Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Water Chemistry

I did all the tests I have, which now include Nitrate and Phosphate, and it almost makes sense:

58G 7.6 6.16 7.28 5.5 10 0.25
20G 7.6 5.60 6.16 4.5 5 0.25
Tap 7.6 3.92 5.04 3.8 2 0.25

Tests were done at around 6pm, 1 hour after CO2 was turned off in 58gal and 1-2 days after 50% water change. Looks like the water pH is too high for my pH Low Range (6.0-7.6) test. I need to get a high range test, better yet figure out how to lower the pH. It seems like topping off the tanks with distilled water might be a good idea. For now I decided to bubble CO2 into 58gal 24 hours/day instead of during the "lights on" hours only....

Friday, October 17, 2008

58 Gal: Rummy-Nose Tetras

This tight school of 20 Rummy-Nose Tetras (Hemigrammus rhodostomus) was delivered today with no loses at all! (Update: looks like one of them will be lost in the next day or two) They are constantly darting in the bottom half of the tank.
I also got myself some topsoil for El Natural experiments. I happened to pick the same EarthGro from Home Depot as the topsoil used in this howto.
Here is a progress update. This picture was taken right after trimming on 10/12/2008. Note a "vacuum cleaner" (pump with a pre-filter sponge) I used to remove the debris. I am not convinced it worked well enough so I doubt I will be using it in the future.
This picture was taken a week later. I am really pleased with the way the swords are developing - this must be substrate tablet ferts. Too bad hair algae developed even better - notice the hairgrass got almost fully covered. I read that in an aquarium with algae new algae grows slower. Based on this piece of wisdom I decided to take it easy and to leave algae alone, at least for now...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Water Chemistry

Today I finally used the test kits - all I had - low range pH and KH/GH. The results are really confusing:

pH dGH dKH CO2
58G 7.0 15.68 10.08 47
20G 7.6 8.96 5.60 6.8
Tap 7.6 10.08 7.28 7.5

There is no surprise that 58Gal has lower pH - CO2 injection shows. 58Gal does have a terribly high GH - I tested it twice only to get the same result - I guess water change is overdue. But 47ppm for CO2? My fish is doing just fine and has no desire to die as it should do at 47ppm concentration of CO2. And my tap water has higher GH than 20Gal? This I certainly do not understand. My guess is that the GH/KH test kit needs calibration. I also ordered phosphate and nitrate test kits.

Friday, October 10, 2008

58 Gal: Time off and Growth

I had 3 days of vacation and read Ecology of the Planted Aquarium and Nature Aquarium World I. I got back inspired and worried about the break in the fertilization routine - I want to work on el Natural/NPT/non-CO2 tank and automated dosing.

Here is an indication of the growth rate in this tank. The first picture was taken on 10/5 after I just planted new arrivals.

The second shot was taken just 5 days later on 10/10! Majority of the growth comes from the usual suspects - R.rotundifolia and H.difformis. But look closer at the Echinodorus amazonicus on the right and in the background. Look at where R.macrandra and R.wallichi is.

There are also bad news though. Dwarf hairgrass despite its rapid growth is already covered with algae. Does this ever happen to Amano? I bet he would recommend Caridina japonica. My angels would be sure happy and have it for lunch. Alternatively a fertile substrate might help. Or maybe smaller diameter gravel. Anyway. I am ready to call it quits and look for new (robust, moderately/fast growing) alternatives, e.g. Lilaeopsis brasiliensis (Micro Sword), Hemianthus micranthemoides (Baby tears or Pearlgrass), E. tenellus (Narrow Leaf Chain Sword), Lobelia cardinalis dwarf, Marsilea quadrifolia (fourleaf clover), Glossostigma elatinoides (or just glosso).

Sunday, October 5, 2008

58 Gal: Messy Moss, More Plants and Fish

Courtesy of Jeff B. I now have more plants. Rotala macrandra (Giant Red Rotala) is absolutely gorgeous - it has extremely fine delicate leaves and is doing almost OK in my tank. R.macrandra v. narrow leaf (Rotala Magenta) looks more like R.rotundufolia than R.macranda.

Rotala wallichi (Whorly Rotala) seem to be slowly melting. Hope it will turn around. I also got a stem of Schefflera aromatica(?). This plant seem to be doing OK.

