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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Aqua Gillie: Tank Logs

Simple template example of the basic information you need to get you started logging your water chemical readings. You will need to record this information every day you are cycling your aquarium. You will also need this information from time to time over the life of your aquarium whenever you make major changes.
Reviews of two online systems similar to this template as well as two pieces of software designed to log tank information.


Aqua Gillie

Merry Christmas from the Fish Village!
click the link to aquagillie to see how the holidays started

Merry Christmas from Fish Village

christmas 2009,fish-village
My Christmas present to myself was restoring a view through the 10g:view.
We have had algae, lots and lots of algae. Miserable amounts of three types
at last count. The worst by far was the hair-algae. I tried an Oto a month
ago but the poor little guy did not survive transportation shock despite my
best transportation and acclimation scheme.

I put five of the largest shrimp in that mess; it was too far gone and I knew it.
All through finals week, I knew I had to get at it myself but did not have the
time to devote to four hours of cleaning and replanting.

I also had another problem; that strange little b. splendens has always
been fascinated by the right side of the tank. Even when there is no
reflection to go after. She swims across the front of the tank, zooms
up to the right corner and back again.

Call this “Fish Behavior Modification.” B.F. Skinner style.

Two weeks ago I caught her throwing herself at the side of the tank.
This called for drastic action. Finally, I resorted to jamming
a square, clear glass vase in that corner to physically prevent her
from getting near it. While totally out of any aesthetic aqua-scaping
scheme, it was interesting to watch. She would still swim right
up to the glass box and stare at it, still annoying to watch. However,
she did not slam herself into it, nor did she particularly like being in
the box.

The Neons and White Clouds liked that box. It was sort of a
“time-out” box. It was fun to watch three fish cram themselves
into that box and nose around. There had been a fair amount
of aggression between various members of both shoals; probably
due to the decreasing amount of swimming area as the Radican
Marble Queen plus the burgeoning crops of algae cut down
the available free-space. The two female White Clouds are
full of eggs and seemed to bitterly resent any fish who was
within their personal space. None of that happened when
they swam into the glass box. However, that was a temporary
fix until finals were over. That box became a furry, green
cube and no longer interesting to watch.

The more I looked at my small scale showcase tank, the more
depressed I got; the more depressed I got, the more I procrastinated.
So my task for Christmas Eve was to attack the twin problems
and come up with a better behavior solution plus eradicate as
much of the algae as possible.

Sorry, there are no pics of the sorry state of affairs. My rechargeable
batteries hold a charge long enough to fire of a half a dozen shots
then they die. After four years, I guess I got my money’s worth.
I had them on the charger as I moved the shrimp back to their
shrimparium, holding my breath the whole time as there are
four of those fry in that tank. Then I moved the three Neons
into the shrimparium, Miss b. splendens went into her old
square jar, the other White Clouds into the scrubbed and
clean footed bowl of pond scum fame.

Next I started with the Radican, carefully sinking my hand into the
substrate, grabbing the roots, substrate and all. I shook the substrate
out of the roots and began pulling stems and leaves through my fingers
to rid it of the algae as best I could. Into the bucket with bleach it went.
Then into a clean water bucket with triple the dose of conditioner to soak
whilst I repeated the process with every plant in the tank except an airy
mystery plant I determined was too delicate to go into bleach solution.

I took a break to let the pea-soup water settle down. The Aqueon
filter I am so disappointed in got essentially the same treatment.
There went my beneficial bacteria. As I was sitting at the computer,
wrestling with code, I notices something moving. I thought it was a
wad of algae at first but saw a tell-tale flash of color; a shrimp
had escaped notice. And it was one of my favorite blue tinged
American glass shrimp I had not seen since it went into the 10g:view.

So like my hunter b. splendens, I wait until I can clearly see the little
critter and swoosh goes the net through all that green crap. I really did
not want to dump that crap into the shrimparium, so I took a chance and
held the net above the surface, shook it and hoped for the best.
I watched the shrimp float down to the front and scurry to a plant
for something to hold onto. Checked the fry, everyone was ignoring them.

