Random blurbs of advice that a casual and novice aquarium keeper may benefit from. I am an expert aquarist and have been in the hobby for most of my life keeping things from stingrays to danios. I have also worked at pet stores and moderated fish community sites for years. I'm also a senior in college getting a degree in fisheries science. Everything here is my opinion based personal experience.


Anonymous asked
I've been reading through your posts about fish bowls.. I have two goldfish in a fish bowl. I've been watching the smaller of my two fish grow up. They are fed twice a day and the bowl is cleaned about 3 times a week. They have a ball filter. Now.. my fish are in no means any trouble from my side, my older fish has happily been with me since December last year.. although they may not live for 20 years, what's there to say that my fish aren't as happy as other fish? Because they live in a bowl?

They’re alive. Fish are good at surviving. Fish have been around for hundreds of millions of years. I had a friend not feed a betta fish for 5 months and it survived and was swimming around. He said it looked happy. Knowing how a fish is happy is a judgement of our moral nature. Yes a fish, especially multiple goldfish, will survive in a bowl when enough water changes are done. Would people do it? Depends on their moral nature.

In my moral nature I cannot see a fish that normally grows at least 12 inches and can live 30-60 years being happy in a bowl. They just survive because that’s what they do. Put yourself in the shoes of those fish. Would you do the same to a cat or dog? Or does it not matter because they’re simply goldfish? That is another question on the respect of living things and morality.

I must seem nasty in this response and wasn’t necessary addressing “you” as you, but I answered your question honestly.

Anonymous asked
29gal planted tank 5 julii cory cats, 6 tiger barbs, 6 zebra danios, 1 rainbow shark. filter is rated for 50 gal tank and min 5 gal water changes done twice a week. is this too many fish for a tank this size

I feel this is a good amount of fish considering your tank size, filtration, and water change frequency. I wouldn’t suggest anymore fish. I’d keep an eye on the rainbow shark. I’ve had some super aggressive individuals that endlessly harassed tankmates. They can also get a bit large for a 29g, but they grow slowly. Good luck with your tank. :)

Anonymous asked
I have the plastic tank in the larger size. It is covered and I change water daily using the dechlorinator drops. I only have the one goldfish, looks like the typical feeder goldfish. Eventually I want to get one of the ten gallon size tanks for him but not yet. Is the tank I have now better than he bowl?

That’s a good question.  A rectangle plastic tank is really the lesser of two evils. They are better than bowls because they have greater surface area for gas exchange. They also tend to give the fish more swimming space. However, it’s still an inadequate enclosure for a goldfish. My goldfish bowl post explains this more detail. At least you have the daily water change down. This alone eliminates all built up toxic waste but can introduce issues such as fish stress and temperature shock (though goldfish are robust, a weakened/stressed fish will more likely succumb to that). If the container is large enough, buy a sponge filter. They are cheap, easy to setup filters that only require an aerator. This will help reduce the frequency of water changes and fish stress from daily water changes. Another good thing is that you are using dechlorinating drops. Regular tap water kills beneficial bacteria that helps reduce toxins and may stress the fish. Once tap water hits the gravel or filter media, biological filtration is killed off. Wash gravel and filters in tank water/treated water and dechlorinate new water before adding it to the tank. This will increase the likelihood that your fish will survive in a plastic tank. Lastly, when feeding be careful not to over feed. Excess food will cause a bunch of issues that might kill the fish. I hope this helps and good luck with your goldfish. :)

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Book Review: The Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants

I promised myself that I would include a few reviews on this blog. Might as well start with this hidden jewel. With boundless amounts of information available to us on the internet it is easy to look over the limited bounds of books. No different than the internet, there are several books out there on aquariums ranging from saltwater keeping to species specific encyclopedias. Most of these books are redundant, pretty much pulling out a thesaurus in effort to make an original profile of a Neon Tetra (one of the reasons why I won’t be making species accounts on this blog unless asked). However, there are a few books out there that can be excellent references worthy of your shelf. One such book I stumbled upon on my own shelf is Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants by Peter Hiscock. I tend to buy books while on sale or clearance. When Borders cleared out their stock I picked up this book. I honestly didn’t read it until a few weeks ago. I kept planted tanks for over a year and failed miserably. If I had this book maybe I’d be making more blog posts on planted tank tips. Lets move on to the reasons why I recommend this book.

