14 May 2017

ant eggs

I have a new treat for my fishes out of the garden. Good things come from pulling weeds- I disturbed an ant nest. All the ants made a scramble to move their eggs back into the dark, and I ran to get my little fish-dedicated tweezers and a container, and started picking them up. Ants grabbing a singular egg to haul it away only made it more visible to my eyes, the moving dot. It was not too hard to clean them- I just drop the eggs into a cup of tank water, swish it around, and pluck the eggs back out with a toothpick or the little tweezers. Then store in the fridge for a bit.

I don't really think of ants as a pest- they don't bother me- but I don't necessarily want them setting up housekeeping in my lettuce bed, either. So I don't feel too bad about stealing their offspring, if it makes them change location...

13 May 2017

tiny celosia flower

I don't know if I mistimed the start of celosia seedlings this year (too soon) or it just got too warm in the coldframe enough days in a row- but a few of my celosia plants are already forming little fans of flat flower heads. They are still in four-inch pots. I don't want them to bloom this small!

upright plants

In the main aquarium. Yesterday completed the levamisole treatment, so I did the huge water change, down so low I had to shut off the horizontal heater and the filter wouldn't even pull flow (with a fifty percent change I usually just leave it running to trickle, so I don't have to prime again). The fishes all dashed about excitedly, kuhlis very active. During treatment I fed them extra per instructions (so if it's a certain kind of intestinal parasite which gets paralyzed by the meds they poop out the carcasses) and all my healthy kuhlis are positively engorged. Some of the black ones could barely swim, but still try rooting around for food particles in the substrate. They really would eat themselves to death, fishes. The worrisome Sassy at least does not look so thin anymore- head and body in a straight line- but it will probably take her some time to catch up to the others, especially since I feel I have to hold off giving sinking foods as much so the others don't burst themselves!
From the one day of darkness, most of the crypts were standing taller to reach light, which gives the crypt wendtii a very different profile. And here's a serpae tetra.

12 May 2017

arugula prickles

Arugula started bolting in the garden. I found the top of several, looks like a mass of dense prickles. At first I thought an insect was making a nest or cocoon in there, but it appears to be flower head forming. Like a thistle. Another plant habit I'm unfamiliar with. Not ready to see what it does yet- I cut their heads off so we can keep eating the greens.

a green flower

I didn't know hellebores would do this. Thought the one white flower had faded and fallen off, but out there in the yard the other day noticed a paler green among the foliage, different shape. The flower itself has turned green. So curious.

11 May 2017

tank notes with no pictures

Did tanks maintenance today because treating the 38 gal w/levamisole which means today it got a 50% water change and tomorrow a 75%. That feels like a lot of work. Also wrapped in black plastic for darkness. And noted on the calendar to repeat in three weeks. Today I moved one of those unidentified crypts in the front corner- to the back of the grouping- so that bolbitis fern that is slowly growing out more visible. I want to see it. Also trimmed off a few of the longer leaves, just to clear the view. I was a bit surprised to find there was very little algae, very few dying-back leaves to trim off, hornwort mostly looked healthy with longer, strong needles and even watersprite is improved. Usually I take a few of the lower leaves off each watersprite bunch, that is browning. This week- none.

I'm wondering if the difference is the lighter fish load (since cherry barbs all moved out). Because I mistakenly thought I had the bigger filter, I had plugged into aqadvisor and it was telling me more fish okay. I did think the tank looked too busy, a bit crowded; I hadn't pushed it to the limits of the stocking calculator's suggestion, but it was close. Now that I realize I'm a size smaller w/my canister know that I can only put four more serpae tetras in there, to hit the limit. Which is fine with me!

It also might be a factor of feeding more live and fresh foods recently. I do see a slight film on the water surface when looking up from below- like fine dust- it doesn't bother me too much- I think it's from fine debris even though I rinse the bugs and whatnot, or from hairs off their bodies? (for example, the tiny moths are furry) Not sure. I thought the film meant the live food made the water a bit dirtier, but it's not actually disintegrating into dissolved mess like some of the flakes and pellets do...

