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Oscars and Classical Music. Or, How to lower your blood pressure.

25 Jan

I have two big Oscars in a 75 gallon tank. What surprises me is how graceful they are. They just float through the water, moving effortlessly, in total command of their world.


I play the radio while working on my fish tanks.I don’t know anything about classical music but it fits so well with fish-watching. Try it!

Especially with the Oscars. I think mine are a pair. They always stay in close contact, barely twitching a fin to feel the others presence.



There are 2 Jack Dempsey’s, a Red Devil, and a large Plecostomus in the Oscar tank.


You’ll find Oscars sleeping on their sides in the morning.

As serene and graceful as the Oscar’s appear, I make sure to keep them well-fed so they don’t turn into murdering maniacs.


The Red Devil. Do not adjust your eyes, this fish is yellow.


Used flowerpot WARNING

25 Jan

A Spring ritual is putting aquatic plants in clay flowerpots and placing them in my small outdoor pond.


A few years ago this killed some of my fish.

I start with flowerpots plus some clean sand and gravel.


Gravel goes on the bottom.

Then the plant, maybe a little soil, then sand on top.



As I mentioned,  a few years ago there was a problem. I had fancy goldfish, platies and swordtails in the pond. Everything seemed fine but after a week the goldfish were dying and the small fish had quit eating and were sitting at the bottom.

I captured the remaining fish, then completely cleaned the pond. I still had no idea what had happened.

It was a year later that the president of the local fish club (Mr. LVH) said something about pesticides in used flowerpots. It became clear as a bell.

I had bought some used flowerpots at a garage sale. My first use of them was in the pond. Things were fine for a week but then the poison began leaching out.

Another week went by and I had dead fish. The ones that were brought inside were thin and disfigured but, if they could be induced to eat, recovered quickly.

So if you buy used clay flowerpots soak them for several days in a bucket of water. Pour out the water and do it at least 3 times over a week.

Also in Springtime I put Water Lettuce outdoors that has been growing in an aquarium.


First, I put the plants in a plastic container and tuck it in a shady spot to avoid sunburn.


If I move it into sunshine too soon it looks like this.


Water Lettuce can recover and eventually gets accustomed to bright sun, but I think it does best in partial shade.

Partway through summer I have to remove handfuls of Water Lettuce from the pond.


I also have flowerpots in several of my aquariums.

Amazon Swords do best growing in soil.

The only problem growing aquatic plants in pots is that the plants grow too fast.  The tank becomes a jungle. Not a bad problem  to have.



Venus Flytraps eat fish food?

16 Jan

It all started nearly a year ago. One of my kids wanted a Venus Flytrap. I found out that plants cost about $5-$10 each, plus shipping, while 20 seeds could be had for $12.
I figured if I could get 3 plants to survive I would get my moneys worth.  I ordered seeds from I received them in a small sealed plastic vial.


This is a great way to use a partially-filled aquarium: As a greenhouse!

It’ll write about the process of getting plants from these seeds some other time. It’s not as easy as just dropping seeds into dirt. The baby plants are so small and need to be fed. Also, there are fake seeds being sold on the Internet, which is why I would recommend buying from There must be other trustworthy sources but I can say that my Venus Flytrap seeds turned into Venus Flytrap plants. It takes some work and a lot of patience, so trusting that the seeds are real is important.


I fed the baby plants with  fragments of dried Bloodworms (soaked in distilled water). It was very difficult feeding the baby plants. If you have the steady hands of a brain surgeon it helps.


Out of 20 seeds, I ended up with 15 baby plants, then had 10 very healthy growing small plants. Last fall, I put them outside on some hot, dry days and I killed them all! I brought them in, watered them, and ONE plant came back from underground. It was pathetic. I put the plant inside an aquarium, floating in the warm, humid air, under the bright LED lights. It’s growing. I treat it like it’s the last plant on Earth.

Thinking outside the tank

16 Jan

My water turtles spend the winter indoors in a 100-gallon horse trough. Let’s call it a turtle trough instead.

This year I acquired two more adult sliders A female Red-ear and a female Yellow Belly.

The basking spot I had was an upside-down bucket with a smooth rock on the top. There was not enough room for 4 turtles to bask.


One day, a teeny little light bulb went off in my teeny little brain. I went to the garage and cut a few 2″x4″ boards. I drilled them into the studs along the wall behind the turtle trough. Then I added a piece of plywood. The plywood is very important. It keeps the turtles inside their habitat, rather than falling off the logs and onto the floor.



I added 4 random pieces of wood. I drilled the first piece through the plywood and into a 2″x4″.

Then I added the other pieces of wood. I just played around with them and made them fit together so the turtles could climb up under the basking light. They are all screwed together with 3 1/2″ wood screws.


A big benefit is that I can now fill the turtle trough almost completely to the top. They gained at least 20 gallons of water and now have a big natural basking platform.


Eventually , I will finish this project. I’ll paint the plywood board in a solid, natural color like green or brown. Then, I’ll drill maybe a dozen holes into the board. Why, you ask? What is this madness?  I’ll tell you!  I’ll push ARTIFICIAL plants into the holes, creating a solid wall of fake greenery and flowers. When I do that I’ll post some pictures so you can see how it turns out.

Cockroaches in the house!!!!