As the algae settled, I became dismayed again. This would require
sucking all that crap up, letting the water settle, repeating three times.
It would also require removing most of the mulm. Alright then, in we go.
Out comes the unsightly green invasion, out comes the mulm & water.

I inspect the substrate for any sign I still have Malaysian Trumpet snails.
Not really. If there are any in there, they are babies and I cannot tell
by looking at the few tiny shells I see, if any are still alive. Damn that
b. splendens; just as I suspected; she has hunted them down for
a tasty snack. If I could just get her to eat pond snail eggs, life would
be grand!

That is when it hit me, the Cryptocoryne Lutea had great growth,
why not try building a hill of substrate and topping it with the
Lutea? That surely would keep that strange fish out of that
corner and prevent her from throwing herself at the side of
the tank, right? So it is written, so it was done; planted so
densely in two tightly staggered rows along the right side of the tank,
she surely will find something else to do, right?

There are a few baby C.Lutea along the back but the lovely scape
I was shooting for is gone. She has been spotted this morning trying
to shimmy her way into that right front corner again; however now she
gets caught in the plants and cannot easily get out. If this does not
extinguish this silly behavior, she will find a Lucky Bamboo jammed right
into that corner as well.

Both shoals have calmed down considerably. No chasing or irritability yet.
Much more free swimming room as the Radican was actually replanted lower
in the tank. The second baby Radican was topped; now we have
the mother without any offshoots, the medium with good root structure
and the smallest with several long roots to get started.
We will see how this goes over the next 10 days or so.

Peace, Joy and happy fish-tales to one and all.

New Tank Acclimation Phase I

This is a follow-up to “Holiday Aquarium Purchasing” published on December 9, 2009; this is the second article in the series “New Aquarium”.

Our setup for the 10:view tank included an Aqua Clear 20 filter, a Stealth 100 heater and 2.5″ of Fluorite Black substrate. We also bought a Master Water Test kit; our kit is the API Master Kit. It was a crucial part of the cycling process as we needed to know the baseline ph of our tap water as well as some chemical levels present in the water on a daily basis. In addition to the master test kit, we purchased GH – general water hardness test solution and kH – carbonate hardness test solution. {read more . . .}

New Home for Aqua Gillie

Yes we are moving our content, in order to facilitate easier content aggregation.
Upon logging in to the blog we have worked on for two months this morning, we found uberVu had visited us and reposted our content. We appreciate anyone who thinks our content is useful therefore; we visited uberVu website and found a nifty little feedback widget we liked very much. You can see it at the bottom of our posts on the new blog.   Sadly, we could not use it on this host we have been working with.
So, we moved the publishing to blogger by Google. . . {read the story}

We are not entirely sure how we will handle content at this blog.  It may turn back into a regular tank  journal, supplementing the new blog with fish-village updates and photos.

To WordPress.com; Thanks for the great ease with which publishing is accomplished on this domain.  We appreciate the tools you have provided.  Unfortunately, we really needed a javascript enabled site.  It is our understanding several product developers are working with you to facilitate plug-ins compatible with your format and business model.  We are hopeful you are able to continue to offer WordPress.com with all the tools bloggers need and expect.  Happy Holidays.

White Cloud minnow . . . or not

This may go down as the most embarrassing story we have told on ourselves, to date. First a shout-out to a couple of new twitter followers; APGoldfish and fish_joys. Each have retweeted or followed us in the last week. Thanks very much!

On to the embarrassment

As we have said in the series of posts regarding what we thought were White Cloud Mountain fry, we really did not know how this happened. Now it gets even more puzzling.Seems last night when the fry got fed, the big one has matured enough to show the tell-tale blue body stripe of a . . .
Neon Tetra. Yep, folks we have Neon Tetra fry not White Cloud Mountain minnow fry. Most of them are still so small, their bodies are clear;  you really cannot see them unless the light is shining on them just right.  There just is no retrievable explanation from our foggy memory or our tank logs to explain this. The Neon Tetras were never in the holding bowl, the White Cloud Mountain minnow parents were.

The moral of this fish tale:

Can we get someone to make some sort of fish-tank with a magnifying front?

