28 September 2015

young aloes

These plants aren't that much bigger since the last time I took a picture, but I'm just happy with how they've grown.
The one that came from the older aloe that was in my apartment
is getting larger and greener too (it has lots of freckles!)

indoor peppers

I brought my two other pepper plants inside. Not enough room in the few windows that get direct sun (we have lots of trees shading the house) so these two are in the front room, with bright indirect light. Not sure how well they will do there. The second plant (potted up out of the garden in august) doubled in height once I put it on the deck, and gave us lots of ancho peppers.
The third plant I had also potted up out of the garden space and moved to the deck about two weeks ago. It doesn't have a lot of leaves because recently I trimmed off all the bitten foliage, so I can see if more insect damage occurs and know to look for a pest. This plant hasn't made any peppers yet.

27 September 2015

echeveria success

It's the end of summer and the pots of echeveria have really grown! Most of them did better than I expected. They mostly recovered from their sun scald. The big single one developed its flower spike further and has two pups coming up at the base.
The pair of crowns are health-looking, but didn't produce any new growth.
The pot of leaves I just stuck in the soil had a lot of failures. At one point I gently tugged on them all and tossed out all the ones that came up easy- those that held on from new little roots I let be. Some of these are now growing plants too.
Last pictured here is the pot of crowns I stripped of lower leaves, and flower stalks I stuck in the soil just for the heck of it. The stalk pieces all wilted and are gone (I expected that). These crowns had the most increase in growth, from where they started.
I really love the blue-green color of them all.

25 September 2015


The parameters are ok in the thirtyeight now. I changed out 15 gal today (not the norm friday 20 gal wc because of so many small wc this week) and fed the plants usual ferts dose (still with skewed higher K2S04 and almost nil KN03 for nitrate levels).

The plants are far from happy, but I think I have figured something out (I know I can get this right because the tenner seems relatively balanced now, and my twenty was in a good state right before I moved and started messing with things). Reading on the forums, finally found a thread discussing the exact LED light I have- it's not a very popular one, turns out- and someone had taken the trouble to call the company and got the PAR values, so now I know for my tank height the light level is med. That's important to know! and a good thing too. I'm not just limited to low-light plants, as long as I don't crank things up high enough to need C02.
Someone else chimed in on that thread and remarked that the white brights had been too much for his tank, he kept it on the max fade in/out time, more color channel and very little brights. I had the opposite going- a very short fade in/out (half hour), short color channel (1 hr) and color-plus-brights for 6 hours. What I didn't realize before was that the fade in/out feature starts after your first channel is set to turn on, and then extends the light period on the other end of the photoperiod, so it really doesn't add or subtract any time, total.

It's all the more confusing since the light strip didn't come with any instructions whatsoever. I had to figure it out from reviews and comments posted online (by other equally frustrated aquarists). So I looked at where I was before- when I first set up the light I had it on the longest fade in/out- 2 hours- and eight hours max of color-plus-brights. I'd reduced the colored channel and the fade in/out just for aesthetic reasons, because I didn't like the lights looking so yellow, but didn't stop to think what was best for the plants. I think that's when things started going downhill- looking back at my photos, it was doing okay here. Now it's not. Worse since readjusting after the trip.

So I've reset the lights once again. Considering the feedback I got on the forum, and where things were at with the first setup I had going on the timer. I put channel 1 (colors) to start at 11 am and run until 7pm, channel 2 (white) to overlap that, running from 1:30pm to 6:30pm, and the fade in/out to do 2 hours. So it fades in from 11am to 1pm, color only 1 to 1:30, color-plus-brights 1:30 to 6:30pm, color only again 6:30 to 7pm, fade out 7pm to 9pm, then blue/moonlight 9pm to midnight, darkness midnight to 11am. That's 8 hours total light, but 2 of that dimming in/out, another 1 hr color spectrum only, all of which I think isn't as prone to algae, and 5 hrs full lights. I'll see how that goes. It's more dimming that I had the second time I changed things, but less brights that the first time around. Remembering that when things were going badly on my prior tank, what fixed it was reducing the photoperiod.... The only way to know if this will work is to try it! Wait a week or two, take more pictures and judge by the plant response.

