There was this accident

I had a fish tank. For years. Your basic tropical fish, sitting on the kitchen table so you can watch them over your coffee. Or they can watch you. I’d been ignoring it, rather, for a while, but once you set up a tank and it is chugging along, it doesn’t take much for it to keep going. I’d been thinking for a while that I might just pack it in, so I was just waiting out the last fish in it, who were starting to get elderly. Then the heater went wacky, and killed them all. I came down in the morning to find an absurdly warm tank with my last six fish all dead. Sigh.Thinking about it, I realize I’d bought the thing in like 1995, so it isn’t astonishing that it failed. Still, I would have imagined a heater that broke would just stop working, rather than the thermostat failing to turn it off. It made me really sad. So I think all this might be guilt. Anyway, I’ve cleared away the old tank entirely, and I’m starting over. New, bigger tank (thanks, Criagslist!), and an entirely different set-up. This time I’m going to try setting up a Walstad tank: method. I’ve always had a rather planted up tank, but method supports the plants better, and generally uses less chemicals/machinery. Basically, running with this method you have a tank full of plants, with fish, being a little eco-system where the plants are consuming the fish waste and there is no need for an external filter. We will see. Now I’m waiting for the new light to arrive – LED, cheaper to run and programable, so the plants remain really happy – and to get some more plants before I start adding fish. Also I’m putting it right at the kitchen window to make use of the sunlight as well. Once I get some fish, there will be photos! Though there won’t be anything too fancy. Too many of the coolest fish end up getting really big. Instead I tend to like mostly smaller, and fortuitously relatively cheaper fish: platies, mollys, corys, and sometimes even guppies. The kind of guys that hang out together and seem less bored. So I am back in the fish tank biz – R.I.P. little previous corys. I I


23 responses to this post.

  1. When I saw “accident” in the header and “fish tank” in the first line, I assumed a cat or two might have been implicated! Please apologize to the kitties for my thinking ill of them.
    I’m sorry you lost your fishies. I think if I had a tank, I’d just fill it up with neon tetras, I love to see them darting around.


  2. Oh too funny, I have a 55 gallon, but keep fish that do not require a heater, and as they all started to die out, and I had a bit of a tick infestation with the dog, I covered the tank with a sheet nd bombed the home to get rid of the insane tick problem. I then let the water slowly evaporate. Imagine my guilt and surprise when one day staring at about 3 inches of water this small red fish comes cruising around, 3 months after I’d stopped feeding.

    I’m getting ready to move, and seriously thinking of making planned terrarium instead…no frogs or lizards though, just plants.


  3. Ugh. I hate heaters because one fried all of my parrot cichlids and convicts. Yes, it was a horror to come down and find them all dead, seeking the shelter of the little rock caves to get away from the heat.

    I have a 50 gallon with a pair of convicts, who had around 50 babies, who are now all grown up. Sigh. Overcrowded tank. No mom and pop pet stores left to take them to.


  4. Craigslist?

    Also, that’s why I moved it out from the back of the table more into the middle of things.
    I’m hoping to be able to keep a better eye on it now.
    And it’s bigger, so things happen more slowly.

    Yes, I am soooo upset, still.


  5. Oh, sad! I love little corydora catfish. Neons too, though I’ve never had much luck keeping them. I think the water in Minnesota was too hard for them. We also used to have a huge female swordfish that used to eat the smaller fish. I was relieved when she kicked the bucket, probably because the heater failed and the water became too cold.

    For awhile I kept only goldfish, the fancy kind. They did well, and then I moved to this place where the water quality sucked. I thought it was a huge statement about the new apartment when all of my fish died. (It was an awful place to live. Where was my judgement?)

    I hope you have better luck with your new tank. Fish are very soothing to watch.


