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Hello and welcome to my attempt to chronical my freshwater tank journey from 10 gallons to 75 gallons. I have some technical issues to resolve (starting with making all my pictures less than 2MB) but my intention is to tell my story just for the fun of it. I've admired other tank threads on this site which have served as my inspiration.

So here is the story:

Three years ago we bought the boys a 10 gallon starter aquarium for Christmas. I had kept tropical fish (without much success) 15 years ago, and had not learned much about aquariums in the intervening years! With a lot of excitement and some bad advice, we stocked that first tank with two black widow tetras, a serpae tetra, three danios, and a corydoras catfish. The boys were 1 and 3 at the time (1st & 2nd picture).

Fast forward three years, and my excitement and knowledge had grown to the extent that I wanted a larger aquarium. I had been daydreaming about this for months, but always ran up against my husband's plea for "no more pets!" So I resigned myself to improving my little 10 gallon underwater world, and sought to tweak the tank to make the remaining occupants (the original two black widows) happier. No matter what I did, they would hang out in the lower corner behind a plant until the lights went out, when I would see them swimming around the rest of the tank.

Here is the 10 gallon, toward the end of its incarnation as our primary tank (3rd picture). It has some live plants and mystery snails.

Suddenly, my husband suggested we might get a larger aquarium. Before he could reconsider, I rushed the family to several aquarium stores until we had found and purchased this larger aquarium. Luckily for me a complete aquarium setup (stand and hood) looks much smaller in a show room than set up in your living room, because we ended up with 75 gallons! (4th picture). Hence if you view my aquarium profile you'll see I named it "Gee, Honey, it's BIG," my husband's reaction when he stepped back and viewed it in our library.


This was to be a completely natural, planted aquarium. We started with Caribsea's EcoComplete substrate mixed with some small, naturally colored gravel. I wanted a dark substrate because although I love the look of the natural gravel in the smaller tank, I was forever "losing" the inhabitants that blended into it. I wanted to see the colors of the fish and snails quite well. We have an Eheim 2217 canister filter and a shiny black backdrop.

The large river rock has an interesting story behind it: my father collected it in the early 70s when he was at Fort Dix for National Guard camp. He and my mother had a rock garden at the time. The rock split in half, and his sergeant major has the other half! It has been in my dad's garden all this time, much weathered.

Basil tests the strength of the glass covers (5th picture).

The first thing we did was to move our two tetra friends into their new home. We figured we owed it to them to live out their natural lives in a nicer environment. To our pleasant surprise, they immediately changed their behavior and began to swim everywhere...even with the lights on! I suddenly realized, after three years, that these were really beautiful fish. When they bank around a curve and the light catches their scales, they gleam like polished silver.

So although it upset the original stocking plan (which was considering gouramis), I added 6 more black widow tetras. After all, this tank was not designed to be challenging with regard to the inhabitants...and I already knew these fish were hardy. If they'd survived my learning curve in a 10 gallon, they would surely flourish during my learning curve in a planted 75. And did I mention they were pretty? (6th picture)
I wish I could upload the video I took of them when we first put them in their new home...is it possible for fish to be excited?!?

(More to follow...time for the weekly water change!)
 

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Good thing that you learnt from your mistakes!
Fantastic set-up BTW! :)
 

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Good thing that you learnt from your mistakes!
Fantastic set-up BTW! :)
Thanks! I like to think I learnt from my mistakes; the first one being "do your own research." That way if you DO get good advice at a big chain pet store, you recognize it. :-D
 

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For our next school of fish, we considered cherry barbs. We wanted to try a completely different type of fish, and one that was red. Then the gentleman at the fish store told us that barbs eat plants, and that most planted tanks are tetra tanks! We switched gears again and came home with 8 serpae tetras (1st & 2nd picture).

These are lovely, too! Like little pink and red salmon. They didn't shoal as much as we'd hoped, but thanks to the numbers and space in the tank neither species picks on the other and any aggressive behavior has been limited to the occasional schoolmate chase. The black widows are much more sedate...and the serpaes forage on the bottom for dropped tidbits the black widows don't bother about.

