28 March 2017

plan of action- notes to myself

I'm really focused on watching the window tank right now... Plants are doing great. Hornwort is growing at least half an inch a day. I've started seeing tiny baby malaysian trumpet snails in here. Tetras are more interested in eating- I lifted the lid to offer peas again today and the silver ones struck at the food right away. Serpaes hid at the disturbance but eventually came out to pick at pea bites on the bottom. Splishy the grounded female swordtail is most active of all when food comes- she sculls around the bottom methodically eating up all the pea she can find. Its kind of sad to watch but also heartening that she has so much appetite. While Fabio moves around the tank a lot more than Splishy, he is rather listless when it comes to food. Kind of just drifts around. At least I saw him definitely eating some pea this morning, not spitting it out. He's starting occasionally hanging at the surface gulping air. That alarms me, but none of the other fish do this. 

We had a brief, strong thunderstorm this morning. Tetras chasing each other around and flaring. Fabio seemed to feel the urge to mate- he was pestering the female more than usual, nudging her, doing this odd motion where he sits alongside her parallel and moves his body backwards and forwards in place. I saw him swing his gonopodium once or twice. Having not kept livebearers before, that was interesting.

Tetras are starting to bother the swordtails- I've seen them nipping at the trailing fins. Must move them out soon, but I want them to go through the parasite treatment first, just in case.
Yesterday I gave Splishy an epsom salt bath, she did not show any signs of stress. I'm going to do another one today- there's still a chance it could clear a blockage. First bath I did a low dose of salt, to see how she handled it- using one and a half teaspoons salt. This time going stronger, one tablespoon. Had to read up on it, since it's been a while since I had to medicate a fish. This was the procedure:

I clipped the baffle so could leave filter running while the lid was off (seems to alarm the fish less). Removed a gallon and a half of tank water, replaced in the tank with new, conditioned water. One gallon of the tank water went into my clean 2gal fish bucket. Half gallon held aside. Dissolved the salt into a small cup of tank water, poured into the treatment bucket. Caught the fish- I don't have room to use a net in there unless I pull all the plants (simple to do, but freaks out the fishes and these guys are still so easily alarmed). So I sunk the larger clear plastic cup in a corner, and used the long tongs to guide the sick fish into the cup- she moves away from it but not dashing frightened if I go slow. Put her in the bath for half and hour. Kept an eye on her the whole time- she sat still gently moving her pectorals, roving her eyes around, that's it. After the 30min removed and discarded half the bath water, put a cup of the reserved tank water into the bath. Added more tank water to the bath in 10 minute intervals, three times, until that volume of water was doubled. Fish remained calm. Easily caught her and returned her to the tank. 
But she didn't poop. So... if no response to a second and third bath, I'm going to assume it's not constipation and treat for parasites. Plan to use API General Cure which has praziquantel and metronidazole. This isn't supposed to stain the tank, harm the plants or the bio-filter. But info online is iffy about how it affects snails. So I would pick out as many trumpet snails as I can, they can go into my growout cup of subwassertang for a few days (which has just little bits in it now, as I recently sold the mass). When treatment is done I have a filter cartridge with activated carbon can clear the meds out...


All the seedlings are coming along. I now leave them outside in the coldhouse all night- except for the okra, basil and celosia- those come in if it's going to be below 55°. Tomatoes, coleus and sweet potatoes go out on the deck during the day for max sun, still tucking them in at night. Today some thunderstorms with heavy rain- enough to wash soil out of tiny pots- so I have lids shut on the milk-carton trays and all the plants under plastic. Coldhouse is holding up very well to the weather. I do think it is sturdier this year.

27 March 2017


New fishes seem to be finally settling in. Yesterday showed signs of hunger- Fabio frequently picking at plants, and one of the lamp-eyes struck at a bubble or bit of duckweed on the surface and bonked its head on the plastic lid! I heard a little thump. They weren't as fearful this morning- moving about and interacting w/each other when daylight arrived, instead of hiding. Still act terrified when I open the lid. Offered peas again and this time nearly everyone ate- Splishy was eager and definitely consumed the most. The lamp-eyes ate, the serpaes picked at things, Fabio is still spitting everything out. But at least he tries it.

