Non Typical Tools

I thought I would list some tools that I’ve found really helpful, but aren’t listed in any tank manual.

  1. Straw
  2. Chopstick
  3. Baby nose/mouth cleaner
  4. Dr. Clean magic eraser original

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I use my straw all the time. It’s useful for pulling up food that might have fallen to the bottom or snail poop. You can also use it to scrape off small specs of algae. If you have a large tank, it of course becomes more obsolete as straws only come so long.

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I use my chopstick all the time. It is a wooden chopstick that is dishwasher safe. It is not one of the disposable ones you get with take out. Those are more porous and take in bacteria, which is why you are supposed to dispose of them. You can buy them fairly cheap online or stop by your local Asian market. Mine is called H Mart, so you can check your area for one. It’s a very popular large chain store. I use my chopstick to move or adjust decorations, scrape algae or dislodge a stuck snail.

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I’m not sure what the official name for this is so I’m just gonna call it BNMC for baby nose/mouth cleaner. I picked this up from Target for $1.99. I use the BNMC for tank checks. It holds a lot of water and I use it to fill all the little test tubes in my water kit. I also use it for my Marimo holder to remove all the water.

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Lastly I recently discovered Mr. Clean magic erasers. The originals don’t contain any chemicals but the kitchen and bath versions do so be careful. The eraser is great because it doesn’t scratch acrylic like the magnet scrapers to. You could also use a regular sponge if you so desired. I like this sponge instead because it dries quickly and doesn’t smell.

If I think of anymore tricks I’ll add them here as an edit.

Owing a Tank at College

When I first read the school handbook I turned to the dorming page. I first checked what pets were available on campus. I was dismayed as I saw fish only listed. As per custom my school only allowed fish. I was super bummed. Fish are boring, I thought; fish are hard to clean, I thought. Well I thought wrong.

I love owning pets, which you would know if you read my about me page. The only problem is almost all of my little loves are nocturnal. I wanted something cheap*, small, and fun to watch. What else but a fish? So that’s were it all started.

College is a super stressful time. I got my fish a little ways into first trimester. She’s provided me a lot of joy. When I was stressed out and/or procrastinating I would just stare at my fish and snail. It was so much more fun than I thought it would be. I know everyone is different, but really give it a try.

Be aware that if you are a party hosting person that you don’t get too crazy. Your fish is your responsibility and if someone knocks your tank over that’s on you, not them.

Stay safe and have fun everyone!!!

*Turns out my fish has been the most expensive start up out of all the others. Even the hedgehogs alone cost $175 and $150 each, w/o cage, food, and accessories. So be prepared to drop some dough, but their upkeep is super cheap.

All Posts In Order

This is a list with links to all my posts in order by date. All links open in new tab. Just click the title. Any titles without links have not been posted yet. Check back at the scheduled release time.

  1. How It All Started – Nov. 23, 2014
  2. Buying A Tank – Nov. 24, 2014
  3. More Necessary Expenses – Nov. 27, 2014
  4. The Nitrogen Cycle – Nov. 28, 2014
  5. Marimo Moss Ball – Nov. 30, 2014
  6. About Me – Dec. 1, 2014
  7. Tank Cleaning – Dec. 2, 2014
  8. Feeding Your Fish – Dec. 3, 2014
  9. What Your Snail Needs – Dec. 11, 2014
  10. Owning a Tank at College – Dec. 27, 2014
  11. Non Typical Tools – Dec. 27, 2014
  12. New Fish Tank Review – Jun. 11, 2016
  13. Seachem Stability Review – Jun. 18, 2016
  14. Snail Ownership – Jun. 25, 2016
  15. Everything About Snails – Jul. 2, 2016
  16. Owning an Ecosphere – Jul. 9, 2016
  17. Hummingbird Feeders – Jul. 16, 2016
  18. Succulents – Jul. 23, 2016
  19. FarmHouse Fresh Review – Jul. 30 2016
  20. Air Plant Display Case – Aug. 6, 2016

What Your Snail Needs

This is going to be a very brief blog, because mystery snails don’t need much. They need three to four things:

  1. Food
  2. Air/Water
  3. Calcium
  4. *Some* like a shelter to hide in

So let’s start with number one. Snails are herbivores. They eat vegetation and algae in your tank. If you have an algae problem, a mystery snail can clear it right up. You don’t want to starve your little guy either. An easy cheap supplement for your snail is algae wafers. There are many brands, but the cheapest was Top Fin algae wafers.

