Category: Articles

My Fish Room 2014

My Fish Room for 2014

 

You can click on the articles to see the history of my fish room. These are changes made for 2014. I spend 2013 making the room more efficient. I still have some minor adjustments to be made.

 

Most people will spend hours cleaning glass making everything look perfect before taking pictures. These pictures are from after a day of shipping.

 

One of the major changes I made was to my central system. To save on power I ran new 1inch pvc lines to all the tanks and installed a smaller pump. My central system came with a 2hp pump. I downgraded before to a 1.5hp pump. I am now using a Iwaki MD40RLXT pump. A lot less water being pumped though the tank  but also uses a lot less power. The old pump is still hooked up so i can use the uv system if its ever needed. I also installed a new trickle system for the bio tower.

 

Trickle system powered by a small pump in the sump.

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These 3 tanks have fish in them but mostly for plants.

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Top sections are for plants and smaller groups of fish. Middle tanks are slowly having the plants removed. The middle tanks all hold fish. The bottom row are for crays snails and plants.

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Got a few packages of shipping boxes in. Middle tank has frogs and snails. Bottom tank has crayfish.

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Some how I missed getting a new picture of the 240.

You can see the rows of tanks here. These are all on auto water change system like before. Though what I like best is the power. All the power lines run above the tanks. I have 3 circuits for them. 1st is always on. For the most part isnt used but there incase I need to add heaters. 2nd is the timer. Since most of these are all fish for the most part none are on the timer. All plant tanks are on the timer so I dont have to worry about them getting enough light. 3rd is what I like the most. The 3rd is on a light switch. This way I can turn the lights on and off in the whole fish room.

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A new thing I been working on is organization. All the tanks are now numbered with the white board I am slowly filling in. I also adding the name of the fish/inverts/plants on the tank as well.

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The 20 gallon longs on the ends still have some work to do. I am going to add some kind of clip on light. I havent got them yet so it makes it a little hard to see into them.IMG 7444

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So thats what I have up so far. I had plans for a row of 20 gallon long inbetween the 40 gallons and the other row but I like having the open space. I dont want it to be cramped. I am going to add a rack of 20 longs though against the wall between the wall of 40s and the other row. There also might be another rack of 3 or 6 more 20 gallons for plants. The rest of the pictures are just random live stock i got pictures of.

Red Devil Crabs

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Harlequin rasbora

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Otos

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Some new endlers… got them as chilli endlers though looks like some culling needs to happen.

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Danio Erythromicron with corydoras habrosus – preping the tank for the next tank of nerites. I move them around to kept them fed.

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Bamboo Shrimp

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cherry shrimp and Boraras naevus

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Clown Killies

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red lyretail swordtail

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Taiwan Blue Guppies

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Caridina cf. propinqua orange

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tangerine tiger shrimp

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Apistogramma cacatuoides with Stiphodon atropurpureus

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pygmy cories

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sids – Yasuhikotakia Sidthimunki

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chinese zebra shrimp

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bee shrimp

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Indian Whitebanded Shrimp with albino bristlenose pleco

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Thai micro crabs

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Orange Poso Rabbit Snails

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How to set up a Quarantine tank

A quarantine tank is important part of fish keeping. They are simple to set up and maintain. They help prevent the spread of disease, pests and parasites.  I personally quarantine everything and would never put anything into my system without quarantining it first. It’s not worth the risk of your other livestock.

No matter where you get livestock for your system it’s a good idea to use a quarantine tank (QT). The livestock can look perfectly fine but stress from shipping or even bringing them home from a local store can stress them. Just like in people with stress it can weaken them and allow something to pop up that was being fought off otherwise. It’s also possible that the disease or parasite just hasn’t fully develop yet. If something does develop having them in a smaller QT also saves on the price of medication. This way you are only treating the sick fish as well. With plants it’s possible to have eggs or snails or other hitchhikers you may not want. With a QT you control what goes in the tank.

Often many people set up a QT but just don’t give the time needed to make sure everything is safe. With plants there is very low chance of spreading disease. Washing them off and doing a plant dip with potassium permanganate can typically keep all snails and pests out of the tank. 2-3 weeks in a QT after the last snail or pest if you find any should be safe. The longer the better but that is typically fine. Inverts such as snails and shrimp have a very low chance of spreading anything to any fish. Same with plants 2-3 weeks in QT is typically plenty of time. Fish are by far the most important thing to QT and should always be QT’d for 1-2 months after the last sign of infection or parasite. With some expensive fish I know some will even QT their new fish 3 months. For example you get a fish with ich. After treatment and the last sign of ich you start the clock over. Like I always say better safe then sorry.

