Archive | March, 2014

Saving Baby Swordtails with the Aqua-Nursery

26 Mar

I love my Velvet Red Swordtails and want to have some more of them. They look great in the pond or aquarium and they are very popular if I want to sell a few or give them away.



The problem is this: Momma Swordtails will eat many of their own babies as soon as they are born. I’ve always kept the mother in a densely planted tank and then removed her as soon as possible after giving birth. That works pretty well, but there’s another way to do it.

Here it is, the Penn-Plex Aqua-Nursery. I ordered it online through It cost $8.25.



It’s a variation on the old “breeder-trap” idea. A breeder trap is a slotted plastic box. The mother has the babies and the babies fall out of slots in the bottom and they swim away into the main tank. That’s fine most of the time but I want to get some babies, then put another mom into the trap and have the option of where I want to put the babies. Anyway, you’ll see how it works and see if it would help you keep some baby fish.

I hung the Aqua-Nursery on the side of a 10-gallon tank. You have to attach an airline to the bottom of the nursery. This serves two purposes. One, it keeps water flowing through the nursery, which is nice, and secondly, the air causes water to be drawn from the mother’s section to a little baby section. The babies get gently sucked into their own little compartment. So clever!!

Of my 4 adult female Red Swords, none looked very pregnant, but I selected one last night. I took about 20 minutes to acclimate her to the water, just like bringing a fish home from the store.


And, amazingly, she had babies during the night. I was surprised it happened so fast. The compartment for the mom is quite small for a Swordtail. The Aqua-Nursery is better suited for Mollies, Guppies, and Platies. But if the female Sword is ready to pop I think it’s OK.

Here are some of the babies that went from the Mom section to the kids section.

Here are some of the babies that went from the Mom section to the Kids section. Half of the babies were in their own section, the other half were safely below the mother.

The bay section can be removed and then you can put them wherever you want.

The baby section can be removed and then you can put them wherever you want.

If you want the babies to go right into the aquarium just leave the baby section off completely. The airline still helps keep the mother's water circulating.

If you want the babies to go right into the aquarium just leave the baby section off completely. The airline still helps keep the mother’s water circulating.

I started a fresh batch of Brine Shrimp to feed the babies in a few days. Live baby Brine Shrimp isn’t needed to raise livebearers but they love it.

Note I have this sitting on a fluorescent light fixture to keep it warm and speed the hatching. Also notice the cover to prevent a salty spray from getting onto the lights.

Note I have the Brine Shrimp on a fluorescent light fixture to keep it warm and speed the hatching. Also notice the cover to prevent a salty spray from getting onto the lights.

The Aqua-Nursery worked pretty well. It’s an ingenius little device.

I think the manufacturer is implying that you can keep all the babies and raise them in the little nursery section. I don’t think it’s big enough to do that BUT it is big enough to keep maybe 10 babies and raise them a few weeks until, hopefully,  the other fish in your tank won’t eat them. Like I say, it best suited for small livebearers like Guppies and Platies.

Remember you need an airline attached to make the nursery work properly.

So good luck to you if you want to raise some baby fish! If you save just a few every once in awhile you can have a never-ending supply for your aquarium. A big plus is you can avoid the disease issues that happen when you buy from those big stores (they know who they are, I’ll be nice today).














Lawnmower Blenny report…and more.

1 Mar

I’ve had the Lawnmower Blenny in my saltwater tank for about 3 weeks now. He’s doing well. He’s fun to watch, he perches high on the rocks and coral like a bird surveying his domain. He’s a great little fish, but…well, the truth is, he is not making a dent in the algae.


He picks at it, but I never see him really grab a chunk and just EAT it. It’s pick, pick pick, but the algae in my tank appears the same. Buy one, but don’t expect miracles.



Last week, in a shocking turn of events, my two Ocellaris Clownfish began attacking my Green-Spotted Puffer. The Clowns were relentless. They have always dominated the Puffer but suddenly they were really trying to kill him. I haven’t noticed any spawning behavior from the Clowns that would make them so vicious. After 3 days of this I had to remove the Puffer. He’s in a smaller tank for now, and I am adding some freshwater to his tank every day to make it brackish. (salty but not saltwater)


Since the Puffer is no longer in the salt tank I realized that I can add snails for algae control. We have a Petco nearby and I bought 3 Turbo Snails at $3 each. I took 5 hours to transition them to my tank conditions and they are doing well.

