20 August 2014

bin seedlings

Not intentional, but it turns out my bin is growing plants.
Since I put used hamster bedding in there, and the box is full of rich half-processed compost, leftover seeds the hamster didn't eat sprout like crazy. Last month we were away on vacation and no-one was available to babysit our hamster so I put the hamster in a very large plastic tote (my kids pretend it's a boat sometimes- they both fit in there with room to spare). This tote used to be our toybox but has become the "hamster playground." My nine-year-old usually sets up a maze or obstacle course for the hamster to run around in when she cleans his cage. This time I moved all his belongings into there, filled it with a generous layer of fresh bedding, rigged up a support to hold his wheel and water bottle, gave extra food and water. Also to keep him entertained we buried a dozen cardboard tubes in the bedding for tunnels, gave him new chew sticks, a pile of fresh hay and made a puzzle ball by cramming a ball of bent twigs full of sunflower and pumpkin seeds. We were gone a week. He did fine. I thought the hamster might be unfriendly when we got home, having not been handled for a while, but he seemed to remember my daughter's scent and didn't nip or run away.

Anyway, long story is to note that I dumped half of that massive amount of used bedding into the worm bin. Forgot the reason I have switched from shredded paper to corrugated cardboard for worm bedding. The hamster bedding is basically shredded paper, and it got soggy and compacted in the bin. Started to smell a bit. So today I moved it out to the balcony and aerated by just turning the material over with my hands, pulling the moist stuff up from the bottom and spreading it around into the center. It wasn't that bad, the smell or the compaction. (I threw away the other half of the used bedding- it was just too much).

Found that loads of rice isn't that great for the bin, either. I had also dumped in the bag of rice that dried out my camera. Rice takes a long time to break down. Now it's solid clumps. Broke that up some too. The bin is pretty full again. I'm being more selective about what I put in the waste tin for the worms- fed them only once this week- to cut down on moisture and encourage processing of the bedding.
I left the lid off and let the bin sit outside for a few hours this morning- it was overcast today so not too hot- to let it air out more before putting back in its usual station in the kitchen corner.

Note: I've failed in trying to grow a houseplant from a mango seed before, but now have read that a good way to start a mango growing is to bury it in a worm bin! Might just try that someday.

19 August 2014

new fish!

Yes, again. I am trying to finish stocking my aquarium, with fishes that I like looking at. This is the first time I have paid the extra money (earned from my vectors) to buy fish online directly from a breeder. I once received a plant in the mail, but never fish before:
As advised I opened the package slowly in a dim room, as the fish have been in complete darkness during transit. It really is a small thrill to see live fish moving around in there!
To my mild surprise, the printed instructions in the box said not to float the bag or gradually add tank water, but to immediately dump the fish straight into the aquarium. Not to quarantine, either. Instead I was supposed to have done a water change and gravel cleaning in my home tank the previous day, adding Quick Cure and aquarium salt too. They claim this is the best method for introducing new fish with minimum stress. I guess I didn't read the website careful enough. Well, I had done a small water change on the 20gal just the day before yesterday in order to set up the small quarantine tank for new arrivals, so that one did have clean water. And the 10gal got a thorough cleaning on friday, which was just three days ago. I don't have Quick Cure, but I did add a half-dose of dissolved aquarium salt. I put one khuli loach straight into the small aquarium, and two into the larger home tank.
I put the three blue wag platies into the quarantine tank on my kitchen counter. At first they were pale, nearly transulcent, hiding behind the decor, one had slightly clamped fins. But after an hour or so relaxed a bit, not hiding as much, their color starting to show.
Not wanting to go against the advice, but I don't want to cause an ammonia spike in my 20gal by adding too many new fish at once. It so recently had a crash with the ich. I plan to put the platies into the big tank at the end of a week, after next water change.

18 August 2014

one pepper

The only vegetable I grew this year. Small, but tasty. It's still going!

