Tag Archives: Aquarium blog

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.

Rare sighting of Flying Aquarium Fish

1 Apr

A few months ago I was lucky enough to see one of the rarest sights that fish-keepers can see.

I went downstairs to feed the fish and a tankful of young Angelfish had escaped from their tank and were flying around the basement.  I fumbled for my cell-phone and snapped some photos.

CAM01885I didn’t understand how this could be happening!  I was going Click-click-click with the camera.

CAM01875   I could hear a gentle buzzing sound.

CAM01872Their little fins were beating like a Hummingbirds!!

CAM01876I turned to run upstairs and tell my wife what was happening. Then I heard splashing. The fish were diving back into the tank!

A moment later they were cruising around the surface begging to be fed, like nothing strange had occurred!! Oh, my head was spinning. I walked up to the tank and sprinkled in some food. They ate like they were starving!

You can imagine my shock at all of this. I took two days off of work trying to figure out if I was going crazy. Eventually I started searching the Internet Aquarium Forums , using a fake name of course, and asked for anyone to share their experiences with me about aquarium fish flying around the house.

Well, what I learned was a big surprise. One of the most common of the flying fish are Angelfish. They have skinny, light-weight bodies and when they get into the air their fins can beat 1,000 times per minute. That explains the sound I heard. And, it seems that young Angelfish are most likely to be seen while flying. They are young and excited and are so busy goofing off they don’t notice the human approaching.

But, they can’t fly very long. The fins dry quickly and they must return to water within a minute or so. Plus, they can only eat while in the aquarium. They need a little sip of water to help swallow their food.

If you have goldfish you can forget about seeing them fly. They are too fat, simple as that. Here is my Black Moor Goldfish:

He can barely swim, much less fly.

He can barely swim, much less fly.

One fish that is built to fly is the Pufferfish. For years it was thought that Puffers inflate themselves to save them from a predators bite. But that is not true. The Puffers inflate and then quickly rise into the air. They float around like a blimp, safe from the sharks and turtles below.

Credit for photo found at "puffer fish smile" at Galleryhip.com

Credit for photo found at “puffer fish smile” at Galleryhip.com

I know this information may come as a surprise to you and I don’t want to alarm anyone who has Eels or Piranhas.

Credit for photo at footage.shutterstock.com

Credit for photo at footage.shutterstock.com

Eels are too thin to fly. If they escape the aquarium the worse they can do is slither across the floor and go up your pants leg.

Piranhas are simply too dumb to return to the aquarium. I have heard that they fly out of the tank and dash about a few seconds before crashing into a wall or the floor, never to regain consciousness.

Please feel free to add your comments and experiences regarding this subject. In this way, we can make a contribution to an obscure facet of scientific knowledge.

Meanwhile, I’ll turn on one of my favorite albums from the 70’s and ponder those Tales From Topographic Oceans. Rock on, fellow fish lovers!

tales

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

I’m having success with soft corals, mostly.

12 Jan

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My saltwater tank has been set up for 6 years. My two Clownfish and one Royal Gramma have lived in that tank for those 6 years. It is NOT a reef tank. No fancy lighting. I have always said this tank is exactly like a freshwater tank except that it has a skimmer running, as all saltwater tanks should. The tank is very green, with two kinds of saltwater plants that grow and need to be trimmed on occasion. (Caulerpa and Chaetomorpha)

Now the fun part. I never thought I could have any corals in this tank, but I stumbled across some Internet articles that talked about “soft corals” and how some of them can grow in LOW light. What? Really??? How come I never heard of this?

I read many articles on the subject and  came to the conclusion that if I could find certain species of soft corals I would try them in my tank.  I contacted the local Reef Society and bought some soft corals from two very knowledgeable and helpful reefers, or reef people, or whatever they like to be called.

Before adding the corals, I bought two new fluorescent bulbs at a home-improvement store. Those bulbs are Sylvania T-8’s , 4100K. Then I added a light fixture which holds one bulb and put in a Gro-Lux bulb, also by Sylvania I think. That light has a bluish cast to it and is used for growing plants of course. So there are 3 bulbs over my tank. This is still considered low light for a saltwater tank.

The two T-8s.

The two T-8s.

Let’s get to the coral. I’ll tell you about them one-by-one. I’m going to use only their common name as I have found them to be called on the Internet and by the people I bought them from. Some corals have about 6 names they are known by. I won’t get into that.

First, I bought a tiny group of six Yellow Polyps.

About 6 little Yellow Polyps. More brown than yellow.

About 6 little Yellow Polyps. More brown than yellow.

If they are happy they open up and start dividing into more polyps

If they are happy they open up and start dividing into more polyps

At last count I have 19 polyps! This has taken about 4 months.