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Make sure your fish don’t eat the wafers or they might overfeed themselves.

The second thing is water and air. Mystery snails live underwater. They have a vent that the water goes through, kind of like gills on a fish. But, unlike fish, mystery snails have lungs, so they need air. They will go up the side of the tank and stick out what is called a siphon. Once the siphon is above the water line, the snail will start pumping air in. The snail’s head moves in and out as it pumps the air in. It’s really cute! Don’t mistake the siphon as a sex organ. Both genders have a siphon. The siphon expands and compresses so it isn’t always visible.

Next on our list is calcium. Your snails shell is made of calcium and to have healthy new growth, you need to provide calcium. This can be done in the water because they “breathe” water. Any calcium in the water gets inside them. You can use crushed cuttlebone in a mesh bag. You can use a cheese cloth or something similar. Cuttlebone is meant for birds, to help their beaks grow I believe. They are very cheap, and sometimes they are broken in the packaging. Some stores might provide discounts for the broken ones. Crush it up into small chunks and put into a mesh fabric of some sort. Tie it off and hang from the side of your tank.

Another option is calcium powder. I use All Living Things calcium supplement for hermit crabs. I sprinkle a little into my tank on water change day. Just a pinch.

You can also use decorative shells as a supplement option. Make sure you use real shells. I have old, uncolored, hermit crab shells in mine. Your snail will climb the shells and eat the edges. All my shells have little bites out of them.

Here’s where it gets a little bloggy =). My first snail was totally cool sleeping anywhere. I would find her asleep on all the sides of the tank, the filter, the decorations. Anywhere she could fit, she would sleep. After she passed I had to get another snail to keep the algae away and because I love snails now. So I got an ivory mystery snail (the first was a golden). When I got up the morning after I got her I found her like this:

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She found the only thing she could hide under. It’s was so sad and pathetic! She was desperate for a place to hide! So the next day I went out and got this little castle for her.

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In the second picture you can kind of see the opening in the back. It’s just big enough for her when she’s full sized. She sleeps in it almost every night. Sometimes, like today, she sleeps behind it between the castle and the glass. She is never not near it in the morning. As she got more comfortable in the tank I would find her sleeping on top of it, or behind it like I mentioned above, but she gravitates to it. It’s really cute. So depending on your snail, you may need to buy a shelter. This shelter was $7.99 I believe and I got it at a Pet Supplies Plus because it is closest to my school and it was raining that whole week.

That’s about everything I can think of! If anything new comes up then I’ll update this post. Thanks for reading!

Feeding Your Fish

Something that is’t common knowledge is that most people overfeed their fish. They do everything right, until they follow directions on food packaging. Back when I was younger, we owned Betta fish. The packaging recommended 8 pellets, twice a day. The fish died rather quickly. We asked a vet and they told us we basically killed our fish by overfeeding it. I’m not sure about other species, but Betta fish will eat everything you feed them, even if it’s way too much. Some packaging recommends as much food as they can eat in three minutes. This is way too much. Fish food companies need you to go through the food and buy more, so take their advice with a grain of salt.

A test for your fish is to check their stomachs. There should only be a slight bulge after you feed them. A Betta’s stomach is only about as big as it’s eyeball. You should only feed them enough food that would equal their eye size. This will create the perfect sized bulge. Here’s a website with bulge sizes. It’s a little unclear, so I’ll post a picture at the bottom of my female Betta overfed and then normally fed.

My tank came with a sample of food. Probably a good 40 pellets. This could easily last me 20-30 days, depending. The Aqueon pellets are very small, so most days I feed Thalia two. Her stomach swells slightly and disappears before her next feeding.

I highly recommend clicking the pictures to enlarge them. Top is overfed, bottom is normal feeding (bad lighting sorry).

