Archive | March, 2015

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

25 Mar

You want a big pond? Then you should build a pond, but if you saw how I spent the last 7 hours you would NOT want a big pond.

..and the smell is...I can't even think of a word.

The smell is…I can’t even think of a word.

I like to clean out the ponds early in the year. Then, if we get a warm spell, I can get the turtles and plants outside sooner.

Last week I cleaned out my little 30 gallon pond. That’s a quick job, taking no more than an hour.

Then a few days ago, I cleaned up all the plants that surround my big pond. That took a few hours. I was stumbling over the decorative rocks and wood, hacking and raking. But it was a beautiful day, about 60 degrees F.

Now the cold has returned and I have the day off, so I cleaned the pond. I should have stayed inside and done something fun, like prepare my annual income taxes.

These pictures don’t begin to show how dirty and disgusting and smelly it was. When I see someone’s beautiful pond I know the work that happened behind the scenes.

I disassembled a sponge filter and used the sponge and a plastic cap on my pond pump.

I disassembled a sponge filter and used the sponge and a plastic cap on my pond pump.

First, on goes the sponge...

First, on goes the sponge…

...then the plastic cap. I was able to pump all the nasty water out of the pond without the filter getting plugged.

…then the plastic cap. I was able to pump all the nasty water out of the pond without the filter getting plugged.

Here's the pond AFTER the I had hosed it out and climbed inside and removed rocks, etc. It was MUCH WORSE than this looks.

Here’s the pond AFTER the I had hosed it out and climbed inside and removed rocks, etc. It was MUCH WORSE than this looks.

Notice the plastic jug on the pond bottom. The jug had a square-ish shape and I use it as a scoop. This works well when tearing down aquariums, too.

Notice the plastic jug on the pond bottom. The jug has a square-ish shape and I use it as a scoop. This works well when tearing down aquariums, too.

The small pond had been dechlorinated and tested with 5 Rosy-red minnows.

The small pond had been dechlorinated and tested with 5 Rosy-red minnows.

Today I discovered that a lot of minnows had survived our very cold Winter. Even better, my two Comet Goldfish had survived! I really thought they were dead. I hadn't seen them since October.

I moved all the surviving minnows to the little pond. Even better, my two Comet Goldfish had survived! I really thought they were dead. I hadn’t seen them since October.

I was feeling so bad about the Goldfish dying that I bought two Fancy Goldfish a few months ago.

Since I thought my outdoor Goldfish had died I bought two Fancy Goldfish a few months ago.

Here's the other one. These two will definitely have to be brought indoors before it gets very cold next Fall.

Here’s the other one. These two won’t be spending the Winter outdoors.

After about 6 hours of backbreaking work, I am filling the pond.

After about 7 hours of backbreaking work, I am filling the pond.

As it fills, I made some minor adjustments to the stream, tucking a few rocks here and there.

As it fills, I made some minor adjustments to the stream, tucking a few rocks here and there.

All done! I added some dechlorinator and I'll test it with a few minnows about 3 days from now.

All done! I added some dechlorinator and I’ll test it with a few minnows about 3 days from now.

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And here's the prize find! A 4" long Bullfrog was sleeping on the bottom. It's going to get very cold in the next few days so I'll warm him slowly in my garage and feed him a few worms.

Here’s the prize find! A 4-inch long Bullfrog was sleeping on the bottom. It’s going to get very cold in the next few days so I’ll warm him slowly in my garage and feed him a few worms.

And here's a tip for my fellow bird lovers. After the snow melts there are a lot of seeds under the bird feeders. I wait for a nice dry day and get out the shop-vac. I only look like an idiot for a few minutes and I won't have all those seeds sprouting in the grass .

A tip for my fellow bird lovers. After the snow melts there are a lot of seeds under the bird feeders. I wait for a nice dry day and get out the shop-vac. I only look like an idiot for a few minutes and I won’t have all those seeds sprouting in the grass.

