15 November 2017

empty garden

- mostly. It's cleaned out and blanketed with dry leaves. I have a few plants still hanging on- some swiss chard and beets- I've pulled a few and they are rather small-
Self-seeded borage that came up end of summer:
Sage needs a trim-
Parsley and thyme got trimmed back and mulched; oregano doesn't seem to suffer as much from the cold.
I still have green onions, and in spite of how it got ignored, my leeks actually did okay. They aren't very robust, but the foliage grew quite long and I pulled some to use in place of onions in a dish (my kids prefer the slight sweetness of leeks). They were good!
Tomatoes are all done for, the vines cut down and cages stacked away. I dumped the end of the green bean pots and pulled the withered marigolds. We got a few small broccoli heads and the rest froze. And next year there will be another garden.

perennials facing the cold-

I replenished their leaf mulch a day late- we'd already had a hard frost I wasn't looking at the weather report close enough. I maybe have lost a few plants... and my leaf-shredder broke- the motor burned up- so instead I am just piling leaf litter and making a big heap of in a four-foot wide wire enclosure to break down into proper mulch for next fall. Here's the blue hostas tucked in:
I'm glad that the hellebores stay green through winter, it's nice to look out back and see something holding form in the back bed. All the ones I spread out have doubled in size. It's odd these have different leaf shapes, though (they all came from the same parent plant). I don't know if it's individual variation, or due to slight differences in light exposure or nutrients received?
To my surprise after cutting down the tithonia wall I found the nice green upright leaves of gladiolas. Either I forgot gladys would stay green later into fall, or these were sheltered enough by the tithonias to make it through summer.... definitely continuing the combination of that planting next year. I like how it worked out.
Nandina are still alive, and slightly bigger. I like they keep their foliage too- I really hope these get close to their potential size- a good six or eight feet- I'm trying to help them along with generous mulch, frequent tank wastewater and compost feedings.
Volunteer shrub came up by fence on the side yard, and I left it. Or maybe it spread through from the neighbor's yard. It looks very familiar but I can't put my finger on the name right now.
Hydrangea are dropping their leaves, but the last fading flowers are a kind of a pretty dusky rose.
I am becoming quite fond of turtlehead. The plants are taller than last year and they stay green later into the cold season than other perennials in my yard.
The seed pods left after flowering remain interesting, when a lot of the garden is fading fast.
Around this tree between the front and sideyard they are making a nice statement.
I didn't cut down the monarda yet. It's not nearly as afflicted with mildew and insects as the year before, remains a nice spot of green. Behind it you can see more turtlehead under the farthest tree.

14 November 2017

it froze outside

so serious cleanup time in the garden (more on that later) and I half-emptied my little container pond on the deck.
I don't like to just throw away healthy plants, but I am reluctant to put these in an aquarium... so to enjoy their greenery for a while I tethered all the hornwort stems to stones and put in a filled vase. Here's a few more pics of that:
from another angle the light is very different:
I trimmed dying outer leaves off the water lettuce and put them in a separate vase with handful of substrate. Water lettuce is not happy. Leaf edges turning crispy- from cold or lack of light or shock of moving to a new situation I don't know. I don't expect it to be pretty- if it could just limp through the winter I'll give it a new start in spring... but I expect these will probably die and I'll just replace in March.

window tank

is chilly now. My thermostat is set to seventy, it falls to sixty-nine before turns on. But thermometer in the window tank reads 64 or 65° in the morning and stays that low most of the day. Even though I've put folded cloths across the windowsill to block drafts. The fishes don't seem to mind. Perry comes over to see what's for breakfast as usual, the moment I walk down the stairs. The tank was looking dim so I trimmed back the sweet potato vine. It wasn't a lot brighter but Perry hid under driftwood for a day. Fish prefers it dim, I think.
I'm still having trouble with the feeding. I got a few of those small wire shrimp bait cages. (Listing on the site I bought it from as 'Stainless Steel Fishing Bait Cage Trap Basket Feeder Holder'). Thought I could use one to feed the cories, and the other to feed kuhli loaches in the main tank, keeping bigger fish at bay.