Irritating was to find a freshwater limpet on the glass. I noticed earlier in the week there were two small, very fine scratches- on the inside- that hadn't been there before. The week before I had cleaned the glass inside w/algae scrubber. I bet I got a tiny limpet caught in the scrubber- and scratched the glass with it. Must have transferred some over here accidentally from the betta tank. Gah.~
~

In the window tank, it does seem I was right guessing why the swordtails had been laying low again. Now that the filter has more sponge media stuffed into it and the flow rate is slowed down, they are moving about as normal again. Still not as quick chasing food as the cherry barbs, but they are in the midst and do get some.

The tank has been getting some diatoms, it looks like- pale brown haze on the glass, mostly on the back wall against the window, and some on front right corner. It's easy to wipe it off just with my finger- in fact, easier than using algae scrubber because I can rub it off the silicone in the corner as well without damaging anything.

I took the aponogeton capuronii trimmings of long leaves out of that tank and put it in the male cherry barbs' tenner. Instead of hornwort, which was shedding needles all over and melting into a scattered mess. I had been cleaning up most of it each week and tossing in new trimmings, but getting tired of that. To keep a bit of floating cover in there, I tried putting these long capuronii leaves draped across the surface, and the handful of s polyrhiza culls from the betta tank. I know those will probably die just as quickly- there's simply not enough ambient light in this location- but maybe not as much of a pain to clean up each week.

All the cherry barbs' tails are over halfway grown back, now. Some of the females they almost look complete in form, just the new fin tissue is clear. I've seen a few of them grow back from nips and tears in the past, and eventually the new fin part colored up again, so curious to see if these all do as well.
~

My betta tank continues to slowly improve. I moved some rotala stems from the front corner (now crypt is mostly focal point of that spot) to space across the back. Bacopa still kind of faltering, more dying stems than thriving. I'm considering taking that plant out of here entirely. Have started slowly pulling out the dying marislea hirsuta. Only one clump today, because things were already a bit disturbed. (Not as if the fish cared. Samblu was so close to my hand while working, I didn't see him and accidentally he got sucked into the cup I was using to scoop out floaters- by the pressure of backwash. I noticed when he thrashed in the still-partly-submerged cup) Because of moving the rotalas, there was more mulm kicking into the water column than I could get out with my tiny siphon, and some of it settled back on the foliage afterwards, but I know what was the cause this time and still think it's doing better since I started vacuuming more thoroughly. One nice thing about how gentle the tiny vacuum is, I can put it right over a clump of fissidens and get fine debris out without dislodging the moss.

09 May 2017

cleanup

Cleaning the tank was kind of glum last week. Hornwort was doing great- I had enough trimmings to throw more into the cherry barbs' tenner. But I found a lot more BBA cropping up on leaf margins- on aponogetons crispus and capuronii, on crypts retrospiralis, wendtii and beckettii. Even on some little fronds of bolbitis fern, which I hated having to trim off. Thinking of taking out some of the weird green/brown tall/short crypt, so I can actually see the bolbitis, now that it is growing more. Also found that the leaves of anubias afzelii were specked with tufts of BBA. I took them all off (the plate of tank trimmings was piled high today) and it only has two leaves left. Can't see that plant anymore for the green/brown tall/short crypt in the way, so I moved it to back wall behind some aponos. Maybe it is getting a bit too much light. Irritated that BBA is showing up again so much- does it have something to do with the sudden reduction of fish numbers in here?

Serpaes are getting quicker to come to the surface for food- but funny thing, when I tried to feed them dandelion green again they wouldn't eat it. Not sure if they weren't hungry, or didn't like it because it wasn't as fresh? (kept a few days in the fridge sealed container in damp paper towel) or if it was because I hadn't blanched it as long- basically just dipped in boiling water and then into freezing... Today offered them blanced garden lettuce- this time I boiled it a good two minutes, and minced fine. They ate that. So from now on for greens I will only pick one small leaf at a time, and make sure to dip it in the boiling water long enough.

I was worried about one. Noticed a few days ago one of the older ones had poor color, looked pale and a bit thin. It was hiding and not coming out to eat as much. Also getting picked on by the others. Whether it hides and doesn't eat because it gets chased, or gets harassed because it is unwell and acting differently, I don't know. It is also the fish that has had cloudy eye and popeye. I didn't realize how bulging its eyes were until had the newer trio to compare. Just yesterday the swelling started going down- now one eye looks almost normal. I wasn't really expecting a lot of improvement, so glad for that.

