What a great word. That’s why I wrote it all in CAPS. Sounds solid. Substantial.

  1. SUBSTRATE  substratum or an underlying stratum.

    noun, plural: substrata Word origin: Latin sub (under) + stratus from sternere (to stretch)

    "Substrate: a substance or layer that underlies something, or on which some process occurs, in particular."

    “Substrate: a substance or layer that underlies something, or on which some process occurs, in particular.”

    For me, setting up an aquarium is equal parts getting the ecology right and playing with aesthetics.

    Understanding these objectives are linked marked a turning point in the difference between a tank that survives and one that thrives.

    When I was a kid, I mixed my substrate with the same

    colorful abandon that saw angel fish sharing their digs with goldfish and neon-tetras.

    Now I understand the gravel

    isn’t (just) there to express my sense of aesthetics!

    No, it provides a purchase for plants to root:

    Nooks for eggs to drop and fish to ‘hunt’ for food ~ one and the same?

    Cory cat rooting through substrate.

    Cory cat rooting through substrate.

    It also serves as  a natural  filtering mechanism:

    And provides fish with a sense of security: 

    Cozy Clown Loaches

    Cozy Clown Loaches

    So, keeping in mind Aquariverse’s home-tank supports substrates suitable for fresh-water habitats, i.e, no pretty sea-shells…

    I put it to you: Gravel or Sand?


    * * *

    Gravel, sand and sometimes stackable rocks:
    Except, remember, not just any old rocks from the garden or river will do.

    Sure they might look particularly pretty and natural, but they could also harbor organisms and, more likely, chemical compositions that will dangerously (even lethally) disrupt your tank’s pH balance.
    * * *
    And, with balance in mind, there’s a greater habitat issue to consider. When I do finally choose the substrate best suited to my tank, I purchase materials packaged in  recyclable containers.


    * * *

    I simply will not buy those packaged in plastic netting. Nasty stuff and exceptionally hazardous to wildlife when it winds up in landfills or the world’s oceans.

    Instead, I support pet-shops that sell aquarium suitable rocks and slabs in bulk bins.


    “We may be floating on Tao, but there is nothing wrong with steering. If Tao is like a river, it is certainly good to know where the rocks are.” 

    ― Deng Ming-DaoEveryday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony

    *If you would like to read about how gravel meets your fishes’ instincitive needs: read this comprehensive article on the subject: “Aquarium Substrate”





aquaforest-aquaium-iaplc-2010 The above “Aquascape”  is a complex interaction of light levels and nutrient balance ~ combined with a personal sense of aesthetics and years of experience.

Get the nitrogen levels wrong, see PH or acidity numbers sink or soar… and watch this idyllic habitat wilt and moulder.

But your average aquarist rarely reaches that rarified level of cause and effect. Most people’s aquarium plant woes are prosaic by comparison.


browning and edge-fuzz are common aquascape challenges.

browning and edge-fuzz pose a challenge


For instance… Josh, who works at a nationally known pet-retailer in North Haven, Conn., said, “The most common mistake I’ve encountered? People who put house plants in their tanks without realizing they’re toxic to fish.”


"Your fish won't have a prayer with the Prayer Plant."  photo:

“Your fish won’t have a prayer with the Prayer Plant.”

In other words, just because it’s called a “Goldfish Plant” doesn’t mean it’s meant for a goldfish tank!

"Goldfish Plant"

“Goldfish Plant”

Josh said such customers generally come in complaining their fish are “acting sluggish,” or worse, and after some diagnostic questioning admit, “Why yes, I have recently added something new to the tank. I thought a cutting from my English Ivy might look nice.” images-1 Josh said it might “look nice” but English Ivy is toxic to pet fish.   images-1Here’s a basic list of other toxic plants:

And an even more extensive one here:


Josh said  dependable beginner-friendly aquarium plants include that hardy duo mentioned in our previous post: “Eat Your Greens.”

Amazon Sword Plant

Amazon Sword Plant

Anubias barteri

Anubias barteri

He continued, “It’s important to know what kind of plant you have and what kind of fish goes with it.

