Did you get a new aquatic pet? I will help you make sure we keep our new underwater friends happy and healthy.
We will start by talking about a snail, and I promise I won’t take days to talk about them! Snails are cool animals. Here are a few facts about them:
Snails need little maintenance, which means they don’t need a lot of attention. What they do need is food, circulating water, and calcium.
Snails are bottom feeders. What does that mean? No, they don’t eat pants, they eat anything that lies at the bottom of your tank. Fish food, algae, anything! They are like the billy goats of the sea … or would they be Capricorns? Anyway, since they are not in the wild, where they can always find food on the ocean floor or river beds, we will have to feed them ourselves. For my snails; Marigold, Noir, and Vivi, I give them algae tabs. You can get them on Amazon, PetSmart, or Petco. (They do leave a film in your tank so I would be aware that you would have to clean your tank soon after, Marimo moss balls can serve as another source of algae for snails). I also blanch zucchini and cucumbers for my snails and add fish food to their tank as well. It is important for snails to have a well balanced diet. Would we ever benefit if we ate the same salad over and over again? We would be healthy, sure, but something would be missing in our bodies. That is why it is important for snails to have variety in their diet. Most importantly, for snails to have access to calcium.
Calcium is essential for numerous reasons. They help keep our bones healthy. It does the same thing for the snail’s shells. How do the snails get calcium? Eggshells, Cuttlefish bones, and fish feeders. For eggshells, you have to strip them of the remaining membrane (thin film attached to the shell). What I do is break up the eggshells and put them underwater to peel off the said remainder of the membrane. It is a process, so take your time. Cuttlefish bones are also a source of calcium for snails. I ordered mine from Amazon. They come from cuttlefish and are initially used for birds in their cages. They float if you put the cuttlebones into the tank, so I boil it down for ten minutes. This will help the bone soak up the water. If you do not want to go through eggshells or buy bones, another resource for calcium are fish feeders. These are originally used if you are going on a trip and need to make sure your fish will be fed while you are gone. They have calcium and all the other nutrients that your snail will need while you are away, plus they will provide a delicious meal for your fish if you have fish and snails cohabitating.
Snails need to be in water that is circulating and warm. Good water flow will promote more oxygen in the water for the snail. For this, I have a filter. It provides movement in the water as well, all while cleaning the tank. I use a tank warmer for the snail tank as well. The water should be at 68-84 degrees Fahrenheit. This helps their metabolism.
Alright, I am finally done with talking about snails! Now, onto fish!
Fish come in many shapes, scales, and sizes. But they all need a few things to ‘just keep swimming’: a good-sized tank/bowl, clean water, and a healthy diet.
In this article, I am going to focus on betta fish. Fish, especially betta fish, need a lot of space in their bowls or tanks to avoid stress.I have a betta myself, his name is Chip, he is a koi betta, which is a larger breed. He can be up to 3inches! Now that’s a whopper!
Chip needs a 5-gallon tank to be comfortable. This includes plants and a toy volcano (which he sleeps in sometimes). With betta fish, they also need warm water. Why? Betta fish originate from Thailand or Cambodia. We have to try to replicate their environment by the heater so they can be healthy. Without it, bettas are more lethargic, and their metabolism is lowered. This can cause swim bladders disease, where they cannot swim properly.
Bettas also need clean, circulating water to stay healthy. Bettas are classified as anabantids, or, “labyrinth fish.” They have a gland (labyrinth gland), that allows them to breathe air or live in poor quality water conditions. Even though this is true, it is important to clean your tank every month.
How to clean your tank:
When it is time to clean your fish’s tank, it is important to take your time. Depending on what size tank you have, it is a process and you don’t want to miss anything. I have a 5-gallon tank myself, and it takes about an hour or two to clean it thoroughly. Never use soap when cleaning your tank. It is incredibly difficult to get rid of the film the soap caused, and it will hurt your fish. Just use hot water and a rag. I dump my tank out in my bathtub, pouring my substrate (gravel from PetSmart) into a strainer. I rinse my substrate out under hot water until I do not see any dirt filtering through the strainer. I put that to the side and fill my tank up halfway with hot water. With a rag, I dip into the water and clean around the corners, lip, and walls of my tank. (You will be shocked how much you get on your rag!) After everything is clean, I pour the substrate back into the tank and set up the decorations I had. I then place a plastic bag over the bottom of my tank and start to pour filtered water into the tank. The plastic bag helps to avoid small pieces of the gravel from floating on the surface. Trust me, it is a pain to get those out. Once your tank is filled with water, place your filter and heater in, as well as water conditioner. This will circulate the water and make it suitable for your fish to be happy in their clean tank. Keep a cup full of the past tank water when you are fixing the tank, pour this in as the water circulates. This will avoid shock, a condition that can kill your fish. This happens from the water being too hot or no healthy bacteria in the tank. That is why we have the old water cup. After you let the conditioner run through the water, and it is at the temperature appropriate for your fish, you can put him in!
