So.... Sid's tank became a shrimp tank for a week, with three cherry reds happily zooming about to see how they did in there. I had every intention of leaving it to this fate, at least for a few months..
But... we went to buy a couple more shrimp (I bought four). And Daughter spotted, among all the sick-looking bettas I would not dream of buying (omg, there's a LFS rant coming up, but more on that later..) a single, happy, healthy female. One sleek, healthy little fish, out of dozens...
And that is how we came to acquire Cleo.
I HATE giving those people money, and I had SWORN I would never do so again. But Daughter can be very persistent and persuasive, and I am a bit vulnerable to the idea of leaving a healthy fish to wind up diseased or dead like the rest .. (I am really annoyed at myself for caving in, though...)
So now we have Cleo and seven shrimp. And a lot of java moss.
She's a very young orangey-red VT girl. Mainly, I caved on buying her because I've never seen a betta so completely active and bright in a store cup. And -- well, all the pale, dying fish up the back rows of cups are female. They aren't as popular as the males, and I dare say they more often than not end up as 'losses'. I am seriously conflicted. I want to be happy that I have a new fish. But I'm mad as heck at myself, seriously, for going against my principles..
Anyway, right away I am noticing a few differences. Cleo did not take two weeks to perk up in her new environment. She is (as far as I can tell) 100% healthy from the get-go and didn't need a long time to start feeling good in a clean environment. In fact she adjusted to the tank in a few short minutes. She likes the filter, and doesn't mind the slightly higher setting it's on now. She never stops scooting around the tank, exploring everything -- and hunting the poor shrimp.
Kudos to the shrimp, though. They all manage to keep out of her way - my tank is quite heavily planted now and has wood as well, so there's no lack of places for them to hide. The two largest ones tend to ignore her completely until she tries to take a bite - they don't even go pale anymore when she snaps and they scoot away. The smaller ones are a worry, just because Cleo is so very aggressive. They keep to the back of the tank, behind the wood where Cleo can't go, and seem happy to stay back there, munching on the algae that grows on the wood. I have shrimp food, but there's enough algae back there that I think once a week feeding with a pellet is okay for now. They don't cluster around the pellet right away, as they would if they were hungry, so I'm taking it easy for now. At the rate they're going, though, I think the algae won't last long so I'll drop them more food as the growth declines.
She's nowhere near as 'personable' as Sid was, though. He was a very friendly fellow. Cleo doesn't seem so interested in interacting so much as wondering if we'll fit in her greedy little gob. She'll take some getting used to. I like her, of course, but she's just... not Sid. :(
Now for the tank... I did a LOT of research about this, and decided not to take Sid's tank down for disinfecting. As the shrimp all survived quite well for a week in the tank by themselves, I could be sure the water wasn't toxic or spiking unpleasant levels of anything. Really, I was happy to leave it as a shrimp tank, so there was no reason to disassemble it. When we brought Cleo home, I thought I'd have her in the hospital tank temporarily until I'd scrubbed the old tank and got it cycled again. But in reading around various forums and sites many people advised against this, on the principle that most diseases are endemic to the water and won't attack a healthy fish. They said it was a waste of a cycle, and that they'd never take a tank apart unless toxins were present.
After weighing up various opinions from very experienced fish-keepers, plus the risk of losing shrimp in the process of re-cycling, I decided to not scrub the tank. Now, I realise that this could be risky, but then again these people have kept fish a long, long time.. and I choose to trust them.
So far, all is going exceedingly well. I've chosen to do 3 x 25-30% water changes per week, with a light gravel vac on the third change. This is keeping the water clean and not disturbing the plants that are taking root (more on that later..) nor disrupting the shrimp. There are areas I cannot vacuum without taking the tank apart, but these are the areas where the shrimp hang out and feed, as well as where the majority of the plant-roots are, so I figure that'll be okay.
I'm testing ammonia levels daily - 0% so far. I think the plants are loving the extra waste the shrimp provide. They are literally sprouting overnight, new leaves everywhere! Not many dead leaves now, either, I'm removing less and less each water change.
The java fern is finally looking truly happy. New leaves, baby plants, new rhizome. The wisteria has grown enough hanging roots that it will soon start to anchor in the gravel - next water change, I'll give it some help with that. The baby wisterias have both taken root, and the potted anubias and cryptos have extensive roots growing from the bottom of the pots, so I might not move them to vacuum anymore. They seem happier when left alone.
I have a large clump of java moss in one front-of-tank corner, so the shrimp have a hidey spot up there too. Cleo loves to tangle herself in the middle of it, but can't get to the bottom where the shrimp hide.
Cleo herself is amazingly active and ... as I mentioned.. aggressive. She -flares- at us (I didn't know girls did that), never stops moving except for brief 'naps', and patrols her tank thoroughly. Her environment is as enriched as I could make it, so she's always got something to poke into or re-explore. An unfortunate mosquito decided to land in the tank, and Cleo spent ten minutes playing with the poor thing before swallowing it. I definitely get the feeling that she would not play well with others...
So far there's no sign of disease, no drooping or clamped fins. She does go very pale when cupped for water changes, but regains her colour fully within a minute of being back in her tank.
Cross fingers that I've made the right decisions. So far, so good...