It didn't really work. The largest food pieces I use that paradise fish or tetra will carry away entire, still slid through the gaps in the bait holder. If I lay the shrimp pellet or wafer across the wires of the basket, it stayed in for a while. The cories nibbled and came back, interested but not aggressive about it. Perry a different matter. That fish really wanted the food, and was determined to figure out how. I should have known. I could see Perry tipping his head side to side, trying to solve it. When the bait basket was laying down, which made it easier for the cories to nibble through the rungs, Perry tried to slide in sideways through gaps in the top. Almost could fit but didn't push through and damage self. Backed off. Smart fish. But kept circling and nudging the basket until pieces fell through anyway- and when I sat it upright to put the larger gaps against substrate, the cories couldn't reach the food easy, lost interest and wandered away. Perry was darting at them.

I left for a few minutes and when I came back it was obvious Perry had pigged on the food. Stomach bulging, looked like a little whale. Saw my paradise fish in the back of the tank, head up, throat distended, gagging on an entire shrimp pellet. It's just how Pinkie died. Quick I grabbed a fertilizer stick (never used it for inserting ferts to the substrate but it's the longest tool I have so often put to other purpose) and chased Perry around the tank- fish dropped the pellet but was still gorged regardless. So two days no feeding after that. I sprinkled in some gold pearls late at night for the cories. It's getting more difficult to make sure they eat enough. I may just have to move them out of this tank. Sigh.

13 November 2017

I gave up

on the fish that lost equilibrium. I had it isolated in the fry box (you will see that in the corner of the tank in some upcoming pictures) so I could easily catch it for epsom salt baths. It had been ill for a week, and isolated for five days. I don't know what this could have been, other than swim bladder disease- I fasted the whole tank for two days when I first noticed it, then fed them all peas. No change, the affected fish looked a bit worse. It was struggling to swim upright with a kind of rocking motion. Caught the fish and started giving it epsom salt baths twice a day. It did look a bit swollen or bloated at first, and that symptom went away. But the trouble with balance only got worse. For three days it kept batting its nose on the mesh side of the fry box trying to get out into the tank, any pause in paddling its pectoral fins and it would start to sink tail first. Last two days it wasn't even trying to get out of the box, just padding around nose up tail down, gasping occasionally at the surface. I offered pea bites again and it was not interested. I did water tests and partial wc on the tank, nothing seemed amiss, no other fish affected. In all that time it hadn't pooped once, so if there was a blockage it wasn't coming out.

Maybe I didn't do strong enough epsom salt baths? Knowing tetras are sensitive I started out doing them for ten minutes before re-equalizing the water, using 1 tsp per gallon. Then I used a teaspoon and a half, and the final time, 2 tsp, keeping the fish in the bath 15 min. It didn't seem to make a difference. The strangest thing was something I saw of its behavior. During the last bath the fish was aimlessly paddling around the bucket keeping itself upright like usual. Normally it flees in a panic from the net, but this time when I eased the net into the water and slowly moved it towards the fish to corner it, the tetra turned and swam straight into the net, and laid down on its side as I lifted it out. I thought at first it was just exhausted or disorientated, but the instant I dipped the net into the fry box it calmly turned and swam out of the net, and went back to batting its nose against the mesh wall. Its motions in and out of the net could have been coincidence? but I do wonder if it was becoming familiar enough with the bath experience to know the net in the bucket would put it back in the tank? I don't know.

