Since getting back into the hobby last August, you’d think I would learn that the smaller the tank, the bigger pain it can be!
I’m talking about the little 2 gallon bowl I set up last November on my desk which has been the home to a female betta for several months. I’ve really enjoyed it, but I noticed the last few weeks that the filter really wasn’t doing a great job. The water stayed clear and I changed half of it each week anyway. But a lot of dirt began to accumulate on the bottom on top of the gravel which was very hard to vacuum since the bowl is small.
Since first setting it up, I battled with various plants and finally took the driftwood in the photo above home to use in a different tank. I added some larger river stones for decoration and only had the Java fern still in the tank to try to cut down on maintenance. Even with just that, and only one fish, the glass still had to be scrubbed with a toothbrush weekly, the plants showed signs of hair algae a few times, and, as mentioned, gunk collected on the gravel.
The best option would be to break down the bowl completely and clean it which is hard to do at work, or I could attempt to upgrade the filtration but the bowl is really too small for that. I loved the micro-filter I had in it, but it was only good for keeping the water clean since it had no sponge to hold media or detritus which was obviously collecting in the bottom. Sure, it’s been running for a few months and could be broken down and cleaned, but I’d have to repeat this process again in a few months. So…lesson learned! I could break it down and forget it, but I really like having a tank of my desk. Time for an upgrade!
I’d seen the Fluval Spec 5 Gallon before and knew the shape would be perfect for my desk. It’s only 7.5 inches wide. Plus, the tank is larger and it has a built-in filter with sponge, and better lighting too! For $100, I decided to get one.
Of course, this required a visit to my LFS for more plants and a piece of wood! I already had Fluval Stratum substrate and gravel. I did some Google searches and saw where people did half and half, and I liked the look of that. I already had large river stones and pebbles too. Those would be good for keeping the wood submerged and give me some crevices to plant fern and other plants. I have large hands, and even with my aquascaping tools it was hard to get the plants in just right. I added the substrate first and then filled the tank up to add the other materials. Then, I drained the tank so I could determine where more substrate needed to be added. It was worth it though.
I love this tank! I think I like it even more than the Marineland Portraits I have. You’ll remember I set one of those up back in November. That one was broken down a few weeks ago to upgrade the Endlers I had in it to the Fluval Flex 15 to give them more room, and the second one I bought has become a grow-out tank for plants because I could never decide what to do with it.
Like the Marinelands and the Fluval Flex, there’s a hidden compartment that holds the filtration which consists of a biosponge with inserts for charcoal and ceramic media which are included. There’s a small pocket to one side that holds the submersible pump and tube (also included) which lead to a spicket to return the water to the tank. Unlike the Fluval Flex, this pump’s speed can be adjusted. The space for the pump is very tight, but I saw a YouTube review where someone was able to add a small heater into it.
The LED light hangs on a clip behind the filter and is very sleek. It is suspended across the tank and has a quick-touch feature and a night light setting. The tank’s lid is plastic and has a rectangular opening just below the light. It’s kind of odd but probably makes feeding a little easier so that you don’t have to raise the lid and bump the light.
The one thing I don’t like is there’s no inlet to the filter at the bottom. There’s a small slit in the bottom center which was good when adding water, but the inlet is at the top. Since the pump is at the bottom, the water would be pulled through the top and through the sponge, but this still seemed odd to me. The Fluval Flex has inlets at the top and bottom. So far, that’s my only complaint.
I will say now having set up the Marineland Portrait, the Fluval Flex, and Fluval Spec, I’m impressed with how tanks in general have improved since I first got into the hobby 30+ years ago. I love the hidden compartment devoted to the built-in filtration. These compartments do a great job of “hiding” the filter media and tech, and they also make water changes super easy without having to disturb the fish and plants. It’s nice to have built-in lighting too that is a step up to being plant friendly.