Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Summer Tubbin'

It's getting warmer around the US and Europe which means pond season for the lucky few of us, but it's also something special for the serious hobbyist: a chance to expand your fishroom. I'm not talking about an extension on the house; I'm talking about your back porch. In most of the US and Europe, there are at least a couple of months of weather warm enough to house most of our aquarium fish outside.

Hobbyists take advantage of this warm summer weather to spawn and grow fish outside. Some accidentally discover that fish spawn like this while others, often going on the words of those with the happy accident, purposefully put fish outside to spawn. Most people believe the trick to getting the fish to spawn is how closely this replicates their natural environment. The floating plants, the live food, the cooling rain are all things the fish would naturally experience and have evolved to live with. People have had success spawning all kinds of fish from livebearers to egg-scatteres like barbs and tetra. Gourami are another favorite fish to spawn in these tubs.

Tubs used for breeding by renowned hobbyist Rachel O'Leary (msjinxkd.com)

Placement of the tub does matter. You can't put them in full sun all day long as this will heat up the water too much. Ideally you want about 4-5 hours of morning sun. This means  placing them on the eastern side of your house or yard. The tub (or tubs) should not be under cover or eaves of your house because the rain is important to them. Rain cools the water in the heat of summer and provides mother nature's water changes.

Most any tub that holds more than 20 gallons of water will due. Animal watering troughs are a favorite because they are large, built to hold water, and the plastic won't degrade under the UV rays of the sun. You might have to modify the tub a bit. If you don't like the idea of tubs overflowing when you get a lot of rain in a short time, then think about drilling overflow holes. These drain the tub when it reaches a certain water level and prevent the tub from overflowing and sending your plants and fish overboard.

Water trough made into a pond (azcopperpenny @ Photobucket)

An optional piece of equipment is a pump.  Some people like the calming noise of water moving, and some people just like to have some water movement in the tub to keep it a uniform temperature. Something like this would be less important if you were raising gourami or betta spawns.

When setting up these summer tub ponds, you are really at the mercy of mother nature. This often means being familiar with the weather patterns in your area: what time of year it really begins to warm; what time of year you see cooling off; just how much rain you get in the summer. When you see daytime temperatures steadily in the 70's (~ 21C) is when you should begin setup. Just as with a tank, start with the plants first. Fill the tub with a mixture of dechlorinated tap water and water from the tank that you will be bringing the fish. This gives the plants some nutrients to consume before you add the fish. Let the plants get settled for about a week. Then you add the fish. Don't just dump them in; acclimate them like you would any fish. You may also want to place some mesh netting over your tub pond because fish have a tendency to jump in the first few days.

Frogs in the pond are cute, but can eat fry (tomylees @Flickr)
Plants are a big aspect of these summer tub ponds. They are part filtration system, part cooling system, and part fry nursery. The best kind to have are floating plants like water lettuce, frogbit, water hyacinth, and duckweed. These all have roots that hang down and allow fry a good place to hide. Egg-scatterers can attach their eggs to these roots; bubble nesters can attach their nests to the undersides of leaves. If you are looking for some lovely blossoms, lotus plants do well in these setups, too. Marginal plants like iris, cattails, and rushes can be used to add some aesthetic appeal and make the tub really look like a pond. Just like with fish tanks, patience is key!

This summer, I've decided to try out these summer tubs. I have a lot of floating pond plants because they grow so well in the pond, and I have an old plastic tub that I used to haul around pond plants in. The only thing I would need is the fish. As much as I'd love to try breeding my gourami in a tub this summer, I don't want something to go wrong on my first try and accidentally kill them. So I'm going to use the livebearers from my pond, mosquitofish Gambusia holbrooki. When the summer is up I will just put the remaining mosquitofish back into my pond. Next summer I will be spawning my gourami. Wish me luck!!

My tub pond! Grow, baby, grow!!!

Works Referenced

Colleti, Tim, Dr. 2011. "Summer Tubbin': Breeding you Fish Outdoors."  Tropical Fish Hobbyist (June) 86 - 89.

Sipes, John. 2003. "Summer Tubbin'." www.aquarticles.com. Retrieved: 28 April 2013.