A Tiger Salamander terrarium with fish!

24 Mar

The Tiger Salamanders I have were being sold as fish bait in Texas several years ago. They were purchased, brought to Iowa and raised into adults, which is how I bought them.

Cute!

Cute!

Tiger Salamanders like to be cool and moist. A woodland terrarium is what they need. They can do with a dish of water to crawl in and drink from but I’ve always wanted a little aquatic area to make it more interesting.

I finally came across some glass shelving that was used in a bathroom medicine cabinet. One long end of the glass is smoothed so that it is perfect for my purpose.

I siliconed the glass into a 55 gallon aquarium.

I sealed the glass with silicone into a 55 gallon aquarium.

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I added some gravel, not sand.

I added some gravel, not sand.

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Then I added  this top soil, which has no fertilizers or additives of any kind.

Then I added this top soil, which has no fertilizers or additives of any kind.

I mixed the top soil with Coir, which is coconut-husk fiber. This keeps the soil damp yet loose.

I mixed the top soil with Coir, which is coconut-husk fiber. This keeps the soil damp yet loose.

I added ferns and ivy's. Then I bought a bag of "long-fiber" Sphagnum Moss and spread that over the top. This looks good and keeps everything cleaner as the Salamanders come out of their burrows and climb around.

I added ferns and ivy’s. Then I bought a bag of “long-fiber” Sphagnum Moss and spread that over the top. This looks good and keeps everything cleaner as the Salamanders come out of their burrows and climb around.

long fiber moss

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The main diet for Tiger Salamanders is worms. I buy these Canadian Nightcrawlers. They also eat crickets and many other small creatures that burrow in the forest soil.

The main diet for Tiger Salamanders is worms. I buy these Canadian Nightcrawlers. They also eat crickets and many other small creatures that burrow in the forest soil.

Here I am feeding them pieces of frozen shrimp. This should not constitute very much of their diet but it's good to have in a pinch.

Here I am feeding them pieces of frozen shrimp. This should not constitute very much of their diet but it’s good to have in a pinch.

I put some guppies and White Cloud Mountain Minnows in the pond. There is no heater but I do have an airstone. I'll change the water about once a month.

I put some guppies and White Cloud Mountain Minnows in the pond. There is no heater but there is an airstone. I’ll change the water about once a month.

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I had one main concern when setting up the terrarium. Tiger Salamanders spend their lives hiding underground. If mine hid all day and only came out at night how would I feed them? I could release worms and crickets into the tank but if they aren’t eaten they eventually die and rot.

For the first few days I didn’t see the Salamanders. They had burrowed under almost instantly. But within a week they had all made an appearance looking for food. Now, whenever I am maintaining the tank by misting or watering the plants, the Salamanders pop out and look to the sky waiting for a worm. In fact, they want to be fed so often that I have to ignore them sometimes. Tiger Salamanders can get too fat in captivity.

Another hint is to use distilled water for misting the terrarium. This is a good idea for any glass terrarium, with frogs or plants. I wipe off the glass after spraying but if I miss some drops it will dry without leaving a mineral residue.

The Golden-eye Cichlid (Nannacara anomala)

23 Mar

I have a little colony of Golden-eye Cichlids in a 10 gallon (40L) aquarium. These fish are known as a good beginners fish. They stay small, they are hardy, and they are relatively easy to spawn.

A male is on the right side of this picture.

A male is on the right side of this picture.

I wish I could give a better review of these fish. I do LIKE them, I just don’t LOVE them.

The problem with my fish is that they are so secretive. They dart to the back of the tank and hide behind the sponge filter. If I stand completely still they will come out to feed.

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I tried using dither fish. The term “dither fish” means that you put in another species of fish, preferably an active fish, that makes the shy fish realize that everything is OK, and they don’t need to hide.