Picking the right size of a tank is also important. Since it’s only going to be a short term home many can get away with a 10-20 gallon QT. in some cases even a 5 gallon will work. It really depends on what size of fish and how many you will be QTing at once. If you are getting a lot of fish at once you might even think about having 2-3 QTs on hand. Larger fish will need bigger tanks as well. My QTs range from 20 to 75 gallons since I get a large number of fish at once.

Setting up the tank is easy if done correctly. The first thing is you want to keep it bare bottom. There is no need for any substrate nor décor. You will want to get a heater for the tank. I just use a clip on light from lowes/home depot for lighting. You don’t need light but it helps you see the fish better and look for problems. I just use the cfl spiral bulbs and it works great. The filter is the most important part. This will help make sure your QT is cycled. A HOB (hang on back) or sponge filter is preferred. I am a big fan of the aquaclear brand hobs or the hydro sponge filters. What you need to do is leave it running on your main tank. This way the bacteria is built up ready to go. When you get new fish just move it over to the QT. once the QT is over just move it back on to the main tank. If the fish happen to die I bleach the whole tank. I wash everything out and use a little prime to break down any extra bleach. I then leave everything out to dry. Once it’s fully dry you can put it back on the tank. It will take 3-4 weeks to fully seed again. You can jump start it by taking some media from one of the other filters for the QT filter. In some cases you can’t have an extra HOB filter going you can always leave your QT filter dry. When needed you just take some of the media from the filter and put on the QT filter.

These easy but important steps can help save your livestock and save you money in the long run.

Ich treatment

Published on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 05:50

Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) is by far the most common aquarium disease out there. Ich is a protozoan parasite. Its full scientifically known name is Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Ich is a parasite that attaches its self to the fish and looks like a grain of salt in its final stage. The first sign of infection often is clamped fins and abnormal swimming habits. Though this is a sign for many different diseases. The second sign is often flashing or scraping. This is where the fish looks like its trying to scratch its self against décor. The ich parasite is irritating the fish skin. The final stage of infection is the grains of salt popping up all over the body.

Ich is a single cell parasite that has a three stage life cycles. You normally know you have ich in the Trophont stage which is the adult stage of the parasites life. This is the stage that it is visible as white spots on your fish. Once the organism finishes this stage of their life they drop off of the fish. They become encysted in a free living dormant stage. This stage of the ichs life is called the Tomont stage. The ich will stay in the dormant encysted state anywhere from several hours to several days depending on the water temperature. The warmer the water the quicker it will go through the life cycle. It will divide into larvae called Theronts. These new organisms do not have long to find a new host before they die. This is where the treatment works be it salt or meds.

There are two main treatments medications which you can buy or there is the salt and heat method. The salt and heat method typically takes longer but normally is less stressful. There are also side effects for using medications as well.  If you use salt which I think is the best you need to use NaCI salt. You can typically find this at lowes or home depot. A $5-$7 bag will last you a life time. The common recommended dose for treating ich is 2 tsp per gallon of water but you can go up to 3tsp. You don’t want to put the salt directly into the water. Take a container with some tank water and dissolve the salt there. Also so you don’t shock the fish you want to add about 25% of the salt every few hours. What I do is mix up all the salt at once and only pour 20%-25% of the water in the tank at a time. The good thing about this is you only need to add it once until you do a water change. To keep things simple when I do a water change I will make sure to do a 25% or 50% water change on the tank. This allows me to easily add the salt back into the tank. For example I have a 10 gallon tank. I originally added 20 tsp of salt. I do a 50% water change. I add back 10 tsp of salt. Ich will most likely look like its getting worse before it gets better. A good idea is to start with 2tsp a gallon. If it doesn’t get better in 6-7 days I would add an additional 1tps per gallon. If you add enough salt you can get rid of ich. The second part is heat. By increasing the temperature in the tank you can speed up the life cycle of the ich.  If you get it warm enough you can even kill off the ich with heat alone. Typically at 84 degrees ich will die off but there are some strains that can take heat up to the 90s. this is why a heat plus salt is the best idea.  The only problem with this is it can stress the fish out if they can’t handle the warmer temps. Also the warmer the water the less oxygen is in the water so adding an air stone is often helpful to keep up surface agitation. I suggest around 82 degrees for most cases. Remember the life cycle of the ich. Once it looks gone keep the treatment up for 7 days this should wipe it completely out.