17 August 2014

pink propagation

Just as this plant starts to look beautiful again, the lower leaves always turn pale and eventually fall off. Then new baby foliage appears branching at the point where the petioles fell. I want more of these again, so I cut off their heads and stuck the stems in water to get them to root once more.

Before and after the trim:
Cuttings in the jars:

dracanea

My "dragon tree" was concerning me. It had quite a few leaves yellowing and falling off, all in the middle level of the stem. I thought perhaps it needs more light now that summer is here. It has been feeling the stimulation of warm days, but not getting the increased light I realize. So just to see, I moved it into the corner kitchen were the indirect light is much brighter. Responded well, I think: no more yellow foliage.

16 August 2014

tickle plant

Also called "sensitive plant" but I know it's in the mimosa family, wish I knew the exact name of this one. It likes the shade and apparently can be grown as a houseplant? but the seedling I brought inside died. So did all the others that remained outside, just this one survived.

It definitely responds to touch. Photo above you can see the upper left set of leaves starting to fold shut because I merely bumped the pot; then I touched each leaf group one by one and within a minute or two it was all closed:

purple!

Three of my african violet "children" are starting to bloom! So far they all look like they will be purple; the one that has started to open (above) definitely is.
I haven't had purple violets for over a year- so this is nice to see them again. Took these plants a year to mature enough to flower. I'm looking forward to more upcoming; have five more that aren't showing buds yet.

15 August 2014

cleaning

Gave a rather thorough cleaning to my smaller aquarium with the routine water change today. I think it finally had good result. I wanted to get as much of the brown debris out as possible.

So first I carefully lifted the planted driftwood pieces out, just eased them off the surface to avoid stirring up the substrate. Put each in a fish bucket with a few inches of conditioned water. Gently rinsed out the sponge of the filter in same bucket. Then did some serious gravel vac, which was quick enough work as the gravel bed is not very deep in this tank. Renewed the tank with 4 gallons fresh conditioned water, and let the filter run to clear the water while I scrubbed off the broad anubias leaves with a toothbrush (new) in the buckets- I was surprised at how much came clean. I think a lot of that stuff on them was algae; tough enough I couldn't just rub it off with my fingers, but it gave in to the toothbrush. Then I vigorously scrubbed the driftwood with toothbrush as much as I could, in the buckets- the water went dark brown with debris quickly. I didn't put back them into the aquarium for at least an hour, after the filter had cleared the water. I didn't want sediment to settle on them again. Once it looked pretty clear, I rinsed the pieces, put the driftwood and plants back in. Gently rinsed the filter sponge out once more- it was covered in fine brown stuff again- not squeezing it much this time, just swishing it in the water.

Kept an eye on it all throughout the day. In spite of the relatively large water change, the fishes show no signs of stress, and the plants still look nice, fairly clear of the brown stuff that was all over them before. I'm pleased.
I also bought a new bulb for the lamp- this tank doesn't have a hood but I turn my desk lamp onto it for at least six hours a night, sometimes more. Noted that some of the narrower anubias leaves are starting to yellow. Gave liquid plant food again today, and replaced the bulb with a daylight-spectrum one.
Oliver by the way, is doing great so far. He gobbled down cooked pea on his second day, took and spit out a number of times betta bits on his third, but finally ate those too. Has also eaten regular flakes, cumbled up shrimp pellets and once a fruit fly I had caught a moment before. I think he likes his new home!
I'm still wondering why the driftwood has recently shed so much debris. Perhaps because during the weeks of high heat to treat ich, it decayed faster? Or maybe just that there's no miniature catfish or friendly algae eaters in there to scrape at the wood. I assume it is part of the reason this tank has a lower pH.

14 August 2014

snails!

They are all in there. I looked into the tank after it was dark, saw not only the three adult malaysian trumpet snails, but two or three baby ones as well- the size of a hangnail. So little! Much to small to even try for a photo yet. Could have avoided all that gravel vacuuming, but it probably did no harm.