Marchio, Liz. 2008. "Urban Pond Tubbin' Water Gardens". AquaScaping World  (June): 8 - 11. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Removing the Water

This week I worked on a special project. It's unique from my other tanks because it doesn't involve water! Well it does, but this project isn't submerged! I made a moss terrarium from a Nature's Pure Glass 1 gal cube. I originally intended this for an aquatic project, but had to abandon that because it's positioning made water changes difficult. So I removed the water from the setup.

Because I know very little about terrestrial plants I searched around the internet for a tutorial (and some general guidance) on making a moss terrarium. This was my favorite that I found and the one I've generally been following. First I had to clean out the old cube because I'd kinda just let the water sit in it. I cleaned it with vinegar in an attempt to get most of the hard water stains off the sides.

I gathered all of my materials on the front porch. Then came the fun part, collecting the moss. You can buy it online, but since I have a lovely backyard I wanted to venture out and see just what moss was growing in the ravine. My pond does have a bit of moss on the rocks, but since it has taken about seven years to develop I didn't want to destroy that aesthetic. I grabbed an old backpack, some large freezer ziplock bags, and small trowel and went collecting. While I was out there I also dug up some rocks for this project. If you don't have a backyard like I do, you can go to a local park and head off the trail. But while you are out there make sure you are aware of your surroundings; carry a phone or go with someone else.

Moss in my backyard. I harvested this after I took the picture.

 When I returned with my moss I stated putting the substrate in the cube. First I added a layer of black sand in the bottom to give some added drainage and moisture storage. The room where this is sitting has a fan going all the time, and I'm afraid it might cause too much evaporation. I want to be able to "store" water in the bottom, too. Next, I added a layer of peat moss soil. Moss enjoys growing attached to things and in acidic soil. Since I didn't want moss on my rocks, I opted for the peat moss soil. It only comes in massive bags around here, so I'll be making a few more terrariums later this year. I tried doing some hardscape with the rocks, but most of what I brought back was too big. Finally, I moistened this with some nutrient-rich goldfish water.

Hardscape and peat moss soil

Now I added the moss. I'm not the greatest at making 'scapes, so I have a feeling I will be re-arranging it a few times before I'm totally satisfied. I tried to mimic an iwagumi but I'm pretty sure I failed. Either way, I brought my moss inside and am happy to have it sitting on my desk.

This begins my summer adventure into terrariums. I've never done too well with house plants before because you have to water them so much. I'm hoping that by adding the sand reservoir it will counterbalance my forgetfulness with watering them. If all goes well with this terrarium I'd like to try my hand at making another one with the leftover materials.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

One Year!!

Personal Reflections

Today is the one-year anniversary of my blog's first post! A lot has happened in that year in my personal life and my hobby. I'll take this opportunity to look back on what has happened in the hobby, both in my tanks and around the world.

The biggest change for me has been the loss and gain of fish. The biggest loss was that of my two oldest goldfish, Goldeen and Seaking. They both died of separate causes, but it was so close to each other that I can't help but wonder what it was that killed them and whether or not the loss of one was just too much to bear for the other. Goldfish are much more social creatures than most people realize and Goldeen did appear to pine away until he died.

One of my favorite pictures of Goldeen and Seaking

The other losses I've suffered have been those of my two oldest bettas. One succumbed to complications from a lymphocystis infection and the other to a failing swim bladder. But I have to remember to smile for the time I had them and know that they helped me learn even more about those wonderful little fish.

I have really only added fish to one tank: my community, but in terms of numbers I have added more than I have lost. It's a total of  22 fish added to my community. It may sound like a lot, but these guys are tiny compared to the goldfish and bettas. I have only added one betta: my giant halfmoon plakat. I consider most of my tanks completed in the stocking aspect, so I don't plan to add any more fish for a long while.

The other major change has been in the appearance of my tanks; I've added a lot live plants. I had always had things like an anubias or a java fern in some of my tanks, but I never thought I could have a gorgeous planted tank until this past year when some friends convinced to me to give it a try. I've had a lot of success so far, and I've really come to appreciate and enjoy plants even more. All of my tanks have plants that are thriving. I used to just plan what fish I would want in my dream tanks, but now I'm planning the plants for them, too.