I also received Anubias barteri 'eyes', Anubias lanceolata, Microsorum pteropus (Java fern) and more moss (Vesicularia montagnei or Christmas moss this time) from aquaticmagic. I attached ferns, which are probably M pteropus v narrow, to bogwood and am now pleased with the way they look and are doing. The moss is a different matter though. For the moss to recover from shipment I dumped it into the tank. In a few days, I noticed new growth while older parts became brown. The worst thing is - a thick (half an inch) layer of solid algae covered hairgrass lawn. Yesterday I removed algae with about half a pound of substrate and all hairgrass. I then recovered and replanted hairgrass. To salvage the substrate I sunk it in Hydrogen peroxide overnight. Peroxide killed algae and made it possible to separate it from flourite. Now the moss sits in a pan with water and waits for me to transfer it to a plastic mesh. I am concerned though that adding it to the tank will again result in an algae outbreak.

Finally, thanks to Romeo O. I now have some (Silver?) Angels (Pterophyllum scalare)! They hang together and are doing great - their appearance improved since they moved into this tank. According to Romeo, these Angels are about 3 months old now. Their gills are somewhat exposed - is it because of transparent gill covers? - I hope this will change with age.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bogwood and Moss

I just got myself some bog wood and Java Moss (Vesicularia dubyana). I started with soaking the bogwood for few days and followed with boiling it for a couple of hours. I attached the moss with fishline to a couple of pebbles. I also used fishline to attach anubias to bogwood and then wrapped it up with the mosss. Finally I wrapped another piece of bogwood with moss and left it in a covered glass container under the sun with some water on the bottom - I expect for it to grow in real fast with high light and 100% humidity - we shall see if it works.
Update: well, it looks like I cooked moss in the direct sun. So far no luck.
Yet another update: first female and then male white cloud minnows died because of the deterioration of water caused by new moss. I made a 50% water change - barbs seem to be OK.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

58 Gal Tank - New Plumbing Plan

I like the way hardware is arranged today, but I want to remove UV sterilizer from the tank and make water changes easier. I do not think installing UV inline with the filter is a good idea - I am afraid it will create woo much head and result in a low flow. My thinking is to have two parallel closed loops - one of just the filter, another with a pump driving CO2 reactor, UV sterilizer and heater. Increased water flow is a nice side effect.
I plan to increase diameter of the inlet and outlet pipes and tubes to 16/22mm.
These will be connected to manifolds joining the two loops. The inlet manifold details are on the left and outlet manifold details are on the right. I hope that a single hose connected to the inlet manifold will be sufficient to both drain and fill the tank. All parts are ordered. Waiting to put the plan in action!

Monday, September 15, 2008

20 Gal Tank Setup

This is a moderate light, no CO2 injection tank. I use Hagen Glo fixture with 2x24W T5HO fluorescent bulbs and a daily dose of Seachem Flourish Excel. Filtration is provided by Eheim 2213. Substrate is a 1.5" layer of flourite.
I planted Anubias barteri and Anubias barteri petite in this tank. I also routinely plant cuttings from 58gal tank, but they do not grow well and are soon covered in algae. The next time I prune plants in 58gal, I replace plants in this tank with the cuttings.
Cleanup crew includes Malaysian Trumpet snails, 20 Olive Nerite snails and 3 otos.
6 Tiger barbs (Puntius tetrazona) and 3 albino barbs are constantly chasing each other establishing pecking order. Originally the school consisted of 7 barbs. One of the barbs died after being constantly chased by the dominant specimen, I decided to increase the school by adding albinos. So far it works.
The 2 white cloud minnows (Tanichthys albonubes) live in my tanks for almost 3 years. They are ignored by barbs.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

10 Gal Shrimp Tank

My father keeps this low light red cherry shrimp (Neocaridina denticulata sinensis, variation red) species tank - with no CO2 or fertilization. This is a standard 10 Gal kit, with its hang-on-back filter outfitted with Aquarium Technology, Inc. Filter-Max I Pre-Filter. Thin layer of flourite is used to plant cuttings from my 58Gal tank - Anubias barteri, Rotala rotundifolia, Hygrophila difformis. There is also a paper background attached to it, so do not be confused.
Pre-filter sponge is the favorite place for shrimp to hang out. Note the pregnant female on the left. Although my 58Gal has few shrimp, this species tank is much better for observing their behavior. Most importantly my father manages to fight of the algae - frequent water changes I guess....
Here are few shots of the flora and fauna.

Another one:

How many shrimps do you see here on one leaf? I see at least 3!

Algae wafers are the favorite snack:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

58 Gal Tank - Fish and Inverts

Cleanup Crew
About a dozen of Red Cherry Shrimp - Neocaridina heteropoda (formerly Neocaridina denticulata sinensis) variation red. The population is stable and does not grow although I routinely see females being pregnant. I guess this means that fish eats juveniles. Also temperature in my tank raises above 80F in summer which is not good for this shrimp.

