30 April 2017

plants, plants

The season is progressing faster and faster it seems.
I've moved up my celosia into individual pots, let them grow a bit bigger before they go in the ground (their mailbox spot is frequently investigated by dogs I don't want them getting trampled on).
Today is cloudy and tomorrow high chance for rain, perfect day to set out some plants. These are ready to go- basil and peppers
green bunching onions
Marigolds (I always like them when they are small, with neat and tidy foliage).
A few days ago I transplanted my summer savory into a box on the deck railing- the tallest ones had flopped over in their tray.
Two smaller ones have stayed straight.

29 April 2017


I've just been featured on Bettafish.org, my guest post is here. Samblu is a star!


The parasite treatment (at least this first round) is done, so after the 50% wc I moved my shrimps back into the main tank. (It may get a dose of levamisole next week, but that's ok for shrimps at using half or less). It was easy to catch them. They were all hiding between the leaves of that one fake plant, still. Must have come out at night to feed because the food did disappear (more than what just two snails would have eaten) and there was tiny shrimp poo to siphon out...
Noticed when I lifted them out in a plastic bag to acclimate back to the main tank, one of them its tail and part of the rostrum were blue. From cooler temperature? or because it had just molted (there was a shed skin in the tank)?
All lined up waiting for release. I made sure to feed the fishes on opposite end of the tank while I released the shrimps out near their favorite hideout under the driftwood, so they wouldn't get pestered (not that I've seen any fish bother them, but I wouldn't put it past these serpae tetras).

not up to par

I'm starting to feel a little frustrated with my betta tank. It still has this continual accumulation of mulm- looks like snail poo all over the place, coating the leaves. I have tried feeding the fish less, increasing the airflow on the filter, vacuuming over the substrate more diligently. Started pulling out the biggest trumpet snails. Maybe I should remove the last horned nerite in here, if it is creating that much waste. Even replaced the driftwood log a while back, because I thought the old one had deteriorated and was breaking down. There are still tons of limpets, too.
Yesterday I tried making a smaller gravel vac. The one I have is too large- it doesn't get into corners very well maybe that's the problem, I haven't been able to do a very thorough cleaning. I have a plastic syringe use to measure out Prime and liquid ferts- the numbers are wearing off (though I marked the measurements use the most scratch with a knife) and the rubber piece sticks so it was getting difficult to do drops evenly. I got a new syringe for that and took this one apart- put a piece of airline on and now it's a tiny gravel vac. It works- I got clouds and clouds of mulm out of the tank this time- but very very slow. I guess that's a plus right now, it allows me to adequately clean the whole tank before I'd sometimes just use the hose w/out any fittings, to get into corners, but that sucked up the water too fast and before I had done all the areas, enough water was out for the wc. So I really need something in between these two sizes!
Regarding the plants- marsilea hirsuta definitely not going to make it in here.
Java fern mass is about a third new leaves now- and they look so much nicer than the old ones. Bacopa (behind it on the right) looks crappy. Maybe it is time for a root tab dose in here. Or maybe it is time to take that plant out...
Windelov fern is also growing out lots of new leaves that look better. Anubias no longer has the paler foliage with dark veins, so that's good. Subwassertang is clinging by itself on wood now- on this corner piece it's even holding on to the top side of that little peak.
And here behind the crypt. Which is kind of funny, because in my other tanks I never got it to hold onto anything, only works on the baskets.
Best of all in this tank is still the bucephalandra- on the log the two bunches of 'isabella' are like dull flowers.
The tiny creeping ones are slowly increasing in mass.
This one on the substrate has a bright new leaf.
I took a cutting off of the 'selena' again, it had a root above some lower leaves so I was able to plant that. I like how this bunch of them is starting to look in the front of the tank. Unfortunately the different types are getting mixed up and I'm not sure if I remember which is what anymore.