Betta fish are notorious for being aggressive to others. “Males will fight to the death, tearing out chunks of each other’s fins,” (Sanford, pg.34). That doesn’t mean they can’t have friends in their tank. However, I would recommend a ten gallon and lots of vegetation so that fish can hide. Once you have your container set up, you can add mystery snails, tetras (3), guppies, and loaches. Be careful and take time to watch how your fish cohabitate. “[Bettas] do not attack other species, but in a community aquarium the flowing fins often prove too tempting to other fish, which nip and bite at them, leaving wounds open to fungal and bacterial infections,” (Sanford, pg. 34).
I want to point out that even if you have the necessities I listed, it all depends on your beta. I put one snail, Marigold, in the tank with Chip, and he nipped her. Luckily, I had a backup tank just in case he was aggressive, so I would suggest having a tank as a standby.
Betta fish are omnivores. What does that mean? It means that they eat meat and plants. Just like us, humans! I give Chip my betta three beads of Aqueon (not sponsored) beta food for breakfast and dinner. I sometimes give him blanched veggies, but not at every feeding. I also give him a sprinkle of brine shrimp from time to time. I would be careful whenever feeding aquatic animals. Snails can get upset tummies, and fish can develop swim bladders disease. I can tell you from personal experience, swim bladders disease is a hurdle, but it is not the end for your fish. Swim bladders disease is when there is bruising or distress (like constipation) on your fish’s swim bladder. What is a swim bladder you may ask? It is a gland that helps with buoyancy. Buoyancy is how items and animals can keep afloat. That is one of the signs that your fish has this illness, they won’t be able to swim properly. Their tummies will be bloated as well. I had a betta fish that developed this disease from me overfeeding him (guilty!) I noticed the signs and set up a hospital tank for him until he got better. If your fish has been affected by the illness due to overfeeding, you cannot feed them for three days. I know, it can be worrisome, but it is for your fish’s digestive system to have a moment to breathe. On the third day, you need to unthaw a frozen pea, take off the skin, and feed your fish a small portion. The pea serves as a laxative and will help clear out your fish (that’s as far as I’ll go with explaining a bowel movement).
Before I wrap up, I want to add a quick trick segment. You can train your fish to do some tricks! One thing I have taught Chip is to follow my finger around the tank. When he reaches the top of the water, I give him a little treat. Try it!
By following these tips, and even trying some tricks, you will have happy aquatic pets!
Vocabulary in the post:
Algae: plants that grow in fresh or saltwater.
Blanch: A chemical process that occurs when I heat a food then cool it quickly. I starch zucchini and cucumber for my snails by boiling them in water until they get soft, then put them in a bowl of ice. I put them on a paper towel until they are room temperature then place them in the tank. It is better to starch your veggies for your snails. It allows water to fill cucumber/ zucchini which will cause it to float to the bottom for snails to reach.
Aquatic: living or found near or in water.
Calcium: a mineral found in bones.
Cambodia: a Southeast Asian nation.
Capricorn: the 10th astrological sign in the zodiac. It is based off of the constellation Capricornus, the horned goat! You are a Capricorn if your birthday lands between December 22nd to January 20th.
Capacity: the maximum amount something can be contained.
Environment: the circumstances, objects, or conditions, by which one is surrounded.
Gallon: a unit of liquid capacity.
Laxative: a drug or medicine that aids in evacuation of the bowels.
Lethargic: laziness or lack of energy.
Mineral: substances naturally formed by the Earth.
Omnivores: creatures that eat both plant and animal matter.
Segment: apart from something that is naturally separated.
Shock: a life-threatening condition for a fish. It can be caused by a drastic change in the tank, temperature or condition.
Swim Bladder’s Disease: “damage or bruising to the swim bladder.”
Thailand: a country of southeastern Asia.
Vegetation: a general term for plant life in a region.
“Aquarium Owner’s Guide: The Complete and Illustrated Guide to the Home Aquarium.” Sandford, Gina. (1995)
You can check this book out and request to pick it up through our Curbside Pickup services!
I have also linked an episode of Earth to Luna called “Do Fish Drink Water?” I learned something new about fish, and I hope you enjoy this episode too!
Have a great day!