31 December 2016

new year's dinner

I didn't cook very fancy on new year's, but was pleased to try my hand at a new recipe (handmade tortillas) and cooked beans with some fresh herbs from the garden- sage and thyme are still alive out there. (I read somewhere that the purple tint undersides of the thyme leaves is from the colder temperatures).
Peppers also went into the bean pot- these are all from my potted peppers, overwintering indoors. They are not large, but gave plenty of flavor!
It's been several years since I grew my own garlic, but every time I find one sprouting like this I wish I'd buried some in the fall. It wants to grow!

30 December 2016

wintering coleus

I'm really pleased with my coleus cuttings, now growing out in the windowsill. Here's the old standby pink one.
The lime-and-orange has recovered nicely:
'Kiwi Fern' is looking good, too- no more discolored foliage
even the smaller stems of it have healthy-looking leaves.
But the ones that really shine are the two pots of coleus that were bases of outside plants I cut down and root-trimmed in fall to bring inside. They are gorgeous. I've never had such healthy-looking overwintering coleus. Not sure if it's because I kept the original, cutback plant going, or because they are situated next to a heat vent with carboard blocking the draft, and get more sun than those in the windowsill...
but they sure are doing well!

29 December 2016

congressional aquarium

I just visited this place, as a treat to myself. It's the closest LFS-  a 40 minute drive for me just over the boarder in Maryland. I'd heard about it from a girl who came to buy plants from me once. It was definitely worth the visit. Tons of selection in equipment and dry goods, a good dozen tanks of freshwater plants (organized by light intensity requirements) and six aisles of fishes- mostly freshwater.

I saw so many fish there that I've always been intrigued by, but until now never viewed in person. Panda garra, weather loach, florida flagfish, chocolate gourami, keyhole cichlid, ropefish, amazon spotted leaf fish. Some I had never even heard of before- electric blue paradise fish, rainbow wolf fish, dragon eel- that was a cool one! I'd thought before that I like the look of checker barbs, but they really weren't that nice in person. Odessa barbs on the other hand, the mature ones are very striking. Gold barbs a beautiful gleam, and the glowlight tetras so pretty. I saw pygmy cories- the actual corydoras pygmaeus that I'd been looking for before- and they are adorable. I saw celestial pearl danios and the blue-striped emerald dwarf rasbora. I had never seen a tank full of female bettas before. Those fish were certainly nipping and chasing each other more than the angelfishes- three different tanks of those, my favorites, which I will go back for some day. There were lots of huge tanks with the big fishes- goldfish, clown loaches, oscars- usually seen as babies but here fullsize. Some gorgeous display tanks and small planted tanks green living jewels. Lots of pretty bettas but none of the type I liked and when I asked the guy said they rarely get plakats.

I could have stayed much longer but I found fish I wanted to bring home- banded kuhli loaches. I got two and they are acclimating in my thirty-eight right now. I think perhaps they are different species variety than my remaining striped kuhli, Albert. One is more orange in base color and his bands are wider and go all the way around the body- at least it looks like it. I think I've now got pangio oblonga, pangio pangia, pangio seimicincta and pangio kuhli. I'm already calling the bold-striped orange one Tiger.

24 December 2016

happy kuhlis

I managed to feed my kuhli loaches well today, even though I haven't been using the fish trap to target feed them in a while (all their scratches have since healed). This morning I soaked some betta micropellets so they would sink, then loaded them into a syringe. Fed the cherry barbs moth larvae, which they can barely choke down so it takes them out of the competition temporarily. Then- while the kuhlis were actively looking for food and the barbs preoccupied- I used the syringe to deposit the soaked micropellets under the log, in the thicket of crypt and val stems where the kuhlis usually search but the barbs feel crowded out. One barb who'd missed a larva went under there, but I could tell the kuhlis got their fair share.

They were very active, cavorting all over the tank, and I could see by bulges in their bellies that they all got some of the micropellets. They looked very happy and full of spunk. I definitely have to try this method more often- at least once a week- until I run out of frozen lavae and must wait for spring.

