27 March 2014

more seedlings!

Lots in the jug of Lettuces, including a few Swiss Chard there in the back (top middle and left of picture) row.
A few sprouting in the jug that has various herbs, not sure yet which this one is. Maybe Oregano or Summer Savory?

oto update 8

a picture says it all. If they continue to do well, I'm hoping to move them into the main tank next week!

I've noticed a few things about their behavior. One is that when they're sitting on rocks, or even vertically on the curve of an object, they don't hold on with the sucker mouth, but cling with the pectoral fins. I don't see them on the tank walls much lately, I wonder if they've learned that there's no algae on the walls, and so don't bother? The other day my boyfriend saw Sparky on the wall and said with surprise: "your fish is vertical! Is that normal?" which cracked me up.
Today finally the Oto's water clear, I've been doing partial water changes daily to remove the meds. Also a few days ago replaced filter media to the main tank, and added a layer of gravel (to give more depth for the plants' roots). I wonder if that was too much change, or if I caused a mini-cycle because this morning Snaily was up at edge of water line, hasn't moved in hours. Unusual and alarming. So I tested both tanks. The results surprised me.

The QT tank has trace amounts of Ammonia and Nitrite (still below 0.25 both) and Nitrates rather high- 30-40ppm. Home tank looks fine- Ammonia below 0.25, Nitrites 0, Nitrates a benign 5. I am not sure why the QT tank has higher Nitrates. Small bacteria colony not doing their job? compromised by the medication? Dying plant material? Too much uneaten food? I clean it out every morning though. Regardless, I've removed the Watersprite from the QT, and done another partial wc on both tanks. (The Watersprite has been slowly dying off anyway- I think it simply did not get enough light. I thought it would be helpful to boost oxygen content of the water, but now think it was not a good idea. Plastic plants better in this case).

25 March 2014

a bit of green

Cleaned up my Ferns on the balcony. Most do not look so good, but a few still have some foliage. I cut back the dead stuff, hoping to prompt the plants into new growth.

23 March 2014


is finally here! I have a few more Lettuce seedlings to show for it (rest of the jug greenhouses still show nothing).
The Dogwood sapling is putting forth new leaves.

Also some growth on the Sage plant, everything else still bare.

22 March 2014


It's been hard to tell if I was actually getting any algae to grow on the rocks under light, or how much the Otos were eating off it. Until I put one pulled back out of QT tank in tray next to one that's been sitting under lights. Can definitely see the difference!

(Finally some sun in the window for them now)

fuzzy green

I am wondering why this Violet has different shaped leaves in the center from the outside. Central leaves darker, too. Must be from a change in light or nutrients, makes a curious appearance.

21 March 2014

oto / danio update 7

Crap. I am a very poor fishkeeper of late.

While the Otos are definitely eating, done with their treatment and have no more visible fungus, Otto now has redness inside the belly. From what I've read this could be internal hemorrhage. Don't know how to treat. Just watch closely hope it will resolve.
Zee died. Noticed just a day ago that he seemed to have either scraped his side, or a small patch of fungus, it was difficult to tell. He slowed down, looked relatively thin, hung in the water just wriggling a little. (Is this what they call shimmying?) I dosed the main tank with fungus guard, but forgot to pull the filter media out. When realized, thought it was old enough (over two or three months) that the carbon might not be active and meds stay in the water? but by nightfall yesterday the water was mostly clear again, and the fish dead. Today did another water change, the normal 25%, pulled the media out and redosed the tank (2/3 of the dosage, which is all I had left). That was a guess, I might have over or under-dosed. Not sure what else to do. I'm down to three fish, and Blip is looking poorly now- hanging still in the water like the others did. So I am expecting to loose him too.
I was able to look closely at Zee after he died, with a magnifying glass- definitely looked like fungus patch on his body. Can't tell if Blip has any- might be a small spot above one eye. But I've been informed that fungus usually attacks a fish that is already weakened by something else. So there's an underlying cause. I still think my water parameters are good. I wonder if they have parasites...?

The Bettas: Flash looks a little better. Pinkie does not. He now has a missing scale and scrapes on one side. What is happening to my poor fish? I never saw this kind of injury on Pinkie before. Gave him dose of salt with water change today.

Realize I need to be more careful with my fishes. Never overfeed. Always have clean hands. I am probably not good enough at keeping contaminants from one tank out of the other- I use the fish net and vacuum hose exclusively on the large tank, the baster for the QT, but often use the same fish buckets and fish cup in both. I do rinse them in scalding hot water but that is probably not enough. Need some aquarium disinfectant dip. Should be more gentle with light-to-dark transitions, and vice versa. It stresses them out to have a sudden switch. Not a good idea to skip the water changes even on the main tank- fresh water is always better for the fishes regardless of how low the Nitrate reading. And I must have too much nutrients in there because of all the algae. Less sunlight. More plants. More suitable fish- I'm changing the lineup in my head- but won't get new fish for quite a while now- must figure out what is killing off my Danios and make sure the tank is no longer infected. I hope the snail doesn't die too.

