First shopping list

It can be a bit difficult to know what to buy when one first starts in the hobby, so I thought that it would be a great idea to put together a list. First up are the essentials:

  • Aquarium
  • Filter
  • Test kits for ammonia, nitrite, GH and KH (water hardness), nitrate and pH
  • Dechlorinator
  • Household ammonia
  • Tubing for water changes
  • Bucket

In addition to those, I would have the following as well because these will speed up the cycle:

  • Thermometer
  • Heater

And the tank would look nicer during the fishless cycle if one also had:

  • Substrate
  • Plain background

Next time, I will be explaining why each of the above is important!

Test kits (part 2)

Since writing about test kits, I have been paying a bit more attention to where people go wrong and I have slightly revised my recommendations on the importance of various kits for beginners.

  1. Ammonia and nitrite

    Ammonia and nitrite are still top of the list because ammonia is harmful to fish and nitrite causes haemoglobin to convert to methaemoglobin, which effectively suffocates fish as they are no longer able to absorb oxygen.

  2. Water hardness

    GH and KH are general hardness and carbonate hardness respectively. Both types of hardness are measured in (German) degrees, where 1° is 17.848 ppm. 1 ppm of hardness is equivalent to 1 mg/l (and also one American degree, but this should not be used as ppm or mg/l are simple enough and considerably more common). Water hardness comes second because fast changes in water hardness are quite likely to harm or kill fish and this is something that many people are not aware of. One can avoid these changes by always drip acclimatising, especially if one is not able to measure them.

  3. pH and nitrate

    While nitrate in itself is unlikely to be lethal to fish in the concentrations that are most often seen in aquaria (up to 500 ppm), there is scientific research to back up the popular consensus that it is best to keep nitrate as close to 0 ppm as possible because it will harm the fish (for example, it will result in stunted growth). Nitrates will rarely rise above 50 ppm in a well maintained aquarium even if they are not monitored as they will normally be used up by plants and removed through water changes. pH is important, but not as much as as water hardness because a difference in water hardness will indicate that there is a difference in pH, but the KH also indicates how stable the pH is.

Most “master” test kits do not include the water hardness kits, so it is best to double check what you are getting if you buy a set. I am still working through the kits that I used for the 60 litre aquarium, even though I have been using them for all of my aquaria, so they really are not all that expensive at around £30 for the set and well worth the money to save beginners a lot of headaches.

A sad end to the project

On 1st of January 2012, this tank was moved from Berlin, Germany to UK. The move took around 48 hours and was successful, with a 100% survival rate of fish, plants and equipment. Unfortunately, I have since not had enough time to dedicate to appropriate research for the new posts, so the blog was put on hold.

Last month, this project met a rather abrupt and an unexpected end: I was away from a couple of weeks in the US, and during that time, without my knowledge, the filter was unplugged. On my return, I found no sign of vertebrate life in the tank. This has happened even though the people who were in the house while I was away knew the importance of a running filter.

You can view all the posts relating to this aquarium in the 60 litre aquarium category. The posts of most interest to beginners are the following:

The three items that are highlighted are the ones that I have referred others to most often, as they are usually the most misunderstood and clouded in myth.

This is the last tank shot of the aquarium:

Before trimming

Of course, this is not the end for the tank and I will soon be setting it up again. I do not have much preference for set-up, other than it be a biotope, so I welcome all suggestions in the comments! Anything from a detailed set-up to a species that the rest of the tank should be created around would be considered.

Next time, I plan to explain how to seed a filter from an existing tank, and whatever else is requested. In the mean time, I am using it to grow plants that fund my hobby.

Plant update (week 17)

Before trimming

I have been trimming the Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan’ once per week, selling off 60-100 cm at a time. If you want some, send me an email or leave a message! The H. leucocephala, which can be seen growing at the centre front has been moved to the back now.

The Lindernia rotundifolia has also started to take off, and since I took the first cutting two weeks ago, a couple more stems are now close to the surface, so I expect to cut them back next weekend or the weekend after.

All of the Cryptocorynes are growing well, although slowly, with C. beckettii ‘petchii’ being the fastest.

I have even managed to find some Rotala rotundifolia cuttings which are recovering slowly!

Mosses are also doing well. While I originally added only Vesicularia ferriei, the weeping moss has sprouted strands of Taxiphyllum sp. ‘peacock’ and there are a few strands of what I suspect to be T. sp. ‘stringy moss’, which is also sometimes labelled as ‘Japan moss’.

Another couple of hitch-hikers have also made it into the aquarium: Hemianthus callitrichoides ‘Cuba’ and Riccia fluitans. The Riccia is not doing so well, while the Hemianthus has gotten caught on one of the C. beckettii ‘petchii’ leaves and seems to be growing. Both species are often considered difficult or impossible to grow in “low-tech” set-up, so it will be interesting to see how these do.

The Pogostemon erectus is surviving, although no longer doing well. I added a root tab underneath it a couple of days ago and moved it out from under the C. wendtii ‘Tropica’, which had started trying to grow over the Pogostemon.

After taking the photo, I pruned back all the Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan’ from around the heater as I did not like how it looked and gathered the L. rotundifolia closer together, towards the back of the aquarium.

Test results and maintenance update

Almost two weeks ago, on Friday when I collected the loaches, I did a 20 litre water change on the tank because I wanted to acclimatise the loaches directly to the water they would have in the end, so I used the water from the 60 litre for the quarantine tank. The test results for the water from the 60 litre before the water change were (on day 113):

  • KH: 7 ° (125 ppm)
  • GH: 19 ° (339 ppm)
  • ammonia: 0 ppm
  • nitrite: 0 ppm
  • nitrate: 20 ppm
  • pH: 7.8

And today (day 124):

  • KH: 8 ° (143 ppm)
  • GH: 18 ° (321 ppm)
  • ammonia: 0 ppm
  • nitrite: 0 ppm
  • nitrate: 20 ppm
  • pH: 7.8

The temperature has been steady at 20 °C, which is perfect for these fish and fits in with the recommendation of the breeder from whom I bought them.