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Tank Cleaning

Tank:

Once your tank is established, you shouldn’t have problems keeping it clean. You should test you water every week using the API Master Test Kit. If the levels look good you don’t have to change the water. Some tanks can go two to three weeks before their levels bounce. It depends on how many fish or live plants you have. Fish and dead plant matter produce ammonia. As you should know by now, ammonia turns to nitrites, which turn to nitrates.

Nitrates cannot be recycled in a closed aquarium. They must be removed or they can poison your fish. Partial water changes, usually 20% fresh water, will keep your tank spic and span and your fish healthy.

Around once a month you can do a minor gravel cleaning. What you do is use your gravel vacuum and clean the top layer of gravel. Don’t dig too deep. Good bacteria grows in your gravel. If you clean all the gravel off, then the bacteria comes with it. Don’t clean your gravel at all when cycling.

If you tank isn’t balancing or the water is getting foggy quickly, you can do a full gravel cleaning. You can dig your vacuum in all the way and clean the gravel at the bottom. This advice is for people with small tanks (<10 gal). With small tanks cleaning the gravel can be hard to do without sucking all the water out of the tank. During your weekly water change you can try and clean around 1/3 of your gravel. The point is to clean up uneaten food and poops. Most food packages recommend feeding your fish waaayyy too much food. Like kill your fish in a month amount of food. I don’t ever have extra food in my tank. The only thing thing to clean is fish and snail poops.

Lately I’ve had to mess around with my decorations. When doing this the gunk got disturbed and fogged up my tank a bit, but the filter sorted it out. I’ve haven’t used my gravel vacuum yet because I was worried I would suck my little ghost shrimp up. They both have died now and so I can proceed to try it. I’ll give tips once I try.

Filter:

You need to realize that the tank companies need to make money. They will always advise you to use more than you need. Keep this in mind with your filter. A common mantra amongst tank owners is keep your filter till it falls apart. You should not change out your filter every four to six months like the packaging recommends. I’ve heard of people keeping theirs for over a year.

When you change yours out be sure to keep a section of it. Lay that on top of your new filter. That way the water can run through the good bacteria in the old filter and help keep your Nitrogen cycle established. When changing a filter, be aware that you may get fluctuating levels. Be careful of New Tank Syndrome during this time.

I think that’s everything! If I think of anything else I add it in.

About Me

I thought I’d do a little bio about me, so you’d know a little bit about who you’re reading about.

My name’s Hanna and I’m 20 years old. I’m a junior in college, and attend a small liberal arts school. I am an East Asian Studies, Japanese, and Anthropology major. I’m still not sure what I want to do. I study hard and keep my grades up.

I am a major pet lover. I have many little critters at my house besides my little betta fish. The first pet I got was in 2007. We got a little girl puppy and we named her Marche’ (<– that’s an accent mark for the e. pronounced mar-shay). She is a Coton de Tulear, a rare breed from Madagascar. She’ll be 8 January 25, 2015. This picture is her from the back, but her back is super cute!

Marche

The next pets we got were dwarf hamsters. We got two girls that turned out to not be two girls. December 16th we had two hammies and 4 babies. There were 3 girls and one boy baby. Once they were old enough, the pet store that sold us the parents had their vet sex them for free (because they f’d up). We gave one girl away to my sisters best friend and the rest we kept. Here’s a picture of the mom, Sweetie. All hammies passed away by January this year.

sweetie

Our next pets were guinea pigs! We got a four month old pig first. His name is Pudding and he just turned 3 years old Nov. 28, 2014. He is a texel guinea pig. He is more true to his breed in his body type. He is short and compact, whereas most guinea pigs are long and thin. He is a real sweetie and love giving kisses and begging for treats.

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The next piggy we got was only 5 weeks old! He was so tiny! We obviously named him Pie. The cutest thing ever was when we had introduced the two, Pudding took to him. He didn’t mind sharing his house and was eating food. Pie, just weaned off milk, went up to Pudding and tried to feed off him! Poor Pudding kept bucking his back feet up in an attempt to get him off. Pie just kept trying. Finally Puddy gave him a little nip and Pie never tried again. Pie just wanted milk, but that darn Puddin was a boy pig! Here’s PiePie. The bottom picture shows a size comparison between a 6 month and a 1 month pig. Pie’s our little scardy cat. He hides at any sound and runs away when you try to pick him up. Once you have him though, he loves cuddling up by your neck. He has a higher pitched voice than Pudding and his wheeks are very cute! Pie is also a texel.

