Friday, January 25, 2008


In what is perhaps an excuse to have more tanks, but was justified as a way to recoup some of the costs by breeding and propagating plants, we setup some tanks for the purpose. In the past we have had great success breeding Butterfly Goodeids, and hope to repeat the success with other fish.

Cherry shrimp are relatively new to the hobby or at least newly popular. We got some from a fellow hobbyist and put them in one of our plant grow tanks. They were excellent at cleaning up algae on the plants, and before long, we noticed tiny shrimp swimming around. You can see here if you click to view the image larger, shrimp of various sizes. In a neighboring tank, we hope to breed Amano Shrimp, but that is more complicated as the hatch-lings need saltwater to survive, but then they return to freshwater.

This tank was meant to be a hospital tank, to be used for treating any fish that got sick without exposing our other fish to the chemicals or spending a fortune treating large volumes of water. To keep the tank cycled, we picked up a few White cloud minnows to live in the tank, and were surprised to find fry in it not long after adding them. Here you can see an adult and a similarly colored sliver that is a baby.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bog 4.0

With the newly waterproofed bog area in place, I began to experiment with ideas to create channels for the desired visible water flows and pools. I used a metal dog dish I got from Wal*Mart and some flexible PVC that I cut lengthwise on the bandsaw.

As substrate, I used swimming pool filter media, not sand, but what I'm told is "pea gravel" though it's much smaller than any pea gravel I've ever seen. It's 100% silica so it's fully inert. It's the same as what I used in my Fluidized Bed Filter, and as substrate in one of my breeding tanks. It's about $15 for 50lbs, so it's a much better price than typical gravel offerings.

Here the key elements are in place and I've unloaded 150lbs of gravel onto it. I put some plants from the old bog and various houseplants on there to get an idea of what it might look like.

Liking the mostly open area for planting, I experimented with using the slate simply to accent the areas. It also served as somewhat of a retaining wall to keep the gravel in the bog and not the tank and to hide things like the metal pan. I divert some of the water coming from the filter onto a rock that pours into the pan, and onto the wood on the right that enters the other channel I created. Quite a bit of the water also enters the substrate and will provide water to the future plants.

Here is the full bog at the moment. I have ordered some tropical plants from a terrarium/vivarium supplier to plant there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A few other tanks

A common affliction of the aquariast is multiple-tank syndrome (MTS). Once you master one tank, you begin to find other fish and/or plants you would like to keep that are incompatible with the ones you have. Or maybe you decide that a spot in the house or your desk at work could use a tank. Here are some, but not all of our current tanks...

This 150g is actually the first serious plant tank we built. It has been moved from Fort Worth to Dallas and rearranged several times since then. It is slated for replacement someday when we've paid off all the other aquarium stuff we've acquired lately. It is home to our oldest clown loaches, a favorite of ours both for its utility as a snail eater as well as its personality.

A closeup of one of our clown loaches:

This is a 60g 24x24x24" cube, perhaps my favorite form factor for a tank. It replaced a 30g hex tank which the Angel fish outgrew. The grid in the back will eventually be covered with Christmas moss, a dense moss that hangs off surfaces in triangular Christmas tree-like patterns. I got some online and spread it out behind the grid so it will grow through in time.

This 20g was our original hospital/quarantine tank, but became a Goodeid breeding tank for a while, and here primarily houses a pair of Gold Rams (middle, right) that we are hoping will spawn.

This is a 12g Nano cube tank that I bought and had on my desk at my previous job. It had fake plants in it at the time. I thought it would make it easier to care for, but it wasn't worth it. I eventually brought it home and put real plants in it. On the glass on the right is a CO2 reactor. The tank has two (not sure if it's a pair or not) gold rams with stripes, sold as gold rams, but distinctly different from the gold rams in the other tank. Perhaps they were cross bread with the blue rams as the stripes match those. Apparently the fully gold ones were actually bred from the blue rams, so maybe these were an interim stage. This tank is in my bedroom and gets neglected compared to the tanks out where I spend most of my time.

This 72g bowfront was originally purchased with the intention of becoming what the 215/240g tank became. The stand is decorated with slate, as is the back glass of the tank. It was going to have the bog area, etc. But it was determined that it wasn't really big enough for what we wanted to do. So it sat empty for more than a year. Here we finally set it up with the intention of making it a lightly planted South American Cichlid tank.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The bog saga

If you have been following along, you will recall that the bog has already undergone three iterations. One with the ill fated 215g tank, then two fiberglassed versions for the 240g. While the fiberglassed one looked good, every time we turned on the water it leaked. This, despite having fully sealed just the wood frame with fiberglass resin, then adding foam and supports, covering it in fiberglass cloth and sealing that. Every time I found a leak, I sealed it with silicone, let it cure, then tried again and it would find somewhere else to leak. Finally, I gave in and we tore it apart. It turns out that the water that had gotten between the layers of fiberglass was quite nasty as you can see here, and was apparently the source of a gnat infestation in the loft.

After much effort pulling/prying, some Clorox to kill the nasties, then a thorough pass with a wet/dry vac, we reduced it to its original frame once again. I had added expanding foam between it and the tank and between it and the wall in an effort to stop leaks, so we weren't able to remove it easily with the tank in place and we weren't about to take that apart!

A key in the new version was that the water should have no choice but to run back to the tank. This was accomplished by filling the inset portion with play sand, sloping it toward the tank. The idea was that we could carve into it to form channels, but we didn't end up doing that.

Next we covered the wall and the bog with pond liner

Folding and trimming it until it formed leak-proof sides and would funnel all water back into the tank.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fish settling in, plants still slow going

The fish in the top half of the picture here are Congo Tetras, particularly cool because of the tendency of the edges of their fins to catch the light and make it look like they're glowing. The fish below them are mostly German Blue Rams, with a clown loach at the bottom right corner.

Our two orange Discus have become more outgoing and are willing to spend time at the front of the tank now.

As you can see, the plants haven't exactly taken off, but they were inadvertently nutrient deprived and have only been on the new fertilizer a short time by this point.

Though the brown algae has diminished, the so-called Blue-Green Algae (BGA) has made an appearance. Interestingly, BGA isn't actually algae, but a cyano-bacteria. It can be killed by adding antibiotics to the tank, however it would also kill the beneficial bacteria in the filter system and that is more important. Instead, we will just remove the BGA as much as possible and try to get the plants going. Once the plants are growing well, they will out compete the BGA for nutrients and it will go away on its own... at least that's the hope!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Learning the hard way

Since we were struggling with algae at the start, I started treating the tank heavily with Flourish Excel because of its off-label use as an algaecide. Not thinking, I assumed that it was also a fertilizer and dosed all my tanks with it for close to two months. Not only didn't things grow as expected, serious signs of nutrient deficiencies resulted as you can see on leaves from my 150g tank above. I have since switched to dosing PMDD which contains 1 part each of Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Sulfate, Magnesium Sulfate, Plantex CSM+B. This provides all required nutrients except for Phosphates, but those typically exist in plentiful amounts in the aquarium as a byproduct of waste, excess food, plant matter, etc. I mixed the components myself from a hobbyist-run site The powdered mix is dissolved into solution and one to four drops are added per gallon on a daily basis. Once a week, a 50% water change is performed to ensure no under-utilized nutrient builds up to toxic levels.