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!

25 August 2016

mushrooms and purslane

My husband called me outside to see these interesting mushrooms that came up around the mailbox.
Never seen anything like them. Very pale with hints of yellow-green.
Because of them I was looking closely at things in that patch, and saw that my flowering purslane here is producing seed. The seeds are in these little cups
I started collecting them, tipping out into a tupperware.
This one you can see the cap on the seed cup starting to come off.
They are very very tiny and gray, wrinkled texture. I tried to find out more about saving flowering purslane seed- I want to know if I plant these next year, will I get more plants with the same color flowers or will they revert to another form.

But all the info I found online about purslane seed is for the common purslane grown as a food item- the leaves and stems are edible, so are the seeds I found out. Some people collect them en masse- uprooting the plants and sifting the seeds out over a screen. Those seeds are black. Are mine gray because it's a decorative variety of plant? not sure.

I'm saving as many seed as I can so I can grow more of this in other parts of the yard next year. I bet a lot crop up on their own around the mailbox, so I could always just transplant them too.

borage!

Those seedlings that came up on their own are not nicotiana, or echinacea. I recognize them now.
It's borage! My borage reseeded itself. A lot of the parent plants have died off now. I wasn't expecting a second generation in the same season. Going to dig up and move a few into other parts of the garden.

24 August 2016

microscopic

I tried to take a sample off Oliver's skin and view it under the microscope. To see if he really has flukes. They should be visible with a regular handheld magnifying glass, so I figured viewing at 400x under the microscope, a fluke would look big in the viewing field. My husband has an attachment for his manual camera to go on the microscope, and showed me how to take a few photos. But all I found was little bits of stringy things, looked like fragments of plant fibers (hornwort maybe)
that little thing on the left looks like a tiny hydra
this one also looks like a hydra to me
and lots of irregular blobs.

But nothing definite with mouthparts or hooks to grab a fish. Does this mean he doesn't have flukes? The white thing is still on his skin. Or could it be that if that thing is a fluke, it hasn't multiplied itself yet. I'm feeling more and more like I just want to pull it off him. It obviously distressed him to be held in the net for a skin swab though, using tweezers would be a bit trickier...

He is doing fine in the QT so far. Not stressed, eating fine, colors looks great. Not jerking around looking irritated anymore. He likes to hang near the surface resting in bits of watersprite. I don't know if just because it's an easy place to rest, or because he feels a need for more oxygen...?

(I have used the microscope a few times before to look at things out of the fish tank- once to see strands of algae and another time to look at the margins of plant leaves- vallisneria has little teeth, a serrated edge and sagittaria does not, so I was able to confirm that the plant someone sent me was a val, not a sagittaria.)

23 August 2016

into the QT

I gave up trying to cycle the QT. I did everything I could think of to give it an 'instant cycle'- I swapped sponges off the little filters, sterilizing the QT one (which had only been in there half a day) and moving over the one from the main tank, which should have plenty of bacteria in it. I siphoned a handful of gravel out of the main tank, tied it into a piece of pantyhose and put that in the QT near the filter. Dropped in a few snails and a food wafer (the snails congregated on it, so they're feeling fine). Checked on the water quality a few times each day. Did another water change to see how that alters parameters. Ammonia is still worrisome- it's 0.5, when I do a water change that brings it down to 0.25 but it goes back up again.
However I felt I had to do something- Oliver was looking lethargic, his face getting pale in splotches and his eyes cloudy. (Picture of him in the salt bath the day before yesterday- not a very clear image but I really like how the lens of his eyes are visible here if you look close.) This could be because I took his heater out and all of a sudden it got cooler at night- so his tank temp dropped to 76ยบ.  It was a mistake to not just go buy a second heater. But I still wanted to treat him in QT- not sure exactly what this thing is on his side; if it doesn't respond to the fluke meds and I need to try something different that could kill plants or snails, I don't want to do that in his home tank.
So. The best results I've had using QT in the past is when I did frequent small wc anyway. I moved Oliver over this morning. Tried to get a few closeup photos of him in the cup, but he didn't like being in there so I quit trying to take pictures and moved him into a plastic baggie to float. Acclimated him for half an hour, now he is cruising around the tank inspecting stuff. Doesn't look stressed. I dosed the tank with a half teaspoon of PraziPro. I'm going to do 25% water changes twice a day, which will turn over 50% of the water each day while he's in there, to keep ammonia in check and the water really clean. I'll re-dose the estimated amount of meds that get removed with each water change- so for every two and a half gallons replaced, dose 1/8 tsp or a dash.
I do think it's the nicest-looking QT I've ever set up. Hopefully all those silk plants I added will start harboring some of the good bacteria (if the fish is in here for a week or more) and make him feel sheltered enough to be relatively comfortable.

cleanup

Starting to clean up the garden. I have cut a few bunches of herbs to dry (more on that later) and took out all the green bean plants today. It is a relief not to see sickly plants in that area anymore. I don't want to eat any more of my green beans anyway, they don't look good. Curled and mottled pale ugh.

