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.

Second shopping list

Before starting on this shopping list, you should already have everything from the first one. This shopping list is about the items that one should have before buying fish, so it is a good idea to shop for these 1-2 days before stocking, once the cycle is almost complete.

  • Airline
  • Airline tap
  • Nets
  • Lights
  • Medications (antimicrobial and anti-white spot)
  • Live plants
  • D├ęcor

As before, I will be explaining each of the above and their importance next time.

General maintenance update

I have lately moved to the reduced water change way of doing things, gradually reducing water changes over the last couple of months. This is working well, the with Amazon sword showing improved growth, although the rest of the plants suffered until I increased the lighting and finally switched to a “siesta regime”, which is 5 hours on, 4 hours off, 5 hours on, off for the night arrangement. This new regime seems to have helped reduce the hair algae.Since I removed the duckweed (Lemna minor), which was not a great idea, the Limnobium laevigatum (Amazon frogbit) had been flourishing alongside the Riccia fluitans.

Backgrounds

Black background

Backgrounds can make all the difference to how an aquarium looks: they can be used to hide cables and equipment, create a more natural looking environment or simply bring out the colour of the fish.

The cheapest and most basic backgrounds are usually made from a sheet of plastic and are cut to size when one purchases them. These are usually attached to the outside of the aquarium. They are usually black on one side and blue on the reverse, or have some sort of print (often a planted aquarium, a marine aquarium or rocks). For aesthetic reasons, it is probably best to avoid the ones with the prints. The alternative to these are textured backgrounds, which go inside the aquarium, but these are often very expensive. Another option is to make a textured background for oneself, these often look best, especially for aquariums which are not heavily planted. Textured backgrounds are places inside the aquarium and usually imitate stones or tree roots.

My usual preference for backgrounds is plain black, so that is what I am using. Below are photos without background and with the blue background (which is looks lighter when not attached to the aquarium).

No background
Blue background

As can be seen from the photos, the light has a pink glow to it. This is quite unusual for me, as I usually use cool daylight bulbs (colour “865”). Most manufacturers which offer “aquarium” light bulbs, usually label pink ones as “plant”, although in reality, I think the colour of the bulb makes little difference, as long as the bulb is not green.

The lighting

Lighting is just as important for fish as for most other animals. This means that fish should have appropriate light, of appropriate intensity for an appropriate amount of time.

The most common method of measuring light in an aquarium is by adding up total wattage of bulbs used and dividing that by the volume of the water, in US gallons. The 1-2 wpg rule of thumb was based on the old T12 lights. Now, the thinner and more efficient T5 and T8 fluorescent tubes are used for most home aquairia. So for modern fluorescent lights in aquariums under 60 cm tall, around 1 wpg is best for the average, undemanding plants, combined with average water changes and average stocking, although it is not uncommon to find anything from 0.5 wpg, in low-plant aquariums, up to 2 wpg, in “high-tech” (meaning fertiliser and CO2 addition to encourage plant growth and prevent algae). I find that generic tri-phosphor fluorescent tubes work just as well as “aquarium” tubes, even for plants, so I will normally buy those to replace old tubes over planted aquaria and I use old tubes from planted aquaria in plant-free setups until the tubes break.

LED lights are also increasing in popularity now and compact fluorescent bulbs are a popular choice for DIY units.

There are few problems associated with low light, with the exception of poor plant growth. On the other hand, high levels of light, long photoperiods, multiple lighting periods per day and photoperiods of varying length encourage algae growth, which can become a long term problem. A timer and a photoperiod of 6-10 hours per day usually go a long way to preventing potential problems. Another point to consider is that some fish require light to be not too bright, or they will feel uncomfortable. In these cases, it is best to provide floating plants, which will cut down on the amount of light entering the water and will give the fish places to hide, thus making them feel more comfortable.

I normally use mechanical timers because they are reliable enough and cheaper than digital timers, but this time, I found a digital timer which was only 2 EUR more than a small mechanical timer with half hour intervals and half the size of a mechanical timers with quarter hour intervals, so it was an easy decision.

The light which was included in the set came is a 24 watt compact fluorescent (also known as a power compact) bulb, referred to as “Plant Pro” by Arcadia. Given that the aquarium will hold about 16 gallons, that gives me approximately 1.5 wpg. It is more than I’m used to, but I have occasionally had success with that much light without addition of fertiliser and CO2.

Weekly maintenance and a manufacturing defect in the Eheim filter

So today is a “large” water change day, with a 10-15% water change. I was planning to clean the filter (Eheim 2076) as well, but I have found that there is the same problem with this one that I had with one at work last week: the “floater complete” (part number 7428728) can become dislodged during re-assembly, after cleaning, which allows the middle part of the three which make up “floater complete” to move up into the “adaptor complete” (aka the tap for the hoses, part number 7428718), which means that it is becomes impossible to turn off the tap because the little white tube blocks the part where it closes off. Who comes up with these part names? The symptoms of the problem are inability to close the tap (feels like it is stuck) and if you push it a bit too hard, the tap will easily move from “on” to “off” and back, but without any effect (while making clicky noises in one direction- yes, you have snapped it). The solution is either to take the whole pump to an Eheim repair centre (if it is under warranty, it took them 24 hours to fix, they also did a 6 hour service on it and flashed the firmware, while they were at it) or use a Torx T9 screwdriver to pull apart the filter and fix it yourself (which will probably void any warranty you may have).

If you attempt to fix it yourself, you will get water everywhere, so be careful with the power sockets which your filter is probably plugged into and which are right next to it, on the ground. You will need to lift the inlet and outlet tubes out of the tank, then drain them by undoing the clips, separating the pump assembly from the canister and letting the water drain over the sides onto strategically placed towels. Next step is to pull the pump assembly apart and remove the offending part, reassembly should be quite easy. Photos to follow when I actually go through with this!

Why manufacturing defect? Because this has happened on both of my 2076 filters, within a week of each other. Yes, I am quite careful about reassembling everything properly. Luckily, the filters only need cleaning once every few months, so it’s usually fine to take one’s time over getting it fixed.

It is still an excellent filter, even with this flaw.. but it is an important flaw to be aware of, so one does not break it accidentally.

Oh yes, and lighting is now on from 11:00 until 21:00.