08 September 2016

brief tank notes

I had serious overflow on the main tank again this week- sigh. I let it go for a few days, thinking well if it's just a trickle maybe I'll just ignore it. This morning it was overflowing more than I've ever seen. Tested the water quality- that was fine- but the fish were hanging around not swimming much which was alarming. I rinsed out the filter media again- more normal-looking mulm and some fine white hairs- decaying plant fiber? or dropped hornwort needles? (but that plant looks really healthy). I also siphoned out the back of the filter box in case some debris is stuck there. Runs fine again now and the fish look happy with the clean flow and a small water change. Maybe I need different filter media that won't clog so quickly...

Oliver's hospital tank got a large water change today- two, actually. I set about to do the first one this morning because it's the end of his med dose with General Cure. Noticed up close that there was a lot of pale mulm on the tank bottom. It looked gross. And the hornwort is all dying, needles everywhere and falling-apart stems. Not sure if it just ran out of nutrients and gave up because there's so little light, or something to do with the medication. Regardless, I took all the hornwort out and siphoned the bottom well. But shortly after finishing the water change more mulm had settled, so I did it all again. Spirodela polyrhiza in here doesn't look healthy- I picked out lots of yellowed and decaying leaves. Subwassertang in here is doing okay- but collecting some pale hairy algae. Oh well. They were all goners anyway, when I tear down the tank and sanitize.

To keep a decent amount of live plants in here while Oliver finished out his hospital time, I'm moving over handfuls of spirodela polyrhiza once or twice a week. Float them in a container for half a day in case there's any parasite on there that left a snail and wants a fish (supposedly they die w/in a few hours if they don't find the new host).

05 September 2016

main aquarium

All I did in this one the past friday was trim some stems, and take out a few apono leaves that were dying off. Still have minor overflow. I took out the ceramic rings. They settle and wedge in the space before the outflow- maybe that's the problem? but no, a few days later it's trickling overflow again. I can't figure out what's causing that...

rescape

I redid Oliver's tank today (he's still not in it).
First removed all the hardscape pieces with plants on them.
Tank looked very empty without them.
Then replaced things in a different arrangement. I added a new piece of driftwood I've been boiling all week to remove tannins, and tied onto it some of the plants off the old driftwood log (which stinks).
Biggest difference is that I have hidden the skull behind the new log. Plan to get some subwassertang growing on that end of the driftwood to soften and obscure view of its edge.
I thought that all my rotalas in here looked poorly the way their tops hang down, but once I trimmed some of that off (and replanted elsewhere) looks decent in the corner.
On the other end I've turned around the piece that had smaller anubias on it- looks quite different this way. Windelov fern is like green tongues of flame. Wedged a bit of mopani wood in there too with some subwassertang on it. In the very front corner is one small plant left of some unidentified stem that I thought had all died. Still not sure what it is...
The most striking plants in here are the buces. I don't know if it's just the way their colors look against the dark mopani wood, but suddenly they seem to glow and look very blue. I love it.
Also tried to get a quick overhead shot, just because it is so different from the last time I did one.

I'm happy with how it turned out- but was surprised at how much dark, fine mulm came up when I was gently trying to move plants and hardscape around. And it stank. I siphoned out water twice and refilled fresh, because it got so cloudy couldn't see anything. The snails seem okay with it all. But I am not putting Oliver back in for a while- and will test parameters make sure there isn't a huge ammonia spike or high nitrates.

04 September 2016

the garden

Well, it's kind of been pathetic this year.
The basil at least is looking great.
This volunteer plant crawling across the garden sure looks like a cantaloupe to me.
Small yellow flowers under the broad leaves.
Parsley is decent- I've finally used some of it in cooking.
Oregano has nice leaves on the top- its newer growth.
But the lower leaves are pale, mottled with insect damage. You can see it on the cantaloupe leaves too. Probably most of the plants will get trashed later this fall, not composted, to see if I can avoid having so much whitefly next year...
Marigolds have lots of foliage, but very few flowers- and they are all bitten by whitefly or stinkbugs, too. So I don't know how much they helped my garden, as the scent from the blooms would deter the pests.
I am still picking caterpillars off the ratted broccoli, but not very many lately. This big fat one the kids found in another part of the yard. I tried to look it up and it's a plain kind of moth- a brown one- but I forget the species name now.

