23 September 2017

more than wigglers

I got into my little planter pond today to see if there were any mosquito wigglers. Lifted out the water lettuce and duckweed into one bin of water, the hornwort into a soup container. The hornwort is doing really well- it seems to appreciate the shade from those water lettuce, and isn't lacking for nutrients, sure. I wonder if the 'lettuce plants introduced some other life forms? I didn't find any wigglers.

I removed the ceramic pot cave and larger stones to look closer. Found what I thought was a worm- but it hitches itself along. Some kind of leech. Not very big- smaller than the red composting worms I've fed to Perry. I offered him the leech. It balled itself up. He bit and spit it out over and over- did it taste bad? or make itself difficult to swallow somehow. It fell to the tank floor. I got my long-handled aquarium tweezers to remove it, but when I turned back to the tank, can't see it anywhere. Did Perry manage to eat it after all? He looks fat and super excited to see me, wiggles all over when I approach the tank. I've only fed him peas and a few fruit flies this morning, so I would guess the excitement is if he did eat the leech and is hoping for more. But if it's still in there- ahhhh no.

Also found in the container pond what I'm pretty sure was a dragonfly larva. It was pale- I could see the legs, and the little eyes gleaming at me from the gloom at the bottom of container. I tried to catch it. Not to give to the fish- I wanted to take a photo. I like dragonflies. I'm glad it's in there if it is eating the mosquitos! But after two swipes with the shrimp net, I couldn't find it again. It moves fast. And hid- or climbed out? There was nothing in the pot now but a very thin layer of gravel- less than two grains of substrate thick- a bit of subwassertang, and mulm. Algae like green hair growing growing on the interior curved sides. Did it bury itself. I raked the substrate to spread it out, and siphoned out piles of mulm with a straw- this larva won't fit up the straw- I tried. But I couldn't find it again. I even left for ten minutes to sort the wigglers I got from my regular puddle (cories get the smallest, Perry the biggest and tumblers, serpae tetras all the ones in between sizes) and then came back, to see if it had ventured out from hiding. Nope. Can it change its skin color, and blend in? Oh well.

Also found two things that look like snail eggs, but it's flat and kind of a fat oval shape with pointed ends. Gleams a bit irridescent. I can see round shapes inside- organelles? eggs? They seem to move- in a straight line, smooth like propelled by cillia. I don't know what they are so haven't offered them to the fish.

I want to do things with the fish today- but the window tank isn't quite ready. Snails have begun crawling back down to substrate level- I counted thirty eight large ones on the glass last night- there is still a hint of ammonia and nitrites are spiking right now... Cories got a water change on their bucket this morning.

22 September 2017

temporary mess

today- going thru some transition. It breaks my heart, but I am selling my aponogeton crisups plants. Someone local came and picked up two today, another one is shipping out monday and a little later the last two are shipping out on a plant swap. I pulled three today during the wc (to siphon out as much disturbed mulm as possible) this one is still floating in the tank until it's time to pack it up.
They must have been hogging the light, mostly- because when I pulled them, the roots coming up disturbed a lot of fine pale stuff looks like material from the root tabs I put in five weeks ago. It was a big surprise to see that the two flower stalks were coming from the one largest plant. I didn't know it would put out two flowers simultaneously. I will really miss these plants but they are just getting too massive and don't look like they're done growing yet. (I think I will get a few more apono capuronii, though. With the thinner leaves I don't think they will overwhelm the tank as quickly, and if I remember to pinch them before hit the ceiling, should keep in check better.)

The fishes seem okay with the disruption this caused- they are swimming about excitedly as they always do during a water change. Not sure if I harmed any shrimps yet. Will be replacing the empty space left by the removed aponos with the large bolbitis I got in weeks ago. Perry should be moving out of that QT soon.

My window tank got torn down again today,
so water parameters are all bad. I haven't tested yet but the snails are climbing the walls...  I am still uneasy about the uneveness of my stand's top surface, so I bought a sheet of dense rigid foam insulation board to put underneath and distribute the weight. It's pink. I spray-painted plastidip to the edges to make them black, but- it kind of seeped into the foam and caused the edge to become slightly concave, plus little bits of the original color still show overall dull gray look. I hope it hasn't affected the integrity of the board? I'll have to get black masking tape or electric tape to cover it up still.

