Archive | January, 2013

I don’t have time for a fish tank! (yes you do)

21 Jan

A fish tank takes very little time to maintain.  I’ve been sick this past week and haven’t done anything to my tanks except to turn the lights on and off and feed my fish. All of the tanks look great! The glass is clean.  The water is clear.

Daily chores are simple. Turn on the lights, feed the fish 2 or 3 times. Shut off the lights. Of course, you want to have some general awareness about the water temperature and overall health of the fish, but you will be watching your fish so that is easy to do.

Let’s do some monthly maintenance on one of my fish tanks:

This tank is about 35 gallons. It’s full of very active healthy fish. It also has a big clump of Java Moss and a large population of small snails.

It will take me longer to write this post than to spiff up this tank.

This tank has an outside filter.  I change the filter pad or just take out and wash the old one. One filter pad can last several months.


The water level is already down a little bit so I can reach in and scrub the glass. I think this is an old piece of indoor/outdoor carpeting!


Here’s one of the biggest snails in my tanks.  The SECRET to my tanks is two things. LIVE PLANTS and SNAILS!

I don;t have any Mystery Snails or Aplle Snails. I like the little Pond Snails. When they start to overpopulate I squish them and the fish eat them.

I don’t have any Mystery Snails or Apple Snails. I like the little Pond Snails. When they start to overpopulate I squish them and the fish eat them.

I keep a bucket or two of de-chlorinated water ready to go.

I siphon out about 20 percent of the tank’s water. I do this right after I scrub the glass.


I keep my thumb ready to stop the water flow in case a fish gets too close to the other end.

I keep my thumb ready to stop the water flow in case a fish gets too close to the other end.

If your heater clips the the side of the tank don't drain the water down too far.

If your heater clips to the side of the tank don’t drain the water down too far.

I lightly scrubbed the heater tube.

I lightly scrubbed the heater tube.

DSCF5387You can see I do things the old-fashioned way. I have heard about a better way to change water without lugging buckets around. It’s a product called a Python.

So I went to the Petstore and bought a Python. I hate to say it but it didn’t help at all.


I refilled the tank. After a few hours the water cleared up.

Cleaning the tank took half an hour.


Stories from a Turtle’s Shell

21 Jan

Last month I was given a family treasure. Well, in MY mind it is a family treasure.

Here is a little turtle shell that once sat in my Grandmother’s curio cabinet. Way back in the 1960’s I used to look at it and admire it. I wished I had that little turtle shell. I really wished I had the baby turtle.


Where did it come from? What happened to the poor thing?  The shell is only two inches long. It’s the shell of a Western Painted Turtle. This little turtle probably hatched one Summer and would have been this size by Autumn. And then…I’ll never know.


My relatives have a cabin along the Wapsipinicon River in Iowa. Very probably this little turtle was born on that river. There are lots of Western Painted Turtles there now.

How’s this for a cosmic thought:  His relatives are living there now. Painted Turtles can live 40 years. Maybe one of his brothers or sisters is still there, and right now is lying under the mud, waiting for Spring. I hope so.

I have had a Central American Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys pulcherimma) since 1990. That’s almost 23 years! She looked old when I got her. If she was 20 years old when I got her she would be 43 now. Again, I can never know the truth.
But look at this, she is missing a foot!
Her foot was gone when I got her. I’ve always wondered what happened to her foot? I think a predator bit it off!!! These turtles live in Mexico and Central America. Maybe a Jaguar grabbed her!
She also has a big scar on the back end of her shell. A fang mark from the Jaguar!
I bet the Jaguar figured he was going to eat my turtle but No! She turned around and bit him on the nose! The Jaguar screamed and ran off and then… well, maybe I don’t know for sure.
I have also had a Red-foot Tortoise for 3 years. She (you can tell it’s a she by her stubby little tail) has a shell deformity called “pyramiding”. The shell is not evenly rounded but has peaks and valleys.
Her shell looked like this when I got her. As she gets older maybe it will look less
pyramided as she gets a better diet and more sunshine.
There is a ton of information about pyramiding in tortoises. One website says pyramiding is caused by:

too much protein
too little calcium
too much phosphorous (a poor calcium :phosphorous ratio)
not enough D3

However there are some less obvious, though equally important factors involved

lack of exercise
hydration status
grain based diets
lack of fiber
too much food

So my Red-foot probably got the wrong diet, too much protein, when she was young. It’s easy to think they like fruits and worms like our native American Box Turtles but Red-foots like to graze on weeds. They eat a lot of roughage like a cow!