Not pictured: the cucumber! I have one cucumber. I didn't see it because it was partly buried under the mulch and that part of the fruit blanched white. I've set it up on an upended yogurt cup, to keep it off the ground.

Other plants- I have more peppers. The cherry tomatoes are winding down. Pulled the last few beets and they were small. Tasted good, but the foliage was so insect-damaged I didn't want to eat the leaves. There are still carrots growing, and perhaps I will get another bunch or two of swiss chard before the season is done. I cut down all the large tomato plants on the lower deck, they just weren't doing well there. The two brandywine plants are still producing. Herbs I tried to re-seed in the planter did not really come up- summer savory is gone to seed and the young plants died from the heat. So I don't have any more savory or green onions or dill. Maybe I'll do better with that next year.

yard plants

The weather is a bit cooler and it's not so uncomfortable hot outside; I have started spending more time tending to my landscaping plants and the shade (not anymore) bed in the back of the yard.
I am continually pleased with the hellebores. They look healthy no matter what comes- rain or sun. I never worry about insets on them or about watering extra (though I do give water when it occurs to me).
Also glad to see the bee balm- monarda- does fine with the summer heat and bit of extra sun they get now (after neighbors cut down their trees).
Most of my echinacea have survived and are getting a bit bigger- they look pretty good, actually. I started with nine and only have seven now. Not sure when the second missing one disappeared...
Daisy clumps are coming up with a second flush of growth. I've started cutting down the older stems as they dry up.
To my surprise, astilbes seem to be coming back too, now that the weather has cooled and we are getting a bit of rain. I thought they were all goners.
Hostas are suffering. I think it is scorching from the direct sun- none of the other plants nearby have this symptom.
And it looks like lysimachia has died- at least this one.
The other still has some pale foliage. I am wondering if they will revive in the spring.
On the deck railing- another area but I consider it a "yard plant" since it's not part of the veggie garden- sweet potato vine is doing great. A few nasturtiums have begun sprouting from where seed fell. I have a few cuttings of potato vine in the house in a jar- growing roots like mad- will probably pot it up eventually, to carry through the winter.

second treatment

Oliver's hospital tank has cycled!
It felt like a magic trick when I walked back into the room after testing for nitrites this morning, and the little test vial was bright aquamarine blue, not the dreaded purple. I am so pleased. Now I don't have to do twice-daily water changes for him (which was feeling tedious), can give a final treatment and then prepare to move him back into his home tank. I dosed API General Cure this morning, it has metronidazole and praziquantel. This is just to be extra-sure I have wiped out all the parasites.

It probably isn't really necessary, though. I have done quite a bit of reading, and got some help from plantedtank members in diagnosing the issue. My best guess is that he had contracted clinostomum marginatum, a fish parasite known as yellow grub. Apparently it is really common among all freshwater fish species, lots of people get alarmed when they catch fish to eat and find them infested with the grub (harmless, easily killed when the fish is cooked). The parasite goes through its life cycle on three hosts- eggs hatch in the water, look for a snail, grow several stages in the snail, leave it and look for a fish host, can live up to four years inside the fish, finish their life cycle if a water bird eats the fish, leave the bird as eggs in the feces and hatch into the water again. It took me a while to find a diagram that showed the time period for each stage of the cycle- it lives up to four weeks in the snail and then must find a fish host within a few hours or dies. The only thing I can guess at is that snails introduced this into my tank- nerite snails are usually wild-caught and ramshorn snails are common carriers of the parasite too.

So if I keep Oliver out of his home tank for just over four weeks, pretty sure that whatever parasite lingers among his snail population will die out. I can't just get rid of the snails- it would be easy to pick out the nerites, but impossible to get rid of all the trumpet snails unless I tore down the tank. I have removed the few trumpet snails that were in hospital tank with him.

Now that I think about it, I remember seeing something similar to this parasite one one of my male cherry barb a while back. I didn't know what it was then, I gave the fish salt baths and the thing disappeared. None of the other fish in the main tank have shown symptoms, so I assume that if that was also yellow grub on the barb, it has all died out in that tank by now.
Incidentally, I made a few changes to his hospital tank setup. Found that the watersprite does not do well in the low ambient light, it was all looking ratty so I threw those plantlets away. Spirodela polyrhiza and subwassertang do okay, and the hornwort I put in there is holding on, too. It does shed a lot of needles- I am constantly cleaning them off the glass at the waterline when I do water changes. But it grew enough that the buoyancy of the stems was lifting their wood anchors off the tank bottom, so I fastened them to stones instead.

