Saturday, May 26, 2012

4.5 liter / 1 gallon planted tank makeover

After two weeks I had enough information to decide I needed to change a few things. The new location works out, temperature is much more stable. There was some algae on the tank walls which I wiped away with a piece of spunge. I've also added a few extra Malaysian Trumpet Snails to help keep it under control.

Plantwise, Pogostemon Helferi did surprisingly well. It was a bit less brilliant green and growth was slow but it had obviously taken. Hygrophila polysperma  of which I was really worried last week has recovered and is slowly growing.The tiny anubias, which was a bit dodgy to begin with, wasn't working out all that well. I suspect these guys need a bit more light.

Now I'd read Diana's piece on shrimp bowls as well as a few other odds and ends and she always speaks highly of Echinodorus tenellus and likes Rotala rotundifolia as well. I read up on E. Tenellus and suspect it might do very well as a filler plant. I think it is going to form a dense forest quite easily.

I ended up ordering 3 pots of Echinodorus Tenellus and 1 pot of Rotala Rotundifolia for the grand total of 11 euros and 40 cents. For plants I've recently switched to Good plants at very decent prices. To prepare for the work I took the tank from it's place, drained 60% of the water and put it on the plastic IKEA serving tray I use for these jobs (easy to clean and keeps the table spotless).

E. Tellus:

Three shotglass sized plastic pots filled with rockwool. Obviously well rooted which is something I like to see when I buy plants. The one on the right was even flowering. Now, as most readers will know, when they arrive like this they're not suited to plant. In the pots they look terrible and if you plant them with the rockwool attached they'll take forever to settle in and spread. So, some disassembly is required:

Remove the pot and you see what you need to remove while damaging the roots as little as possible. Take note of what emerges above "ground"level, that's how they need to be planted. What works best is first work around the outside, pick of what goes easy. Then take a good look and see how many strands you have. Divide and pick the strands clean.

I ended up with 10 strands of E. Tellus out of 3 pots.
Rotala rotundifolia was more or less the same story only this plant doesn't do strands but has a more bush-like growth. Once again, pick it clean and take a good look. I decided to tear the bush in three and plant it out. After this I refilled the tank, put it back in it's place and let it settle. When you've done work it's tempting to grab the camera immediately. Bad idea, the water's likely to be cloudy and the plants need to find their positions.

In the back E.Tellus. Front left you can just see the curly leafs of a small Pogostemon Helferi and behind it the round leaves of Rotala Rotundifolia. Sticking out of the water on the left is a E. Tellus flower.

In a day or so I'll try to do a few overview shots and maybe a drawing of how I set it up. The curved walls make it difficult to do a good frontal overview shot.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Some odds and ends from the web

Looking for aquarium magazines I found a free to download aquarium magazine called "Redfish". Looks good, information is interesting and it's free to download as a PDF. There's also "Online Aquarium-Magazin". Looks a bit less spiffy and it's in German, still some good information.

An interesting article by Heiko Bleher looking at some tiny species from South America.

Tropicalfishfinder has an overview of sub-tropical and tiny rice fish from Asia.

Aquascapetv has some pictures from Interzoo 2012 on facebook. I'm still looking for a decent show report though.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

4.5 liter / 1 gallon planted tank day 7

A week up and running. Quick water check tells me it's just about cycled. Not surprising since I introduced a lot of bacteria from the other tank.

I've trimmed down the willow moss quite a bit, removed a few strings of algae and rubbed the glass clean.
The anubias seems to take, it's forming a new leaf. Cabomba, strangely enough,  is very slow to take. Pogostemon helferi has taken but grows very slowly. Strangely enough Hygrophila polysperma seems to be dying, never done that to me before.

I think there's potential in this setup but I need to adjust the plants. Echinodorus tenellus and Sagittaria subulata have a lot of potential since they're marshy subtropical plants. I see no need to add any additional equipment to this set.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quick update on the big aquarium

Today I introduced some leaf litter.I'd collected some beach leaves. Put those in the microwave for 3 minutes and soaked them for 24 hours to get them nice and waterlogged. Even so they needed a few pebbles to weigh them down.

The shrimp went absolutely crazy over them. Within minutes they were exploring every pore of the leaves. Soon after followed the snails.

I also took an overview picture. Plantwise I'm now quite happy with the looks.