They are still really timid about it, moving slowly down low shielded by plants and picking cautiously at the food. I had leftover cooked pea bits and dumped the rest in the main tank nextdoor. Reaction was instant- everyone dashing frantically for the food. Totally different!

I'm thinking of giving Splishy a salt bath later in the day, and offering garlic-soaked food tomorrow. I do see pale stringy poo on the bottom of the tank, so after seeing what effect the bath has, will dose the tank with anti-parasitic meds.

26 March 2017


Yeah I know I'm rather fish-obsessed lately, when really the garden seedlings need my attention... Yesterday the new fishes were active for a while after the partial wc, and then all day long they sat still. So motionless in corners, I started to think I had made a mistake with the water change or the ph had shifted from those rocks I put in from the yard. I tested all the parameters and everything is unchanged, nitrates just a little lower at 20ppm (from daily wc).
Later in the day I draped a cloth behind the tank.
Then all the fish (except that female swordtail) started acting normal- chasing each other, sparring, some even picking at the gravel and nipping a bit at plants- showing some appetite now.
Behavior response tells me that for most of them it's still just a matter of settling in and feeling safe here. After all, they've only been here four days.
I like seeing them in wispy green screen of hornwort stems.
Thought the windelov fern looked neat here.

25 March 2017

a little better

This morning I took the backdrop off the tank before it was quite daylight outside, left the curtains closed. Fishes were timid at first but I left the tank alone for half an hour before starting the wc- just 10% this time and I was able to do it without much fuss. Hooked a series of bulldog clips to the baffle (just while I have the lid off) so it stays in place and I leave the filter running while doing the wc. Soon after I was done all the fishes were moving around the tank actively- especially the tetras.

Even Splishy was up and about- for a good long while. It seems to take her a lot of effort to swim, still- after an hour she appears to tire and drifts down to the substrate again. But that's the most activity I've seen from her since she came home. I am going to continue with the small partial wc daily. Have not fed again since trying peas- maybe a few more days of fasting will do her good. Reading stuff online can be so conflicting. Grouping of symptoms between the two swords made me fear they have some kind of bacterial disease- but his morning their behavior looks so much better I am not sure.

I considered adding a very small amount of aquarium salt to the tank- starting with 1 tsp/10gal it could be beneficial for the swordtails, the type of hornwort I have and the windelov java fern should be fine with that. But I'm not sure it's good for the tetras, better to wait until I move them. Today the serpaes and lamp-eyes were displaying at each other for a bit, that was interesting to watch. A concern of putting the tetras into my 38 is will they eat the plants. So far they show no inclination in here, but maybe they will find something in my planted tank more tempting, when they have a real appetite.

underwater details

Just a few pictures from the main tank yesterday.
Plantlet under the java fern leaf has grown!
Young crypt retrospiralis I started off the rhizome fragment is big enough now to show the crinkled leaf texture. I like it so much. But the other piece seems to have died- found it floating with the bit of stem shredded and melted away...
Tethered hornwort has changed shape. All the needles are shorter, and lie flatter to the stem than they used to.
Newer zebra nerite snail.

Not much to note on the betta tank, except that it is definitely cleaner this week. Less mulm to siphon out, and it didn't stink as has for so long I was starting to think that was just normal for this tank. Instead a clay sort of odor. I am trying to be more diligent about rinsing out the sponge filter at least every other week, even though it doesn't collect much debris.

24 March 2017

all the plants

ready to go outside for the day. Prior three nights too darn cold, but tonight it's supposed to be above fifty so I tucked all the baby tomatoes, peppers, nasturtiums, herbs and all into the coldframe house. Got to plant beans, peas and all the rest soon.