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Research multiple sources.

This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I would ever give to a new fish keeper. Research every single outlet available to you. Whether it be books or a simple Google search. There are endless resources out there for fish keepers. Due to the size of this worldwide hobby there’s at lot of information, yet (like this blog) it’s mostly opinion. Mix a room full of 25 people with different experience and they will have different answers. Thankfully, if you research well you’ll find a common answer to your question. How do you decide what is the best answer to your question?

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1,000 Bits of Fishy Advice You Shouldn't Ignore: You stumbled upon a WILD BETTA WARRIOR!



I had a feeling the goldfish bowl post will lure out some wild Betta Warriors. I had to test the tall grass. See how common and aggressive these creatures are. Keep in mind this blog is my opinion. Not UltimateBettas. You can take it or leave it. Don’t like what I say? Well, you have every right…

Er, wait, people got mad at you for saying bettas can be in bowls?

Of course they can! And this is coming from the (self proclaimed) biggest betta fanatic in Rhode Island. Just heated, 1 gallon bowls that are cleaned twice a week. :D Clean, warm water and enough space to swim around/be stimulated in. A 1 gallon is arguably too small for adequate swimming space and stimulation but that doesn’t mean nobody can keep them in one. Say you have a teenage kid who only has permission for a 1gal or someone who only has the space for a 1gal in their office or classroom. I kind of like to think about it like this, even though it’s anthropomorphizing people tend to understand it better and be more ready to accept it if I word it like this.

Less than a gallon= a closet

1 gallon= studio apartment

5 gallon= Nice apartment

10 gallon= house

Larger than 10 gallon= Nice ass house/mansion!

I’ve received 7 asks from anons who claimed bettas should be in no less than a 5-10 gallon tank and it should be filtrated yadayada. I’m not really surprised since I’ve dealt with them for years and stalk anything betta related. They’re the reason why I stopped moderating fish community forums. What’s even more messed up is that some of these people who preach this crap keep bettas in cramped, dirty. and terrible conditions. A few others don’t even keep bettas. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s disgusting.

Thank you for your reply!! I completely agree with your explanation. And I’m really glad you’re a level headed, insightful betta enthusiast. We need more people like you! I’ve bred bettas for years and kept adults in 1 gallon containers changed every 3-4 days. They thrived. I’ve put male bettas (long fin varieties) in filtrated 2.5-10 gallon tanks and they never did well. Their fins easily get destroyed and there are several species of fish that harass them. Lets be realistic here. Most aquarists of any level will not have a 10 gallon with just one betta in it. With females bettas it’s a little different. I’ve kept them in community tanks. They add diversity and personality to the tank. I had a 55 gallon filled with female bettas. They did wonderful and got enormous. I recommend min tank sizes based on the fin type of the betta. For long fined varieties (crowntail, veiltail, halfmoons, deltas, and some doubletails) I recommend 1 gallon and up.  For your more basic type bettas such as plakats, plakat crosses, and wilds I bump up the min tank size to 2.5-5 gallons due to their more active swimming behavior.

But back to the main point… Bettas can live in larger tanks but can be housed in one gallon sized tanks. Honestly, from personal experience, bettas bought from Wal-mart or Petsmart are lucky to be housed in a tank over a gallon. I know/seen way too many people that keep them in the same container they were sold in! That’s hardly 1/4 of a gallon! I would never recommend that. Stomping your feet around screaming that it’s blasphemy to suggest that bettas can live in tanks under 10 gallons is annoyingly ineffective and helps no one.

You stumbled upon a WILD BETTA WARRIOR!

I had a feeling the goldfish bowl post will lure out some wild Betta Warriors. I had to test the tall grass. See how common and aggressive these creatures are. Keep in mind this blog is my opinion. Not UltimateBettas. You can take it or leave it. Don’t like what I say? Well, you have every right to block me. I will take no offense. Sending anonymous messages of “YOU ARE WRONG BETTAS SHOULD BE IN 10 GALLON TANKSBLEHBLEHBLURBLEH YOU ARE AN IDIOT” are lovingly deleted. Anyone is free to dispute any of my other points in a mature fashion. In fact I encourage it. Just no bettas. I only stress this about bettas because for some reason they have the most obnoxious crusaders. People have very strong opinions on what bettas should be housed in. Our opinions will not change.  I have no time for arguments that go nowhere. It’s like arguing religion!! I’ve co-run sites that were destroyed by these people. It’s mind boggling.  