Following these tests, I performed an 8 litre water change (with the old water going into the quarantine aquarium that contains the loaches) and finished off by wiping the glass on the outside.

Current maintenance schedule consists of cleaning the glass and pruning the plants once per week. While normally I would recommend weekly water changes to beginners, in a well balanced aquarium such as this (which is lightly stocked and is planted enough that individual plants can not be counted) which does not contain young fish and where the fish are not overfed, the water changes are not as important because the plants can maintain the water quality. For the moment, I do water changes when I feel that they are needed or need water for the unplanted quarantine aquarium.

Almost Yunnanilus sp. ‘rosy’, but not

The 10 Yunnanilus loaches that I bought from Welsworld turned out to be Y. brevis, not Y. sp. ‘rosy’. The mistake is easy to make because the juvenile Y. brevis have very similar colouration to adult Y. sp. ‘rosy’ and I was not able to view the fish before collecting them. I have emailed the seller explaining the mistake and asking whether they are able to swap the loaches for the correct species. If not, I should be able to return the fish as they are not what I ordered.

Y. brevis grow to double the size of Y. sp. rosy and come from Inle Lake, so would be more suited to a 90×30×30 biotope with Danio erythromicron.

Yunnanilus sp. ‘rosy’ are here (well, almost!)

I picked up the 10 Yunnanilus sp. ‘rosy’ today from a drop-shipper, so since I was not able to observe them and they are almost certainly wild, they are not in the quarantine aquarium for the next 4-6 weeks. The water the loaches came out of was:

  • KH: 9.5 ° (170 ppm)
  • GH: 19 ° (340 ppm)
  • ammonia: 0.25 ppm
  • nitrite: 0 ppm
  • nitrate: 40 ppm
  • pH: 8.2

And, after acclimatisation, they have gone into:

  • KH: 7 ° (125 ppm)
  • GH: 19 ° (340 ppm)
  • ammonia: 0 ppm
  • nitrite: 0 ppm
  • nitrate: 20 ppm
  • pH: 7.8

I put down the ammonia in the water they came with down to the water being of dechlorinated chloraminated water… I think I just made up a word :-S

First pruning of Lindernia rotundifolia

Lindernia rotundifolia cuttingYesterday, I finally took the first Lindernia rotundifolia cutting! Pruning would be exaggerating a bit as only one stalk had reached the surface, so I cut it back by around 5 cm, right above a node and planted the new cutting towards the front, where I can observe how it does. It is possible to see the first node in the photo, with the stem buried in the sand.

Fish jump.

Some do it as a defence mechanism, some do it for breeding, but regardless of the reasons most fish are very capable of jumping and quite a few are exceptionally good at it. Some species, such as Pangio spp. and Erpetoichthys calabaricus, are even known as escape artists, requiring extremely tight fitting covers for their aquaria. Jumping fish can easily become a problem as the fish can hurt themselves or even manage to escape and die.

In home aquaria, fish most often jump when they are spooked, so the primary point of concern is making sure that the aquarium is located somewhere that the fish are not disturbed. A suitable location would be in a dining room or a relatively quiet lounge, away from the doors, preferably where no one would walk by the aquarium on a regular basis. While most fish jump for the sake of jumping, I have also heard reports of an increase in jumping in waters that contain ammonia and I have had a pleco that took to jumping with age.

Of course, it is also important to discourage the fish from jumping. This can be done by adding floating plants, as fish are usually less inclined to jump through a barrier. Even with floating plants, a cover glass is highly recommended as the plants are no guarantee against jumping.

With all of these precautions, the dangers still remain as a fish can hurt itself if it jumps into a cover glass, so it is best to use all of the above measures in combination.

Most fish can not survive out of the water for long, some species, such as gouramis and certain catfish can because they are able to breath even when out of the water, so it is always worth checking if the fish is still alive if it is found after it has jumped. Chances of survival, as long as it is still alive, are quite high. It is usually recommended that the fish is floated in a shallow contained with increased aeration until it is able to swim and then, transferred back to its aquarium.

I thought it would be wise to mention all of these things as I am now down to 9 Danios because one male jumped around 40 mm up, through the opening for food (approximately 50 by 100 mm) and onto the floor, then made its way approximately 1 metre away from the aquarium, where I found it dry and dead by morning.

Splitting up the Crypt. parva

Crypt. parva, spread and clumped

When I first received the Cryptocoryne parva in a tub, the roots were relatively short and matted, so I separated it into only 10 clumps, instead of separating all the plants into individual ones. Now that the roots have had time to grow, I decided to separate a couple of the clumps into individual plants. I pulled up two of the clumps in the front-left area of the Crypts and found the roots to be around 30-50 mm long for most of the plants. I started by pulling apart as many plants as I could by hand. The rest I had separate by cutting the rhizome into two or more parts with a pen knife. This can be a bit laborious with such small plants as C. parva, and a lot of care is needed to avoid damaging the roots. Once I had all the plants separated, I planted individual plants approximately 15-20 mm apart and added a root tab underneath the area.

I also added a root tab under the C. wendtii ‘Mi Oya’, one under C. wendtii ‘green gecko’ and another under the Pogostemon helferi.

It has now been five days: none of the C. parva plants have come up and there have been no problems.