31 August 2017

cleanup discoveries

I finally did some work in the garden. Cut back a huge amount of sage-
it was smothering everything else in the herb patch. Found under there my row of green onions is looking great! Time to eat something.
I took out a lot of borage. The older stems were turning black and collapsing, all the flowers I hadn't collecting for seed becoming brown mush. I am not surprised, there are now -for the first time all year- squirrel or chipmunk holes in my garden again- big ones, as if the buggers are making up for lost opportunities! Never fear, the borage seeded itself and young plants are coming up again already.
Pest population was different this year- I definitely had more of a problem with leaf hoppers and aphids than whitefly and japanese beetles. My marigolds look much healthier this time around:
Another real bright spot is cosmos- but you can see there are caterpillars hiding somewhere. These flowers sprinkled with frass. I couldn't find the larva. Have been picking more lately- good treats for the fishes.
Tithonia has become a bold wall of color. It attracts lots of little skippers, and I've seen black swallowtail and bright monarch butterflies. I really wish to see the hummingbird again, but no such luck. Only one sighting so far and now I think they've moved on.
Found a volunteer cantaloupe growing in my daughter's patch! It's bigger since I took this photo, and has the tan webbing starting to form. Hope to eat it soon. I never did get any zucchini or butternut squash, but then I have rather neglected the garden this year.

30 August 2017


I was wrong when I said that jack-o-lantern fungus wasn't as big as last year. It swelled to twice the size- before collapsing into a lump of brown mush. Almost disappeared now.
My youngest found this curious cluster of tiny brown fluff sprouting out of a planking in our deck (bad sign).
It was like teensy feather dusters
When I brushed the tops with my finger, fine powder escaped into the air- must be spores I guess.
Looks like lifted on tiny wiry stems.
It probably means my decking is rotting and needs some parts replaced, ugh.

29 August 2017

seed harvest

Gathered some seeds from the garden last week. Lots of sweet peas in dry pods-
although I bet the patch will re-seed itself I want to try planting it next year in a different spot against a wall, but I need to build a trellis.
Not sure if I will get anything to grow from these swiss chard seeds. The stems were laying on the ground tangled under other plants and looked like getting moldy in the rain. I pulled them- but a lot were still green and others very small. I only saved the largest, dry seed clusters.
Had almost forgotten I was trying to get lettuce seed, too. These are heads from the little ceasar (or is it romaine?) They hadn't all gone into white fluff yet but were getting yucky looking in the rain so I cut and brought inside to see how much will dry out. Bolted simpson lettuce is still out there.

kalanchoe babies

something new on my kalanchoe plant- never thought it would do this. I had left the baby plants on the leaf margins longer than usual, it has a thick ruffled appearance. When I finally went to brush them off into compost, saw that some of the baby plants had more baby plants growing on top of them!
A double layer. You can see the little root hairs in the second row of plantlets
It's so crazy

27 August 2017

yah, it's a cycle

in both the QT tanks; that wasn't just an ammonia spike the other day. I thought with the media, plants and handfuls of substrate transfered, and since I had nitrate readings, they had an 'instant cycle.' Nope. This morning I was happy to have a clear zero ammonia reading on both tanks, but then tested for nitrite- both high right now. Water changes in progress. I should not have been so impatient to get the fishes. They show no signs of distress, I just hope the cycle is over quickly and they will not suffer too much harm.

There was something of a scrum in my main tank this morning. I fed small caterpillars to the serpae tetras in hopes of keeping them busy while I dropped in sinking wafers for the kuhlis on the other end of the tank. It did not keep them busy long enough. The tetras were dashing around grabbing at wafers and every now and then someone would manage to carry one off a little ways before dropping it- in the process breaking them apart a little so I hope the kuhlis did get their share. Meanwhile the two largest amano shrimp each grabbed a wafer for itself, which still makes me laugh. A smaller amano tried to carry one away too, but it wasn't big enough to drag it far before a serpae nipped at it and the shrimp dropped its prize and scurried off, but not far before it came back- man those shrimp are bold!