Water tests on the window tank today- zero ammonia, zero nitrites, 30ppm nitrate. Did a 20% wc anyway. Removed the duckweed (most of it, that is) and added a dozen more hornwort trimmings.
Moved capuronii cuttings to the rear- I thought if the tall stems could make a screen it would give the fish more of a backdrop feel while still letting the light in? But there's not nearly enough of it. I think it looks pretty this way, but the fishes appear uneasy.
While at it I rearranged the hornwort stems in rows, so they have an avenue to swim between them, and another behind, hoping that would give them a sense of shelter. Maybe when the stems grow up tall it could, but for several hours after I worked the fishes all stayed low, and they've been skittish the rest of the day. I'd move the plants back the way they were- the tall foliage in front corner trailing across- but I don't want to put my hands in the tank and stress them out again right now... So while it looked nice and gave the plants more light for a while without it, I put the backdrop back on.
Fabio has not been very active today, just staying near the female. She is moving less than before. My youngest asked why is that fish not swimming around? and to keep it simple (and forewarn her of a possibly sad outcome) I said "well, she's probably very old and tired." Still just trying to keep the water extra clean. Unfortunately my kids are already getting attached. My five-year-old named the lamp-eye tetras Shimmer and Shine.

23 March 2017

the swordtails

are named Splishy and Fabio. Yeah, ridiculous I know. I let my kids name the female and that's immediately what they said: Splishy!
So I'm trying to figure out how to help this fish, if I can. It seems to have multiple health issues. I'm not even looking at the ragged fins right now. Most noticeable is the swollen belly. May be a chronic problem- I remember when I first visited the prior owner's house months ago I noticed this fish was always near the substrate and I asked about it. He kind of shrugged, said it was a regular thing, but the fish always came up to eat. When I adopted the fish and first brought it home it was so fat I thought maybe it was gravid, or possibly a "balloon-belly" variety
but the profile doesn't look like it now that I view more pictures- I think they're both hi-fin lyretails.
So my best guess is she's constipated and bloated from overeating. Or maybe has a swim bladder problem. I did not feed them the first two days here, and did 25% water change each morning. Today tried feeding minced peas. (Very small amount- less than a fourth of one pea. Left the bits in there for the snails, will siphon out remnants later today). Nobody ate- serpaes and the male swordtail tried and spit it out, female swordtail didn't even move from her grounded position. Lamp-eyes didn't seem to notice there was food on offer. Tomorrow I will try something garlic-soaked.
I just noticed today that Splishy's right gill looks swollen and lumpy- cancerous? or ammonia damage??
My daughter thinks it's real sweet how the male keeps following her around. If she's laying on the bottom he'll periodically drift down to the same level and nudge her.
I've got my own concern about Fabio. He has pale areas on top of the back and upper lip. I took backdrop off the tank in order to see the profile clearly against the light: it's not fuzzy. Looks like scales are worn off? or color is really faded. I don't know if this is just a mottled color pattern, or if the fish is loosing color due to age (at least 3 years, maybe 4), or does it have some disease. Asking the fish folks on the forum for input.

Wondering if a salt bath would help the female, if it can relieve some swelling, but I'm holding off another day before doing any kind of treatment. Today she is swimming around more frequently and for longer stretches, and breathing rate is normal (yesterday she lay on the substrate almost all the time and was breathing heavy). So I think there is already some improvement.... I realize I probably can't heal all her issues, but if there's something I can do... These fish won't be moving into my show tank, they're staying right here. If they need some strong meds I will treat them after the tetras move out...

little pots

Yesterday I folded a bunch of paper pots, and started moving up some seedlings.
All the nasturtiums, tomatoes and leeks. I need to sow fewer tomatoes- all but one of the seeds came up, and I think it was that way last year too. (I'll keep the nicest two or three of each variety for my garden, and probably craigslist the rest).