A dozen or so of Malaysian Trumpet Snails (Melanoides tuberculata) sometimes uproot my plants, especially newly planted ones.

Today I bought ten Olive Nerite Snails - Vittina usnea (formerly Neritina reclivata). Their description sounds almost too good to be true.

I always keep Otos (Otocinclus) in my tanks. Now I have about 6 of them in the 58 gal. They are fun little fish. I observed the two of them trying to school with black neon tetras.

I bought 6 Black Mollies in hope that they will eat green hair algae. They do eat it sometimes, however from what I can tell, make little to no impact overall. It is nice though to have live bearers - I use fry to feed my tiger barbs in a 20gal. Mollies have good appetite and will always beat tetras to a new serving of flakes.

A school of 9 Black Neon Tetras (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi) is the centerpiece of the 58 gal tank. These are elegant fish. Sometimes I wish they schooled more tightly.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

58 Gal Tank - Plants

I used mostly fast growing plants donated by fellow aquatic gardeners to jump-start the tank about a year ago. Some of the plants never survived - for almost a year I used no fertilization at all and only half of the lights available. Some plants were pulled out along with green hair algae. Some plants did well though! Here is an overall view of the tank today with some photo equipment I use to take these pictures.

Rotala rotundifolia
Dwarf rotala absolutely took over the tank. Every week when I remove hair algae I trim or pull out a bunch of these stem plants. Its top is of nice red color. The bottom leaves which have less access to light are smaller and of dark green color. Here is rotala in the right part of the photo.

Hygrophila difformis
At first I mistook Water Wisteria for Ceratopteris cornuta/Ceratopteris thalictroides/Water Sprite
Water Wisteria leaves have beautiful fresh green color and intricate shape. Fast growing. Very fast becomes bushy. Needs frequent trimming. I never managed to make it look good. Here is water wisteria taking over foreground.

Hygrophila polysperma
After about almost a year I discovered a single surviving plant of Dwarf Hygrophila. Now it took off and grows as fast as rotala or water sprite. Here hydrophila is in the middle with water wisteria in the background and lower foreground. I understand this plant is considered to be a weed and can not be sold in US.

Eleocharis parvula
Dwarf Hairgrass (E. parvula or is it E. acicularis?) did survive for almost a year in the shadow of rotala. Now I pay more attention to not pull it out when I remove hair algae. It is a problem though, because dwarf hairgrass is a hair algae magnet.

Anubias barteri
I purchased this Giant Anubias plant a couple of years ago at a local swap meet. Since then it grew steadily and I made at least 3 cuts to propagate it to other tanks. It is always covered in some sort of algae but grows and even flowers just fine. Here it is in the middle, pearling and flowering in all of its glory.

Echinodorus amazonicus
I bought 9 stalks of this Amazon Sword on eBay from aquaticmagic. All of them are growing!

For the last month I am running fertilization using PPS-Pro approach. I like its simplicity - daily dosing of two solutions with no need for water changes. Overall fertilization helped plant growth and suppressed growth of hair algae. What hair algae does grow though has much thicker hair so it is harder to remove.

58 Gal Tank Setup - October 2007

Oceanic Ultimate 58 gal tank with dimensions 36.5 x 18.5 x 21 (W x D x H). I painted the back wall black - on the outside, off course.

Modified IKEA Akurum 36" base cabinet. Cabinet cut to the aquarium depth of 21". A 3/4" plywood was used for back wall to provide a lateral rigidity. No feet used. Aquarium is made of glass and requires support under the frame only - the sides rest on the vertical walls while back side rests on the plywood back wall. Front side of the fame is not supported. Plywood and all cuts painted with a white acrylic paint to improve moisture resistance. Undercabinet fluorescent strips are used to illuminate the insides of the cabinet.

TEK Light 36" 4 lamp T5HO fixture for a total of 156W. I use 6000K lamps.

Eheim Classic 2215 rated at 164 g/h. Look at the picture of the filter below - there is standing water in the bin because the filter leaks - at the inlet pipe. This filter always leaks every time I clean it or modify plumbing. After a day or two leak stops though.
Hydor ETH 201 200W.
Inside/Outside diameter 12/16 mm.
UV Sterilizer
Installed in the tank. I'd rather had it plumbed into the return path though just to have less stuff in the tank.
Pressurized, 5lbs cylinder, dual gauge regulator, needle valve, bubble counter, and DIY reactor.

Up to 2" of Seachem Flourite with no substrate fertilizers.