Frustrated- at myself- over the filter again. I went to replace the canister with new part today, since I needed to pull a piece of sponge out for the 20H- one of the smaller, extra pieces stuffed in there. Figured since I was going to empty the canister halfway to get the sponge piece, might as well swap canisters. It wasn't until I had the canister all the way empty and put in the circular grid for the bottom that realized I had the wrong size replacement can. My filter is a 2215, not a 2217! So I put it all back together and called up the company to do a return. Well- good thing the epoxy job I did on that crack is still holding fine.

07 May 2017

foods

The tank has a very different feel with just serpae tetras and kuhlis.... the serpaes are starting to figure out that when I lift the lid it's not reason to hide, but might be food. I have started feeding them more fresh foods- greens and insects- lettuce and dandelion leaves both were gobbled up. They have eaten small moths, tiny caterpillars and aphids from my house and yard. The moths and caterpillars I freeze for later use, the aphids I chill a few hours in the fridge then feed same day so still very fresh. To gather those I dip the rosebud end in a bowl of tank water and swish it (carefully, to not break the bud off). It was so effective when I checked a few days later, couldn't find very many aphids so refrained from gathering. Maybe in a few more days.

Caterpillar-picking is very effective too. First time I got at least twenty, thirty caterpillars. Second time I only found four. Then just six- and there were some teensy ones I actually left to grow bigger (would have squished them if I tried to pluck off the leaf). Also in the garden beds I got aphids off of leaves by turned their undersides up and wiping with a wet finger, then dipping it into the bowl of tank water. Got lots of aphids and a few other tiny bugs this way. There were plenty to get off the tomatoes and swiss chard leaves, but what really staggered me was the swarms all over underside of borage leaves- the biggest, two-year-old plant. Surprised me because the plant doesn't seem to be suffering at all, it doesn't have pale spots or anemic-looking foliage. I get some tiny flies, minute brown round beetles and other bugs I don't know, but it's mostly aphids. I make sure to leave alone the spiders and ants. Saw a very pale, light green bug with incredibly long antennae- the wings were too faint to distinguish but I think this one might be lacewing so left that alone, too.
Gourmet dinner for the fishes tonight! (this pic just a small sampling of what's in the container)

It can be funny feeding the fishes aphids. The cherry barbs go quick after them. Serpae tetras were more hesitant, then enthusiastic when had a taste. They'd often spit one out and then snap at it again. One tetra grabbed at a clump of aphids and a few must have still been alive- one crawled up on its head, just above the mouth. The fish jerked around and managed to get it but sure was funny a moment seeing fish swim around with a bug meal on its face!

A few of the aphids were missed and sunk to the substrate- kuhlis blazed past them, going nuts searching for the food they were sure I'd put in the tank when heard the lid open. Later when I checked (don't want missing insects rotting in the tank no matter how small) couldn't see the ones that had fallen. I'm not sure if the tetras found it, or if the kuhlis ate some. I'm sure a shrimp would if it got ahold of it. Really was curious to see if the kuhlis would- I know they love bloodworms when they can get them, and I've seen one choke down a tiny caterpillar before.

Yes, some aphids have wings. The ones I saw are aphids, not lacewing. And some can be aquatic- crawl down stems to feed on plants underwater. So I only give in small pinches to make sure the fish eat them all, or chill them in the fridge long enough to stop life.

All my kuhlis are positively pudgy now from the lack of competition on the ground- except for Sassy. I'm going to do a levamisole treatment later this week after all...

I really like preparing greens and catching bugs for my fishes. Not about saving money- a $10 container of commercial food lasts them all for over a year anyway- but it just feels satisfying and they sure love it. Between the peas, lettuce, dandelion, zucchini, moths, caterpillars, fruit flies and aphids- in the summer I may now only feed dried/prepared foods two or three times a week. Although I haven't had fruit flies in my kitchen for a while (something the rest of my family is glad of) but the little moths are kind of a new thing.

