). I’m taking this as a sign he really likes his new tank.

(Technically this is a breeding behaviour ingrained into the fish. They build these nests to keep the eggs in and keep said eggs oxygenated – yes, the males look after the eggs. According to some websites, Bettas will build these even in sub par conditions as it is such an instinctive behaviour. But then other websites say they’ll only build them if comfortable and happy. So who knows, really…the internet is a confusing place for research. I should probably buy a book or go the library…easier to Google though! 😅 )

I took the day off work today. The weather was beautiful and I was sure I should enjoy it, but after taking a lie-in and doing some chores I found myself at a loss to what to do with myself. I kept checking my work emails, looking for an excuse to get dragged back in. I didn’t get one. In the end, after some time sitting in my favourite chair, absentmindedly flicking through social media, I decided to get started on my Betta fishes new tank. He was housed in an undersized 12L. I had incorrectly stated it as 19L on this blog, but it was actually only 12L. With a heater and filter it wasn’t too bad, but it was far from ideal. I had wanted to upgrade him to something larger and I was thinking perhaps something fancier too, but bigger, fancier tanks are expensive, and my father pointed out (rightly) that my floors might not like two very large tanks. So in the end I picked up a cheap 24L kids aquarium – basically the larger version of his current tank. That way, I could keep my existing heater, wouldn’t have to pick up too many new decorations…and there wouldn’t be too much extra weight on my floor.

I decided for his new tank that I wanted to add some wood. His tank always seemed a bit plastic and although I wasn’t about to put in some real plants – I didn’t want to buy lighting, or deal with snails/algae/dead plant matter like I do for my big tank- I wanted something organic. A big slab of wood seemed a good choice to add something natural. I picked it up last weekend- crouching on the floor of the pet shop looking through all their samples for the perfect piece, I’d even brought a tape measure with me to check the sizes- and I had been soaking it all week to remove the tannins. These tannins leech out of the wood, turning the water brown. It’s harmless to the fish, but I didn’t want that kind of look for my tank. But the tannins wouldn’t go, so in the end I found myself spending my afternoon boiling this wood in a big pot on the stove. Exciting, right.

It seemed to do a good job getting those tannins out though. And the boiling would also have killed any potential bacteria or fungus in the wood, which is good too.

After that, I rinsed out the new tank, rinsed the new gravel (I was going to combine black gravel with the lighter gravel in the existing tank for a fancy looking substrate), emptied out the existing tank partly so I could move it to one side and put the new one on the table. Then I began to pull apart the old tank, poor fish still in it and looking quite bemused, and build up the new one. Finally, I moved the fish to a bucket so I could finish taking out the items and substrate in the existing tank and empty the last of the water in the new tank. (Poor little guy was definitely having a time of it through this process. Thankfully in the wild, as far as my research suggests, betta’s have to deal with these situations now and then. They have a gland that lets them breathe in air to get oxygen to help them deal with stagnant water conditions. So he could deal without a filter and a small space, only for a time though, as it would be stressful for him to actually live this way. That’s why you shouldn’t keep betta’s in those pathetic 7L betta tanks with no heaters or filters. They may survive it, but it’s stressful for the fish to live like that…I found this article on the Betta’s natural habitat very interesting. You can find a picture of a betta in the wild here, which is also interesting.)

I removed the old tank, pushed the new tank into position and put the fish back in alongside his bucket of water. (I decided to risk using the new tank straight away, due to needing to place it in the same location.) Slowly, I filled the tank, watching as my fish explored every nook of his new territory. Finally, I got the heater and old filter on. I still need to create a baffle for the new filter so I can get that established. I need to buy a new background for the tank. The fish looks happy though, albeit still a little bewildered by all the new space.

He is finally in a proper sized tank. Finally, his tank doesn’t look so pathetic next to my big 120L.

