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To make a long story short, my name is Don. I'm a craps/blackjack dealer, former Buddhist monk, in a new apartment after leaving the monastery, and back into fish. My mom and dad had an aquarium back in '62--a 20g was HUGE back then--fish in college, and a salt water reef in Florida 10 years ago. This time I decided since I can't garden in the desert, I'll grow plants in a fish tank, and maybe keep some fish, too. (A very long story?)

When I get into something, I get into it. Buddhist monk, remember?

So I found a 55gal at a garage sale for $75, with stand, to start. I began to research. Watched a ton of You Tube videos. Bought a big sack of Miracle Grow organic potting soil, topped it with the leftover gravel from the garage sale, found a perfect driftwood stump on Mt. Charleston along with some great rocks, hauled back into town on the back of my Kawasaki Voyager, and started putting together my ******* bailing-wire-and-duct tape fish tank, complete with $10 Walmart utility light, five dollar gooseneck clip-ons, and plants. Did I mention I have been going around Petsmarts in Vegas and buying up their dying plants for $1 a piece?

As long as Petsmart is killing plants in a rack, we should take advantage and save as many plants and as much money as we can. They don't last long encased in plastic under intense lighting. I've gotten more than a hundred dollars retail for less than $20 bucks. Search and keep from being destroyed.

I appreciate all the info I've gotten here, and elsewhere, so maybe I can give a little back. I found an incredibly knowledgeable fish store owner--a true font of wisdom except for pricing and breath, which causes watery eyes and breathing problems of my own because of both--who has really increased my knowledge. (Did you know that the start of the "season" for importing fish begins in late May for South American and Asian species?) (Did you know that Brazil has changed their laws or rules relaxing the exportation of ornamental fish so we should be seeing some stuff not seen in years?)

As I said above, when I start a hobby, I jump in with both feet and complete immersion, so I hope I can pass along anything I pick up along the way. Once upon a time, I was into bonsai big time. 50 trees. Something I learned in that hobby I'm transferring to this one: When you get plants, trim the tops back before you plant them in your tank. When we would make a tree bonsai, we would severely cut back both the roots--to fit the top--and the top to fit the now much smaller root system. I believe the same thing applies to our aquarium plants, which balance themselves by shedding leaves, which melt. This might solve that problem.

Namasakan.

Formerly Ajahn Gatasaro, but you can call me Don.
 

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hi don,

what an interesting life you've led. i hope you find the forum welcoming. and thank you for the cool factoids.
 

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Hi there Don :wave:

Welcome to the forum. I'm fascinated with your leap from Buddhist Monk to dealer in Vegas. Quite the change to say the least.

Am looking forward to your success with you new planted tank.
 

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hi don,

what an interesting life you've led. i hope you find the forum welcoming. and thank you for the cool factoids.
My ex-wife said most people live one life, while I've lived ten. It's been interesting, which was the whole point.

I try very hard to see between the lines. I listen to three people with five opinions and figure out which is the best--for now. I'm busting at the seams to put in my hoards of fish, but I am intrigued by the LFS owner advising to wait until the summer, although by then I'll probably have another tank. I have very little furniture, so I have plenty of room for planted tanks, which is new to the hobby and a great addition. (New since the late 70's.)
 

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Hi there Don :wave:

Welcome to the forum. I'm fascinated with your leap from Buddhist Monk to dealer in Vegas. Quite the change to say the least.

Am looking forward to your success with you new planted tank.
Thanks, Romad. The story is even better than you'd think. I was a professional poker player with tilt problems. I started meditating to stay calm, became fascinated with Buddhism, and wanted to see how far I could take it. (I was a dealer after I went bust during the WSOP in 2010.) Disrobing is not as big a deal in Thai Buddhism as it is in the Abrahamic religions. Most Thai men become a monk at some point in their lives, if only for a week. Seriously. A Caucasian monk is pretty rare in the US. A year is a long time, both for them and me.

Meditating, becoming Buddhist, and then becoming a monk was the best thing I've ever done. I'll always feel like a Buddhist monk. It changed my life.

As for my success, I'm more interested in my failures. Those are what teach us. Who has ever learned from success? I still don't have as much patience as I would like, but more than I've ever had before. I am thinking that patience in this hobby is the most important ingredient.

Namasakan.
 

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Welcome to the forum!

