Aquarium in hiatus

As a result of recent events, I had to shut down my beloved 5ft Discus Aquarium.  It may be gone for now, but it will return in the future.

As I was arms deep in fish muck, it got me thinking about what I loved and loathed about this tank, and what I plan to do in the future.  Here are some of my thoughts.

Aquarium Retrospective

So, why did I spend all that time, and a fair chunk of cash, on an Aquarium?

What went well?

Size.  Fairly simple here; It is a massive tank that can hold a lot of fish.  I started with a humble 20cm tank, then a 3ft, then my prized 5ft tank.  As you love a hobby more, you invest more.  In the Aquarium hobby, that often means you will get a bigger tank.  Why, because it just looks spectacular.

Discus.  I’ve always wanted to keep Discus, despite all the stories I was told about them.  I heard they’re too fussy, the water conditions are too hard to maintain, and they will die in a week on numerous occasions.  I’m happy to say that stock loss was minimal,  despite some minor issues along the way, but for the most part, they lived quite happily.

When you tank conditions are established, and you have enough good bacteria in your filter system, you don’;t have to do a lot of work to water parameters.  Most of the captive bred Discus are fairly hardy these days and can live in tough conditions.

Red Snakeskin Discus - my favorite.

Red Snakeskin Discus – my favourite.

Generally, if you keep a low pH (6 – 6.5), and high temperature, you’re going to have happy Discus.

The look.  A big fish tank, full of Discus fish, with some nice planting (e.g. Anubis, Val, moss).  Combined with some nice driftwood, there is no better look.  Some like the hardscape look (such as these scapes) which is fine too,

My Discus tank, complete with orphan magnet cleaner.

Yes, the above photo looks a little thin on planting.  At times, the tank was quite heavily planted, which looked amazing.

What didn’t go so well?

Stock limitations.  As it was a Discus tank, the water conditions (high temp, lower pH), prevented me from adding any type of Fish.  It’s the price you pay for a species tank, so really consider what you want before you choose a Discus tank.  I found that most tetras (rummy nose especially) paired well with Discus, and add a lovely dithering effect to the tank.

Costs.  Yep, running a big tank costs a lot.  Water bills, chemicals, food, fixtures; it all costs more with a big tank.  Aside from fixed costs to maintain, you’re always going to try something different in the tank, such as a new aquascape look, or a “bargain” fish you just had to have.  Imagine if you added up how much you spent on your Tanks; you’d either be horrified, or somewhat surprised the bill isn’t that bad.

Location.  The tank lived in two location; one a north facing rumpus room, the second in a fairly shaded study.  The rumpus room, whilst great for space, was terrible for sunlight.  I was forever cleaning algae from the glass, which always takes the fun out of the hobby.

My study, whilst great for light, wasn’t so great for space.  It wasn’t an ideal location just to simply watch and enjoy the tank.  It was also adjacent to my file server, so if there was ever a leak, I’d lose everything.  Thankfully, I regularly backed up my data.

The lesson here – pick your location, before you pick your tank. If you have to move, make sure you have space to enjoy the tank.

Algae.  The constant pain in my aquarium life.  The glass algae were OK to manage; I’d find that I’d need to clean at least once a week, either with a brush, or a decent magnet algae scraper.   The black bear algae (BBA) was by far the worst algae.  There are many reasons why it occurs, as pointed out by Aquasabi, but the most common reasons is a high level of organic water pollution, possible overfeeding, and with minimal water changes/filter cleans.

Black Beard Algae - horrible stuff

Black Beard Algae – horrible stuff

I think in my Tank it was due to lighting issues, and water conditions (excess nutrient, and consistency of cleaning regime).  When I had more plants in the tank to absorb the excess nutrients, it was much less of a problem.

Cleaning regime.  I feel this cause my algae problem (see above). There are schools of thought on how often you need to clean your tank (filter, water, etc..) if you even clean it at all.  My tank would take about 90 minutes to clean filter media (wool only), change water, and algae clean.

My frantic life made it hard for me to consistently do this so the default option would be to clean by exception.  Sure, the water chemistry (pH, ammonia, nitrate) was fine, but excess nutrients (fish waste) would cause BBA.

Key learning – keep to a consistent regime, do it regularly, get better (quicker) at the clean every time I do it.

A hiatus?

So, why is my tank shut down?  We’ve recently just painted the House, so all the furniture had to get packed up.  Even the fish tank.

While we painted the House, the whole family moved into a rental so I couldn’t bring it with me.  Luckily my son let me bring his Fishtank to the rental

Meet, Billy the Fish.

Billy the Fish in his Aquarium

Billy the Fish

It’s amazing what a simple Fantail can do to keep the Aquarium hobby going.  He was a good traveler, but I think he’s glad to be Home.

In fact, this goes to the a key reason why I love aquariums.  With us all living frantic lives, we need some things to keep us balanced in a sane.  Some people choose dancing, some others choose reading, I choose Aquariums.

For those who have never kept an aquarium before, go siting front of an Aquarium for five minutes.  I’ll be shocked if you don’t feel total relaxation and stress relief in that time period.

A new Aquarium future

What’s next?  Well, I think I’ve done well with the freshwater tank, and love the Discus keeping.  Now I feel, I’m due fur a new challenge.

Yes, it’s time for an awesome marine tank.  And yes, I’m excited.

I’ll use this blog to share what I learn, what to avoid, and my progress towards a beautiful marine tank.  I know there’s a ton of videos and self-help guides from “experts” readily available, but I’m going to out my own unique spin on things.

Stay tuned.

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