Archive | May, 2012

Don’t say I didn’t warn you

23 May

You can buy a 30 gallon plastic pond for about 20 bucks, and I just saw a 50 gallon one advertised for thirty dollars, brand new at the store.


They are a lot of fun. Not too much work. I can clean mine out in an hour. (see photo at the bottom of the pond-cleaning post on March 11)

I have an airline coming from a pump in my house that goes to a plastic box filter with some aquarium wool, just like filtering an aquarium.

Put some plants around the edge, water the hell out of it, see what does well. Wait for frogs and toads to show up. Yes, the birds like it, too. Throw in some Guppies or Platies, or Rosy Red Minnows  and they will eat the mosquito larvae.

I don’t like artificial decorations but I did stick in a couple of small solar lights. It looks neat but the main reason is to attract moths and other insects for the frogs.

These little ponds are so fun you may find yourself digging a gigantic hole in your backyard and hauling in huge rocks, building waterfalls and streams and spending thousands of dollars on filters and such, so be careful. Have some self-control.

DISASTER!! (Zebra Danios, Firemouths and the Turtle Pond)

19 May

I had a tankful of baby Zebras Danios.

I had a tankful of baby Firemouth Cichlids.

I had a turtle pond with bright green water.

In previous posts I mentioned how useful green water can be for raising baby fish. It’s full of algae and micro-organisms that baby fish, especially egg-layers, can eat. I have great success putting baby fish directly into a little outdoor pond and letting Mother Nature raise them.
It’s been too cold to put my baby fish into the little 30-gallon pond, and besides, there were hundreds of toad tadpoles in there, so when the baby fish became free-swimming I began to bring in pond water and add it to their aquariums.

Here is the critical moment. One day I saw a sick Rosy Red Minnow (in the turtle pond, where I get the green water). The minnow was having difficulty and appeared to be dying. Not an unusual sight in a pond inhabited by fish-eating turtles,but my turtles don’t hunt them too aggressively.  I believed there were about 40 minnows living in the pond.
Days later, I saw ANOTHER sick minnow, so I grabbed a net and captured a few of the others. They all looked TERRIBLE. Ragged fins, cloudy eyes. Diseased. Fin Rot. High bacterial levels in the water. Polluted, basically.
Meanwhile, the baby fishes were all dying quickly and I knew that I had been pouring in this toxic water. I decided NOT to treat the baby fish, I didn’t think they could take any medication. I did some 50% water changes but they were almost all dead at that point.
I still had to deal with the pond. 600 gallons of toxic green water. And why was it so? I believe it was the bird droppings. Our neighborhood didn’t have many birds but as the trees have grown larger and people, like me, feed the birds, there are more birds around the pond than in years past. In particular, there are a lot of Sparrows, Grackles, and Mourning Doves. I never worried about it, I thought they were enjoying the little stream.

Every blog needs a picture of bird droppings.

The pond needed to be drained, the filter cleaned, and something done about the pollution. Either keep out the birds, or improve filtration, or both.
As I drained the pond I wondered how many minnows were still alive, and what about my 29-cent Goldfish that was about 8 inches long? Poor thing.
To my shock, no minnows were still alive, NONE, but the Goldfish was.

The Goldfish went into a 10-gallon tank. Too small, but clean.

The turtles got their shells scrubbed.

I hated to drain the whole thing but the water was well-used on my lawn and trees. The cost to fill my pond, 600 gallons of water, is TWO dollars and 20 cents. That includes the “sewer fee” that is mandatory, even though it didn’t go to the sewer.

One of my sons was very helpful that day. It’s a big job to clean a pond, plus scrub turtle shells.
My dog enjoyed the view.

Almost full.

I got some plastic mesh that is used for covering fruit trees. I threw it over the filter, stream and rocks, in hopes of discouraging the birds. I also have two bird baths in the yard that I hope will keep them happy.

Plastic mesh over the stream area.