Did you use potting soil or potting mix? There's a bit of a difference between the two...
Ah, good question! Yes, I know there is a difference, now that you bring it up. I know it was Miracle Grow Organic (SOMETHING). I'm guessing it was potting soil rather than potting mix. Home Depot. $10 for enough to put a solid 2"+ in the bottom of my 55. I'm okay with it, but it is dirty. I have gravel on top, but if I break through the gravel for some reason--like, planting--it takes some time to settle back down. But the situation seems to be working, if not always aesthetically. However, the subject and experience of a dirt tank, a true underwater garden, is right in my wheel house.

Speaking of the natural world, I added 6 Bleeding Heart tetras to the tank today. I figure, $6 bucks at Petsmart, why not? Super glad I got these guys. Their color is already improving and I love the black and white dorsals. What I really like is their shoaling. They are schooling fish on steroids. They move as a unit, not a loose confederation but as one fish. My zebra danios, two are close and the other hangs out by himself. They've already figured out I am the dude with the food. I recommend the BHTs, highly.

Going to need a groundskeeping crew next. The housekeeping unit.
 

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The more I watch the shoal of BHTs, the better I like them. One of the inevitable paths when one gets into aquariums is "Bigger Fish Syndrome." A person starts off with bettas--pronounced bet-ta, not bay-ta, grrrr--guppies and neons. Then they think that bigger fish are more interesting, esp if they eat smaller fish. This is a recognizable condition. The beauty of the bleeding hearts is they act so much in unison, they appear to be a large fish, which is exactly what shoaling fish do in nature as a defense. I think this is an excellent treatment for Bigger Fish Syndrome.

Just a thought.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Jenn,

Checked at Home Depot. It's Miracle Grow Potting Mix. The phosphate is .05%, which I understand is good enough.

Don


At some point I am going to redo this tank, in maybe 6 months if I can last that long. I think I can do it better.

I'm researching Siamese algae eaters and panda corys. I know corys aren't recommended for gravel-bottomed tanks, but I need something for a clean up crew.
 

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From the greatest show of all time (maybe not but) WKRP in Cincinatti's Dr. Johnny Fever when he was exiled to overnights, "Is there anybody out there?" Not sure if anyone is reading this, so maybe I'll let it go.

But. Before I go.

I'm loving the sht out of my fish tank. I dunno, aquarium? Underwater garden featuring fish. Don't miss the plants.

It's the fish. My school of BHTs still delight. Rarely separated. Never for long. Have gouramis now, power blues and honey, two each. I was only keeping one each, but the fish store had a Buy 1 Get 1 sale, so I have four. The honeys kind of hang out together, but the Powder Blues could care less. My danios still do the two and one thing. The pandas? I've only seen one. Their interactions are all different. Fun to watch.

Is there somewhere else fish addicts talk?
 

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Try hitting chat, link is at the top of the page. You need 10, maybe 15 posts to access it, folks start showing up around 9pm central time.
 

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Hi Wayne. I found your thread today. What a delight to read your story! Thank You for sharing! I'm now subscribed to this thread so when you ask, "Is anyone out there?"... I am! :lol:
 
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Hi Wayne. I found your thread today. What a delight to read your story! Thank You for sharing! I'm now subscribed to this thread so when you ask, "Is anyone out there?"... I am! :lol:
Some call them stalkers. I call them fans.

Thank you for your kind words. I like observing my tank. A 55 is big enough to be an ecosystem, at least my definition of one. I'm fascinated by the school behavior. My danios are 2 + 1. The third doesn't spend much time at all with the other two. While the BHTs are glued together. I have seen one of the panda corys, but not the other. They definitely aren't schooling. Perhaps if I had more? I could, of course, but what if they would rather be off doing their own thing, without the peer pressure? Obv the one danio would not have been Mr. Lonely if I had just him by himself.

Not sure about all my plants. I have lots of different varieties, so I'm sure I'll be moving them around as they grow and I see how they fit. Someone said "I keep water, not plants or fishes." I'm starting to understand this.
 

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No the Pandas will not school... in fact no Cory will "school". They are a shoaling fish which means they will hang out together and apart and need each other for comfort in their surroundings but a sign they are in fact comfortable is that they WILL go off on their own. "schooling" is only when they swim "as one" like your BHTs. Upping your BHTs to a bigger group will look amazing too and if they come from the same original group at the store then I wouldn't be too concerned about quarantining the new group JMHO. If it's a new batch they just got in... then anything new added now should really be QT'd. There is always a danger now that your tank is established of introducing something bad. QT should be more than 3 weeks btw.