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I had 4 Neon tetras. I thought they might make a good dither fish. When the first one disappeared I wasn’t concerned but he was just an appetizer. The next three were gone in a day or so.

I also tried a little group of guppies and that ended the same way.  I need bigger dither fish.

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Golden-eye cichlids are moderately attractive. They don’t have any flashy colors, though I have heard that they get more colorful when spawning . Mine have not spawned, even though I have provided rocks, clay pots, and a fake tree root. They still prefer to hide all the way in back behind the sponge filter.

If you like cichlids but don’t have much room the Golden-eye may be for you.

CAM02825Here’s some black algae growing in the cichlid tank. I bought some plants at our fish club and now I have this. At first, I liked it. It’s furry and attaches to wood and rocks. But then it keeps growing and spreading. My Bristle-nose Plecos don’t touch it. It seems that I will have Black Brush Algae for a long time.

Monodactylus argenteus, the Mono or Silver Moony

23 Mar

I was recently given a 3″ long Monodactylus argenteus. (Thanks to TL)

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This Mono had been kept in brackish water that was about half the salinity of seawater. When Monos are young they are generally kept in a brackish tank. My only option was to put him in my saltwater tank.

I took 2 days to transfer him to full saltwater.

I’ll just briefly run down the positives and negatives of owning a Mono.

The positives:

He is the most lively fish in the tank. He eats any kind of fish food. He is not aggressive at all. He (or she) looks great!

My friend who owned this fish named him Stereo!  (Clever, eh?)

My friend who owned this fish named him Stereo! (Clever, eh?)

The negative:

Just one problem, the Mono gets huge. My tank is 42 gallons and I would never get a Mono and expect to keep him forever. As this Mono gets larger I should be able to give him to someone with at least a 75 gallon tank. In the wild, the Mono gets as big as a dinner plate.

The other issue is that the wild Mono is a schooling fish. To keep a school of Monos would take a huge tank. I wish I could keep some friends for this fish but it just isn’t possible. On the plus side, he certainly isn’t sulking from loneliness.

It takes about 10 pictures of a Mono to get one that's not blurry.

It takes about 10 pictures of a Mono to get one that’s not blurry.

If you have a big saltwater tank I completely recommend the Mondactylus argenteus.

How to get rid of that Smelly Dog smell.

18 Mar

My Golden Retriever asked me to pet her. But her hair is getting long and greasy. Her toenails click on the wood floor. Her breath is bad. She is smelly. I don’t want to pet her.

I thought, Well, whose fault is that? Is it her fault? Can she go turn on the bathwater? Can she brush her teeth? Can she trim her toenails?

Of course, it’s my fault. So this is to remind myself to take better care of this old girl who waits for me to come home from work every day and who is thrilled to play frisbee or get the leash and go for a walk.

Here she is after an indoor bath this winter.

Here she is after an indoor bath this winter.

An outdoor bath is easier and actually fun, especially on a hot summer day.

Start with the basic supplies. A pool of warm water. Shampoo, a brush, nail trimmers, a bag for hair, cotton balls for the ears and scissors.

Start with the basic supplies. A pool of warm water. Shampoo, a brush, nail trimmers, a bag for hair, cotton balls for the ears and scissors.

 

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We put dog hair around some plants to repel rabbits.

 

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I use these old nail trimmers. There are other designs available now.

 

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After trimming under the paws she won’t slide around on our wood floor.

 Use dog toothpaste.

Use dog toothpaste.

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Take off her collar and wash it at the same time. Don’t put it back on until the collar and the dog are dry.

Shampoo.

Shampoo.

Rinse with fresh water, then a big shake.

Rinse with fresh water, then a big shake.

While she is wet it's the best time to use a cotton ball to wipe out her ears. She loves it!

While she is wet it’s the best time to use a cotton ball to wipe out her ears. She loves it!

Everybody loves a clean dog!

Everybody loves a clean dog…

...especially me!

…especially me!