This page is about my family's pets.


Julia decided that the holiday money that the kids got would go towards an aquarium. This will be my family's first foray into having pets.

When we got to PetSmart, I had to do some quick reading of an obviously well used store copy of Aquariums for Dummies. We got a 20 gallon (75 L) tank kit (which came with tank, power filter, heater, thermometer, fish net, de-chlorinator, hood, and light. We also got a gravel, an air pump, air splitter, air tubing, under gravel filter, a fake coral, a submerged man who lifts up the lid of a treasure chest, plant food gravel and several plants (Cabomba, Acorus, and Moneywort). Various notes:

I've never done an aquarium before but it's a remarkable activity for my family. There's a Chinese saying: "What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. And what I do, I understand." This should really get us to learn about ecosystems, the Nitrogen cycle, responsibility, biological indicators, etc. The amazing thing about reading all the literature are the many different ways your fish can die! An aquarium points out just how fragile an ecosystem is. We forget how important microorganisms are, and yet an aquarium can only persist if you take care of the microorganisms in the system too. We ourselves are extremely dependent on microorganisms: Within the human body itself, human DNA is outnumbered ten-to-one by non-human DNA. Many of our micro- symbiants are only found in humans, thus they have co-evolved with us.


The lady at PetSmart thought that we should have the tank for a week before introducing fish. How disappointing!

I got water test kits, a SeaChem ammonia detector, a timer for the lights, fish food, a floating thermometer, and a bucket pours well and is marked with gallons and liters. I noticed that the sticker strip thermometer is as accurate as the floating thermometer but does not have the precision of the latter.


We couldn't wait anymore. Many sources, including the literature that came with the tank, said that 48 hours was good enough. So we got three male fancy guppies:

Here's how we added the fish:


I decided that I needed more immediate feedback than what the SeaChem ammonia detector offered so I got an ammonia test kit.


I noticed that the temperature had dropped. Apparently the water had evaporated enough so that the heater wasn't in a good spot. Lowering the heater fixed it. We're keeping the tank at around 25 C = 77 F.

Here's a picture of the tank as of this afternoon:

PHOTO: Family aquarium as of 2006-01-08

The Moneywort plant on the left has been growing but falling apart, the Cabomba plant in the middle has been growing very well, and the Acorus on the right seems pretty much static.


First ammonia reading! 0.25.


Added some more fish:

Since the ammonia went up to 0.5 and there was some water water evaporation, I vacuumed out 2 gallons of water and put back in 3 gallons of de-chlorinated water.


Don Henley had been hanging around alone and by the top of the tank pretty much ever since we got him. He was probably injured during his extraction from the pet store tank. He finally stopped moving today so we removed him and had a ceremonial burial in the back yard (south of the tree and sidewalk).


Due to evaporation, I vacuumed out 2 gallons of water and put back in 3 gallons of de-chlorinated water. It looks like we'll do a weekly 10% water change simply to replace evaporated water.


Algae! Not a lot but some algae. I got a scraper (the kind that is held through the glass via magnetism).

Our Cabomba plant has been growing like mad.


Due to evaporation, I vacuumed out 2 gallons of water and put back in 3 gallons of de-chlorinated water.

Introduced the last of our fish (if we follow the rule of thumb of 1 adult fish inch per gallon).


Wow! So much of our algae is gone. Algernon and Daedalus have been earning their  keep.


Two days ago, Julia spotted an unintended guest: A 2 mm snail. Supposedly Julia and the kids have seen it since, but I haven't seen it yet.


Introduced just one more fish: "Michelangelo". An Angel fish. Silver with black stripes.

BTW: We haven't seen any more tiny snails. Daedalus, our snail, is active at times but it seems that half the time he's upside down and hidden in his shell.


We got "Rocco" from the Chicago Department of Animal Care and Control. He's a neutered male dog, all black with some white on his chest. He's probably 25% Chow Chow and 50% German Shepard. We had all picked him out yesterday (Friday) but it was too close to closing time. Today (Saturdaty) Julia and the kids got Rocco first thing in the morning while I was a sword class.

We're trying the house breaking method of crating him.

PHOTO: Rocco, family dog as of 2006-03-25


"Michaelangelo", our Angel fish, found dead on the bottom. A total surprise. He gave no indication that he was ill.


"Leo", one of our original guppies, found dead. His stomach was looking bloated for the past several days but we weren't expecting him to die. York had given up on calling him "Cool Rainbow Guy", esp. since we weren't sure if he was "Rainbow Cool Guy" or "Cool Rainbow Guy".


Here are the commands we have been using with Rocco:


Julia and the kids took Rocco for some dog training lessons.


The pinch collar works miraculously! Rocco stopped tugging almost immediately.


We returned "Rocco" our black dog to the shelter today. The main reason is that I've become allergic to him. Lots of sneezing and watery eyes. I've been waking up sneezing. I've developed some type of eczema in my inner left elbow. The shelter did their follow up call roughly one month after we got him and they recommended that we bring him in.

Since I've been treating the dog as a poisonous creature, Julia has been the main caretaker and trainer of Rocco. Connie liked Rocco and was proud that her skills as dog handler were developing. York thought Rocco was alright but he didn't like being man handled by him.Amy was fearless of Rocco and loved Rocco. Amy would lay down with him to hug him.


"Daedalus" our snail is really finally dead this time. No reaction to poking.

Connie has mentioned that she missed Rocco.

When I'm out, Amy tells Julia "Dad? Dad? Dog? Dog? Dad? Dad?", and when Julia's out, Amy tells me "Mom? Mom? Dog? Dog? Mom? Mom?". I think she is working on the concept of entities who are not present and is not sure about who will return or not.


Our aquarium has been going along great. We haven't had a fish die in a while.

The one thing that still bugs me is the algae. Here are some tips that I got from


I'm enjoying the fish quite well now. The fish are very low maintenance. Here's all I do:

The algae problem has practically disappeared. While the feeding reduction helped, I think the big thing was the aquarium light. I had set to 10 hours a day before, but since I've been keeping it off except for when I'm feeding the fish, viewing the fish, or changing the water. The plants seem to be doing OK. The aquarium is around 2 m = 2 yards from a window that has no direct sunlight, but that amount plus the indoor light must be sufficient.

The guppies are beautiful and the striped tetras school nicely. The fish now react eagerly whenever anyone approaches the tank and algae aside, the tank seems cleaner. I feel like a success! I don't know if I'll stay in this stage or eventually go for a bigger tank or more advanced fish.


We just discovered that our last emerald catfish died. Alas! We haven't had a fish die in months. We never did replace his buddy and since his kind prefers to school, he may have been somewhat lonesome. It was Connie who discovered the poor fellow lying on his side at the bottom of the tank. The whole nuclear family was there for his farewell flush.

Later on the same day: After a trip to Target we got another guppy and 6 ghost shrimps.


We got a second kitten today. She's around 4 months old so we're making her "official" birthday 4 months ago: 2007-05-24.


We bought a money wort plant, a plecostomus, and 4 red minor tetras. The plecostomus died the same day. Apparently the store thermostat was busted so the store tank was much colder than usual, so when we introduced him into our tank, the poor fellow could not deal with the large temperature change. The tetras were just fine. After a week, I remembered that money wort plants just fall apart.


We got another plecostomus and a crab. The plecostomus lived for a week and then died. We thought the crab got eaten for a few days, but apparently he had dug a little cave for himself under our rocks and he has been thriving. He's actually quite a character with his arm waving, picking for scraps, and scuttling about. I love it when he climbs on top of the rock or plants and does his little "I'm king of the world!" waving.

Page Modified: (Hand noted: ) (Auto noted: )