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Fish

  • Holiday Weekend

    Here in the US, it’s a holiday weekend, and one that the dogs fear the most. Here’s hoping we get through it unscathed. That is, without claw scratches from the furry beats trying to crawl all over us when the loud noises outside happen.

    The new fish tank is still in the process of fully cycling. I have not noticed any kind of appreciable ammonia reading, despite having around 40 fish, mostly smaller, transferred over. I have, however, gotten a bloom from the bacteria that break down organic material in the tank. These are different than the nitrifying bacteria which I assume are at least present and working since no ammonia readings. So, trying to get the cloudiness cleared up, which unfortunately, just takes time and making sure not too much organic matter accumulates. I cleaned the gravel a bit and added some finer filter media, but to be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of waste to clean up.

    The plants are not doing much of anything. I’ve been fertilizing and adding plant growth hormones to the mix to help them, but they’ve been just siting there, looking poor. If I see any more degradation, they’re being pulled. I’ll just have to figure out something else if that happens.

    Short entry this time as it’s early, and I’ve been neglecting my normal household chores to “play” with the fish tanks. No updated fish tank pictures yet as I want to wait for the water to clear a little more, so here’s the requisite dog picture.

  • Another Fish Tank Update

    So, this is another fish tank update which also happens to be about another fish tank. Yep. I bought another one.

    Since the current 26 gallon tank is a little on the small size for however many mollies exist in there now, I bought a second tank. A nice 38 gallon one. The living room would have been my first choice for this sized tank, but that wasn’t going to fly with the other half. So, it’s in my office. It actually makes for a nice background for conference calls. Since I didn’t buy it as a kit as I already had filters and such, it wasn’t too bad in price. The stand I had to get to hold it was more expensive, and actually took more time to set up.

    Since it is in my office, I don’t have the same aesthetic restrictions that I do in other rooms. I can do whatever geeky thing I want. And to start I’ve picked Star Wars. My goal is not to cram the tank full of trinkets and decorations (or even plants), but to provide some nice open space for the fish to swim. I want to try and keep it mostly uncluttered. Mostly because I like cleaner looking tanks, but also because the fewer hiding spots there are, hopefully fewer new mollies. We’ll see.

    So far I have a Millennium Falcon, a mini mostly destroyed looking Death Star, and some knock off of the AT-AT - it’s listed as Robot Dog - Large. The official AT-AT was just too darn expensive, and I’m not so deep into this hobby that I’d drop a c-note on a single aquarium decoration. Knock off it is.

    The tank is still in the process of getting ready. I have the water, substrate, filters, heater, and initial decorations in, though probably not in final resting places. Spent a lot of time cleaning the coarse sand (or tiny gravel, however you want to look at it), so the tank didn’t need more than a few hours to actually clear of any dust. Still debating the filter media configuration and contents. I have two filters on it, so I can mix and match whatever. Boatload of bio media in one, maybe finer filtration and any chemical filtration I may want in the other. Not sure what I’ll end up with, but I have options, none of which should result in fish death. fingers crossed

    The plan is to gradually move the fish over in batches. We’ll still leave some in the old tank in the living room as it’s still a good tank, and I like looking at fish. But we’ll probably end up replacing it at some point later this year with a smaller tank, maybe 15-20 gallons that my wife can mess around with and “isn’t an eye sore because it sticks up above the landing divider.”

    On another positive note, in talking with the local fish store, they take donations of “live bearer” fish, so if I want to unload some there, I can. I don’t know what they do with them, and the fewer questions I ask, probably the better. But it’s an option to having to buy a third tank or watching them suffer from overcrowding.

    I know we usually end these with a dog pic, but an aquarium pic seems more appropriate this time.

  • Fish tank update

    I’ve been kind of getting into the whole aquarium thing again. I’ve been testing the ammonia at least daily, and it seems to have settled into the 0.25-0.5 range. Usually, that’s still considered bad. But! Since I really haven’t been paying pretty much any attention to the water for the past few years, the pH has dropped drastically. It’s registering about 6.5-6.8. My tap water is alkaline by default (above 8), and I’ve been adding some pH down drops to get it close to 7 before going in the tank. I’ve been using pretty much the same formula for I don’t know how long. Again, not really testing on a regular basis for a while.

