My First Step Into The Fish Hobby… Please Don’t Hate Me…

Nikki Tognetti
  • #1
It all started in the month of March 2018, so I haven’t been in the hobby very long. I decided to research and plan a budget before I get anything. After watching a few YouTube videos on bettas, I went to my local pet store which was a Petco to do some price quotes on getting a betta set up. All was going according to plan until I saw the actual bettas in their little display cups in real life and fell in love with one of them, a brilliantly blue Dumbo half-moon tail male. The childlike impulsive side of my brain kicked in, to complete control, and I was convinced I must get him now. That day I bought a 2.5 gallon tank, aquarium gravel, a live plant that I forgot the name of, dried blood worms, and even conditioned bottles of betta water.

I was so excited as I found a placement in my art studio, so I can see and display my fish properly as I paint. I thought I was doing everything right. I set up the tank, I acclimated my fish the very same day and slept back to enjoy my betta that I named Mr. B. But he was sluggish and seem unhappy. He was eating just fine but something was missing. Luckily it was only a week to the next month for when I get paid. During that time, I did further research which I learned he needed a heater and a filter. I felt terrible, but I knew he would only have to last a week like this.

As soon as payday came I went back to the fish store, unfortunately this was during a big tank sale and my eyes laid upon a TopFish 29 gallon set up complete with heater and filter. My impulsive brain taken once more. Why not get my Mr. B a bigger home, I thought to myself, so I purchased the tank and happily took it home.

As soon as I set the new home up at him after acclamation and the temperature was raised in the tank water and he loved it. Mr. B was happy and perky! Yay! I was convinced I did something right for my fish that I was very attached. The following week, I was hooked on fish YouTube videos trying to learn as much as I possibly could about the hobby and discovered I can add other fish that maybe compatible with Mr. B and even build a community fully planted tank. That made me super excited. But I was reframing for adding them because I was still cycling the tank for the month. I chose to wait and watched more videos. Everything was going well until I saw one video about adding regular potting dirt to an aquarium substrate and build upon that.

I never heard of such a thing, of course I am a newbie. I decided to experiment and try it. I thought this was cut my costs down from buying the more expensive plant substrate that pet store was selling. I already had gravel to cover it, so I thought no worries. Little did I know I would panic later and think that had destroyed my aquarium.

I placed Mr. B back into the smaller aquarium to live during this process. And no I do not think about saving a lot of water from the established tank, a very newbie mistake. I was too focused and thinking impulsively on the experiment of any dirt to an aquarium. I added an inch of the layer of potting soil to the aquarium and added gravel over then I began to fill it with water and freaked out. I did not have enough gravel to keep the soil under control. It was a mess… I was panicking as half the dirt and tons of debris rose up in a giant floating disaster. I spent a good solid hour scooping the stuff out with a tiny fishnet… Yes, a tiny fishnet. I was underprepared. After that was done I rushed back to the pet store and bought giant bag aquarium sand to help wake everything down that the gravel failed to do.

During my time in the store I bought a few more things, one of those aquarium vacuums, a plant, an artificial hiding log… oh and let’s see I decided to buy some fish. Okay don’t scream at the monitor on what the “beep” I was doing or type angry things at me…. I’m not sure what was going through my mind when I decide to look at the fish and fall in love with some very cute ones that I felt the compulsion to bring home to the disaster that was my tank. Why would I do this when I had so much work to do to get the water clean and the plants planted… I’m still not sure to this day. And of course, what about re-cycling the tank again.

But I am dangerously impulsive. This behavior I seriously must work on. The fish that I purchased were 4 panda corys, two black loaches, and four guppies. I took them home and set them aside as a retainer at the site of the tank realizing that maybe I made a mistake in bringing these innocent little lives home to their potential doom. I applied the sand, planted the vegetation and did three 50% water changes to clear up the water in the tank. Mind you I was in terrible physical pain, I have diabetes and pinched nerves in my feet which were killing me, but I was on a mission to complete this tank that night and get these fish into their new home.

During this time, all the fish were stressing out their bags and one unfortunate guppy did die from the whole mess which I inflicted on them. I felt terrible during the whole process. But as soon as I got the heater running and the filter working, I added them into the large tank and crossed my fingers. I sat there for hours watching them to see if they would all coexist together and were in good shape before I even thought about going to bed. My Mr. B was cool as a cucumber and did not even trouble the others as they were freaking out all over the place fortunately they eventually calm down after an hour.

