17 June 2018

45 has leaves

I added a lot more leaf litter. Took quite a while to sort, clean and soak oak leaves from last fall's stash, one plastic grocery bag full (a fraction of what I have saved up) turned out to be just the right amount. Most of them I trimmed and cut into smaller pieces this time.
It has the exact effect I was hoping for. The leaf litter hides all the rock anchors, so it looks like the plants are growing straight out of them.
Buces, smallest plants in here, barely poke up above the litter, I'm glad I tied them onto highest points of rocks. They should grow upwards and keep clear of it. I didn't think about it until I had dropped all the leaves in, but oops I have completely smothered all the subwassertang! And the small vals got covered, too. I bet a val might grow up out of the litter, but the subwassertang will probably die. That's okay, I have plenty more of it in other tanks. Not sure if it's the best choice in here anymore, unless I can encourage it to cling to the large driftwood piece. That might look nice.
One buce came loose from its stone and lodged for a while against the roots of anubias on driftwood. I hoped it would take hold there, but it's floated free by now. I'll have to tie it down again next time I have hands in the tank.
Largest anubias has a new leaf.
Some java ferns have new, young leaves growing too.
My apple snail has been topside feeding off the hornwort lately. I am often fascinated at how it manages to cling to a single, narrow stem of hornwort up there. Eventually its weight pulls the plant down, or it lets go and sinks down to the bottom of the tank again. It spreads its foot out wide when falling, like it is gliding through the water.
Such a handsome snail, even it I am annoyed at all its poops. (Most of that is hidden under the deeper leaf litter now.)
Kuhlis love the additional leaves. The entire tank floor is their hideout now. Here's a glimpse of one.
I've made a selection of forked sticks from dead branches that fell off our oak, maple and sycamore trees in the past few spring storms. Am prepping them for tank use- first I boiled them in my pressure cooker- this way and then taking them all out turned around to boil the other ends. For hours. Water stained very dark. Now I'm peeling bark off the sticks when I have time, and dropping into the tank where they just float, to let them get water logged.
Apple snail spends all its time up among the floating sticks, now. It is probably eating the biofilm or fungus that emerges, because I haven't seen any sign of that ugly white stuff that often appears on new wood in tanks. I don't mind letting the sticks float for a few weeks while the snail cleans them off, but I might tie stones to a few ends to start arranging them in the tank. I'm seeing a lot more ramshorn snails because they come up to feed off the wood, too. And somehow- unintentionally- I've introduced limpets into this tank. Probably on a plant. Oh well. They are not very noticeable in the large tank, and they do help keep the glass very clean.

16 June 2018

other snails

My daughter kept a snail bowl, with hornwort, for a while. Then she moved it to a different location in her room, where it didn't get enough light, and the plants died. The gastropods in there were originally malaysian trumpet snails I gave her. Must have once given her a pond snail or two, because she gave me back the bowl a week ago and I found one in there. I dropped it in Perry's tank. He immediately went to bite it. I don't think he actually ate it because later I found soft remains that had to be removed. I wish he would eat the trumpet snails in his tank but he only manages that if I crush them for him.
Anyway, there was a huge shell in the bowl. A freshwater snail she found in a creek nearby and brought home from a walk one day. It looked like an apple snail or mystery snail to me, and sure enough, that's probably what it is. I live close to the Potomac River, so not surprised.
Its operculum alone was huge! compared to snails I've kept-
All the shells in the bowl were empty at this point- among the MTS, pond/bladder snails and a few ramshorn, I found these tiny conical, spiraled shells. Are they young mystery snails? did the large one lay a clutch of eggs before it died (months and months ago, the large empty shell was in that bowl a long time). Since the plants were gone, I'm afraid the young snails must have fed on the dead adult.
I have it sitting on the windowsill now.

15 June 2018

coleus green

I potted up some of my cuttings. This one stayed as a houseplant.
Some others have been set out in the yard- in the back bed between ferns and liriope, at the end of the vegetable walk against the wall to brighten the space. Even more cuttings I gave to a friend.