At last count I have 19 polyps! From 6 to 19 in 4 months.

Here’s an easy coral to grow, the Kenya Tree. But my Kenya Tree was not happy right away. It sulked for over a week.

Looks like purple broccoli. Not happy.

Looks like purple broccoli. Not happy.

All opened up and ready to feed on whatever floats by.

All opened up and ready to feed on whatever floats by.

Growing!

Growing!

From left to right, the Finger Leather Coral, a Mushroom Coral, and a baby Kenya Tree. One day a branch of the Kenya Tree fell off. I re-planted it, and it douing well. Since then, I actually sliced off a branch of the tree and started a new one.

From left to right, the Finger Leather Coral, a Mushroom Coral, and a baby Kenya Tree. One day a branch of the Kenya Tree fell off. I re-planted it, and it doing well. Since then, I actually sliced off a branch of the original tree and started a new one.

I think that the reason some of these corals are growing well is that I have been feeding them live baby Brine Shrimp about 4 days per week. Many Internet sites say that they require no feeding, that they feed symbiotically from the algae that is in their bodies. I’m sure that’s true but in my low-light tank I want to help them all that I can.

Baby brine shrimp in a jar of saltwater.

Baby brine shrimp in a jar of saltwater.

I siphon the shrimps into a net and swish it into the aquarium.

I siphon the shrimp into a net and swish it into the aquarium.

Here’s the Finger Leather Coral.

The day i brought it home, wedged in a rock crevice, and very unhappy.

The day I brought it home, wedged in a rock crevice, and very unhappy.

He fell out of the crevice, and was still unhappy. They can pout for weeks.

He fell out of the crevice, and was still unhappy. They can pout for weeks.

Starting to improve.

Starting to improve.

Swelling up a bit. That’s good.

Big change huh? Opened up and feeding.

Big change huh? Opened up and feeding.

Here’s one that is struggling, the Devil’s Hand Coral.

When I got the Devil's Hand it looked like this for weeks!

When I got the Devil’s Hand it looked like this for weeks!

When it finally opened up, wow, so cool!

When it finally opened up, wow, so cool!

But I stirred up the tank one day, and the Devil’s Hand did not like that. It closed up again, and didn’t open. Weeks went by, it shriveled into a puny little nub. I thought it was dead. It drifted away and settled on the gravel. One day I noticed a little Devil’s Hand poking up.

C'mon little guy, hang in there!

C’mon little guy, hang in there!

It’s only the size of a pea, but maybe it will come back. This coral seems more sensitive to water quality than the others.

Another soft coral that should be doing well are the Mushroom Corals. But my mushrooms are not too happy. They are being overtaken by some ugly green algae that came on the rocks they were attached to. Maybe if I get that algae trimmed away they will perk up. Here are some photos of them.

On the right side of this picture, the green disc is a Mushroom Coral.

On the right side of this picture, the green disc is a Mushroom Coral.

Here's another species of mushroom, when he was happy.

Here’s another species of mushroom, when he was happy.

I’ve saved the best for last. Many experienced reef-keepers might consider this soft coral a pest because it grows so fast, but right now that’s what I want. This coral is called Wavy Hand Anthelia and, yes, it’s like a weed but it’s beautiful.

I've already spread pieces of Anthelia around my tank. I put this piece into a shell with some gravel in it.

I put this piece of Anthelia into a shell with some gravel in it.

Looks how much it's grown!

Looks how much it’s grown!

I cut the white elastic-like base of the Anthelia and started a few baby ones.

I cut the white elastic-like base of the Anthelia and started a few baby ones.

Wavy Anthelia and Kenya Tree coral.

Wavy Anthelia and Kenya Tree coral.

There are two final things I want to mention. One is just a reminder that these corals are animals, not plants, but its easy to forget that and treat them more like a plant. Like I say, I feed mine live Brine Shrimp.

The other thing is that these common corals are grown in captivity by other hobbyists. They grow easily and fast, and there is no reason to harvest these from the ocean. You can find them cheaply and you can soon be sharing these with other people like me who are new to coral-keeping.

Water Lettuce and Water Hyacinth in the Turtle Pond

4 Dec

The first 3 years that I had my turtle pond I couldn’t keep any live plants in the water. The turtles (Red-eared Sliders) annihilate everything.
This year, I came up with a strategy that seems to work:
I start by having Water Lettuce growing in my aquariums during the Winter.

Indoors, the Water Lettuce plant stays small under average lighting.

Indoors, the Water Lettuce plant stays small under average lighting.

I have not had any luck growing Water Hyacinth indoors. It must require much stronger light than I have.

Once Spring comes, I put a bunch of little Water Lettuce plants outside in the shade to acclimate it to the Sun.