23 December 2016


I found four alive in my tank! Managed to get a few pictures.
This one hanging out on the sponge filter, reflected on the wall. There's another shrimp under the filter- can just barely see its rostrum- and I saw a third one on the wall behind the elodea thicket.
They are very hard to spot because the legs, antennae (so long) and most of the body is clear. See this guy on the wood- very difficult to see. They have a strong pale dorsal stripe with symmetrical markings on the tail- which I never noticed before.
And part of the body looks green inside- I'm guessing because they are eating algae! I looked very closely but only could find four. I know two had just molted the day I put them in the tank- maybe those got eaten by the fishes well I'm glad to have four, however long they last.

there is a shrimp in my tank!

One, at least. I found it by accident while cleaning the tank this morning- lightly siphoning over the substrate, swirling it a bit to stir up loose debris and I thought it was a leaf- clear part looked just like a dissolving leaf with a pale patch- that was the stripe on the shrimp's back. I thought my suction was failing, why wasn't it picking up this leaf? then it scuttled away and I saw the shape of the tail and realized: it's a shrimp! Bigger than last time I saw them, almost as big as my smallest barb.

I should have realized, because in spite of all the decaying plant matter from melting leaves, nitrates were at a normal level this week. I had seen thread alage on the fissidens and java fern, was planning to pull it off today but then couldn't locate any strands. And when rinsing out the sponge prefilter I was surprised to find a ton of fine, dark pellet-shaped debris. It looked like nerite snail waste, but somewhat different. I should have known it was shrimp poo! Later I saw the shrimp again, on the driftwood serenely picking at things. I don't know if there are more. But I'm sure glad at least one is still in here. Seems to be doing good work!
In my tenner, a not-so-exciting discovery. Apparently I still have some common duckweed in here. I thought I saw last week, a few pairs of leaves smaller and narrower than the spirodela polyrhiza. This week I methodically picked them all out- definitely looks like the common duckweed. I must have missed a piece or two stuck under the rim, and it finally got dislodged into the tank and started multiplying again!

Some of my buces came loose from their spots glued on the log, I didn't bother reattaching them that way. Fastened with tiny rubber bands onto large pebbles for weight, and arranged them on substrate. Hygro pinnatifida in here melted all at once- the stems are completely bare except for a small sprig of young leaves on terminal end- so it looks rather bald right now. Leaves are dying off more rapidly on the ludwigias, and the wisteria is looking really pathetic, so I gave both those plants a root tab today. Dosed normal amount on the macros, 10ml of micros to see if that helps. Crypt parva is doing better in this tank than in the thirty-eight, and so is the marsilea hirsuta- that plant is gradually decaying in the main, and I have started pulling out the worst-looking clumps. I think because the kuhlis dig too much around them, not getting a chance to put roots down.

Smaller pieces of asian ambulia came loose in the thirty-eight again, too. I trimmed them some and replanted just the tops. The bigger stems actually have roots, but I am still not pleased with their appearance- they continue to look a bit ragged. The main tank got root tabs today, also.

20 December 2016

tank doings

I don't really feel like taking pictures- there's not much different to show . . . . .

Hygro pinnatifida is starting to melt in both tanks- no sign of new leaves growing so I have no idea how it's going to do. Ambulia is falling apart at the base. A few new roots growing on the bottom of the stems, but they come loose. The very tops are greener, I'm thinking I should cut those and plant up to the green healthy-looking growth, to give them a chance.

Not sure about what I did with flame moss. Kuhlis like to wind over and under the strips when they're excitedly following food smells, and I worry they will scratch themselves on the edges that stick out off the grid.

In the thirty-eight there's a symptom I haven't seen since my old 20L was first planted- roots reaching up out of the substrate. It's occurring at the base of my crypt balansae. I'm going to give that one root tabs this week.

My green unnamed crypts and the crypt wendtii are producing baby plants! And both crypt petchii have doubled their number of leaves- they come up red and then become laterally striped, very interesting.