There has been more scuffling lately among the fish. Truck and Lino both have torn fins, and Spark has a nip out of the dorsal, too. Diamond remains top of the pack. Of the three in QT, (which I have named, but not yet got individual pictures) 'Nito and Wedge appear to be dominant- Smudge has a bit of torn fins now. I hope when I get these three into the main tank the numbers in the school will be high enough the aggression will level out.

26 August 2017

speedy sweet potato vine

Looks like both my QT tanks are going thru a mini-cycle now. Or small ammonia spike from something.... I am doing partial wc as needed. Found out it's difficult to siphon the bottom when there's leaf litter and (in the paradise fish's QT) free-floating subwassertang. My method now is to do most of the wc with siphon hose, then use a turkey baster to gently get mulm out from under the leaves and among the subwasser. The paradise fish's QT has quite a few dying fronds on the bolbitis- going through transition. Black algae coating some upper leaves, hair algae. Also two new fiddleheads coming up from the rhizome, so not too worried. I cut out the necrotic fronds- he has less cover now, but maybe the dying plant parts were causing the ammonia.
Got the corner filter quieter on the ten-gallon QT. It had some air bubbles stuck inside among the sponge layers. I carefully removed the lid while it was still in the tank (unplugged) and using a wooden skewer gently worked around the edges of the sponges to release the bubbles. Now it runs a lot quieter. You can see how crazy quick the roots of sweet potato vine grow- I put these cuttings in the QT for the serpaes just four days ago:
Incidentally, I no longer believe what is said that bare-bottom tanks make fish nervous. My serpaes that were acting nervous in QT before? probably because they were unwell. These serpae tetras act just like those in my main tank- come up to the front in hopes of getting fed, spar among themselves, I have even seen spawning behavior. My cherry barbs played in QT. Behavior really can be telling. I think the ones that come in from chain pet stores exposed to myriad disease and probably traumatized from being handled roughly or bad water conditions- they cower, hide, act nervous and shy. This paradise fish from the good lfs, these serpaes from the home of another aquarist- they act totally confident and look vividly healthy (knock on wood).

I have added sweet potato vine to the paradise fish's QT bin as well. I moved it last night. I had the two quarantine tanks sitting on one piece of furniture- this low cabinet that seemed sturdy enough- I asked my husband dubiously if he thought it would be okay and he shrugged: sure. But yesterday I thought I saw the tanks had a slight tilt to them, towards the center of the cabinet. I got out the level and my eyes were not playing tricks on me- they were both leaning into to center. I realize the ten-gallon weighs over 110 pounds when full, and the bin QT holds 8 gallons, that's another 66 pounds. I don't want this piece of furniture to collapse on me! So I moved the bin QT off, onto a bar stool. I looked up its specs: supports max weight of 220 pounds. It will be okay.
It was the easiest fish move I have ever done. I scooped out water into a clean five-gallon bucket and put the largest plants in there. It was down to about three inches- enough to just cover airlift tube of the sponge filter. I simply lifted the bin over to the stool, fish still in there. He swam around a bit probably wondering what was happening, but didn't hide or freak out. I slowly replaced his water and the bolbitis, and he looks fine. Gobbled his peas this morning! I'm calling him Perry.
When he's done with QT I'll move his sweet potato vine onto the window tank. There's a few open spots now. Sweet potato vine does so much better growing roots submerged than pothos. I removed some of the pothos stems which are just not thriving, the lower end of stem looking like it will rot. Three left which have nice roots, but theirs are brown where the sweet potato vine a more healthy-looking white.
They have grown so much in here, I had to trim a bunch of roots out on maintenance day. Some had reached all the way down to the substrate and were starting to loop around. This is after the trim:

sam end

I put Sam to sleep the day before yesterday. His condition deteriorated rapidly in just twenty-four hours: open sore on his side larger, gray necrotic-looking tissue. Under the fin it was reddish. He quit eating, was having trouble swimming, struggled to breathe. Hid under the leaves most of the time. It really looked like he was suffering and I have never seen photos of a fish this bad with story of it recovering....