Most Colorful Fish contest. Saltwater versus Freshwater.

10 Jan

Freshwater fishkeepers often say “Someday I will set up a saltwater tank. They are so much prettier.” Are they right?
Let’s have a contest. I will be the judge. Are saltwater fish more colorful than freshwater?
I’ll rate the fish from 1 to 5. Five is the best score, the prettiest a fish can be.

Let’s start with a red fish:

Freshwater fish, the Red Velvet Swordtail.

I’ll give the Red Sword 5 points.

The saltwater red fish, the Coris Wrasse:
I will give the Coris Wrasse 4 points so the score is Freshwater 5, Saltwater 4.
Wait a minute, the Wrasse grows up and loses his red color!
A beautiful fish but not red! I give it 2 points. The score is Freshwater 5, Salt 2.

Let’s look at a White fish:
The freshwater entry is the albino Corydoras Catfish.
This catfish does not look like this in the natural state. Albinos do not survive long in nature. I’ll give it 3 points.
I can’t think of a white Saltwater fish. Zero points for the Salties!
The score now. Freshwater 8. Saltwater 2.
How about a yellow fish?
Here’s the freshwater Gold Barb.
Not bad. I would say 2 points for them.
Here’s the saltwater yellow fish, the Yellow Tang.
Wow, that’s a FIVE for sure. That makes the score 10 to 7 for the Freshies.

Oh, wait a second, there is a last-second entry for the freshwater team!
The Electric Yellow Labidochromis. An African Cichlid.
That’s worth four points at least. The score is getting wider.
It’s Freshwater 12. Saltwater 7.
On to Blue.
Freshwater has Blue Platies and Blue Gouramis but the bluest is the Electric Blue African Cichlid.
I’ll give it two points because the female is not very Blue. (sorry, ladies)

Here’s a saltwater Blue Damsel.
That’s an easy 5 points for the Salt team.
The score is now Fresh 14, Salt 12.
Green fish are the next category. I thought there would be more green fish. They could hide among plants. From an evolutionary standpoint I think green would be a good color to be.
Here’s a freshwater green fish.
Electric Green Tetra
That looks like 4 points.
And, in the ocean, here is the Green Chromis.
green Chromis
I’ll give the Chromis 2 points.
The score is now Freshwater 18. Salt 14.
Hang on! Time-out! A penalty has been assessed against the freshwater team. The Green Tetra is  a genetically modified fish. Cheater!!!!4 points are taken from the Freshies.
The score is now tied 14-14.
Let’s look at Orange fish.
The Sunset Platy.
I like these Platies and give them 3 points for orangeness.
Here’s a saltwater Flame Angelfish.
flame angelfish
Almost all orange except the stripes. That’s a beautiful fish worth 4 points to the Saltwater team.
The Salties pull ahead 18-17!!!
Black fish are next.
Here’s the Black Molly in a tank with a black background.
Here’s another Black Molly.
That’s the blackest fish in the world. 5 points for the freshwaters.
The saltwater entry is the Domino Damsel.
That’s four points for the salt. The score is tied 22-22.. oh wait here’s an adult Domino Damsel.
The damsel only gets 2 points.
Freshies are back on top 22-20.
The last category is multi-colored fish.
Here is a group of Discus.
Since these are all modified by captive breeding I’ll give them 3 points.
Freshwater 25-20.
The final entry for saltwater is the Mandarin fish.
Fantastic, that’s five points!!! I wish I could give it a ten.
The score is TIED 25-25!!!
How can I break this tie??
How about the ugliest fish??
4 points?
That is just as ugly. 4 points for the Salt team.
Still 29-29.
OK, one last chance to solve this issue.
I decided to do a Google Image search.
Freshwater fish.


…and the Google Image search for Saltwater fish.


And the winner is …… Saltwater … by one point.
I’ll admit the saltwater fish are more colorful, but just barely. If you have a freshwater tank don’t be jealous.
97.5% of the Earth’s water is saltwater. 0.3% of the water is in freshwater lakes and rivers. The rest is groundwater, snow, and glaciers.


Photos for this post are from the Internet and are not mine at all. I usually use my own in this blog. I appreciate the use of these photos and hope that I have not offended anyone by using their pictures.

Mollies and Salt

3 Jan

Another reminder about Mollies. They do well with salt added to their water. It would be best to make their tank a brackish water tank, maybe one-fourth as salty as a marine aquarium but that can cause other difficulties. Plants don’t do as well in brackish water and you are also very limited to other fish that like brackish water.