White Cloud Mountain minnow fry at home

In a post dated December 2, 2009 we announced with some chagrin, our White Cloud Mountain minnows had gone off the grid and gifted us with fry.  If you would like to start at the beginning, the date above will take you to that post, a link at the end will bring you here again.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow fry, 4wks

Nursery tank for the White Cloud Mountain minnow fry

The fry remained in that bowl for 10 days, until other arrangements could be made and we were sure they were viable.

The plan was to take the large one out of the bowl, put him in the nursery tank and leave the mid-size group as well as the smaller size group in the bowl for a bit longer.  It proved too difficult to “spoon” him out of the holding bowl.  A prayer was said, the whole bowl, fry, marimo balls, and detritus were dumped into the 5g tank.

what cloud mountain minnow fry,minnow fry,freshwater fish

Largest fry is 5/8" long as of 12.11.2009, 4 weeks old

The shot here of the largest White Cloud Mountain minnow fry indicates he is 1/2″ but in fact he is 5/8″ as of yesterday.  He is twice the size of the mid-size group of fry.

what cloud mountain minnow fry,minnow fry,freshwater fish

Mid-size group of White Cloud Mountain minnow fry 1/2cm

This little guy accidentally ended up in the baby medicine dropper I use to
retrieve tank water for chem tests. I promise I only capped the tube
long enough to get the shot, he was promptly returned to his
tank mates, none the worse for a little documentation.
He represents the mid-size group. As you can see, this group is about
a 1/2 cm long.

The smallest group are about 1/5 cm long. We lost one for sure, saw the carcass floating.  When I looked back to retrieve it, I could not find it. I would not be surprised if the largest has made a meal or two of the weaker ones.

The Livestock in the 5g nursery tank:

  • White Cloud Mountain minnow fry, approximately 15-20
  • Malaysian Trumpet snails, 3
  • Cryptocoryne Lutea, 2-3 baby plants
  • Japanese Marimo balls, assorted sizes
  • Java Fern

Check back for updates on this our first attempt at raising White Cloud Mountain minnow fry.  {even though we were not prepared}

Holiday Aquarium Purchasing

The holidays are fast approaching; you took the kids to the pet store for dog food or as a cheap entertainment alternative to get them to settle down while you shopped for the spouse, your brother, or them and so forth.  Now you have created a ‘situation’;  the kids saw a “pretty fish” a cool shrimp, some ugly pleco and the aquarium hobby suddenly is the coolest thing since silly-putty.

You say to yourself, or your spouse; “It would be an educational present, teach them responsibility, keep them entertained and/or occupied until spring . . .”    Stop right there.

Over and over again, hobbyists, veterinarians,  your Dad will tell you the Holidays are the worst time to introduce a brand-new pet hobby into the family.  K, now we have said it as well.  In the event you were smart and started the tank cycling by Thanksgiving so you could have fish by Christmas, you will probably experience ‘new tank syndrome” by sometime in January.  If  you have not started yet, please buy all the hardware, wrap it nicely, put it under the tree dry, like any other gift.  Tell them this is an all winter project and you are as excited as they are.

{down off the soapbox}

Tank Cycling, What is that?

Tank cycling is approximately a three to six week process to prepare your tank for those pretty fish and cool looking shrimp.  In your head you may have just said, “Oh noooo . . .”  with an air of dejected disappointment. That’s ok, we are not mad at you.
Or a light bulb went off and you thought “Ahhhh”.  Both are normal.

During these first few weeks, you will actually be raising bacteria to help you with tank maintenance  Once your bacteria farm is chomping away at the stuff in the water column that is toxic to fish, your cycle is complete.  However, the term “tank cycling” is unintentionally misleading.  The bacteria farm is thriving, you are beginning to add fish over a period of a couple of weeks, tank looks great and then “whaaaaat is that?” Tank cycling will be reviewed in a future post.  In the meantime if you are itching to get started, we used this method; Fish-less Cycling. Good luck to you, keep us posted if you have questions.  For everyone else still reading, let us look at the start-up supply list before we go back to the pet store with bouncing kids, bad weather and too little time among the other families who have bouncing kids, too little time, you get the idea.