A note on Pandas. They are one of the more delicate Cory and for some reason, keepers find it hard to keep them longer than 6 months, myself included! It IS however fascinating when releasing any new batch of Cory into your tank, once sitting on the bottom any pre-existing Cory in the tank will come and greet them and take them off to go explore the tank. Proof of their social nature.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Seahorse, that's absolutely fascinating. I had it opposite, that shoaling was the tight Thunderbirds formation and schooling was hanging out. Learned something new today. Or rather learned more because you included some very cool observations.

+1 about the corys.

I will eventually have room for ten more fish, I think, although I'm not going for heavily stocked. The plants are going to be my true passion. Those are where the challenge is, although aquascaping is going to come in a close second. I'm not a talented designer. I really don't have an eye for it, like others do whose work I've seen on You Tube. I put up a picture on the Aquarium Log page. Will be cool to add to it as time goes by and see how it develops. For now, I'm good with it. The plan is in six months to move it to my bedroom and replace where it is now with something bigger. Then, I'll be able to redesign, but, to be honest, I think I will pretty much keep it the way it is. I am satisfied with the design, however, I will certainly listen to suggestions!

What I really love is the driftwood I found on Mt Charleston. Most people don't realize that we have an incredible alpine environment not far from Las Vegas. I don't know what the wood is, but it's really hard. Eventually I plan to make a trip or two over to Cali in search of manzanita driftwood.

Question: Are rainbowfish shoaling or schooling?

Thanks so much for the information. This hobby has changed a lot in forty years. lol
 

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The plants are going to be my true passion. Those are where the challenge is, although aquascaping is going to come in a close second. I'm not a talented designer. I really don't have an eye for it, like others do whose work I've seen on You Tube. I put up a picture on the Aquarium Log page. Will be cool to add to it as time goes by and see how it develops.
Are you kidding me!? Your tank looks fantastic! :-D I'm really looking forward to see how your tank progresses. And that piece of wood...WOW! It is gorgeous. I'm very jealous. I think you did a fantastic job with your tank so far.

Question: Are rainbowfish shoaling or schooling?
I had a small group of dwarf rainbows for awhile (before my tank got a disease and all but one died off :cry:) and they would school together pretty often. They would do their own thing for awhile, but most of the time stuck together. They are really neat fish and once you have them for a while their colors really pop! My single dwarf rainbow right now schools with my diamond tetras, it's really cute.
 

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Oh! And if you're looking for neat bottom feeders, I highly suggest checking out Panda Garras. ( Garra flavatra - The Free Freshwater and Saltwater Aquarium Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit - The Aquarium Wiki ) I have a small group of 3 and they are by far my favorite fish. They fly around the tank cleaning like crazy. Sometimes when I put my hand in the tank to clean or rearrange things they will come and clean me, haha! They are just really neat fish to watch and it seems like you enjoy doing that.

I will warn you, they are kinda hard to come by. But they are getting more popular. From your earlier posts it seems like you have a local fish store guy you've kinda become friends with. I'm sure you could talk to him and see if he could get them in for you. That's what I did to get mine and I sure don't regret it! :-D

Here's a little video I found on YouTube of them...
 

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Shukai, many thanks for your encouragement. The picture doesn't come close to how beautiful that wood is. My honey gouramis love all the hiding places it provides.

The panda garras are on my list now. (Found a group of 4 on the net for $25--free ship) which is probably cheaper than I can get them locally. Now I need to think about something for the top of the water column...maybe. I'm going to be extremely choosy about the rest. The local guy is from LA and knows his stuff--or at least knows a lot more than me so he could be completely full of it and I wouldn't know. However, some of the stuff he's told me has turned out to be spot on.

Thanks for the good stuff. Love your avatar. Beautiful betta, which is going to be the showpiece eventually in my tank. (Does kind of make me crazy to hear people pronouncing it "bay-ta" and not "bett-a. Two Ts! Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet and not-ready-for-prime-time software! It is NOT a fish!!!) :)
 

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Oh wow, that's a good deal for the pandas. You'll have to let me know if you decide to get them. :)

And thank you! That's my betta, Lambert. I'm sad right now however because he tore his tail fin and it doesn't seem to want to grow back. :( Hopefully with more time and care he can be as pretty as he once was!

And that's cool that you want to have a betta in your tank... but I'll warn you, you might not be able to. Some betta do just fine in a large community tank. I've done it in the past. I was lucky that my boy was so docile. However, many times you'll get one that will hunt down all your other fish. I've tried with two of my boys recently to put them in my large community tank and it didn't work out. So be prepared to move your boy out of the main tank to his own place just in case he terrorizes your community tank. ^_^;;
 
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