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LittleStars 5.5G Organic Tank For Neat Freaks
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NameLittleStars 5.5G Organic Tank For Neat Freaks
SubstrateBare Bottom
Size5 Gallons
InhabitantsThis is a 5.5 gallon bare bottom aquarium setup. I've done several of these for myself and friends. Variation examples- Danios, OR Aquatic Frogs (heads up AF really do require bloodworms to thrive, which are disgusting) - I have 1 Molly Female + 1 Platy Male, and my lovebirds a male Platy + female Betta. Now that pair was a surprise but they went into their home together as babies and it worked out great. Not more than 3 small occupants in this setup. We got a female dalmation balloon molly who turned out to be pregnant. She's now in a 10G with six fry babies we intend to keep. Keep in mind female livebearers can be pregnant when you get them!

I couldn't get the Add Video button to work but video is here:

If you want this setup, then this is how I do it:

Start-up: If your tank is brand new: Wash it VERY well with bottled distilled water and a non-fray rag or algae sponge (no soap, always be mindful of chemicals). New tanks will have bubbles on the glass after filling, just wipe those off and they won't come back. Heater with adjustable temp. My filter is Jardin Efficient Economy Corner filter, together with a Tetra Air Pump.

Small World: I recommend an aquarium no smaller than 5G (they're usually 5.5 like mine). Then you have room for what you need, air bubbles, heating, filtration, decor. You will quickly realize that a 5G is still easy to maintain and more of a true home for your fish.

Water: The key to this small desktop setup is best possible water. It's a matter of always having the same water parameters especially stable oxygen. Water with low oxygen, ammonia (often in the tap water itself), incorrect PH, chlorine, heavy metals, flouride, bacteria and other contaminants such as prescription medications and antibiotics now being found in tap water, often results in the toxic yo-yo syndrome of treating water with a host of chemical products, which you need to avoid. The only fish I've lost died of old age, never ever EVER lost a fish to bad water. The truth is you can't control what comes out of your tap, but you can control what goes into your tank. I use only Freshwater One or Betta Water by Petco or similar such as Elive Betta Water. Brands may change but I've always been able to find it even if I have to get it online. These are typically reverse osmosis water that have the PH and oxygen balanced for aquarium fish. It's funny to me that a product that is sold for fish, prepared fish water, is often snubbed in fish forums - generally by those who have never tried it, who immediately state its either a waste of money or its not different than any other water. Both of those assumptions are false. It's proper water for fish, it works, and there's no reason not to try it. You can mix the Elive Betta Water with Fresh Water One, or just use one or the other, both are the same really it's just great stuff. This is a small setup and prepared fish water is not a waste of money no matter what anyone may say. Even if your water costs 60.00 a month (mine average 30.00 per 5 gallon tank) at least you know your friends are healthy, all the guesswork is taken out.

If I wasn't using prepared fish water, my next go-to would be bottled spring water, a brand that is in the neutral range for tropical fish. Spring isn't fluoridated and chlorinated like tap, so I'd be starting off with a much better base product, although I'd still use a natural detoxer like Easy Life or Kordon Amquel. Water quality is the most important aspect of fish care and I find it poor logic to conclude it doesn't matter and then use chemicals to compensate. The whole idea of having an aquarium is to replicate a natural fish habitat in a glass box, not to replicate a chemical plant. My advice is select your products like it matters. Crushed coral and vitamin/electrolyte drops can be added to your aquarium to safely increase PH for fish like Mollies. Always read about your fish species and their optimal care guidelines first. What sensitive fish require most is great water.