18 March 2014

oto update 6 + danios

The Otos continue to improve. They are both moving about the tank more, breathing easily, no sign of fungus. Sparky's color is back, the redness all gone. They both had rounded tummies this morning. Plenty of poo to clean out each morning, so I think they are eating some of the zucchini and perhaps a bit of the wafers I put in, definitely scraping off the algae rocks I cultivated. On second dose of fungus guard; I am now changing a half gallon of water just once a day, in the morning when I clean out the uneaten food.
I was concerned about my Danios, but the white spot on the lip is only noticeable in a certain light, and overall the fish still seem fine. I think if it was columnaris, they'd be looking bad now; that disease progresses quickly. The white spots are not fuzzy, either. It is very hard to get a photo, but I tried:
Their gills appear a bit rosy here, but again that only is seen in certain light. I checked Ammonia levels just in case, it is below 0.25. I can distinguish the four fish easily now; remaining are Gordo, Blip, and the last two I think Zee and Imo. Zee's upper stripes are closer together, making his back appear nearly solid blue; Imo has a small spot on the left side of caudal peduncle.

Blip is the one that hangs out near the bottom now- I wonder if that fish is not as healthy as the others, or just likes poking around in crevices and under things. Sides bulge out a bit. Maybe another gravid female? The other day at water change saw what I think is spawning behavior! Two of the fish swimming tight circles around each other, jerking their fins open in a kind of dance and then one (male, I think) would point himself at the other's midsection, forming a "t". I remember reading in a book that corydoras will make this "t" formation to trigger spawning, but don't know if danios do the same. Everywhere I read online just says the male chases female into plants to release the eggs.

Regardless, I'm not expecting to raise fry, so if they do spawn, will just let nature take its course (other fish eat the eggs). It's just interesting to watch the behavior.

17 March 2014

worm bin

Well, if the fish are doing poorly, at least the worms seem to be doing great! I feed them about twice a week now, and have a new waste material to add to their resources- soiled hamster bedding. (My kid finally got her new pet. She wasn't crazy about fish). It appears that the bedding has sunk a bit every time I look in the bin now, and material feels more crumbly, so the bedding is now getting consumed. Progress.

Even better, it looks like they are starting to reproduce! Last time opened the bin, I didn't have to dig into bedding to find worms. Lots were at the surface, where I'd scattered crushed eggshells.
These two are mating
I didn't feed them this time. Didn't want to disturb their activity, and the oldest food-spot wasn't all consumed yet. More stash in the freezer. Soon more worms!

I've also started freezing every packet of food before I put it in the bin. It makes it more tidy, easier to handle if all frozen into a lump. Read that this will kill the fruit fly eggs as well, and that does seem to be true. Used to have a good number of flies rise out of the bin every time I removed the cardboard sheets, now there is just two or three. I had been catching the flies for my fish (when I swatted at them anyways) but the Bettas aren't interested and the Danios can't quite swallow the largest flies- they struggle with the full mouthful. Maybe when the fish get larger I will collect more flies...


growing and growing!

15 March 2014

oto update 5

I'm a bit fish-obsessed right now, but things are slowly improving. Sparky looked better this morning. He is not lying on top of the heater or plants at surface anymore, but moving around the tank a bit- on the filter, under the castle, on the bridge. I can't tell if he's eaten, but I think he doesn't look quite as thin. Definitely better color, more relaxed fins. Although still a patch of fungus on his back and two of his fins look a little ragged.
I'm continuing the regimen of a half-gallon water change twice a day, with meds added proportional to the change. Someone on a forum told me how to do it, as the medication dosage (a tablet) treats ten gallons and I only wanted to treat half a gallon. I dissolve one tablet into two and a half cups of water, then take a fourth cup of that into the half gallon of conditioned water, to get the right amount of medication for the water change.

There was white poo as well as brown in the tank today, so unless they have parasites, maybe somebody ate zucchini last night!

not a good day

with the fishes, yesterday. Well, water parameters all seem fine. A few of the Zebra Danios appear to have a white speck on the edge of their lip. I have a sinking feeling this might be columnaris from the 5 gallon tank I got rid of- I did bring plants over from that tank- thought I was careful rinsing them with diluted bleach and hot water- maybe some survived- would it have re-infected after so long? Regardless, I've begun giving the Danios 30-min salt bath- that's a 5 min soak in 1 Tablespoon of aquarium salt dissolved into 1 gallon of water, and then re-balancing them with tank water added at ten minute intervals three times, to ease them back to normal water parameters. Don't want to dose the tank unless I'm sure it's really something to worry about- it would kill all the plants. They seem to deal with it ok. No thrashing or signs of distress while in the bath. They do look very pale when I take them out of the bath, but show their normal colors within a few min of going back into home tank.