I couldn’t stand any longer, I was exhausted, and my feet were throbbing with pain. Uneasily, I went to sleep worried and dreaded that I wake up to a tank of dead fish in the morning. I woke up early and rushed to check on them immediately. I lost one more guppy, the others were alive, and it seems quite content. I felt bad for the guppies I lost. Hard lesson learned. But that wasn’t the only the most troubling thing about the experience… Both the heater and filter died during the night. What the ****? Why did this have to happen to me now? I growled to myself and marched back to the store when it opened focused on just getting those two things. My impulsive brain did keep it in and I left the shop with heater and filter in hand.

After I set everything up, it’s been 2 days (5/2/18) is alive and healthy looking. I am telling my story and because I get off my story off my chest and see if there were others who experienced the same thing that I went through. I know I will be getting more fish to add to the tank but after all this I’m going to wait a while and see how these guys do this month. This is also a warning to any new fish hobbyists out there who wish to start their new tanks… PLEASE DON’T DO what I did!!! It was reckless, and more fish lives could have been lost in an instance through foolish impulsive behavior. Just do your research, follow the instructions of the seasoned pros, and talk about your plans before executing them to see if they correct.

Any comments and advice is most helpful. Thank you.
  • #2
Welcome! That's quite an adventure. It sounds like you're working very hard to provide your new friends a good home.

I know a lot of people love dirted tanks. I would watch the ammonia levels in tank for awhile. I believe new dirt can cause ammonia spikes as the dirt starts to break down. Also, you want to add a bunch of plants so the nutrients in the dirt have somewhere to go.

Unfortunately, it does sound like you have some stocking issues. But it's something we can work on, if you'd like. The panda corys like colder water than what your betta will like. The same with the guppies. The loaches and corys both to be in groups of 6 or more. I would really recommend taking back the corys and the guppies, if you can. There are fish that can live with bettas. I'm sure there's plently of people here who'd be happy to give recommendations.

One last note, I would recommend getting a quarantine tank set up if you plan on getting more fish. This is so you can keep the new fish away from your main tank for a few weeks to make sure they don't have any parasites or diseases. It will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
Nikki Tognetti
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Oh dear about the temp with the corys and guppies. I really like them but I will listen to your advice. They are acting hipper. I am not sure it's stress. My tank is at around 78 - 80 degrees. Sounds like I will have to take them back. I'm also worried about my betta now. He's acting very sluggish again. He'll laid against his log for long periods of time only heading up to the surface for air. Is that normal or should I be very worried?
  • #4
If you wanted to keep all the corys and guppies, you could get a 5 gallon tank for the betta to have to himself. He'll be absolutely fine being the king of a small tank.

Sounds like something's not quite right with your betta. We can narrow down what's wrong.

It sounds like the old filter died recently. When you got the new filter, did you put all the old filter media in the new filter?

Do you have a water testing kit? If so, can you test your water and see what the parameters are?

What type of dirt did you use? I meant to ask earlier and I forgot.

Is there anything else wrong with the betta? Any different colors on him? Any torn fins or missing scales?
Nikki Tognetti
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
ok I can move him back to the 2.5 gal til I get a 5. No I didn't add the old media. I don't testing kit yet. I just used regular potting soil, can't think of the name, it had a cartoon frog on it. He has nothing physically abnormal about him. Thank you for helping me with this.
  • #6
Hmmm...ok. I am by no extent an expert on dirted tanks, but I believe you have to use organic potting soil. Other types may have fertilizer or other things in it, which would be harmful to your fish.

The other issue is your tank isn't cycled. When you switched over to the new filter, all the "good" bacteria was in your old filter media. So, the new tank doesn't have bacteria to convert the ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate. I would do a big water change, at least 50%. That will cut down the ammonia in the tank temporarily.

Long term, a API Master Kit is going to be your safest bet. My best guess at the moment is your betta is feeling the affects of the ammonia in the water. You'll need to keep an eye on the ammonia and nitrite in the tank for the next few weeks while the new filter cycles. If you can't get a test kit, a lot of pet stores will test your water for free if you bring in a sample. Water changes will be necessary every day or two to keep the levels under control until the filter grows new bacteria. I would also consider removing the dirt, which I know isn't what you want to hear. I would check to see what type you used, and maybe get a second opinion. The good news is that plenty of people grow plants without dirt, me included.
Nikki Tognetti
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
wow... ok. I willing to do the work. I'll check the soil brand in the morning. If it's the wrong stuff, I'll just get that junk out. I can get the test kit too. Pet store opens early at 7 am and it's close by ( 5 min drive ). Poor fishies. I really screwed up, I hope I can fix this before I loose them. Thank you again. I've been feeling very sick about this whole thing that I got myself into. To me, I see fish like other animal companions just different in the way you interact with them. Of course you can't play fetch or pet a fish but they are living beings with great personalities. They haven't been with me long but they already have names and I really want them to thrive.
  • #8
Welcome to fishlore!

I second the call for the API freshwater master test kit! if you want your new pets to live through the cycle, it's essential if getting down the road isn't an option daily for you.