Before we start, let us say we will not try to tell you what size tank is appropriate for your family, home or lifestyle.  We will say this, if you are brand-new to this hobby, start with a small to mid-size tank; 10 to 29 gallons.  10 gallon is large enough to have a few interesting inhabitants and be relatively stable with regular maintenance.  Up to 29 gallons gives you more options and tanks over 10g are more stable due to higher water volume.  Higher water volume dilutes many common chemical issues, easing your maintenance schedule and giving you a little more time to correct problems before livestock death and kids of all ages broken-hearted over the loss of the favorites in the tank.

General Supply List

  • Tank, both glass and acrylic tanks have their pros & cons
  • Filter, we use filters rated 1-3 sizes above the tank size because we want squeaky-clean water in our heavily planted and shrimparium tanks, you may not need to go overkill like we do and One box/package extra filter media, do not skimp on this and do not wait until the manufacturer’s recommended time for changing the media, you may need it sooner than expected
  • Heater if you are keeping tropical fish, cold water fish like goldfish and White Cloud Mountain minnows do not need a heater, again we use a heater that is rated 1-2 tank sizes bigger so we can raise the temperature higher, reliably for certain specific conditions.  Ours are Rena and Stealth.  Both good products with good features, neither has given us a problem.
  • Aquarium Vac/Siphon there are a couple of types, basically you want something to get all the crud; leftover fish food, fish poo, decaying plant parts and so forth, out of the substrate
  • Aquarium Hood and/or Lighting for tanks 10g or larger, there are hoods with lights pre-manufactured stocked right near the tanks or you can opt for one of those complete tank kits which contain most or all of what we have listed, except the aquarium vac.  Higher end lighting will be discussed in a future post.  If you know you will be creating a heavily planted tank from the start, there is good information in both Aquatic Plant Central and Badman’s Tropical Fish.  Do your homework, please.
  • Decorative Elements including Plants this is a topic all by itself.  Differences in aesthetic taste, tank goals and livestock requirements again affect your decisions.  You have researched the needs of the fish you are interested in, right?  If not, do not fret too much.  You will have plenty of time while you are cycling your tank to do your homework.  For now, buy a few fast growing plants to help with start-up,  Aquatic Plant Central is our favorite site for this sort of research.
  • Substrate; sand, gravel, or specialty stuff again a topic all by itself and each has pros and cons which will be discussed in future.  However, as a startup gravel the size of Grandma’s pearls is always a safe bet.  It is relatively inexpensive; you will need 1-2.5″ for the bottom of the tank.  Up to 2.5″ for planted tanks.  Either Badman’s or Aquatic Plant have library and forum topics on substrate as well.
  • Water Conditioner this is super-important, do not leave the store without it.  Read the label, you need a conditioner which removes both chlorine and chloramine.  All city tap water has chlorine in it, chlorine is deadly to your fish.
  • Water Test Kit and GH and KH test solutions again, for successful fish keeping, do not skip this purchase.  You need to be able to test your water out of the tap as a baseline for problem solving, you also need to be able to test your tank water on a daily basis while you are farming bacteria.  Additionally, this information is crucial when asking for help from aquarium keepers online.  They cannot see your tank and cannot help you if they do not know this information.  Super-important, there we have said it twice.

Clear, 100% pure Ammonia read the label and shake the bottle.  If you do not see the words, “clear” or “pure”, shaking the bottle will tell you what you need to know.  If it foams or gets bubbly like shampoo, it has other stuff in it.  Put it back.  You do not need a gallon either, although if you are buying it for household use, get what you need.  For fish tank cycling a small bottle. 8-12 ounces will do just fine.  It is cheap, buy it at the dollar store or the grocery store.

That is a pretty extensive and yes, expensive start-up list.  We may have forgotten something, if we did, we apologize.  Go to the pet store armed with your list, get the things on your list, first.  Sales people will try to up sell you a whole lot of things you either do not need or should wait to buy as you are nearer the end of tank cycling and have done some homework.