Prime by Seachem is for chlorinated tap water, this is not a fish supplement. But if you're not testing your water and not totally confident its healthy, use the Prime. The worst thing you can do is allow ammonia to spike, and I'm certainly not advocating that here. If you're going to use chemical conditioners instead of prepared fish water to maintain the balance in your tank then I suggest reading all the cautions you can about overuse of these products and use carefully: AND If you have no chlorine, safe and natural alternatives to Prime are available for detox: Easy Life Fluid Filter Medium: v Which sells here: These are natural products not chemicals, Easy Life is minerals which make your water healthier, your plants healthier and your fish healthier. You can at least use it half the time rather than Prime all of the time. OR Kordon Amquel Plus Prepared Fish Water has no chlorine, or any other nasties in it, so the whole principal of detox changes and you have more flexibility with your product options.

Cycling: I add a pinch of best quality (organic or close to it, no fillers) fish flake and let everything run for a week. You can put the flake inside a small mesh bag so it doesn't float free in your tank and the mess will be minimal. Your microbes are not digesting horse poo, so you don't need a huge microbe buildup to get the job done. Keep your ammonia to about 2 to 3ppm by "feeding your tank" but don't overfeed. A pinch of flake twice a week is more than enough and you're done with it. Using pure ammonia is tricky as it can result in overfeeding and stalling your cycle. This is what I have read but I have never tried that method myself. You can use a shrimp for that first week of cycling too, here is what Tropical Fish Suggests works well: [This method is similar to the fish food method but instead of fish food, we supply ammonia using raw shrimp from the seafood section of the grocery store. One medium sized shrimp will decay and provide a steady flow of ammonia into the tank.] And one other way to your cycle going are with microbe products like Stability, by Seachem or Safe Start by Tetra. You can go that route rather than fish flake or shrimp. Your tank will show ammonia first, then it will turn into nitrites and then into nitrates. A fully cycled tank has zero ammonia, zero nitrites and a safe reading of nitrates meaning all the necessary bacteria to process ammonia are living in your aquarium. This can take from one to three weeks to process on average. You need to be testing your water and logging the results every day while cycling. More help:

Your aquarium should be spiking with ammonia while cycling, but it can't be once you have fish. Before adding fish, be sure your ammonia is kept as close to zero as possible with regular water changes going forward. The test strip may say .5 is safe ammonia but I recommend .25ppm or less. Again a cycled tank will read zero ammonia. Cycling information: You should be testing your water every morning while your tank is establishing. Once fish are in, 25% daily water changes and even Prime at two drops per gallon daily can be used if ammonia or nitrites continue to spike in those first few weeks. As with all chemicals, add it to some tank water and pour it in, don't pour or drip chemicals into the tank directly. Note: At this stage you shouldn't be stressing about whether your tank is fully cycled. You should only be concerned about your ammonia/nitrites/nitrates those nasty buggers you can test quickly for with 5 in 1 test strips. Keep that ammonia at bay so your fish stay healthy and let your tank establish in its own time. When your fish are pecking around on their own, you will be getting your bearings and feeling much more confident in your routine.

Water change-outs: Once your tank is established and ammonia is no longer spiking, weekly 25% water change, the best way is to remove some every day and top it off as you’re cleaning. If your tank is really small, like 3G or less you will need to do a 50 percent water change twice weekly as ammonia is more difficult to control in very small setups. Also the warmer your aquarium the more evaporation, so stay modest with heating (78). When changing or adding water make sure the water you will be putting in isn't stone cold - if it is then put the jug into warm water to get the chill out first. Okay: Why are you changing your water?

Cleaning: Could I get away with doing it every-other-day? Probably. But then I wouldn't be a neat freak lol. I like to do this daily in the morning, it’s quick and easy. Remove décor but don't wash it off. Use a small net to capture any waste and do it calmly, your friends will learn to move out of the way and you will learn to be a smooth operator. My fish peck at my glove and swim right into my little net, they could care less when I am cleaning and its more like I am in their way. Select decor that is easy to move and don't over-decorate. No need for a vacuum, bare bottom tank is so easy to clean, and I don't mind leaving a little debris on the bottom of my tank after netting, Ex: rock bottom tanks are loaded with poop and food even after vacuuming (which is why so many microbes are needed, to digest all that yuck or in the words of this chap, MUCK and my bare bottom tank is pristine compared to that which means my water stays fresh much longer. Drop in food on the opposite side of the tank to cut down on having to move your filter to net clean under it. I only net under filter once a week.