I’m very pleased with it too, though I do think I want to make it even more heavily planted going forwards…

I started out with two shrimps, then one seemed to mysteriously vanish, so I bought two more shrimps. But instead of having four shrimps now, or even three shrimps, I appear to still have just one. I peer intently into the wild depths of my tank, behind the ornaments and plants, looking for a flash of red and finding none. What is happening to my shrimps? (Is it my danios? It’s probably my danios, isn’t it.) It would seem the only thing I can keep successfully in my big 120L tank are my cloud mountain minnows. (I am fairly sure some of my minnows are at least a year old now!)

Meanwhile, my betta fish is alive and well in his 19L. He has started to flare at me when I get too close to his tank sometimes, which I am taking as a sign of sass and not stress (google searching seems to support my theory). He seems very big even without the extra beard (i.e. when he flares his gills at me) and I am contemplating buying him a new and larger tank at some point. Having just bought a car, I probably shouldn’t, but I worry about him in his on the verge of being too small tank. I don’t want him to feel confined or bored.

I was also looking at old photos of my marimo, and indeed, they look exactly the same then as now. I’m going to be an old, old lady before they become noticeably big. I’ll have to leave them to someone in my will, won’t I?

Pros and Cons

Pros of fishkeeping-

They are entertaining

Fish have surprising amounts of personality. My minnows are shy and indifferent, my danios are lively and a bit boisterous , my betta is curious and always has an air of royal annoyance. My danios and minnows swim around, investigating their environment, chasing each other, displaying, they nose at the gravel and around my marimo seeking fallen items of food. They start shoaling around the food hatch at feeding times, and when I put in crushed peas I put it in the water by dipping my fingers in and they’ll eat right off my fingers. My betta skulks around his kingdom all day, making sure it’s ok. He watches me when I’m in the room, and follows my movements. He has a special ‘dance’ he does when I come close to the tank, in order to beg for food. He’s always hungry that one. I catch him staring up at the place where food appears, quietly waiting. He builds bubble nests and i have caught him just once, curled up on his betta hammock. He won’t play with me, but occasionally he will follow my fingers if I slowly move them across the side of the tank, and it’s nice to know he knows I’m alive, that I am there. (Even if all he wants is food! 🙄)

They are beautiful and interesting

Basically.

They are relaxing

I could watch my fish swim around for hours. As someone with an anxiety disorder, I find there’s something very therapeutic about watching fish. It instantly makes me feel a bit calmer, a bit more in control of my racing thoughts.

They aren’t demanding

You can miss feeding periods, you can go on holiday, you don’t need to exercise them, groom them or play with them. They don’t care when you leave in the morning or when you come back.

They are cheap

Many fish are between £5-£10 for a small group. My betta was £6. Their food is under a tenner. I can feed my minnows and danios peas and spinach as a treat, which is something I have in the freezer anyway. I can catch little flies and throw them into my Bettas tank, which again, cheap and easy and makes him very happy. (I err…Have lots of plants, which is where the tiny flies come from. They are harmless to my plants so there’s not much I can or want to do (using pesticides indoors is bad) so yeah, they aren’t garbage flies and there’s not swarms of them!!)

Cons of fishkeeping –

They require expensive equipment

The fish and their food is cheap, but the initial set up is hellishly expensive. A proper sized tank, filter, air pump (optional), heater (optional), substrate , decorations, plants (real and/or fake), water testing equipment, tank cleaning equipment (gravel cleaners, siphons, buckets, algae scrapers, sponges), thermometers…It quickly adds up to a frightening amount of money. This leads nicely on to:

They don’t have great emotional needs, but they have intense environmental requirements

I read an article which said that keeping fish is not about learning to keep fish, but learning to keep water. Ain’t that the truth. Your fish will only be non demanding and cheap if you invest time and money into setting up a decent sized tank (tank size dependent on what fish and how many!) and then take the time to maintain it properly. I do water changes every one-two weeks dependent on the tank and circumstances (my betta tank is too small for two weekly changes, and my big tank needs weekly water changes for a bit after I go on holiday as algae can build up from the food blocks I use, and waste build up too probably) I test the water monthly. I keep my Bettas tank heated. I have appropriate hiding places and foliage in both tanks. I have a baffle on my Bettas filter to still the water as fast water flow stresses him out. In contrast, I have an air pump for the big tank as my danios and minnows really like it. My danios in particular like to swim through the bubbles.