    So I know you’re thinking, “The tap water changed and I’ve been actually over acidifying it.” Nope. But one water quality I rarely paid attention to before and absolutely didn’t pay attention to the last few years: carbonate hardness. The tap water essentially doesn’t have any for whatever reason (I tested it). And the whole nitrite/nitrate thing wore down what little I had in my tank. The carbonate hardness acts as a pH buffer. Helps keep water from wild swings in pH as well as keeps it kind of alkaline. I had none. So, as the nitrogen gets processed, it turns the water acidic. And with the carbonate buffer essentially gone, boom, acidic tank.

    The positive of this is that the acidic nature of the tank ionizes the ammonia (at least so I’ve read a few places). The ionized form of ammonia is not toxic like “free” ammonia. So, that’s probably why I didn’t see death and destruction.

    But, I probably should get the carbonate levels back up to something healthy. So, that’s the next step. I could get some crushed coral or other things. But I’m taking the easy way out and just getting an alkaline buffer in a bottle. I’ll need to slowly start adding and raising the pH so as not to shock the fish. Apparently, the mollies prefer pH in the range of 7.2-7.8, and acidic tank water can actually cause discomfort. Wouldn’t know it by the fact that they’ve multiplied to the point of overcrowding. But anyway, I should get the tank closer to the slightly alkaline pH it should be as well as build up that buffer.

    I’m also switching product lines. I had been using API Stress Coat+ as my water conditioner for a while. But the aloe they use really doesn’t do anything based on what I’ve read. Plus the recent bottle from Amazon seemed suspect as it had a different viscosity than the previous bottles. So I switched to Seachem Prime for my dechlorination needs. And got some Seachem stress stuff as well just in case, but I’m not going to use it with every water change. The Seachem Prime is really concentrated. I had to buy an eye dropper to properly dose my 5 gallon bucket. Literally 2-4 drops per gallon. The 500ml bottle should last a long time.

    The water is much better than it was a couple weeks ago, though I’m still fighting a little bit of cloudiness. I’m trying Seachem Purigen as of today to see if that does anything. It’s some sort of resin that binds and capture itsy bitsy particles. You’re supposed to be able to “recharge” it once it gets used up/dirty by soaking it in bleach for a while. But there’s a problem with “some” stress coat products. If the stress coat contains amines, then the whole process results in essentially poisoning the entire tank with chloramine. So, if this does work and I decide to use it longer term, I’ll be buying new stuff just in case the API (or Fluval) conditioner/stress coat would result in a toxic reaction. It’s not expensive and lasts longer than carbon, so hoping it won’t be cost prohibitive. It’s been about 8-10 hours, and it doesn’t look to have made any kind of improvement. But we’ll see. I also have some Seachem Clarity if I want to try that. It “binds” the little particles into bigger particles which can be trapped by the sponges/mechanical filtration.

    So that’s been all the excitement in my life lately. Aren’t you glad you read this?

    Note: After writing this, I discovered more than one report of API's ammonia test never reporting below 0.25, even on just pure water (distilled or whatever). So my 0.25 might actually be 0 in actuality.

  • Another Weekend

    And so another weekend starts. I got a few hours head start today, and I filled it with exciting summertime activities like picking up the backyard and mowing! Do I know how to live or what?

    It’s not too bad of a day. It’s 75° (F), sunny, slight breeze, and generally quite enjoyable in the shade. I think I’ve spent more time outside this afternoon than I have the rest of the year combined. Of course this is just commentary on how much I just don’t go outside unless I’m doing something, like mowing. Or bike riding.