Once Spring comes, I put a bunch of little Water Lettuce plants outside in the shade to acclimate it to the Sun. I leave them in the shade for at least a week and bring them indoors if it gets very cold.

Little Water Lettuce in the small pond. SEE THE FROG!

Then, into the small pond. SEE THE FROG!

It grows like mad and covers the little pond.

It grows like mad and covers the little pond.

The Water Lettuce gets bigger. See the frog again?

The Water Lettuce gets bigger. See the frog again?

I start putting Water Lettuce into the turtle pond. I also acquired some Water Hyacinth from a pond keeper nearby.

I start putting Water Lettuce into the turtle pond. I also acquired some Water Hyacinth from a pond keeper nearby.

The turtles proceed to eat the plants, mostly the Water Hyacinth.

The turtles proceed to eat the plants, mostly the Water Hyacinth.

But the 30 gallon pond keeps supplying me with Lettuce and Hyacinths and I begin to win the war.

But the 30 gallon pond keeps supplying me with Lettuce and Hyacinths and I begin to win the war.

The Water Lettuce gets gigantic outdoors. The turtles start to get sick of eating it!

The Water Lettuce gets gigantic outdoors. The turtles start to get sick of eating it!

But they LOVE the Water Hyacinth.

But they LOVE the Water Hyacinth.

The pond stays so much clearer with lots of plants to shade the water and filter it.

The pond stays so much clearer with lots of plants to shade the water and filter it.

It was so hot and dry we even had a toad living in the pond.

It was so hot and dry we even had a toad living in the pond.

I take some medium sized plants indoors and , before you know it, I am giving them away for aquarium use or even throwing them away.

Before Winter I take some medium sized plants indoors. They soon spread over the surface of the aquarium.

Before you know it, I am giving them away for aquarium use or even throwing them away.

Before you know it, I am giving them away for aquarium use or even throwing them away.

Get into shape. Buy a fish tank!

9 May

We’ve all seen those articles that claim having a fish tank is good for our mental well-being. The serenity, the calm, the interaction with nature.

What a load of CRAP!

Having a fish tank means always having something to worry about. Diseases like fin rot, and fungus, and especially ICH. Fish that fight, fish that devour their own babies!! Tanks that leak, heaters that stick in the ON position and COOK your fish.  $20 fish that jump out of your $500 tank. The kids putting cookies in the tank.

This hobby is a nightmare, and if you sit in front of the tank eating cookies or drinking beer it also ruins your physical health. My blood pressure goes up every time I see a fish!

I can’t help you with the mental stress of owning a fish tank but I do have some ways to improve your physical fitness.

First, don’t just sit there and stare at your fish like a zombie.  Place your dusty old exercise bike in front of the aquarium. Start out nice and easy. Soon, your legs will get stronger, your stamina will improve and you may actually go outside and ride a real bike someday.

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While you are on the exercise bike, you can ponder your aquarium and it’s inhabitants. You’ll think of ways to hook the bike up to your fish tank lights. Free energy!  Don’t hook the bike up to the air pumps, your fish shouldn’t depend on your lazy butt just to breathe.

To build strength, do a lot of water changes in your tank. Every week, drain out 20 percent of the water and refill it with clean fresh water. Don’t use some fancy-schmantzy automatic water changing device. Just use buckets of water and a short hose. The further you are from the drain, the better.

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A bucket of water weighs about 35 pounds. Don’t forget to alternate your bucket-lifting arm. You don’t want to start walking lop-sided. For those of you who want a more intense workout, carry the bucket outdoors and water your plants and trees. The best water for houseplants comes from your aquarium.

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Eventually, you may attempt a feat of Olympian strength that is known to fishkeepers world-wide.  This “event” requires you to remove a newly acquired 55  gallon (approx. 210 liter) aquarium from the backseat of your car, wrap your arms around it, lean against the back door of your home, quietly open the…dammit, the keys are in your pocket! Hunch down, support the tank on your knees, fish (ha ha, a pun) into your pants for the house-key. Now, QUIETLY, stealthily, tiptoe into the house, and quickly, like a cat, carry the tank into the basement. Even though you have the urge to gasp and groan, remain silent. If your spouse calls from another room  you must calmly reply, using short words like “Yes!” and “Fine!”.

Then, very importantly,  hide the tank! The best way to hide an aquarium is to tuck it BEHIND other unused fish tanks. Camouflage, as it were. This step may involve moving several tanks, buckets, wooden and/or metal stands. Once this is accomplished, you can collapse into a chair or onto the floor.

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It is recommended that you start practicing this phrase immediately:

“That big tank behind there? I’ve ALWAYS had that tank!”