Archive | December, 2011

Plecostomus is a fun word

31 Dec

Albino Long-fin Bristle-Nose Plecostomus

The most well-known algae-eating, glass-cleaning aquarium fish is the Plecostomus. The point  I want to make is this:  If you have a 55 gallon tank go ahead and get the common Plecostomus species that gets over a foot long. You will see these Plecostomus for sale at a Petsmart or Petco for 3 or 4 dollars. But if your tank is 30 gallons or smaller DO NOT get a Common Pleco, find a Bushy-nosed Pleco.

By the way, Bushy-nosed Plecos are also called Bristle-nosed Plecostomus, so call them whatever you prefer, they are the same thing.  Bushy-nosed Plecostomus are PERFECT for a tank of almost any size.  They get about 4 or 5 inches long. There are Albino Bushy-noses, Long-finned Bushy-noses, and I have heard of Calico Bushy-noses, but I haven’t seen one yet.

Bushy-noses are peaceful, useful and beautiful. My Long-fin albino looks like a fish from another planet.  An alien life-form in my fish tank. (By the way, this is a female. The males have the bristles on their nose!)

Local Pet Shops are more likely to have Bushy-nosed Plecos than the big chain stores.  Or try a search on Craigslist or contact your local Aquarium Society. They are commonly bred and should sell for 3 or 4 dollars each from a breeder, maybe 6 bucks at the Petshop.

For all species of Plecostomus, keep a piece of wood in the tank so they can graze on it. The Pleco actually scrapes the wood and ingests it.  They don’t devour the wood in your tank, they just scrape a little bit at a time.

Last fall, my 29 gallon tank had algae all over the glass, and little clumps of algae were growing on the bottom. I added one Pleco and a few weeks later, all gone!

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Snails are useful, even to your plants

31 Dec

I have the two most common types of freshwater snails in my aquariums. The Common Pond Snail and the Maylasian Trumpet Snail.

The Maylasian Snails spend their time under the sand or gravel, slowly churning things up, then coming out at night and climbing on the glass and everywhere else. I figure that they are eating leftover food in the gravel, and basically converting it into fertilizer for my plants.

The Pond Snails are good in two ways. You might see them crawling on your plants and think they are destroying them. They may nibble on them a bit BUT, more importantly, they are scraping the algae off of the plant leaves. My tanks with the healthiest plants have healthy populations of snails.

Some snails and this African Cichlid cleaned the algae off this Java Moss.

I bought a Yo-Yo Loach a few years ago (and lost him in the giant Ich outbreak that I had in 2010), and I put him in a community tank full of plants and fish and snails. It took a few months but the Loach ate all the snails. Then, within a few weeks the plants started to be coated with algae. I had to scrape the glass more often, the plants were getting choked.

I suggest keeping a healthy population of snails. What happens if you get too many? Seriously, squish the pond snails. Pop them against the glass and your fish will love them, very nutritious. The trumpet snails are hard to crush, you can remove them by hand. Just turn on the lights in the middle of the night sometime, they will be all over the place.  Or borrow a snail-eating fish like a Clown Loach or other Botia species, or a Puffer that is acclimated to fresh water.

I have a Green-Spotted Puffer in a brackish tank and he gets a few snails on most days. Crrrrunch.

Neons and Glowlights

30 Dec

This is a great combination of fish.  A school of Neon Tetras, a school of Glowlight Tetras. In a planted aquarium they spend most of their time in the bottom third of the tank so make sure the food gets down to them.

Bristleworms in Saltwater

30 Dec

I turned on the lights of my Saltwater tank around 3 am one morning. I think the fish were not happy and that should remind me to turn on the room lights for 5 minutes before I turn on the tank lights.  I don’t want to startle the fish into smashing against the glass or even leaping out of the tank in terror.

When I looked in the tank there was a big hairy worm, a Bristleworm, crawling up the glass. It was about 2 inches long. I watched him as he slowly turned around and headed DOWN the glass to the bottom of the tank.  Over the next few days I did spot a couple of other Bristleworms crawling on the plants. I read about them and felt reassured that they are harmless to my fish.

I had forgotten about them until I rinsed out the filter pads of my outside filters. There they were, Bristleworms. Maybe a dozen on each filter pad. Picture little tiny centipedes, maybe half an inch long.

I decided to neither try to kill them or save them. I just rinsed the filter out as normal. I’m sure the worm population of my tank will recover. For all I know, there may be hundreds in there.