CAM02716They are not traveling much but they don’t have to. The bottom is literally a bed of food for them.


Now the sad part of the story. I also bought a little Blue Damselfish. When I first set up this aquarium, over 6 years ago, the first fish I bought was a little Blue Damsel. He got along great with these two Clownfish and the Royal Gramma, who are, as I always say, over 6 years old.


That original Damsel lived over two years and I believe he died of old age. He didn’t die suddenly, he deteriorated over a period of many weeks. I mention all of this because I was so hopeful that another Blue Damsel could live in this tank. The splash of Electric Blue would make this tank PERFECT.


At first, the Damsel stood up to the Clowns. But on Day Two the Damsel was in hiding. I fed a big dose of baby brine shrimp into the tank to make sure he could eat without coming out. I expected him to hide a few days and learn how to cope but on Day Three I found him dead. Quick as that. I have to ponder whether I will try it again. Did the Clowns actually kill the Damsel? Or was the shock of going from the wild to the store to my tank too much? I just can’t stand knowing all that fish went through only to die in the middle of Iowa in a 42 gallon fish tank. This just haunts me.

Fruit Flies in your plants or….FUNGUS GNATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 Mar

Here’s what happens:

I bring some plants inside for the Winter. Over the course of the Winter more and more little bugs are flying around the plants. Especially when I water the plants the bugs come flying out.


I figure they are Fruit Flies, so I make a fruit-fly trap. You know, the kind where you cut the top off of a plastic bottle, which forms a funnel. You turn the…oh heck, here’s a picture of one:

fly trapSo I put fruit juice in the bottle. No flies. Then I try a piece of banana. No flies. Then I try wine.

Still no flies.

That’s because they are NOT FRUIT FLIES. They are Fungus Gnats.

Fungus Gnats like wet soil. I have ferns and some other plants that like damp soil. I figured that I must have a few dozen flies in my plants. Finally, I hang up a pest strip. This sticky fly catching strip has no chemicals or pesticides in it. It’s just sticky.


Wow, was I surprised. In a few weeks it caught over a thousand little Fungus Gnats. Crazy, huh?


I also read that spraying 3% Hydrogen Peroxide onto the topsoil of the plant will kill off some of the gnats, so I also have done that a few times.

The gnats love wet soil so they aren’t usually a problem in African Violets, which do better if they dry out a bit between waterings.

It's in my gene code to raise African Violets.

It’s in my genetic code to raise African Violets.

Here's a little cold-water fish tank on my plant shelf. I'm raising the baby Rosy-red minnows in here until the pond thaws in Spring, if that ever happens.

Here’s a little cold-water fish tank on my plant shelf. I’m raising the baby Rosy-red Minnows in here until the pond thaws in Spring, if that ever happens.

Great aquarium pump. The MA-600 Via-aqua Millionaire

1 Mar

Forgive me for repeating myself, as I have already written the praises of the Via-aqua Millionaire MA-600 air pump, but I’ve just ordered another new one and I will be so happy to have lots of air powering my tanks for several years to come.  This pump can power a filter in 10 ten-gallon tanks. That’s a lot of air for an inexpensive pump.


The Via-Aqua Millionaire MA-600. Seriously, I love these air pumps!!

This is a dual pump. In other words, you attach two air lines to it, then split off that air with your own valves.

I’ve bought one new pump from and the newest one is coming from Buying a pump repair kit costs nearly as much as a brand-new pump.


When my old pump got weak I found the usual culprit, a split rubber diaphragm. This eventually happens to ALL aquarium air pumps.


Here’s the pump with the bad diaphragm (on the right side) removed. In this case I stole a diaphragm from some other old pump I had. It lasted a few months.

With two new MA-600s I should be trouble-free for years.

Aquarium pumps vibrate constantly and if yours (any brand) starts to sound annoying get a screwdriver and take off the screws on the bottom of the pump. Look inside and tighten up any screws you see in there. Then plug it in with the cover OFF. Don’t be afraid, it won’t explode. See if the vibrating parts are rubbing against anything. If they are, figure out how to stop that. You’re a smart person. Maybe you need a well-placed zip-tie in there. I just ask my wife for assistance and than I put the pump back together. Maybe the screws holding the cover together were loose in the first place, so snug those up nice and tight. If this doesn’t work, hurl the pump out the window and buy a new one.