22 May 2016

thirty-eight green

I am starting to feel like I actually reached the balance in my main aquarium. Plants are growing well, algae is minimal and I've even found a better way to keep the hornwort where I want it.
We had a birthday in our house recently, and the clip holding the helium balloons together was different from ones I'd seen before. It's a flat plastic square that folds over on itself, and the hinge part is just wide enough to slide a stem of plant through. Just wide enough for the internodal spacing, too. I cut a slit into the length of some airline tubing, and attached it to the top back wall of the tank at the water line with suction cups. I did have to use rubber bands to hold the airline to the suction cups at a few points, because they'd been stretched to grasp driftwood twigs before (which have all been removed).
I went online and bought a bag of the balloon clips. I really like this new system. It's so much easier to remove one clip, snap it open, reposition further up the hornwort stem, snap shut again and slide back onto the line of tubing when I need to trim back the base of the stems. And unobtrusive too.
Most of my plants seem to be growing better, now. Watersprite has reached the ceiling for the first time in here.
Rotala is getting taller than the prefilter sponge, finally.
Crypt wendtii looks healthier. You can tell by its change of shape- leaves standing more upright on longer petioles- that the light level is lower again now.
The blue hue of bucephalandras is showing through other plants again, here seen from side/above angle. There's even a few teensy java ferns sprouting on the log where bits of rhizome got left behind, and the fissidens moss seems to be taking hold. I had to pull a few more vallisneria that were getting out-of-bounds.
Elodea corner filling in- every week I trim the tops of a few of these.
Most of all I am loving the aponogeton crispus. Seen with clear space behind them (side view of the tank) how beautifully the light passes through their semi-translucent leaves. I just can't get the best picture of that yet.
This one used to be among the smallest!
Newest thing in the tank- I moved over my last otocinclus. Oliver has been chasing him a lot more. Even if he didn't get hurt I think it's stressful for the oto.
He is already looking alert and active, nibbling over leaf surfaces for algae. In these pics his tail getting buffeted to the side from filter flow. I once again removed the baffle, thinking the oto will prefer stronger flow. I've been told they need more oxygenated water.

But there's one problem I hadn't forseen. Cherry barbs are pestering the oto. They keep nipping at the spots on its tail base and ends of the fins. I hope once they realize the other fish's spots aren't food items they will leave him alone! Otherwise I guess this tank isn't a good place for him either.

14 May 2016


I lost a fish today. I was feeling good about this 'fish day'- the tanks looked clean, there was not much algae, even though I found more black beard algae on older leaves of buces and crypt wendtii in the thirty-eight, but it didn't upset me much. Just trimmed those leaves off, noticed how well the aponogetons are growing- they look super healthy! and the bacopa very nice as well. If rotala keeps up its growth rate I will have to trim it back soon. I pulled out a few crowded vallisneria, thinned out some of the watersprite thicket and cut out some hornwort- top of the tank was getting crowded and I noticed it was impeding the flow. I planted a few errant stems of bacopa and ludwigia from the tenner into this tank. Thinking how great the buces look in the tenner, how they struggle in my thirty-eight. Maybe I should take them all out of this tank and move them into the tenner, but I'm afraid of spreading the BBA... I was a bit dismayed at the state of buce 'dark godzilla'. I hit it with hydrogen peroxide last week, but it did nothing. This week there's more BBA tufts on all its older leaves. Only the one newest leaf remains clean, and more stem is rotting. I cut it back to almost nothing, I really should just throw that plant away but hate to do it.

But the real bummer came when I was doing water change in the tenner. I looked low on the side of the tank to pluck out discarded ludwigia leaves, which were all down near the substrate level, and saw the white unmoving form of a fish belly curled against the glass. One of my otos, head wedged in between the driftwood and glass wall. It was dead. I don't know why. I swear that fish looked fine yesterday. I guess he got himself stuck between the wood and the wall?

Now I only have one otoclinclus. And I really don't want to buy any more, but he will be lonely.


There are many things growing, and lovely flowers opening. I've potted up my tomatoes and green beans into their places and thinned more carrots. But right now my focus has been squirrels. They're really pests this year. Digging in the garden and uprooting my young plants. I had been spreading coffee grounds every few days but it wasn't enough of a deterrent. Then I sprinkled red pepper flakes, and that did work. I also sprinkled bonemeal in the pots of my tomatoes since they seem to need that anyway and it's supposed to repel squirrels too. Voila- it's been several days, including rain, and there are no more holes in my garden, no overturned bean or tomato pots. But the squirrels did keep looking- I caught two of them on my lower deck, very close to the house, and another one on the upper deck, digging in my pot of cosmos and another of sage. So apparently the red pepper worked, it made them go looking for other spots. I'll have to stock up on cayenne powder now.

06 May 2016

in the dark

I finished treatment for my fishes, have done two water changes since and gradually brought the temperatures back down to normal. I'm not sure if they are better yet, or if they were even sick to begin with, because they look just the same. Active, alert, eager to eat. Dusty golden patches on the top of the male barbs' heads. I thought maybe that's just their natural color? because most symptom lists online point out that a fish with velvet will look sick- clamped, listless, hiding. Mine aren't doing that. I posted on the fish forum (have a running thread about it) and another member said sometimes they don't show those kind of symptoms. So I tried to get pictures with flashlight in the dark, to show for another opinion. This was the best I could do.