12 May

One morning, about a month ago, I was getting ready for work, fixing lunch in the kitchen. I looked up at the 4-foot fluorescent light and, to my horror, saw bugs inside the lights plastic cover.
Big bugs. One inch long.


I grabbed a kitchen chair. I knew they looked like cockroaches but I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to freak out my wife.
I told her “Open the back door! If these guys start running I’m taking this whole thing outside!”
She seemed as alarmed as I was.
I jumped on the chair, took off the plastic cover and was ready to rush out the door. My wife stood with her hand on the door handle.
The bugs didn’t move. They must be dead, all dried up.
Here is one of them.


Here’s a view from above.


They are paper. Fake cockroaches!
My oldest son , an artistic devil, drew pictures of cockroaches,  cut them out, then stopped by the house when I was gone and put them in the light! He did this dirty deed on April Fools Day.
My wife, who was so “alarmed” knew about this the whole time! It was a conspiracy.
Ha ha very funny. What if I fell off the chair or had a heart attack? It’s all fun and games until dear old Dad gets hurt.

Trying to be crabby.

12 May

I had a single day off work last week. Only one day and I had too much to do. The day started off badly.  I felt cheated. I tried to wallow in my own misery.
But, as the day went on, things began to turn around.
I spotted a little fish in my community aquarium. About the size of a Neon Tetra but there are no fish that small in that tank.  But there it was, a survivor, a baby fish that hatched and grew among 30 hungry adult barbs, tetras and danios.
It’s a baby Colombian Tetra!



I felt better seeing that little fish.
A little later I was driving only a mile from my house and I saw some Milkweed pods rising out of a ditch. Could they still have seeds from last year? I grabbed two pods. They looked empty.


But to my surprise I looked more closely and there were a few seeds in the pod. Ripe and ready to plant. I can expand my Milkweed for the Monarch Butterflies! Yay!!


I was feeling pretty good at this point.
Later, I was mowing the grass and my old Golden Retriever was with me. She used to jump in the back of my vehicle and lay on a blanket and survey the world.
Surely, she’s too old for that but No! She leaped up onto the old blanket and laid there for 2 hours.


My crabbiness was gone. I was tired but content. Seeing a turtle basking in the sunshine can be the highlight of my day. Or watching ducks frolic in a puddle after a rain. Or discovering a new frog at one of my backyard ponds.
I need to get out and hike. I need to make the time.

Can we save the Monarch Butterflies?

10 Oct

Do you care about Monarch butterflies? If you do, find some Milkweed plants and take a ripe seed pod. Keep the pod cool and dry this Winter. Next Spring plant the seeds. Or, wait until Spring and collect some young plants as soon as they pop out of the ground. Transplanting big Milkweed doesn’t work very well, unless you can dig really deep and take a bucket of soil with you.


They are easy to grow. Milk WEED.



I put plants in several places in my perennial garden/ turtle pond.


I saw a Monarch flitting around the Milkweed plants. Later I saw this little white bump on the underside of the leaf. I checked on it often but I never saw it change size or hatch.


But one day, success! A Monarch caterpillar was crawling on this
Butterfly Milkweed, which is growing right next to the Common Milkweed.


In the Fall, the adult Monarchs love these Aster flowers. Also, the Asters are used by the honeybees and bumblebees. They need our help, too.


The bees love this flower, too. It’s called Joe Pye Weed. How come these great plants are called weeds?


One of the Milkweeds was attacked by these little red bugs that look like a mite of some kind. Of course, you can’t spray any chemicals on your Milkweed. Either leave it alone or spray water on it and knock the bugs off. It’s just nature. Some years you have pests, some years you don’t. We hardly had any Japanese Beetles this year.

If you have read this far, you have to see this editorial that was in our local paper. This guy is either misinformed OR he is the funniest dude ever. It’s the article titled “Attempt to help butterflies failed”.


I look forward to having more Milkweed and more Monarchs next year but I’m not terribly optimistic about their future. In the Fall of 2014 I counted as many as 5 or 6 butterflies in the garden. This year, I only saw one Monarch at a time. ONE. That is a frightening thought.

In Iowa, the corporate use of farmland wipes out most of the state as far as potential habitat for butterflies. Does planting a few Milkweed around the house matter? Maybe not. If we don’t try it, we’ll never know. The Monarchs are migrating South now and we’ll soon find out how many make it to their wintering grounds in Mexico.

The previous photos were all mine but I need to add a picture of a Milkweed seed pod. I found a nice one on a site called I hope she doesn’t mind that I used her photo.


In keeping with today’s theme of useful weeds, here is a gigantic dandelion that I picked in my neighbors yard. My two land turtles love dandelions.


And you know me, I like to slip in a turtle picture wherever I can because…everyone loves turtles, right? Here’s my female Red-foot Tortoise. She has grown so much. Her shell is 10 inches now.


I can’t stop! I have to show you this tomato that my neighbor planted. It’s called an Indigo Rose. Not a weed. They taste good. They are bigger than a cherry tomato. About the size of a golf ball. The seeds grow back true to the parent plant so we are collecting some seeds and we’ll share the plants next year.


When this picture was taken they weren’t ripe yet. The entire tomato gets purple and then the bottom turns reddish.

OK, that’s enough for now. Take a hike, find a milkweed pod, gather some seeds, you know the rest. Peace out, people!