Picking the species

By December, our schedules coincided enough to get some fish for the tank. I had wanted to find some Micropoecilia branneri as we live in a hard water area, but my search failed again. Instead, I decided to try our a very popular group of fish that I had not kept before. Being a complete beginner with killifish, I did my research, double and triple checking all the facts, but I failed to find guides to stocking in a “community” tank as most of the resources are aimed at breeders. On advice from some veteran killi-keepers from Seriously Fish, I found our that a 60 litre tank takes 8-12 Fundulopanchax gardeni ‘Innidere’.

The interesting thing about Fundolopanchax gardeni is that it is a very diverse species with many, many natural and cultivated colour morphs. I picked ‘Innidere’ based on mikev’s recommendation and as I had never seen a F. gardeni in person, that was good enough for me.

‘Innidere’ is usually attributed as a color morph of Fundulopanchax nigerianus. In reality, Fundulopanchax nigerianus has never existed. It is true that gardeni and nigerianum used to be considered two species, but this was a long time ago, when they were both considered to be in a different genus altogether, and were merged into one species in 1992, finally being named F. gardeni and F. gardeni nigerianus in 1996.

Nowadays, the correct naming is Fundulopanchax gardeni gardeni for what is traditionally considered F. gardeni and Fundulopanchax gardeni nigerianus for what is usually called F. nigerianus.

When I first started looking for this species, the breeder had some juveniles available. Unfortunately, by the time that I came around to buying the fish, they only had eggs. Fortunately, I didn’t read the description properly and bought eggs thinking it was the last pair of juveniles. Hatching these fish has proven to be quite interesting and easy.

Killifish eggSo unfortunately, I did not have the promised fish for the family on the day, but (again) luckily, I had also bought a pair of Apistogramma commbrae at the same time, which I have now let them borrow.

Danios settling in

Danios are in

It has been almost a week since the Danios were added, they have settled in well and are relatively bold, but do not seem to appreciate when someone walks quickly across the room (as is expected). They certainly seem to enjoy the piece of wood, spending much of their time swimming through the holes in the base and around the stems, but do come right to the front of the glass when they notice me looking at them. The females are receiving plenty of attention from the males and one is looking considerably more plump now, so they may spawn soon.

The fish found the flow of the filter to be disturbing, so I have attempted to slow it down by wrapping filter wool around the rough sponge and placing more still between the sponge and the bio media. It seems to have helped slightly, but not enough, so I am still thinking about how to slow it down further. The stand building project has come to a bit of a stand still as I am quite lazy, but this has given me an incentive to get it going again because the external filter has a 300 lph rating compared to the 700 lph that came with the aquarium.

The fish are feeding well on frozen Daphnia and Artemia, with a supplement of high-protein granules and generic flakes. The 10 fish eat only tiny amounts, so even the smallest tub of fish food will last for years at this rate. Given that most fish food goes off in a matter of 1-6 months, it makes sense to separate it into smaller containers, freezing or chilling the majority of it until it is needed.

There have not really been any major signs of algae, I am still cleaning off mild signs of diatoms from the glass every couple of weeks, but that is it. Most of the plants are doing well, and I plan to split up one or two of the Cryptocoryne parva bunches into individual plants over the next week.

Cyanobacteria

Cyanobacteria are a gram-negative bacteria which is often classed under algae by fish keepers because of its ability to photosynthesise. It spreads across all surfaces, coating plants in a layer of slimy-looking goo. In fact, the goo may actually feel quite solid, rather than slimy. There are many different species of cyanobacteria, including the Spirulina genus, which is used in the manufacture of some vegetable based fish foods. The cyanobacteria commonly seen in the aquarium are not as useful, unfortunately, often being from a range of species which specialise in nitrogen fixation. Nitrogen fixation is the conversion of N2 into NH3, this may potentially cause problems. Some species of cyanobacteria are also capable of producing cyanotoxins, which may harm fish.

The biggest dangers cyanobacteria poses in aquariums is killing the plants by physically cutting off light and using up oxygen.

Since the plants can reduce the chanced of the bacteria reappearing in the future, it is important to make sure that the plants are not killed off by physically removing as much of the cyanobacteria as possible. The next step is the treatment. There are two options:

  • Blackout: clean off as much bacteria as possible, then cut out all light for at least a week. This method focuses on the bacteria being starved of light and nutrients (as no fish food would be going into the water). It may take a few attempts to truly kill off the bacteria and each attempt should also be followed by removal of any remaining bacteria. A week without food will not harm most tropical fish, so this method is relatively safe and sound.
  • Antibiotics: an antibiotic which acts against gram-negative bacteria may kill the bacteria. This option needs to be considered with care because most medications are harmful to aquatic animals (the extent to which this is the case depends on many factors, including the pH of the water). Some antibiotics which are sold as treatments for fish will also harm the gram-negative nitrifying bacteria.