31 August 2016

knocked out

I put my fish to sleep and woke him up again.
This was the procedure (edited 9/4 to add):

I got together all the necessary items after reading several sets of instructions online. Bought pure clove oil at a health food store. I put a gallon of fresh conditioned water in my small bucket, and a small amount of water in plastic box. Put a tee fitting on two pieces of airline and ran a small airstone in each container with the pump. Put a small amount of water into a plastic baggie and added just one drop of clove oil. Shook it to dissipate the oil (it has a very strong scent!) Caught the fish- that was easier than I expected. I gave him a flake of food, held a clear plastic cup at the ready and just scooped him up from the surface when he was focused on eating. Put him in the plastic box of water. Added a small amount of oil-infused water. Watched the fish for ten minutes.

Nothing happened. I added another portion of water with clove oil. Still nothing. He just cruised in circles testing the boundaries of the box. I put another drop of clove oil into the baggie, shook it again, dosed his water again. This time he reacted- jerked around and dashed at the corners trying to escape the container. Started moving sluggishly and finally lay still near the bottom but when I put my hand in to hold him close to the side of the container he thrashed around again. I dosed another amount of clove oil water, waited another ten minutes. Again he reacted when the oiled water went into the container, gasped around at the surface, jerked about the corners and spit out the flake of food he'd eaten. People say this is not stressful for the fish, they just go to sleep but he sure looked alarmed to me. But of course when he finally fell asleep I was able to do a close inspection without further distressing him.

It was kind of freaky to see him finally lie completely still, fins held stiffly, his body drifting a bit with the current from the airstone. When I moved him with my hand he twitched a bit and I saw his gills moving, so knew he wasn't dead. (Clove oil is used to euthanize fish). I was able to hold him close to the side of the plastic container for a look with the loop and a photograph.
I got a close look at the thing w/magnification, but still don't know what it is. This was the best my camera could do. It was still pretty indistinct. I was feeling disappointed at not being any closer to an answer, and then my husband suggested we put the fish under the microscope. I felt like this was risky- all the instructions say to keep his water well-aerated while he's under, so taking him out of that worried me. But we did it. Put the fish carefully on a shallow dish and looked at him with 400x magnification. It was really cool to see the iridescent sheen up close on his scales. I couldn't tell much more about the thing on him, though. It looked like a semi-translucent blob- the body of an organism- with perhaps a small or broken appendage sticking out. The camera fitting was unable to get a picture though, because Oliver's color is so dark it wouldn't take a photo.

And he started acting stressed, raising his head in jerks so I quickly put him back in the container, then moved him to the fresh water in the bucket. It took him a long time to come around, which was alarming. I don't know if I'd kept him under too long- and I worried for a while that I'd given him brain damage from oxygen deprivation! For quarter of an hour he just drifted around with the current, belly up as if dead. Then he was able to right himself and moved around slowly against the bucket side, just moving one pectoral fin that was free in the water, the other one still. Tail down, head barely up- I kept moving the airstone near him to assist his breathing. I added another half gallon fresh water to the bucket. After a long while he started using all his fins, but still swam erratically, looked groggy. It was almost two hours before he was back to normal and I felt comfortable returning him to the tank.

Phew. So now I know how to anesthetize a fish, but it was kind of nerve-wracking. And seeing how he jerked around distressed when the clove oil was added to his water, I'm not so sure that using that is the most painless form of euthanasia. Knocking a fish on the head or stunning them with ice water would seem quicker. But I'm glad I have it on hand and after putting my photo and description of what I saw under the microscope on the forums, I got some useful feedback that helped me to diagnose- see following post.

hospital cycle

Last dose of Oliver's treatment with PraziPro was monday. Tuesday I did several partial wc to remove the medication. He still looks fine- eats eagerly, good color, no clamped fins.White thing on his body unchanged. I had not been doing daily checks of the water quality during treatment, since I didn't want to fret about it too much and was doing twice-daily wc on his tank anyway. This morning I tested the parameters- Ammonia 0.25, Nitrite 0.5, Nitrate 5. So crap, the hospital tank is cycling. Doing another wc right now. Later today I'm going to anesthetize the fish and get a close look at the thing on him w/the loop. I don't want to just pull it off if it's some kind of parasite that has a head buried under his skin. If it's something just hanging on w/hooks like anchorworm, that might be the right thing to do...