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Our last pig was bought later the same year we bought Pie. On Dec 2. His name was Tibbles. He passes away at 2 years old on August 23, 2014. He died extremely expectantly. He literally died overnight after a bout of diarrhea. The vet thinks something happened to his GI track. He was our funniest little guy. He was only a month younger than Pie. He was the loudest wheekiest little pig ever! Any little thing would set him off! He was precious and I miss him everyday. He was a Peruvian.

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Now one would think that’s enough, but I’ve barely even started! Next up, I got a rather peculiar pet. Not sure how it started but I ended up watching a lot of Youtube videos with hedgehogs in them. Eventually I couldn’t stand not having a hedgie! Turns out a pet store near my house is one of the only ones in the state that sells hedgehogs! We got our first little guy from there. His name is Pikachu, but I mostly call him Chu or Chuchi. He is an African Pygmy hedgehog which is the domesticated breed you can purchase.

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Next up is hedgie number 2. I had to get another one of these cuties. This time we found a breeder in our area. I wanted a dark colored hedgie this time and she had a new litter. We got a one month baby. The pictures below are of the day we got him, so he is very little. That way you can see how small they can be! I named him Puppy, because he seemed like a Puppy to me. He is much larger now! He has a fat, soft tummy. He passed away 2/16/16 of leukemia.

puppy2 puppy

We aren’t done yet! We got our latest furry edition about a week before Tibby died. I had suggested that a hammy might be fun to have. Parents were hesitant because we already have a ton of little guys. I decided to pursue it anyway and visited pet stores around the area. At each store I held the hammies they had. My mom say a picture of a long haired hamster online and didn’t even realize it was a hammie. I told her what it was and she was shocked to learn that they come in a long haired breed. I was at a store, kinda out of the way, and saw they had long haired Syrian hamsters. They were really cute, so I called my mom to tell her. Turned out she was coming to the same shopping complex to go to a different store. So she came in and we held the two hamsters. One of them was incredible. He didn’t jump, bite, or even fuss. I held him a solid 5 minutes and he just chilled. We knew we had to get him. I’ve never seen another hamster like him before. He is so chill. He isn’t scared of anything; our dog, loud noises, anything.  His name is Gizmo. Gizzy also passed away sometime in 2015. It was probably cancer. He died at home in his sleep.

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Lastly I have my fish and snail. The snail right now is Snaila and the female betta fish is Thalia. (Thalia died October, 2015 of some disease and the snail is also no longer with me). I currently have a male betta named Lunar and an unnamed black mystery snail. That’s all the pets right now!

Marimo Moss Ball

So today I went onto Amazon to check black Friday deals. Instead I found A Marimo Moss Ball tank. It’s so cute and everyone in the reviews seemed to really enjoy theirs.

(Marimo fun facts at bottom!)

I currently have a tiny tree, and a cactus on my desk. I didn’t want to add more clutter to the side of my desk near the window. Marimo mass balls don’t need a lot of light so I can keep it on the other side of my desk that’s away from the window. I decided I would make one myself and save some $$$.

I went to two stores to try and find a container. I tired Target first and I found a tall drinking glass for $1. Check the bottom for pictures of that.

The next store I tried was Bed, Bath & Beyond, which was right next to the Petsmart I shop at. I hadn’t even thought of it until I got there. I found an almost perfect container. I wish it were a tad bit taller, but I still think it looks pretty cool. I found it in the bathroom section. I walked the whole store once and found nothing. I figured that there had to be something in that huge store. That’s why I went on a second walk through. I didn’t think I’d find anything in the bathroom section, but it was one of the only places I hadn’t looked.

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So this is the container. Its got a cute little rope handle and wood lid. I bought two. One for me and one for my dad for Christmas. The following will have two pictures; all left are the same, all right are the same jar. So next I went next door and got some river rocks in 3 different colors.

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Next I put them in, darkest to lightest (left to right in the picture above).

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Then I added the Marimo balls!

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Here’s one more picture of the jar from the left, the one I’m keeping at home.