After three days of epsom salt baths I left it alone in the fry box for two days, hoping time and the laxative would work... but no. Finally I started to feel guilty at keeping it alive, its nose was banged up from bumping on the netting all the time, and it looked like it was really struggling. I didn't see any hope of recovery. I folded 'Nito into a damp paper towel, euthanized it quickly with a rock, wrapped in a large leaf and buried it under the hydrangea. Luckily the ground there wasn't quite frozen yet.
So now I have eleven tetras, nine in the home tank and two still in QT. This photo of the main tank has corner shielded with a cloth, where the fry box hung. I was trying to reduce stress by keeping it shaded.

My other ill serpae, Punk, just moved out of the ten-gallon hospital tank back into the thirty-eight home tank. It went through a full treatment of metronidazole and praziquantel. The lump on its nose looks a little flatter, otherwise no change. Still acted alert- distressed at being alone in strange quarters but only showed that by going pale and refusing food. (I didn't offer much, not really expecting it to eat). No clamped fins. At one point I had the fish floating in a plastic bag and when it paused to rest from escape efforts in the corner, I was able to get a very close look at the lump with a magnifying loop. It's not fuzzy. It looks like a white mass inside the nostril, with swollen bubble of skin- a blister?- over that. It was actually pretty cool to see the texture of the fish's skin and colors so detailed- but I still am unsure what this thing is. It doesn't look like any parasite, doesn't look like lympho or air-bubble disease. I guess a cyst. Or some other kind of tumor. Probably not treatable. Nobody else in the main tank has caught it so I am crossing my fingers its not very contagious, and put the fish back home.
Still never know quite if I'm doing the right thing. Should I have kept 'Nito alive longer, given it more of a chance, or was it done for anyway. Should I keep Punk separated longer and try some different treatments. I don't know...

two weeks

going with my newer pair of serpae tetras, QT'd in the tenner. They still have healthy, vivid color and the fins are almost entirely grown back.
I've added a darker backdrop again- I think it is making the fish calmer. Spit doesn't look quite so pale when the light is on. They are starting to act aggressive over food- Spit tries to drive Ziggy away. Another week or two in here and then if all looks good I'll move them into the main tank.

11 November 2017

dracanea spike

Sometimes a plant surprises me. I guess this one is super happy- my dracanea aka 'corn plant' in the corner of tv room-
has flowered! I never expected that.
I really do need to trim the cane (and maybe replant top to propagate if possible)- it is only a foot or two from the ceiling now.

08 November 2017

sick fishies-

Started treatment for the serpae in QT last night. I'm using API General Cure for antibiotic and antiparisitic. If a round of that does no good I might try a few salt dips, if it is still unchanged I will assume lympho or a tumor and just see how long it lives... Following instructions on the packaging I pulled the filter and just running an airstone, but I hate doing this the fish surely must be suffering ammonia and nitrite. Not wanting to loose the bacteria colony that has started in the sponge filter I put it in a vase (that once housed shrimps and buce) running on an airline, am feeding the colony one flake of fish food a day and dropped in a few dead leaves out of the main tank. Maybe silly, but if Punk needs to stay in QT for a while after this round of medication is done, I'd like to have an established filter to put back. He's still alive this morning. I have the tank covered but I peeked. A bit less pale with the stress, kind of hovering in one corner twitching fins occasionally. I saw a stretch of all the pectorals, pelvics, tail fin and mouth at once. That was a gesture I've never seen a fish make before. Lump on the nose looks a bit flatter maybe but I can't be sure.

Took 'Nito out of the main tank this morning for an epsom salt bath. That fish is looking worse- even after eating peas and two days of fasting. When unmolested (by me chasing with a net) it stays apart from the group, body kind of stiff but pectorals constantly dog-paddling or rowing to keep it afloat. Tail end dragging down. Looks awkward and uncomfortable. Of course it still moved fast enough when I tried to catch for the bath. I used the same method as before, with 1 tsp salts per gallon of water. Knowing that tetras can be more sensitive, I kept an emergency "revival station" on hand- a smaller container with 1/3 salted water, 2/3 tank water to drop the fish in quickly if it lost consciousness. But I didn't need to. 'Nito tolerated the bath well, went very pale with distress- shoulder mark completely washed out- but otherwise ok so I kept it in a full fifteen minutes before diluting the bath with tank water to readjust. I didn't release the fish back into the main tank, but put it in the fry box in a corner. It doesn't like being confined in there- constantly going back and forth pushing the sides with its nose to find a way out- but I want to give it a salt bath twice a day for a few days maybe, and this way I don't have to chase it down every time.