Commercial treatments often contain formalin, malachite green, methylene blue, chelated copper, copper sulfate, potassium permanganate and quinine. The copper treatments often kill any inverts in the tank. It also leeches into the silicone and slowly releases. This often makes a tank uninhabitable for inverts. The treatments with Malachite Green will often stain the silicone. These medications are strong and should not be used with scaleless fish such as Puffers and Loaches. If you are using meds make sure to remove the active carbon from the tank. The treatment differs from med to med so make sure to read the directions if you go with one of them.

How to Cycle a new Aquarium

Published on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 05:48

There are two common ways to cycle a tank and a third which is a little less common. Fish cycle is often done by beginners. Fishless cycle is by far the best option out there. Silent cycle is more for advanced plant keepers. All three have their advantages and disadvantages. Though before we start one major thing to understand is what is cycling.

At its very basic cycling is the growth of good bacteria that leads to supporting life in the aquarium. Without getting to technical there is several kinds of bacteria in the water. One kind of bacteria uses up or eats ammonia that the fish produce though waste. Their by product is nitrite which a second bacteria uses up or eats. These turn into nitrates. So to go over again ammonia – nitrite and nitrates. When cycling a tank you should have a test kit. Api makes a good master kit which you can get for under $20. This will test ph along with ammonia nitrite and nitrates.

Here are a few basics that will put you ahead of most others. While this whole bacteria thing sounds completed it really isn’t that bad. Many people start to understand the basics but not the complete picture. Many think once a tank is cycled you can just toss in a whole tank of fish. It’s best to start slowly and add new fish every couple weeks if you can. The typical suggestion is to only add 50% or less of the bio load at a time. For example you start with 10 neon tetras and in two weeks or so it’s safe to add 5 more. Bigger fish have a higher bio load meaning they produce more waste. When a tank is fully cycled there is just enough bacteria to support the fish in the tank. Removing fish there will be a die off of bacteria while adding more fish will increase the bacteria number. Again this has to do with the bio load. Another common misunderstanding is that bacteria is only in the filter. While a lot of the bacteria is in the filter it’s also on the décor substrate glass and even in the water. There is a very minimal amount of bacteria in the water though. Since most of the bacteria is in the filter this is why it’s best to always run two filters in case one dies or when you clean one you done wipe out the bacteria colony. You now know more than many fish keepers out there.

Fish cycle

Fish cycle is by far the most common used by beginners. It can be stressful for you and the fish. Often in many cases it can lead to death of fish or at least shorten their life span.  Most people buy a tank fill it up and toss fish in. as they die off they replace them but sooner or later the tank is cycled. In the meantime the fish could have been injured from ammonia burn.

Even though I don’t suggest it fish cycle can be done properly. It will normally take 8-10 weeks which is longer than a fishless cycle. It requires a lot of water changes and a lot of testing which personally I don’t find fun. I got into fish keeping to enjoy the fish not run a bunch of tests. You will want to start with a minimal amount of fish. Depending on tank size and fish size you will want to start with 5-7 fish.  During this time you should test every other day until ammonia starts showing. Once ammonia starts showing up it should be tested daily.  Any time the ammonia or nitrite hits .25 or above do a 50% or larger water change. Ammonia or nitrites above .25ppm can be very harmful to the fish. Even the .25 ppm isn’t ideal and can cause issues. You will see the ammonia spiking after a few days. In a couple weeks you should start seeing nitrites on your test kit. A couple weeks after that nitrates should start popping up. A tank is fully cycled with the ammonia and nitrites read 0 ppm and you have nitrates in the water. This takes longer then fishless cycle because you keep the ammonia levels down.

Fishless cycle

Fishless cycle is by far the best way to cycle a tank. It normally take 4-6 weeks. For the most part no water changes is needed for this. The first step is to get pure ammonia. You want the non-scented 100% pure ammonia. Slowly add the ammonia and test until you get to 3-4 ppm. I prefer to stick to 3ppm. Too much ammonia can kill off the bacteria. If you add too much just drain and start over. Every couple days you should test the water. As the ammonia starts to be converted into nitrites you will need to add more ammonia. You will want to maintain a 2-3ppm ammonia level in the tank. I know this can be hard having an empty tank just sit there just remember it’s for the good of the fish. The tank will be fully cycled when you can bring the ammonia up to 2ppm-3ppm and within 24 hours the ammonia and nitrites levels drop down to 0.