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It’s pretty cute don’t you think? I’m going to try and find stands for them. Maybe a tall wooden rectangular stand type thing or a squat circular stand. If I can find one, I’ll add it as an edit to this post.

They are a little expensive at Petsmart. You can buy them cheaper offline, just be sure it’s not a fake. They sell “moss balls” for reptiles (not sure why reptiles need them but hey). They are just an endoskeleton with moss wrapped around the outside, not a true Marimo.

Pricing:

  • jar = 14.99
  • stones x3 = 1.99
  • Marimo = $8.49 (sale price)

If you buy all three stone colors the total is = $29.45

If you buy one stone color the total is = $25.47

For a cheaper version, just use the stones and a cheap cup. Here’s mine:

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The total with all three stones is $15.46

The total with one stone color is $11.48

Which one do you like better? Jar or Glass? Let me know because I like both and can’t decide which to use.

Fun Facts!

Marimo are Japanese. Mari = spherical, mo = moss.

Here’s the word in hiragana まりも.

In English we pronounce it mary-mo, but in Japanese it sounds like ma-ri-mo where ma’s “a” is soft. Almost like mario with an m in there.

They only grow in certain places because of currents. The algae is constantly being swirled in circles so it becomes a little ball.

Marimo can live for 200 years and the biggest they become is 12 in in diameter!

Owning a Marimo is supposed to bring you good luck.

Edit Dec. 1:

The Marimo ball produces little bubbles on its surface as it photosynthesizes. Sometimes it floats because of that. It’s really cool to see them appear. I take the little guy out, squeeze gently, and roll it around in my hand. It’s really soft. Then I put it back in. A few hours later there are small bubbles all over; on the glass, stones and Marimo. Nature at work!

Edit Feb. 14:

I found the perfect container for my marimo! I got it at Target. I think it was $12. Here’s a picture. I think it’s super cute!!

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It’s a little hard to see but there is some sand at the bottom and the marimo. The rest is just fake flowers that are affixed to the bottom. So I get a cute decorative plant, and my little marimo gets a home!

The Nitrogen Cycle

One of the most important things for your tank is the Nitrogen cycle. A closed environment gets dirty very quickly. The only thing keeping your tank clean is bacteria. Like anything else in life, bacteria eat and produce waste. Then other bacteria eat that waste and produce their own. That is how your tank functions. In nature the ocean is so much larger than the amount of waste that there is no worry of build up. In your tank however, things can get dicey quickly. Once established things will run nice and smooth with the occasional water change. No system is perfect and eventually your tank will get build up. Weekly partial water changes take care of this problem.

First step:

Your fish and dying plants produce ammonia in their wast. Too much ammonia is toxic to fish and will burn, and eventually kill them. To get rid of the harmful ammonia you need nitrifying bacteria. Certain nitrifying bacteria eat the ammonia. Their waste product is called nitrite. Nitrite is also poisonous to fish.

Second step:

Nitrifiying bacteria (not the ammonia eating ones, another type) come in and eat the nitrite. They produce nitrate. Nitrate is not poisonous fish in small quantities. High nitrate levels suggest that you might be overfeeding your fish (the left over food producing extra food for the bacteria, which then produce more waste). It can also suggest you have too many fish for your size tank. If you nitrates are always high, try feeding less, and if that doesn’t work, consider buying a bigger tank, or moving fish out of that tank.

Third step:

In nature the nitrate would be recycled by something else. In your tank it just builds up. Once it builds up you change the water and replace it to remove the nitrates.

Here’s a diagram from Petco’s website.

Your goal is to create a perfect balance of producers and consumers in your tank. This process can take up to 8 weeks. I’m no chemist so instead I’ll link you to two different sites. The first site is very clear and provides pictures and a video at the end. The second site is a little more complicated and provides a little more info. These sites provide info on fishless cycling, the safest way to establish your tank.

  1. Wiki
  2. Pet Keepers Guide

Now I took the other route, cycling with a fish in the tank. I didn’t know better. Doing a cycle with a fish can cause fish death or illness. I listed everything I used in my blog here.

