Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dinner Bell: Tetramin Flakes

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Tetramin Tropical Flakes was the first food I tried with my tetras...largely because a sample pack came for free in the aquarium kit. I don't know how it smelled to the fish, but to me it simply stank, and while the fish ate it since it was all I had while waiting for the other foods I'd ordered to be delivered, it clearly wasn't their meal of choice compared to whatever the LFS had been feeding.

  • Only two preferred protein ingredients are included in the top 10, and these are of unknown quality as the source is not indicated. 
  • This food contains artificial colorants, ethoxyquin, and menadione sodium bisulfite which are potentially harmful.
  • Most vitamins come from artificial sources.

Crude Protein     47%
Crude Fat           10%
Crude Fiber        3%
Moisture             6%
Phosphorus         1%
Total Energy Points: 332 (too high, may cause fatty liver)

Rating: 1:6

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Great Aquarium Transfer

It's often said, 'Begin as you mean to go.' In fish-keeping this is perhaps even more true. Starting out with good equipment and good habits helps prevent problems further down the line. But what if your equipment fails, or you decide later on that you'd like to upgrade like I did to a larger tank...?

First off, I should warn you to be prepared for many headaches. Secondly, make absolutely certain that you'll have an uninterrupted block of time: an entire day if at all possible; expect everything to take at least twice as long as your best estimate. Thirdly, talk to others who've been through the process and learn from their mistakes. This will help your transition to proceed much more smoothly.

  1. Read the instruction manuals for your new equipment, and then read them again. Some items don't ship with clear instructions for assembly or instruction, so watch every YouTube tutorial you can find about them, too. Check and double check all your measurements before cutting/modifying any tubing or other parts Personal Note: Do this before beginning to assemble your item; it will save you much time and frustration. I failed to do this with my first Eheim canister filter, and the first attempt ended in a massive headache. 
  2. If you're planting your aquarium, don't fill the aquarium all the way to the top before you put the plants in if you have a choice in the matter. Personal Note: Planting in a completely filled aquarium is cold, wet, and messy. You'll often be up to your armpits in water, and generally dripping everywhere. I've had better results by filling the tank about halfway--sometimes a little less--planting, and then topping off.
  3. If you're replacing your filters as opposed to simply moving them across to a new tank, save your media...all of it! Keep it wet, and transfer it to your new filter adding additional new media as needed. Get your new filter running as quickly as possible. Personal Note: Make sure that the water in your new tank as been treated with Prime or similar before doing this, so as not to kill your beneficial bacteria with chlorine/chloramine. Also, if both old and new media won't fit in your filter at the same time, getting the old media in should take priority. I will note from experience that an Eheim 2215 will in fact hold its own media plus  that of both a Whisper 30 and Whisper 40 at the same time.
  4. When transferring fish from the old aquarium, removing all plants/decor first will make the process much easier...nothing for you to dodge the net around, and nowhere for the fish to hide! Draining all but a few inches of water will also help. Personal Note: Having a second net and/or a second person is a big help, as is having excellent hand-eye coordination and fast reflexes. It took me about three hours to net thirty-some fish.
Those of you that have transferred a tank or equipment before, any other tips or suggestions...?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Customer Service Review:

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I mentioned a few weeks ago that there was a story behind the Aquatic Fundamental stands. Well, here it is...

On Christmas Eve 2015, was offering the Aquatic Fundamentals 50/65 Upright on sale. Since this stand is not available in-store in my area and it had sold out when it was on sale previously, I placed an order immediately knowing full well that it would not be processed until after the holiday. However, when I finally received my confirmation email on Monday morning, it indicated the incorrect size of stand!

I immediately contacted Petco's customer service number, where I was told that the order had not yet been forwarded to Aquatic Fundamentals and would be promptly cancelled; a new order would be submitted for the correct size, and I would only be charged the price of the stand as of 24 December since this was apparently caused by computer error on their end. I even received an email confirming that the first order had been cancelled, and a second indicated that a new order had been submitted. All was good, right?

Due to continued computer issues, the warehouse never updated the shipping tracker, so I had no way of knowing whether the stand had actually shipped or when it was going to arrive. A box finally did appear on January 4...but it was the order that had supposedly been cancelled! And I had no way of returning the useless stand because according to their computer, I had never received it. Now I had a 60# box of useless aquarium stand parts sitting in the middle of my floor. Fortunately, the correct stand finally arrived on January 7 despite the tracker not showing that it had ever left the warehouse. A supervisor later called and made arrangements for a courier to come out and retrieve the stand that I'd been shipped in error.

And the real kicker... When I received my credit statement after all this was over, they hadn't charged me for either stand. I do try to be honest in my business dealings, so I let them know. Despite several attempts, however, Petco's computers continued to indicate that I had already paid despite my account never having been billed. Rather than drag out the drama, they let me keep the stand for free.