I was happy to move all these young plants out into the coldframe house (it's nearly full now) and envisioned putting tomato seedlings out for the day on the deck railing, into the coldhouse just at night (when the other seedlings still in trays come into the house)- because last few days it's been 35° or 40° at night so that's less shuffling in-and-out to do. Except then it got bitter cold around 6pm and I checked the weather- supposed to be in the low twenties! I brought all the plants back in. Sigh.

Today much warmer once again so hopefully they can at least stay outside under shelter.

22 March 2017

oh YEAH they did

I found fish eggs in my window tank. This should not be a surprise. Nor should it delight me, but I'm ecstatic. Even though my cherry barbs spawn all the time, I never see eggs- the parents often turn right around and eat them before they fall far, if not the kuhlis or shrimps get them I'm sure. So seeing eggs is something new for me.
Here's one though, on a bit of hornwort in the window tank.

I'm puzzled if it really was the serpae tetras, though. I looked very carefully to tell the males from females- but all my serpaes seem to have a lighter patch at the base of dorsal fin. If any of them is a male, it's Blank (the one missing an eye). Would the females go through spawning motions and lay eggs without a male? or am I misidentifying them. I suppose it's possible the pair of lamp eye tetras (the other common name for red-eye) laid these eggs- they're even harder to tell apart male from female but one does look a bit plumper than the other.

Regardless, I don't expect much. Both these fishes the parents usually eat the eggs, and I don't even know if they're viable- most of them look opaque. If it's serpaes the eggs will hatch in 24 hours, if the lamp eyes, a day later. So we'll see. Either one, I doubt the fry would live. This isn't a mature tank full of microscopic things for them to feed on, and no way am I setting up another tank to tend baby fish. I know how much crazy work that is.
But hey, if one survives on its own that would be super cool. Here's three in the rhizome of windelov fern.
At least, I think I see three- arrows indicate where.
Another one on the end of the rock.
Fish aren't the only things busy multiplying in this tank. Did you see how many new windelov fiddleheads coming up (2nd pic)? And I have not once dosed ferts in here. Not only are lots of new leaves uncurling, today I just saw the tiniest little bit of windelov with a root growing on the end of a mature leaf...


Wow, I can't believe this. Less than 24 hours in my tank, and I swear I'm seeing spawning behavior.

Watching the fishes just a moment ago, it looked so familiar. The pair of serpae tetras going back and forth through the anchored apono capuronii leaves, one was doing this familiar wagging motion with its pectoral fins and when among the foliage there's a second where they press their sides together and quiver in unison. I'm pretty sure that fin-wagging motion is the male courting the female- it looks just like the attention-begging gesture my male cherry barbs make towards the females.

I kept an eye on them, and when the pair passed close by the serpae with a missing eye, the one who'd been fin-wagging paused cruising with its partner to position its body stiffly broadside to the weaker fish, and buffet with its tail strokes. I'm fairly certain now that pair is male and female, and the one-eyed fish is another male. Who is quickly becoming the pariah. I gotta get more of these fish. And move them into my main tank, soon.

They must like it here already, and I sure know it's not really an ideal tank.

settling in

I am really pleasantly surprised. I fully expected to have a slight ammonia or nitrite spike this morning on the window tank. After all, I just put seven fishes into a newly-cycled, sparsely-planted tank! First thing I did this morning was a water test, and it was perfect. Zero Ammonia, zero Nitrites. (Goes to show how well the fishless cycle method can work, even though I did hate dealing with the moldy crap and stink of rotting fish food...)
I'm still doing a partial wc, just for the health of the fishes. The swordtails both have slightly degraded fin edges, and the female is still crashed on the bottom- although she breathes easier and makes brief attempts to swim now.
Named the male swordtail Fabio. Here's a better picture of him.
The pictures are still kind of dim because when I took cover off the top and sides, the fishes all hid down in the plants, apparently feeling alarmed or exposed. So I've kept the backdrop piece on.
The red-eye tetras have a lovely blue sheen when the light hits them at a certain angle.
I think they look fairly healthy.
 Here's a closer picture of the serpae that's blind on one side.
The good side. It's more timid than the other two serpae- quite understandably I think. But otherwise looks alert and active.
I never kept fish before that have the semi transparent body, there's rather fascinating about being able to see your fish's innards when they are backlit.

fish dream

From last night. I wish I had written this down sooner, because now I can't remember most of it...