My husband wanted a fish that schooled more tightly. We thought about neon tetras, but I worried about reports of them being inbred. Black neon tetras were considered until we couldn't find any healthy looking ones locally. Then I read an article that brought bloodfin tetras to my attention. I had never heard of them. I knew I wanted to complete the tank with corydoras or similar catfish, so a school that would swim near the surface like bloodfins sounded like a good fit.

Another trip to the store netted a dozen bloodfin tetras. Wow! These guys make the active serpaes seem like they are swimming in slow motion and the black widows look like they are anchored. They may swim more near the surface than the others, but they also pick through the substrate. They don't school tightly, but if it looks like one of them has found something to eat, suddenly a crowd of them are there! And their color; like pearls, or maybe opals. Stunning. (3rd picture)

Sadly, the bloodfins are so fond of eating that they chased the mystery snails back into their shells and ate their algae wafers. I moved Bluey into the betta tank so (s)he would have a better chance of eating. Alas Goldie died :cry:...which I can't swear was due to starvation but I do wonder. (4th picture). I love Mystery snails but I am getting leary of owning them because I am beginning to suspect I don't know enough about their care.
 

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Oh wow, your family is going to get so much enjoyment out of that tank. Grats! It's looking great too with the arrangement, and the plants!
 
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Oh wow, your family is going to get so much enjoyment out of that tank. Grats! It's looking great too with the arrangement, and the plants!
My younger one says he "really doesn't like the fish," but he's the first one there to help me feed them or clean the tank! And even my husband, who was resistant to the idea of more animal life in the house, admits he likes it :lol:. Thanks for your compliments...I hope the plants continue to do well.
 

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Meet Mr. Beta Alpha Fish

The 10 gallon was redone completely for Mr. Beta Alpha Fish. He came home with us in November 2012 as a party favor from my nephew's Bar Mitzvah and I have enjoyed reading and learning about these lovely fish. No little vase for our guy! He does seem a tad small for a 10 gallon, but the 2.5 gallon I originally housed him in did not please me. It is poorly designed and I could not see him very well.

The boys helped break down the 10 gallon as we prepared to redo it as a betta fish's paradise.

The last picture shows Mr. Beta Alpha Fish's new home. I wanted floating plants for the 75 gallon, but with a glass cover and not a lot of circulation I was not sure what would work. The LFSs don't have a lot of options anyway, so for now I just floated what was left of the anacharis (after it "cooked" in the betta tank) and it seems happy enough. Unfortunately, that corner of the 10 gallon is now bare and needs some attention. I attached the lacy java fern to the Roman ruins (I took Latin in high school and college, and the ruins just make me smile. The T. Rex skull is for my dinosaur-obsessed 6-year-old. Mr. Beta Alpha Fish is hard to take seriously because of his frills, so corny décor works for his world). The plant in the foreground was sold to me as a "crypt spiralis," but I have not found it in any of my books and it has not melted like crypts are supposed to. I have two in the 75 gallon and they are growing like everything else in there, despite being coated in what I assume is diatomes. We also replaced the faded coral reef background on this tank for a picture of plants and rocks after this picture was taken.

I've received some good advice from betta keepers on this site about suitable plants for a tank that is kept at a cozy 80 degrees F, so I am hoping to get to the LFS this weekend for some more plants.
 

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Tank is looking great :) So happy to hear that you've learned and grown from your mistakes.
I love all the plants in the 75, they look beautiful. As does the stone.

I do have to point out though, the Eco Complete substrate is too rough for Corydoras and most bottom dwellers :( Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
 

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, the Eco Complete substrate is too rough for Corydoras.
Thanks; I did wonder about that, and if I'd read this forum first I would have perhaps tried play sand although I love the dark look of the Eco Complete. I don't recall the bags telling me the grain size and I ordered it online.

Now I'm getting worried about the need to QT after my scare, yet I don't have a QT tank. I'm not sure how I'm going to get over that hurdle as I do want to add more fish to my tank. Do you have any insights in to what would work well in a tetra tank but not be a tetra?
 

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I love your family, and your tanks! The 75 is shaping up to be a beauty, and your lil' Betta baby is adorable - nothing wrong with a bit of Kitsch here and there to keep things fun and whimsical - you should see my daughter's betta tank, it's all over purple sand and mermaids! The boys look like they're having so much hands-on fun setting up the 10g tank!