Dealing with the repeated computer errors was a bit of a headache, but they did everything they could to resolve the  issue as quickly as possible. 

Rating: 9:10

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fish Tales: Agamemnon

Agamemnon was an adventurer to be sure, and the longest-lived beta I've ever met. He started out as my baby sister's dorm pet while she was at SUNY Oswego, surviving all the insanity of college life including being dropped into a bowl of salsa and then nearly flushed when her roommate's visiting mother thought he was dead. Note to other fish-keepers: eating chips and dip while cleaning your aquarium is apparently a BAD IDEA. From the dorms, he followed her to her first apartment in downtown Syracuse. We thought they'd be together til he died, since the average lifespan of a beta is only about four years.

Then she was accepted to a research program on the west coast, and Agamemnon couldn't go with her. Due to time constraints she'd have to fly, and while airlines will let you take your dog/cat/pot bellied pig for a fee, fish were out of the question. So onto the floorboard of her car went Aggie in a 
two-gallon pico tank for the drive from NY to VA where he would be staying with me.

Much to my surprise, Aggie lived for almost another four years, surviving a bout with fin rot, a mysterious infection that swelled his head and left him blind in one eye, my marriage and subsequent move to a new home, and two curious cats. He finally went to the Great Fishbowl in June of 2014.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Product Review: Aquatic Fundamentals 50/65 Upright

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When I first began planning my aquarium upgrades I decided to give Aquatic Fundamentals stands a try, mostly because the clean, simple design worked well with my decor and there was some degree of consistency in style between the various sizes of stands. The powder-coated finish, touted as easy to maintain, was a plus.

After a number of customer service issues (related to the company I ordered from, and not the manufacturer) I finally received my first stand, a 50/65 Upright. It was relatively easy to assemble, or so the hubby tells me, and felt quite solid and stable once it was turned upright and leveled on my dining room floor. The backless design made running electrical cords and tubing for the canister filters a snap, though it did require a bit of improvisation on my part to figure out how to keep the cats out.

Closing in on a year now, it still looks great despite repeatedly having water splashed on discoloration or bubbling of the finish at all. In fact, I liked it so much I ordered a second one, and will likely order several more in the future. Rating: 10:10

Sunday, January 1, 2017

An Expensive Snack

a.k.a Why Not to Keep Shrimp With Your Beta

Several of my friends have kept shrimp in their beta tanks without any difficult, so I figured I'd give some red cherry shrimp a try. After all, my beta seemed pretty mellow and had never shown aggression toward any of his previous (albeit temporary) tank-mates. I failed to take something very important into consideration, though.

Mike...was a picky eater. If it wasn't API Tropical Flake or Aqueon Beta Bites, he wouldn't touch it. He turned up his nose at any other flake, daphnia, and every type of freeze-dried worm I offered. Turns out, it was because he wanted his dinner live and wriggling. Instead of my shrimp laying eggs and making cute shrimp babies, they quickly became an expensive beta snack!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Product Review: Tetra 29g Aquarium Kit

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I will confess that I loved the Tetra 29 gallon aquarium kit at first. It came with everything I thought I'd need to get my aquarium habit back on its feet: tank, filter, heater, LED lighted hood. It even came with a warranty, though I admit I should have read the fine print more closely; as it turns out, the warranty only covers the glass itself. So what did I discover...?

The tank itself is of good quality, and I would trust it to hold up for a good number of years. The silicone job was a tad bit sloppy, but that's more a cosmetic issue and easily concealed. Rating: 9:10

The filter included in the kit was only a Whisper 30 EX HOB, which is the bare minimum required for a tank of this size. Anyone wanting to stock a 29 gallon tank to its capacity would need to add a secondary filter or replace it entirely. Also, contrary to its name, I found that this filter ran quite loudly: a constant droning buzz. I've run Whispers before (though not of this size) and never had this issue, so I'm uncertain if this problem was unique to this individual filter or is a sign of some wider problem in production. Rating: 7:10

The LED hood was lovely...for about the first seven months. The one by one the cells began to flicker and die. When I removed it to see if I could figure out what was going on, there was visible corrosion to the connective wiring between cells inside the plastic screen that was supposed to protect the LED. Ultimately, I had to buy both a new aquarium lid and light. Rating: 2:10

The heater, which was a Tetra 150, worked wonderfully for the first seven months after which it began having extended periods where it would run and not shut off. I didn't think much of it at first, since it was late January and the weather was fairly cold. Then just shy of a year, it imploded. Spectacularly. It didn't just stop working, oh no. The thermostat failed overnight, and I woke to fish stew in my display tank. I could feel the heat emanating when I raised the hood, and the thermometer registered about 90. Rating: 3:10 (if only because it lasted longer than the LED)