Silent cycle

Silent cycle is less common than the others. The idea is pack the tank with a lot of fast growing plants with a minimal amount of fish. The plants will grow using up all the ammonia. If not done correctly the ammonia will spike.  Once cycled you slowly add more fish.  Floaters are very good for silent cycle since they tend to grow the fastest.

Speeding up the cycle

There are several ways to cut down on the cycle time. There are several products out there that help some like tetra safe start or DrTim’s Aquatics One & Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria. Dr tim is the leading researcher and developer in the field. He came up with safe start and later started his own company offering a newer better product. If you want to save yourself some money there are other options to choice from. Remember the bacteria lives on the décor substrate and filter media. A handful of substrate from a cycled tank can help cut the cycle time by 1-2 weeks. You can also use some of the media from a cycled tank to boost as well will often cut the time by 2 weeks sometimes even more.  Just remember to make sure it’s coming from a safe and disease free source.  Many times a local fish store will give you some media or substrate if asked. Other options are finding someone with a local aquarium. Fish clubs, fish forums and even facebook are helpful with this.

As you get more and more tanks you end up having enough bacteria on the media you can just pull from several tanks. This is what is often called an instant cycle. You can practically just set up a new tank with a filter with media from the cycled tanks and be safe to go. Though this is for the more advanced fish keeper. Any time you set up a tank you should always keep up with the tests to make sure there isn’t any spikes.

My fish room 2012

Published on Friday, 25 January 2013 02:32

My fish room Jan 2012

My fish room is a work in progress. I cleared out the room and started over in 2011 in a more thought out set up. Its still not 100% finished yet. I am also planning a future expaction as well.

These are 2 racks of 20 gallon tanks. The top tanks are all shrimp. The middle tanks has one with Pseudomugil Gertrudae two other tanks with shrimp and the fourth with the thia micro crabs. The bottom 4 has fish.

The top 3 20 gallon tanks are shrimp tanks. The middle is a community tank  The bottom 2 are bare bottom QTs.

The top 3 tanks hold Shrimp. In 2 of the tanks I have some Show guppies the other assassins. The middle tank is my monster grow out tank. I have a black ghost knife, Polypterus endlicheri and a angelfish. On the bottom is 2 more bare bottom QTs.

This is one side of my central system. These are all connected by a large sump. Everything that goes in here gets quarantine for 1-2 months+ before being moved in. It also allows me to hold a large amount of nerites in smaller tanks then i am normally able to do.

This is the 2nd half of the central system.

This is a rack of quarantine tanks. You can also see the heater since i run a central heat for the fish room.

My central system is filtered by a large sump. Bellow is the pump.

This is the sump with the large bio tower. The bio tower is 5 feet tall packed with bio balls.

All the water washing over the bio balls.

Bulk Nutrients Uncovered: Save money with dry fertilizers

Bulk Nutrients Uncovered

By Rex Grigg

http://www.rexgrigg.com/ferts.htm

Why would you want to use bulk nutrients. Well here are some numbers.

  • If you are dosing 60gallons of water with Flourish Potassium you would need 100 ml to get to 20 ppm.
  • If you are dosing 60 gallons of water with Flourish Phosphorus you would need to dose 48 ml to get to 1 ppm.
  • If you are dosing 60 gallons of water with Flourish Nitrogen you would need to dose 30 ml to get to 10 ppm.
  • Flourish Potassium is $6 mail order for 500 ml. So if you dose once a week that bottle will last you 5 weeks. Cost would $1.25 a week to dose potassium.
  • Flourish Phosphorus is $7.50 mail order for 500 ml. So if you dose once a week that bottle would last you 10 weeks. Cost would be 75¢ a week to dose Phosphorus.
  • Seachem Nitrogen is $7.50 mail order for 500 ml. So if you dose once a week that bottle will last you 16 weeks. Cost would be 47¢ a week to dose nitrates.
  • Total cost for one dose a week with Seachem $~2.75. Note there is no shipping factored in here and there are some rounding errors.

Fertilization for the Planted Aquarium

Published on Friday, 04 May 2012 03:59

Everything you need to know about fertilizing your plants.

Fertilizer calculator
Perpetual Preservation System
Walstad method
Non CO2 methods, another method for different goals

Bobs Tropical Plants Root tab instructions

Place root tabs around heavy root feeders such as crypts and swords. Push down though the substrate and make sure its fully covered. Each root tab will last 4-6 months.