I think I saw some C.Spirallis - in the picture of the big grey/brown rock with a crack in it and the beautiful Bloodfin Tetra? C.Spirallis is the tall grassy plant that is working really hard on taking over my 55, I love it - and it doesn't *always* melt when I move it :)


Now I'm getting worried about the need to QT after my scare, yet I don't have a QT tank. I'm not sure how I'm going to get over that hurdle as I do want to add more fish to my tank.
Did I miss a post? What 'scare?!' Is everything okay? *worries*

In my opinion, a QT tank is a really important thing to have, and can save you a TON of heartbreak along the way - especially while you're still actively stocking your tank. It's worth the $30 to pick up an extra 10g tank 'kit.' Even if you have to stick it in an out-of-the way corner of the house, or the laundry room, they can really be worth their weight in gold (that's a LOT of gold!). It also gives you the ability to remove a fish who is being a bully in the blink of an eye, or get a fish that has been sick/bullied to a safe place where you can keep him isolated and stress-free - plus medicate if necessary without worrying about what will happen to the others in the tank - contra-indicated meds with some species, but not others/cycle issues/plant-life - all that fun stuff can really be worrisome if you find yourself in a situation that requires medicating (which hopefully, you won't!). . .

I'm not so good with stocking advice, and I'm not terribly familiar with the species you have already (though I did very much enjoy your descriptions of their very different behaviors), but I hope you figure out what you're looking for - very much excited for the next update to your lovely tank!
 

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Thanks, Chesherca! And thanks for checking in on my tank. I love your daughter's betta tank BTW; I agree, kitsch and bettas just work together somehow.

I hope to find the time to update this thread soon; harder now that the semester is under way.

I love the Crypt spiralis; I now have three in there and may add more if the Vallisneria continues to shrink. I am so eager for something to grow up to the surface and start to trail along, as the top of the tank looks bare and I want to cut the light a bit.

Super glad I did not get a deeper tank!
 

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I hope your Vals work out for you, I never really had much luck with them. They and my soft water didn't seem to get along, though they were kind of THERE for quite some time, lol. My C.Spiralis doesn't trail. . . it's kind of. . . wooshy instead. You can see it all over my 55g tank to understand what I mean. You might want to look into getting some Water Sprite or Frogbit and letting it float if the Vals don't take off. The fish will LOVE the shade and reward you for it, promise! And I wouldn't worry about buying more crypts - if they like your tank, they'll spread. I started with 3 pieces, too! Just be sure to give them a root tab, and leave them alone. It took mine about 3 months or so to really get going again after the move, even though they didn't melt. . . :) You'll get your jungle sooner or later!
 

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. You might want to look into getting some Water Sprite or Frogbit and letting it float if the Vals don't take off.
Yes; I just did get some water sprite in fact but (and here's a dumb question) how do you get it to float properly, with the roots down and the leaves up? Mine is just floating sideways like it got torn out of the substrate. I've thought about hanging a small bead or something off of the bottom to try and make it float the way I want until it reorients. And I may try and reorient my canister outflow like you did because right now anything floating just swirls around the tank and gets stuck on the filter intake. The fish seem to like the current, though, so I don't know. Just got the plant on Thursday.
 

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Could be right about it being grown in the substrate! WaterSprite can be grown either way - rooted or floating. But it needs bright lighting, so I can't really grow the stuff unless I float it close to the tank lights. It's probably going to go through a bit of an acclimatisation period before it really starts growing again - ESPECIALLY if it was grown at the bottom of the tank - the old leaves will likely die off and new ones will grow that are better suited to floating. It'll fix itself eventually! As long as the roots are IN the water, and the water is somewhat calm - just leave it alone. Water Sprite is amazing in that new bits of plant can grow from leaves that you would have pulled out as dead! It's a pretty cool process to see, but very difficult to be patient!

Warning about that filter flow - floating plants don't like it. I lost a lot of my WS while I was trying to figure out the ideal flow on my filters - and before that when I had a HOB. You have some of the larger types of Tetra, like the Black Skirts - I'm not sure about them, but I *think* most of the smaller Tetra will prefer a slower water flow - it's just the kind of water they're built for. Double check me on this, but it might be something worth looking into.