07 November 2017

main tank

It was a quick full-tank shot near end of day, so the red leds make patches on some foliage and substrate in places. I wanted to get a better photo but am now preoccupied with figuring out treatment for two possibly sick fish...

next morning

Last night I set up QT for that serpae. It's actually one of my favorites in the tank- the one I call Punk. Recently seems to have reached mature size- and in the top of the hierarchy, too. I noticed a few weeks ago that Diamond- previously untouched by the other fishes- had a few nips out of the fins; now Punk and Spark are the untouched ones. So- I don't always notice individuals among my tetras, but this one fish happens to be a particular favorite...

It was tricky to catch- I tempted the fishes to the front with food but they got skittish of course at the net (while kuhlis pigged out below on the gold pearls, totally unconcerned). Used two to try and corner the one I wanted. That fish knew it was singled out and in a real panic. It ran up and down into corners seeking a way out- and then made an evasive move I haven't seen before. It dashed up the tank corner and flipped its body horizontal to lie flat at the surface just above the spray bar. Sure made it difficult to net there! He really wanted to not get caught. Then later after equalizing temp in the bag, it wouldn't easily go out into the actual QT tank! I poured a bit more tank water into the bag to fill it out and then gently tipped it sideways. The fish was so desperate- to get away from my hand I suppose- it kept going frantically into corners of the plastic bag, and then wouldn't turn around. I ended up tearing a corner off the bag to release it.

 I set up the 10g QT as usual with sponge pulled from the main canister, half home tank water, half new, 50w heater, stuffed the tank with fake plants. I don't like it sitting straight on the floor but have no available surface for it, so this time I placed it on a stack of a few boards (leftover from building a stand)- it's about four inches off the ground silly I don't know why I prefer that. With a thick towel under to make the bottom darker, and I've also draped the entire thing with another cloth to keep it dim and calm. It's in a corner of my bedroom which gets very little foot traffic. Waited to re-evaluate how to treat in the morning, so tired.

 Morning consideration, lifting edge of the towel up: the fish looks perky and less stressed, bump looks same. I did a water test and there's just above 0.25 ammonia. Got a bucket of clean water conditioned for partial wc, but realized two reasons I usually set up QT downstairs on the living room cabinet: unable to siphon when the tank is on floor level. I can't set a bucket lower. And even though I know the fish needs clean water, I have to wait a few hours in the morning to do the work, because I don't want to wake my husband.

Looking in the main tank, I expected to see more sparring since one of the dominant fish was removed, yeah there's a bit of chasing going on. One of the other mature fish has been looking odd for a few days but I couldn't put my finger on why. I think it's the one I named Nito. It swims with a stiff, kind of bobbing jerky motion, not smooth. Twitching its pectorals and caudal but not moving the main muscles of the body, as if it feels stiff and uncomfortable. I think it ate too much when I fed caterpillar chunks the other day, got a bit bloated or constipated which puts pressure on the swim bladder. I'm fasting the whole tank for a day or two (other fish will be fine) to see if it resolves... then might give it a few Epsom salt baths. Will have to read up on the dosage again.

06 November 2017

tetra health-

The two newer ones in my tenner look better every day. The dorsal fins are almost completely regrown, faster than I expected. Spit doesn't get quite as pale when the lights are one, and they are coming quicker to the front for food.

In my main tank, one of the serpaes gets so eager when I feed gold pearls, it gulps a lot of air at surface and then bobs around having trouble with swim bladder for the rest of the day. I fast afterwards and then feed peas; this has happened two or three times and it always resolves (and it's always the same fish). I'm trying to keep the pinch of fine food between my fingers to release underwater, but some always floats up top and that one fish realizes the others don't go topside looking so it can pig out up there without competition...