I took a few last pictures because I have a bad feeling maybe this was the fish version of TB- which basically means you have to tear down the tank. Throw out the plants and substrate, sterilize the empty aquarium and equipment and start over... I noticed once he was in the container that he had become emaciated again. Not sure if the sores were ulcers or cysts. The rest of my photos are on the fish forum where I asked for help- they are awful.
I really hope (a horrible thing to hope) that what he had was a tumor and not something contagious I might have spread to my other livestock. Very unhappy day. I get just as sentimental over some of my fish as I do for my cat- especially ones that are so responsive to my presence like Sam was. I cried as I was dosing the clove oil, and again today. My six-year-old looked in his tank -brightly lit, plants green- and said "where's Sam? did you clean his tank?"
she noticed the water wasn't tinted anymore.
"He's outside- under the ground," I said.
"Oh. He died?"
"Yeah, he was very sick and it was hurting him..."
She didn't cry, but I did.
I don't know if I will get another betta. For now I've put another dozen malaysian trumpet snails in the tank. I'm feeding them one flake every other day, to at least keep some of the good bacteria alive...

23 August 2017

the new trio

The new serpaes settled in very well overnight. I uncovered the tank this morning. They ate a bit of flake and are pretty lively. Not nervous of my presence but they are camera-shy so this was the best I could do for photos. You can see that they have wonderful color and their fins are in good shape- and they were flirting and displaying to each other. (Upper left is the one with very faint side mark)
One looks like a gravid female-
lower right, the one with the faint almost-missing mark.
My new box filter came in yesterday- a Lee's economy corner filter. Before that I had this QT set up with just small sponge. I suspected it wasn't enough for three adult fish. I filled the corner filter with the bit of blue/white media and larger gravel pieces out of that sponge filter, also added from the 38's canister sintered glass media, three layers of sponges and two of poly.
I thought this would house plenty of bacteria- it is easily five times or more the surface area of media than the smaller filter had (whose sponge piece I dropped back in the tank for the bacteria it holds, btw). But this morning I have ammonia reading 0.25. I guess it still needs to catch up to the fish load. (The sponge pieces did get a bit of a rinse when I added them to the filter, just because they got dunked in tank water- but I didn't squeeze them out.)

So between this and the window tank, I now have two different styles of box filter- both made by the same company. They each have pros and cons, I have found out. The triple-flow one in my window tank has better design for drawing up water flow from underneath- but it is trickier to cut media size to fit- and the plastic seems thinner, more prone to breaking. It is quieter of the two, the air stone inside breaks up the flow into small bubbles. I don't mind its sound. (Granted, you're actually supposed to put in loose carbon and filter floss- that easily fills up the space. But since I wanted to use media out of the other filter I did it this way. Just have to be sure there's no bypass. Same with below).

This newer one feels sturdier, and it's a lot easier to fit media inside- I just cut a simple wedge, then poked a hole in the sponge or poly and tore it to make space for the air tubes. It also sits on the bottom well, I have no issues with it floating up. Downside is the noise. There's no airstone, it makes loud bubbles. I reduced the air flow a little. I guess it doesn't matter so much as this is temporary setup, and if I'm going to set it up in a hurry sometime for hospital tank it's easier to have a simple design for fitting the media in (if the fish go thru QT without needing meds, I will just lightly rinse the media and return it to the main canister until next time. But if I had fish in QT with some highly contagious, nasty disease -and couldn't be sure to kill it by sterilizing- I'd throw away the sponges and media, re-cut new spares next time).