I didn't see where you said you're using a water conditioner (eg, dechlorinates tap water) but I may have missed that? if you don't have one, you need one. chlorine in tap water kills bacteria and fish. many people on here use seachem prime because it can also detoxify low levels of ammonia and nitrites.
Nikki Tognetti
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
HI Jenoli, yes I did add conditioner (my water is well water and not city) as well as Quick Start to pump up a cycle. Mr. B has been moved to the 2.5 but when I woke up, he is looking very limp and may die. I am so annoyed with myself that I let all this happen. Last night, I did lower the temp in the 29 gal to 77 degrees which the other fish seen fine and calm down. I just wish I was more patient from the start and not jump into everything so much in such a very short period of time. I think about it now and it's totally unrealistic and so completely different regional plans of slow and steady like the pros said on the YouTube videos. I don't want to lost my **** betta. S.O.S can he still be saved? I believe he's going through some kind of shock. Is there a medication? Please help if anybody can.
  • #10
The best thing you can do for the betta is to keep it in fresh water. I didn’t catch if you ever got a filter and heater for the 2.5 gallon tank, if not, that’s probably the problem again. Take a deep breath, do a 50% water change on the betta tank with temperature matched water and see if there’s any improvement. You only need a small air-powered sponge filter for that tank.

Ok, now take another deep breath and start on your long-term plan. Watch YouTube videos so you can fall in love with a fish from a distance, and develop a stocking plan for your 29 gallon. Think about upgrading the betta to a 5, preferably 10, gallon tank. Strangely, 10 gallons are cheaper than 5 gallons if you pick it up at the $ per gal sale. You’ll also need a 50 watt heater, a sponge filter and air pump, and a light for plants.

I wrecked a school of glowlight tetras when I started. Many people have false starts, just push through, curb your impulses, and develop a plan. After your water change, that is.
  • #11
First, welcome to fishlore. You have come to the right place.

Second, Please don't beat yourself up too badly. If we were all totally honest I think we could all admit to have been impulsive at one time or another and our water pets have paid the price.

It is possible that Mr B is suffering from too many moves or it is also possible that something in the potting soil has affected him. We can't know for sure what happened but If I were you I would not move him again until he is back to health. The 2.5 gallon tank will work for now.

Follow misfittoy 's very good advice as to how to set his tank up. Heater, filter and clean water are the most important things you can do for this little guy right now. He has been put through a lot in a very short period of time and for now he needs stability. Please don't try any medications at this point. A lot of them claim to help but often do more harm than good.
Nikki Tognetti
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
Breathing. Mr. B is still alive but limp. I am making a firm long term plan with dealing in my tanks and yes, just do more research and watch ton fish vids. Thank you much. Here are pics of my tanks atm.

Forgot to write, I'm will head to the pet store and get the heater and filter.


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Nikki Tognetti
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
Update. The water test results are in; there is a tiny bit high ammonia level which could be fix a with a little water change. Thankfully the levels on everything else were almost perfect. I bought two more plants and the fish couldn't be happier in the 29 gal. Mr. B has a new environment with gravel, heater, a hiding log, and plants of his own. Still waiting for his water warm-up see if he becomes active again. Crossing my fingers, asking for "good lucks" for my little guy. Thank you.
  • #14
Sending out a boat load of "Good Luck" for Mr. B and for you and all your other little guys too.
Nikki Tognetti
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
Mr. B is SWIMMING again!!! WOOHOO! What a little trooper!

Sending out a boat load of "Good Luck" for Mr. B and for you and all your other little guys too.
Thank you!


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Nikki Tognetti
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
Because I've been dealing with my starting up aquariums and fish, it's been weeks since I painted anything which is a big deal because I've been pretty productive artist this year. Since I have fish on the brain lately why not paint a portrait of my Mr. B (which does not stand for Mr. Betta but actually Beauty. My chose to simplify it because it would sound more masculine). So here is a small (4x5) acrylic portrait of my mascot fish of my household. I'm happy with the results.
The real Mr. B is still doing well, swimming slowly but at least he is swimming and staying off the gravel. He hasn't eaten yet. Still I'm patient that he will pull through. The ones in the 29 gal are doing better than ever. Thank you for those who have helped me with advice and encouragement. I really do appreciate it and I believe my fish do as well.


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Nikki Tognetti
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
Sad day. I am so upset I am tearing up. Mr. B found dead. ****!!! I am sad and annoyed with myself. He could have life for years if I didn't rush things. In the end as I looked over the body, his belly fin was all rot and melted... too upsetting. That all happen over night?! I did bury him under a rose near my home. The other fish are ok and eating after I did a 65% water change. I not sure what to do else atm.

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