I couldn’t put the mesh completely down to ground level. If the turtles were to walk into it they would get tangled, maybe injured, and if they dragged themselves into the water they might even drown, so I was cautious how I placed the netting.
Within half-an-hour I saw several birds darting UNDER the net to get a drink. Nooooo! Are you kidding me! They have no fear!
It has been a few days now, the pond looks wonderful, there are FEWER birds, maybe they decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. I still intend to improve the filtration and also investigate bird repellants. Not chemicals, but like a scarecrow. A plastic Owl or Snake. I don’t know if that will help. Maybe a REAL snake! That will fix them.

Just think, over 100 fish are dead. Nothing expensive, but it still bugs me. It was very disheartening, and that wasn’t all the bad news of the past week or two. I don’t want to tell you ALL the bad things that have happened. I’ll write a more cheerful post soon and THEN get back to the depressing stuff.


15 May

I wonder about this nest in our Blue Spruce tree. I haven’t seen a bird use it. It faces away from our house so I don’t have a good view of it. It has blue plastic stringy things in it, and the access to the nest is from the side. We had Mourning Doves nest in this tree last year but their nest looked like a shallow bowl of sticks and dried grass, not like this one at all.

Th following two pics were snapped as I pedaled through the park today.

Update on Squaw Creek Dog Park, Linn County, Iowa

15 May

Here’s a few pics, taken just hours ago, that show the dog park is coming along nicely. There are no signs yet and from a distance it looks almost ready, but up close you see the plants have not filled in yet.

I’m not a big fan of dog parks, my dog behaves well and has fun wherever we go, but it might be fun for her to meet other dogs more often.

A bunch of gardening/landscaping pics

15 May

Starting to wonder about the Practical Fishkeeping Blog? Me too! Where did it go? Outside!

The Turtle pond today

15 May

Pssst…there is a turtle in this pic! Can you see it?

We have had an early Spring so the pond looks like it would normally look in June.

I suppose there should be some turtles in a post about a turtle pond. I’ll make up for it later this week.

Iowa ain’t half bad

15 May

We don’t have any mountains, or oceans, but there are times when Iowa looks pretty damn good. One of my sons snapped this photo a few days ago and I just had to share it. If you want to know what Iowa is, it is in this picture. Some woods, some prairie, some farmland. That’s it, that’s us.

Eggs to tadpoles to toads in less than 6 weeks

15 May

Most of the toad tadpoles that were laid April 4 are still tadpoles but a couple that are in a heated aquarium have completely changed (see, I avoided spelling metamorphisized or somethin like that) into tiny little toads.
I put them outside because there is no way I can provide live insects to such small creatures. I am sure their mortality rate is still very high but at least they have made it this far, so good luck little dudes!

Contest Number Four: This thing is a…….

15 May

I was out on a bike ride this evening through a nearby park and I saw something hanging in a tree.

What the heck is it?

A box kite that crashed and was left to hang?

A newfangled bat house?

A left-over movie prop from The Blair Witch Project?

Slowly I crept, step by step, inch by inch….

I have no clue, but I think it might have something to do with repelling bugs, or attracting bugs. Do I win?

A handy dandy bird feeder

15 May

Here’s how we fill the blue-topped bird feeder in our Locust tree:

About 20 inches above the blue-topped feeder is a pulley. This was my wife’s idea.

OK, here is my brilliant contribution to the project, an “S hook”.

Just unhook the “S hook” and the feeder drops down. A well-placed knot in the cord reaches the pulley and stops the feeder from going too far down.

My wife is always coming up with clever ideas like this. She doesn’t just say, “Hey I think if we put a pulley on the bird-feeder it would be easier to fill”, and then stare at me. No, she goes out and buys the supplies and installs it. Then, a few weeks later I notice and say, “Hey Hon, there’s a pulley on the bird feeder.” Then she rolls her eyes and says, “No kidding.”