31 August 2014

fish report 3

Seems to be improving. I've got the temperature steady at 88° now. The fishes are eager to eat. I changed out 4 gallons yesterday, 2 and a half today- with replacement salt measured and stirred in. Going lighter with the gravel vac. Looked very close today but see no more ich spots. One female barb was flashing momentarily, another has a split tail fin. And the injured one puzzles me- I don't know what hurt her. I thought it was a nipped fin, but looked more carefully compared to the other fishes- she's got all her fins. Originally it looked like a bit of torn skin sticking out, and was red around the area. Now it's no longer inflamed, just a bump with maybe some fungus growth. I'm keeping up the small daily water changes for her sake, even after the ich appears to be gone. It's really hard to get a picture of the problem- on her left flank here, just above the anal fin.
Pinkie is doing better. No more spots on him, and he's swimming about once more.


Of my two largest crassula plants, I cut one's top off. Want it to grow a bit stouter. This was a week ago. It's sprouting new leaves now- bright young green.

29 August 2014

the tenner

This one is finally looking like what I wanted.
I love seeing the small fishes move in and out under the broad anubias leaves, Oliver like a black flag leisurely swimming around. The aquarium sits near my desk and its light is on in the evening hours, so I can glance over and watch them when I need a rest from the computer screen.

It's maintenance day again. On my ten-gallon tank now things are simple and minimal work, which I like. I changed out 2 gallons today, still with gravel vac as I don't have any trumpet snails in there now. Careful to wash and rinse hands well, rinsed the gravel vac and hose with very hot water too. Did this one first so I wouldn't risk carrying over disease from the 20gal. Wiped some alage off the glass, plastic plants, brushed some off the largest anubias leaves. Removed a few anubias leaves that had gone yellow, the rest seem healthy- they are sending down fat shoots that look like roots.

I've put a sheet of paper across the short end of the tank that faces the window, to cut out sunlight. It only falls direct on one corner of the tank for a few hours, but that's enough to be a problem. The foliage on that end was getting more hairy algae on it.
The java fern is growing well, tethered to its stones.  Have almost doubled their amount of leaves.
I've cut out more of the java moss- decided I don't like how it accumulates so much debris- and am growing more bits of it in jars of water, just for the fun of that. Fishes in here are all doing well! Oliver eats the variety I offer him, no longer so picky. He particularly likes going after bits of smashed green peas.
Look! This was a portrait of Oliver but in the middle you can see the kuhli loach peeking out from behind the driftwood. I also found a small trumpet snail in here- darker color than those in the bigger aquarium. I didn't think there were any babies in here, and have only seen the one so far (top of the skull eye socket)

fish report 2

In the 20 gallon, still ich. I hope I have caught it soon enough- the temp is now 86° I will try to raise it to 88° in the evening. Fishes are handling this ok- many of the barbs hang in the water with fins clamped, but not gasping. One looks injured- anal fin bitten off? I feared at first Pinkie had turned aggressive, but instead it looks like one of the new platies is nipping at her. Some of the barbs have ich spots, I saw fishes of all species flashing today- Pinkie, a danio, several barbs, one platy. Bummer.
At least the kuhli loaches look alright. I hadn't seen them in a day or two, so slowly lifted edge of the driftwood when cleaning. One scurried out, then back in. The snails are out in force- counted over a dozen baby trumpet snails today- it is funny to see the tiny ones wedging their way through the gravel, moving bits of stone many times their own size when they tunnel down against the glass. I suppose it's because I have been doing gravel vac every day now to clear the ich- so there is not as much food in the substrate for them?
I do see them crawling on plants- I hope they are just eating the algae although I see tiny scrape marks on the crypt leaves too.
My kids and I play a game now: who can spot the most baby snails? I see four in this picture, probably there are more.
So there's obviously a population boom but I'm not too worried- I want the snails after all, and I'm told they will self-regulate and adjust their numbers to how much available food there is. Right now it's algae. Bonus pic: a fish face up against the glass. You can see the green algae spots.
Doing a light gravel vac of as much of the bed as I can reach- what's not covered in wood or plants- takes out at least five gallons. It seems like too much to do that large a water change every day, but evidence seems to show that more frequent water change is beneficial for the fishes, as long as you don't do it so suddenly that they get a pH or temperature shock. I hope it will be okay. Pinkie has been lying around on the bottom more than usual, I'm worried about him.