More and more I like my serpae tetras. Because of their color and vigor, I enjoy watching them more than I do the cherry barbs. I can tell already that when the cherry barbs are gone and it's just tetras and kuhlis, how much easier feeding will be. Right now, I drop a bit of sinking food in to alert them all with the smell, target the kuhlis and distract the cherry barbs. Then as the serpaes come out cautiously looking for the food I drop in food that's crushed up- if it's shrimp pellets or algae wafers. They dash around for it, but once the bites land on substrate they quit looking, just kind of drift around as if wondering where it went. So it looks like when I just have two main species of fish in here, I won't have to do that target-feeding as much. Just drop in crushed wafers or pellets: whatever the serpaes miss they will probably leave, and the kuhlis will easily get their share. The cherry barbs are just too much of bottom feeders themselves.

learning from mistake

I had a big problem with my main canister filter this past week- most of it is detailed on the forum where I asked for some help. Long story short the canister body cracked near base where I screwed input fitting too tight. Saved from a flood by the fact that I had it sitting in a tupperware bin to catch such an incident, and the leak was slow. I shuffled filters- put the HOB biowheel from the swordtails' 20g tank on the main, went out and bought a new internal filter for the 20g (because I couldn't find a sponge filter at store, and my spare was running on the shrimp container), and put what media from the canister wouldn't fit in those filters, into buckets with airstones running, to try and keep most of the bacteria colony alive while I wait for replacement parts.

I learned a few things from this. Overflow bin a very good idea! Hand-tight doesn't mean what I thought it did. I'm pretty good now at managing emergency setups in a pinch: have been testing the waters daily and none of my tanks show any ammonia or nitrites even though their filters got changed out and the temporary replacements have less capacity. Tested the little shrimp bin too- they were fine as well. While all this is going on, I am still treating those two tanks for parasites with API General Cure.

Also learned: having extra equipment around is a very good thing, even though I get irritated at clutter and try to sell/give away things I don't use anymore. I find after a few days I actually like this internal filter on the 20g better than the HOB so I'm thinking of putting the biowheel back in a box and just keeping it for a backup to use on the main in case of emergency again.

Also learned: I am definitely at my max number of tanks. Having five things running in my living room (plus the betta tank upstairs) felt like too much for me. My main tank, the 20g with swordtails, the temporary bin for shrimps, and two buckets of filter media with airlines to house the bacteria while I resolve filter issue. It was enough to handle already having the shrimp bin running- because it is a constant thing on my mind, checking on them several times per day, testing the water to make sure no cycle happening, siphoning out a bit of waste and replacing with some new water, monitoring the food to make sure I'm not putting too much that's not eaten (the shrimps are not very active due to the cooler temp) etc. With the two buckets that's another thing- I glance in there every time I walk by to make sure the airlines haven't clogged, and the hum of two air pumps running in this room is aggravating, and I can't imagine how people do it, keeping multiple multiple tanks. It is too much for me to think about and care for. Definitely three is my max. Throw in a hospital or QT tank running for some reason and I'm at the limit.

27 April 2017

garden volunteers

We ate our first homegrown salad yesterday- arugula, cesar and simpson lettuce out of the garden with a little shredded carrot, raisins and sesame seed sprinkled in. Taste of spring. The lettuce I direct-sowed is coming up now.
So are tons of volunteer seedlings- probably from the compost. It looks mostly like tomatoes- I would grow some out but not sure of what I'd get, and I don't have space to experiment like that! But it's definitely an assurance that I can save my own tomato seed when I want (unless I'd get hybrids from the plants crossing? must look that up).
Also seem to be quite a few cosmos volunteers. These I'm going to let grow a bit and then move them. See if I get flowers.

26 April 2017

sedum shield

My husband really doesn't like having a tree stump in our front yard, he thinks it's an eyesore. But I refuse to grind out a harmless stump and all its roots- which would leave a huge torn-up bare patch in our yard that would need new sod and I don't want the cost of all that. Plus the kids like to jump on the stump, I swear they can't resist it, every time they go outside, they jump on it like goats. So if they're jumping on the stump they're not trying to have vaulting competitions over my nascent flower bed... Well to appease husb I planted these sedums around the stump last spring and all year he kept asking me when will they grow tall enough to hide it?
Finally they have. Picture was taken last week- now from street view you can't even see that it's a stump in the middle- instead it looks like some funny little shrub.
It looks like it's wearing a green beard, viewed from above.
I am really pleased with this plant. But wondering if my flowering purslane will come back this year- it's where the gap is in that green ring of sedums.


