More cardinals

420 litre: before new Crypts
Last night, I finally got the new fish for the 60 litre aquarium and since the cardinals had grown nicely, I decided to move them over into the main aquarium, so I now have 25 cardinals and approximately 20 harlequin rasboras for schooling fish. The photo above was taken about a week ago, on the day I received some new Crypts (although it doesn’t look like a Crypt to me), which are now settling in nicely. I also took out the big piece of Mapane root and improved the arrangement of the caves in the process.

Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan’ overgrowing

Taking photos of plants for saleThe Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan’ has been growing very fast, so I decided to trim a few strands back and sell them to recoup the original cost of the plants. I prefer to show photos of the actual plants I am selling, so the buyer knows exactly what they are going to receive. I usually lay out the plants of a white towel, sometimes placing a ruler next to them for size comparison, then take the photo from above. As it can take a few days for the plants to sell, I normally keep them separated at this point, inside a tub of water, which is usually placed in a bright place.

Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan' for saleI picked out three strands which are about 18-20 cm, two which are around 8-10 cm long and one which is slightly shorter. I am asking for GBP 2.50 for the plants posted in UK, or EUR 3.00 posted to anywhere else in the EU. (Reply if you’re interested!)

Sinking the wood

A friend of mine told me that his red moor wood took 4-6 weeks to sink, so I decided to give mine a little helping hand by placing a fish-bag-full of inert rocks on top of it, after moving it into position. On my second attempt, about a week later, I was able to remove the bag of stones, with the wood not floating up. I took the opportunity to move the weeping moss onto the wood, rocks and all included, as it is best when grown hanging off branches.

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.

Deciding on fish numbers

Most aquarium fish can be classed into one of three living preferences:

Schooling and shoaling:
These fish, depending on the species, live in groups that range form a few hundred to a few million individuals. Home aquariums are most often not able to hold groups that large, but the bigger the group the better it is. I usually recommend that one should aim to keep 10 – 15+ individuals per schooling species as there is no excuse to not do so if stocking a new aquarium. Unfortunately, some people find out that they have only a few individuals from a schooling species after the aquarium is fully stocked, in which case it is best to try and increase the numbers to at least 6 individuals per species or to find them a new home. In some way, fish are aware of individuals up to a point, at which the individuals become “many”. I think that 6 individuals is this point for many species. One of the most important functions of schooling is to protect the individual fish from predators, either by letting the weaker fish in the group be picked off first (as easier prey) or appearing as one larger fish. The main difference between schooling and shoaling fish is that shoaling fish will normally only swim in a tight formation when threatened, usually going about their own business (for example, Trigonostigma heteromorpha). On the other hand, schooling fish (such as Paracheirodon innesi) will spend most of their time swimming close together, even to the point of facing the same way. The group includes fish like tetras, rasboras, danios, barbs, many loaches and rainbows. One unusual member of this group is Neolamprologus brichardi, a shoaling cichlid.
Small groups:
There are a few different variations of small groups which can be found. These include small groups of social fish, which do not have much social structure (such as livebearers) or which have a specific social structure (for example, cichlids); closely knit family groups; pairs of breeding male and female couples; harem groups of one male and a number of females (often seen in many Apistogramma species), or quite rarely, one female with some males. As with schooling fish, small groups provide security for individuals. For some mildly aggressive species, such as Pterophyllum scalare, it may even be possible to keep them peacefully only individually, in proven breeding pairs or in small groups of more than 6 individuals because the dominant fish can then spread the aggression over multiple individuals, instead concentrate it on a single one.
Some of these fish are too aggressive to keep with any others of their own kind, and in some cases, even with other fish which would occupy the same area inside the aquarium, while others simply do not interact with one another on a regular basis. This group includes some loaches, cichlids and gouramis.

It is quite important to try and keep the fish in appropriately sized groups as some may otherwise display odd or aggressive behaviour. The easiest way to find out appropriate stocking numbers is to research the conditions in which the species is found in the wild.

Some basic research showed me that Danio margaritatus and Yunnanilus sp. ‘rosy’ is a peaceful, mid-water schooling fish, which automatically means that I should be considering 10 individuals per species. This is a good number to start with, and there is always the option of adding more later.

Pseudosphromenus dayi, on the other hand, is a solitary fish which breeds in pairs. Males may occasionally be persistent, so I decided that it is better to have 1 male and 2 females, to give the females a bit of a break in case of uninvited attention.

So for my first “final stocking”, I will be aiming at the following:

  • 10 × D. margaritatus
  • 3 (1m 2f) × P. dayi
  • 10 × Y. sp. ‘rosy’

It is very common for final stock to evolve with time, which is why I am referring to this as my first one. As for how I decided on the total number of fish? That is rather difficult to explain as there are no set rules, nor have I seen any good guidelines. I chose the number based on my experience and I always base my decisions on adult size. The stocking numbers are also affected by the amount of plants in the aquarium as they will use up ammonium. For an aquarium which is 60 × 30 × 30 cm in size, I would normally expect to stock between 6 individuals of the larger species I list and 25 individuals of the smaller species. I would also stock conservatively if I pick female livebearers because they will drop fry and it is best to reduce chances of overstocking.