28 August 2014

fish report

Temp to 84° this morning. If the fishes still look ok by evening I will bump it to 86°. Water change this morning- 30% (with a half dose of liquid plant food added back in) as I tried to do a thorough gravel vac- not too deep though but over all the surface. Removed airline from one sponge filter, so now just the second one bubbles. While I was in there with lower water level, trimmed a few dying leaves from java fern, crypt and stems off the aponogeton. Moved the baby crypts a short distance from the second plant, and pulled that one closer to the edge of the "cave" formed by the driftwood- it was looking crowded, maybe that's why not growing as well. I was pleased to see the little crypts- there's three- have nice, long white roots. So at least one kind of plant in there is happy!
The watesprite on the other hand, is dying back a lot but at the same time new foliage coming up on every plant. I've seen the small snails on the browning foliage at night, eating the dead parts. One piece broke loose from the gravel and I just let it float. Maybe this one will do better floating, it does for some aquarists. I have the better light for it now. Incidentally, that's Marvin on the glass- you can see his mouth. My nine-year-old insisted on naming the nerite snails. The one in my smaller tank is Mavis. Some people call these tomato snails.
The fishes- well, none have died yet. The barbs are kind of hanging in the water, not as active. I didn't see any platies flash today, a few spots visible on the barbs and to my dismay Pinkie has quite a few as well- three or four on his side, two on the tail.
I have added a low dose of aquarium salt- just 5 tsp into the 20 gallons- will keep an eye on the loaches and if they seem okay tomorrow, I'll add another fraction.

27 August 2014


Yah, that's how I feel. So frustrated with my aquarium. Just when things seem a bit better, disease strikes again which I am sure is due to some mistake on my part. I keep trying to think what I have done to get things in the right direction again, which this little blog record helps with, but not completely. Lately I changed the light bulb, lowered the hours back down to six, brushed algae coating off with toothbrush, quit vaccuming with the new trumpet snails, and started dosing half the recommended amount of plant ferts once a week- after the water change. Half the amount, because my plant growth isn't that thick yet.

Good news is, the plants seem to be responding to that. The leaves are no longer yellowing, but they do have pinholes- I think the snails are eating them. I have baby trumpet snails! I've seen at least seven, sure there are plenty more. The java fern and crypt wendtii are sending up new leaves- java fern growing fast. The watersprite might be doing better- the leaves actually look wider, not so thin and spindly now. And today I saw to my delight that three of my aponogeton have new shoots coming up- and once they emerge, they do grow fast- although the largest plant has two older leaves decaying now, before they had reached full growth I hoped for. None have ever yet grown as large as the leaves the plant had on it when first arrived. But I'm thinking that was the algae smothering... So.

I think I need to keep dosing the ferts- and maybe add some that provides liquid CO2. I've read of low-tech tanks having good results with that, plus it kills off the algae. Must read more first... Also perhaps I should add a few root tabs again, at the base of the smaller aponogeton and the smaller crypt- one has taken off, the other is not doing as well. I bet some of the deficiency came about because I did so much gravel vac when the tank had ich- it pulled out black clouds of the root tab material.

But now I'm due to go through that again. There's definitely a new ich outbreak in the tank. I can't really see the dots on the new fish- for some reason they don't seem to show up on the paler, blue flanks- or maybe they aren't as badly infested yet. But I saw one platy flashing over and over against the airline tube today. Several female barb have visible spots on them, one of the males- Buster- was flashing a lot too, against driftwood and plant leaves. I'm still raising the temp- it's 82° now- and doing daily water changes- will start gravel vac tomorrow. Don't know what else to do at this point.

I have kept the air running through sponge filter for now, because of the raised temperature, but think that when this is done (ich battle) I should turn that off. Turns out that in a low-tech system air stones actually remove CO2 from the tank faster than the plants can use it- so it does more harm than good. I think I am understanding this right. But think back- perhaps the plant decline began when I added the airline and sponge filters? I could easily just set the sponge filter in there to gather good bacteria in case it is needed in a quarantine tank... without running the air...

Still trying to solve so many problems.

26 August 2014


I thought my boston fern was never going to recover from its summer haircut.
But finally it is sending up some new fiddleheads, and they are growing quickly.

