Maintenance

The bulk of the maintenance that has been happening on this tank since October has involved topping up the evaporated water, filter cleaning, manually removing algae and water changes.

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One of the issues that the family which has the tank had was that topping up the tank with a bucket disturbed the substrate. I generally avoid the problem by balancing the bucket of new water on top of the tank and syphoning it in. This helps avoid spilling water all over the place and the water from the water butts tends to be freezing this time of year so I’m sure the fish appreciate not having a shock of cold water. Their solution is to place a mug in the tank and pour the water over that (similar to the plate suggestion that seems to be popular in books).

In the mean time, the die back from the plants kept clogging the filter, which they started cleaning in old tank water, but then replaced the filter media altogether. Luckily this was before the fish were added, but I have reiterated the importance of not replacing the filter media in one go.

Fish - 3

The algae that was removed in the previous maintenance session has not come back after the lighting was reduced and the Spirodela spp. was introduced. They haven’t used the EasyCarbo, but I have now advised a dose of 0.25 ml per day to encourage plant growth as nitrates were high in the test results:

  • ammonia: 0 ppm
  • nitrite: 0 ppm
  • nitrate 50-80 ppm

The predominance of tap water top ups (we live in a hard water area) has caused the water in the tank to be quite hard, but this is likely to be beneficial to the plants in the long terms. At last water change yesterday, we removed 5 litres of water and added 20 litres.

I have trimmed the Limnophila sessiliflora a few times and removed over twice as much Spirodela spp. as I had originally added to the tank. The Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Tropica’ has shown good growth as well, although Crypt. sp. ‘Green Crisped Leaf’ has remained the same size but now has submersed leaf growth. I added four sera Floronette A root tabs, one under each of the Crypt. spp. and two spaced equally under the other plants.

We also got a dark-blue on the bottom to blue on the top background for the tank and replaced the perspex lid with a glass one which is available for a shocking £20 from Arcadia. It works very well, but really should have come with the aquarium from the start. The glass lid is satisfyingly solid and easier to clean with vinegar than the perspex one.

Hitting the first problems and finiding solutions

By mid-November, the newly set up, fish-free tank already showed some problems, the biggest being the appearance of fluffy clouds of dark green algae along the surface of the substrate. To counteract this, I suggested reducing the lighting period (which had been set to around 12 hours by the family) to 10 hours. I also gave them some Spirodela spp. which is a type of giant duckweed that can have a nice red tinge and a bottle of EasyCarbo, a liquid carbon fertiliser which also acts as an algaecide. We then manually removed as much algae as possible while doing a water change and left it at that. I also gave them some sera Florenette A root tabs (which are best value for money), two of which were inserted into the substrate at the time.

In that 6 or so weeks, some of the plants settled in nicely and some died off. Mainly, the Limnophila sessiliflora tried to take over the tank, while the Bacopa lanigera, Lindernia rotundifolia and Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ died back heavily. This corresponds with my experience that without investigation and special attention, some plants just take to some tanks while some just don’t.

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The other problem that the family encountered is high levels of evaporation as can be seen in the photo below. With the tank temperature set to 24°C, this was unexpectedly high as I get considerably less evaporation in my “hot” tanks. The problem with topping up is that it increases the water hardness in the tank, and disturbs the substrate, but this was resolved later.

In the mean time, I had failed to find my background for this tank, so it was looking a bit bare without one. The sagging lid was also irritating everyone.

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Restarting the 60 litre project

Following a rather unfortunate end to the 60 litre project, I have now re-set it up at a friend’s house for their 5 and 6 year old children. The parents have the previous white-ups from this project for reference, and my advice, in person, on demand. Their life style is relatively busy, with little free time, so we’ll see how a fish tank fits into their schedule.

We set up the tank with the 5th of October. I wanted to use Moler clay for the substrate because it resembles the popular gravel more closely than sand would. It should also keep a higher bank at the back more easily. Moler clay is a ridiculously dusty substrate which is sold by some aquatics suppliers, but is also available for the bonsai tree hobby as a substrate for the plants, as cat litter (which may be fragrant) and in some other industries as well. Moler clay, which is calcinated clay consisting mostly of diatomaceous earth from Denmark, supposedly has a high cation exchange capacity. In simple terms, this means that it will extract some nutrients from the water column and make them available to the plants through their roots instead.

I was reminiscing about one of my first tropical aquaria around this time, which was set up in the early 2000s. I was using Dorset pea gravel at the time and as it sat in the corner of the room, I created two tiers: a 1 cm layer of gravel at the front and a 10 cm tier across the corner which was propped up by oak branches and had a “cave” from a plastic pot that was cut in half. As this tank will be viewed mainly from the front (from the dining room, across the lounge) and the right side (from the sofa in the lounge), I decided to try for a taller tier at the back-left of the tank sloping downwards to the front-right and only a little substrate at the front. I’m hoping this will allow the higher tier to be planted heavily, while keeping the front clear for viewing and feeding. I was recently lucky enough to acquire some dragon stone at a good price from another hobbyist, and wanting to involve the children, I let them pick out a few pieces for the new tank. These now line the tank about a third of the way to the back, and from the left side to three quarters across the tank.

Next came the plants. The children, stayed relatively engaged while washing the substrate as they enjoyed plating with the hose and getting soaked (in October?!?). Guiding their dragon stone placement strategically was a bit more challenging. Filling the tank with water was slow torture. They did redeem themselves on unpacking and sorting the plants by species.

2 pots of Bacopa lanigera went into the back-left corner, next to the filter, thermometer and heater. Two pots of Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ went in front of the Bacopa. To the right of the Bacopa, one pot of Limnophila sessiliflora and next to that the Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Tropica’. Two pots of Lindernia rotundifolia went in between the Crypt and the right side of the tank. The Cryptocoryne sp. ‘Green Crisped Leaf’ took the spot on the right side of the tank, on the substrate slope between the front and the back.

60-litre-1I left them with a bucket, piece of hose, net, dechlorinator and a full test kit (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, GH, KH and pH).

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.

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.

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.

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.