One of my new favorite plants, Myriophyllum mattogrossense

Another large change is my new-found appreciation for invertebrates. They were once just algae cleaners in my tanks, but now I enjoy watching them so much more. I even set up a tank completely dedicated to them! I haven't even come that far with plants, and I've had plants for much much longer! This change was even more recent than my new love for plants; it has just been since the New Year that discovered how interesting shrimp are to watch. Now, just like plants, every single one of my tanks has some kind of invert in it be they shrimps, snails or both.

Just like any hobby based in science and technology, this hobby is always changing. New species are always being discovered and described, and new breakthroughs are made with the technology that support our aquariums. A couple events that stick out in my mind are the describing of the adorable panda loach (Yaoshania pachychilus) and the re-evaluation of the ever so common barb genus Puntius. There were also discoveries like WWF article that detailed the 13 new fish species that have recently come out of the Mekong River delta in Asia.

Juvenile panda loach Yaoshania pachychilus (SeriouslyFish.com)

I consider this past year of fishkeeping a year of great growth.  I've become more of an advanced fishkeeper and taken my hobby in slightly different direction that others. We each have fish we prefer keeping. Some people love cichlids, some people enjoy guppies and livebearers, and some people enjoy the fish they can breed. I think I've discovered my niche in shoaling fish and shrimps. We all bring something to the table and that's what makes this hobby so interesting. I hope to be able to keep fish for the rest of my life.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My tanks: 6 April Update

With spring comes a lot of new things including lots of updates! The weather is finally warming up here, and I'm gearing up for some outdoor summer projects that I will fill you in on later.

First off, the pond is open for 2013! Earlier this week we took the net off the pond. I spent a few hours cleaning out a lot of the algae that built up over the winter and clearing out any debris that made it through the net. The koi were out to greet me and the water is almost warm enough to start feeding them. I start them out with Cheerios at 55F (13C) and move them to wheat germ when the temp hits 65F (18C).

Freshly uncovered and cleaned of most algae

The koi just hanging out in the sunshine.

The next major change is a new tank! I removed the red cherry shrimp from my community and set up a tank dedicated to breeding them. My gourami were making it next to impossible to breed them, so I just removed the shrimp. I moved over the remaining adults and later that week found four juveniles hiding in the moss. Thus far the female has released one clutch of eggs and is holding a second. Because the founding population is so small, I'm going to order more red cherries. Too much inbreeding produces shrimp that are far to weak. The plants are mostly stems with some anubias. The plant list: Bacopa carolinia, dwarf sagittaria (Sagittaria subulata), Myriophyllum mattogrossense, Rotala rotundifolia, Anubias spp, riccia, Subwassertang, and java moss.

Full tank shot

Two males and juvvie eating sinking wafers.

There have also been large changed in my community tank. I've finally added the cardinal tetra. I bought 12 from msjinxkd.com. They came in excellent condition and have been flourishing ever since. They are as gorgeous as they are in pictures, and I'm completely in love. The shoal has been dubbed "The Shinies" and my family remarked that they almost look like they are glowing.

My new cardinal tetra; I apologize for the dark picture.

The other major change in my community has been an addition of more crypts. The dwarf sagittaria (Sagittaria subulata) and dwarf chain sword (Echinodorus tenellus) I had in there was just languishing. I don't know if it was the light or the tannins or just what, but they never grew for me. So I removed what was still alive and placed it in the shrimp tank. I replanted that side of the tank with green wendtii (Cryptocoryne wendtii var green) and red wendtii crypts (Cryptocoryne wendtii var red) and C. spiralis from AquariumPlants.com. I've had minimal melt with them and even see new growth. I'm very pleased with them. You can see them on the right side of the tank.

Full tank shot; the bettas are still in the breeder boxes.

The first of my summer projects I have begun are my snail bowls. Since my goldfish are growing larger and more apt to eat the smaller snails, I need to grow out my snails before I introduce them into that tank. I have set up two old betta bowls as snail bowls. One has hornwort and the other has anarcharis clippings from my betta tank, and both have a layer of duckweed. Because my water is so soft I have crushed coral substrate to maintain a steady pH and enough water hardness for the plants and snail shells. They get weekly water changes with the waste water being used to water the terrestrial plants in the terrarium window.

Right bowl - hornwort; left bowl - anarcharis

Ramshorn snails in the anarcharis bowl