25 August 2014


are settling in. No longer hiding, pale, or clamped fins. Eager to eat. Pinkie moves towards them occasionally but they back up or dart off, and he doesn't chase. They're picking algae off the plants, which I think will help the aquarium conditions a lot.
But it seems I've still got ich in there- although the established fish must now be immune to whatever strain is in here. Dismayed to think I didn't kill it all before, the platies are probably feeling stressed in their new home even though they look perky now, and maybe my water conditions aren't as good as I thought. Their tail fins look a bit ragged and sprinkled with a few white dots- hard to see except when the aquarium light is on. I thought I saw one platy flashing yesterday against an object. There's already a little aquarium salt still in there from the introduction day. I've started raising the temperature a little- to 80° so far- and doing a small water change each morning.
In spite of this trouble, I'm happy with them. I do so love their blue color! I hope I can get them through this.


are tricker to keep than I thought. It still had a bad odor- anaerobic bacteria- ugh. Masses of worms were also trying to escape, coming out the holes in the bottom of the bin. This is wrong. They're trying to get away from bad conditions.
I've already removed the problematic mass of hamster bedding. The next day let it air out again, turned all the material by hand to fluff it up and add air, mixed in new shredded corrugated cardboard. Finally I ditched the bricks- they just smell bad- and put empty yogurt containers under the bin for support. They seem sturdy enough.
Once again let the bin air out on the balcony and fluffed up all the material by hand (this is not too gross- I haven't give any new food in a week now). I've been airing it out and turning all the stuff over every day since noticed the problem. Seems much better now- the smell is gone- just a nice earthy odor when I lift the lid- and the worms are no longer trying to get away. I think part of the problem was not only the excess hamster bedding and rice, but that we've been eating lots more fresh fruit in these hot months- the scraps from melons and peaches, etc. adds moisture but I forgot to balance that with more brown material. Read a suggestion to mix the cardboard in with the food scraps before putting it in the bin. I think I will do that now. Also give less fruit and mostly just veggie scraps for a while.

22 August 2014

fish notes

Today was tank maintenance. Both of the aquariums got their regular cleaning with a 20% water change. In the ten-gallon this included a light gravel vac job, wiping down the outside glass and cleaning the cover glass. I gently brushed brown algae off the anubias leaves and a few of the java fern without removing them- it was a bit tricky but they look better now. It wasn't as much as before, to clean off. Also trimmed the java moss. My prior water jar of it sitting on the desk had grown quite full so I sold it- five bucks on craigslist and the lady was eager for more-
and started a new one:
Even caught a glimpse of my kuhli loach, it scurried out and moved around in quick, undulating waves when I nudged the driftwood, darted back into hiding pretty quick. I saw both loaches in the 20gal as well, when cleaning they got momentarily disturbed and wriggled out, then back in. Like little banded snakes. I think I have finally realized what's going wrong in my main aquarium: too much nutrients. I tested the water, nitrates were over 40. I carefully brushed off the aponogeton leaves
it was mostly brown algae coating on there. It grows enough the plants can't photosynthesize and the leaves die back. Difficult to clean off without tearing up the leaves themselves, especially the aponogeton and watersprite, but I managed enough that it looks improved. Cleaned some off the java fern and amazon sword, too.
Dismayed that this simply puts the algae into the water column, but I hope the filter pulls most of it out (I rinsed the filter media a bit today too), and I've cut the photoperiod down by a half hour. Maybe the new lamp is brighter enough that it caused another algae bloom.
To make the tank really clean in preparation for introducing the blue platies tomorrow, I did some gravel vac in here- this pulled out a few black clouds from the root tabs I once stuck in there. Which might also be too much nutrients? It's hard to know for sure. People on forums said don't do root tabs (with the low tech setup you need to not overdo it) but add more fish. I'm not quite fully stocked yet, so I did add a half-dose of the liquid plant food today, less than before. The plants seem to be growing more again- I have a lot of new java fern leaves (center in pic)
also see the bigger aponogeton specimens and the crypt sprouting new leaves so I'm hoping soon I will get the balance right here.

21 August 2014

potting up

How quickly they grow! My Coleus cuttings already have roots sprouting.
I had five stem cuttings, settled them into three pots today- two groups of two and the largest by itself.

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 kuhli 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: