30 April 2014

the Otos

I think it was good I moved them out of the QT tank- it started cycling, has spiked Nitrites now. Better for them in here (home tank). But one didn't make it. This fish died last night, in spite of my treatment w/meds for fungus.
I have given the nicest-looking one a name: Tilda.
The third large Oto has part of lower tail fin short, although I hope it regrows. Not sure of a name for this guy yet. I was thinking of Buster, Wedge or Leo (various reasons)... Recently he has been looking frighteningly thin. Never really saw concave tummy on a oto before, but now I know what it looks like. They've done such a fantastic job cleaning algae off all the glass, even the plants- Anubias nearly clear of brown diatoms now. Maybe not enough algae on surfaces anymore. I've put a few algae rocks back in the tank (still cultivating those on windowsill, with frequent water changes) and gave zucchini slice last night. Third Oto looks better this morning. Not quite fat yet, but alarming hollowness of its stomach gone.
And here is Sparky seen from above, resting on an Anubias leaf.

28 April 2014

young leaf

on the Avocado plant approaching full size!

27 April 2014

pepper plant

Still growing. New leaves. I put it out on sunny days and bring in at night still.

26 April 2014

new leaf

the mystery plant, back on my windowsill, is growing new leaves- larger than before.

24 April 2014

rash move

into the home tank after only six days in quarantine. Yeah, probably not wise. But it seemed like the best decision considering. Here's why: I realized recently that my plastic tub standing in for a QT tank holds only four gallons, not five. That's very small. And it's difficult to keep it stable- not stress I want new fish dealing with. First night home the new Otos cleaned the algae off all the rocks I gave them, looked alert and content. Gave zucchini, that seemed to go well too. I'd been siphoning out waste and doing a small partial water change every morning, but on third day they were listless and somewhat pinched. Not eating. I tested the water- to my alarm found Ammonia 0.50 and Nitrite almost 0.25. Not terrible, I guess the filter didn't get established as well as I hoped. Did a 30% wc, tested water again this morning and both levels have gone up. I don't want them going through a cycle in the small tank, so figured it was better to put them in the home one.

They perked up right away. They're really more robust-looking fish, a third again as large as Sparky (here a picture of the little Oto next to one of the new big ones).
But this morning one of the new fish has a fungus patch on its right side. You can see it here. His tail tends to fall limply to the side when he's resting as well.
I dosed the main tank with Primafix this time. Supposed to be harmless to snails and plants. Hopeful. Had to remove carbon from the filter, but didn't want to disrupt the biological filter too much as I trimmed quite a bit of plants with the water change- edges all going brown, especially on the Aponogeton
(but its new leaves growing back fast and look just lovely so I'm not too worried- all the other new plants growing baby leaves now too)
so I took the trouble to cut open the filter and empty out the carbon, leaving the floss pad with all its nice brown biological gunk on it. That was a small chore! I've left the QT tank still running, feeding it w/pinch of fish food every day- hoping to get the bacteria on sponge filter built up enough I can use it again...

So- here's a few more pictures I got of the freckled Otocinclus. They sure are nice looking fish. Very busy scraping algae off the glass- nice fat round bellies. I really hope they pull through and the afflicted recovers. I'm thinking of calling them Lips (shape of tail blot), Buster and Algie, but not assigning definite identities until I can tell them apart well, and they make it through the risky period.

20 April 2014

moving up

Pricked out Lettuce and Swiss Chard seedlings from their greenhouse jug today. It's weeks past my weather marker (forsyhtia blooming) so time enough. I have three Swiss Chard plants in pots now,
a trio of Lettuce in the planter (that used to have green onions) and another half-dozen pots each with a small lettuce plant.
The other jugs have not yielded much. From the one sown with herb seed, I only got two Parsley plants:
There are seedlings growing in one more jug that I think are the flowering tobac, nothing else. While the jugs were definitely easier to tend to than containers indoors, only the lettuce really did well. Not sure if I planted the other stuff too early, it's also possible my seed was not viable.