Story about my big aquarium

I still remember when I got my first aquarium. I must have seen a good looking one at someone else's home and that sowed the seeds in my mind. I asked my parents and they said OK if you can present a good plan. So I hit the library and did my research.  I ended up buying a used 60x40x40cm tank without a hood. Stuck a basic external filter on it driven by a noisy airpump. Despite my research I made all sorts of mistakes but also learned a lot. Tiger barbs and guppies did well, mollies, platies and Valisneria where big fails.
Eventually I quit that a few years later.

Around the turn of the century the aquarium virus struck again. I used my Y2K bonus to buy a Juwel Rekord 60, the basic tank from the well known German manufacturer. Built in filter, hood with a single tube. Biggest setback came around 2004 when fish TB hit my tank. I'd dealt with that when a move wiped out most of my remaining stocks.

In 2006 I rebuilt and used a fine white gravel, tiny pellets, looked good. For the first time I had real and unexplainable problems. My plants did fine, the shrimp I got from a friend reproduced like rabbits and yet the tetras and aspidoras never did well. Tried everything I knew and never could get rid of the sky high hardness and PH. I gave up for a while and took care of the survivors as best as I could.

In late 2011 I finally had some more time and decided to solve the problem. Turned out that fine white gravel was almost pure calcium. I put some in strong vinegar solution and found it was almost pure calcium, it totally dissolved in 72 hours. March 2012 saw the third build since I'd bought the tank. This time I went for quality materials. Dekoline gravel which is fine quartz coated in a thin layer of some kind of resin to make it inert and allow roots better grip. I retained most plants including a nice looking piece of driftwood which I started covering with anubias two years earlier and which is totally covered by now.

Current look of my aquarium
The left side of the tank is taken up by Hygrophila Corymbosa which I bought from Ikea for 2 euros. Simple, grows well, when it gets too tall I chop the top of and plant it again.

Back right is Ceratopteris thalictroides. Lovely plant, stuck in in to camouflage the built-in filter. It grows extremely well! In front of the filter my willow moss covered bamboo sticks. Recently my micro rasboras (mix of brigittae and merah) have taken to hanging around there.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

4.5 liter / 1 gallon planted tank day 3

Ever since it was up and running I've been keeping track of temperatures.

As you can see it drops significantly over the night. On the first day I had some bright sun directly on the tank which really heated things up. Looks like I'll have to find a different spot for it out of direct sunlight.

The plants themselves may be taking. The anubias is looking scruffy but I'm hoping it bounces back. The willow moss is pumping out O2 bubbles like crazy. I'm a bit worried about that one stealing everyone's CO2.

Tech for tiny tanks
As soon as you move below 20 liters the choices in equipment become really limited. There's a very few internal filters but even those would take up 20-30% of my space.

Superfish makes the aqua 50 which they sell with their small tanks. At about 8 euros it's a good deal. Most people who keep tanks this small just stick a sponge filter in. Problem there is to find an air pump that's silent.

Heating is even more tricky. And here your choices get really limited. At 14 cm for an adjustable 10 watts of power the Aquarium Systems Newattino is the smallest choice. Retails for about 15 euros.

I'm relocating it tomorrow and doing the first water change.

Monday, May 14, 2012

4.5 liter / 1 gallon planted tank day 2

Using the chopsticks I planted some left over plants and cuttings to see what would work and what won't work.

I've got the lid on it on a few spacers to allow for gas exchange.

What's in here:
  • Fontinalis antipyretica (willow moss)
  • Pogostemon Helferi
  • Anubias Nana
  • Cabomba aquatica
  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • two unidentified plants

I've lodged the cambomba and the willow moss under a pebble, see if it will take root

After an hour or so of sunlight the willow moss was really pumping out the oxygen. I've kept a close eye on the thermometer, it topped out at 27 degrees C.

Once again, this isn't intended to look nice (yet) but to gain experience, see what will work and what will not.

Todo for the next week
  • Daily temperature readings
  • Keeping an eye out for algae
  • See how many snails I've accidently transfered
  • Syphon away the pieces of dirt that some escaped and mess up the looks of the sand.
Apart from this I'm going to leave it alone, take pictures and see what happens.

4.5 liter / 1 gallon planted tank

I've had my eye on a nano aquarium for quite some time now. I'm sure I'm going to own one sometime soon. In anticipation, to learn and just because I can I've decided to start up a small low-tech and low budget aquarium.

The tank
I've read all sorts of experiments featuring pickle jars. Unfortunately over here finding such a jar is difficult and what jars I looked at where made of very high tension glass, often with loads of distortions as well. So, in the end I settled for a plastic storage container, the rosti-mepal  Modula "Jumbo"

4500 ml of clear acrylic storage solution.

