Friday, July 27, 2007

Catastrophic failure

I went out of town for a week and while I was gone, Shane received a late-night knock on the door from maintenance. Apparently, the apartment below us reported water leaking through the ceiling (keep in mind the ceiling is 12" of concrete). Shane shut off the pumps and the auto-refill system and the leak appeared to stop. The next day, he discovered a crack in the back glass that was located inside the overflow box. Over the next day or two, the crack grew so he drained the tank fully. Fortunately, there were no fish in the tank yet and the plants were easily moved to another tank. The wood trim supporting the tank held a lot of water, so damage was minimal.

The poor empty tank:

The crack viewed from the top:

The crack viewed from the back, under the bog . You can see the long curving cracks:

There isn't really much that can be done at that point, so after months of work, we were faced with starting over.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Planting the Top

Well, we planted the backdrop today. There is a great little shop near here called Sunshine Miniature Trees that has an incredible selection of Bonsais and other neat plants. They have been here for 17 years, and the owner and staff are incredibly helpful and knowledgable. I still do not understand how we could have lived here this long, and not been in there before. With their help, and an assortment of ( less wonderful but still serviceable ) plants we got from the $.99 store, we were ready to plant the back.

Most of the back is always at least damp from the fountain overflow, but it's not necessarily soggy all the time. I expect some of the plants wont be able to handle the damp and will melt, but we've done our best to give them a good chance. For most of the plants, we removed them from the container and rinsed as much of the soil off as we could manage. I then repacked them into peat pots using a potting medium recommended by the owner of Sunshine called 'Cornell Mix'. It's a light weight potting medium made up mostly of peat, with some perlite and other ingredients mixed in. According to him, we should not have to worry about it leaching or monkeying with our water chemistry to any great degree.

The peat pots were then set into a bed of 'Aquatic Soil' which is basically a mixture of perlite and vermiculite, two largely inert forms of fired and unfired clay. The peat pots are set above the water level in the aquarium soil, so we are hoping that the net result will be plants that stay wet, but not soggy. Since they are in the peat pots, we also retain the ability pull them out and let them dry out if need be.

There were a few exceptions to this rule. The climbing fig vine behind the central piece of driftwood remains in it's own pot, and will have to be watered by hand, since it remains well clear of the water. The small jade plant planted in the piece of driftwood is planted directly in a bed of the aquatic soil. We're less concered about moisture there, but I'm a little concerned about keeping it fertilized without leaching into the water. Still, we have high hopes for it.

The Bonsai Juniper, the Fukien Tea and the climbing ivy behind the left water fall are also still in their own pots, since there was not really any planting space behind the fountain. The plant on the far right is called 'irish moss' ( though it is a rooted plant ). I'm a little concerened that the peat pot will occsionally be sitting it water, instead of just wet aquatic soil. If this proves to be the case, I may try to move it into an unglazed terracotta pot. It should be easy enough to conceal, and should protect the soil roots from sitting in mud.

We also purchased some Kyoto moss spores to try to dress out the naked stone on the fountains, but upon further investigation, it may require more care and feeding than we will be able to give it - however, for $5, we figured it was worth a try. We've started a small test batch of it in a sheltered area on the right, but the conditions may be too hostile for it to get established. If so, we will probably start looking for some friendly lichens or other, less picky mosses to get established to try to minimize alage growth and soften some of the lines. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.

Lastly, we are waiting for Sunshine to get in some small epiphytes that we can distribute around the rock, driftwood and stand to complete the external decorations. We are also toying with trying to introduce some java moss into the always wet areas around the right hand fountain.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Great LFS!

I had the good fortune to run across a great new pet store in Dallas called 'Odyssey Pets'. They specialize in fish, and dog grooming - Yes, I know that seems odd at first glance, but it also reflects one of their best qualities.

We met Mike - the owner - a couple of years ago while he was working for another LFS. We were just getting back into the hobby, and were just getting our feet wet with seriously planted aquariums. Mike was a consistently good resource, and helped us avoid a number of beginner mistakes, and was in general a font of great information. He has since struck out on his own, and we are very, very happy to have such a knowledgeable, and upstanding guy running a shop in our area.

They also happen to own and show award winning havanese ( small dogs - for those like me that had to ask ). Thus, their focus is not so strange after all. They chose two arenas about which they are both knowledgeable and passionate.

At the moment his fish room is a little small, but they are expanding the shop by another 1500 square feet, and much of that will be given over to fish. Further, what stock he does currently have is healthy, and well cared for. His plants, however, are perhaps his best feature at the moment. They are easily the healthiest and best maintained selection I have been able to find locally.

Check them out.

Name that Fish

Can anyone help me identify this fish? I bought a few of them from our LFS last year when he had them in. I can't figure out what species they are, and the fish store doesn't remember carrying them.

They are personable little fish, though they do startle rather easily, and are extremely peaceful. They briefly shared a tank with some full grown and juvenile Butterfly Goodieds, and while the goodieds didn't exactly bully them, they were much more present and had better appeteites after we removed the goodieds.

They tend to keep mostly towards the bottom. they have alternating red and blue vertical stripes, with an anal fin that runs along the entire rear third of the body, and both have a black spot surrounded by a white/yellow area right at the base of the tail ( this is not a sore or lesion, it is healthy, scales are intact , and was present on all six of the ones we had ) . Body shape is generally round, with no flattening or barbels typical of an exclusive bottom dweller, though they still pick food off the bottom willingly enough. When they are in good color, there is occasionally some yellow fringing on the fins.

I have only 2 left now, but there is a significant size difference between the sexes. Since I cannot identify the family, I cannot say what gender they are, but I have two of the larger variety, which come in at about two inches, while the smaller were 1-1.25 inches. The larger also seem significantly more full bodied, and the smaller were the more active and visible, leading me to guess that I have two females.

I've had them for ~ 18 mos in a sparsely populated 20 gallon, so I believe these sizes are full grown.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.