Thanks for hearing me out. This should be the only post like this for this is the most serious issue that’ll impact this blog. (this, this, this)

Definition: Betta Warrior (noun)
1. An individual who is viciously tenacious in sharing their opinion of what a betta should live in. Usually cause epic flame wars and personal army floods. They believe their opinion is law and become highly agitated when their opinions are disputed.  Have been known to hack and destroy sites that don’t share their views.
Synonyms: Drama, PETA

Figure 1. Betta Warriors using their “personal army” tactic.

veinsrunempty asked
To those people with algae problems: I have actually had a bit of issue with algae in a lot of different sized tanks, and one solution that worked in any tank was increasing the flow of water. I picked up a really cheap (like $25 or $30) circulation pump. Direct it towards the areas where the filters aren't hitting and the algae will clear up. This has worked really well for me.

I was thinking maybe the turbidity prevented the algae from growing but I do remember having algae form in front of even my most powerful filters (aquaclear 500/magnum 350) if I left it there long enough. Nothing major, though. I guess it never worked with me, but if it works for you it might work for someone else. I really want to experiment with that. Thanks for the tip!

fishypanda-deactivated20130321 asked
Hi, I saw your answer about the algae and I had a similar kind of question. How can I control algae in my goldfish tank? I get light green algae on the glass (mainly the back of the tank) and dark brown algae on the ornaments. It's all very confusing to me!

Oh and I forgot to add, I have 6 goldfish in an 80 gallon tank. Double Filtration and around 30% water changes weekly

           Hmm, your tank isn’t overstocked, sounds like it has good filtration, and you do a healthy amount of water changes. Interesting. I would reduce feeding amounts a tad and clean the filter media more often. I recommend at least once a month. In the past I used green algae blooms to signify filters need to be cleaned. If you’re not overfeeding and keeping the filter media clean try reducing the time the lights are on. If that fails try testing the water with a phosphate testing kit. If phosphates are high there’s phosphate absorbing media you can add to your filter. As I said in the previous post, these phosphate things make pH plummet and need to be changed frequently. The last resort would be adding algae eating fish. In a 90g tank with goldfish I’d recommend Rubber-lipped Plecos and Bristlenose Plecos. If none of that works… Sometimes green algae is just unavoidable and can be removed manually. At least it isn’t the dreaded beard algae.

Hope this helps!

hirothesardonic-deactivated2013 asked
What causes brown algae, and what type of fish can get rid of the stuff?

                Brown algae can be caused by a number of things. I’ve found that low light and high levels of nitrate really triggers it. When I used to keep Discus (they really like low light) I was always plagued by the stuff. It can also be caused by high silicates found in certain tap water but this is often not the case in most algae blooms. I would increase the duration or level of lighting and test the water for abnormalities.
                Otos are the only fish I have observed eating brown algae. Which is wonderful since they stay small and aren’t heavy waste producers like Plecos. However, the problem with using fish as algae control is that they are incredibly lazy when it comes to doing their job. All algae eaters from catfish to Siamese Algae Eaters would rather eat fish flakes or other sources of food than algae. Extracting nourishment from algae is very inefficient and time consuming so they’d rather be eating those convenient, tasty flakes meant for other fish. This is especially a problem with Chinese Algae Eaters and most Plecos. In the end, most algae eaters lose their interest in algae when they get over 4”-5” in size.
                Using Otos in conjunction with controlling nitrate/ light levels should keep brown algae at bay. Manually removing the algae can help too. If the case is really severe, adding afflicted aquarium decor to a bucket with a little bleach is very affective. Be sure to thoroughly wash the items to prevent getting bleach in the tank. That would be awful. If the algae is still an issue even though your water parameters are perfect, light levels aren’t too low, fish added etc., I would try adding a silicate removing media to your filter. Be cautious with them as they can reduce pH and they need frequent changing.

Hope this helps!