30 October 2014


My aloe giant has not two, but three pups!

29 October 2014

richness for lemon balm

Not that the plant needs it (I don't think it's a heavy feeder), but I'm short on potting soil so I mixed some old tired soil from an empty planter with fresh, heavy vermicompost from the bin (worms are still migrating, but few enough in there now that I can start sifting them out). Rubbed between my palms until the moist clumps of compost worked into the dry, finer old soil becoming a nice-feeling crumbly mix.
I only found two worms in the compost when I first lifted handfuls from the old bin, and one more when I was mixing the soil. Used it for this bit of lemon balm that's been growing in the nearly-empty oregano planter (I'm not sure how the lemon balm got in there) and looking surprisingly healthy. I levered it out with an old butter knife that is one of my gardening tools, and put it into a pot with the new-mixed bit of soil and compost.

28 October 2014


I cut all the tall flower stalks off my tobac plants. It makes a pretty, if rather unkempt, bouquet.
Then tidied up outside, clearing out all the dead foliage, all the yellowing older leaves. They look a lot neater now.
And when I cut some tall scraggly stalks off, that were leaning over every which way, found lots of smaller new leaves growing at the base. So I've left those alone. Enough flowers went to seed I might get some seedlings in these pots in spring.

27 October 2014

learn from myself

I have to admit, my aquarium plants are doing awful. And when I change things to try and make it better, then seem to do worse instead. I've done plenty of reading on fish-forums, asking advice, talking to the fish guy at the shop. Now looking back on my own blog here to see what I did and what effect it had. There's a lag, I keep looking for results too quick when the plants take two to three weeks to show a response to changes. Main thing is: I kept cutting the lights back. Giving less ferts. Because people told me with low-tech setup you don't need so much, you'll get algae. But you also need healthy plants, and mine are obviously not getting enough of something. I had moved my photoperiod from 12 to 10 to 8 to 6 hours, and things are worse than ever. I used to be feeding the micronutrients a half cap a week, then went to less, had put in root tabs, then vaccumed them out (looking for a snail, cleaning up ich).

So now I am going to try the opposite tack. Giving back the nutrients to the plants, that I had been trying to deprive algae of. Maybe it wasn't algae I was seeing on my plants at all, causing brown stems, but simply dying foliage. I have the original T8 17 watt full spectrum light back on there, I'm going to increase the photoperiod now- bumped to 8 hours today. I'm going to give the main tank 2 ml micronutrients, the small one 1ml once a week. Continue dosing the potassium once a week as well. If they start to look better, I'll increase the light period more, maybe up the micro dose or add more root tabs (I still only have half the recommended amount in there). Keep increasing light/nutrients until I see algae bloom again, and then I'll know to stop at that point or cut back a little.

Because right now there's no algae on any glass (yay MTS) and the splotches on leaves don't rub off either, so I'm pretty sure that's a sign of starving plants, not growing algae. I feel like I've been pretty stupid about this whole live-plant attempt, but hope its still salvageable and my aponos aren't going to die completely. Other thing I've realize is I did this low-tech approach wrong. And thus took the advice online wrong. The method for planted tanks that allows you to not feed ferts is to put a nutrient-rich substrate in first, then cap with sand or fine gravel- so the plants have macros to feed on in the substrate, and micros from the fish waste. Without that nutrient-rich bed, I do have to feed the water column and plant tabs, or my plants slowly starve. Bah.

24 October 2014


the twenty-gallon again. I hate to put my hands in the tank again, but when I learn something new about what I may have been doing wrong, I immediately want to tweak stuff and make it right (or try, at least). I have asked some questions on the fish forums, I have looked up info about how to dose fertilizers. I was told that yes, my plants looks seriously deficient in potassium, but that once I start dosing that, the plants will show up deficient in something else so I should dose all the nutrients. That I should supplement with C02 as well. And that my tank, having the longer dimensions with shallower water, has a higher light level than I realized. It's actually medium light, not high. That triggers more growth, but then the plants can't keep up, lacking other nutrients to match the light, and succumbing to algae.