I've been in dismay at the state of my Fern containers, they look so dead and shabby. But recently found several pots have tightly curled fiddleheads coming up. Very glad to see that. Need more green out there.

One fern pot also has some volunteer seedlings. Not sure what they are yet, but the shape of the leaf is familiar...

19 April 2014

Snaily has recovered!

lone otocinclus

Sometimes he likes to sit on the very tip of a Java Fern leaf.

My QT tank is ready for new fish again. I had been planning on getting a few cherry barb- my third fish choice- but feel bad that Sparky is all alone now. So got three new Otos yesterday. They are browner than Sparky, and have more mottled "leopard" markings.
I am more confident that all three will come through the QT period- and hope that it will be shorter for these guys. They are larger and more robust than Sparky, looked well-fed and alert at the pet store, there was no sign of ill or ailing fish in the tank I bought them from, nor the neighboring ones this time (a mistake I've made before, being eager for the fish and getting them against my better judgement).

worm bin makeover

and a surprise!

I thought it was maybe too soggy at the bottom- have read that shredded cardboard, while time-intensive to prepare, makes excellent bedding, and wanted a bit of compost to pot up my Lettuce seedlings. Expected it was too early for harvesting, but I forged ahead- cut cardboard strips into chips (less than 1") enough to fill a third of the new, empty bin.
Then delved into the main bin. I thought if I picked out chunks and bits of bedding and food waste (not much in there, I haven't fed them in a while) I'd be left with some rough compost. It didn't quite turn out that way. Nothing broken down that fine yet. But I found baby worms!!
Size comparison with adults Lots even smaller than this, the tiniest ones little translucent squirming threads.
And plenty of coccoons, or worm eggs. If you look close there's about eight visible in this picture. They're round with pointed end like a lemon shape, dark golden color.
So yeah, it wasn't ready yet. And it was very soggy, rather compacted at the bottom of the bin. But that's where all the coccoons and baby worms were. So I guess the worms like the moisture content, I just don't like how matted the newspaper gets. I think I'm going to quit putting shredded newspaper and paper-wrapped food packets in the bin. Just cardboard chips and dump the food in straight from collection bucket. We'll see how it goes. But even though I didn't get any compost to use, I'm mighty pleased!

Good, earthy smell in there.

18 April 2014


It was very warm last week- I had the heat turned off and windows open all day. So nice. Even moved Pinkie and Flash to the desk and kitchen coutertop, respectively. But then we had a very cold night, below freezing- had to cover up the seedling jugs outside and my Sage plant (think I lost the Dogwood sapling though) and moved the bettas back to the top of the fridge. Nights have been a bit chill since, I will wait for steady warmth again before moving them back. Don't want them to get cold.
It was very nice to have a desk companion for a day, though. And Pinkie seemed to like the change- he was making a new bubble nest for the first time in months (none of that activity all winter).

Someone else who did not appreciate the cold was Snaily. I'm worried about him. He's slowed down a lot lately- I will find him in the same spot for hours, all day long. Used to move around a lot. When fell to the substrate (off a leaf) and didn't move for 24 hours I lifted him out and sniffed- no stink, still alive. It seems my aquarium heater failed to keep the temp completely steady- that night it dropped below freezing I hadn't turned the heat on, and the apartment thermostat read below 60° in the morning- the aquarium was at 72° but I usually keep it closer to 76°. I wonder if the snail suffered from the cold? I got the temp raised again- slowly- over a period of several hours- and his little feelers emerged again, but he still hasn't come out of his shell to crawl around. I wonder if he's just reaching end of lifespan- ramshorn snails live one to two years- I've only had this one five months but maybe living through the early weeks of tank cycling shortened his life? or perhaps he ate something off the new plants that harmed him? As soon as I noticed he wasn't moving checked water parameters, all fine. Zero Ammonia, zero Nitrites, very low Nitrates. Fishes look fine, too. Just the snail doing poorly...