05 May 2016

more plants in the ground

Another rainy day, more planting. Bought-seed cosmos and the few tithonia went into the backyard border, saved-seed cosmos went into empty gaps in my little garden bed. These latter have nicer, fuller leaves- I'm not sure if it's due to genetics- the seed source- or because they spent several more weeks growing outside of shelter. I put three of the nicest ones in a pot on the deck, by the mints. Three dill plants went into my herb box on the deck railing. The rest of the nasturtiums in a low row across the front-yard bed, with nine tucked into one of my favorite pots, on the front porch.

There's still green beans and more to go! But I've removed a shelf from the coldframe house now, it's not needed with so many plants out and lets more light in for the remaining plants.

03 May 2016

planting time!

I planted some stuff into the garden today.
Rain, overcast, good for the plants.
Out into the garden today: broccoli, marigolds, summer savory, two kinds of basil, green onions and chives, oregano, thyme, rosemary, borage. I hadn't realized how attractively textured the borage leaves are. I don't think I ever looked at them closely before.
I put the mints into bigger pots.
Loving the chocolate mint!
I fastened some planter boxes to the outer edge of deck railing, and planted them with nasturtiums (the sweet potato vine are still in pots, they just sit out here on sunniest days). The bungee cords are hooked and wired onto screws, and the boxes sit on other long screws fastened into the posts below. I'm a bit disappointed the last box I bought seems cheaper made than the others; the plastic is thinner and when I filled it, bows out a little. Instead of using ceramic shards for drainage I layered the bottom of the boxes with broken up styrofoam (finally a good use for that stuff). To keep them light.
Still have all these nasturtiums to put in the front yard!
And another jug full I'm not sure where they will go, but I'll find a good spot.
One planter box got herbs, to have a few close to the kitchen (for when I don't feel like tromping down the stairs to the garden space)- and they're only annuals- green onions, basil, summer savory. A tiny spider is already checking out the space.

I made some improvements on my coldhouse. The two middle shelves were resting on little brackets, only supported at four spaced-apart points, and they sagged frequently. I noticed that the upper shelf and lower shelves, which rested on supporting bars of the structure, don't sag nearly as much, I don't have to flip them as often. I bought some 3/4" square wooden dowels, cut to length, broke off the prior plastic brackets with a hammer and nailed the dowels in their place. The shelves are much firmer resting on the ledge I made.

02 May 2016

happy seedlings

I'm glad I tried again.
Figured out why sage never grows for me- the seeds actually need light to germinate. So instead of putting the tray on top of the fridge, I set this one in a windowsill. Voila! Baby sage!!
More success with the second sowing of echinacea as well- even a few of my self-saved seed grew. I've got at least ten more now.


Green beans sure do grow fast! A week in windows is all they can tolerate before feeling deprived, I think. Then I'll be able to start moving stuff out of the coldhouse into the ground, and can let these harden off.

01 May 2016

more plants!

I'm really on a gardening craze right now.
At my favorite nursery, Wolf Trap on route 7, I bought some more blue hostas (and one green variegated one) to go under shrubs on either side of the back of the house. It looks nicer there already.
I bought a few herbs to fill in what's missing for my kitchen use- an oregano
and english thyme.
I got this little sedum plant called stonecrop just because it's so cool-looking.
I stopped at h depot for some wood doweling to improve my coldhouse and found chocolate mint!
Also bought a cinnamon basil, just because I'd never seen that before and it smells lovely and my husband loves cinnamon. It's supposed to be good in asian dishes.

Then I visited a fellow gardener who lives just ten minutes away. Her yard is right against the woods, she grows lots of deer-resistant shade plants and I bought ferns and bedding plants from her last year.
I really only went over there to get some more japanese sage and a few ferns, but walking through her gardens she found this and that plant growing out of bounds, and I came home with so much more!
Arum- a crazily tropical-looking thing
a pretty type of sedum
bleeding heart
more columbines
joe pye weed 'chocolate'
and mayapple. This last one spread into her yard from the woods- it's a podophyllum, also called american mandrake. I didn't know much about this plant until I looked it up- it needs deep shade or will die back in the summer heat, it likes to stay moist but not soggy, it is prone to rust disease. I might have to move it around to find a spot it likes- against the shade side of the house might be better...

Also not pictured: lily of the valley and spring beauty- tiny bits of stuff. I spent half the day out in the rain and mud today, turning compost, digging holes, walking around the yard again and again to find the most suitable spot for each plant. I put the ferns, salvia and turtlehead around the base of trees, the columbines and bleeding heart among the hostas. Mayapple a row in the back, lilies of the valley a line alongside the house on the shady side, joe pye 'choc' on the other side in the sun. I was cold and stiff by the time done planting but it was worth it, the plants all look good, not a single one wilted. It's supposed to rain for three more days, and then when the sun shines I bet they are happy again ready for some decent pictures.

aquarium recovery

I didn't take detailed notes after all, because I wasn't observing fish symptoms closely. Tank looks pretty nice after the three-day blackout. I took the black plastic that had wrapped the tank and used part of it for a new backdrop. Nice contrast.
Most of the plants that had algae issues are a lot cleaner now. Especially crypt wendtii tropica.
Did a 30% water change today and with the water clearer I got a good look at them. They all look fine, I don't notice any 'dusty' appearance- will check with flashlight tonight.