Tiny Serengeti Update

In spite of my not-so-tiny frustrations I went out and bought a new tank to replace the cracked one. Same filter, heater and light, same substrate, same rocks. I did switch the Kopje to the left side of the tank but that was because the outlet is on the right side and that way I could move the filter and heater and not have to look at their cords running behind the tank. (notice that the cord for the light is still there, grrr, I can’t switch it]

T Tank Feb 8

I’ve been watching the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. Sure enough the nitrate peaked about a week ago, causing a massive algae bloom. So I added our first residents to the Tiny Serengeti – snails (would these be the equivalent of warthogs?).

I know a lot of aquarists think badly of snails but they do help with the algae. They also produce waste to feed the bacteria that convert the ammonia to nitrite and the nitrite to nitrate. Ammonia is the most dangerous of these three.

So now I think it’s time to add the herds of wildebeest shrimp. I found someone on Craig’s list who is selling a variety of colors of Neocaridina davidi [commonly sold as red cherry shrimp but they come in other colors, too]. Do I want all one color? Multiple colors? Which ones? How many should I buy? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

The good news is that since I had to replace the original light and the original tank I’m over budget so I can spend whatever I want on the shrimp! Screw the deficit, I have MasterCard!

Tiny Tank Trials and Tribulations

I’m having some challenge with my tiny tank. No, not managing water quality in such a small space. Not even the budget (although I think that will get blown due to the problems listed below). Other things.

Like the filter. I set up this nice filter, worked great, then I tried to add some crushed coral to help harden our very, very soft tap water. Well, that slowed the filter down to a trickle. I’m going to have to re-think how I’ve got this set up, maybe take out some of the coral? I’m not sure yet. It’s a project for next weekend.


Then, the light. The one I had in the basement wasn’t working (it’s only about 20 years old) so I broke down and bought a new one. I very carefully chose one that was pictured on a framed glass tank.

Got it in today and, yeah, it’s not designed for a framed glass tank. I was able to carefully cut away some of the framing to fit the supports (with only 5 gallons I’m not worried about weakening the integrity of the tank by making the “frame” thinner). But then I tightened the screw that is important for bracing the light and…


Dammit. The tank cracked. It’s not leaking (yet) but I guess I’m going to have to buy a new one.

Did I say dammit yet?

And, of course, this happens the day I get my plants. Which look great! I’m thrilled with how this looks but replacing the broken light and the broken tank will push me over budget.

tiny tank with plants

Should have bought one of those kits off Amazon…

Can I start over?

Cuttlefish Update

So I woke up, checked the tank, and found eggs this morning. I count at least 3 but they’re all tucked away in the back, so it’s hard to see. There may be more. She’s not quite 5 months old, but I noticed one of the 4 acting differently this week; much more shy than usual, and then actually observed what looked like mating, so clearly I was wrong about having all males.  

#TinyTankChallenge — Ethan Update #1

I decided to take a calculated risk today. Since I used substrate, water and rock from an already established tank, and I’ll be doing frequent large water changes weekly, I decided to just go ahead and add a few TINY frags from my big tank. If I have a big ammonia spike I may lose them, but everything I keep is pretty hardy and has already endured some of my stupid mistakes.


A snail hitchhiker. Those zoas opened up about ten minutes after being introduced to the tiny tank. There’s some bubble algae in there, but hey, nobody’s perfect.


Also, speaking of hitchhikers, I have no idea what these tentacles belong to, but it came in on that rock and I’ve never seen it before. Some kind of anemone maybe?



#TinyTankChallenge – Brian Update #1

The tank is filled, the filter’s pumping, and the hardscape is all in!


To start, I tested the filter to make sure it worked. I hung it on the side of an operating tank for several days to help seed the filter media with beneficial bacteria. To continue cycling the tank, I added a couple of sinking food pellets to serve as a source of ammonia. I also tossed in a small handful of gravel from the existing tank to help seed those beneficial bacteria even more. The filter is nice and quiet, and is creating a nice gentle current across the tank.


I acquired some driftwood from an LFS. I knew it was going to be too big to fit, so I cut some of the end off with a coping saw. I then soaked it in dechlorinated water for a couple of days to make sure I leached out any excess tannins from the wood. When the water was all clear, I added it to the aquarium. I scrounged up some river stones from an old aquarium I have in storage to help add to the riverbank feel of the scene. I may tweak it a little more. I’m not entirely happy with the depth of the gravel, so I may change it once the plants are here.


I changed my mind and decided to use a lid on the tank to help reduce evaporation and to retain some heat. I made the lid out of a leftover acrylic sheet I had on-hand from another project. I cut custom notches in the lid to fit the filter and the clamp for the light, so the lid sits flush on top of the tank.

Finally, I was able to locate (on eBay) one of the location-specific plants needed to make this a true biotope setup. I’ve ordered the first batch of plants (some Blyxa japonica, sometimes called the bamboo plant), and they should be here by Tuesday!

s-l500Running total:

  • Previous spent: $53.48
  • Driftwood: $12.00
  • Bamboo Plants: $6
  • New total: $71.48

Wish me luck finding the rest of my plant list. Finding the right species is trickier than I thought!

Liz’s Pico Reef…?


(Sorry, I have to say that as a student at Texas A&M)

I’m joining the #tinytankchallenge because I study the intersection of science and leisure. Basically, keeping an aquarium is a leisure activity that is all about SCIENCE! I’m a grad student at TAMU and while I have limited time nowadays, I used to be HUGE into aquarium keeping! That’s how I got into studying it!

Anyway, as a cheap fish nerd I always look for found items that I can use in or as an aquarium. When I was bicycling down the street to last year work I saw a small glass tank and tiny HOB filter sitting in someone’s trash. It looks to be home made and is an 8″x8″x8″ cube. ADORABLE! So, I took it home.