Cleaning Filter: Only needs cleaning once a month (3 weeks at the earliest)and reuse sponge. Swish gently in small pail of same water you have in your tank and try not to remove all the good bacteria. The sponge should be reused until it is shot. I just buy white algae pad as a replacement on the top and that's the only part of it that really wears out. You won't be investing in disposable filters, those are an endless money pit - not necessary at all. Seachem Stability can he halfdosed once a month when you do the filter clean to re-establish positive microbes. Optional.

I have shared this so that it's easy to understand even for newbies. NOT for Goldfish - they get big and they also poop a lot! It's a kids tank setup really, a child can learn how to care for fish with this level of chores. I spend more time cleaning my cats litter box than I do on my aquarium. Good for kindergarten classrooms (or dorms - not a lot of difference there lol). Fish are for relaxation and stress reduction, not for bankruptcy and divorce. This is a desktop, easy maintenance, stress free, organic, uber healthy aquarium. Enjoy!
FiltrationFilters that do not have a proper sponge for microbes to develop in, and those that shoot the water out hard will only stress your fish out. Note I am talking about a hard current in a small tank, not a medium current in a large tank. And some fish like a little current, but some don't. Again I am talking about my setup only. Filters with carbon are not necessary unless you are trying to remove medications from your water which can just as easily be done with water changes. My filter is Jardin Efficient Economy Corner Filter, It's a filter and bubbler combo, that is totally submerged. Air pump not included. Also pick up a better split valve than what comes in the air pump box that one is dinky (the part that adjusts the air flow). They only cost a few bucks. YES this works for Bettas it doesn't have enough suction to harm fins. Also my Betta loves the bubbles - go ahead and turn it up, it has perfect agitation, there is no vibration or current. This filter is a joy to have in any small setup. If you need to clean this more than once a month you are either overstocked or overfeeding. Rinse this with distilled water before putting it into your aquarium as the pebbles in the base tend to be dusty at first. This filter is for tanks 5G and smaller. If your tank is under 10 but bigger than 5.5 you will need two of these running, one in each back corner. I've seen this done with a center divider in a 10G and two Betta's living in the same aquarium. Cool.

Alternatively, and if you do not have a Betta, I recommend the Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin 75 Power Filter, up to 10-Gallon this one sits outside the tank, water flows down like a stream, it has a very nice roomy housing compartment where you can put your sponges - don't even use the filter cartridges they come with, just use algae pad and/or bio sponge the same way you would with the Jardin sponge filter type. Don't forget to fill it with tank water before turning it on or you will burn up the motor: With this one you don't need to have a bubbler for your aquarium, thus no air pump. This filter can be modified so the outflow current isn't so strong. Just lift up the J shape intake tube and put a piece of sponge under it in the housing unit. When the J tube isn't seated all the way down the result is less suction on the intake and thus less outflow current. That's the way I use it.