  6. The water here is good, and now it is a new heater which should work okay for a while – and I’ll be watching it like a hawk – so once it is set-up and running it should be fine.
    Though I’m not sure yet what goes in the new tank, other than corys.
    I love them too, though there is (some) guilt there. I had fishtanks when I was a kid, and I always had just one cory, because that’s what Mr. George at George’s Pet Store told me to get. But then I set up a tank as an adult, and discovered that corys really, really, really like to school. So now I get bunches of them, and they play, and sit on top of each other and all. Poor sad lone cory of my childhood!
    Anyway, definitely a bunch of corys.
    But after that I’m still deciding – neons? or maybe a bunch of different colored platys? – except that they do the babyfish thing – or maybe both. And I was thinking about maybe, maybe, one betta fish. Mostly because I was buying plants and there were all those sad, sad Bettas in the little bowls, and I hated going off and leaving them.
    From what I can see, they get along fine with corys and neons, but I can’t find anything about platys.
    Still thinking about it.


    • I love getting the bettas and giving them a home, too. Did you know they love to swim in your bath tub while you clean their bowls. Although, when I had less aggressive fish, I would put them in the fish tank with the fish.

      I didn’t know corys love to school. Man, the stuff we don’t know!


  7. Good luck with the herbal fishery! I was fascinated by the idea but my attempts failed miserably. But I’m a terrible plant keeper under the best of circumstances. I had a heater mishap once that led to the demise of Lester and Marjorie, my two blue gouramis. Mine was the opposite situation, though. The heater quit while we were out of town in December. Poor things…

    Happy new tank to you!


  8. Fun project! I’ve also had a heater go mad and kill the fish (ick), I don’t understand why they can’t make them so they switch off instead of going to boiling. Sunlight might get you an algae bloom, just so you’re warned! Corys are sensitive to water quality, so make sure the tank is stable before adding them. A betta will probably be ok with platys (might try to bully them, but they are usually not too fazed), but might get nibbled by the tetras if he has long fins. They have such different personalities, I’ve had some that wanted to kill everything, but I’ve also had two males that shared a tank without even bickering (DO NOT try that though! One was supposedly a female when I adopted it from a friend – turned out to be a short finned male. My resident male didn’t even flinch, so they co habited) Good luck!


  9. Hi! I don’t know much about fish. But I do know that in used tanks, the stuff holding the glass together can dry out and become NOT water tight, so make sure there are no leaks before you count on the used aquarium. And I’ve heard that if you keep a fish tank in a sunny window it makes the temperature rise too much? (and more algae)??
    Fishies 🙂


  10. Hey, yes, I checked the tank out in the yard before bringing it into the house – I figured that if it leaked, at least I’d watered the garden.
    But it is fine – it has a sticker on the bottom saying it’s from 2013, so it’s not all that old.

    The sunlight is supposed to actually help with keeping the plants thriving.
    Apparently the idea is that you get the plants so happy that algae can’t get enough nitrogen to compete.
    We will see.
    And the tank is big enough that the puny amount of sun from that window won’t make much of a temperature difference.
    It’s just morning sun.

    The thermometer now worries me, since I not only know firsthand it can go blooey, but it seems a pretty universal experience.
    It’s a bigger tank, so it has less immediate effect, and I put the thermometer strip on the front, so I can watch it.
    But I remain nervous.
    Room temperature here is usually in the low 60s, and that’s a bit cool for most of these fish.
    We’ll see.


    • I was just reading the post you did after this one. Fish tanks seem so complicated & fickle. Yikes. But you’re really putting so much energy and thought into yours!! Your tank will be a beautiful thriving home for your fishies. 🙂
      Enjoy! xxx


  11. My last tank–a modest 5 gallons–turned out to be a perfect little ecosystem. I avoid heaters for d) all of the above. The most I committed to was a bubbler. I had placys, tetra, Elmo the Golden Mystery Snail, and even a betta! There was room enough for a peaceable kingdom. Then I introduced a few new fish, because they were cool looking and compatible. End.of.story. *sniff* I’ve had only a few bettas since.

    They’re well worth the work, aquariums, lw, and I admire your determination!


  12. sorry.
    i still have major guilt over unknowingly replacing my beta’s tank with too-warm water and putting him back in. he bloated up like crazy. lived another couple months but it’s been years now and I’m still not over the guilt.


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