Estimative Index Fertilization Method
by John N
http://www.aquariacentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=136668

Let’s cut to the chase. People want to have a lush planted aquarium with as little work and money as possible. When it comes to fertilizing the aquarium finding an easy, cost-efficient way can be quite a predicament – but it doesn’t have to be.

The Estimative Index (EI) popularized by Tom Barr is a straightforward fertilization method for dosing nutrients in a planted aquarium without the need for monitoring water parameters. This method works on the basic principle of supplying more nutrients to plants then what they actually consume during a week’s timeframe. At the end of each week, the hobbyist “resets” the aquarium and nutrient levels by performing a large waterchange that flushes out the system. This whole process creates an “estimative” amount of nutrient levels that are more than adequate for plants to grow healthily.

The Estimative Index method works best with high light and heavily planted aquariums, but can work with lower light levels and less plant mass by reducing the frequency or amount doses in the suggested regimes. It assumes the aquarium will have adequate CO2 of 30 ppm or above. In both high light and low light situations, the hobbyist will dose fertilizers daily according the instructions below, and do a weekly 50% water change.

The primary fertilizers used in any planted aquarium are the macro nutrients – Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potassium (K), and the micro/trace elements (Plantex CSM+B, Seachem Flourish, Tropica Plant Nutrition). Iron (Fe) can also be supplemented if desired, but in most cases not necessary.

How do I use these fertilizers and the Estimative Index?

Fertilizing via EI is simple. Every other day dose the prescribed macros elements, and on the off days add in the trace/micro elements. Perform a 50% waterchange at the end of the week. By following one of the commonly used dosing programs below for your specific tank size you can ensure your plants are getting what the need throughout the week.

10-20 Gallons
1/8 tsp KNO3 3x a week
1/32 tsp KH2PO4 3x a week
1/32 tsp K2SO4 3x a week
1/32 tsp (2ml) traces 3x a week

20-40 Gallons
1/4 tsp KNO3 3x a week
1/16 tsp KH2PO4 3x a week
1/16 tsp K2SO4 3x a week
1/16 tsp (5ml) traces 3x a week

40-60 Gallons
1/2 tsp KNO3 3x a week
1/8 tsp KH2PO4 3x a week
1/8 tsp K2SO4 3x a week
1/8 tsp (10 ml) traces 3x a week

60-80 Gallons
3/4 tsp KNO3 3x a week
3/16 tsp KH2PO4 3x a week
1/4 tsp K2SO4 3x a week
1/4 tsp (15ml) traces 3x a week

100-125 Gallons
1 1/2 tsp KNO3 3x a week
1/2 tsp KH2PO4 3x a week
1/2 tsp K2SO4 3x a week
1/2 tsp (30ml) traces 3x a week

Newbie Guide to PPS-Pro
by snickle
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/pps-analysis-feedback/39491-newbie-guide-pps-pro.html
What is PPS-Pro?

PPS-Pro is the latest generation of the Perpetual Preservation System developed by Edward. The history and scientific basis for PPS can be found here: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/f…on-system.html

The goal of PPS-Pro is growing healthy plants with minimal effort.

Isn’t this just fertilizer?

No PPS-Pro is more than just fertilizer. The PPS-Pro solutions are highly advanced fertilizers with years of practical research behind them. But PPS-Pro is also about the approach to growing plants for aquascaping.

What do plants need to grow?

Light, carbon, nutrients (macro and micro), and proper water.

What kind lighting of lighting do I need with PPS-Pro?

PPS-Pro works with lots of different lighting setups. The general guidelines are:

Low Light ( Under 2 wpg) 10-12 hours a day
Medium Light (2.0 – 3.0 wpg) 8-10 hours a day
High Light ( 3.0 – 4.0 wpg) 7-8 hours a day
Very High Light (4+ wpg) 6 (Expert level)

2.0 Wpg 12 hours
2.2 Wpg 11 hours
2.4 Wpg 10 hours
2.7 Wpg 9 hours
3.0 Wpg 8 hours
3.4 Wpg 7 hours
4.0 Wpg 6 hours

What do you mean by wpg?

“wpg” stands for Watts Per Gallon. Basically take the number of total watts of the fluorescent bulbs over your tank and divide by the number of gallons the tank is.

Why do plants need carbon and how do they get it?

48% of a plant’s mass is carbon, it is the basic building block of plant life (actually most life).

Plants in nature and in most aquariums get if from CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the water. Plants take the CO2 and release O2 (Oxygen) back into the water via a process called photosynthesis during hours of sufficient light

How does the CO2 get in the water?