14 June 2018

outside

my astilbe are blooming! (yes, I need to do some serious weeding)
other side- it has a close companion I didn't plant. I think it's viburnum
The others in the row are coming along-
This one is a lot taller than the rest. Not sure if I unknowingly bought one that grows taller, or if its because it receives a lot more sun
I used them to make a bouquet for my seven-year-old (she performed in the school's talent show)
which included some of my ferns- looking better than ever! Nice thick wall of monarda on the right, there
black/blue salvia has more flowers. I spotted a hummingbird visiting the borage- from my bedroom window- and at first thought what is that huge insect? can't be a bee- then I realized it was a hummingbird and ran downstairs to see closer but it was gone
sedums I transplanted last year bloomed a week ago-
the 'autumn joy' grouping is budding up! I think I planted them too close to the lilac, though. May have to dig up and resituate in spring.
Daylilies!
I've been wanting to get a few more kinds... these are actually a bit more mauve than the photo shows
Milkweed! Buds forming last week:
I saw them opening for the first time today. This is silly, but I didn't expect them to be quite so pretty.
This post turned out to be all flowers, so here's one more- my potatoes!
I recalled they had white ones; didn't expect them to hang their heads
and.. . while I'm still doubtful about the tomatoes- though I think I see a few tiny green fruits- I am pretty sure I'll have cucumbers!
more pics coming soon

13 June 2018

in the 45

most of my plants seem to be doing okay- some of the anubias are rather pale, especially the largest one on the driftwood (it just sprouted the first new leaf); this mid-sized barteri in the corner still looks the best
the smaller anubias thicket quickly gathers debris-
so do the smaller buces- these photos a few days apart-
only the more upright 'wavy green' buce on a higher rock, stay relatively free of that
and of course the vallisneria, with its vertical growth
(I added a few more)
I thinks it's this guy's fault. The seemingly excessive debris. Large snails poop a lot. I'd heard this before, but it's something else to see it all over your tank!
Well, I still think it's a very cool snail to watch.
I learned that at higher temps (my tank is at 78-79° right now) they have a shorter lifespan, sometimes as short as six months. I don't know how old it was when I got it. Certainly has grown fast. I may just wait for it to reach its natural end, before adding the angelfish.... . . . because I don't like seeing the mess it makes. It moves in very fast on the food sometimes- can even beat the kuhlis to a morsel if they're still blasting around the tank randomly with excitement over the food smell.
Here's a few of the ramshorns converging on food.
 They are multiplying- I find egg clusters all over the place. So far I'm still okay with this. The glass is perfectly clear of algae.
Here's one doing its job (same snail from the second photo in this post, just above the anubias thicket)
 I haven't yet got a good photo of the kuhlis in here, they are either hidden, or in constant motion. Come out very active when I drop food in.
I worried a bit their gills looked redder than normal?
I tested the water: zero ammonia, zero nitrite, less than 10 nitrates. I still did a water change just in case. I think I know what went a bit wrong. I'd bought two 40-gal capacity sponge filters to replace the one 80-gal size borrowed from a friend. The other day I rinsed out the media from the corner filter in a bucket of tank water, then squeezed the new sponges in there a few times. Dismantled the original sponge and place the two new ones in. I kept the first sponge and the corner filter of media in the tank, sitting in corners near the new filters, so the bacteria colony could transfer, if it might. But the next day realized with the media still encased in the corner filter housing, no flow going through, the bacteria would die off quickly. Even with the lid off, I don't think it would do much good sitting there stagnant. I pulled it out, put the media in a mesh bag and put it like that in the tank. Doesn't look very nice, but it's temporary.

I also found a better way to do my water changes. Traditional vacuum is no good in a tank without real substrate. I got a piece of tubing, attached a rigid pipe on the end long enough to reach the bottom easily, and I can maneuver it into crevices to remove mulm. Rubber-banded a bit of mesh on the end to prevent larger pieces of leaf getting sucked up. Works a charm. Easier with a shorter hose, too.

I had my first alarming accident the week before when tried to do a water change with the regular siphon- it was awkward to say the least. I was looking close at my doings in the tank and jostled the wastewater bucket hard enough that a lot of water sloshed out. It was all over the floor and running under the tank stand and baseboards- I hollered in alarm and my husband came running and got out the shop vac. Now it's kind of funny- a few towels mopped it up and really it was only two gallons of water that had spilled. I was able to wick it out from under the stand with paper towels, but then had to re-level with composite shims because the cedar ones I used got wet and shrank. Yikes. Just a few gallons so alarming, I can't imagine what a real leak or spill would do. We reacted fast, and I am more careful now, and it's easier to do so with a better (in this case handmade) tool for the job.

Final shot: one little java fern that came loose from its hold. I've had to re-tie quite a few plants, actually. Some of the other java ferns have new fiddleheads arising, so I hope they do well in this tank.