Keep in mind your filter is primarily your microbe home and you don't want to disturb that. You need the microbes because they digest ammonia and produce oxygen. It gets fish poo on it here and there and so that needs to be gently cleaned off in tank water not tap water.
LightingA lamp is nearby, but no artificial lightbulbs are shining directly down into my tanks. I also have my tanks near at least one window so natural sunlight shines on their tank daily rather than the lamp light. You can use miniblinds and close them almost all the way to let just the right amount of natural light in. Will also mention 5.5 gallon tanks come with a reptile top, those wire mesh tops will corrode and then the rust will drip into your tank water, toss that and get a plexi (looks like glass but plastic) fish tank top or a piece of non-break plexi plastic to use as lid, leaving one inch on each short end for your plugins and to keep air flowing. OR the lid advertised here does fit the 5.5 Aqueon tanks they sell at Petco: That's the setup I have. Okay - Does the light from the heater bother your fish at night? Cool tip: Buy aquarium suction cup with clip, snap it on to the front of your heater, right over the light.
TemperatureMy aquariums are always set to 78 using a heater with adjustable temp knob. In cold weather, your heater may be set to 78 but your thermometer might read 76, and you will need to turn your heater up to 80 to achieve a true 78 in your aquarium. For this reason adjustable heaters are preferred to pre-set ones. In cases of illness, herbal meds (Kordon) are my preference over aquarium salt and increased heat. Natural choices in general are often misunderstood or given a bad rap and in my view that is perpetuated by the chemical companies. The goal of herbal remedies is that your fish doesn't just get well, but its immunity gets stronger. That said increased heat = decreased oxygen in your water = increased stress, steer away from the high end of temp parameters in general.
DecorShells, smooth corals, rocks, glass, crystal or well rounded plastic aquarium plants. I prefer plastic to silk. Silk frays like crazy and tiny bits of fabric shards end up in your fishes belly. A terrible invention which belongs on the bad ornaments list. Easier to see in bare bottom tanks. No live plants, no resin ornaments, nothing that can mold, corrode or rot. I'm squeamish about water fleas, limpets, springtails, planaria and a multitude of other jiggers and molds that aquarium plants are notorious for. Even as tidy as my tank is I never stick my hand in there without a glove on. That said I have no issues with moss balls as long as they are the pre-packaged ones that have not been in an established tank prior to sale. A floating plant is possible if done carefully (pre-packaged) and if it doesn't require chemicals to keep alive. Those can be nice for keeping water parameters stable once the aquarium is well established. In the PM when my light is off but my PC is on they love to wade in place and watch what I am watching on the PC. It is not true that fish don't pay attention to what is happening outside the tank, they absolutely do so don't isolate them.
AccessoriesMy mirror came from the bird department but I removed anything off of it that would corrode. It's secured with a tiny rubber band and dangling from a suction cup that has a leaf sticking out of it, its a Betta perch. Some people have said they don't like these but seems pretty neat to me:
FoodZeigler Brothers Organic Flake, New life Spectrum Tropical Fish Pellets, Ocean Nutrition Prime Reef Flakes (Betta like both the flakes named here and the Pellets), Wardley Dried Shrimp Pellets, or Freeze Dried Baby Shrimp or Freeze Dried Blood Worms as chew toys just one, Reptomin granules, Algae wafers (too much of that can make your water cloudy, always resolve issues with freshwater one or betta water never chemical). These are over the counter foods you can get anywhere or check out: for food. Feed in *absolute moderation* do not overfeed - the algae wafers are huge so break those into small bits rather than dropping a whole wafer in at once. One bit every other day is plenty on that one. The only thing I might add is Health Guard vitamin drops by Acurel (as often as weekly) or Kordon Fish Protector (herbal - its slimy though so don't use it weekly and go modest). I usually feed in the a.m. and wait 30 minutes then net-clean tank including all leftover food, top water off and add any supplement drops last (always be sure the supplement is good for all occupants). The only thing I feed after the a.m is the floating sun dried shrimp which is a chew toy they love. In terms of food if your fish are not pecking around on their own then you're over-feeding.

This is one tank set-up where truly less is more, so you'll have to get used to doing very little.
From Destinystar on 05/02/16
Awesome fish and tank. Love your little submarine ...sweet !
From LittleStar on 03/07/16
Thank you! That is Emit : )
From Fanatic on 03/07/16
I like that little snail on top of the submarine! He is cute
From LittleStar on 01/31/16
I love:
From LittleStar on 10/15/15
Tip: Always have a back up. I purchased everything twice and stored a second set of everything I need in case of emergency.
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