So my cories are still in the bucket. I am feeding them very lightly- half or less the usual serving, only once every other day. Water parameters still good in there. Some of them look pale, but no clamped fins and they move around animatedly when I drop in a food pellet or momentarily turn off the air stream to check on them (can't see well when the water is agitated by the filter).
I thought the elodea looked kind of cute all dropped in a cup together.
Here's that windelov I pegged to the wall with suction cups.
Right now I like this corner best... the java fern 'red' are starting to grow a few new fiddleheads- that's nice to see. And there's the bit of crypt retrospiralis and vallisneria I moved in.

new roots

I don't know why, I like seeing the new roots sprout in jars of cuttings. Reddish 'Kiwi fern' coleus:
the pink coleus:
the lime-and-orange one:
Salvia doesn't have roots yet, but the sprig of creeping charlie I put in water does, and so do the mint cuttings:
Life!

fern foliage

It really is doing better now. I need to find a spot for it with deeper shade, next summer. Or not put it outside...

21 September 2017

finally a full bowl

of cherry tomatoes! Just when the plants look about dead.
I might get a few nice broccoli heads though, especially if we have a long autumn season. You can tell it is too cold for caterpillars- newer leaves on my broccoli plants are so nice. The older foliage is completely in tatters.
We have eaten all the carrots- it was just two dinners' worth- and the green beans continue to be very slim pickings. I am thinking I will just not plant green beans next year- maybe whatever pest spreads this disease my plants will die out or move on. Bah.

I've hung soap to deter the deer. A friend told me they don't like the smell of 'irish spring' and it just so happens my husband uses that soap (I don't like it). I cut one soap bar into three chunks. Put each in a ziploc baggie with holes poked in the bottom (so smell would emit but enough rain stay out it doesn't dissolve quickly? that was my idea) and tied a string around the top. I hung one on my sad forsythia, another on a decor piece in the back garden (where a few plants look suspiciously bitten) and third in the garden right by the patch of swiss chard and beets. Whose tops had been getting nipped off by something. Now they appear to be growing more. Not sure if that's because weather is cooler, or because the forager is deterred- but just in case I'm leaving up the soap.

marigolds

I am usually not too fond of marigolds (tagetes)- I grow them just because the scent is supposed to deter some insect pests. Mine are doing better this year than before- whatever plauged them last year is not so bad now. Most of them in the past have looked like these above- ruffly and fat.
Or like this one- mostly yellow.
But my favorites are a new kind I have- just one layer of petals, a deeper red edged with gold.
They really seem to glow against the green foliage (like my tithonia, the 'torch flowers'. That's what my brother-in-law's new girlfriend calls them. Well, not new anymore but I have only just met her. She is a gardener too. She calls the celosia 'brain flowers' haha.)
There are a lot more of these flat red tagetes blooms, too. And their petals have a very soft, velvety texture. I was feeling one when found this bug- for a moment I thought it had a weird narrow head but then I saw it appears to be eating an aphid? what is this insect? I think I was looking at its underside.
Hm, another little garden mystery to figure out.

short cycle

I was hopeful this morning because ammonia was dropping but as expected, my window tank is going thru a mini-cycle. Seems to be progressing quickly. It had a cloudy bacteria bloom yesterday which cleared by nightfall, and the trumpet snails are no longer climbing the walls. Today ammonia is  0.25 and there is the beginning of a nitrite spike. Perhaps tomorrow or the day after I can move the fishes back in... surely by the weekend.

Meanwhile the cories are doing fine in the bucket. I checked their water. Ammonia test was a solid yellow. I can see their shapes through the white bucket wall as they swim against the side, and right now they are going up and down the walls in a tight group, following each other very closely. Are they spawning in the bucket?!

20 September 2017

window tank: new stand!

My cories were spawning again yesterday. Later I saw an egg stuck to the glass- but it was exposed for over half an hour to air so I don't know if its dead or not. It was a bad day for them to spawn! However I am pretty sure they are going to keep doing it, so no loss... That day I put my custom stand under the tank. It took a good amount of time. Emptied the tank- plants and some hardscape in one clean bucket- fishes, leaf litter, more plants and the running filter in another.
I got the stand in place and leveled, but a bit worried because it turns out the top surface is not perfectly even- the tank rim only rests solid on one corner and the middle of the span of long sides. I am not sure if this is safe to avoid the glass cracking, even though it's a fairly small tank... quick photo of it next to my thirty-eight, and the white bucket off to the side: that's where my fishes are right now. The cories look okay- although one of them is pale with stress- they were all sitting perfectly still on the leaf litter until I dropped in one shrimp pellet and then they started cruising around the bucket animatedly, looking for the food.
I was going to trim the roots back of all the stems in the lid, but decided not to in case it temporarily decreases their uptake of ammonia- definitely want them to do that job right now. I'm testing tank waters to see when ammonia goes back down- it got a spike from all the disturbance. Trumpet snails are a good indicator- they have been crawling up the walls of the tank since changes. Yesterday after setting everything back up, ammonia in the tank was at 1.0- this morning some snails are crawling around on the bottom going for plant debris like usual- and test shows ammonia 0.5- so probably after one more day the spike will have subsided (and snails will be under the gravel again)
Cories in the bucket now just have the leaf litter, loose subwassertang and cover of hornwort stems- all the other plants and hardscape back in the tank. It's replanted in a bit of a different arrangement- I decided to quit keeping hornwort pegged down, all as floaters now. I have a few more elodea stems- they grow a lot slower but stay in place much better than the hornwort- and when a few windelov pieces came loose from their stones, I fastened them to the wall of the tank with suction cups. Yeah, I know I tried this before with hornwort and didn't like the look of it. Maybe different with this other plant. Trying to get some height of greenery in the tank. There's also vallisneria I introduced, and some crypt retrospiralis, in the back corner where it gets most of the window light. Going to get a picture when the light is better.

