So at the end of June, we decided that one of the walls in the Man Cave (basement) really needed something. We weren't quite sure what that something was, but we knew it needed it. On one of our many trips out to College Park, to go to IKEA, I looked up a PetCo. My intent was to get some better dry food for my cat, but what we ended up doing there was figuring out exactly what that empty wall needed... an aquarium.
Both Eric and I have had aquariums in the past. I had a 25 gallon freshwater tank while we lived in Spain with several fun, peaceful tropical fish, as well as freshwater shrimp, and snails (with live plants). Eric had a 10 or 20 gallon tank with a Tiger Oscar that he fed live goldfish. We decided we wanted to go as big as our budget allowed. So we ended up getting a 55 gallon aquarium kit over the 4th of July weekend.
We set up the stand and aquarium, filled it with 110 lbs. of gravel and filled it with water (by dragging the garden hose through the basement and into the house). We also set up the filter, rigged an ingenious way of making it almost soundless (this involved two pieces of sponge stuck into the intake zone), the thermometer, and a timer for the two hood lights. Because we have a cat, we decided a hood was a definite necessity, even though he hasn't bothered to try and jump up on top of it yet.
We let it run from Friday until Sunday, and brought the water to a speciality aquarium store in Rockville, MD to get tested. Since everything checked out, we came home with two fake plants, a huge log, four rocks, a backdrop, and a bag of 12 Zebra Danios. We put the log to soak in our bathtub for a day and a half, to try and make it less boyant (weighing it down with a can of paint). In the meantime we set up the rocks and plants and introduced the Danios to our pristine new tank.
We were going for a blackwater Amazonian river, but the guys at the aquarium shop got it wrong when they suggested Danios (which are from India). We finally added the log, which dominates the tank completely, and that forced us to move around the rocks. A few weeks later we lost our first Danio, another one mysteriously disappeared that same week, and we added a Rubberlip Plecostomus (an algae eater). Unfortunately, we didn't wait long enough and there was barely any algae in the tank yet, so the poor thing croaked on us 8 days later.
The algae is finally starting to take hold now though, and I'm hoping we'll be able to try for another plecos sometime soon. My end goal is to have at least one or two more swarms of small fish (we're talking neon or cardinal tetras and possibly something else), 2 plecos, and 2-3 South American dwarf cichlids. But we'll probably let the tank cycle for another week or two before we attempt any of that. And even though Eric is opposed to live plants, I think they really add something to the tank that the fake plants just can't.