I intended to give them a salt bath three times a day, but have only managed to do it twice. At first it wasn't too hard to catch the fish, I could lower the net into the water, wait until a fish swam above it, and scoop it out. But they learned quickly, and started darting away into corners and under things when saw the net. Lots of places to hide in that tank! Third time for salt bath I was only able to catch one fish.
I decided it was too stressful for them to be chased all over the tank, that might cause weakness and disease in and of itself. The white speck I only see at certain angle and light, maybe it's just the way light bounces off edge of their nose? Wait to see, closely observing- if it gets fuzzy or larger to see more distinctly, without a doubt, will make more effort again to catch them and treat.

the Bettas

have not got much mention here lately. Pinkie seems well- one of the notches in his tail looks bigger than I remember- but it has the same color edge as the rest of his tail so I think this is ok and not damage.
Flash on the other hand looks miserable. Something keeps happening to him! The missing scale near his tail has begun to heal, he still has two other missing on the body. But yesterday was clamping tail fin and when I looked close at him today- he has long scratches all on the length of his body, both sides! Something is definitely injuring him in there. And there is a vertical crease on both sides of his caudal peduncle. It looks like he got himself stuck under the base of the bridge, and bent his tail trying to get free? I can't think what else it might have been. I'm going to alternately pull the plastic plant and bridge decor out, try to find the sharp/rough edge or whatever else could be hurting him.
Gave him another dose of aquarium salt. Looks like he's feeling a little better today:
Not a bad thing here, but Pinkie's Java Moss has grown so much he actually gets tangled in the strands when darting after sinking food.
I trimmed it today, and put a few little rocks on top of one clump- the thread holding to the decor surface had loosened. Tied the trimmed pieces onto a small bit of driftwood, put that in the main tank.
Don't really intend to keep it there long term, but do have plans for a second tank with Java Moss as a feature, for Flash hopefully soon. In meantime, want to grow as much of the moss as I can...
Edited to add: changed that. Felt guilty that left the bridge in Flash's bowl so long when I'm pretty sure it's causing all the damage. I took it out. Have nothing else to give him a cave, so I tried to slope the gravel bed and put the little driftwood piece with all Flash's moss tied on it, across the lower part. The high edge of the gravel faces out, the depression inward so he can hide there.
I haven't seen him actually go under the arch of the wood piece yet, but he does shelter behind the bank of gravel, and swims up to see me when I look over edge of the fridge.

14 March 2014

oto update 4

Sparky survived the night! He is moving around the tank a bit (I had a hard time finding him this morning because he was on the "castle" with Otto- blends in well there). The redness in the body is fading, his overall color looks better, and he's not breathing as fast. Holding the fins a bit more alert, too. Dorsal not clamped down all the time. I repeated what I did last night- changed out half a gallon of water (with meds in the new water so it won't be diluted). Otto continues to look okay. I can't quite tell because the meds color the water a bit opaque.. But it does look like Otto has a slightly round tummy. Again, they didn't touch the spirulina tab, but I put a rock in there that was beginning to show film of algae, so hopefully they ate some of that. Another rock is just starting to turn green, I'll put that one in tonight.

I managed to avoid any temperature variation when I did the water change this time. My method before had been to adjust the tap while the water was running into the bucket, and stir to distribute, and measure with thermometer during the process. It was sometimes off by a degree or two. But with sick, stressed fish have to be more careful. This time I ran the water into the sink, tested the temp of flow before putting bucket under. So it was exactly the same. When I added to QT the thermometer on tank side didn't budge at all. Better.

Sparky, resting on top of the heater. Maybe he can breathe easier up here. Still doesn't look good, but at least alive. Too thin, though.
Otto looks a little plump again. I think he did eat- see the thumbprint mark of intestines on his underside? That shows when their bellies are full.

13 March 2014

oto update 3

Day four. I lost the smallest Otocinclus yesterday. Fungus. Dosed the tank with fungus guard but now a bit anxious as I can't test water parameters (meds color the water, so results from test kit unreadable). However, Sparky and Otto both survived the night. I gave them blanched zucchini and a spirulina pellet last night. Hard to tell if they ate any. The vegetable looks untouched, the degraded spirulina seemed to be a semicircle shape instead of a round blob (siphoned out the uneaten mess of it) but their tummies look round. So I think they ate some spirulina, or perhaps cleaned more algae off the bridge- it still has a hint of green.
Almost lost Sparky this afternoon. Found him lying on his back, not moving. Looked close he was still breathing but rapidly. My first thought was: ammonia poisoning. Or oxygen deprivation- I think the meds affect oxygen content. It's related. Immediately changed out a third of the water. Dosed an entire five-gallon bucket with meds for new water, as that was the easiest way to measure it accurately- only a portion of that went into QT tank, rest down the drain. As soon as I started adding new water to the tank, Sparky started wiggling. A few more cups of water in and he flipped himself to lie on his side. Then turned upright, then scooted along the bottom, finally made his way up the side suctioning again like normal.

