Fish Keeping, My Way

An employee at a local pet store often shares pictures of her pristine aquariums. They are lovely. She has three rules for success: No livebearers, no live plants, and no lights when she’s not looking at the tank.

I’m happy for her, but no thanks. I’ve loved livebearers since grade school–especially guppies and mollies. Even the most realistic plastic plants pale in comparison to the real thing. I suspect fish hate them too.

I stop for a closeup look at my guppies multiple times throughout the day. The first post-platy brood is all grown up with grown children producing still more babies. I surrender or give away 8 to 10 every few weeks. Forget selective breeding. Catching specific fish without ripping out all the plants is nearly impossible.

Live plants aren’t just for looks. They convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, absorb nitrates, shelter babies, and offer a healthy supplement to flaked food. My full-spectrum light stays on about ten hours a day. The plants do great, but the downside to all that light is algae.

Green algae is unsightly but relatively easy to control. Blackbeard algae (BBA) is the reason I gave up aquariums years ago. It grows on everything, spreads like wildfire, and smothers live plants.

The chemical preventative I tried years ago was expensive and ineffective. This time around, BBA is a given. Keeping it from taking over is the goal.

Early detection helps. When BBA appears, anything removable gets a good scrubbing and a three-minute bath in hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide bath is fatal to all but the toughest plants. I toss any that can’t be salvaged, clean surfaces with peroxide, and restock as needed with new plants.

No more pricey, long-lived show plants to keep forever. Many online sellers offer relatively inexpensive “Grower’s choice” assortments. I get six stems of six different varieties for $30 (plus shipping).

The quality of the cuttings from Aquarium Plants Factory is excellent–much better than what’s typically available in pet stores. Many varieties are new to me and, with very few exceptions, outperform my expectations.

Livebearers and real plants significantly enhance my enjoyment of the tank. Tending plants, dealing with algae, and managing the fish population is more work, but not much more. The benefits far exceed the costs.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.