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!

image

image

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.

image

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!!

image

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.

image

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.

Advertisements

The perfect beginner’s aquarium

30 Apr

Here is a recipe for the perfect beginner’s aquarium:

Get the basics. The tank, a light, a small heater, a filter. Decorate it how you want.

20160429_171509-1

Get some Platies. Just a couple to begin. Do not get tetras, angelfish, catfish, bettas or anything else. This tank is to guarantee success. If you are setting up a tank for your kids, buy goldfish and watch them pollute the tank and die. Buy tetras and watch them die from poor water quality. But if you want your kids to enjoy their first tank BUY PLATIES.

20160215_180924-1

Yes I know, that’s a Red Swordtail with the Platies!

Now here is the secret. Add a small amount of salt to the water. I would use salt that is made for a marine aquarium but you can use any non-iodized salt. For a ten-gallon aquarium use a couple of teaspoons for the entire tank. It’s not much salt. The reason for the salt is to suppress diseases like Ich and Fungus, etc.

After a few months and the tank is stable, add more Platies. Or maybe you won’t have to, your Platies might be making babies by then.

20160429_171514(0)

Do regular water changes. Change 25% of the water at least once a month. Once you are done adding new Platies discontinue the salt addition. If your tank is disease free you don’t need it. As you do regular water changes you’ll eventually have salt-free water.

You will be tempted to add Neon Tetras and Tiger Barbs and all that. DON’T DO IT! Look at all the color variation in Platies. Yellow, orange, red, black, blue, hi-fin, spotted, speckled.

20160118_212316-1

A few months ago I put about 8 platies in a 10-gallon tank. In the morning when I turn on the lights I see babies. I scoop them out and now I have about 70 of all types and colors. Soon I’ll put them outside in a little pond. Once they are an inch long I’ll probably take them to the fish club meeting and give them away.

20160429_171428(0)

If you got Platies from me you wouldn’t need the salt at all! The whole idea is to avoid the diseases that come from store-bought fish which leads to all those aquariums being sold on Craigslist.

20160429_171516(0)-1

A 2 inch fish swimming along with 4 inches of poop makes for educational conversation with the kids.

Final note: This same idea will work with Mollies and Guppies.

 

How to spawn Gold Barbs

30 Apr

How to spawn Gold barbs.

Do nothing.

That’s it, thanks for viewing my blog!

20160429_171502

 

I put a pair of Gold barbs into a 10 gallon tank thinking that I would separate them at some point, feed them some good foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp, then put them back together, hope they spawn, then deal with raising microscopic fish fry.

I have about 10 Gold barbs. I picked out the biggest, roundest female. A male is usually thinner but also, when healthy and in breeding condition, gets orange-colored along his belly. Note the orange-bellied male in the picture above. (the fish on the left)

In the 10 gallon tank I put handfuls of plants. An Amazon Sword just floating around. Some Hornwort. Some Red Ludwegia. Some hair algae also developed.

I made a water change one day and spotted a baby Gold Barb! I soon had caught seven babies. Last week I did this again and caught 6 or 7 more! I placed them in a 10 gallon tank with some Platy babies.

20160429_190638-1

What’s nice about this is that I didn’t do a darn thing. No raising infusoria or brine shrimp. I do have several cultures of microworms going and I feed that to the barbs a few times a week. I’m sure the babies benefited from that.

I really like the Gold Barbs. Peaceful, always active, always hungry.

20160429_171500-1

FEED ME!

 

A new tortoise pen

30 Apr

Here’s a quick photo summary of the tortoise pen I built yesterday.

20160429_100911-1

I used 2″ x 10″ boards.

20160429_122238-1

I used 2″x 4″s for the top. I stapled the wire to the bottom of the boards. The white plastic ties are only there because I used the wire that I had, which was in two pieces, instead of buying a single piece. Cheap cheap cheap, that’s me.

20160429_135045

Two hinges on the back.

20160429_135107

A latch on the front. I probably don’t need to lock it. I’m not aware of any turtle thieves running around but, my Red-foot Tortoise is worth $200 and if she were taken it would likely be bad for her.

20160429_135500

Now we’re getting fancy. A handle on the front. Cost me $1.99

20160429_141159

I bought a bag of Cypress Mulch (three bucks) and the sun came out for an hour so…

20160429_143244

…the tortoises got to come out to eat and sunbathe. I get these organic dandelions from my neighbors yard (thanks NW). He says he grows them just for me!

20160429_164214

But it’s still too chilly in Iowa so I took them indoors for the rainy days to come. If this Red-foot keeps growing I’ll be building a bigger pen before too long.

The important point to make is this: If you have a tortoise try to take it outside when you can. Even if you have UV lights, I believe nothing is like the real thing. A sluggish tortoise will totally perk up when exposed to natural sunshine. Even a few hours per week will do wonders.┬áSame for some popular lizards, like Iguanas and Bearded Dragons. Remember to provide shade and water if it’s hot outside. My Red-eared Sliders spend the summer in a pond but if you can get yours out in a swimming pool (not a chlorinated pool for humans, I mean a small kiddie pool) once in a while they will love it.

One more thought. My previous tortoise pen had wire buried underneath the entire thing to prevent burrowing out. I never saw any indication that mine were ever close to digging all the way out. Therefore, I did not add wire to this set-up. So consider that, depending on your tortoise. All tortoises dig and burrow. Mine nestle in the mulch and then only dig down an inch or so. They are lazy, even by tortoise standards.

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.

20150505_185847

They are easy to grow. Milk WEED.

20150602_153522

20150617_132650

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

20150712_140110

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.

20150809_170237

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

20150915_152530

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.

20150820_172932

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

20150820_172726

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”.

editorial

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 Amylamb.com. I hope she doesn’t mind that I used her photo.

pod

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.

20150429_154045

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.

20150418_194000

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.

20150820_172522

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!

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.

20150325_154536

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.

20150202_172326

I added some gravel, not sand.

I added some gravel, not sand.

20150203_191943

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

20150324_120859

20150213_173354-1

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.

20150219_183430

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.