    Which is something I haven’t done yet this year. The knee is coming along I guess. It’s still sore, and it’s definitely weaker than it was before this whole knee thing happened. But hopefully I’ll get there. One of the things I’ll be doing before I actually get back on the bike is swapping out my pedals for something that doesn’t clip in. I have a feeling that the twisting motion you do to get out of the pedal just won’t work well with my current situation. So I’m going for what most people would call just plain old pedals. Mine will have some additional grip to keep my foot from slipping off if I’m really pushing, but I fully intend to go back to my SPD pedals at some point this summer. I just need to get some rehab work in without worrying about falling over or twisting my knee awkwardly. So that’s the current plan. No idea when I’ll put that plan into action, but it’s a start.

    So, about that task thing. Yeah. I’m playing with Todoist right now. It’s not perfect, but there are some things about OmniFocus that aren’t, either. Don’t know if I’ll stick with it or if I’ll go back to OmniFocus. It could go either way right now. Todoist has natural language entry, which is fine in most instances and maddening in others, especially trying to find the right combination of words for repeating tasks that aren’t every week or month or whatever. It still uses due dates only and doesn’t use start dates, which annoys me to no end, but I’m trying to see if I can make it work without too much effort.

    So why did I change? I don’t really know. Todoist has more integrations with things. It works with Fantastical, which I’m using right now mainly for the iPhone and iPad widgets; I don’t use 75% of what Fantastical can do. Todoist integrates with services like IFTTT and Zapier. Only thing I’ve done with IFTTT is to have it create a task to shovel the driveway when snow is forecast. Kind of cool, but not sure it’s a critical item. Todoist also works on more platforms like Android, Windows, and Web. I generally like apps that are multiple-platform when they are a service. But again, only if it works as well or better than the alternatives. Not sure it’s there. Only been a few days, so, still in the honeymoon phase. Time will tell. Probably before next weekend with my current tendencies.

    I’ve been working on the fish tank lately. My wife was criticizing the recent cloudiness of the water, so I did a cleaning (which I do at least every other week anyway) and broke out the water test kit, which apparently expired 2 years ago. I should probably check the water more often. Anyway, the ammonia was through the roof according to the kit. The fish weren’t displaying any signs you’d normally see with high ammonia levels. Reddened gills, death. So I changed more of the water than I usually do. Still off the scale. I was beginning to wonder if this was the end of the great fish tank experiment which started over 10 years ago.

    So through some aggressive water changes, more thorough cleaning (a couple of times), a couple doses of ammo lock, and some “quick start” stuff that supposedly has the nitrifying bacteria in it, the tank seems much, much better. Ammonia is down to 0.25 ppm. Just above the ideal “zero.” I also changed the filter unit I was using. The old one had replaceable cartridges which you swapped out regularly. Problem is, a lot of your bacteria live there, too. So every time you throw away the filter cartridge, there goes a whole host of good bacteria. Plus, I was in the habit of changing the filter when I did water changes. So even more bacteria literally down the drain. It was not a good process I had.

    The new filter assembly doesn’t use cartridges. It has a large “bin” that you build up what kind of filtering material you want in there. So, I have a “sponge” or mechanical filter to filter out the you know what. I have a big bag of carbon to help with clarity and smells. And I have a “bio bag.” It’s just some porous ceramic cylinders that the bacteria can grow in, on, and around. When the filter gets clogged, I just rinse it out in some discarded aquarium water (not tap water) to get rid of the crap but hopefully still leave a lot of the bacteria that are clinging in there. Same with the bio bag and/or carbon. And I can mix and match. I can put twice as much bio material and leave the carbon out. I can rely on the pre-filter sponge and replace the inside sponge (which I won’t do, because there’s a boatload of fish in there right now). It’s a better solution I hope. At least I won’t be throwing away all my bacteria when I do a cleaning.

    So, taking a wait and see approach. I did get a new water test kit that wasn’t expired. So, I’ve been monitoring it daily for ammonia and maybe every other day for nitrites and nitrates, both of which are fine. If I see a spike in ammonia, then I’ll need to figure something out. The tank is overpopulated by most metrics. Darn mollies multiple like rabbits. So, I’ll probably need to monitor more than my current pace of once every couple years.

    And a dog from the past, enjoying a head scratch. He was quite an interesting boy, and I doubt I’ll ever see a dog with his personality again.