Thursday, December 15, 2011

Utriculata gibba

This plant is a pest I try to avoid at all costs from enentering my tanks. Well it has recently infested my pond, I've been trying to remove it but I'm afraid to say it has one, I will never be able to remove it now. Since I don't really see the unatractive bladders and only the flowers I guess I can live with it. I took this photo of it yesterday.
To ensure this doesn't enter my tanks I don't get plants from tanks I can see it in and I go over all new arrivals to ensure it isn't hiding in there. I have had a number of scares with this plant but it has only ever been a strand ot two.
I find the flowers highly atractive though, I am considering starting a collection of these guys. Utriculata gramiflora is a highly desired relative of U. gibba, it makes a lush foreground plant with the traps remaining under the substrate.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Update on my CRS tank

I finally got the chiller I had been wanting, works a charm, keeps the tank below 24 even on days when the temperature is in the high 30's. I accidently unplugged it for a day though and lost around half my stock. A was given 5 more A/S grades though to keep my population going. I have an A grade female pregnant and I can't wait for the babies to be born. I also rescaped their tank, it still has lots of growing in to do.

Species profile- Betta sp. Mahachai

Betta sp. Mahachai is a member of the splendens complex, it is yet to be scientifically described. It gets to around 5-6cm with the female being slightly smaller than the male and being less colourful she still can colour up quite nicely. The male will often also have slightly longer fins.
A pair will do fine in a tank off around 40 liters but for a group a tank of around 120 liters would be good.  The tank should have plenty of hiding spots, plants and driftwood are good, as are broken pots and pipes. Irrigation piping can be zip tied together and floated at the top of the tank, this gives fish a place to shelter if they are being harassed. Generally they get on very well together, they are much like splendens but without the aggression, they are very sociable.
When they first arrive they can be extremely shy and hide whenever you approach the tank. Live black worms are a good feed for them as they will still eat them even if they have been in the tank a long time, leaving the tank while they feed will also encourage them to feed.  I added a small group of endlers to act as dithers and provide them with some live food in the form of fry. They also encourage the bettas to eat prepared food from the surface.
Mahachai are very tolerant of their water conditions, they will thrive in almost any water provided it is free from ammonia and nitrites and not too excessive nitrates. I have had mine in tap water, rain water and a mix off the too. Their native habitat is a brackish swamp so I add around a handful of salt to my 60 liter tank. I also add shell grit to my substrate to buffer the ph.
Breeding is usually initiated by the male, they are a bubble nester like all of the splendens complex. A storm moving through the area and a water change or top up with water that is a few degrees colder than the tank water can help induce the pair to spawn. Their breeding differs from the rest of the complex however in that the female holds the eggs in her pelvic fins. The fry can usually be left in with the parents.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Profile-Cherry shrimp

The red cherry shrimp is a colour variation of Neocaridina heteropoda, the wild version is native to Taiwan, the red ones are the most commonly kept ones but it comes in blue and yellow as well as a few other colours.

This species is very hardy and does well in a densely planted tank, in a NPT you may need to over feed them as they have such a low bioload the food they eat does not build up in the aquarium to decompose into nutrients and CO2 like it would in a heavily stocked tank with fish. Shrimp only tanks can become deficient in carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. What you can do is dose with a liquid fertilizer and diy, compressed or liquid CO2. You can also add snails to the tank and feed the tank much more than if you only had shrimp, I like Malaysian trumpet snails for this as they are nocturnal and during the day they dig through the substrate aerating it and burying waste. At night they leave the substrate and look for food.

Cherry shrimp breed without any help from you, just add water and wait. The babies like to feed of the moss as it has a high surface area for microorganisms to grow which they like to eat. You can feed the shrimp blanched vegetables such as baby spinach, carrot and cucumber; they eat many other vegetables other than these. They will also eat fish flakes and pellets, shrimp pellets and decomposing organic matter such as dead plant leaves, they also eat the micro organisms that live on this as well. Remember they do not eat much, only feed as much as they can consume within two hours, or feed before the lights go out and leave it for the MTS to eat.

Cherries are very tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, in many areas they can be kept without a heater all year round, because of this you must be careful not to release them into waterways as they are very hardy and could become a pest. I keep mine at 24 degrees with my crystal red shrimp and they breed like crazy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tip-potasium sulphate

I have read numerous times that using the walstad method can result in a potasium (K) deficiancy after the tank has been set up for 6 or more months. The reason for this is that there is little potasium in fish food, the potasium in the soil is almost the only source of this macro nutrient. Once the plants have used the limited amount of K present in the soil they become defiant, pin holes develop in the leaves and growth is stunted. The potasium is removed from the tank through the prunings tacken from the tank. From what I have learnt about permaculture I know this is not sustainable. I want to try find a solution to this. I haven't come up with any organic solutions so I thought I would try this as I had a big bag of this from when I used chemical fertilisers. I realy don't like using chemicals :(

I thought I should mention now that I haven't had a K defiancy in any if my tanks yet (nearly a year) and I hope I don't develop one. I might add some sea weed to the filter to decompose, it is supposed to be high in K.

There are three options I can think of, or two I suppose depending on how you look at it. You could a) strip the tank down again b) fertilise using a water soluble fertiliser or c) add fertiliser rich in K to the substrate, I would prefer something organic but I can't think of anything off the top of my head.

A tip I recently learnt is this, you can add potasium sulphate to the soil before you add it to the tank. I decided to give this a try, I added 1 table spoon a small ice cream bucket full of soil. I'll see how it goes. I'm worried the sulphur may be turned into hydrogen sulphide from the anearobic bacteria in the soil, only time will tell. I can't remember where I read this so I just added what I thought would be a good amount, the tank has been set up a few days and the fish and plants are fine so far. I'll keep you updated on the progress.

New shrimp CRS

I just got these new shrimp this Sunday, I've been admiring them for months and finally decided to get my self some, they are all A grades, some V bands and Tiger tooth as well, they are patterns the shrimp have. I need to save up for a chiller before the temperature rises to much, they don't like to go above 14 degrees so that will be hard in my Brisbane Summer! They aren't really energy efficient though :( I'm hoping the energy I save by using the soil and not manufactured chemicals will of set some of that, I'll have to try insulate the tank as well. Here are some pictures of them, they are much more agile and graceful than the red cherry shrimp.

I wish I could have gotten better pictures, looks like I may have the start of a green water algae bloom! I'll have to try find some willow branches.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tip-terrestrial plants

Terrestrial plants such as pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and Peace lilySpathiphyllum sp.) can be used to take up excess nutrients in an aquarium much more effectively than plants that are submersed in your aquarium. This is because they have the aerial advantage detailed in the book Ecology of the Planted Aquarium. I highly recommend this book, I have learnt a great deal from it. I also recommend you read the articles she wrote that can be downloaded free from the website linked.

Basically the plants have access to an unlimited amount of atmospheric CO2 and therefore grow faster and take up more nutrients than submerged plants. They are also more solid than aquatic plants which means there is more nutrients locked up within the plant.

To get started all you need to do is take a cutting of a pothos plant and stick it in the water, it will quickly take root. Peace lilies can be grown by taking a sucker from an existing plant or washing the soil of a potted plant and placing it in the aquarium; I prefer pothos as they are much easier to secure in the aquarium and to train their growth.