There was a round bit of filter sponge just sitting on the bottom in Perry's QT. I took that out and put it on a sponge filter fitting, ran it in the bucket alongside the window tank's filter while I was working on teardown. As soon as I had the tank back up, moved the corner filter back in, to help clear the water- leaving the cories with the little sponge. I tested the bucket's ammonia levels this morning to make sure they're okay and it is slightly below 0.5 (still way better that their home tank right now). Partial wc for them in the meantime.

clematis!

It is a beautiful thing. I did not know my clematis had opened a late flower until today. There is only one so far and wow, it is stunning.
So glad this plant recovered from what ailed it earlier (I am beginning to think summer is just awfully hard on many of my plants- they suffer from heat and it weakens them to the insects...)

19 September 2017

notes on the main tank

It's nice to have a decent school of fish in here again. They seem to have figured out most of their disagreements- I don't see chasing as much anymore, just a few displays now and then- and all the torn fins are growing back. The newer fishes are learning quickly to come to the top corner for food when I tap- and they all look health- nobody sick since the introduction.

The other day I tried feeding crushed shrimp pellet bits to the tetras on one end while I dropped a whole pellet for the kuhlis on the other end. One serpae tetra grabbed the whole pellet and was dashing around trying to hide with everyone chasing it. I was afraid this fish might choke like Pinkie did- his mouth was streched painfully wide with half the pellet sticking out. He was so busy avoiding the other fish didn't see me with a net so I caught him against the glass- that startled him enough to drop the food so I guess it wasn't actually stuck in his mouth. I stuck the food piece under a log where the swarm of kuhlis kept the tetras at bay for a while.

Something is off with my plants- I don't find as much black algae spots on the glass this past week but more is showing up on plant leaves: various crypts, aponogetons, the echinodorus. I have a third aponogeton sending out a flower shoot. But some of the apono leaves and more of the bacopa have holes- looks like decay. I have a suspicion the aponos are finally overwhelming my tank, blocking light and hogging nutrients from the other plants?

I'm considering removing the three largest, or even all of them.... but not sure yet as it will be very hard to get them out w/out making a big mess of my tank... and I am not actually sure if they are the real problem.

still no fish

in my ten gallon. It's been almost a month. I actually saw a betta I liked last time I was at the pet store, but I was looking very close at him- another double-tail plakat and he had a bend in the tail just like my old Sam- not as severe but it was there- and also the edges of his scales were slightly lifted- like the beginning of dropsy. I did not want to bring home a sick fish... so I left him there.

The tank is still doing good- snails are still thriving. I slacked off on water changes and let it go almost two weeks without fert dosing- until I saw some of the anubias and crypts were looking a bit peaky. Rotalas and buces still look better than ever. Gave it ferts today. Wondering if I should try some other kind of nano fish in here...

Floaters still look awful. I wonder if replacing the plastic over my light strip has made a difference. Might just replace the duckweed with some from the QT or the little pond, start it over in here.

14 September 2017

spawning catfish

This morning serpae tetras in one tank and cory catfish in the other, were spawning. I noticed yesterday that the cories looked a bit more active than normal- kind of dashing around the tank together, then stopping short with fins held wide quivering excitement- but I didn't think about it. Today when I fed them I saw one female had her pelvic fins pinched together. She was carrying eggs! There was a flurry of activity among them in a bunch of plants, and when she came out again the fins were empty. But a few minutes later I saw the group of cories rushing around together, mouthing each other and following close, and then she appeared to have two or three eggs in the "belly basket" again. You can barely see one here.
I saw her cleaning the underside of windelov leaves, and go through the motion of sticking an egg on them, but later could not find an egg in that spot. However there are definitely at least two placed on the subwassertang-
Not sure how well they got fertilized- I only have one male now. Past weekend I euthanized the one that had a bent tail. I found it lying on its side, patches of fungus and a lump on the side of head. Labored breathing, rolled upside down when it tried to swim. Looked really bad. It did not move away when I nudged it with tweezers, very weak. Symptoms reminded me of the serpae tetra that died the moment I separated it into a QT container. This one I folded into a paper towel and put my foot on it. Then took a shovel to the backyard, all in the space of a few minutes. I felt horrid. 