To make it simple I keep my Mollies, both Silver and Black, in a tank full of Hornwort and Java Moss (and Duckweed and Water Lettuce on the surface).
I add a LITTLE salt.
How much?
I don’t know. Not much.
How much is that?
Umm…maybe a tablespoon per ten gallons.

Over time the tank will get less salty because of water changes. I occasionally add more salt.
How much?
I don’t know. Not…
Don’t start that again!

A little salt and the plants are fine, the Mollies are incredibly active and disease-free. They live with some Endlers Livebearers (OK, Guppies!). Other good tankmates are the Platies and Swordtails.
Don’t use table salt. Use salt made for marine aquariums or the salt labeled Aquarium Salt. Don’t keep your mollies in soft water, they prefer hard water with a relatively high pH, like the African Cichlids.

more baby Red Velvet Swordtails

3 Jan

I have become very attached to my little colony of Red Velvet Swordtails. I have 4 females and two males.

They live with two Marigold Variatus Platies.

See the male Swordtail in the background with his sword tail.


I’ve been wanting to raise a few more but had to wait for an open 10 gallon tank.
Two days ago I finally had the opportunity to put a female into a tank that I filled with Java Moss and Hornwort. The tank also has two Julii Cory Catfish and two small brown Bristlenose Plecostomus.



The very next day POP goes the fishy! I noticed a baby or two but didn’t pull the female out immediately. It’s impossible to tell if she was done having babies or not. So I waited about 2 more hours, then went downstairs to catch her. Wow, she was chasing her own babies so hard I wondered if any would be left by the time I caught her. Fortunately, I think there are about a dozen survivors. Swordtails can have 25 or 50 or even more babies but this was a young mother and I don’t have room for too many more fish of any kind.
These babies will hunt for small food particles they find among the plants. I also have a Microworm culture going, plus I will make up a batch of baby brine shrimp when they are a week or two old. I’ll crush up fish food flakes and also dried shrimp. I think they like a lot of protein when they are growing, plus it gives them great color. When they are older they do fine on plain fish food flakes.
While we’re at it, let me show you one of my male Green Swordtails. Most people wouldn’t give a Green Swordtail a second glance but what do you think of this guy?
In the tank right next to the baby Swordtails, the Albino Bristlenoses are probably enjoying life in a tank to themselves. I find the male in the “cave” or at it’s entrance and the female can be found anywhere. Now that they are settled into the new tank I’ll try some major water changes in the next few days and see if that gets them in the spawning mood.

The male is at the cave entrance to the right and the female is hanging onto the sponge filter in back.

The male is at the cave entrance to the right and the female is hanging onto the sponge filter in back.

Baby Turtle and Jack Dempseys

2 Jan

While I was selling the Angelfish, VERY cheap I might add, I was giving away young Green Swordtails and Zebra Danios. I also have a group of small Jack Dempseys that I tried to give away but no one had a place for them.

I recalled that I once had a tank of Convict Cichlids and Tinfoil Barbs and also a Map Turtle. The Map Turtle would actually display mating behavior with the Convict Cichlids. Maybe the Jack Dempseys could live with my little Red-eared Slider?

The little Red-ear that hatched so late this year has gotten stronger and stronger and I just moved him into a 20 gallon tank. The water is about 8 or 9 inches deep. He has a basking platform, of course. The bottom is bare glass for easy cleaning. I stacked a few flat rocks on the bottom for the Jack Dempseys to swim amongst. I think they are all doing fine so far.



Bristlenose Plecos move in together

2 Jan

After selling the baby Angels I have a little tank space again!

I put my two Bristlenose Plecos together yesterday. The male is a short-fin albino and the female is a long-fin albino.

The main feature of the tank is a very fake-looking plastic stump. It has four openings. I have read that Plecos like fairly narrow confines for spawning so I put some stones inside the stump to make it more cave-like.

The male has been spending all of his time in the stump or at the entrance. He has been waving his fins, much like an Angelfish fanning their eggs. The female has not done this at all so I believe the male is trying to impress the female with his fatherly abilities.

The female does not look full of eggs so if nothing happens I won’t be surprised. I’ll be feeding them especially well (today they got frozen peas and brine shrimp) and making water changes.


The male is laying on the bottom and you can see the females flowing fins hanging above him.

If Bristlenoses were big they would be terrifying!

If Bristlenoses were big they would be terrifying!

Here's a little Bristlenose that I bought last month. They a a dollar apiece at Petsmart. I guess I won't get rich raising these guys either.

Here’s a little Bristlenose that I bought last month. They were a dollar apiece at Petsmart.  I guess I won’t get rich raising these guys either.