Some fish, like certain algae-eaters (that means you, Mr. Pleco) will overeat if you provide too many

live plants.”


As for caring for basic beginner plants, like Anubias Barteri and Amazon Swords, or even duck-weed and java moss balls…



Josh said most of the nutrients these hardy tank additions need are “acquired straight from the tank’s substrate, its water, fish wastes and your basic florescent or L.E.D. aquarium light. They don’t really need a lot to keep them going.”

He added that while light is obviously essential for photosynthesis, “It’s also important you turn the lights off at night. Just like fish need their little quiet-time, plants need a rest, too.”


Though his shop sells a wide variety of colorful and realistic looking artificial plants… Josh says he for one prefers natural plants. “They just look nicer, compared to plastic. I think an aquarium setting should look as natural as possible. That’s part of the aesthetic of setting up a beautiful tank.”




Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.



Eat Your Greens



I know we haven’t heard from George, Flash and the rest of the gang for a while, said gang being the members of Aquariverse’s freshwater community aquarium…


Flash and George

Flash and George


Well, as a quick preview to an upcoming post about the “How Tos and Why Fors” of aquarium flora…


I thought it might be fun to share our goldfish’s guilty pleasure…

Amazon Sword Plant

Amazon Sword Plant

Anubias barteri

Anubias barteri

Confession: I mostly look at the plants I pop into our aquarium the same way other people give their cat a tin of actual tuna…

This cat just heard she's getting a tin of actual tuna

This cat just heard she’s getting a tin of actual tuna


In other words, I provide them because my goldfish really seem to enjoy grazing on them…






But it’s not all about snacking… Live plants don’t just supplement the omnivorous goldfish meal-plan, they contribute to George and Flash’s general well-being and the health of their environment: providing shelter for the smaller fish that share their tank, helping to cycle oxygen, serving as natural nitrate and nitrite filters, plus..!!

“Plants that absorb nutrients from the water also make it difficult for algae to grow and therefore, indirectly help to clean the tank.”

On the less sunny-side of the planted tank…

Beginners often find it challenging to strike the right light spectrum balance and meet their flora’s nutrient requirements.

So, until next we meet (and enjoy exploring a forest of aqua-flora) … here’s a sweet little plant my goldfish consider a slice of heaven:



“To remember a successful salad is generally to remember a successful dinner; at all events, the perfect dinner necessarily includes the perfect salad.”
George Ellwanger (1848-1906)
‘Pleasures of the Table’ (1902)


By laurassister (photo by unknown) LOL cats

By laurassister (photo by unknown) LOL cats


S.O.S. Fish Vet





S.O.S – save our sole, angel fish and critically-ill koi, too!

“Chad (of Vossen Aquatics) brought the above distressed Scribbled Angelfish to Lexington Pet Clinic (Minnesota).  There Veterinarian Dr. Kizer performed  surgery after the X-ray identified a rock lodged in the angelfish’s intestine.  The procedure took approximately an hour in which the fish was out of water and anesthetized.” Read the full story here:

For those of us who don’t live within a stone’s throw of the Lexington Pet Clinic in Eagan, Minnesota…

National pet retailer Petco offers this observation:

“Because most veterinary schools exclude fish from the standard curriculum, doctors specializing in these quiet companions typically seek out training on their own. To find a competent “fish doctor” near you, consult pet stores, aquarium clubs, and veterinary schools with fish medicine departments.”

avma Once you’ve located your “fish doctor” the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests you keep these critical discussion points in mind:

Still can’t locate a fish vet? Try this helpful directory:

“This web resources allows users to search Directories of Aquatic Veterinarians and Disease Diagnostic Laboratories.”

It is a collaboration project of


Though it can take an extensive Internet search to locate a local fish vet, Dr. A. David Scarfe of the AMVA’s Scientific Division says, “Aquatic Veterinary medicine is probably the largest growing field of veterinary medicine in the past ten years.”