I think I erred in putting some Mg in this tank- or did just a bit too much of it. Top foliage on some of the bacopa caroliniana is looking a bit warped now.

I have been looking closer at the plants in the tenner, and at some charts that show symptoms of nutrient deficiencies in freshwater plants. My java ferns and windelovs have brown spots on their leaves, it looks like it might be a zinc, iron or phosphate deficiency? so perhaps I cut back too severely on the micros, or need to look more carefully at how much KH2P04 I'm dosing. . . . it's an ongoing puzzle.

But there is definitely no lack of calcium- I finally found the water report for our county's water source and read through the charts. Plenty of Ca and Mg. What surprised me was to see that the pH varied widely during the different months that tested was done- from 7.6 to 8.5 ! Not sure what to make of that.

plants died and given away

The tiny 'kiwi' coleus plants on bits of root died. Two cuttings of it still in jar of water were growing new white roots, so I planted those in the now-empty pot.

One of my potted bell pepper plants made a grand blocky pepper, the biggest one I've ever grown and it had nice flavor too. And then the plant went into shock for some reason, looked like it was ready to die. Suddenly wilted. I let it dry out, no good. I watered it a bit more like the others- it never perked up. Droopy for weeks. The other three peppers look decent for their indoor stay, so I decided this one is a goner and cut it down for compost.

I am making a gift of my zygo cactus. It is busting out new flowers every few days now, waxy and frothy looking. But I'm just not fond of white flowers, even though these have a pale pink tint when they start to fade. Rather find me one that blooms pink or red. . . . . .

17 December 2016

shrimps and buces

Yesterday I took apart my vase of buces. They look pretty good- very little noticeable algae. I removed older leaves that were yellowing and still had algae, and a few newer leaves that looked weak and had been shredded by the shrimps- I think lacking enough nutrients. They all have at least four leaves left, and nearly every single one has a new pinkish leaf uncurling.
I put the larger ones on/near the substrate, and stuck the smaller ones onto the driftwood in Sam's tank. Becoming a fan of superglue- it sticks immediately when wet and if I do it carefully, can't even see it. But got some blobs and it shows white- maybe I can scrape that off later when the buces have taken hold.
I acclimated the shrimps and moved them into the 38 gallon. They looked okay during the adjustment process- and then all promptly hid in the plants, one was flipping about. I can't see any of them this morning. I don't have any fish in here would eat a shrimp- maybe the cherry barbs would take a curious nip? I peer among the plants for shrimp but every time my eye catches a bit of motion, it's a kuhli loach...

coleus windowsill

So far the coleus cuttings I potted are doing okay. I've had to put cardboard between them and the window glass at night, to block chill.

16 December 2016


I don't know what's wrong with this spider plant that is always falling over. I am getting tired of looking at it. Its offspring upstairs on top of my bookcase has nice form, but I don't know if this one will ever recover. I have already once repotted it trying to reposition the plant- have also relocated it, and cut back on watering. I think maybe it is time to let this one go. Since moving it to the mantlepiece, some leaves in center have started standing upright, but it looks funny like the plant has two antennae.
Its offspring upstairs has several babies of its own dangling on their runners, I have cut and given some to my daughter, and this one is sporting some babies too. I decided to pin them down in small pots (seen in front here) and when they root, make a decision to keep this mother plant or not.

It just looks so sad all the time.

15 December 2016

pygmy cories

For a long time I have wanted to try keeping pygmy cory catfish in my ten-gallon tank. I've heard they can be okay with a betta because they are drab in color and stay at the substrate level, under plants, rather inconspicuous. I read up about the three pygmy catfishes. Corydoras pygmaeus is a little more streamlined in shape with a nicely defined midline and white stripe above it- this is the one I wanted but I think I actually got corydoras hasbrosus.