Waited for a cool night so I could get the plants into a trash bag with most of the whitefly still resting on them. Cleaned up all the leaf litter from around the plants too, as it is probably full of disease the insects have spread. Either the cool weather or my hand-removal is helping- I found less whitefly on the broccoli plants than before. I wiped undersides of the foliage again and found fewer whitefly eggs/larvae than before, and only four caterpillars. Also some white specks on the yellow traps, so maybe that helped some too. I'm going to rinse them off and re-apply the sticky stuff.
Pit that the chrysalis of the white cabbage butterfly is a pretty thing -I squished it.

I am going to smother this plot (where the green beans were) with shredded cardboard, compost and leaf mulch, and hope for better luck next year. At least the soil looks good- rich, black and crumbly- and there's lots of worms. I disturbed at least half a dozen this morning. They look healthy. Crawl away quicker than you'd think a worm can move.

21 August 2016

QT frustration

I have stuff to note about the front yard, and the garden, and my loosing battle against whitefly- pitched too late. But instead I'm preoccupied with the fish. This morning I set up the QT tank.

This is what I did: rinsed dust off all my QT equipment. Set up the 10 gal tank w/half new, treated water. Put in the QT sponge filter on an airline. I took half the older bio-cubes out of the base of the filter in the tenner, replaced w/new ones, and put the old ones in the QT filter. Squeezed out the tenner's sponge into the QT tank. Moved some sacrificial plants into the QT from my main tank- loose pieces of hornwort, baby watersprites, some subwasser tied onto stones that I don't like because the stones are too white and show up against the substrate. Also a handful of spirodela polyrhiza floaters from the tenner. Added five more gallons of water from the tenner, in the process doing another water change on Oliver's tank. Moved over the heater (I only have one that size now and the plants/snails in tenner will be fine w/out a heater for a week or so, it's still warm enough ambient temps here). Now my QT was ready, half new water, half tank water, some live plants and some fake plants & hidey holes, filter and heater running.

I let the setup run for half an hour and tested the water. No Nitrite, only 10 Nitrates but it had 0.5ppm Ammonia. I was hoping by moving in some material from the established filter in the tenner, and some plants from the other tank, I'd have enough good bacteria to get an 'instant cycle.' Guess that's not the case. Debated whether I should throw in some trumpet snails to provide ammonia and boost the cycle, wait a day or two to move the fish, or put him in anyway and do daily wc to keep ammonia down. Then I'd have to re-add the medication to keep the dose steady for prescribed amount of time...

Meanwhile I did another partial wc and went to the store, bought a handful of fake silk plants to add in there. Want it to be full enough the fish isn't stressed by feeling exposed. Came home after an hour shopping and cut all the silly pink and purple flowers off the fake plants. Checked the tank- still 0.5 Ammonia. I did another partial wc of 2 gallons. Rinsed the fake plants in the bucket of tank water. Set them all in there, added some clippings of arrowhead on the back thru holes in the lid skirt, tested the water again. Still 0.5! I tested my big tank to be sure the test kit isn't wonky- especially since I found two motionless nerites on their backs this morning, and one hasn't moved off since I righted them. Maybe another dead nerite? Nope, Ammonia in the big tank is zero.

I paused to rescue a male cherry barb- he'd got hold of what looked like a strand of hair- kept working his mouth and this long trailing bit of stringy stuff hanging out. Didn't look good if that went into his gut. I caught him in the plastic box that's the lid of my API test kit (use this for all kinds of things) and trapped him against the glass at water surface so I could grab the thread bit with tweezers- that was tricky. He sure didn't want to be cornered. Finally I got it and held on he thrashed himself around like a fish hooked on a line, and then the thread came free. There was a bit of dead plant material on the end of it- that's what he'd tried to eat I guess. Let him go.

Did a bigger water change on the QT tank- fifty percent. This time I double-dosed prime, to try and neutralize the ammonia. It didn't lower the ammonia. Instead it's gone up. Now it's 1.0ppm. I guess the tank is full swing into a cycle and don't know what to do about it. Maybe I'll rinse out the big tank's prefilter sponge and pour it in there. I think I'll wait for tomorrow- it seems to be spiking pretty quickly and since Oliver has had a fifty percent wc on his tank three days in a row, he's in fairly clean water so I think he could wait a day for treatment...

I can see why people don't use QT though.