The best advice I can offer on stocking is to not stock more than one feels comfortable with, even if others say that the aquarium will take more fish, and if one is being advised to stock less than one plans to, to try the lower stock first.

Plants have arrived!

_MG_6340Last Tuesday, I ordered 1 × C. parva cup, 1 × Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Tropica’ pot, 1 × C. wendtii ‘Mi Oya’ pot, 1 × C. wendtii ‘green gecko’ pot and 2 × Rotala rotundifolia bunches from Wasserpflanzen-Freunde, which is owned and run by Roland Strößner. The C. wendtii ‘green gecko’ was an impulse buy: I had never heard of it before, so had a search for some images, which I liked the look of and after confirming that it was suitable for the aquarium, I decided to go for it. Today I received, as always with some freebies, 1 × Cryptocoryne beckettii ‘petchii’ pot, 1 × C. parva cup, 1 × C. wendtii ‘Tropica’ pot, 1 × C. wendtii ‘Mi Oya’ pot, 2 × C. wendtii ‘green gecko’ pots and 2 × Rotala rotundifolia pots from the seller. The Crypts are in excellent condition, although the C. wendtii ‘Mi Oya’ is much smaller than I expected, but the R. rotundifolia was melting and in generally bad health. The pots were packed tightly into tall bags, similar to those used for fish, wrapped in a lot of newspaper and placed inside a cardboard box, with more newspaper stuffed around them so that they did not move around.

UnwrappedI start preparing the plants for the aquarium by removing them from the bags, laying them out on my trusty white bath sheet. Then, I removed the pots and the wool, making sure I pulled off as much wool as possible. Some people don’t worry about leaving the wool on the roots, but I find that it is sharp and irritates my hands, so I expect it is likely to affect any fish that try to eat it, which is why I think it is better to always remove it. While I was doing this, I also sprayed the plants with water using a spray bottle so that they do not dry out. I found that I had to spray them at least once every few minutes to keep the leaves glistening.

Taking off the woolOnce all the wool was removed, I started separating the plant bunches into individual ones. I plant aquariums back to front, so I started with the R. rotundifolia, which was meant for the back right corner. Because I did not want to damage the stems, I floated the bunches inside the aquarium and gently agitated them to encourage the stems to separate. I estimate that there were approximately forty or so stems between the two pots, but most were rotting. Given the existing damage, I used a pair of “flat tip conventional” tweezers to push bunches of 2 – 3 plants, 3 – 6 cm into the sand, while trying to hold them (for the most part, unsuccessfully) gently.

DepottedNext, the Cryptocoryne went in: I started in the back right corner and worked my way to the left side of the aquarium. Normally, I would need to trim back the roots on the Cryptocoryne to be 5 cm or shorter, but these did not have particularly long roots, so I could plant them straight in. I did this by clearing the sand, pushing the individual plants in, covering them with sand and gently pulling the plant up from the sand so that the rosette is just barely exposed, which discourages rotting.

I had to pull up some of the Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan’ and Lindernia rotundifolia to make space for the new plants, so lastly, I replanted all of these. The L. rotundifolia is doing well and the H. sp. ‘Japan’ has grown so fast that I will soon have to start finding some of it a new home.

It took me about two hours to finish the planting, mainly because the aquarium is still on the floor, which makes it difficult to see into it from the front. If I had invertebrates or fish that are sensitive to copper in the aquarium, I would have soaked the plants overnight in a bucket first to remove any remnants of any medication or snail-killing solutions which the plants may have been exposed to. As it is, I added the plants straight into the aquarium.

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.

Daily tests: days 39 – 47

Filter is still steadily processing 2 ppm of ammonia in 24 hours. The Danio margaritatus have gone on hold because the breeder I was planning to buy them from sold their current batch to someone else, so I will move my Pseudosphromenus dayi into the aquarium first.

60_litre_asian_v8In preparation for the fish, I have just ordered the remaining plants, including some impulse purchases, and I have also ordered a piece of “red moor wood”, which does not look particularly red but will provide a good place for the new moss to grow on. The moss is Vesicularia ferriei, which is known by the name of “weeping moss” because it grows sideways and downwards, which I think will look good on the wood. For the moment, I have tied it to porous rocks, which were used as ballast in the Lindernia rotundifolia pots, with some black cotton thread. Cotton thread will eventually rot away, which is not a problem as the moss should have grown into the rocks by then. Alternatively, nylon string or fishing line can be used as these do not rot in water, but these can be dangerous to fish if they are loose because fish can become tangled the string and can cut themselves.

Plants layed out

In preparation for the new plants and fish, I have also replanted the Lindernia rotundifolia, so that the tallest plants are at the back and the shortest are at the front. The plants now form a very rough hemisphere. I am not so sure about the (apparently) general consensus that these plants as fast growing because they are yet to show that quality to me. So far, growth has been moderate at best, but steady and healthy… I will have to try measuring the growth rate at some point in the near future.

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.