Groan. I don't want to deal with higher light, don't want to dose C02, don't want to get into a complicated regimen of nutrient dosing every week. I looked back at photos from when the tank was first set up, and realized that although the plants grew slowly (which is to be expected in a low light tank!) they also looked so lush and healthy compared to now after all my fiddling. My java fern used to look like this:
I miss that lush vivid green. So I'm going back to square one, as it were. I put the original light, a T8 17 watt bulb, back on the tank. If they were doing better before, maybe I was doing something right that time. Maybe with the root tabs, extra micronutrients in the plant food and potassium (dry dose) my plants will do ok... Today with the water change I gave the tank 6 drops of plant food (seachem comprehensive, which I might need to dose twice a week because it degrades so quickly in the tank, also I haven't been giving enough) and 1/16 tsp of potassium sulfate. Also 1 tsp of PraziPro against the parasites (they had a dose on wed, this is the second dose). And I cut thin strips of food-grade plastic (out of the sides of a rinsed milk jug) then bent then in half, to pin down the bits of watersprite that are floating and ragged.
One piece the stems rotted so much it detached from the plant last night, but on the upper end some new leaves with root hairs growing. The biggest piece had a twisty tie holding it down but I took that off and replaced with this plastic strip, as the small bit of metal inside those ties can still eventually rust, poisoning the fish. This biggest piece did have one nice white healthy root, the first I've seen, so I hope the root tabs are helping.
I also (last week) tugged up my smaller aponogetons so their crowns are definitely above the substrate, and a few are responding with new leaf growth, when I was afraid they were about to die.
On the ten-gallon, I gave 3 drops of micronutrients, and sprinkled in 1/32 tsp of potassium. I have this cute set of tiny measuring spoons marked "pinch" "dash" and "smidgen". The pinch equals an 8th teaspoon, and I used salt to see if the dash was half that, and smidgen a fourth, and it was.

Then sometime soon I will rehome the blue platies, move the two cherry barb and the lone kuhli from the ten gallon into the bigger aquarium. And after that I don't know what. Wait for the plants to grow. Think about giving Oliver new companions....

Once again, this blog is a litany of the things I have done wrong...

22 October 2014

things I've been told

This is a "thinking post."

I made a fruitless trip to the pet stores the other day. Looking for meds to treat my tank again- I suspect some of the fish have internal parasites. One of the remaining platies has stringy white poo, like the one that got thin and died. I thought I saw the same symptoms on a female barb. Neither store has any medication for this. At the second place, my favorite fish guy was in working. He's a wealth of information and even though I failed to find meds, got a lot of my questions answered.

He said the restrictions on medicines sold for fish in stores is getting tighter; you can still get them online, but soon might only be able to acquire from a vet. I was surprised and dismayed. It's bad enough that I'm going to spend ten dollars on a bottle of medicine, plus the cost of shipping, to save a $3 pet! But I would hate it if the parasite got to my cherished betta or killed off my kuhli loaches.

The list I had in hand of meds advised to me on the fish forums where I posted queries about my tank symptoms, he said they are all excellent options and will work, if I can find them. I moved away to browse and showed my kids some of the fishes I really like the looks of- eventually back at the large tank near fish counter where the scalare are. "These are the fishies I want to get someday, when I'm a good fishkeeper. Right now I suck- my fish keep dying and my plants are doing terrible." Fish guy chimed in and said actually angels are easier to keep than my livebearers- platyfish in particular tend to get a wasting disease, tend to be inbred, tend to have problems because they are popular and breeders manipulate their genetics to get the pretty colors- like the very blue I admire. Whereas fishes closer to their wild origins, the barbs and silver angels, are heartier in general. Good thing I find the silver angels (wild-type) most attractive and not the veiled or fancy ones with different colors! Encouraging for my future fishkeeping dreams- that angels might not be so difficult- but I do want to solve my issues with balance in this tank first, getting the plants to grow nice and the fishes to stay healthy.