You could also try building a plant coral to keep the WS from blowing around too much and damaging itself while keeping the output higher. I have a piece of tubing strung between two suction cups to keep the duckweed in place in my 10g tanks, lol. It's crude, but it works :) Do a forum search, member DKRST recently posted up pictures for me on his 'over engineered' floater corral - it's really NICE - not ghetto like mine, and keeps the floaters relatively still on one side of the tank.
 

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Could be right about it being grown in the substrate! ...It's probably going to go through a bit of an acclimatisation period before it really starts growing again - ESPECIALLY if it was grown at the bottom of the tank - the old leaves will likely die off and new ones will grow that are better suited to floating. It'll fix itself eventually!

Warning about that filter flow - floating plants don't like it. I lost a lot of my WS while I was trying to figure out the ideal flow on my filters - and before that when I had a HOB.
Aha, it must have been grown in the substrate then. I may well adjust the outflow on the canister to have it pointing at the wall...funny, I did that at first because I did not have the tank completely filled yet and I could not stand the sound of the water falling (so noisy). As long as you have had no issues with oxygenation I will try it. I don't like the current myself, not sure about the fish! I think they can handle "slow moving streams," whatever rate that is. So thanks again for the advice.
 

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Just keep an eye on things, you'll know if they're having oxygen issues. Only suggest that you do wait until the medication has been cleared from the tank before making any dramatic changes ;) So far, I'm really loving the gentle flow, and my fish seem to be also. *crosses fingers* that it stays that way!
 

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What's growing in the 75 gallon?

Let me start with the good:
Java fern: this did not impress me much at first, but now that the roots are starting to grow and new leaves are coming out of the rhizomes I am liking it more. Plus there are little plantlets all over the original leaves (which were what did not impress me...too big and pointy), three of which I have already detached and tied to the Roman ruins in the betta tank.
Crypt spiralis: LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! It is tall, wavy, kind of curly, and easy to keep in the substrate. And it is growing happily.
Amazon sword plants, two varieties: The taller one is growing new leaves and I am pruning away the older ones as they get brown. I'll be curious to see if it ever grows any taller. The smaller one is holding its own, considering I've moved it three times since planting. I have a rock on top of it to keep it in the substrate, and it has a runner with little baby sword plants growing so in time I should have more of them, although I'm not sure where I'll PUT them!
Bacopa caroliniana: I love these, too. I planted them too far apart I suppose but they are growing taller, have not shed all their lower leaves, and stay in the substrate.
Now the bad:
My beloved Cabomba caroliniana, which was growing at the top and looked great until it decided to break off and float around, and each time I put it back in it is smaller. I finally took the shortest bits out and put them in the betta tank and the new 10 gallon QT/hospital/grow out tank.
And the ugly:
Vallisneria: Not a happy plant. I moved it away from the filter uptake tube thinking it did not like something there, but the leaves are snapping off at an alarming rate. I threw away the ickiest looking plants when I replanted, and am waiting to see if anything happens. Neither this nor the Cabomba is supposed to be a tricky plant to grow, so I'm beginning to wonder if they just don't like the neighborhood.

Sooo...in the new grow out etc. tank I have: Hygrophilia corymbosa, Ludwigia repens, and Hydrocotyle leucocephala waiting to grow up a bit before joining the larger tank. And there is Ceratopteris thalictroides (Water Sprite) floating in the 75 gallon. I may plant it in the substrate just to offer more plants to swim in, as the Cabomba have disappointed.

The picture is of the java fern leaf roots.
 

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Awww, sorry about the Vals and the Cabomba :( Getting a tank started with plants is always a process. Some plants will do really well in one tank and fail in another, even though conditions seem the same, and regardless of research done that implies that a particular plant should thrive. . . sometimes they just don't! Stick to what you KNOW likes your tank. Crypts come in a ridiculous array of different types, and even JavaFern has different leaf forms. Sword plants . . .depending on the type that you have, can grow to be very large, so you have quite a broad range of options available for replacing those that didn't do quite so well :)

LOVE the picture of the Java fern with all its daughters. I've always really liked how they reproduce. Very cool. . . and congrats on your little daughter sword plant! :D
 

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Casualties

Well, yes, there have been a few. The water parameters have remained stable, and the tank never did spike ammonia. I tested every day initially and now I am testing a few times a week and doing 33%-50% water changes weekly.

