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Apisto Viejita, in New Home

December 29th, 2006

Last night, I moved my Apistogramma viejita ‘Rio Meta’ pair in the 20G High tank I’ve been preparing for them. The aquascape in this tank is still developing, as is the algae, but at this point, I’m more interested in getting these beautiful fish to breed. I’ve snapped a few pictures of the viejita’s in their new home…
Apistogramma Viejita Male, 12/29/2006
The male’s checking himself and his new digs out.

Apistogramma Viejita Female, 12/29/2006
A. viejita female
Apistogramma Veijita Male
A. viejita male

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20G High – Turning the corner…

December 19th, 2006

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted a picture of this tank, so here’s where it’s at. I make no apologies for the powerhead or diffuser in my “progress pictures,” so do your best to look past them. The utricularia graminifolia is starting to fill in after I plucked out at least a hundred trumpet snails that kept uprooting it. I’ve trimmed the didiplis diandra at least twice since the last picture, so it is starting to form a nice bush in the middle/right. New additions are the rotala macrandra ‘green’ and pogostemon stellata in the right and left sides of the didiplis diandra, respectively.

I was having quite the time controlling algae in this tank, but after sticking to a rather strict SeaChem product-line dosing regimen, including overdosing Excel, I seem to have that under control. The 10 of so cherry shrimp I added from my over-populated cherry shrimp tank haven’t done any harm in that regard either. I estimate that I’m probably about a week away from adding the apistogramma viejita pair that will eventually occupy this tank. I want the utricularia to be pretty much established before I add them. In the meantime, they’ve been enjoying a copious diet of blackworms, spectrum pellets, and veggie flake to ready them for some baby-making, er, I mean spawning.

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1st Scape with California Rock

December 10th, 2006

Last night, I had the opportunity to attempt my first aquascape with the new “mossy porous rock” from California. I found out something new about this rock that I hadn’t realized previously; the rock has so much character, and so many seams, that it’s easy to combine multiple rocks next to one and another, without exposing hard seam lines between them. So, I tried to take advantage of this fact by doing the vastly overdone “two mounds of either side with a path down the middle” scape that you see below:

20G Long, December 10, 2006

Of course, this is the first time I’ve attempted such a scape, so I’m still learning what works and what doesn’t. I didn’t have all of the fine leaved stems plants that I wanted to use on hand, so for now, hygrophila polysperma, rotala indica ‘red,’ and heteranthera zosterifolia will have to suffice as background plants. In the front, I have marsilia quadrifolia, and ranalisma rostrata.

It’s still a little bit cloudy from moving around the Soilmaster Select that was in here. The only fauna in this tank right now are 4 apistogramma borelli.They seem to love the cover that the rocks give them, perhaps a little bit too much. For that reason, I think I need to add a few dither fish, but I don’t want anything that will pick off borelli fry. Suggestions? It’s still a little bit cloudy from moving around the Soilmaster Select that was in here. The only fauna in this tank right now are 4 They seem to love the cover that the rocks give them, perhaps a little bit too much. For that reason, I think I need to add a few dither fish, but I don’t want anything that will pick off borelli fry. Suggestions?

It’s still a little bit cloudy from moving around the Soilmaster Select that was in here. The only fauna in this tank right now are 4 They seem to love the cover that the rocks give them, perhaps a little bit too much. For that reason, I think I need to add a few dither fish, but I don’t want anything that will pick off borelli fry. Suggestions?

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Dwarf Crayfish Babies

December 6th, 2006

Dwarf Crayfish baby

While away the AGA, my little brother, who was caring for my tanks, told me that he saw two of the dwarf cajun crayfish on top of one another. So, when I got back, I eagerly looked to see if the female had eggs, and she did! A few weeks later, I have really dwarf crayfish babies. Up close they look like translucent miniature versions of their parents. I estimate that they’re about one week old right now. Use the adult crayfish and java moss for scale on the baby below.

I’ve counted about 10 at any given time, but they’re so hard to see, that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I have many more than that.
Dwarf Crayfish adult and baby

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Rocks Around the Christmas Tree

December 4th, 2006

This is a story of what can happen when too many compulsive obsessive aquarium keepers gather at a conference, full of ideas and full of support for other outrageous ideas that somehow don’t seem so outrageous at the time. I’m not really sure exactly how I became involved with this particular expedition, but nevertheless, I find myself fully involved and responsible for what went on. I’ve got 750 lbs of rock sitting in my basement right now, 500 lbs for myself, and 250 for another co-conspirator. How did it get here?

