Moving the display tank

I need to move the 490 litre display tank that is in my lounge so that we can have new flooring put in. I only have some limited tank space right now (6 tanks spare, two of which contain fry), so have decided to temporarily lend some of my Hemigrammus bleheri to the 60 litre project tank.

I moved 2 females and 4 males on the 4th of January and am planning to move another 6 fish on the 9th of January. So far, the seeded filter has coped with the additional stocking without any problems (ammonia and nitrite are at a clear 0 ppm).

Moving again

It has been eight months since I moved from Germany to UK and it is now time for another move. I have already drained the 60 litre tank, and have removed the substrate from that – all that is left now is to clean it, dry it and pack it into the box – and I am around one third of the way through removing the substrate from the discus tank.

The 60 litre tank was the easy one: I drained the water into buckets, using it to water the plants, then used a measuring jug to remove the sand into a sturdy box.

The discus tank is a little bit more complicated as I need to keep that running until I actually pack the fish for transportation. I have started removing the two layers of substrate separately by syphoning out the top layer of mixed sands, then fishing out the cat littler with a fish net. So far it took me about one hour to get around a quarter or the sand and litter out. Tomorrow I will try to finish it off.

Large water changes

When raising young fish, it is a relatively good idea to occasionally do large water changes to remove waste products from the aquarium, but this is not the commonly given reason for the large water changes; the more common belief is that fish release growth stunting hormones/pheromones, but I have been unable to find any scientific proof to back it up. It is true that fish release a growth hormone (GH) which stimulates growth, but they can also become resistant to the hormone if they are already stunted, for example, because the competition for food is too high. There are also other factors that affect growth, including higher nitrate concentrations. Of course, any ammonia and nitrite[2][3] are very high on the list, but this should not be a worry as neither should be present in an aquarium.

Before starting on the water change, I check the water parameters. I know that my tap water is quite hard, and the results below show lower water hardness, lower pH and higher nitrates. This means that my tank water hardness has drifted downwards from my tap water and not all nitrates are being used up, which indicates that I need to refill the tank very slowly after the water change so that the fish have time to adjust to the change in water parameters and do not go into osmotic shock.

Parameters before the water change:

  • KH: 8 ° (143 ppm)
  • GH: 16 (286 ppm)
  • ammonia: 0 ppm
  • nitrite: 0 ppm
  • nitrate: 20 – 30 ppm
  • pH: 7.5

Water change

As can be seen in the photo, the tank is really rather overgrown with Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce), so I regularly have a bag or so of water lettuce to sell. If you would like some, reply to the post or contact me for more information!


[1] John Colt, Robert Ludwig, George Tchobanoglous, Joseph J. Cech Jr. (1981), “The effects of nitrite on the short-term growth and survival of channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus”. Aquaculture , Volume 24: 111–122

[2] Jane Francesa, Geoff L Allana, Barbara F Nowak (1 April 1998), “The effects of nitrite on the short-term growth of silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus)”. Aquaculture , Volume 163 (Issues 1–2): 63–72

Beef heart mix for growing fish

The discus have been growing well, and I feel that it is time to move them onto a more fish-based diet, so I have come up with a variation on one of the earlier recipes, with this beef heart mix for growing fish. As before, this beef heart mix is aimed at young fish, I used decapsulated brine shrimp, Spirulina, fish and spinach.

Information

  • Type: fish food
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 500g

Ingredients

  • 75 g spinach
  • 12 g decapsulated brine shrimp
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 125 g beef heart (fat, arteries, veins and lining removed)
  • 125 g fresh or frozen fish
  • 25 g Spirulina
  • gelatin (enough to make up 500 ml)
  • water

Instructions

  1. Soak the spinach in boiling water until it becomes soft
  2. Rehydrate the decapsulated brine shrimp, 25 g of shrimp needed 30-40 ml of water for rehydration
  3. Cut up the beef heart, fish and spinach into small pieces
  4. Mince the garlic (I use a garlic press for this)
  5. Place spinach, brine shrimp, garlic, beef heart and Spirulina into a blender, mixing until it forms a smooth paste (some people prefer to use a mincer)
  6. Make up the gelatin with 100 ml of water and add into the blender
  7. Mix the gelatin into the paste
  8. Place mixture into containers to chill before freezing (I use 9-10 10×15 cm grip-lock bags, placing approximately two large tablespoons into each bag)
  • Author: Ekaterina Gerasimova
  • Published: 24th May 2012

Beef heart mix for community fish

I was asked today about what to do with Spirulina, so below is a generic beef heart mix that can be made up with Spirulina and that should be suitable for most community fish. Beef heart should be fed to most community fish only as a treat, not as a staple, as it does not provide a balanced diet, but using a high proportion of generic fish food and spinach should help balance it out. 100g of beef heart is approximately 1/8 of a heart before it is prepared for fish food.

Information

  • Type: fish food
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 600g

Ingredients

  • 100 g spinach
  • 100 g generic dry fish food (like flakes or pellets)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 100 g beef heart (fat, arteries, veins and lining removed)
  • 20-30 g Spirulina
  • gelatin (enough to make up 500 ml)
  • water

Instructions

  1. Soak the spinach in boiling water until it becomes soft
  2. Crush or pulverise the fish food until it is in small pieces or powder
  3. Cut up the beef heart and spinach into small pieces
  4. Mince the garlic (I use a garlic press for this)
  5. Place spinach, dry fish food, garlic, beef heart and Spirulina into a blender, mixing until it forms a smooth paste (some people prefer to use a mincer)
  6. Make up the gelatin with 250 ml of water and add into the blender
  7. Mix the gelatin into the paste
  8. Place mixture into containers to chill before freezing (I used 10 10×15 cm grip-lock bags, placing approximately two large tablespoons into each bag)
  • Author: Ekaterina Gerasimova
  • Published: 12th March 2012

Making beef heart mix

Since I am hoping to receive discus soon, I decided to make a small batch of beef heart mix for them. I do not have any set recipes to use, just make up whatever I have at home. Since this mix is aimed at young fish, I used decapsulated brine shrimp, Spirulina, spinach and garlic. Some people even add extra vitamins to fish food, although I did not because I feed a range of other foods which should provide a well balanced diet between them.

Information

  • Type: fish food
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 500g

Ingredients

  • 50 g spinach
  • 20 g decapsulated brine shrimp
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 250 g beef heart (fat, arteries, veins and lining removed)
  • 30 g Spirulina
  • gelatin (enough to make up 500 ml)
  • water

Instructions

  1. Soak the spinach in boiling water until it becomes soft
  2. Rehydrate the decapsulated brine shrimp
  3. Cut up the beef heart and spinach into small pieces
  4. Mince the garlic (I use a garlic press for this)
  5. Place spinach, brine shrimp, garlic, beef heart and Spirulina into a blender, mixing until it forms a smooth paste (some people prefer to use a mincer)
  6. Make up the gelatin with 250 ml of water and add into the blender
  7. Mix the gelatin into the paste
  8. Place mixture into containers to chill before freezing (I used 10 10×15 cm grip-lock bags, placing approximately two large tablespoons into each bag)
  • Author: Ekaterina Gerasimova
  • Published: 14th February 2012

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.