So in addition to Goldie the gold mystery snail, I have lost two black widow tetras and one serpae. The one black widow was not a surprise, as it was very small and rather oddly shaped. The only time I saw it eat was when I put blood worms in the tank (I use my turkey baster so I can try and feed everyone). The other was a complete surprise and I do not know how to account for it.

The serpae caused me some anxiety, as I have not been quarantining my new shoals. I have been buying from good stores with healthy tanks, and I don't have a suitable quarantine tank available (my husband would NEVER consent to the purchase of another tank!). The worrisome fish began to have what looked like mold growing on its face. Of course I researched ich immediately, but the symptoms did not seem to correlate. The fish was hiding in a corner behind the Amazon sword and not swimming with the others, but did not appear to be in discomfort.

Imagine how hard it is to net one small fish in the midst of all that greenery...with the distortion of the water working against you...and your wife and two kids shouting less-than-helpful advice from the periphery! Yet somehow my husband managed to do it and we placed the fish in the only other tank available, an ancient hexagonal 2 gallon. I wanted to observe it. I don't know if the stress of netting and relocating it contributed to its demise, but the fish died two days later. Fortunately no one else in the tank has shown similar symptoms, although there are two bloodfins who looks rather scraggly compared to the others, and another black widow who is small and whom I don't see eat much. Of course if I lose another black widow I will be down to 5 and will have to get more.

On February 12 and 13 I lost the two scraggly-looking bloodfins. The larger of the two was definitely bowed in shape, and each had a less sleek look to them, like they were ruffled. I can't describe it, but their fins were jagged along the edges and all their scales looked--well, like velvet does when you rub it against the nap.

Then I read on Tropical Fishkeeping Forum that it might be parasitic, and that others had successfully treated fish that were not eating. So I read up and decided to try it. While at the shop buying API General Cure I also bought a 10 gallon tank and decided to set up a QT/hospital/grow-out tank. I told my husband it was temporary, but necessary. I don’t think he was too happy with me.:-(

This tank has playground sand as its base. I am using my original filter from the other 10 gallon (the crappy TopFin that came with the tank, but it still runs!) and 6500K daylight CFLs from Lowe's. It is in the family room, as I could not find room in the library where the other two tanks reside.

I did a course of API's General Cure on the main tank and also fed some medicated flake for 5 days. The two small gaunt ones do not eat the flake, but I was concerned that the problem might be crossing species and so I wanted to treat the tank.

What a lot of stress I caused! The black widows are showing no more signs of it, but the bloodfins and the serpaes began schooling and zipping around the tank like they were scared. This behavior appears to be worse when the tank lights are on, as if they have become photosensitive. When the lights are off they are swimming at the surface and are not grouped as tightly. I dropped the photoperiod to 4 hours and had the lights come on during the day, when there is already ambient light in the room. I could not wait to get the carbon to put in the tank!

It has now been two weeks and three 33% water changes since I put the carbon in the filter. The only fish who still seem photosensitive are the bloodfins, but they are getting better.

I had successfully put the two small, gaunt black widows in my QT/hospital tank, but the smaller one died yesterday. He had been behaving stangely, so I was not too surprise. His tankmate however will eat any frozen food, but turns his nose up at flakes or pellets! Ah well. He seems lonely in there so I am considering adding two more black widows at some point. I want to continue to fatten him up and make sure he is OK before adding him back to the main tank, which only has 4 black widows in it. They are not nipping, but they do seem to be chasing each other around more now that their numbers have decreased.
 

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I was just about to send you a PM to see how things were going over there!
I'm sorry you've been having a bit of a rough patch. . . sometimes things that fish have been carrying for ages just get out of hand when they're under stress from being shipped/moved. Stocking, to me, has always been an exciting, but nerve-wracking process. I really hope that things settle down for you soon. . .
 
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