Just a few things to note, not much is changing now, I'm mostly just watching the plants grow. I don't have to take out much dead or algae-grown foliage anymore, every week trim a few of the plants that have got too big. One week it's anubias stems that have hit the ceiling, the next it is watersprite or subwassertang that needs a trim. I found I don't need scissors to trim the subwasser, I just fluff it up to see which areas are taller than the rest, and pull off portions with the tweezers. I do still remove entire stems of watersprite when they start to look brown, pinching off at the base- there is always enough more growing in. If I see a little nubbin forming where a smaller stem meets the main one, I leave a portion of that floating to grow a new plant. Have about a dozen of them floating in one corner now.
Since the blackout, which knocked out a lot of my algae, I have also made two other minor changes- I took off the baffle to increase flow around the tank, and pulled out all the loose bits of driftwood twigs that were in there. Read somewhere that BBA doesn't like harder water. It seems to have worked- BBA is minimal now, definitely stopped spreading. Thread algae is also slowly going away- I see the barbs picking it off plants sometimes- I thought they were flashing against the plants but looked close; instead they were grabbing strands of thread algae and jerking their bodies up to pull them loose.
The other reason I removed the baffle was for the oto- who prefers more flow. The cherry barbs do have to swim with effort against it in one corner, but they could easily stay away from that area if they wanted to! My little oto is doing great in here. The barbs leave him alone now. I was watching him close for the first week or two- he looked a bit thin. But I saw him nibbling (and pooping) constantly, and now his tummy is nice and rounded again.
I've also noticed that since the blackout and removing the baffle, my aponogetons don't show any more algae or decaying leaves. Finally they are as healthy as I once had in my older tank (the 20L).
I need to get a picture of the subwasser basket- the portion I fastened on top of an upended plastic pot. It's growing out nicely and I've used it once now for its purpose- put food under it with tweezers to favor the kuhli loaches. It worked pretty well- the cherry barbs swarmed the spot but most of them couldn't get in there so the kuhlis had a fair shot at the food (until one of the pushed it out into the open). I was a bit worried the two cherry barbs that did get into the space under the basket would be stuck, but they got out again fine.
I also fed my fishes baby red wigglers last week, for the first time. I didn't want to chop up a worm, so I looked for very small ones and they were harder to find in the bin than I had expected. They were mostly on the bottom of the most recent food pile, which is nasty to pick through. So I don't think I will be feeding them worms often, unless I can get over my reluctance to chop one up. I rinsed the baby wigglers in dechlorinated water a few times to remove all dirt, and dropped them in. Wow, those fish went crazy for it! And they all got their fare share, because once a fish got a worm in its mouth, it took them a while to work it down, so they were all hanging around the tank working on their mouthfuls, not darting back to hog second bites. It was funny, they looked like they had fat pink tongues sticking out of their mouths for a bit.
This past friday I woke up to a strange quiet- my filter was still running but the wheel had stopped turning. I can't remember the last time that happened. I took it off and gently rinsed it in a bucket of tank water, and scrubbed off the pegs that fit on the housing with toothbrush and a toothpick. I guess enough scum or hard water deposits built up there it impeded the motion. Set it back on and runs fine again. I had been planning on rinsing out the prefilter sponge this week (last time it was the filter media itself, I alternate them- every other week rinse one or the other)- but since the wheel itself got a rinse I didn't touch anything else, for fear of setting back the bacteria colony too much. I don't know for how long the filter wheel wasn't moving, but it did seem to have an impact- I tested the water: no nitrites, nitrates below 20, but ammonia was .25 so that was a little concerning.
Lots of words this time and few pictures. I've been busy so didn't post for a while. Lots of things have happened, but I never took time these past few weeks to really use the camera. Here's one at an angle, though (kind of pic I don't usually take).