The japanese yellow sage, or salvia, I spread around the yard in fall is doing great. Here's the mother plant- already grown large.
Younger plants I put out circling a tree in the front yard are going to look nice when filled in.
Here's a few closer pictures of them. To my surprise, one of the cuttings I had planted hastily at end of fall came back after all.

the best flowers

in my yard right now are in the back and not noticed- pink columbines. I have three smaller plants of it nearby, one is starting to bloom for the first time and it's purple. Thinking next year I will move a few of these to the front mailbox spot- they always die back from the heat in summer, but at that point the celosia I plant in that spot will be taller, taking over. I think it would be a nice succession of color.
Closeup of the flowers that stayed short is something else.
Next will be my clematis! lots of fat buds
It's grown quite a bit this year.


I got a thermometer for my coldframe house. To be sure it is warmer in there! Today I went out to open the coldhouse door when the temperature was 67° and inside the coldhouse it was 94°. So I think it is well doing its job!

My tithonia seedlings sprouted today.

25 April 2017

good and bad

Well today good news is that all my livestock is doing fine. Shrimps are okay in their little setup- they are not moving around much or eating- however I know they alive as I see their feelers waving around. Two trumpet snails I dropped in there moved in on the food quicker than the shrimps. I offer two large flakes (saw a shrimp eating those) and a bit of minced blanched lettuce yesterday. This morning a small broken piece of algae wafer- one too small to offer the fishes as someone would likely try to hog it and choke himself. I tested their water this morning to make sure the little bin had not gone into a cycle- ammonia zero, nitrites zero so all good. I guess they are just distressed at the change or slowed down by the cold- no heater on it and room temp dropped to 65° last night.
This morning I siphoned out a bit of waste and added a gallon fresh water- adding more than I removed so now the bin has at least 4 gallons in it (could hold five if I fill it all the way). The shrimps like to hide between the leaves of this fake plant-
there are four in this pic

Lots of activity in my 38 this morning. I soaked dried bloodworms in garlic juice for the fishes and a third of an algae wafer for the kuhlis. Dropped the wafer piece into the thicket and then fed the others at surface- lots of cherry barbs tried to get into the thicket which gave more chance for my serpaes to get some bloodworms- they still hang back a bit at feeding time. But then they got super excited over the food I guess- dashing around displaying to each other and a few flirtatious in the corner looked like spawning activity again. The dominance displays were really something to see- if that's what it was- two fish darting at each other circling while angling their bodies steeply towards each other and buffeting tight waves with their tails and spread fins. All this while spiraling upwards in tight circling motion- very vigorous. Then they spring apart, chase across the tank, dash back to this corner and spar again.

The cherry barbs are chasing around and spawning too- it's funny to see the smallest male Little Bit just as energetic in sparring and courting females. I guess he must be a runt with stunted growth, had him several years now and he never did grow full size.

Bad news is that my canister filter has a leak. I am very glad that I got that tupperware bin to sit the canister in. Sat down in front of the tank today to watch the serpaes' display and thought the filter murmur sounded a bit different, so I opened the door of the cabinet to look. Good thing I did. It was sitting in two or three inches of water. I shut it down to feel all the hoses and fittings, leak seems to be coming from the bottom fitting where the intake pipe goes into the body of the filter. I have been going over possible issues on the forum- what could have caused the leak and how I can temporarily stop it and if I can get a replacement part or make a permanent fix- but no way to know for sure until I dismantle/empty the entire filter to inspect. Meanwhile the leak is fairly slow- in a few hours it has not even filled the bin halfway again, so I am just keeping an eye on it and periodically sponging out the water.

Fish sure are happy- at least once now I have added half a gallon fresh water back into the tank to replaced what leaked out, and probably will have to do that several times before done here. The one serpae tetra had a bump on its lip that seems to be gone. I have noticed since getting the newer ones that the older trio have slightly bulging eyes and the one with a bit of cloudy eye they protrude so much I'd say that fish has popeye. I have checked water parameters again thinking since the snail died  maybe an ammonia spike? but there is no detectable ammonia or nitrites. So the fish had this condition before I got it, not sure what caused it or if it is reversible at this point, but waiting to try a cure until I'm done with the round of parasite treatment.