I had asked about it several times at the pet store and they put my name down on a list just in case they found them available when ordering. Said they don't see them often and it might take months before any came in. So I was happily surprised when yesterday I got a call. I went straight over and picked them up. Five tiny armored fishes, only half an inch in length.
This was the only decent picture I got of them. They are so tiny, and so cute. I love the way their little eyes gleam a gold ring like buttons. And they settled in nicely- exploring around- nobody looking pale or distressed. But Samblu took umbrage to their presence. Or he thought they were for hunting practice. He shadowed them. He sat in corners waiting while one little cory zipped up to the surface and wiggled around near him, then he would swing his head sideways with a slow, menacing motion to regard the cory, and bite. The cories darted away, Samblu turned to flare his beard aggressivly at an innocent nerite nearby, then abruptly cruised off and started poking in and out of the crevices among plants down below, searching for the cories.

Even though none of them actually got hurt, I've seen this before when I tried to keep platties. I wasn't going to wait until cories started dying or got their fins ripped off. I threw together my old plastic bin QT with few gallons of tank water and a few of new in it, an airstone for circulation, the emergency heater and some temporary hardscape out of Sam's tank with plants on it. Plus most of the duckweed floaters. Only have one spare air pump so I put a splitter on the airline that goes into the shrimp bowl and put the pygmy cories in there overnight.

I guess I'm getting better at setting up emergency tanks. Or the little cories are tough. One was pale after being caught (with a clear plastic cup) but in the morning they all looked fine, and ate some crumbs of shrimp pellet (dust from the bottom of the fish food can, that's how tiny they are). I took them back to the store. My kids said they'd rather I return Sam and try a different betta fish, but I know that would be just as likely to fail.

Samblu has relaxed again now the pygmies are gone, and he ignores the snails again.


Another little thrill in the aquarium. Last friday, I added Mg to both tanks. Came back into the room about half an hour later, and for a moment I was horrified, thought my subwassertang had some disease because I saw yellow spots all over it.
The plants were pearling. I saw yellow dots because the bubbles showed through semi-translucent leaves.
I don't think it was just from the water getting supercharged with oxygen during water change ('false pearling') because I haven't seen this occur in my tank since last July, and that time it was right after I added Mg too.
and it didn't go away immediately. It lasted all day and I still saw some pearling on java fern
and windelov leaves the next two days. It's like the plants are wearing little jewels.
So I think it had to do with the addition of Mg? is it possible that had an immediate positive affect? However I also see that my anubias, which have always had tips hooking down a bit, now that symptom looks severe. I think I do need to add Ca.

Which is starting to feel a little frustrating. I have pretty hard water- I shouldn't have to add more Ca and Mg- but I think what's happening is the substrate is stripping it out of the water. So maybe that was a poor choice to use safe-t-sorb. Come to the point where I think I don't want to be adding fertilizers to the water every week, even though it is a minimal amount I do compared to some people. I'd rather have the substrate feeding the plants and fish waste adding what little that lacks- a Walstad type setup or a dirted tank... and since from what little I've read those type of aquariums go further between water changes, maybe I could do bi-weekly maintenance- which would make it easier to have a larger aquarium or two- because I am still dreaming of angelfish someday but realizing even this aquarium is too small for them to be happy- seeing how my bettas have been so much more comfortable in a tenner than a 1 gal bowl or 3 gal tank...

Always planning more for the future.

bad crypt walkeri

So- I received a cultured pot of crypt walkeri. Which I think had gone bad. When I opened it there was a very foul smell. It was literally nauseating. I had to quickly rinse the gel off or I would have been sick to my stomach. Rising away most of the gel eased up the odor, and the plants themselves don't look too bad- just a bit of yellowing on some leaves, no mold or mushy black decay like I've seen before on other packaged plants...
I rinsed the plants again and put them in a clear plastic cup on top of the aquarium, where they'd stay a bit warm. Didn't want to risk planting yet if there actually was rot of some kind that might spread.

Every day I have been dumping out the water and replacing with new tank water. Odor has reduced but still off-putting if I smell it close. Yesterday I had some more time, sat down and carefully separated out the clumped-up rhizomes into individual plantlets. Found some lumps of gel still in there- and as soon as I rinsed that away, the offensive smell is gone. There is still no significant decay and some of the plants are putting out new little white roots, so I think they might be okay.

