40 Gallon Acrylic Natural Aquarium

Here’s a (long, 1+ hours) video of my 40 gallon acrylic tank, my first acrylic and also the last tank that I kept. I don’t know what compelled me to take HD videos of my tank each night, but at this point in my life I knew that things were about to change (having resigned from and with the last few months of work approaching), and perhaps I wanted to document this phase of my life. By this time I had been in the aquarium hobby for well over 10 years, and I had lost a lot of the enthusiasm I had had during the early days of my hobby. I considered weekly tank maintenance a chore and would actually go many weeks without changing the water or cleaning the tank. At the same time, I designed the tank to be “natural” with lots of plants, minimal feeding, and a relatively low bio-load so that I could stretch out the maintenance cycle.

Below is a list of flora and fauna that inhabited the tank. From time to time, I put on this video and just let it run, and it’s kind of nice. I hope you find it that way as well.


Vallisneria spiralis (“Tape Grass”) – a grass that kept growing and growing.
Vesicularia dubyana (“Java Moss”) – I bought the moss early on in my hobby and it lasted over a decade.
Microsorum pteropus (“Java Fern”) – these were from 2007.
Cryptocoryne wendtii (“Brown Crypt”) – amazingly, these plants sprout up in my tanks that never had them in the first place; all it took was some substrate from a previous tank that had them.


Thorichthys meeki (“Firemouth Cichlid”)
Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps (“Leopard Pleco”)
Mikrogeophagus altispinosus (“Bolivian Ram”) – the last remaining member of the Bolivian Ram clan from my old 50 gallon tank.
Hemigrammus rhodostomus (“Rummy-Nose Tetra”)
Corydoras elegans (“Elegant Cory”)
Corydoras aeneus (“Bronze Cory”)
Poecilia reticulata (“Common Guppy”) – I had bought some feeder guppies to use for cycling a tank, and unbelievably most of them survived for a very long time. By this point, though, there were only a couple of them left.

29 Gallon Vals and Rams

This is a video of my 29 gallon glass tank, circa 2009. For this iteration, I decided to keep it simple, with a plain sand substrate, a few pebbles, and a few “Vals” (Vallisneria spiralis, also known as tape grass). Inhabitants included Bolivian rams (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus), neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi), rummy-nose tetras (Hemigrammus rhodostomus), red phantom tetras (Hyphessobrycon sweglesi), leopard cories (Corydoras trilineatus), bronze cories (Corydoras aeneus), and network cories (Corydoras reticulatus).

Once the vals became established, they became so long that they created a grass canopy at the top of the tank, shielding the fish from the bright light (I had a 55-watt compact fluorescent lamp up there). The tank did pretty well but didn’t last very long because we soon moved out of the apartment. I ended up moving everything to my tank at work.

Here is a photo of Corydoras reticulatus:

Corydoras reticulatus

Arriving in London for the First Time

October 2nd, 2012 (Tuesday) – the first time either one of us set foot in England, or Europe for that matter. It’s one of those “someday” things that you often think about but never really think is ever going to happen. As a child in Hong Kong, I learned of our colonial masters who also hailed from an island, one on the other side of the world. Growing up in America, I learned of the hated redcoats that our forefathers fought against to gain independence. And now, we were in the place where it all started. SMHFU!

(SMHFU = *shake my head* f-ing unbelievable)

We flew out of Hong Kong on a relatively comfortable, daytime, and nearly 13-hour flight on one of Cathay Pacific’s newer 777s (vs. the older 747s on the SFO<->HKG route). We arrived in the evening, after dinner time. We probably docked in the 17-22 area of Terminal 3, because I remember walking a giant “U” to get to the arrivals hall.

Heathrow Terminal 3 Arrivals

Once we were in the arrivals hall, we didn’t have to wait long for our bags before proceeding to immigration. At the counters, there was some back-and-forth going on between one of the immigration officers and a Russian or Eastern-European man; it seemed like they were trying to confirm that the man was the father of the teenager who was with him. I had an officer of South Asian descent who whisked me through, while JC had a bona fide Englishman ask her a few questions before letting her in. I couldn’t help but think of world history at that moment, of the East India Company, of Colonial India. It was a “Wow! All that stuff I read in history books actually happened!” moment.

We made our way to the Heathrow Express and boarded. I had already purchased tickets when we were in Hong Kong and had the tickets on my phone, but it was my first time using phone-tickets and I was anxious and worried that something bad might happen. When the conductor came by, he just looked at the QR code and said “thank you” without even scanning it. So easy! Don’t know why I was worried. We sat in front of the TV and Sky News was covering the Lamma ferry crash. In Hong Kong this incident was all over the headlines, and now we were in London seeing it on TV. What a small world.

Fifteen minutes later, we were in Paddington Station. We had already done our homework on Google Street View so it was pretty easy finding our way out of the station and across the street to our hotel. The air was cool and crisp, a welcome change compared with that of Hong Kong. We checked in quickly and made our way up to our room.

Without day there is no night, without hot there is no cold, and without a long-haul flight there is no first shower after the flight. You’re exhausted, your clothes smell, and your skin is sticky. Imagine all of that getting washed down the drain with a steamy, hot shower, taking you from extreme discomfort to extreme relief. When I close my eyes and think back to that moment, I wish I could stay inside of it.

The last thing I remember before entering the slumbering world is watching TV in bed. There was a BBC documentary about breastfeeding, and they actually showed breasts on TV! Although I had forgotten that the British were less prudish when it came to human anatomy, that wasn’t the shocking thing to me. The shocking thing was that in the show, one of the husbands would use his wife’s breast milk as a substitute for cow’s milk, pouring it into his cereal. A few hours after setting foot in Europe for the first time, I fell asleep with visions of breasts and cornflakes inside my head.

Next: Recovery in London