What to absolutely leave at the pet-store

  • Fish and shrimp, you will have some three to four weeks to do homework and make informed decisions.  We do not personally advocate the practice of bringing home feeder goldfish to jump-start your cycle. We feel this is a poor fish-keeping practice for two reasons; they are cold water fish, you get all the bacteria food you need from the cheap ammonia you will dose with.  What will you do with the goldfish once your heated, tropical aquarium is ready for those fancy fish you have your eye on?  Do not flush them, or any fish, ever.  If you absolutely must bring home something live to keep you and the kids interested, ask the sales staff to show you the fast-growing plants.  Pick up some plants.  Yeah, it is anti-climactic, we get it.
  • Bacteria in a bottle so-called beneficial bacteria to “jump-start” your bacteria farm.  No one we know in four fish-keeping hobbiest forums uses this stuff because it is junk.  Let’s think about this for a minute; that bottle of bacteria has been manufactured, packaged and shipped across the country without a food source in a sealed bottle.  It sat in a hot or cold warehouse for who knows how long and arrives at your pet store to sit on the shelf, again for who knows how long.  It jacks up your initial start-up bill by $2.50-$7.00 a bottle with no guarantee the bacteria are alive, much less viable in quantities high enough to do you any good.  Buy an extra plant.
  • UV sterilizers, Air-stones & Co2 equipment uv sterilizers are purchased after diagnosing specific problems, wait on them.  Air-stones are ok; they oxygenate the water but there are no fish in there to benefit, so as a means of keeping the kids entertained, they have some value.  CO2 equipment can be purchased toward the end of the tank cycle to give the plants the carbon they might  need if you went high-tech with your lighting; however you can also just wait a bit.
  • Fertilizers and plant nutrients again wait.  Give yourself these couple of weeks cycling to watch growth, remove the stuff that died from transplant shock, it happens and see how they do.  The nitrates they need will be provided by that ammonia we keep yammering on about.
  • Betta fish in a bowl or vase please do not cave into this, please do not “rescue” the pretty-fish-in-a-cup as a means of keeping yourself or your kids entertained.  This is a horrible way to keep fish.  Yes betta fish, both males and females must be kept away from each other to prevent fighting; however this practice is the worst of the fish-keeping hobby, next to fish-dying and painting.  If hobbyists stop buying bettas from pet stores who keep the fish this way, pet stores will be forced to properly house bettas in tanks with proper filtration and swimming space .  Please.

Some concluding thoughts;  we are not about being kill-joys or super-geeky in giving this advise.  We proudly aspire to be a super-geek of aqua-culture among those who have more experience than we have thus-far.  We have made some stupid mistakes, fortunately none resulted in livestock death, so far.  Our mistakes are documented here and elsewhere for all to read should you be interested.

Our initial outlay for a 10 gallon tank was approximately $125.00, not including fish or fish food, by far the lease expensive part of the hobby most of the time.  Our foundation plants were a little high-end, but that was a choice we made based on our research, previous experience and aesthetic tastes.  So as a ballpark, you can knock that figure down to about $75.00, less if you take advantage of pet clubs, discounts and so forth.  Everything we purchased is readily available in a chain pet store, except our fancy-pants plants.  Count the cost before letting the moths out of the wallet.

We do believe in being good pet keepers no matter what type of pet one owns.   That is the point of taking the time to research, participate in online aqua-culture communities and make mad use of great tools like the AqAdvisor we previously reviewed.

Good Luck, keep us posted.  Comments and questions are appreciated.

Thanks UberVu for the feedback!

Aqueon versus Aqua Clear filters

This is a re-written product review based on a response I posted at Badman’s Tropical Fish forums this morning.

The question was regarding densely packed bubbles collecting on the surface of the water.  First the what, why and how to get rid of this phenomena, if it is a sign of trouble in the tank.

The last, first;  Yes, it is an early warning sign.  The bubbling is a sign there is a protein build up due to one or more factors; poor water circulation from a dirty, clogging or exhausted filter media.  Additionally, over feeding and/ or a carcass decaying in the tank could be adding to the problem.  We have taken care of the what and a couple of whys.

