Carprincess, Mother of Fishes : 5 Lessons Learned about Fish Keeping

I am a proud cat mom

Now I'm a proud fish (and frog) mom too. 

Recently my boyfriend and I decided to get into the fish keeping hobby. By recently, I mean since the beginning of August. We started out with two small beta tanks purchased at Wallmart, moved to a 3-gallon cylindrical tank, and now have settled with a comfortable 10-gallon tank. 

Below will be a quickish summary of our fish journey, from my point-of-view. You will know of the lessons I learned, the heartaches I experienced, and some tips for those of you who are considering going into motherhood. Or you know, being a fish keeper. Whatever floats your boat.

I made a fishy joke! Oh! I did it again!

Our first beta fish tank

We purchased the Marina tank and the Aqueon Tank from Wallmart. My tank was for my baby boy Betta fish Phantom while my boyfriend's tank would house his baby boy Sanosuke. Neither of us being fish experts knew how to properly care for a baby Betta, but we figured that by buying our fishes young, we'd have them for a longer period of time. 

We were dead wrong.

Lesson #1: Cycle your tank water before Adding fish

While Phantom survived the night, the companions we purchased for him did not make it. I had purchased two cherry shrimp to keep Phantom company and to maintain his tank clean. Sanosuke also survived the night, but his entourage of ghost shrimp perished. 

Lesson #2: Shrimp are delicate 

When we took our shrimp back to PetCo, we were told that if the water was not just right, shrimp would be the first critters to go to their watery grave. We then decided to grab some catfish to accompany our bettas since clearly, neither of our tanks were suitable for shrimp.

We also decided to contact our resident fish expert, i.e. my bestie who has been successfully taking care of fish for several years, to see if she could help us. Since clearly, our water was a bit toxic, we decided to ask if she could offer some of her cycled tank water for our bettas.

Lesson #3: Goldfish produce a lot of ammonia

The day after we had changed the water of our tanks, Phantom became a phantom. Surprisingly the catfish that I purchased survived. 

We decided to take a sample of my tank water to PetCo to see what we did wrong this time. After all, my friend's fish tank consisted of livable water. It was lived in, cozy, and had all the healthy bacteria that we heard so much about after our first mistake of not cycling our initial water. 

The verdict was that the ammonia levels of my friend's tank were at a toxic level. One that was commonly produced by goldfish. My bestie owns three goldfish, Big Mamma, Snow White, and Fanta. We told her the new lesson she learned and when she tested her water with her own kit, she was surprised to find that her water was indeed toxic. 

Lesson #4: Female bettas can live harmoniously together in a sorority tank.

I was taught that you never ever put Bettas in a tank together. They get their nickname of 'Japanese Fighting Fish' for a reason. However at PetCo, while getting a new fish for my Betta tank, I learned that female Bettas could be in the same tank. Just make sure to have three or more, never two. 

While I could have purchased multiple females, I still was heartbroken over the death of Phantom and decided to only buy one until I was sure my tank was livable. So that's when I obtained my first baby girl Betta, Prisma. 

Lesson #5: Double check your pet store's policies when buying critters

My boyfriend and I saved a ton of money by purchasing our fish at PetCo. While there are a lot of negativity that surrounds this giant pet store, they do have a policy that worked well for us new fish parents. They have a 30 day guarantee when it comes to fresh water fish. 

Other smaller 'mom and pop' pet shops have different policies. Even other pet store chains. 

This is why when you are starting to shop around, make sure you inquire about return policies where you buy. These are the following answers we've received:

  • 30 Days: with or without body and receipt

  • 3 Days: with body and receipt

  • 1 Day: with body and receipt

  • Until you walk out of the store

got any fish tips or lessons to share?

I'll keep you all updated on my fish parent adventure as I go through this variation of parenthood with my boyfriend. However if you want to save either one of us some heartache, please feel free to share some of your tips with us here or on Twitter

This experience has been a rollercoaster ride of lessons and emotions. For any of you who don't believe you could bond with an aquatic pet like a fish, you should give it a try. Starting a tank from scratch has been interesting and I am eager to share my successes - and failures, with you.