Then again… sometimes those  salt-of-the-earth sollutions are best when there’s no help at hand:

That said, I find following the directions on the side of my cartoon of aquarium salt the surest remedy and quickest route to help:4005214



And in case you were afraid to look,

the story about the little angel has a happy ending…


“The Scribbled Angelfish, all stitched up.”


Felcity –

Anatole France

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
― Anatole France

And Baby Makes 24



Okay, so I have this friend named Heather Moore.

When I proposed posting her recent dilemma she suggested the title: ‘”And baby makes 22, er, no, 23…? Wait there’s another one. 24.”

You see, Heather has  a pair of adult Dalmatian mollies


Male Molly on top

Male Molly on top

Which,  I’m guessing elicits a “Yeah, so?” or, an “Uh oh,” depending upon your familiarity with this abundantly and seemingly inexhaustibly prolific species…

Which requires a little back story I suppose…

Heather is the well-meaning but somewhat lackadaisical (sorry, Heather, but you know it’s true) owner of a 26-gallon freshwater bow-front aquarium so spotted with green algae she won’t let me photograph it for inclusion in this post.

Heather: “Well, you did have that post way back when…”

Felicity: “‘Too Much of A Good Thing Can be Wonderful.’ Posted on Valentine’s Day.”

Heather: “Uh huh, when you asked… ‘What’s the most unaesthetic beneficial thing in your tank?'”

Felicity: “I see where you’re going with this but there’s a difference between ‘unaesthetic’ and, well, this…”




Felicity: “So, besides algae,”

Heather: “And Dalmatian mollies…”

Felicity: “And Dalmatian mollies, your tank is filled with, what?”

Heather: “Three clown loaches…”

Not Heather’s clown loaches

“One overpaid, ‘algae-eating’ pleco…”

Not Heather's Placastomus

Not Heather’s Placastomus


“And four Rasbora…”

Not Heather’s rasbora!


Felicity: “You know the loaches and the pleco can each grow to at least 12-inches long?”

Heather: “Yeah, yeah, I know, there’ll come a point when I’ll have to adopt them out. You know, at maybe? Check this out…”

Felicity: “Hope so, anyway, that’s only ten fish. Who else do you have in there, Heather?”

Heather: *sigh*

Not Heather’s Batch of Dalmatian Molly Fry


Felicity: “Whoa! How’d that happen?”

Heather: “Seriously?”

Felicity: “So… 28 Days Later: ”

Heather: “I didn’t want the babies getting gobbled up, yeah, some fish are like that; so I bought a baby-saver net.”

Penn Plax Net Breeder

Penn Plax Net Breeder


Not Heather's

Not Heather’s baby-saver

Felicity: “Do the fry have any special needs? What do you feed them?”

Heather: “Fry Food.” 


Felicity: “So what are you going to do? I mean, look at him. He’s already pestering her again.”

Heather: “The pet store I bought the parents from said once the fry are about a quarter-inch long they’ll take them.”

“I’ll  probably have to return the male. I don’t want to. He’s gorgeous. But, you know, I don’t want to have to do this every 28 days.”

Felicity: “I’ll bet Mrs. Molly agrees!”

Heather: “Maybe I can trade him for another algae eater!”


Erma Bombeck

“Have you any idea how many children it takes to turn off one light in the kitchen Three. It takes one to say What light and two more to say I didn’t turn it on.”
― Erma Bombeck

“97% water, or something…”




“Jellyfish are 97% water or something, so how much are they doing? Just give them another 3% and make them water. It’s more useful.” ― Karl Pilkington Karl Pilkington producer, poet, podcaster, raconteur and author... Karl Pilkington
producer, poet, podcaster, raconteur and author…



Right? Wrong.

Jellyfish in the wild provide food for sea turtles, fish and sea-birds. Jellyfish in captivity, particularly the moon jelly, offer an aesthetically unique (and uniquely challenging!) aquarium experience.