After buying that I've done all sorts of reading on further tech for these pico aquariums. There's some internal filter solutions but even the smallest would take a hefty chunk out of my budget and available space. Heaters, I'll get to heaters in a next episode, let's just say there's not much choice.
On one of my walks I'd found some slate, probably from a torn down building which was used to stabilize a path. After a failed experiment to wash and sieve some old paving sand I gave up and bought a 2.5kg bag of VDL river sand.

Setting it up
I've read a ton of resources and found the best looking nanos and picos are all CO2 supported and a lot of the good ones look alike. I'm not entirely sure if I want to participate inthat.
One of the things I did read was a few pages written by the legendary Diana Walstad on a low tech shrimp bowl.

Inspired by this I've taken a mixture of 75% potting soil and 25% river clay which is what most of this area where I live is made of anyway.

Pic shot before I fished the root bits out.

Now I washed the sand a few times to get the last bits of dust out. Applied it  and stuck in the slate.

I added some water and left it all to settle overnight.

The next day was maintenance day on my aquarium anyway. I took some cuttings of various plants and some tank water in which I rinsed out my ceramic filter medium.

Plating in something this small isn't easy. Some old trainer chopsticks do help:

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

My Trigonostigma Hengeli turns out to be Trigonostigma espei

Someone on Practical Fishkeeping pointed out to me that what I bought as being Trigonostigma Hengeli are actually Trigonostigma espei. Shame really because I bought them as Hengeli. This is a real hengeli, far less coloured on the body:

Difference isn't stellar, Espei is a bit more coloured and comes from Thailand and Cambodia, not from Indonesia like Hengeli. Fortunately their needs in water quality are almost identical. These are blackwater species, water in forest where all sorts of things drop into the water and decay which gives tannin rich water, slightly acidic and rather soft. I replicate that with alder catkins and some oak leaves.

Once again it shows that you can't really trust the shop's identification.

Still really like these fish though, they've got personality, are kind to the small rasboras and they absolutely love peas! Soon I'll have the first batch of mosquito larvae to feed, wonder how they will react to those.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Bamboo sticks a few days later

I was a bit apprehensive about using willow moss from a pond in my aquarium. It has a reputation of not doing well in warmer water. Seems I was worrying unnecessarily, I'm seeing lots of new growth.

What you see here is more than 3 centimetres of fresh moss. Pretty amazing in just a few days. A bit more overview to show it's not a single strand.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Introducing bamboo sticks

I really liked the look of something Dennerle came up with, a bamboo stick covered in java moss. However, a pricetag of 11 euros per stick kept me from buying them. Dennerle makes nice things but they're not cheap!.

So I decided to create my own version. In this country bamboo sticks are sold in garden centers as plant supports. The cheap ones aren't even treated with anything. I had some lying around in the garden unused for months. Continuous rain and some frost had weathered them nicely. I cut them down to size and drilled some 2mm holes to aid in water absorption. Rinse a few times with boiling water and leave them to soak for a few hours.

Now mosses are a relatively new addition to the aquarium hobby, many were introduced by the aquascaping community and the legendary Takashi Amano. Dennerle went for java moss because it sticks easy to objects and it tolerates tropical conditions well. I went for willow moss  (Fontinalis antipyretica) because it's grows abundantly in my dad's pond. Using any kind of plant from a pond is always a risk because you never know if you introduce any critters that way. To mitigate that risk I rinsed the moss well 6 times with cold tap water.

I divided the moss into portions and wrapped and twisted it around the sticks using 0.25mm fishing line to keep it on the sticks. Some people use cotton because it will eventually rot away, I use fishing line because it's invisible if you take care to trim the ends away.  In wrapping I kept the ends free because these went into the bottom.

The sticks are intended to hide the big juwel filter box in the corner of my aquarium. That may be a bonus for the moss since it likes flowing water. My tank runs at 23.5 degrees which should be acceptable to the willow moss (go over 25 and the cold water raised variety will wither away).

I planted the sticks and immediately the shrimp went nuts over it and are swarming all over picking off all sorts of particles. It's early to tell if this experiment will succeed but this morning I saw the first bright green tips already so it seems to be growing.

This is how it looks now:
Closer look at the bamboo sticks I wrapped in willow moss
And an overview shot:
Current look of my aquarium