29 August 2016

celosia pinks

Some of my celosia have bloomed a lighter shade, pinks and creams. I went out to take a few pictures.
One of the plants toppled over during our last heavy thunderstorm. I was going to just cut it back (and plant maybe some young echeveria in its place) but when I looked closer saw that it is sprouting new blooms along the horizontal stem, thus growing numerous upright flowers. None of the other plants do this- all their blooms are just on the terminal end, none along the stem. So I think it is in response to the position of the fallen plant. It is so cool I let it be, even though it is trailing across the grass and in the way of the lawn mower.
Celosia is definitely a magnet for insects. I have not managed to get many pictures of them, but I've seen big fat bumblebees, smaller carpenter bees and even smaller flies and wasps working methodically across the broad pink and red blooms. I've seen these wasps with incredibly skinny waists on the celosia, several times a pair of them mating. Here one on the nearby coleus. And the other day I saw that delicate little butterfly the gray hairstreak, rubbing its wing tails together which always fascinates me. Of course when I ran inside to get the camera and came back out, it was gone.

I got a compliment on this planting recently. I had stooped to pull some weeds from the succulents around the stump and a neighbor walking her dog paused to tell me how nice the plants looked around my mailbox. It made me feel good (especially because the lawn is in terrible shape, which I'm also trying to work on this year).

28 August 2016

rescape

Over the past two weeks I've done a bit of rearranging in my main tank. Last week I took out the buce log, trimmed off all the oldest, algae-infested leaves (BBA is mostly gone now, not showing up anywhere else) and cut off the near end of it so I could rotate it a bit and bring it closer to the front, out from behind the clump of crypt wendtii. While I was at it thinned out some vallisneria in the corner, and untied all the watersprite from driftwood anchors. That wasn't working. I've gone back to pegging them into the substrate until they can root themselves. But can't find my plastic strips (and I haven't been buying milk in plastic jugs lately) so I clustered all the watersprite together, broke a cheap wooden chopstick nearly in half and used that to pin them down.

This week I moved forward all the hygro and ludwigias, uprooted the crypt wendtii that's in the background and took it from the basket to plant into the substrate, and moved the last three big aponogeton crispus into the background.
It doesn't look a whole lot different. But I like it better so far. I knew that uprooting some plants would spike the nitrates (even though I kept a hose ready and siphoned out for the water change each time I pulled a plant up, to remove as much of the released mulm and debris as I could) so I dosed lighter on the ferts this week. Even so, there's lots of that fine, almost-translucent algae on the surface of many leaves now, it's like sparse, very fine fur if you look closely. Also more thread algae growing in the watersprite and rotalas, I groomed them again.
But other algae have kept at bay, and the green spot and black marks that show up on older crypt leaves when that plant is hungry are dissipating. I noticed finally that the biggest crypt was looking brown again, then kind of bronzed and purplish all over. Gave it some root tabs and now it is recovering. I don't know why I always forget to put the tabs in soon enough, for the heavy root feeders.
One plant I'm really pleased with lately is the bacopa caroliniana. It's nearly reached the ceiling and looking very pretty. Upper leaves are larger than the lower ones- I suppose because they get more light? Rotala indica I did have to trim some stems of it this week, because they were at the surface. That felt like an accomplishment.
I am not sure how to make the plants look nice together, now- the aponos really have the appearance of a column in the center of the tank that rises up and seems to spread out across the top where hornwort matches the paler green color. I'm not sure yet if I like that.

26 August 2016

front yard stuff

I am very happy with the succulents around the tree stump in our front yard.
Glad didn't get the stump ground out- the kids like jumping on it.
A few of the celosia growing around it had gotten tall enough they looked out-of-place. I took advantage of a few days of rain (the ground really damp) to dig them up and transplant to the front porch spot. They took really well- only a bit wilted the first day and now recovered. They're here between the peony on the left and pinks of coleus and sunpatients on the right. The taller celosia far right is one that was planted there in spring (coldframe-started, so it had more growth).
View of it from above, on the house side. I'm going to put more peonies here next year, but for now the other plants are starting to fill it out nicely enough.
Nearby is the rhubarb. While it's done okay here because it gets moisture from a drippy faucet, it also gets damaged by people reaching in to connect or use the hose. Once the weather cools off a bit to avoid too much shock, I'm going to move it to the back planted bed, which now gets too much sun to be a shade garden!