In the dream I'm at some kind of fish convention, responsible for a display tank that has live plants, driftwood and a few various species including some really large cory catfish and kuhli loaches. It's a glass open-top, oddly shallow and square. I'm walking around just as the public comes in the door and passing my own setup glance over see that one of the catfish is upside down in a gap between two pieces of decor, the fins sticking up straight and stiff. I think Oh crap a fish died I have to get it out of there before a visitor notices, but I don't want to grab it right in front of people (someone is looking at another part of their tank with a kid) plus I really abhor touching dead fish with my bare hands so I hurry over to my supply cart to get a pair of long-handled aquarium tongs, picture myself grabbing the dead fish by its fin with the tweezers to lift it out but I really don't want anyone to see me doing it and know a fish died on me so I'm anxiously waiting for a gap in the steady stream of visitors-

then stuff happens and I go back to the tank instead of getting out the dead fish I'm going to move two live ones into another tank but I don't have any equipment with me I have to do this fast so I scoop them up with my hand, put them side by side on my forearm held carefully level, cover the startled fishes with my other wet hand so they don't jump or fall off, and dash over to the other tank drop them in!

Then I'm walking through the venue looking at all the displays and on a corner there's a huge tank installed it's taller than I am. Three or four huge gorgeous white angelfish with those pearly scales and flowing fins drift a foot or two above my head, their bodies at an oblique angle to the tank wall, leisurely looking down at us. They're more than a foot across (not counting the tail), giant fish. I stand stock still and stare up at them in awe, then I notice something that horrifies me. Their eyes are blank. Flat, silver reflecting blank. Blind, I think. I look very hard and can barely make out a tiny pupil like a little pinprick. It's creepy.

I glance down and see a placard in front of the tank that explains in great detail with numerous illustrations, how the breeder had a some fish with a genetic mutation that had smaller-than-normal pupils. It made them look perpetually startled and to his surprise people found that intriguing, so he kept breeding them like that and got ones with even smaller pupils- people thought those looked like "zombie angelfish" so he kept going with it. And now these beautiful, gorgeous, horribly blank-eyed freaks.

I woke up at that point.

I must note: in real life, I have never been to a convention having to do with the hobby, though I would like to someday. (However, I have been to numerous mineral-related shows with my husband so I think my brain filled in some details about what it's like to run a table at a show, from that).

I've never kept an open-top aquarium.

I do have an aversion to touching a dead fish with my hands. (Unless it's one I'm cleaning to cook. It's a pet one in the tank that just yesterday was alive and now is dead that I can't stand to touch)

I would never transport a fish on my forearm!

I saw tetras with completely black eyes (iris and sclera same color as pupil) at a store a few months ago, I'd never seen anything like that (before or since) and kept going back to that tank numerous times to stare at them. Maybe the angels with flat blank silver eyes relates to that memory. It's really stuck with me.

I do love angelfish. I am often taken aback by new shapes fish take on with breeding- the excessively long fins, the balloon bellies... I guess blank eyes was one step further my dream came up with! Ugh.

Real angelfish don't get that big, either!