Given that there are no fish in the aquarium, I decided to try the antibiotics method. A quick search on the internet showed me that eSHa 2000, a generic antibacterial and anti-fungal medication which is produced by eSHa Labs, may work against cyanobactria. A further search showed that the ingredients are ethacridine lactate (antiseptic, trade name Rivanol), proflavin (antibacterial against gram-positive bacteria and antiseptic), Cu2+ (antimicrobial) and methyl orange (mutagen). Since I was unable to find whether the ingredients acted against gram-negative bacteria, I emailed eSHa to ask. This is the reply I received:

eSHa 2000 does work against [gram-negative and gram-positive] bacteria but not against all bacteria.

Kind regards,
[…]
eSHa Labs

I proceeded with a standard treatment, following the instructions on the medication. On the first day, I added 14 drops, followed by 7 drops on each of the following days. By the second day, most of the bacteria was gone. It has now been one week and there are no signs of cyanobacteria left, so I can conclude that the medication or some other combination of factors have resulted in successful treatment.

First maintenance

Diatoms begone!Above is the photo of the aquarium after I finished a full maintenance on the aquarium.

I started by turning off the heater and filter, and scraping all the diatoms off of the front using an expired bank card, followed by the sides and the back, although I must admit that I did not make a particularly good job of the back. I was especially careful to not catch the sand, but I think I still may have caught one or two grains which would have scratched the glass.

Next, I drained out 5-10% of the water into a bucket, syphoning up all the diatoms I scraped from the glass. At this point, I decided to clean the filter. So I took the filter out of the aquarium, which was a bit more difficult than I would expect because of the spray bar. I pulled the filter apart and started cleaning the media in the old aquarium water which I had just drained: chlorine and chloramine will kill the nitrifying bacteria that I have been growing and feeding ammonia to. In the two months that the filter has been running for, it has become covered with sand dust, including the media and the impeller. I gently squeezed the sponge in the water until I could not see any sand left on them, then cleaned the impeller, the plastic casing and rubbed the ceramic media between my hands to remove the fine sand coating which was covering it in places. Rubbing ceramic media against itself is not harmful to the filter because the vast majority of the bacteria will be inside the media. Next, I cleaned all the soft plastic as some of it still had fungus on it. I reassembled the filter and placed it back into the aquarium.

Because my tap water is hard, I have lime scale deposits around the top of the glass, inside the aquarium. I cleaned these off with some cotton wool which I soaked in spirit vinegar and then rinsed the areas with aquarium water.

Finally, I syphoned out the remaining water down to about 10 cm from the bottom. So as to not disturb the sand, I then syphoned dechlorinated and temperature matched water back into the aquarium, finishing off with a top up to get the water level right as I do not like the sound of trickling water too much. In total, I changed 36 litres of water.

Finally, I switched the filter and heater back on, managing to spray water out of the aquarium in the process, and added the new piece of wood. The flow of the filter looked much faster, now that it had been cleaned.

Daitoms everywhere

Diatoms

Freshwater diatomsDiatoms are a type of algae, they often manifest in a freshwater aquarium as brown dust, usually on the glass and rocks, sometimes also on plants. This algae is not uncommon in aquariums which do not have plants or have very few plants (as this one currently does) and is usually associated with ammonia in the water. It should disappear with the addition of more plants and time.

Most diatoms are unicellular, although they can exist as colonies in the shape of filaments or ribbons, fans, zigzags, or stellate colonies. Diatoms are autotrophs within the food chain. A characteristic feature of diatom cells is that they are encased within a unique cell wall made of silica (hydrated silicon dioxide) called a frustule. These frustules show a wide diversity in form, but usually consist of two asymmetrical sides with a split between them, hence the group name. Fossil evidence suggests that they originated during, or before, the early Jurassic Period. Diatom communities are a popular tool for monitoring environmental conditions, past and present, and are commonly used in studies of water quality.

The Bacillariophyceae (diatoms) class was described by Ernst Haeckel in 1878. Haeckel was also responsible for Kunstformen der Natur, a book of lithographic and autotype prints which is now available on Wikimedia Commons.

Drawing of a diatom by Haeckel

New plants are here!

Here is a list of the new plants I bought from a serious plant keeper:

  • Blyxa japonica
  • Cabomba furcata / C. piauhyensis
  • Didiplis diandra
  • Echinodorus cordifolius ‘Mini’
  • Echinodorus tenellus
  • Eichhornia azurea ‘Rotstängelig’
  • Fissidens fontanus
  • Glossostigma elatinoides
  • Helanthium tenellum ‘parvulum’
  • Helanthium sp. ‘Longifolius’
  • Heteranthera zosterifolia
  • Hygrophila corymbosa angustifolia
  • Hygrophila salicifolia sp. ‘tiger’
  • Limnobium laevigatum
  • Limnophila aromaticoides
  • Limnophila indica
  • Ludwigia inclinata var. verticillata ‘Cuba’
  • Ludwigia repens glandulosa
  • Myriophyllum aquticum ‘Santa Catarina’
  • Najas guadalupensis
  • Najas marina
  • Najas marina from Lake Edward
  • Nymphaea micrantha
  • Pogostemon erectum
  • Sagittaria subulata
  • Staurogyne repens
  • Rotala nanjenshan
  • Rotala wallichii
  • Rotala sp. ‘Vietnam’

Some are settling in well, while others not so much. Fissidens fontanus is currently being blacked out as it came with blanket weed (green, hair-like algae).