I didn’t know what to do with it and was having motivation issues. I set up a 10g marine tank for a frogfish we caught in the gulf but when she laid eggs and croaked, the tank went to he11. I was not so sure I could maintain a marine aquarium during this point in my life. I’ve kept several before (20L reef, 58g reef, 100g tub reef), but never a pico.

Kermitta the frogfish laid eggs then croaked. 😦

I’ve been a bit indecisive about doing a marine tank… I’ve wanted to do a nice little planted FW tank with shrimp… but SW is calling…

So, I’ve taken Ethan’s advice and started looking at http://www.nano-reef.com (where I used to be very active, actually; I’m “Six”). Inspiration is stemming from my strange preoccupation with species-only aquaria as well as my interest in making things well… interesting. I read Anthony Calfo’s books on greenhouse reefing and I distinctly remember him using a concrete item in his reef that he grew fire coral on as a joke. That concrete item was a peeing boy:

pee boy.jpg

So I’m leaning towards a single coral species tank, probably metallic green star polyp (gsp), that is trained to encrust on something funny (but it would have to be TINY!). Or, perhaps I’ll make a bonsai-looking treescape? Or a farm scape with little goats and chickens on the GSP? The possibilities are endless!

  • 8x8x8″ cube tank = $0.00
  • small HOB filter = $0.00
  • ridiculous ideas = priceless

Thanks for reading! Follow me on twitter for more updates! @LizMarchio


#TinyTankChallenge – CB Edition!

Guess what tiny human is hoppin’ into tiny tanks for 2016? Me. That’s who. CB. And boy, am I gosh diggity dang excited.

My secret not-so-secret is I actually already have experience with Tiny Tanks. Due to space limitations, I drained an old 20 gal and swapped it for a 2 gallon shrimp tank about two years back. I’ve also got a fluval spec III 2.8 gallon hanging out on my desk for a couple months now that I’ve been using for excess plant storage since its betta tenant died, so this challenge is a good excuse to get it back on track.

Marvel at my algae bloom excess plants.

My super nerdy and very loose inspiration is That Forest in That Movie.


“That Movie” is also called Princess Mononoke.

I plan to accomplish this obviously-achievable-in-real-life-cartoon-forest look by using old java moss that I’ve been keeping in a critter carrier for a duration of time that is estimated to be approximately-Too-Long, and tying it down the the everloving surface of everything.


Mmmmmm. Mossy.

And also maybe tie a plant on some driftwood to make a tree. Who really knows at this point, not me, because I’m a professional*.

I’m only purchasing a couple new things for this challenge, namely a new light which I got yesterday, and hopefully a nice piece of driftwood if I can find one that fits in just the way I want. The rest are recycled supplies, but I’ll go ahead and list them anyway with rounded up prices that I got them for when I got them! Exception is plants, which I took from my old tank and had grown from some pretty sad ones that I took off a friend’s hands years back, so those fellas cost me nothin’. So if you also want to use plants I highly suggest you make friends with people who have some and take theirs because you love them.

Fluval Spec III, $20, used (these things go on sale ALL THE TIME, by the way, so always wait for the drop in price if you like this particular fish house)
13w clip on light, $25 (these too go on sale ALL THE TIME.)
25w submersible heater, $10, used (the same hydro heater Ethan is using, they’re reliable and don’t acquire that awful knocking sound that most submersible heaters end up with)
-GRAVEL, $5 I’ll be using plants that feed from the water column as opposed to substrate, so no need to start with a rich substrate. No link because it’s just some rocks.

Total is sitting at $65. No filter being purchased on this one because the spec has a very overpowered unit already built in.

So that’s it before I drain the thing and actually start. Join me next time as I drown a naughty piece of driftwood for days before throwing it in, and try to decide on what critters to stick in here. Probably a betta, because I like them and the tank is already modded to accommodate one. Definitely some cherry or ghost shrimp, because I like them even more.

This is my old fish. This fish is dead now. Maybe I will get another just like him, but less dead.

*I’m not a professional.

Tiny Tank, Tiny Shrimp

Hi, I’m Diana and I’m new to Parlour Oceans. When BlackMudPuppy posted the Tiny Tank Challenge on Twitter I decided to join the fun and try something new. I have (redacted) years of experience keeping aquariums but right now I’m down to one: a 125 gallon community tank with live plants.

Jan 2016

When I decided to accept the the challenge I wanted to try something different. I thought about salt water (which I haven’t done before), brackish water, maybe something for an amphibian. But the challenge has a price limit and the poison dart frogs that I’d really like to try are seriously pricey. Maybe next year. And since small tanks are harder than big tanks I thought I’d be more successful with freshwater, where most of my experience has been.

If you Google “planted aquariums” you will find some spectacular tanks. My tank does not look like that. It’s really a community tank with plants. So that’s my Personal Challenge. I plan to device a spectacular scenic planted aquarium. With Shrimp.

To date I have bought a 5.5 gallon tank for $13.99, a thermometer for $2.99, and a filter bag for $2.99. I’ve also ordered an in-tank filter for$11.99 and a small heater for $17.59. I already have excess substrate, decorations and a hood to finish things off.


My biggest concern is my water supply. My tap water is very, very soft (carbonate hardness of around 50 ppm or 3 degrees). This means the pH can change quickly (and, in fact, my tap water pH varies between under 6 and up to nearly 8!). So I plan to add a layer of crushed coral under the plant substrate to help modify the hardness in the Tiny Shrimp Tank. Fingers crossed that this works.

Once I get the filter and heater I’ll start cycling the water and getting ready for the plants!