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Moved my fish to their new tank yesterday. Thus far, they are alive and seem to be happy. I have spotted several small snail like creatures since, sliding across the glass and on plants and ornaments, which is worrying. Apparently, snails can hitch a ride from the pet shop on live plants. I wish I knew that before I moved my fish. Do you know how hard it was to catch these fish? It was honestly stressful. They sure can swim fast. I guess when you are designed to exist at the bottom of the food chain, speed and the ability to hide yourself somewhere awkward is all you’ve got. It took at least half an hour to move five fish to a new tank right next door. I had to take out all the ornaments, filter and drain about 40% of the water, and when that failed, herd them with two nets.

There is no end to the way running an aquarium can surprise a person. That fish can. I perpetually feel like I’m doing something wrong and that’s there’s some problem to be fixed. So often, there is. All my Google terms on my phone are now fish related – what is this thing in my aquarium? Why is my fish behaving a certain way, how do fish get sick? If anything, I am developing a greater appreciation for our rivers and seas.

I spend too much time a) at the pet store and b) fretting over my fish.

“The four letter word got stuck in my head, the dirtiest word that I’ve ever said”

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I finally have a 120L (!) Fish tank. My fish have no idea what is in store for them.

The fish are still in their old tank, as I still need to get hold of some live plants for the new tank. But by next week my poor little fish in their hopelessly undersized tank will have a relative ocean available to them. As my mom pointed out, the old fish tank looks like a toy next to the proper tank, and it really hits home how bad it is to think of a 19L as anything more than a starter tank for a community of fish. Of course I’ll get more fish at some point, but I’m happy to make up for the months spent trapped in the tiny tank by leaving them to have all that space for themselves for a bit (Not to mention, I need to cycle the tank again!)

It’s taking ages to sort out this new tank.

After realising 19L is way, way too small to keep most fish I knew I had to get something bigger. The pet shop had recommended me 64L, but I figured I may as well get the biggest a) I could afford and b) would fit in my house. 120L matched both. The big challenge would be to find a nice, stable table to hold 120kg of water. I had been told that the stands that were made for the tanks were fine, but I didn’t like the narrow base- although reinforced with steel, I couldn’t see how such a narrow base could provide a stable surface. I looked at sideboards, cabinets, chest of drawers, desks and tables and finally, I stumbled upon workbenches and knew I’d found what I was looking for. I fell hard for the beautiful, solid wood workbenches sold by gardenlarch. The only problem was all their products were too long for my room. They did however mention that custom sizes were possible. I contacted them about a smaller desk and received a positive reply quickly. I was told to order the standard 1.45m and they’d then confirm the custom measurements with me. I happily did what I was told, emailed them back and received no response. Alarm bells should have gone off at this point and I should have enquired. Unfortunately, I was excited and this was making me impatient and trusting. The bench turned up – promptly and beautifully packed and most certainly 1.45m long. I was not quite sure what to do- I wanted the table already so I could get my tank. I wasn’t sure about returning something so large. My father said the table was beautiful, that the overhang would not be drastic and to just accept it. I accepted it. I wasn’t happy, but I was still too excited about the fish tank to care about much else.

My father came round to mine to set up the workbench and it was a stunning piece – very good quality wood, strong construction. I could even sit on it without any trouble, it was that strong. It was still too long. But now it really was too late. My dad said he could cut it down but he didn’t want to incase the wood became damaged and lost its strength. I was stuck with it. I tried to think of ways to get it to fit – to get it to look less dominating – but it would take quite a lot of reshuffling and I just didn’t have the energy for it. So in the end, the oversized table is where the smaller table should be and its looks way too big, and just not the right size for the tank, but hell, its strong and sturdy and beautiful. I really love it, despite its size. For the price I paid, I am quite shocked by the fact I got such high quality solid wood. Just look at that oak top! Honestly, I took a picture of just the oak top and I’m tempted to post it because its just stunning. They sanded it perfectly too so there’s no rough edges and the top surface feels so smooth. A good piece of oak furniture is usually hundreds of pounds, but this was under £200. I am now thinking of setting up some kind of canvas curtain to hide the amazing amount of fish keeping tools I have gathered over the months (and all those buckets) which I think will really complete it.

The bench was solid, untreated wood so I spent a couple of weeks oiling it with tung oil (a complete pain, but saved me £15) whilst I sorted out buying the fish tank. I already knew I wanted the Interpet Fish Pod – the curved design was wonderful, the price was right, and it came with all the bits I needed, even a whole lot of bits I don’t need – such as a heater. I had the tank delivered to my parents home because I knew I wouldn’t be in to receive it, and I wouldn’t be able to get the tank up the stairs to my apartment anyway.