CO2 gets in the water several different ways.

From the air: There is CO2 in the air we breathe and lots in the air we breathe out, many other sources as well.

From the fish: Fish taken in O2 and release CO2, just like a human. Since the fish are breathing in water the CO2 is released into the water.

From us: In most medium to heavy planted tanks, we add supplemental CO2 to the water.

How much CO2 do I need in the water?

A good target is about 1 bps (bubble per second) which is simple to do and safe to fish and sufficient to plants.

Even a tank planted with low light plants can benefit from added CO2

What happened to the “30 ppm Ideal”?

Maintaining 30ppm can be challenging and risky for the fish. Moderate levels about 15ppm are natural and provide plenty of carbon for the plants and allows a much greater safety margin.

What nutrients do plants need to grow?

Plant nutrients breakdown into two categories: Macro (Larger quantities) and Micro (small quantities)

Macro: Nitrates, Phosphates Potassium, Calcium, Carbon, Sulfur, and Magnesium

Micro: Manganese, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Boron, Nickel and Molybdenum

Is there where you give us the formula?

Yes.

Macro Solution

In 1 liter bottle:
59 grams K2SO4 (Potassium Sulfate)
65 grams KNO3 (Potassium Nitrate)
6 grams KH2PO4 (Mono Potassium Phosphate)
41 grams MgSO4 (Magnesium Sulfate)
Fill with distilled water and shake well. Let sit overnight.

Micro Solution

In 1 liter bottle:
80 grams of CSM+B or equivalent trace element mix
Fill with distilled water and shake well. Let sit overnight.

How do I dose PPS-Pro solutions?

Dose 1 ml of each solution per ten gallons of tank size. Dose prior to lights turning on.

Nerites: The Snails You Want to Keep

Published on Friday, 20 January 2012 11:34

               Nerites are becoming wildly popular in freshwater aquariums. With the ever increasing amount of nerites being introduced to the hobby, there always seems to be more reasons to keep them. Their versatility makes them one of the best invertebrates to keep.

      There are many different species of nerites that range in color, size and location in which they are found. They all have one thing in common though, they can’t complete their breeding cycle in freshwater. Some nerites are found in the coastal regions in small pools and tidal areas, and can sometimes be transitioned to fresh water. Others are found in freshwater streams and rivers. When they lay their eggs, they hatch and get swept out to brackish waters.  They eventually grow and make their way back way to these streams. Because they won’t breed in our freshwater aquariums, you won’t have to be worried about being over-run with snails.

      While some keep nerites just for their color, shape, or general interest in inverts, others keep them for their algae eating capacity. Nerites can help with several kinds of algae. I have had great success with them eating green spot algae. No need to scrub and scrub the front of the glass, just toss in a couple nerites and call it a day. They also do well at cleaning up other slimy algaes. Some move nerites from tank to tank as they deplete algae sources. If you run out of algae, you can supplement their feeding with zucchini.

      Nerites are being used where more traditional methods can’t. Many are starting to use the larger nerites such as, zebras and tigers, in their Tanganyikan and other cichlid tanks where other options don’t work. In smaller tanks olives, black horned and Clithon corona are used. I use nerites in my shrimp, nano fish, breeding tanks, and so forth. The possibilities are nearly endless when putting these inverts to work so you don’t have too.

The Invertebrate Phenomenon

Published on Friday, 20 January 2012 11:33

 

                In the last couple years there has been a popularity explosion in those who keep invertebrates. There are an ever growing number of hobbyists dedicated to just invertebrates, with a greater number of hobbyists that are setting up invertebrate only tanks. While you may not want to go this far, there are many options that can work in already established tanks. As the popularity increases more and more species of invertebrates are being found and brought into the hobby.

