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.

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.

60-litre-2

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).

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.

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.

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.

Update on Pogostemon erectus

Pogostemon erectus drawing by Kirsten TindSince I added the two small Pogostemon erectus cuttings to this aquarium, the parent plant in my larger display aquarium has done poorly. I think this is in part because of the lower light at 0.6 wpg (the plant growth stagnated), and that the plecos and snails have taken to it as dinner.

I have now moved all the remains of the plant to the back, right corner of this aquarium, the area where the Rotala rotundifolia was originally meant to go. They seem to be settling in. Although growth is slow, new stems and buds are growing consistently along all the stems.

The drawing is by Kirsten Tind. It is of a style known as botanical illustration, which are traditionally printed along side descriptions of the plants. This particular drawing was commissioned by Tropica Aquarium Plants and looks very similar to how my Pogostemon erectus cutting looked when it arrived in July.

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.