Swordtails really liked dandelion greens, by the way. They didn't spit any out as with the lettuce leaf, but gobbled it down. Only now I have to spot-feed the swordtails. The cherry barbs are just to quick for them. I feed a bit to garner interest, then wait for the swordtails to come to the surface, and have to drop a large clump of food right in front of their face so they can get some while the barbs dash in. Incompatibility doesn't just have to do with aggression [sigh]. It's also about food competition...

kalanchoe

In the house, my largest kalanchoe plant is making babies on its leaf margins again.
This time around I am just brushing them off and adding to the compost...
Because I still have these two pots full of last years' babies- four or five in each 5" pot, and I don't know what I'd do with more!
It's pretty amazing that what is now my parent plant once grew from one of these tiny things.
Comparison- the baby plantlets next to my pot of last-years' offspring. I really need to separate out those younger plants and give them more space again.

05 May 2017

a little better

I like my betta tank better this week than the last few. Using the tiny siphon vacuum I made is really helping to keep the tank cleaner- there is a lot less visible mulm, the plants don't have brown stuff settling on their leaves and the wastewater doesn't have a sour smell anymore. Nitrates level is same as ever, but I bet TDS is lower. Don't have a way to measure that, though.
Buces are looking nice once again. (They were dismal the week before last).
Rotala and ludwigia on this short end don't look like much, but they are healthier-looking now.
Samblu is his same old self. But it seems a scattering of scales on his side have turned darker blue- so he looks like scales are mosaic tiles... love the green ceiling of spirodela root hairs.
He likes to hide in the plants.

around the yard

More pictures from a walk around the yard to inspect how things are growing- taken over a week ago, that's how behind I am on keeping up with things.  Well, I get the weeding and watering and bug-picking done, but don't always find time to post about stuff...
I love the silvery hue and pattern on heartleaf brunnera leaves.
My ferns do try. They make a good showing in springtime, but I bet by summer's heat will fade away again...
Happy to see all the mayapples came up again- and are promptly loosing their heads. Something eats them. Squirrels? an insect? Don't know.
Monarda (bee balm) is nice and lush. Twice this height now.
Turtlehead! In every spot I planted it has doubled in numbers.
Sweet peas reach the top of this walled corner, now- but they keep falling forwards in a clump instead of clinging to it. I need to see if I can string something up for them to grab.
This is my asiatic lily in center- with daylilies behind to the right. And in front on left can see one of a few small offspring that have grown up. I did have two mature asiatic lilies but the foremost one always gets stepped on and broken off, gah.
Sedum ring neatly obscures the stump, now. Tops of it have these tiny buds- I suppose they will make tiny, unobtrusive flowers. Perhaps then I can finally identify what this plant is and call by a proper name.
Peony- left- has great fat buds now (not pictured yet) and on the right that unknown plant I moved from the mailbox spot. To the right of it- out of the picture frame- are some marigolds I planted. Makes a nice arrangement of leaf textures here.
Two delicate purple poufballs in front of a tree, they grew from bulbs that were a gift last fall- giant alliums. I'm pretty sure I planted more than two, but only these came up. They sure are pretty- must get more.

02 May 2017

free fish food

the morning's pickings off my one small rose bush: tiny caterpillars. I knew they were there from the holes in the lower leaves. It's very hard to see them but I found out if I get down low and look up at the underside of foliage, caterpillars show clearly against the leaf with the light behind them. I'm sure I looked funny to the neighbors, crouched down with my head under a rosebush. The real trick is to pluck them off gently, so I don't squish any. They are going to be a feast for my fishes tonight! (This is a very tiny jar, by the way- it's smaller than a baby-food jar. It's one of those little sample jam jars you get when served hotel food. I save them just for this).
The rose bush will feel relieved now as well. It's recovered from that late cold snap weeks ago. I was going to knock off more aphids and other tiny insects into water for the fishes too (all over the rose bush buds). But noticed last time I did that some were bright pale green with clear wings. Looked almost like lacewing, but too small. Want to verify to myself that they are winged aphids before I drown them.

planted out

into the yard yesterday, but did not have time to take pictures (overcast and wind, trying to beat the rain and be done before dark) coleus- the pinks and lime/orange ones, I saved my favorites 'kiwi fern' to keep in pots on the deck. The marigolds- some set into the garden, two in the front by the porch, two more around base of a tree where I'm trying to grow something instead of grass. All the nasturtiums alongside the fence near the back bed. Basil and bunching green onions went into the garden. Carrots are coming up! Beets and new planting of swiss chard, too.
Very soon have to do the veggies that will go into yard spots (first time I'm trying that, really) but I need to turn the compost pile and harvest from the worm bin first. The okra are ready to go out- this largest one in coldframe is starting to bud already.