I was attending the second day of talks at the AGA conference in California, and during one of the breaks, I walk over to start talking to a group of folks, among who were Ghazanfar Ghori, Jay Luto, Jeff Ludwig, Ed Greenberg, Jeff Senske, and others. Ghazanfar starts talking about this California “gold” that a couple of the local SFBAAPS club put him on to. Apparently, Ghazanfar and crew were at a local member’s home admiring one of their tanks, when they asked the host where the rock featured in their tank came from. The host replies that he bought it from a local rock yard, and would be happy to take them there.
So, they go to the rock yard, and right next to the rock they were seeking are five pallets of this other amazing rock labeled “mossy porous rock.” The group scouts out a few of the pallets, and manages to exchange some choice pieces from the five pallets, consolidating them into one prime set. Ghazanfar inquires the staff about the cost of the rock, a few local folks purchase a handful of pieces, and they leave the rock yard.

Back at the convention, I meet up with the group, and they tell me their rock adventures, and say that they’re interested in figuring out how to get some back to the East coast. They start seriously talking about the ludicrous idea of shipping a pallet of rock back home. Again, when 2 or more obsessive aquariums meet, no idea is too outrageous, even when it involves shipping 1500 lbs of rock coast-to-coast. Without doubt, I volunteer to go in on the purchase, hoping to first see the rock in person. Luckily, one of the local members, had a few pieces of rock in the trunk of his car. So, we file into the garage, check out the rock, and proceed back to my hotel room to figure out freight.

“Wonderful,” I think to myself, the rock costs 5 times as much to ship as it does just to purchase the pallet. I start thinking rationally for a moment with thoughts like, “how will I ever explain this idea to my wife.” Shortly thereafter, those thoughts turned to, “how can I best explain that this might be my only chance in my lifetime to obtain this rare and Amano-esque rock.” Luckily, she didn’t have an objections, so everything was set. The rock was to arrive at Ghazanfar’s house sometime after Thanksgiving, but we come to find out that a pallet actually weighs 2600 lbs, not the 1500 lbs we originally thought!

Exactly one week after Thanksgiving, Ghazanfar emails me saying that the rock has arrived, and we arranged to pick it up the following Sunday morning. On Sunday morning, another GWAPA member, Rob, myself, and Ghazanfar start evaluating the rock pile in front of us. Unfortunately, the rock isn’t in nice manageable pieces that you can just throw into an aquarium, let alone lift in some occasions. We were faced with the task of breaking up the rock.

Now, I’ve never been to prison, and don’t plan on trying it out, but in the movies you see hard-time inmates spending their days quarrying and breaking up rock. Let’s just say that I’ve been scared straight by these endeavor. First, we tried using a chisel split the rock. Unfortunately, we probably spent more time trying to dislodge the chisel from the rock, then actually splitting rock with that method. Then, Rob decided to try his incredible hulk method of lifting the rock above his head, and slamming it down on a bed of rocks below. That surprisingly worked pretty well for some pieces, but we found that it had the unfortunate side effect of sending large pieces of rock flying everywhere, including our shins. Yes, that does hurt, a lot! Finally, more out of frustration than anything, we just started wailing at the rock with the sledge hammer itself. Surprisingly (and quite satisfyingly), we started splitting rock at a pretty decent pace this way. After about 4 hours, we finally split the pallet into manageable pieces.

After sorting, and shifting the rock into equal piles for all of our members, we were finally done. Bloody shins, arms, and all, we loaded 750lbs of rock in my little Toyota Corolla, and I headed home. Was all of this worth it? A large box, rubbermaid, and two buckets full, say “hell yeah!”

PS: I fully apologize of for the terribly corny title of this post, but deal with it, okay?

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Fixing All-glass PC Strip with AHSupply Kit

December 4th, 2006

It must have happened sometime while I was at the AGA Convention, but when I got home, I noticed that something in my 75G wasn’t quite right. Of course, it took me a week to realize that one of my two All-Glass 2x55W PC light strips was no longer working. Per the suggestion of a few GWAPA folks, I tried cleaning the end caps and connections, but that didn’t work. It seems that my ballast just plain died. I had recently replaced the 2 bulbs and I didn’t really want to jump ship to a T5 fixture, so I decided that my best course of action was to repair the unit I have. I’ve ordered bulbs from ahsupply.com for a long time, but have never actually tried one of their “bright kits” with the renowned MIRO4 reflectors. This was my chance!