The one male I have now is to the left in this pic- and if you look close can see the egg under the female, in her fins just to the right of the food wafer:

around the window tank

Sweet potato vine has grown so much I now have to periodically trim foliage off, because it is blocking the light that gets into the tank.
There was a second, smaller windelov fern growing on that little rock behind the larger one. The rubber band broke before it took hold, and now the leaf is floating somewhere in the tank. I was going to tie it back on, but then I saw the larger windelov cluster on the other stone is reaching for it. A rhizome growing off the rock has started to take hold on the second, smaller stone. This is kinda cool so I left it like that.
I have one tiny bit of pennywort (hydrocotyle tripartita) still alive- but it is not doing well in my tank. I saw someone on the forum just grew it in a pot kept very damp, and it looked amazing with lovely round scalloped leaves. Worth a try, so I stuck mine in a little pot. It is so small. That pot is only two or three inches across.

13 September 2017

ants and fins

Yesterday I found the ants had set up housekeeping inside my mailbox. I went to get the mail, and there was a lumpy pale mass with black moving specks in the rear corner. It took me a minute to realize what it was- the ants had piled all their larvae back there. I guess because it was dry? It was a perfect opportunity for fish treats- I simply scooped out the larvae with a spatula into a container, and then plucked out the ants as they scurried around. It only needed one rinse, there was hardly any dirt. I checked this morning- my interference has deterred them; no ants returned. I hope they remember the devastation of loosing all their offspring and stay away from my mailbox!

So I fed ant eggs to my fishes this morning. Perry was very excited, giving little wiggles of his tail after each bite, and opening his ventral fins alertly- usually these are folded against the belly. Then I saw that the missing one appears to be growing back! You can barely see it here (to the right of the orange one)- yes it is regenerating. Very glad.

trimming work

I've started bringing my mini geranium and stevia inside for the night, to avoid chill. Cut back the stevia down to the lower foliage that has sprouted at base (which also looks healthier than the top half). The tops I hung to dry for use in winter- it wasn't much, really.
Geranium looked like this after I cleaned off all the dried dead leaves on lower stems.
And so- after its annual trim.
Its leaves are rather small right now.
I see them right when I step outside the door onto my deck, with the little pond container between. It's so simple with just water lettuce and greater duckweed- but actually got a few compliments on it, my husband for one noticed and said "hey, that's pretty, the little pond."

planted fish tank

Got a nice shot of the main aquarium, with all ten serpae tetras in view.

12 September 2017

cuttings and cuttings

Nights have got a bit colder, so I have taken cuttings from my coleus and a few of the salvia, before night temperatures kill them outside.
Two jars of each kind- the chartreuse or lime-and-orange one; the pink-centered one that got me started, and the 'kiwi fern'.
Some of the pink ones had much rounder leaves, I particularly took cuttings of these to see if the shape stays the same when it grows out.
The salvia is doing pretty well outside, I only took two cuttings to grow a few more out to plant around yet another tree in spring. The leaves are long and narrow this time.

11 September 2017

charlie plant!

I have been wanting this plant for years.
I found one this morning in the supermarket. I would have been happy to pay the full price, but it was on sale! Looks a little flattened, but the foliage seems pretty healthy I hope it will perk up and that I can care for it properly this time.
I tried a few times before to grow one from cuttings my mother gave me, but they always failed to thrive. Once more. When cleaning up the plant when I got it home and removing some dead leaves, I accidentally broke two stems. So stuck them in a jar of water, just in case they will take.
The scientific name is plectranthus australis, the label calls it 'sweedish ivy'. I learned that I had been overwatering (no surprise) it should be watered only once a month in the winter, and once every other week in warmer months. No fertilizer in winter (in my house, that means remember to give it tapwater instead of tank water). Also, it is related to coleus! Makes sense, when I look closer at the leaf and stem structure.

frog visitor

The other day during heavy rain I was moving a few plant pots on the deck under the table, to avoid a beating. Found a small frog in my spearmint pot. I think it is a gray treefrog.

08 September 2017

photos of a fish

I was trying once again to get some pictures of Perry. They were coming out like this:
Until I thought to offer him a single flake of food-
that got him to pause still long enough.
I swear his colors are bolder when he is excited about food. This pic blurred but I like the form.