We have been eating dill, parsley and summer savory regularly in various dishes. Also the lettuces- even though they are small- trying to get the most out of them before the real heat sets in. Still want to try seeding some lettuce in the sideyard where the big hosta row is- if I can get around to that.

coming up!

More seedlings in the house-
Zucchini
Cucumber
in the coldframe (which is usually at 95° during the day, not so cold in there is it) cantaloupes
and butternut squash.
These look like they have a velvety surface on the leaf. Other than that, they all look nearly the same, don't they?
Green beans! (I ran out of small pots so used cardboard tubes again). Also echinacea just started sprouting. And watermelon.
Here's the tithonia, grown out almost a week now.

01 May 2017

another transfer

Out, this time. I moved the cherry barbs out of the 38gal tank. Everything was fine up until a few days ago I noticed more cherry barbs had pieces missing of their tails. I thought at first it was from the usual sparring- there has been a lot of breeding behavior lately, the cherries seem to be at it at least twice a week. They get excited at water changes, at thunderstorms, at insect food.

But when I looked closer one morning and saw that every single cherry barb had a ragged, bitten tail I knew it was the serpae tetras. Shameful thing is that I like the serpaes. Should I feel bad for favoring them over my cherry barbs? who went through my learning curve.... but I love watching the serpaes, and I'm only just fond of the cherry barbs- even though I've had some of those over four years- so the serpaes got to keep the best digs in the house (if you're a fish) and the barbs moved out into the temporary tanks.
All the extra equipment had only been rinsed and dried off for a day (from the shrimp container). The QT got setup with half tank water/half new (to keep water chemistry close to home), the 50 watt heater, a handful of gravel out of the main tank in the sponge filter base to seed it, most of the hornwort floaters out of the 20H to bring over more bacteria, a small bunch of subwassertang trimmings tied onto a stone, and the usual bridge decor for hiding spot plus fake plants.

It felt like I spent all day at two things- moving fish and doing laundry. I set the bottle fish trap with sinking food, and the kuhlis really had a great time going in and out of the trap gorging themselves. Every time two or three barbs got into the trap I'd lift it out, tip them gently into a baggie, float in the other tank, adding the new tank water every ten minutes until acclimated enough to release. It would take half an hour or so for the barbs in the home tank to get over being frightened by the trap getting moved around, and approach it for the food again. Near end of day little bits of disintegrating pellet were drifting out the air holes of the trap, so it wasn't as effective anymore. I caught the last few barbs with a net. That took a lot of patience, as I didn't want to panic all the fishes in there or rip up plants... but I finally got them. I put the females in with the swordtails in the 20H, and the males into the 10g QT. Want to keep them separated so females don't get chased around, and have time to heal.
The males seemed to feel right at home in their tenner. First one released hid,
but when I put a few more in they immediately started sizing each other up, and when all five were all in there they were darting around displaying at each other and playing in the current from the filter. Fed eagerly when I offered peas this morning.
You can see how much their tails are torn,
but I think they should heal. None have fungus or rot yet.
The females feel differently about their new home. They are all hiding, staying low behind plants at substrate level. I'm not sure if they are nervous because this tank is more open with fewer plants,
or because they share it with larger fish (although the swordtails ignore them).
They blend in so perfectly with the gravel hues that from a distance it looks like there's no fish in the tank at all (if they swordtails are lying still, which they do from time to time- resting, I think). I kept a background on the tank an extra day to help them settle in. They fed well this morning, too. I am testing water parameters- so far no ammonia or nitrite spikes in either the 20H or the tenner. Doing small partial water changes each morning anyway, to help facilitate healing. The tenner gets one gallon changed out, the 20H gets two.
As a side note, I stuffed that little internal filter in the swordtail tank with media out of the canister and HOB when I switched out filters earlier in the week. Since it wasn't getting as big a wc as the main did after meds, I put in the carbon filter pad it came with. On the output side of that I dropped a bunch of those tiny sintered glass media from the main's canister- the tiniest ones that get stuck in the grill of that separation piece that holds media away from the head (or base). On the input side I stuck a few ceramic rings on one side, and wedged the fine floss on the other. I have a piece of sponge that will fit in here, planning to replace that carbon media with sponge soon. If this won't all screw up my filter function- I know I made a mistake before altering contents of a filter!