One of them has a lump on its nose, seems to be growing out of the nostril. Started like a small white pimple several weeks ago, now it is bigger and the skin around it appears to be peeling away, and there's a white center extruding. I don't know what it is.... So far I have just been keeping an eye on it, the fish appears unaffected- it swims with the others, spars and feeds as usual. It's one of my favorites- Punk. I thought to give it a salt bath or dip, but tetras are really sensitive to salt so I'm reluctant to act without knowing for sure what it is.
From my bit of research it could be: infection in a wound from sparring, infection and swelling from a bit of foreign matter that got in the nostril, bacterial infection, parasite, or lymphocystis. I tried to get a few photos but Punk is particularly camera-shy, I think I'd have to catch and contain the fish in breeder box or plastic cup to get a good close image, and I don't want to stress it too much...

05 November 2017

window tank update

The 'trident' java fern I left floating in here had a few baby plants, I went to cut just those pieces off-
and found a regular row of nodules on the underside of the leaf, where more young plants will sprout. All over! I'm tired of seeing a large leaf drifting in the center of the tank, so I cut it up into segments around the sprouting plantlets and left them to float while they develop.
Anubias I moved in here seem to be doing fine- new leaf looks okay.
Windelov ferns as usual, doing great. Cut out a few older, deteriorating leaves but there's plenty new ones.
Behind them on the driftwood can see the various java ferns. They're not doing so great. Older leaves all melted and some new fiddleheads were coming up, but I don't think they look quite right.
Little wall of crypt retrospiralis and vallisneria in the back corner, coming along. The vals seem happier with the low temps and and lack of ferts in this tank than the crypts. But I do see newer leaves growing on the crypts among those that are melting, and a lot of new roots have emerged too.
Found that tiny bit of crypt root that was adrift in here since some changes in the past few weeks. Tucked it back into substrate nearer the foreground where I can see it. I can't tell if it's a bit of crypt parva, or crypt wilisii. You can see through these pics the subwassertang is kinda scraggly now. The terminal ends of it thinner, not as wide and it's not spreading nearly as much. I think because of the cold.
and here's the main occupant. I am starting to wonder if I have a female paradise fish. Aside from a small trailing tip on top of the caudal fin, there's no sign of the longer tail a male develops. Or the brighter colors. But I've only had Perry two months, so time may well tell...
I like this full-tank shot better because you can see Perry in it, if it weren't for the presence of my arms...

02 November 2017

in my tiny pond

I got into the container pond today. Just to see what was up. I did not find anything alive- except for one leech, which I threw into the lawn haha. It's the reason why I'm still reluctant to transfer any of these plants into my indoor tanks.... although the hornwort in here looks fantastic. This is the amount of it, not even spread out pretty in the water, but just set on the decking while I removed stuff to clean. It has great color and density- seems like the amount of shading greater duckweed and water lettuce plants have created is perfect for it now.
The three water lettuce still look healthy enough, even though outer leaves are yellowing and melting  away. Roots are nice and thick.
Spirodela polyrhiza also very thick- their roots felt like fur against my hand when I was scooping them out! The undersides are a bold rosy red.
One of the water lettuce plants had a stem growing from its underside smoother and thicker than a regular root. I think if it didn't get too cold soon, this would spread sideways and grow a new plantlet?
I was also suprised that a few of the outer, fading leaves I pulled off came away with roots attached to them. I wonder what would happen if I left these in water- would they re-generate a new plant too?
The water was really murky. I couldn't tell if there were still any trumpet snails alive in there. I pulled out some hair algae and used shrimp net to scoop out coarse debris, dead plant parts and more algae.
Replacing everything- my three water lettuces are smaller, but tidier now for what time remains to them.