                Snails are often thought of as a bad thing in most tanks. Once we look more into them more I hope people change this perception. Common snails or pest snails are most frequently experienced by the hobbyist. Pond snails, ramshorn, and Malaysian trumpet snails (MTS) have the reputation of taking over a tank. These snails will only breed if they have a supply of food. If you are over feeding then you will have an ample supply of them. Ramshorns are the largest of the three and come in multiple colors from red to purple. MTS are good for stirring up the substrate. All three are plant safe. There are several species of apple snails that are pretty common in the hobby. Some will eat plants others will not. Pomacea diffusa (previously bridgesii)/mystery snails get to be the size of a golf ball. There are countless numbers of shell and foot (body) colors. They don’t eat plants and will lay eggs above waterline so it’s easy to control their population by removing and destroying their egg clutches.  Asolene spixi (zebra apple snail) snails stay small and have a neat black and white striped pattern. These can be pretty plant safe though some have hybridized with the Columbian Ramshorn (Marisa cornuarietis) and will devour a planted tank. Pomacea canaliculata (the channeled apple snail) will eat plants and algae and are great in an unplanted tank. Nerites are becoming more popular every day. These snails are common in the saltwater side of the hobby. Many can be transitioned to full fresh water. There are two key features of these that make them one of the best snails out there. First, since they are mostly found in salt water, they require brackish water to breed for their young to develop. There are many of them that work their way into the streams and lakes but still have to go back to breed. Secondly, they are the best plant safe algae eaters around. There are several species available for the fresh water aquarium with a range of unique shapes and colors. Many tanganyikan and other cichlid keepers are finding out how helpful these are at keeping the algae at bay where other common options won’t work. Another newer snail to the hobby is the assassin snail. These snails eat other snails, mostly the pest snails and reproduce slowly. For that reason many people find these desirable.

                There are two major groups of dwarf shrimp in the hobby with a couple others worth mentioning. Neocaridina are a very hardy shrimp and easy to bread. In general they can take a large range of PH and temperatures. There been several selectively breed strains out there. They get to be about 1 ½ inch and will hybridize with each other. Since they were selectively breed, when they cross they often revert back to their more natural brown color. The most common and well known neocaridina is the cherry shrimp (RCS). This bright red shrimp is a great starter shrimp best kept in a species only tank of 5-20 gallons. These along with the other neocaridina can be kept with small fish. Anything too large will be able to eat them. With these small shrimp it’s important to cover the input of any filters. There are several others neocaridina such as the yellow shrimp, snowball shrimp, blue pearl and the wild type. As time goes on I suspect we will see more colors. Caridina shrimp group is much larger with new ones being added all the time. Some do best in hard water others do better in soft water and they tend to be more challenging to keep and breed then the neocaridina. Most have the ability to hybridize with each other so best not to keep them together. The most common caridina shrimp is the crystal red shrimp (CRS). These can come all the way from almost full white to almost full red but the more natural is white and red stripes. They even have a grading scale based on opacity of color and type of striping. Crystal black shrimp AKA bee shrimp are close to the CRS. They are white and black striped. Both do best in softer, cool water with a more neutral pH. Tiger shrimp are another soft water neutral pH shrimp. It has a clear body with black stripes like a tiger. These have been in the hobby for some time with many people working on selective breeding. There are now several out such as the blue tiger and black tiger. Dark green shrimp (caridina babaulti) from India are a great caridina species to try since it does best in hard water. There are countless other ones and new ones coming in it seems every couple weeks. Amano shrimp aka Caridina japonica get larger than the other dwarf shrimp at about 2 inch. Their specialty is hair algae. As a low order breeder, they do require brackish water for their larvae to develop into shrimp. There are several Sulawesi shrimp. These are small about ½ inch and very challenging to keep.