You don’t need to play with them or groom them, but you must watch over their environment carefully. I have thankfully not really witnessed the side effects of poor water quality or inappropriate environment (apart from my betta before I put the baffle on his filter), but I’m always aware of what stresses my fish and how to create and maintain the best environment for their needs.

I am not allowed to move, ever

I am not sure how I would go about moving a 120L tank… They are also impossible to catch. 😐 this is slightly problematic when you are living in a rental and are in the early stages of your career.

They have limited lifespans, and are prone to suddenly dying

You a) can’t get too attached because b) they are going to die, sooner rather than later and c) you are likely going to have to deal with the remains, if they don’t just mysteriously disappear. Dead fish aren’t any easier to catch than live fish. And without a garden to bury them I have no choice but to chuck them in the bin, which feels terribly heartless. :(

They are hard to keep track of

I don’t know how many fish I have. They swim too fast for a headcount, and they hide. My minnows especially love to tuck themselves behind ornaments or within the plants. I think I have 16 fish in my big tank…Maybe?

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Taking pictures of fish doesn’t get any easier the more fish you have

I got new fish today! My big tank is extremely stable. I was worried about my tanks when I went on holiday, but it turned out to be needless. The ammonia in my little tank spiked briefly, and I got some algae in my big tank, otherwise everyone was alive and well. Regular water changes (and for the big tank, gravel cleans) since and everything is back to normal.

My big tank had zero ammonia and zero nitrites and low nitrates even after going away, so I figured it was time to add more fish. As it was, my danios were being a little too boisterous as well, and I thought a larger community may make them calmer. I went to the pet shop and I talked to the guy there who said with my size of tank, I could get 50 small fish in there. That can’t be right, can it? He also said I could add 10 more fish today, as long as I kept a close eye on things in the coming weeks. I was wary, I had come there with the intention of getting 5 or 6 fish, but I let myself be persuaded. After all, they have discounts the more fish you buy. Thus I bought- 3 leopard/snow danios, 2 hi-fin zebra danios, and 5 silver white cloud mountain minnows. I tucked their bags into an insulated cooler bag, in the hope they wouldn’t freeze before I got them home, although thankfully I managed to get the bus quickly, and a limited stop bus at that, so it was ok. I got them home, cleaned the tank, changed the water, then put them in. Everyone is now shoaling beautifully. My new minnows are absolutely tiny, barely a centimetre long (so so tiny!!) and I hope the danios don’t bully them, but thus far everyone looks happy. It’s kind of amazing to watch them swimming around. There’s just so many of them! There’s 19 fish in the tank now…

I also picked up a new fake plant whilst at the store. The nymph episode has put me off real plants for life. I want to build up a more dense ‘forest’ in my tank though, as I’m hoping to eventually get some cherry shrimp. As shrimp are essentially fish food, I want to give them place to hide/escape. My minnows probably won’t care about them, they are extremely lethargic and indifferent fish, but my danios are very inquisitive and active and I am not sure how they will be around shrimp. I’m very pleased with this plant – its the huge bamboo one in the center. Yes, it’s nice and large and dramatic. Plus, it fits my Japanese theme nicely. I’m hoping to get some more medium sized plants to line up in front if it. This plant is unfortunately not silk like I wanted, but it’s a nice soft, gentle plastic. I’m hoping to get some silk plants for those medium ones. They have a softer, more realistic look. My Betta tank is silk only and it looks too pretty .

As for my betta, the only addition to his tank is a cut up coke bottle. Wait, it’s actually a thing called a baffle that you use to reduce the flow of the filter. My Betta was getting blown about by the outtake of the filter, and he seemed to be cowering in one part of the tank. So I googled about, found about the “water bottle hack” and did it. His water is a lot stiller now and he can explore his kingdom quite happily now without all those pesky bubbles. :) I’m not putting more fish in there, as he seems very content to lord over his kingdom all alone…