I was advised on that matter, too. That I need better light- more watts per gallon- contrary to some other info I've read online, more light does not necessarily mean more algae problem if it makes the plants healthy enough to outcompete the algae. That makes sense- but would mean I have to replace the hood (again) for a glass cover which can support any kind of light strip I choose. I would not have to buy more bulbs, I still have the original 17 watt full spectrum bulb the tank came with, I'd just need a new glass cover and new light fixture to hold two bulbs. Gah. More cost. Can't do it now....

At least I know- if the plants are responding to something I did (new light, root tabs) but aren't great yet, do more of that. So- plan is- get new cover lid and strip for two bulbs. Add more root tab. Maybe get ferts that just provide macronutrients; I think from seeing a diagram of plant symptoms that mine are deficient in potassium, and the liquid plant food I got doesn't supply that.

Also: maybe the cherry barbs were the best choice after all, if I want healthy fish. They do have a lot of good points- they seem to be tough (I haven't lost one yet), they eat anything, they clean up after themselves, they do have some interesting behavior, they don't aggravate the betta. I have seen Pinkie lunge at the platies a few times, and although one barb had an injury I never saw who did it... I'm sorely disappointed to not keep my pretty blue platies, but my end goal is angelfish after all.

Now I think I will see if I can cure these platies of parasites, and then perhaps rehome them. And move the lone kuhli Sammy and the two smaller cherry barb out of Oliver's tank into the twenty-gallon. Then leave it alone regarding fishies and focus on getting the plants healthy, the whole tank balanced. Not sure who would go into the tenner with Oliver if that's what I do. I don't want it to just be him and some snails. I would love get a little group of otocinclus again, but have had terrible luck keeping those alive....

Here it is almost a year later, and I'm still on a learning cuve. No wonder so many people give up fishkeeping!

I added four more broken up root tabs, making it a total of five throughout the tank. Still a fourth the recommended application. Have identified the deficiency (I think) symptom of black marks on the leaves, yellowing and foliage bleaching out, then dying off. Potassium. Reading online articles on aquarium plants until my head hurts. It can get very complicated. I'm trying to keep it simple. This is what I understand now: the liquid plant food I've been buying is crap. It has a very short life in the tank, you'd have to dose every day or every other day to keep it in there, useful to the plants. It's all micronutrients which are usually provided by the fish waste anyways. What I need are macros- I think potassium in particular. On the forums highly recommend buying dry ferts- you can dose it very precisely and one purchase will last a lifetime. That's sure. I bought a pound of the stuff (the smallest quantity available) and I will probably use a fraction of a teaspoon per week...

The fish have made the decision for me. About who to keep. I was leaning towards the barbs, but they are the ones who are tearing up my water sprite! (or is it wisteria- still confused on that point) I saw them today, grabbing at the bits that are floating (which never grow, always disappear), nibbling and chewing and spitting out and eating again. Even if they're just going after algae they do it with enough force to tear the plant (suffering already) to pieces, and it's a plant I particularly want- I like the delicate lacey foliage in contrast to all the solid, oblong leaves in my tank (java fern, aponogeton, crypts... )

So yeah. The tough, stolid fishes will go so I can keep my pretty plant alive and get the striking blue platies which might not be as tough, but I think there's another benefit to having platies. They're not as thorough picking through the gravel for food bits, and will leave more for the kuhlis to eat. I won't have to try sticking food under the kuhli log (scaring them in the process, and the barbs always find it and go seeking in there anyways).

21 October 2014

telling seasons

by the houseplants. A few of them are actually at their best during fall and winter here. The poinsettia is looking lovely, leaves growing fast, visibly larger every day.
Cyclamen continues to grow new foliage with vigor as well. I don't know if I should hope for flowers again in spring, but I do.