The other thing I can do is stuff more plants in there that consume the excess nutrients. With that in mind I added more watersprite and some ludwigia (I really like its reddish hues and purple undersides). I wanted to get hornwort (in spite of its reputation for shedding needles; it's supposed to be great for controlling algae outbreaks in a new setup) but I couldn't find it available locally.
You can see my poor aponogeton is doing awful- this is the biggest one here. I found out the bulbs are not supposed to be buried, so I planted them more shallowly this time however they're not holding down well yet.
From above can see I now have more plant texture/colors, just have to keep them alive.
Even still there is one piece of wisteria (left, at corner of the sponge prefilter) and hygro compacta (center here, kind of hidden by the watersprite).
Here's the bits of windelov java fern I tied onto rocks.
And surprisingly (or not) the only plant that looks decent right now is vallisneria. So I'll stop with that one. To end on a good note.

24 September 2015

fish behaviors

The relatively newer barbs don't rush up to the surface when I approach the tank- they never learned that my presence equals food topside, because more often than not I give sinking foods (for the kuhlis' benefit) since they've arrived. The older fishes remember the pattern from before though, and whenever I stand near the tank they eagerly come near. If I move to stand by another corner, they flock to that side, too.

The fish don't seem alarmed when I put my hands in the tank (they come and nibble on my freckles) and only shy away briefly if I accidentally bump something. But they dash and hide when I clean the outside of the glass with vinegar and a rag, is it something about the squeaking sound? Rubbing the glass on the inside with algae pad doesn't get the same response.

For a while every time I came in the bedroom I would glance at the aquarium to make sure an oto wasn't stuck head-down in the filter outtake tube again. It's never happened since that one time. Sometimes I see one on the airline, working its way up or down, but never into the tube. I think the one who had that mishap remembered and stays clear.

The fishes know that I put food under the flat stone. Sometimes when I drop sinking food in another part of the tank the kuhlis start rushing around to pinpoint the scent and one or two will go over and squeeze under the stone to look there even if it's not where the food went, they check it out.

On another note, I've noticed that there are very few malaysian trumpet snails in my tenner now. I picked some out a while ago to make sure most of the algae and biofilm would be available for the otos, and now when I look for the snails I only see two or three, small ones. I suppose it's because Oliver eats so little, there's not much food waste in here for them to scavenge.

The first time I fed a few crushed mts to the barbs, they went crazy for it. Next day I saw one female barb grabbing live trumpet snails and trying to bite them. She knew they could be food- but of course can't get them out of the shell. She gave up soon, but it was funny to see her going for the snails!

Oliver doesn't seem to like garlic flavor anymore. He spat out the soaked betta bites I gave him last week, I had to siphon them out and feed him plain ones. Gave him two garlic-soaked bloodworms this week and he spat out the first several times, let it fall. Ate the second one, though. Maybe he's getting picky. He does gobble the flies I offer him though, when he used to just ignore those. Perhaps his taste changes as he gets older.

23 September 2015

fishes checkup

The snails alerted me to cycling conditions in the thirtyeight- when I saw three nerites hanging out at the water line I tested it. Not terrible- ammonia was .5, nitrite below 0.25 ppm, nitrates over 40 ppm. Did a 25% water change. Have to keep checking every day. Second day after, ammonia was a little lower, nitrite spiked higher. Another water change. Third day ammonia is almost nil and nitrite going down, so I can see the bacteria colony is recovering. I did a smaller water change that day, and the snails are descending into the tank again. Funny, the horned snails once more are hanging out together:
I took these pictures a day before the substrate change, so you still see green algae on the backwall. Barbs are all doing well, except for one that died because she jumped out of the holding bucket. I didn't notice until it was too late. Kink is fully colored up now, and his coloring is darker than the other males.
He has a wider, black stripe up across the face, and his red is darker, wine-hue. Nearly purplish in certain light.
Snaky Fish is also showing different colors. He's gaining some girth and has small freckle spots along his belly that I never noticed before. This is hard to get a good picture showing, though.
My four-year-old didn't realize that I had changed part of the substrate out for smaller-size gravel, instead she suddenly yelled: "Mommy, come see! the snaky fishes got bigger!" She thought they'd grown overnight, haha.

22 September 2015

jade plants

Gave my biggest jade a trim, so that the stems don't become top-heavy. It doesn't look that much different.

I also cut back (severely) C's small jade with the funny shape- and planted all the cut pieces with their rootlets.


has quit rotting out on me. Two main clumps left. I wonder if they will regrow.

