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


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.


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!


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.


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.

pudding1 pudding2

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.

pie1 pie2

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.

tibbles1 tibbles2

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.

chu2 chu

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.

gizmo gizmo2

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.


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.


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.


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.


  • 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:


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!!


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!

Buying a Tank

I went to Petsmart ready to get a real tank. This was October 10, 2014. I went in knowing I needed a small tank, but also a cheap one. If you read my previous blog you know that at this point I had a running total of $57.27 on this project so far. Everything I had bought was able to be put to use in the new tank as well, except the air stone, tubing, and pump. If I had known, I could have saved $13.14. So now you can save money! Anyway, I went in and saw this tank and misread the label. The label was poorly placed and led me to believe the tank was $17. The 1 gallon tanks below these on the stand were $17. This stand was a cardboard “sale” stand, so placement and stickers were everywhere. I don’t regret the purchase though, because this tank is perfect and I saved $10.

It is a 2.5 gallon tank, and also comes in 5 gallon. The 2.5 is $39.99 and the 5 is $59.99. Seems a little steep, but it comes with almost everything you’ll ever need.

So the tank itself is very modern looking. It is rectangular with a bowed out front. It is 11.5 inches long, 12.5 inches high, and 7.625 inches deep. It weighs 3.5 lbs unfilled.

It sits in a stand that looks a little more modern in the white color, but I like it in black too. The stand contains a built in drip tray, which has been handy for me a few times.

The lid is equip with two LED lights, and a feeding hole. It also has a narrow slit down the back to allow the filter cord out. Should you need a water heater, the slit should allow ample access for that cord as well. It would easily accommodate a thermometer. You won’t have to worry about cutting anything or creating additional holes. The LED plugs in separately of the filter and has an on/off switch located closer to the tank than to the plug.


It comes with what I like to call, a waterfall filter. It pulls in water, filters it, and then the water pours out the top like a little waterfall. The company call it a Quietflow filtration system. Because of this, the water is aerated and you don’t need an air stone. The filter is silent. 100% SILENT! This is by far the best part of this tank. It comes with one filter pack (which could last well over a year, I’ll explain why in a different blog), one packet of color enhancing Betta food (which will also last forever), and a water conditioner containing a dechlorinator, good bacteria, and nutrients good for Betta fish. I believe the labeled warned that it must be placed on a flat table that can handle 45 lbs of weight.

It comes with a divider. NEVER ever place two bettas in such a small space. 1.25 gallon is not enough for one betta fish. Technically 2.5 isn’t big enough either. I have the divider tossed in a drawer.

It also came with coupons for and samples of Aqueon Betta bowl plus, and Aqueon color enhancing Betta food. Betta bowl plus sample is one use, but the food sample could last you months. (Go down to the ** for a review on Aqueon Betta food)


I had to get decorations! So I found this adorable flower arrangement. It was well priced and fit perfectly in my tank. Along with the shells I already had, I knew my tank would look very sleek.


While I was buying everything, almost all the packaging had Betta fish on it. Betta this, Betta that. Soooo…. I looked at the fish available. I hadn’t even told my parents I was getting a new tank, let alone a fish. I’m 19 and in college, but live at home and commute. I figured, “Hey I’m the one taking care of this tank, right? So I can buy what I want.” With that in mind I pushed forward. Since the tank was so small, I didn’t want to get one of the large (beautiful) male Betta fish. Also, they were like $14 for one fish! That’s more than my hamster cost! Anyway, I looked at the girl fish and found a baby one. She was so much smaller than the others and I knew she had some growing to do. Some fish stop growing if you put them in a small tank, so I hoped this would happen and she wouldn’t get too big. I really didn’t want to stress any fish out because the tank was too small. She was a pale bluish white, but when the light caught her she was a beautiful teal/turquoise color. So everything in hand I went home and set the tank up before my parents came home. My next blog will explain why this was a stupid thing to do (buying the fish and the tank at the same time). If you plan on owning a tank you MUST read my next blog on Nitrogen tank cycling or read up on your own.

**Review – I had Betta food from previous fish. We had always owned male Betta fish. I was using the sample provided, but thought I’d try the old food (we had so much left). The pellet was too large for my poor fish to swallow. She tried about 5 times before I took it out and gave her the Aqueon food. The Aqueon food was great! I stated above she was a pale bluish color. After eating this food, almost immediately her color darkened and became more vibrant. She is now a beautiful blue/purple/green, light depending. Originally, my mom had asked me why I bought such an ugly fish. She hadn’t seen the way the light had reflected off her in the store. I knew she was beautiful and this food helped bring her natural beauty out! Highly recommend.

  • Tank = $29.74
  • decor = $9.99
  • fish = $5.79
  • Betta color food = $4.29
  • TOTAL = $54.57

*Note: a second shrimp had died that day, prompting me into hasty purchasing. Normally I like to research before major purchases. I knew the water quality was getting worse and had to buy a new tank.

Lastly, I need to mention that this tank does NOT include a heater. The room I keep my tank in is always around 75 degrees (F). I’ve never needed a heater. Be aware, most fish require a temp of 70-80 degrees (F).