Planted Freshwater Tropical Aquarium: Hobby of the Moment

by Rainbow Bobbins

I’m always picking up new hobbies like a bad cold. I get one little germ of inspiration and I begin cruising craigslist for tools and goodies for my latest endeavor. Eventually the germ spreads and I’m sick with it, obsessed. So it was with planted freshwater tropical aquariums. I noticed at my friend Liz’s house how pleasant it was to look at a fish tank. I love gardening and was intrigued by the underwater gardens you could build in aquariums. Eventually, I started cruising the internet to read freshwater tropical blogs, then buying books, then stalking the employees at my local fish shop, then getting a tank and next thing you know I’m dropping nearly two hundred dollars on wood and lights and sucking fish crap out of a 30 gallon tank that defies the lease agreement on my house.

The sucking fish crap really came as a surprise. I was told I would be getting a gravel vacuum. I pictured something with a pump or automated suction. No. You suck on a tube like you’re siphoning gas and if you are new, and unsure and don’t suck hard enough you get a mouthful of nasty fish water. Then you run to the bathroom and brush your teeth until your gums bleed. YUCK.

Aside from that, I’ve really loved owning a fish tank. It has honestly provided hours of nerdy enjoyment. Even Mr. Man likes watching the tank – from the other room I’ll hear, “Babe, the bichir’s carrying around the algae pellet like a Frisbee” He’s even named the little beast “porkchop” after Sandy’s biker friend.

I decided I will keep a sloppy and infrequent account of my aquarium as I transform it from a plain, overpopulated tank to a thriving, planted community aquarium.

Here’s how it all began:

$65 – Found 30 gallon aquarium on Craigslist for $65. The tank came with Penguin Power Filter, 20 Watt fluorescent lighting with hood, water testing kit, heater, net, fish food, gravel, gravel vacuum (aka hose) and:

· One 8” Pleco

· One 4” Rainbow Shark – a real beauty

· One 5” Pictus Catfish – spastic

· One 3” Albino Gold Bushy Nose Pleco (I think, it does not have a bushy nose)

· One 4” Bichir – Skinny thing, very charming

· One 2.5” Glass Cat Fish

Here is what I’ve changed:

$106 – over doubled the light wattage – its now up to almost 1.8 watts per gallon to support plant growth. $20 – Added a plant friendly substrate under the gravel. $65 purchased large pieces of interesting driftwood. $15 purchased an Anubis, giant baby tears, sword plant and one other plant – many more to come.


· Pleco – Donated to a great local fish shop – he was too big for tank

· Pictus – Donated to a great local fish shop (GLFS)– he was too high strung

· Rainbow Shark – Went to GLFS – sad to see it go, so pretty but a predator and I noticed the barbs I added had fin nips

· Glass Cat Fish – Dead. Not sure why. He wasn’t in good shape when I got him. I like to think it was old age.

· Added: 8 Striped Barbs

· Added: 3 Powder Blue Gouramis – very pretty. Nice addition. They seem to get along well with others.

Current Population

· Albino Gold Bushy Nose Pleco

· Bichir – I know when he is larger he will prey on the community but Mr. Man and I have become attached to him. The previous owner had him for 3 years and said he has not grown during that time. Very strange.

· Striped Barbs (8) – Fun – they like the current from the filter and get glowy red when fed.

· Gourami – they get along well in the tank and are pretty fish.

I have just a bit of room to add 1 or 2 more fish. Any suggestions of what would work in this community?

Photos on the way