How do we correct this problem?

Look at the surface of the water, can you detect less motion than you normally see after your regular water changes.  You are checking your filter, heater and so forth at that time, every time, right?  Of course you are.

If there are no decaying carcasses, on to the filter.

Turn the filter off.  Drain off a quart or so of tank water into a pail, bowl or some other wide and deep container.  Next remove your intake tube or hose.  Is your intake clogged by debris, slimy colonies, a dead fish, some (detested) pond snails you did not know you had?  Clear the intake.  Remove the filter media, wash in that tank water you just set aside.  Check the filter box for the same problems.

Do not ever wash the media in tap water. You just spent a dollar-two, ninety-eight on that bottle of water conditioner to remove all the chlorine and chloramide, remember? (yes, that is a real dollar amount, where is your sense of humor)

Reassemble all the parts, resolve not to let this happen again, or at least too frequently.  You can replace the quart of water with fresh, conditioned or aged water.

10g: with-a-view . . . of our first snow!

The Product Comparison

I have an Aqueon rated 20 on a 10g planted tank.

I also have two Aqua Clear filters.  One rated to 30 gallon on
a second 10g tank.  And one a rated 20 on a 5g tank.  The rated 30 is brand new.  The AquaClear 20 on the 5g was previously on the second 10g.

I am disappointed in the Aqueon because the tank it is on has many
more water problems than either Aqua Clear tank. I have the same
dense bubbling that the original person asked about and a persistent “pond scum” problem if I am not vigilant about yanking that cartridge in the Aqueon and rinsing it.

The benefit of “ease” of filter maintenance on the Aqueon is eliminated
by the need to yank the filter cartridge every 4-5 days and clean it after
a month of use in a heavily planted tank.
No way, in my opinion, will the cartridge insert system used
by Aqueon, last more than two months, tops in a moderate to heavily planted tank.
I am suspicious of carbon exhaustion in those cartridges; there is much less carbon in a cartridge than in the sachet of carbon in an Aqua Clear setup.  So too for the fiber encasement and there are no bio-media at all.

In my opinion, the Aqua Clear mechanical configuration
is superior to the Aqueon.  There are three filtration sachets therefore; true triple filtration capabilities.  Bio-sponge at the bottom, carbon sachet in the middle and I use a bio-tube media sachet instead of ammo sachet at the top before the water dumps out the outlet.  Additionally, of the smaller, less expensive filters, I find the flow adjustment on an Aqua Clear better suited to my tanks needs and livestocking purposes, than the fixed rate of the Aqueon.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am raising shrimp in the AC 30 tank
and have added a puff of fiber to the intake, in the event I should ever
have shrimplets.  Shrimp need super-clean water and over-kill
filtration has eliminated Grass/ghost/glass shrimp death due to
water issues.

When I have some luxury cash,  I will be swapping my Aqueon
off the first 10g and replacing it with an Aqua Clear.

If you find this information useful or you have a question, please leave us the appropriate feedback.  We enjoy hearing from you.      We use a spam filter, your comment may be held for approval if you have never commented previously.

James’ Planted Tank – Algae Guide

James’ Planted Tank – Algae Guide.

Algae control is always a hot topic, we see the requests for help spike during season change and about a month, give or take,  after a newly cycled tank is up and running.

Our tanks are no different.  There is an algae farm in the planted tank as well as some good pond snail food on the glass of the shrimparium/grow-out.  James had added to the knowledge base by providing pics, descriptions and remedies.  So we add Jame’s Planted Tank Algae Guide to our arsenal of pesky problem remedies.

During the learning curve phase of both our 10g tanks, back when the water and glass were crystal clear, we said an algae outbreak would not be unwelcome as it would be an indicator we were on the right track as far as establishing a biologically balanced tank where our plants and therefore livestock, would thrive.  The shrimp, we can happily report, are competing with the pond snails (we do not want, more to come) for every square inch of food on the glass.

The moral of this FishTale:

Be careful what you wish for; in aquarium keeping,

you will get it, eventually . . .

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