21 March 2017

got fishes

Brought home the adopted fishes today.
I took as much care as I could with their transport to minimize stress. The prior owner had them in a gallon ziplock. I opened the bag set it in a small cardboard box inside my cooler, clipped the sides up so it would stay open, and put in a generous handful of spirodela polyrhiza floaters from home. So it stayed nice and dark, even temperature no lack of oxygen and maybe the plants helped absorb some ammonia. Once home I floated the bag in the aquarium to equalize temperature, then siphoned out some of the bag water that had waste, and started adding portions of tank water in ten-minute intervals. The fish were pretty calm through this.
There are three serpae tetras aka red minors (one has a missing eye). Two silvery red eye tetras, and two fancy swordtails I think they are hi-fin lyretails. One has a black body with long, flowing orange fins I swear it's like watching a pretty girl with long hair blowing in the wind. The other is red with black fins.
My husband came over to see the fish and he remarked on how the fish stuck with their own kind- the serpaes shoaling together, the silver red-eyes cruising as a pair. Even momentarily in the bucket you can see this (just before I started netting them to put in the tank).
I have the tank covered sides and top to keep dark for the first day- another stress-reducing measure. At first the fish cowered on the bottom. The flow of the filter is pretty strong, so I put plastic baffle on and almost immediately the tetras and the "golden-haired" swordtail started swimming around. The serpae tetras were even sparring a bit, displaying their fins and buffeting each other with sideways tail strokes. I think two are males- I can see white edging starting to show on the anal fins and I read somewhere they develop white edges when mature? I have never been really interested in tetras, but once they were in the tank I am really taken by these. Their color is striking and they look very good among the green hornwort stems.
Blurry image of one swordtail
The red swordfish does not look good. It has a very fat belly and lies on the bottom quivering its pectoral fins. I don't know if it is bloated with food or an egg-bound female. If I loose a fish to shock it will probably be this one. I am going to be testing the water and doing daily partial wc for several days at least- even though I did the fishless cycle to build up as much beneficial bacteria as possible, the fish load is probably too much all at once. Plan is to put the tetras in my largest tank, but I first want to observe them for a week or two and make sure they don't come down with some illness from the stress of moving. Easier to treat them in here if I have to.

20 March 2017


Window tank finished cycling this morning. I don't know why it always makes me so giddy-happy to see the pale blue in that little test tube. It's ready! So this morning I did a big water change- probably 90%- siphoned out down to an inch above the substrate. Not because of sky-high nitrates, they were only about 50ppm, but because I wanted to get out all that disgusting fuzzy white mold from the food remains.
These pictures really don't do the tank justice. It looks somewhat pretty with the ambient light through the haze of hornwort needles, but I can't get a decent photo unless I put a backdrop on. Oh well. Closest equivalent.
Windelov fern seems pretty content in here. I haven't seen any foliage die off, and if you look close can see a young leaf and a tiny new fiddlehead near the center. It's growing!
I found in my tenner this week a little scrap of java fern leaf floating around with two tiny new plants sprouting on it, and a small bit of windelov rhizome. Put both into this tank.
Although they are all shorter from being trimmed at bases, I nearly doubled the number of anchored hornwort stems in here this week. Most of them seem to be done transitioning, I cleaned out all the shed needles and decaying stems, kept only healthy growth which got divided up, new budding ends tethered onto more chips of granite.
Some are so small they lie rather flat when dropped in the tank, so I propped them up against the front glass.
Still have two stems of pruned aponogeton crispus and half a dozen of the capuronii in here. As expected, the crispus leaves are quickly decaying- I'm taking those out tomorrow. To my surprise the capuronii trimmings have held up really well- they've been in here a week and although I cut off a quarter inch of the cut end of the petioles and retied it, haven't felt the need to throw them out yet. They really add something to the tank and I am going to probably add more, see how long they hold up before need to be composted.
Pothos cuttings have grown roots. There's a bit of new stem sprouting too. I haven't kept pothos cuttings like this since I had bettas in bowls four years ago...
I had to rig up my prefilter sponge with a bit of fishing line and rubber band to stay in place (because the fittings got ruined that hold this onto the intake tube).
I'm picking up the adopted fishes tomorrow. Dropped in more sinking food to keep the cycle going meanwhile. Trumpet snails immediately converged.