24 April 2017

temporary shrimp move

Turns out my fifth shrimp didn't die after all (I looked up the lifespan- they can live five years or more!) so what I found must have been a shed exoskeleton, one of the largest and most complete I'd ever seen thus my mistake. I started dosing the tanks for internal parasites today. Striped kuhli Sassy is looking thin- the head definitely bigger than the narrow body, where all the others have nice girth. Conflicting info online about whether General Cure would harm shrimp so better safe than sorry I pulled them out. Set up one of my little plastic tubs with a few gallons of tank water, small sponge filter, bit of fake decor for them to hide/climb on, and a handful of gravel for the good bacteria.

It was not easy to catch them. I'd seen in someone's video how they catch shrimp by simply placing the end of a wooden skewer in front of the shrimp which would climb onto it and then he just lifts them out. Mine would not do that. Every time I approached them with the tip of a skewer they move away. Then I tried sinking small clear plastic cup to lie on the bottom, and gently chase the shrimp into it. They are very quick and skittish though. Easiest way turned out to be just guiding them into open areas in the front of tank, and then catching from behind with the cup. And I found all five.

Fishes proved they have very good memories. To my kuhli loaches it must have looked like I was placing a food trap- they swarmed all over the plastic cup when it was on the bottom, going in and out inspecting all the corners, it was actually pretty funny.

I decided to dose the window tank as well. Last time did a cleaning siphoned out a lot of pale/white poo. It could just be from what they eat- I've noticed the swordtails pick a lot at the white scum that grows on the rubber base of the heater. But also could be internal parasites, so not taking the chance.

the final start

of seeds for my garden. I planted into trays, pots and toilet paper tubes zucchini, cucumber, bush green beans, butternut squash, icebox watermelon, parsley, chives, echinacea and tithonia. Also on a whim some seed I collected from my mother's place years ago, off of a cedar shrub and a cypress. No idea if they are viable or would sprout but I'd like to see.

23 April 2017

yay for borage

Either it is a continuing coincidence, or this plant really is doing a job keeping the squirrels away. Since planting the rest of them out, I have only had one or two squirrel holes spaced days apart. Far less than any other year and much more tolerable.
Grown out second-year plant quickly flowering and going to seed.
Seen from above, looking down off the upper deck.
Have to get low to see the flowers well.
More buds forming- wow the prickles.


We've had several days of thunderstorms and rain, it's a bit cooler. The peppers, large coleus, sweet potatoes, geranium and stevia all came back inside to sit in the window sun spot again.
Most of my young plants stay tucked up in the coldframe, I set them out and crack the door again when the sun breaks out.
Top is indistinct. Second shelf has nasturtiums, bottom sweet potato and some pink coleus.
Green onions on the left, basil on the right.
Young peppers! Basil behind.
Sweet potato vine, coleus behind.

So far the coldframe is working out better than last year- I seem to have fewer drafts, less mildew from moisture getting in too. Still need to get a thermometer to hang in there.

22 April 2017


Well, that was quick. QT idea for serpae tetra did not last. Soon as there were three in the window tank, Witchy Fish was cowering on the substrate again. I saw one of the tetras persistently chasing Fabio, nipping at his trailing fins. He seemed rather desperate to get away.

I watched that for ten minutes, then moved them out. After the disruption was over, the two swordtails drift calmly around their tank again. The six serpae tetra look splendid in the main tank together. I had a small concern that the new ones would teach the old ones nippy behavior, but they are all busy flashing their fins at each other. Striking at food at the surface now, too. I fed a bunch of small moths to the cherry barbs, wondered if a serpae could eat the moth, their mouths look smaller. One of them gave it a good try, lost its grip, and a barb nabbed the insect from him.
Now that tetras are out of the window tank, have lowered the temp for the swordtails. It's at 72 now, and they look if anything a bit more active.
I added a small clump of subwassertang on a stone, and the baby java fern off leaf in the main.

Main tank got a bit of trim today- bacopa stems cut and replanted, also some of the hygro (which I think now is a ludwigia hybrid?). I don't know what this green crypt is doing, some leaves stay bright green, others are getting longer and dark like the Becketti petchii! On the same plant. There's a bit more BBA tufts showing up in here, always on older leaves. Not sure if that is from some imbalance while I was gone and fishes unfed, or from adding six more fish in the past weeks, or because had a few small deaths.
Horned nerite snail died, and so did one of my Amano shrimp. Probably it was old. I found the carcass. One serape has an odd bump on its lip- looks like a cyst. Don't know what it is.