Good news is I think I saved him. And the fungus seems to be disappearing already. Bad news is he's still breathing sort of rapidly. And there is redness in his body near the tail, under his belly, bloodshot around the eye. I'm concerned he might not recover.

Otto still looks fine. Neither has pinched fins anymore.
Evening now. Sparky looks worse- very red areas. He sits behind the heater near the top, resting on the edge of suction cup. I wondered a few times if he was dead but hold a mirror up and see his gills still working. Otto looked distressed- darting up and down the sides, breathing rapidly. I changed another 10% of the water, the fish calmed down. Sparky still motionless. Don't know if he'll make it to morning. Don't know what else to do.

the tank plants

I've realized that I like the way the Watersprite grows planted in the gravel, not how it looks floating. So I've moved all the floating pieces into the QT tank. Watersprite is really a centerpiece in the home tank now. Every week I cut a few stems out of the main thicket that have started to turn brown and die off, but it doesn't seem to matter much as the plant is always sending up new fronds. Four fiddleheads coming up here ↓
The smaller Watersprite bunches growing offside of center aren't doing as well. Either they get less light, or I planted the biggest piece in the middle and it just grew faster. I'm thinking of taking out the smaller bunches but want to find a plant to replace it with, if there's another species that will do okay in my low-tech low-light environment. Also, I find I don't like how it looks with mixed plants spread throughout the tank. The group of Anubias on one side, Java Fern on the other, looks nice. I want more of that solidity going on.
The Rotala seems to be doing better, but I want it to branch more so I cut it back to encourage that, gradually taking cuttings and replanting the tops elsewhere to accenting the corners and sides.

12 March 2014

oto update 2

The Otocinclus looked poorly this morning. Pinched closed fins all of them, and I thought I saw white fuzz halo the bodies viewed from above. Alarmed it might be fungus- I think I left the lettuce leaf in there too long and fouled the water. When I pulled it out could tell it was going bad. Did a 25% wc. They look better now, tails held more relaxed and open. But Sparky looks a bit too red around the face.

I still see no signs of eating, but there is fish poo I cleaned up with the wc, and their bellies, while not nicely fat like before (seen from the side they had shape like little footballs) are still round. Not yet flat or concave (which would indicate starvation). I'm going to try giving them blanched zucchini tonight, and I've put the rock jars directly under a desk lamp, in hopes of getting algae growth. Windowsill is cold.

Sparky in a corner:
Sparky and Otto (this image was rotated 90° counterclockwise):

11 March 2014

oto update

The good news is my Otos are all still alive. Day two, now.
They didn't touch the algae wafer or peas- I cleaned that out this morning w/a 10% water change- but have eaten almost all the algae off the bridge. It's definitely more brown than green now.
I blanched a lettuce leaf in hopes they might eat that. If they don't, my next thought is to try zucchini, or move in smallest driftwood piece w/its attached Anubias and algae layer from the main tank.
But if they make such quick work of it, my guess is they might clean the main tank too well, and run out of algae to eat before long. I'm trying to cultivate it on rocks, put them in jars of old tank water in the windowsill (with a few drops of plant food added for good measure). Not sure how long it will take for that to grow a good amount of algae, hope it is soon enough to feed these little guys after they scrape the tank clean. If they make it through QT, that is.
I did try to get more pictures. It's hard because the plastic container is only semi-transparent. Here's a view of their little tummies! I was worried at first about the rosy color, but looking at other pics online, and reading descriptions reassured me that this is normal, they are kind of rather transparent on the underside. Plus I saw two otos in the aquarium in leasing office this morning, and they look the same (but with better overall color- mine still are rather pale).
I only saw one on the driftwood once.
I've given them names, although I should probably wait until I see if they make it.... They are easy to tell apart, with distinctive pattern of black splotches on the caudal peduncle. Otto is the largest one, his base color looks a little more brown than gray and his horizontal stripe pretty even. His tail blotch is circular patch with a curving outer band. Sparky has a paler area over the eyes, his horizontal body stripe is more a row of dark uneven blotches, and his tail patch is two round blots with a small point in the center. Otto is on the left here, under the castle legs, Sparky on the right wall.
The third one is Bits, his hoizontal band starts out wide and narrows towards the tail, his tail patch is straighter with a short triangular shape midline to the tail fin.
The other good news is the tank doesn't smell bad anymore!