The end and a new start

At the start of December 2011, my husband was made redundant. It would have been very difficult for us to remain in Berlin as I could not support both of us on my wage and it would have been almost impossible for him to find a new job there.
I started selling off most of my livestock and plants immediately, taking some of the fish to my LFS (Aquarien Meyer) in exchange for fish bags and dechlorinator which I used for the return journey, but unfortunately it was quite difficult to sell the aquariums as so many people made appointments to view them, then did not turn up. In the end, I managed to sell one of the AquaOne AquaStyle 980 for 50 EUR, the second for 60 EUR and the 420 litre aquarium (including substrate) for 275 EUR, which is approximately what I paid for the tank and substrate when I bought them.
The keyholes, two male rams and plecos were packed into three fish boxes and taken back to UK by van, alongside the rest of the furniture. These fish have been living in a very cramped, 50 litre aquarium since then, with most of the plants from the 420 litre in with them and with one of the Eheim 2076(Professional 3e for 450 litre tank). While such an overrated filter would normally be too strong for a small tank, the 2076 has adjustable flow rate and the plants, combined with pointing the spray bar at the surface, next to the intake, reduce the flow to something which is suitable for such a small tank.But this is not the complete end to this tank: I have ordered a nice, custom sized aquarium from ND Aquatics, which arrived today. It is a 4.5×2×2 ft sized tank with a solid topped hood, optiwhite glass front and sides, clear silicone, glass condensation trays and flat hood with an aintree oak cabinet to match the existing teak furniture. There are so many options available for customisation with ND Aquatics that I have probably forgotten some of them! The service from the company was good, and the tank looks great:

Since I have to be careful about the carpet, I have invested in a painters’ fleece which is lined with a plastic sheet on one side. The one which can be seen in the photo is a 10×1 metre piece which was around GBP 5 from Aldi.
While waiting for the tank to arrive, I decided to try adding laterite under the substrate. Laterite is a weathered clay which has a high cation exchange rate because it is rich in iron oxide. One of the cheapest sources of laterite is cat litter, but not all cat litter is laterite. After a quick search, Tesco Low Dust Lightweight Cat Litter appeared to be the best choice. I read that a 2 cm layer was recommended, for which I would have needed approximately 12 litres of laterite (length×width×2 cm/1000). Since the cat litter I had chosen came in 10 litre bags, I purchased two bags at GBP 3.29 each and ended up using all of it, with a 1 cm deep bed at the front and right side of the aquarium, going up to about 5 cm at the back:

It did take much longer to wash the laterite than it usually does to wash substrate: I probably gave each 3 litre lot at least 10 rinses before I could see the laterite through the water. It felt like the laterite might have been “99 % dust free”, but the 1 % was just dust and no laterite. Also, I found out that this particular cat litter is fragranced; it took me at least 3 rinses before I could not smell the fragrance coming off the water. In other words, this laterite needs considerable cleaning, more so than most substrates!

Tomorrow, I plan to add three bags of sharp sand (sharp sand is sand which has been recently weathered from granite or gneiss) and one of play sand, as I like to see some texture in the substrate, but this sharp sand has too many large grains when used on its own, although I thought it was still worth GBP 0.50 per bag from Homebase. I will also add a plain, black background to the back and the left sides of the tank tomorrow, and a branch of hornbeam which was cut down a month ago so that the van would fit down the driveway during the move.

Hypostomus cochliodon

Rusty pl*co

Hypostomus cochliodon is one of the more interesting plecos that I have kept as it is a diurnal wood eater. My fish is currently around 128 mm SL (170 mm TL) as measured today. I’ve been meaning to measure it for a while as it would be interesting to know if it ever reaches the 230 mm as reported by Webber (2003)[1], or remains at the 7 inch mark, as the original paratypes mentioned by Kner[2]. The fish feeds well on courgette and wood, but takes no interest in dry pellets.

I was quite surprised that the fish had no Wikipedia article… it has one now!

[1] Webber, C. (2003). R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr. ed. “Loricariidae – Hypostominae (Armored catfishes)”. Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America (Editora Universitária da PUCRS): 351-372

[2] Kner, Rudolf (1854). “Die Hypostomiden. Zweite Hauptgruppe der Familie der Panzerfische. (Loricata vel Goniodontes)“. Denkschriften der Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 7: 265-267 (15-17). Retrieved 6 November 2011.

More cardinals

420 litre: before new Crypts
Last night, I finally got the new fish for the 60 litre aquarium and since the cardinals had grown nicely, I decided to move them over into the main aquarium, so I now have 25 cardinals and approximately 20 harlequin rasboras for schooling fish. The photo above was taken about a week ago, on the day I received some new Crypts (although it doesn’t look like a Crypt to me), which are now settling in nicely. I also took out the big piece of Mapane root and improved the arrangement of the caves in the process.

What do I keep in my cupboard? (part 1)

I have just completed murdering an Aiptasia which was living amongst my Zoas in my marine aquarium and it got me thinking about all those things which live in the cupboard under the tank. Between my two cupboards, the cellar, cupboard under the sink and bathroom, I probably have around 4 large IKEA bags full of anything and everything I could possibly want. And this is excluding the stash of polystyrene boxes and fish bags for when I move house.
Just today, I made use of bleach, spirit vinegar, microfibre cloth, cotton buds, cotton pads, towel, hydrometer, credit card (and not for purchases!), bucket, syphon tube, water filter, dechlorinator, glass jar, tweezers and four types of prepared, dry fish food (at home, and another four types at work).
  • Bleach is a decent disinfectant, also useful for killing Aiptasia as I found out
  • Old (credit) card is useful for scraping algae off glass
  • Dechlorinator will render bleach harmless, as well as chlorine and chloramine
  • Microfibre cloth won’t scratch the glass of the tank, when wiping off water stains
  • Spirit vinegar is useful for cleaning off salt and limescale stains
  • Towels are great for keeping the floor dry while messing around with water
  • Kitchen water filter is useful for topping up, if I’m too lazy to water change

Keyhole eggs still there..

Cleithracara maronii (stressed colouration)This is quite surprising, but the keyhole eggs are still on the bit of wood and the parents are doing a good job of keeping the snails off! There are a few infertile ones, but most seem to be doing well.
Photo shows one of the other males which wandered too close to the breeding pair: he tried to have a closer look at the eggs, and the pair were not having any of it.

Back to fertilisers and keyhole spawn

I received a new batch of 50 tabs of Sera’s florenette A so 4 of those went under the Hygrophila corymbosa var. siamensis, Vallis., Echinodorus tenellus and Cryptocoryne beckettii ‘petchii’ yesterday, and another 16 were dispered under some of the other plants today (Hygrophila polysterma, Crypt. wendtii ‘brown’, Echinodorus bleheri, Eichhornia azurea, Pogostemon erectum, Crypt. wendtii ‘green gecko’, Pogostemon helferi). I also noticed that the keyholes have spawned again and because as usual, I do not believe that they will do well, I removed 10 eggs using a paintbrush. Even as I was removing the eggs, the Melanoides tuberculata ((Malaysian trumpet snails) were already trying to eat the rest. One unusual thing did happen though: the male keyhole bit me, which has never happened before, even when they were breeding. On closer inspection, I am not sure if the female spawned with her usual mate or one of the younger ones because the older male and the bigger of the younger two now look almost identical.

More Hygrophila and Crypts

I was recently ordering some plants for another one of my aquariums, so decided to get some more for this one too. I bought Hygrophila polysperma, H. corymbosa var. siamensis and also added half a pot each of Cryptocoryne beckettii ‘petchii’ and C. wendtii ‘green gecko’, both of which I received as freebies.