17 April 2014

decay and regeneration

My Aponogeton has started to look shabby. The brown ends of the mature leaves are deteriorating, so badly I've begun trimming the ends off to prevent fouling the water. I'm guessing it's just adjusting to my water conditions, leaf loss and decay is common when aquatic plants are moved to a new environment. But I'm not too dismayed, as there are two young leaves growing quickly- bright and beautiful. Yesterday I peered in and saw another new leaf shoot that already has ruffled edges forming this morning. This plant grows quickly!

(Youngest leaf is center of this photo, the shortest, brightest green. Just behind it -low down- you can see the second new leaf forming- very narrow- and the third had not yet emerged when I took the picture).

16 April 2014

avocado green

It looks like my Avocado plant is actually serious about growing new leaves this time!

14 April 2014

what is this plant?

I had a pot with a dead fern in it (one of the divisions off the Boston Fern last year) sitting idly in windowsill. Had been sporadically watering it for the faint possibility the fern revivied, but instead this came up.
I don't know what it is. Its growth habit reminds me of the avocado, definitely behaves like a baby tree (didn't start with seedling leaves and then true like the veggies I've grown). It has narrow straight-edged leaves wider at the tip, with notches on the wide end.
Gah. I put this plant out on the balcony for some sun and forgot to bring it in at night. Something ate the leaves. And all the new leaves off my Sage in the adjacent pot. Which was the only living herb I had left.

13 April 2014


Delight in the new plant was bittersweet.
This is the last photo I have of Otto, perched on the ruffled swordplant (aponogeton).
Next morning I could not find him. Searched all over. Did I stress the fish too much, moving things around? I also cleaned a lot of algae off the glass- the two little catfish had not made much of a dent in that yet- and trimmed dead stems off the Watersprite (it does not have nice white roots growing like the others plants but keeps sending up new fronds regardless).
but after several hours still only three fish visible in the tank I finally started lifting things. Otto was trapped under the edge of a driftwood piece. Dead. I had put my hand back in the tank late last night to resettle the largest plant, which was not rooted well. Must have shifted some stuff and accidentally pinned the oto. I did not expect that- they always scoot out of the way so quickly- I wasn't watching for him- upset at myself. All that careful tending in the QT for weeks, and now he's just gone.

12 April 2014

aponogeton crispus

I have a new favorite plant. In my aquarium. All of a sudden I just want to sit all day looking into the underwater world, because this plant is so gorgeous.
It was one of an online purchase. I wondered how the plants would survive the two-day shipping but they seemed to do just fine. Came wrapped in damp paper in large plastic baggie then double-packaged.
I did have to trim off some dead foliage, but the plant once placed into the aquarium just looks stunning. The photo in no way does it justice.
The other two plants I bought are Bronze Cryptocoryne Wendtii (Cryptocoryne wendtii v. Tropica) which I like for the reddish coloring, and should do well in my conditions. The leaves have a nice blue-green gray color unlike all the others. Divided into a few smaller plants. It was a bit bent over when came out of the package, but straightened up more this morning.
Right now I am just staring at Aponogeton. It is quite tall for my tank, but I love the way it bends over on the surface (as long as the plant itself is ok with that and doesn't get leaf burn). It has lovely crinkled leaf margins and up close a delicate texture that reminds me of the lace plant I've seen in books, but this one doesn't have gaps.
I like it so much I want to pull out all the Vallisneria. Even though it is finally starting to get established and put out new bright green foliage, I don't love Val the way I suddenly love Aponogeton. I don't even really like it the way I do the Watersprite and Rotala, the Java Ferns and Anubias. But I have to wait and see how Aponogeton adjusts to living here- if it does well I think I'm going to remove the all the Val and put in a row of Aponogeton across the back. The long stems will have a similar screening effect, I think.

You can expect more pictures of this plant! None of these quite captures the effect, and I love the way it gently waves in the filter current. It has a green-brown hue different from the other plants in the tank.