Starting a new aquarium


I asked for money for Christmas, and used my haul to set up a 15-gallon tank in our living room. It’s good to be back to this – I’d missed it.

I had a series of small tanks right after Vicki and I got married, which rapidly culminated in a 44-gallon room-corner tank that I ran from 1997 to 2001 in Norman, Oklahoma, from 2001-2006 in Santa Cruz, California, and from 2006 to 2007 in Berkeley. I didn’t try to set it up during our one year in Merced, and made only one brief, abortive stab at it after we moved to Claremont in 2008. That tank sat in our garage until I sold it last year.

This time I wanted to go for something a little more modest. Plus, we have a pretty full house already so whatever tank I got had to fit into existing space. This one sits on a (very sturdy) living room table that was otherwise only holding whatever laptops and tablets no-one was using at the moment.

I bought the tank and set it up on Monday, with gravel I’d saved from my old setup and some new aquarium decorations and a few strands of anacharis (Egeria densa). I’ll add more plants in the future, but I wanted to stick with something cheap and hardy during the run-in period. On Wednesday London and I went back to the store to get some fish. We settled on five platies (Xiphophorus sp.) and one little plec (Hypostomus plecostomus).

The plec died today. Not super surprising, since the tank will still be cycling for the next few weeks and it’s natural to lose a few fish, even of the very hardy varieties, until things settle down. The plec had been behaving oddly from the first minute – it spend most of its time lying on the bottom positively panting, despite being in a well-oxygenated tank. And I never saw it eat at all, which is in my experience extremely odd for a plec. Fortunately the store reimbursed us and we got a little gold mystery snail (Pomacea bridgesii) to munch algae and the odd bit of missed food.

The platies are all doing great. They’re all very active, have immense appetites – that we are careful not to indulge – and show lots of interesting behaviors. More on them next time.

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3 Responses to Starting a new aquarium

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    Sorry about your plec.

    I just skimmed the page about cycling an aquarium. This was a healthy reminder of why I don’t attempt to keep fish — the whole process seems terrifyingly complex. One is rather left wondering how any fish ever survives in the wild.

    (I am glad you are doing it, though!)

  2. Matt Wedel says:

    I know it seems terrifyingly complex, but it can be boiled down to a handful of maxims that, if followed, pretty much always work. Let me see if I can compose them on the fly:


    Answer: I did, but decided to promote them to their own post, which is now up here.

  3. Mike Taylor says:

    Awesome outcome to my comment! 🙂

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