Sam looks worse. Hole in his side, and tho you can't see it well in these pics, the lump under fin also has burst open. He holds the fin a bit stiffly now.
Odd thing is, the two weeks around which he was getting kanaplex treatment, he was rather listless and didn't notice if I was in the room or not- I only got his attention if I actually slid the lid open.
Now in spite of looking terrible, he is more alert, right at the front of the tank first thing in the morning, immediately comes up to the glass when I'm nearby, like he used to. So does that mean he's actually feeling better? maybe the kanaplex was too hard on him. My best guess is still cancer, I'm reluctant to use any more medication... just let him live it out.

22 August 2017

here he is!

My new paradise fish:
It's hard to get a good picture because his QT is a plastic bin- the sides are only translucent. He is still kind of washed out, I don't expect to see his full colors until he's in the proper tank which is nice and dim with dark substrate. (He actually had better coloring than this in the store, while displaying to the other fish he was bullying, but I bet will be even brighter than that when matured.)
I think his fins have lovely form, although noticed when I got him home (of course) that the filament on one of his pelvic fins is missing. I don't know if that can grow back.
He's just a little guy still. Even though the size of my betta his proportions are of an immature fish and I know will grow twice as large. (Still thinking of names. I verbalized a lot of them today while doing stuff around the house until finally it annoyed my six-year-old. "I don't care what you call your fish!" she huffed. Haha.)

final trio

The other day when I went to the lfs, they had no serpae tetras. I did get three more amano shrimp for the main tank- my older ones are looking huge and someone at the fish club told me once they reach inch and a half in size, that's it, end of lifespan (about a year). These new shrimps are so little in comparison!

Today I had a chance to visit someone a few towns south of me who had lots of tanks- literally, two main rooms of his house they line the walls. It was awesome. He mostly breeds cichlids but had a community tank of various tetras- I got three to round out my school at ten. (He was only re-homing because his girlfriend wants more colorful fish in the tank.) All his fish looked in excellent condition, I have no fear of bringing disease home, but well, just for temporary observation have this new trio in my ten-gallon QT- for at least a week or two.

The new serpaes look great in there- cautious but relatively relaxed- no clamped fins or hiding. I have it draped for darkness today. Didn't notice this when I was helping the guy catch the fish- but one looks like it doesn't have the typical dark marking behind the gills. At first I thought it was different, very similar tetra species? But looking very close I can see the faintest mark in that area. I wonder when the fish is colored up will it be a pale gray smudge or still barely visible. I can't help it, I'm already thinking of that one as Baldy.

Side note- I did get three water lettuce plants from the lfs, for my little outdoor container pond. I like them. Quick photo (I didn't lift off the screening).

poor sam

Started tetracycline treatment. Asking advice on a particular betta forum. His cloudy eye is improving, a bit more alert and active, but the lump under fin is even worse. Like white stuff bulging out now. Looks like lymphocystis? He sleeps either in one lower corner under the heater or behind this chunk of wood and plants-
where I also tucked his almond leaves. It's kind of cute, he has a little cave back there under the driftwood ledge.
from this angle you can see how his good side really is smooth-scaled, and the kink in his tail is pretty visible here.

21 August 2017

my scruffy garden

I really have not given it the attention it deserves, this year. Have pulled carrots twice, eaten handfuls of cherry tomatoes, there's a paltry amount of green beans now and then. Large tomatoes are still failing to ripen on the vine- but taste fantastic after a few days on the windowsill. Hoping for some good broccoli this fall, the plants look great in spite of caterpillar holes. Fresh herbs all the time- I seem to use that more than anything.

I got my paradise fish!

Macropodus opercularis- related to gouramis and bettas, but looks rather like a small cichlid.

Went to the lfs yesterday- I have had my eye on their tank of blue paradise fish for months- and I was right to be anxious to get one in time. They only had three left. Two were cowering in a corner- one had ripped tail fin, the other a small body wound. I saw the third paradise fish- who looked to be in good condition- darting at the other two when they tried to move around the tank. I bought the aggressor.