The moon jelly, with a Latin name as lovely as its ethereal form… Aurelia aurita, prefers ocean temperatures ranging between 48 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s hard to believe something so delicate looking makes its living as a carnivore, but moon jellies do prey on the larvae of shrimp, crabs and other forms of  plankton. Their stinging tentacles are harmless to humans…

…but lethal to their tiny prey.  by Jennifer Frazer - "These three cuties are all crab larvae — from left to right, the zoea larva of the spider crab Maja squinado, the angular crab Goneplax rhomboides."
by Jennifer Frazer – “These three cuties are all crab larvae — from left to right, the zoea larva of the spider crab Maja squinado, the angular crab Goneplax rhomboides.”

Though their movements are mostly governed by the tides, they can launch themselves into a nutritious plankton cloud by pulsing their bell.
Intrigued? I am, by the creature itself,  not by the thought of ‘keeping’ them in an aquarium.
For me,  part of the wonder of this translucent lifeform is the backdrop of its vast and tumultuous natural home … and its staggering breadth of history. Did you know jelly fish have plied the earth’s oceans for 500 to 700 million years?

Credit: Fossil photo by B. Lieberman. Modern jellyfish photo by Dhugal Lindsay. Copyright JAMSTEC

Credit: Fossil photo by B. Lieberman. Modern jellyfish photo by Dhugal Lindsay. Copyright JAMSTEC

It doesn’t seem right to sustain such an amazing creature in a tank, even if we think they don’t mind…

“They have no heart, no brain and function with a loose network of nerves located in their thin outer skin. An elementary nervous system, or nerve net, allows jellyfish to smell, detect light, and respond to other stimuli.”
Yet of course, as evidenced by the videos gracing this post, there are many people who do enjoy the challenge of creating a jellyfish habitat.
“You need a special, circular aquarium called a  Kreisel tank,” said the fish-specialist manning the salt-water aisle of my local big-box aquarium outfitter. “It creates the circular current jellyfish need to float through the aquarium, plus it protects them from getting sucked into the tank’s filtering system. Also, the tank itself is round or cylindrical. Jellies would get wedged in the corners of a square tank and die.”

He added, “They might die anyway. They’re definitely not for beginners. I only know of one customer who has ever tried keeping them and he’s on his third tank in three years. I’d say anyone who thinks they’re up to the challenge should do their research first.” A good place to start…

by Chad L. Widmer

by Chad L. Widmer

by Chad L. Widmer. You can read more about this specie’s aquarium needs at: And pick up some fun facts at: visit:

Where you can learn, among other many interesting things: • Marine scientists no longer referred to these animals as jellyfish and instead use the term jelly. • In 1991, over 2000 moon jellies were sent into space on the space shuttle Columbia to study the effects of weightlessness on the development of jellies. • A group of jellies is called a smack, but also a swarm or a bloom.




“When you move like a jellyfish rhythm don’t mean nothing. You go with the flow, you don’t stop. Move like a jellyfish, rhythm means nothing. You go with the flow you don’t stop.” ― Jack Johnson

ˈsegwā, ˈsā-




Or perhaps… Sea-gway? Anyway…

Time to bid adieu to Spring Break ….


and set a new heading in the Aquariverse



So, bye for now Florida Keys….

mural on the side of a Florida Key's fish market

mural on the side of a Florida Key’s fish market

Where most every building seems graced with aquatic-art

Florida Keys Street-artist

Florida Keys Street-artist


And even the license plates find room for Nemo…



It’s time to turn our lens toward the intriguing adventures that can and do still wait …



…in the homey tank setting…


George and Flash: "Enough with the vacation food already!"

George and Flash: “Enough with the vacation food already!”

Where fresh challenges and an “interesting” adventure with our new canister filter are brewing…

By "interesting" we mean:  "Water water everywhere and .... arghgh!!!!"

By “interesting” we mean:
“Water water everywhere and …. arghgh!!!!”

But first, an exciting segue



Okay, not THAT exciting… or dangerous, really…

But, too acclimate ourselves back into the tank environment, Aquariverse’s next post will consider the subject of “pet” jellyfish…



*(not my tank)



Every time I slip into the ocean, it’s like going home.


Florida Keys Sunrise:

photo of Felicity on beach by Frans Jurgens

Flash and George and all Spring Break location photos by Felicity (except the wild dolphins)