Finally – last weekend my dad came to deliver the tank to myself. We went to the pet store first, where my father and I looked at all the fish, and I chattered away excitedly about what I wanted to get, and I must have sounded like I knew what I was on about as someone asked me for advice. That made me feel proud, especially for it to happen when my dad was there. I hope I gave good advice. I hope my dad was proud of me. Anyway, we bought gravel. Then we went back to mine to get started on setting the tank up. With my father around to help I could get the tank unwrapped and up on the bench, and my father helped me wash the new gravel and ornaments and get them into the tank. He also put in the lights for me, set up the filter, and attached the background. That makes it sound like I did nothing, but I was the one lugging bucket after bucket of water to fill the tank as he set up these things. 120L is a lot of tiny buckets of water. I am so glad I know that you don’t have to change all the water. Ever. Even changing 20% of this every week, initially, and every two weeks after that is going to be a challenge. I’m excited though. I can’t wait to get my fish in there and to see them finally with the set up they deserve. I can’t wait to get more fish! I am becoming slightly obsessed.

A week later the tank is still intact, I have gotten more marimo and I even managed to get hold of the beautiful red Torii gate- just what I needed to complete my Japanese theme! Although I am nervous about such bright red paint in the water (please don’t start flaking off or melting off.) I want some real plants for right in the back – some really long ones to create a nice, dense forest for the fish to go hide in to sleep in, or just if they want a breather from the open water. I have decided to do my tank in layers – tall ‘trees’ in the back, then smaller ‘trees’ in front, then a scattering of buildings and a cave partially tucked away in the ‘trees’, and finally the marimo and rocks scattered around the Torii gate in the front. Hopefully my fish will like it.

Sadly, my fish are now suffering from constipation which is making me very worried. It’s like, just two more weeks, fish. That’s all I need. Just endure a tiny bit longer. (Although. I do need to feed them more vegetables. I um…did not know fish needed vegetables.)

(It’s a good thing my fish are hardy: I am 100% learning as I go along here.)

Nothing sponsored here – bought everything myself and all opinions are my own :)

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My fish are still alive! Its been a challenge, as I came to realise I was woefully unprepared for this task and the pressure was on not to mess up regardless, with six tiny lives on the line. I have grown aware of the biological filter that exists in the tank, indeed everywhere. (Basically, the nitrogen cycle.) And that made me realise why a large tank was so much better. I decided to work with what I got though, still without funds to invest in a bigger tank at this moment, and set about learning how to make my fish tank a wonderful, clean place to live regardless.

First step: I  quickly got hold of a water testing kit. I then started doing small water changes every day, at which point I’d test what had come out the tank and record it. At the end of the week I’d log the values into a spreadsheet, and these then got transfered to a graph. I could make sure no values were at dangerous levels. And I could  compare this graph to one I have of the initial fish tank cycle and see how things were progressing.

Look, I’m an engineer. There had to be a spreadsheet and graphs.

I struggled, well I’m still struggling with the chemistry of all this but my sister is handily a chemist. During the first week of testing I sent my results to her to get them checked and she emailed me lots of tips. This weekend she came round to see me and she showed me how to properly prepare my test tubes for testing, carry out the test and interpret the results. It was fascinating watching my sister. This is a side of her I rarely see- serious and clever. I know my sister is those things, but around me she is, obviously, less formal. I couldn’t help but admire her. Chemistry is a foreign language that I’ve never understood even a single word of, but my sister is fluent.

These are my latest readings in the photo. Ammonia, nitrites and nitrates are all low. Finally. For a while, everything was pretty high, although not dangerously so (thankfully.) I’ve been using a mixture of boiled water and filtered water and it seems to be working. This week I’m decreasing the frequency of water changes and water testing, and the week after I want to repeat that but with more food.

Having fish is complicated and requires a surprising amount of effort. They are still adorable though. And it’s been fun investigating all this. Again, I’m an engineer. Problem solving and investigation are things I thrive on. I’m itching to develop my spreadsheet and watch my graph grow…obviously, I’m also pretty keen for my fish to stay alive and well too!

Minnows

Yesterday I overslept and took a taxi into work. The taxi driver was chatty and when he mentioned he had a four foot aquarium at home I became chatty too. The entire taxi ride we talked fish and fish care. By the time I got to work, I no longer cared I was tired, not feeling well, and hopelessly late. I let the taxi driver show me videos of his aquarium and walked slowly the last few steps into work, dreaming about having something like that.

I’ve always wanted fish, but have always been put off with the cost of the equipment, and how finicky it can be to look after them. Enough, I said to myself then. Said to myself today. You never know until you try. I went to the pet shop, and brought home five White Cloud Mountain Minnows. Spent a long time after I’d got them settled into their new home just watching them, captivated and amazed. They are adorable and a little silly…there’s just something a little silly about fish, isn’t there? I felt myself falling a little in love, even though I couldn’t tell them apart, or even which was male or female. My tank is too small technically, so I will have to save up for a bigger tank to move them to once they start to grow but for now my challenge is to keep these five, incredibly small and delicate creatures alive.

They are apparently quite hardy, suitable for low temperatures, forgiving of mistakes in water quality, and they won’t eat my marimo. I hope all these things are true.

Fingers crossed I wake up tomorow morning and still have five fish.