Since my existing light strip was already setup for power compact lamps, it is larger than their standard single-tube fluorescent fixture. This means that I’ll continue to have enough room for the ballast inside of my strip, instead of having to mount it on the outside, like many folks have to do. Plus, their is already enough ventilation in the top of the unit to avoid having to install any fans or vent covers.

So, my first course of action was to take the strip apart. Easily enough, the unit is a two piece design. The plastic outer case is attached to the aluminum reflector, and everything else is screwed to that. So, to remove the reflector, all you have to do is pop out 8 of these little plastic pegs. Of course, I managed to break half of them, but I finally got them out.

Once opened, the ballast is wired to the on/off switch on the back of the case. Simply remove the three wire nuts, and unscrew the ground wire from the reflector.

Then, you should be able to pull the reflector away from the case, and work on it. Pretty much unscrew and remove everything from the reflector: the ballast, end caps, bulb clips, etc. Once you have just the reflector, you can begin figuring out where to put all of your new AHSupply pieces. The end caps that come with the bright kit are far better insulted than the ones from all-glass. To use them, I ended up drilling a few more holes in the reflector to feed the wires in a way that better held the end caps in place. Additionally, the ballast itself is shorter than the all-glass one, so you will have to drill new holes to mount this as well. Finally, place the new MIRO reflectors so that they line up nicely with the endcaps, and drill holes through the new reflectors and into the old reflector. Basically, I just mounted the new reflector over top of the old. It was easier to do it this way because the old reflector already mounted into the plastic case perfectly, so I didn’t have to construct any new mounts to attach the new reflectors to the case.

Now, tie down the wires using the wire clamps supplied in the bright kit and wire the new ballast to the end caps and light switch per the instructions from AHSupply. (Great instructions, btw!)

We’re just about done here. Don’t forget (like I did originally) to reattach the ground wire.

Ground Wire

Finally, put the old reflector, with all the new parts attached to it, back into the case,
Close it up
reinsert the plugs that securely hold it in place,

Insert the plugs. Locking them in place

and you’re done!

Finished Fixture

Finished Fixture (shot 2)

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20G – Beginning of New Aquascape

December 3rd, 2006

After looking at a mess of algae and java moss for far too long, I decided to tear down this tank, and give it a new aquascape. The wood is a wonderful piece of bogwood for apistogramma breeding because it is completely hollow, and has multiple entrances and exits through it’s core. The slate was collected locally before the October meeting down in Virginia, and the substrate is ADA aquasoil.

The plants are ludwigia repens var. ‘narrow leaf’ (back left, didiplis diandra (back right), baby tears (mid ground), and utricularia graminifolia in the foreground. I do have one restrictions that may somewhat limit this aquascape:

  • Make sure there are enough nooks and cranies for the apistogramma viejitas that I’m going to attempt to breed in this tank. (Hence the bogwood, even though it may not be the perfect center piece)

One other thing to note. We all know that aquasoil grows plants like crazy. Well, apparently, it grows trumpet snails too. I have some of the largest trumpet snails I’ve ever seen in this tank. I’m trying to pull them all out since they’re disturbing the utricularia that I’ve so carefully planted.

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The Rack

December 1st, 2006

Wire Shelving from BJsI have been wanting to consolidate some of the tanks in my office for awhile. Previously, I had them on an old bowing bookcase, a wire stand, and the floor. After seeing the current GWAPA president’s tank setup (Aaron), I decided that I wanted the same thing. So, the problem with most of these racks is that the standard ones available in your typical Home Depot or Lowes only support about 200-300lbs per shelf. A standard 20G aquarium weighs about 230lbs filled with water. So, just a single 20G would be pushing the limits.

I happened upon this shelving unit at my BJs, which holds 600lbs per shelf. There is a little bit of bowing, but I hope I’ve negated that by putting down hardboard with a layer of 1/2″ Styrofoam insulation on top of it. This should pad the tanks enough to even out any slight bowing of the shelf. The unit itself is very sturdy, and easy to put together. So far, I recommend this style of setup to anyone wanting to keep a few tanks in a small area.

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