We have a little screen in the drain of our kitchen sink. I picked up the screen and there they were, a dozen little Bristleworms. I disposed of them, and breathed a sigh of relief that my wife didn’t find them! So that is my advice…it’s OK to clean filters in the kitchen sink when your spouse is gone, but make sure to hide the evidence. Rinse down the sink and then flush out the drain screen. And hope she doesn’t read your blog.

Spirobid worms, not baby snails in Saltwater

29 Dec

You may see little spiral shaped objects in your Saltwater tank. They are very tiny, and under close inspection look a lot like a baby snail.

If they are on the glass and you scrape them off you will notice they have a hard shell like a snail.

But they may not be snails, there is a good chance they are Spirobid Worms. These are little tube worms that make a little shell. They are filter feeders, meaning they ingest water and filter it, keeping the particles they can eat.

They are not harmful and, in my aquarium, there was time I thought they were going to take over the tank but,  like many things in the Aquarium, a balance was achieved and now they are still there but in a modest population.

If you have baby snails, you will notice the snails moving about and getting bigger. The Spirobid Worms find a good place to live, they attach themselves and stay there. Also, they stay VERY small.

You can see the tiny Spirobid shells on the larger snail shells.

Red Velvet Swordtails

29 Dec

I haven’t seen many Red Velvet Swordtails for sale in the past few years. I have read that the population was reduced by hurricanes that hit the fish farms in the Southern USA.

I found a tank of Red Velvet  Swords at our local Tropical Fish Shop a few weeks ago. I bought a pair for $4.19 each. The fish had just arrived, had a little white fungus, and were marked “quarantine”, which also meant NOT FOR SALE.  I explained that I was going to put the fish into a quarantine tank also, and if I had any problems I would not complain or bring back their dead bodies. So they sold me a pair and so far, so good. I hope to have some baby Red Velvet Swordtails in a month or so. I’ll keep you posted!

See the little spot of fungus on the tail?

I stole a Red-Ear Turtle

28 Dec

My backyard turtle enclosure. There's a 600 gallon pond in there somewhere!

Two years ago I stopped at a Local Fish Store.  It was a new business. I bought some little hermit crabs for my Saltwater tank.

I noticed a tank with a turtle in it. The tank had gravel on the bottom and in one corner was a water dish,  but it was a little water dish, like you use for a food dish for a hamster. This would suffice temporarily for a land turtle but the turtle in this tank was a Red-eared Slider, an aquatic turtle. The little guy was turned head-first into the corner of the tank.

The owner was not there so I said, politely, to a young employee, “This turtle is an aquatic turtle. It needs enough water to completely submerge. It won’t eat unless it is underwater.”  I suggested they fill the tank about halfway, give the turtle a place to bask, etc, and I asked the young man to tell the owner.

A month later, let me repeat,  a month later, this store had moved. I stopped in at the new location. There was the same turtle , in the same tank, now he was dying.  Seriously, he was dying of thirst and starvation.

My brain short-circuited.  I said, “I need a box. I am taking this turtle. If it survives I’ll bring it back to you.”  I’ll give the owner credit, he knew I was serious and he found a box right away. I reached in, grabbed the turtle and put him in the box. I said “Look, an aquatic turtle swims, it’s shell is stream-lined. It needs water so it can eat and swallow.  If you order a land turtle, it’s shell will be domed, you can give it a shallow water dish to drink from and sit in. ” I also mentioned that the only exception I could think of is the Pancake Tortoise, which is a desert tortoise but has a flattened shell.

But I was moving fast, I was agitated, and I was anxious to get this turtle home. After driving about a mile I started laughing to myself. “What the hell did you just do?” I didn’t even think to pay the 15 dollars for this turtle. I really should have but it never occurred to me.

It was a challenge to bring this turtle back to health. It could never compete for food with my other turtles. It was so weak it could not submerge and swim properly. I set up a tub of shallow water, maybe 3 inches deep, put a heat lamp over it, and tried various foods. It would not eat for the first two days.

On the third day I took some guppies, and I killed them. Hate to say it but I did. I squished them so their guts were hanging out, and the turtle nudged them and finally, barely, opened his mouth and took a taste. Eventually, he ate a few guppies. Within a few days he was getting stronger, and now he has turned out to be a SHE and has grown into a big strong, healthy turtle.

Every once in awhile I thought I should go back to the store and pay for the turtle. The owner really seemed to be a great guy who knew a lot about fish, but I never went back and the store is now closed.