It was really a stressful process. I tested the water everyday and in the beginning did water changes everyday. The ammonia was my biggest problem in the beginning. The levels were always high. I purchased an ammonia detoxifier a little ways into the process. It makes the ammonia safe, but provides false ammonia readings with most water tests. It took my tank around 4 weeks to cycle. I added beneficial bacteria, but I’m not sure if that helped, or the fact that I have a small tank resulted in the quick cycle.

I was really worried that I had hurt my fish when I noticed black dots all over her tail fin. 20141203_003915

I wish I had taken a picture of her the first day I got her. I have no way to compare. I think that the spots were naturally on her. They are very symmetric and haven’t faded. Ammonia burns can fade over time with proper treatment. I used stress coat+ to help heal her.

I’m glad it’s over. Doing water changes every other day was very time consuming and everything got wet every time. I treated the replacement water every time and also allowed it to sit out a few hours so it would reach room temp. If you don’t have a tap dechlorinator you must allow 24 hours to pass before you put that water in the tank. I use Top Fin dechlorinator.

Either way, it’s a time consuming process that takes determination. It’ll all be worth it in the end I promise!

Also, I have ordered some new decorations off Petsmart as they were having a 20% off everything black Friday promotion. I can do a blog unboxing once it comes and tell what I think of the products so check back soon!

More Necessary Expenses

At this point I started researching. I wasn’t sure how much to feed my fish, and my snail was acting sluggish (no pun intended). I soon learned that I made a foolhardy mistake. Fish tanks are actually a working ecosystem, ironically what I wanted in the first place. Tanks go through a cycle of producers, consumers and decomposers. This is called the Nitrogen cycle. I’ll link my blog post about the Nitrogen cycle here.

If you don’t set the cycle up first, fish death is very possible and probable. If your fish are always dying within weeks of ownership this may be why. To counter this you need a plethora of supplies, diligence, and time.

I went to the store and got some supplies. I got a ton of water treatments (to establish the cycle) and some other things. I’ll talk about everything here and provide pictures. There will be a list at the bottom. Everything is stored in a black box purchased for $3 at Target.

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I noticed what appeared to be Ammonia burns on my fish. I learned that high ammonia levels can actually cause black burn spots on your fish (I later figure that those spots were actually a part of her because they never went away, and are actually fairly symmetric). So I purchased Stress Coat+ because that’s what was recommended to me by people on this amazing website. All my questions were answered within hours of posting them.

I would recommend Stress Coat+ for anyone anyway, because introduction into a new tank can cause stress. Also if you ever removing your fish to clean their tank, this will help when you replace them into the tank. It also replaces their slime coat, which keeps them healthy.

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Because of the Ammonia problem I also purchased Am Guard. It removes ammonia and is good for use in emergencies. The packaging claims that standard water tests gives false positives because of the chemicals in the products and tests.

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My pH was a bit high, and even though people recommend leaving pH levels alone, I went ahead and got a gentle pH balancer. It’s meant to be used weekly and keeps the levels even. It does not instantly change the levels, which is good because rapid changes can send fish into shock.

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The last product is the most important and most recommended. It’s called Prime and it’s by Seachem. It helps detoxify Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrates. Those three things are what throw your tank out of balance. You need all three, but you need safe levels.

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You have a choice of water testing kits, but the ultimate, almighty kit is the API Mater Test Kit. It’s expensive, but you need to test your water levels around once a week, and at least once a month in an established tank. When establishing a tank you have to test everyday.

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If you have a small tank like me, you’re going to need fractions of ml to treat your tank. I already owned 1 ml syringes that were segmented into tenths. We had them for medicating our guinea pigs. They are super helpful and should be fairly cheap. Check your local store for some.

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The last thing I got was a gravel vacuum. It is hard to photograph so I’ll link it here. It is essential for any tank maintenance. You don’t only use it for vacuuming gravel, it also siphons out water. I use it every time I do a water change. Technically you can do it with any tube, but you need to create a suction by sucking the air out with your mouth. This vacuum provides a pump to create that suction and is super easy to use.

  • Gravel Vacuum Small = $9.99
  • API Master Test kit = $27.49
  • Marineland pH regulator .8 fl oz = $8.99
  • Prime by Seachem 3.4 fl oz = $4.69
  • API Stress Coat+ = $5.99
  • Am Guard by Seachem 8.5 fl oz = $4.97
  • TOTAL = $62.12