21 September 2015


Brought one of my pepper plants indoors, see if I can overwinter it one more time. It's adjusting well so far.

geranium tree

spread the branches a bit more with little sticks

20 September 2015

thirtyeight substrate change

I did a big job today that have been planning on for a long time. I changed out half the substrate in my large aquarium. Tired of noticing the gravel bed, want it to be more uniform size, smaller grains, darker color overall. Glad I did it but it sure was a lot of work. I tested my equipment the day before- a few small airstones, extra air pumps that I don't use all the time because they're too noisy. Got a few new clean five-gallon buckets also.
First thing was to reserve several buckets of tank water (to go back in at the end). Then catch the fishes- this was easier than I thought at first, all the gang of barbs went in the trap immediately.
Had to catch the last three kuhlis with a net and cup, I'm sure this stressed them out a lot but I didn't want them in there when all the substrate mess got stirred up. I put six barbs each in two five-gallon buckets, and the six kuhlis in the little QT tank- all with airlines running for some circulation. Picked out the nerite snails, the ramshorn and a handful of trumpet snails; a couple in each bucket.
Then scooped out the top layer of substrate, trying to get all the old gravel out, down to the layer of safe-t-sorb. I didn't get it all clean- siphoned out as much as I could then scooped handfuls, neither method is very precise. Layered on the new gravel- not sure if this is considered a fine gravel or coarse sand- but it's the same stuff I have in my tenner. Added new water so there was enough in there to see how the plants lie and replanted everything. Stuck in root tabs for them. Siphoned out all the water again down to substrate. Put in the water from reserve buckets, topped off with new. Made sure the filter was running again. Returned the fishes. I'd removed more than 50% old water (miscalculated how much I'd need to temporarily house the fishes) so to avoid shocking them let float in plastic bags and mixed in water from the newly filled tank intervals at of ten minutes. The kuhlis crowded into a corner.
Once released they found their old hideout under the flat stone- you can see Snaky Fish so pale, he looked the most stressed.
Here's a before and after. You can see how ugly the algae was getting. I'm expecting now to do some close monitoring and partial water changes for a while to deal with a mini-cycle. But even though the plants are diminished again (cleaned a lot of unhealthy leaves off and I discarded about half the rotala stems- all the ones with stunted leaves) I like the looks of the tank better already. The kuhlis seem to move easier over the ground, it's not big stones compared to them anymore. Feels like starting over again, but I hope this will be an improvement for them.

18 September 2015

small changes

in the tenner today during water change.
I trimmed off some roots on the side of the biggest anubias barteri that was getting all messy-looking. It's gripping very solid on the driftwood, has some thick roots that have gone down conforming to the wood all the way. Read that these hairy side roots aren't really essential to the plant.
The new plants I put in here a while back never did well. Probably not enough light. Funny, the bit of wisteria top that I planted is doing ok, the cropped piece never sprouted any new leaves on the top. I discarded that bit and planted alongside, the one that had been floating.
Cyperus helferi isn't looking so good either. I trimmed a lot of dying material out. Put a few handfuls more of gravel around this one and the wisteria, and gave them each a piece of root tab.
Still have the bit of duckweed, but it hasn't multiplied yet.

17 September 2015

nice plants

The other day I was trying to forget about the plants I've been missing- my poinsettia and ferns- and the ones that look like they might die soon- the creeping charlie and ailing croton- and enjoying the plants that are doing nicely. The ones that hardly get noticed, they put up so little fuss. The ever-dependable pothos:
The spider plants all have more babies now:
My parlor plams, even though they got a bit overwatered last week in my enthusiasm to make up for two weeks' neglect, are doing great:
The miniature geranium got admired by our friends the other day, who said it made them think of bonsai trees and asked where I got it.
I gave them all cuttings.
(I've brought this one inside now to avoid frosts)


I have decided that I like aloe veras best when they are young.
When they get mature they turn into sprawling beasts that I can't keep happy, nor ever find the proper space for. This one is still slumped over from its transplant. I'm just not very good with them when they grow so large.
There is a smaller jade plant here with a funny shape. Because in the past it didn't quite get watered often enough so there was some collapse, and then when it did get more water, the stems grew upwards again but just from the ends.
Now where all the stems change direction, at the lowest point of the curve there are tiny roots sprouting!
How does the plant know? How does it know this is the point where it should hit soil, and be able to root? There aren't any roots sprouting on other parts of the stems. Is it responding to gravity?
I do want to cut them off and root new plants with these parts, but C. is always loathe to see his plants get trimmed. It took a lot of convincing before he finally let me trim his giant schefflera- which has since filled out nicely with more inner growth...