14 December 2016

winter chard

First really hard freeze last night- glad that just the day before I cut all my swiss chard. It was just enough to make a quiche. Broccoli is killed by the cold now. Up until yesterday I was still occasionally cutting fresh thyme and oregano from the garden, too, but I think that will all go dormant now.


Well this plant is happy. I haven't used all the dried leaves in the jar, but ready to cut it back again for more (it's trying to flower).

13 December 2016

BBA cure for my buces

It seems to be working! I took several sets of pictures, but didn't have time to write up the post so this will be a bit long.
My first move when taking them out of the aquarium was to soak the algae-afflicted buces in a pure hydrogen peroxide bath. It did fizz some. Rinsed three or four times in tapwater, then again in tank water.
I've been holding the buces since then in a large vase with some substrate (just to raise the level up so they are sitting in the widest part of the jar) and a small sponge filter for circulation. Some hornwort cuttings to help use up nitrates. No heat. Keeping it in a spot that gets ambient room light only- trying to starve out the algae. I have done a water change on the vase once, replacing the removed water with half new water/half tank water from the tenner at the end of the week. Did a top-off on another day, with just new water.
This was the state of the buces when I first put them in. Water was a bit cloudy so hard to see well-
but with this backlit shot you can see how much fuzz is on the leaves. Ugh.
Next day I was looking for help online and received several suggestions to use excel (liquid carbon). Went to the pet store, they don't have it. But they do have shrimp. And I recalled reading that amano shrimp are one of the few creatures that will consume black beard algae (if there is nothing better to eat). I bought two shrimp, brought them home and acclimated them, put them in the jar. The water is kind of cold (but not so cold they will die) so they move slowly and are not as busy but I have seen them picking stuff off the substrate, the filter sponge and the plants.

At night I wrap the jar in a wool scarf just like I used to do for my betta bowls, to hold in some ambient warmth (we turn the thermostat down at night).
The next day I swear the buces look a bit cleaner. There is some healthy gleam on the leaves of my oldest, the 'dark godzilla', that I have missed for a while. (I am quickly realizing how charming it is to have a little glass bowl or vase with something alive growing in water, but also how tricky it is to get pictures without the curve of the glass causing distortions).
These pictures are two days apart- if you look close can see there's definitely less algae.
Here is the fourth day- I was so pleased with the progress I went and got four more shrimp.
Never thought I would keep shrimp. When this task is done I will put them in the thirty-eight (and see how long they survive). There are two visible in the above picture.
A few silhouette shots to show how the leaf margins are cleaner- if you look closely can see little black spots on the edges where the tufts of BBA are almost gone. Yesterday I pulled them from the tank and cut off some leaves that were turning yellow- the plant was discarding its worst foliage. Rubbed other leaves w/fingers and I was able to remove more algae that way.
I do think I might be able to put these plants in the betta tank on friday. Nearly all of them have a new leaf growing, too.

potting up

It seemed a little early to pot up my coleus cuttings, but some of the stems were getting moldy in their jars. Nice white roots though.
So I went ahead and put them all in dirt.
Standby pink coleus- wish I knew its name.
This is the lime-and-orange one.
'Kiwi' coleus. I've trimmed off all the older growth from the summer outside- new leaves don't have that sickly-looking white film on them.
I cut all these in half, so I could try potting up the bases
where tiny foliage had grown out under water. (There were roots grown from nodes above these baby leaves, base of the bigger cuttings.)
Tiny ones in the pot.
Also potted up my other stems of sweet potato vine.
It's dwarfed by the other pot of sweet po' vine with the notched leaves.
Last of all, I separated the pot of kalanchoe. The biggest one is by itself now.
Babies are in two pots.
You can see the size difference when they are side by side. I don't know what I will do with so many kalanchoe- not enough sun space for them all to grow up, but it's fun to keep them going for now.

Soon I will have to do something with my aloe vera, too. One is getting too large for its pot and starting to fall sideways; at the same time it has produced a pup. Like before, I will save the offspring and sell the parent...