Planning for success

You have seen them in books, magazines, or on the net, those jaw dropping planted tanks that are works of art. They inspire you to get some plants into one of your tanks. Maybe you have heard the benefits of plants for your fish or how they can help keep the water parameters in check between water changes. Whatever the case, you added plants to the tank but they didn’t last long. They turned brown or got covered in algae. This is how I started, and so have many others. It left me asking why. After trying and failing a couple times I gave up. About a year later I got the urge to try again. This time I spent the time researching to figure out how to do it the right way. Over the last 6 years I have kept many planted tanks and helped many people find their way into the planted community.
Lighting is the most important aspect of a planted tank. The two most common problems I run into with people are that they add too much light or have too little. The whole key is finding a balance. Figure out the plants you would like to keep and then get a fixture which will supply the minimum amount of light needed to keep them alive. Many people will talk about the “Watt per Gallon” (WPG) rule. This guideline was started back when people were using T12 shop lights over the tank. These days there is more powerful and efficient lighting with compact florescent and T5 High Output. Today’s aluminum reflectors are more efficient at getting light into the tank than ever before.  What I am getting at, is, this is no longer a reliable guide. Watts is a measure of power not light but that’s another story.   There are four common lighting options with a 5th still out of the price range of most hobbyists. T12 and T8 are common in kit tanks. In smaller tanks these might be able to support basic low light plants. For larger tanks such as 55 gallons or bigger however, you would need to upgrade the lighting. Some people use shop lights since they are cheap. They can work but are made to light a large area not a small defined area. At one time I had 8 t8 bulbs over my 120. IT took up a lot of room and it was hard to get in and out of the tank. A growing option on smaller tanks 5-29 gallons is the spiral compact florescent lamps (CFL). These allow a fair amount of light in a small area but they are just not that efficient.  Compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs are commonly available and a good source for light. There are countless companies making them though I do find AhSupply.com to have the best reflectors for them.  More on their importance later. T5 and T5 High Output is the new best thing. They run cooler, can be more efficient than CF fixtures, and are available in more configurations making it easier to achieve your proper lighting needs.  The 5th type that is coming soon is LED. I am sure that at some point these will be the best way to light your tank with or without plants. They are already available on the market, but I don’t believe that the technology is really there yet, especially considering their comparatively high price tag . I left out Metal Halide (MH) because I am not a fan at all. They are hot and eat up a lot of power but do give a look you can’t find with the other lights. MH mimics sunlight better than any of the fluorescent options. In high light tanks or some really large tanks they might be the best option available. Reflectors are an extremely important part of lighting and often over looked. Reflectors are the key to CF and T5 HO. All in one reflectors are common in most lights, they reflect more light then shop lights, though the key is to get a fixture with individual reflectors.  AhSupply.com claims to reflect up to 62% more light into the tank with their angled reflectors than flat regular flat reflectors. While I can’t say for sure this number is 100% correct I have tested flat and angled reflectors and the angled ones win hands down.  With T5 HO, the bulbs are smaller creating less restrike, thus getting more usable light into the tank.
If you are ready to take it to the next step there are new questions to ask. Do I add CO2, new plant substrate, fertilizer?  As a new challenge with increased plant options, medium light set up can be as hard or as easy as you wish. I will start off by saying CO2 isn’t a must but can be helpful in many tanks. CO2 helps boost plant growth and helps keep some kinds of algae at bay. If you decide CO2 is the way for you I highly suggest a CO2 drop checker. This is a visual way to measure the Co2 in your tank. There are 3 ways to add CO2. Pressurized systems have a semi high set up cost at around $150-250 but over time they are the cheapest option. Do it yourself CO2 is another option. I find it works best in smaller 5-20 gallon tanks. It’s harder to keep stable and in larger tanks you may need several bottles at once. Excel is another option for CO2. It’s a liquid made by Seachem. It’s not as good as the gas and it can kill some plants like vals. You do not need a special plant substrate. Many of them look nice and can help the growth of the plants, but in most cases, they aren’t really necessary. I have grown plants in sand and pea gravel and there are even plants that don’t even need substrate at all. Flourite and Eco complete are common plant substrates. Both have minimal trace elements. Both have decent Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) which means it can take fertilizer from the water and release for the root systems of the plants. Aquasoil has both trace and micro fertilizer. It grows plants very well since it has the nutrients needed for the plants. There are also many DIY substrates and lesser known options out there. It’s worth looking into if you enjoy diy type projects. Fertilizers are the most complicated and easiest way to throw off the balance of the tank. If you just start dumping fertilizers into the tank without knowing what you are doing you can cause an algae outbreak. There are many guides and methods out there to help you. The two common ones are EI (Estimative Index) which you add plenty of fertilizers for the week and do a large water change at the end of the week or PPS (perpetual preservation system) which adds just enough fertilizers for the week.  If you decide to add fertilizers to your tank invest in dry fertilizers, which can be easily purchased online. One person worked out that buying the liquid fertilizers is 44 times more expensive. Save some money, buy the dry chemicals, and mix them yourself.
I often tell myself and others KISS (keep it simple, stupid). Set yourself up for success. The key is setting reasonable goals. I always advise starting with low light, easy plants. This way you can learn the basics and move up if you wish. Starter plants include anubias, crypts, java ferns, and moss. There are many amazing low light low maintenance plants out there. Lower light tanks tend to be less work and often under rated.  A dream of having that amazing, jaw dropping tank is fine, and you definitely don’t need to go high tech to do it. By following basic design elements and choosing interesting focal points like driftwood or aquarium rocks, you can make gorgeous tanks that don’t require the same intense maintenance as those high tech setups. It’s also important to remember that most of those aquarists spend hours getting their tank just right for the photos, also, many have been keeping planted tanks for years. Give yourself time. If that’s your goal, then you will get there. Having a couple plants to liven up the tank and help keep the water in check is also a great goal. Just remember to keep at it and don’t give up.

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