He seemed to be ignoring the other fishes in the store tank- tetras- so I hope will not bother my cories. However for now is in temporary quarters. His QT tank is still draped to keep it dark (reduce stress), so I don't have any pics yet but will soon. But this fish doesn't seem to need my careful treatment. Immediately on release into my QT he was exploring around, even approaching the front when I stood nearby. He shies away when I reach over the surface, but comes right back out. Very bold!

I don't usually feed new fish on their first day with me- giving them at least twenty-four hours to settle in. They don't want to eat when frightened and being hungrier on the second day are more likely to take unfamiliar food, I think. But this guy was already nipping at things in the tank and since I had just been in the garden I offered him two small caterpillars. He gobbled them. I gave him a leaf hopper and about ten mosquito larvae. He ate them all.

It was really cool to watch him hunt down the wigglers. My serpaes dash frantically after those and eat them all in seconds. The cherry barb fry looks for her share, but seems to find them more by chance than anything else. This paradise fish hunts with intention. I can see his eyes searching. He glides very smooth, pauses, looks around, glides again. Moves across the tank bottom or through the bolbitis fronds searching methodically. (I am kind of putting the bolbitis meant for my 38 through quarantine, too. It came in with a few pond snails- I hoped the paradise fish might get rid of the baby ones that hatch which I can't even see yet and I think he's doing that. Definitely see him nip at things on the plants).

Not to spoil him right off the bat with live foods, I gave him some bites of pea this morning (the other fishes all got it after their day of fasting). He went after those just as avidly. Stopped feeding him when I saw his tummy all rounded, but he is still keen to eat (of course). When I smacked a mosquito that landed on my arm, dropped it in his tank. He snapped that up too.

I am thinking of names already: Floki, Melvin, Tazzie, Xing, Sirus, Ryker ...

20 August 2017


These shrubs look prettier than I had hoped. The blue-green actually is nice against the neighbor's red fence, instead of clashing. This one is starting to gets its panicle-shaped blooms.
The other one they stay rounder and loose, but have a nice pink shade.

19 August 2017

thirtyeight: leaf effect

My main tank got some leaf litter, too. 1/2 loquat, 1/2 jackfruit, one each of catappa and guava. I can tell the shrimp and kuhlis really like this addition: every time I glance in the tank there are one or two shrimp methodically picking over a leaf surface.
And the kuhlis have immediately taken up hiding under them- perfect space. It's cute when two or more wiggle under together and just their little faces poking out. They seem to like sliding across the smooth top surfaces too.
Sassy is now hanging out in that area of the tank, often against the front glass- that's Tiger behind.
Here's Albert, under a leaf of echinodorus. Funny, mottled kuhli. He's got almost no stripes now.
There is a subtle difference in the behavior of some other inhabitants: my nerite snails appear to be more active.
Biggest thing I noticed is that today all my serpae tetras are out and about.
Usually it's just one, two or three in the foreground and the rest are hanging still in corners or behind plants during the day. I never thought I'd get a photo like this, with all seven together in the open!
Maybe I'm imagining things, but it really does seem as if they also feel better with the addition of the leaves. I didn't even think any of them were sick! Why hadn't I got leaves sooner.
I took all these photos with ease- the fish didn't run and hide, or if they did dart away from camera motion, it wasn't for long. Even the oldest, shy one Spark is in the center of this picture:
and facing the viewer here:
Last week I added root tabs to the tank- it had been a while. Echinodorus had some fading leaves, windelov fern and elodea looked poorly too. This week everything looks to be in good health, and for the first time in this tank, the windelov has baby plants on its leaf tip:
I have two aponogetons sending up flower stalks now! I wonder if this makes it more likely to get baby plants?
The second one came up a day later, and is just poking above the water surface here: