Seattle Aquarium & Butterflies

March 17th, 2009

Last week, my wife and I visited a friend in Seattle, and while I was there, I was able to visit the Seattle Aquarium and the butterfly exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. Upon entering the Seattle Aquarium you come to a huge floor-to-ceiling aquarium with all kinds of fish in it. After spending some time in front of that large tank, and walked around to a number of smaller saltwater aquariums.


Many of the saltwater aquariums there are the type that many hobbyists seem to be able to procure. They have a number of fan favorites including eels, clown fish, tangs, and various other fish you’d see in the movie Nemo.

Saltwater Aquarium

I was a little bit disappointed at the complete lack of freshwater exhibits at the Seattle aquarium, although they did have a nice focus of fish native to the northwest region. In particular, they had a number of features surrounding salmon, for which the area is well-known for.


They had salmon at various stages of their lives, along with descriptions about what wild salmon would be doing, including whether or not they would be in fresh of salt water at the time. The aquarium also exhibited a large number of salmon ladders, which during the proper time of year would show the fish returning home from the wild to their hatchery. I hope to get back to Seattle sometime in the future during the salmon migration.

Salmon Fry

And of course, no aquarium would be complete without their water birds and mammals. The otters were particularly active that day, swimming back and forth, chasing each other, and seemingly having a grand old time.


While the aquarium didn’t have a single planted aquarium exhibit, the native habitat exhibits were worth the price of admission. All of the exhibits there were well-done, and the building itself is a modern facility. Overall, I would recommend visiting the Seattle Aquarium. After visiting the aquarium, I decided to walk across town to the Pacific Science Center, where I had previously spotted their beautiful glass-enclosed butterfly exhibit.


The science center features an IMAX theater, and a huge array of science-related exhibits. This facility is no-doubt largely targeted toward kids, but I still had a nice time browsing what they had to offer. Of course, the main thing I came to see was the butterfly exhibit.


To enter the butterfly room, you have to first go into an adjacent room, where the doorways have blowers to prevent the butterflies from escaping. Once inside, you are in a beautiful 2-3 story glass sun room with a number of tropical flowering plants. At first, I didn’t see any butterflies, but then I realized that they were all around.


They had quite a variety of different butterflies, a few that I recognized from when I spent some time down in the Peruvian Amazon. I’m not sure if some of them were actually moths or not, but all were very pretty. Some folks seemed to attract the butterflies to them, so when everyone left the room they were inspected by the staff to ensure that no critters were tagging along.


I really enjoyed my visit to both the aquarium and the science center. I have a few other photos from my trip on Flickr. If anyone else has been to these places, and would like to add anything I missed, feel free to do so in the comments.

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GWAPA – January 2009 – Driftwood Collecting

January 26th, 2009

On Saturday, GWAPA had its first meeting of the year at Viktor’s house. Viktor keeps a number of tanks, all of which I believe use a soil-based substrate. This was not the topic of the meeting, however, as Viktor also collects and prepares his own driftwood, which he described his process in detail.

Viktor's 125G

In general, Viktor looks for roots of fallen trees because they’re usually more interesting than many of the upper portions of the tree. Bosemani RainbowfishThen, he soaks the wood outdoors in a friend’s pond for several months to allow it to because waterlogged, and to release some of the tannins. He has used a dishwasher to subsequently sterilize the driftwood, but has more recently shyed away from this practice because he’s wary of the drying chemicals that are often required for newer dishwasher’s drying cycle. So, if it’s a small enough piece, boiling is a good option, and he’s heard that some people even bake their wood. If neither of these is an option, scrubbing it down with hot water is usually the best you can do before putting it in the aquarium. Once in the aquarium, it’s fairly common for a white fungus to appear on the wood. This is nothing to worry about, as it will usually go away on its own, or with the help of a number of algae-eaters, which love the stuff. At this point, the wood should be usuable for years in the aquarium.

Viktor's 75G

After the talk, we continued to mill around, looking at Viktor’s aquariums. He has some gorgeous rainbowfish, including the Melanotaenia boesemani seen above. We conducted our regular monthly auction, which consisted of over a hundred bags of plants and items. I think everyone walked away with something new to try in their tanks. Another great meeting!

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Plants For Sale

December 18th, 2008

Since I maintain a few tanks, it’s fairly common that I end up with more trimmings than I know what to do with. Many of these plants are fairly uncommon in the hobby, and often completely unavailable through regular retail outlets. I sell many of my plants through aquatic plant forums, and to local club members, but I want to make known that many of the plants I talk on this website are available for sale. Since I’m not running a nursery, the availability of any individual plant will vary from time-to-time, so please contact me if you’re looking for something in particular that’s not listed.

More information can be found on my Plants For Sale page in the sidebar, and at the top of this page.

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Rotala sp. ‘Araguaia’

December 16th, 2008

Rotala sp. ‘Araguaia’ is one of the plants that my wife brought back for me from Aqua Forest Aquarium in San Francisco, CA.

Rotala sp. 'Araguaia'

It’s one of the nicest new plants I’ve seen enter the hobby in a long time, as it has an oblong leaf shape that turns a pumpkin orange color. In addition, it branches readily, creating a nice bushy effect without too much effort. I haven’t found this plant to be very demanding at all.

It grew in my wormstrate substrate without any additional dosing, besides CO2, but definitely grows faster and a little bit larger in my 50G with high light, CO2, and added fertilizers. I got good coloration in both conditions.

Unlike species like Rotala sp. ‘Green Narrow’, this variety grows vertically, which provides a nice contrast to the aforementioned plant.

Right now, the source of this plant is unknown, despite being named as Araguaia.’We’re in the process of trying to flower and ID it properly, but that can be a long and laborious process.

All in all, I don’t have any complaints about Rotala sp. ‘Araguaia’. Therefore, I can recommend this plant to most people as something different from the more common Rotala rotundifolia. Currently, most stores in the U.S. don’t have it, but it’s available online from hobbyists on sites like

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GWAPA: Holiday Potluck!

December 8th, 2008

GWAPA closed 2008 with a holiday potluck at a member’s house in Reston, VA. The club combines the November and December meetings since it’s hard for people to make two meetings during the holiday season. While the meeting was mostly a social, we did conduct a little bit of club business, electing the board of directors for 2009. I will continue on as president of GWAPA next year, so I’ll soon have to buckle down and work with the other board members to assemble a great schedule for the upcoming year.

Michael’s house was a great place to hold our final meeting because he was a basement full of tanks, which we eagerly perused. Michael has been to the Peruvian Amazon a couple times with the same company that I traveled with, and he has actually brought back hundreds of fish that he personally collected there.

Michael's Fishroom

It was great to look through all of the tanks at the wild South American fish, including piranha, pencilfish, cichlids, characins, catfish, and more. He also had some tanks with other species, such as his rainbowfish aquarium below.

Michael's Rainbowfish Tank

Finally, we had a huge auction, which took us over an hour to complete. There were 144 bags of plants, fish, shrimp, etc. in the auction, with variety that rivaled the auction at the AGA Convention last month. It was a nice close to a great year in the club.

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Planted Aquariums for Reefers

December 1st, 2008

As part of my blogging exchange, I wrote an entry for The Reef Tank, inviting saltwater aquarists to try the freshwater planted side of the hobby. Please take a look over on their blog:

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Reservoir Trip

October 6th, 2008

This weekend, my wife and I took our dogs to a reservoir near our house that we like to visit this time of year. We probably would visit it more often, except that most of the year, it is completely covered by many feet of water. In the summer, they close off the dam upstream, and the reservoir turns from lake to field, with lots of open space for our energy laden dogs to run.


Our weimaraner/lab mix, Bella, galloped from place to place, clearly enjoying herself. Our lab/spaniel mix, Jen, enjoyed the area more at her own pace, but had a good time nevertheless.


Occasionally, Bella would decide to ambush Jen, which then brought on a flurry of tails, claws, and teeth, playfully pouncing upon each other. The field itself was laden with yellow wildflowers, stretching for a far as you could see.

Bella and Jen

Last year when we came, all of these flowers had already melted away, and we were left with hitchhiking seeds on our pants, shoes, and tails (dogs). I wasn’t really paying too much attention to the aquatic plants this time, but I did spot some Rotala ramosior, Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny), and a Polygonum species.


Combined with the beautiful, crisp weather, we had a nice time walking through the wildflowers, and looking for wildlife. We spotted a number of minnows, and a few bass in the brook and feeder streams.


We hope to get out canoeing here next year once the water is high enough. Hopefully that will allow us to further explore more of the area, even though I doubt our dogs will be allow for that trip!

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Plants from San Francisco

August 31st, 2008

My wife recently got back from a work-related conference in San Francisco, CA. While she was there, she quite awesomely went to one of the premiere planted aquarium stores in the United States to check out their plant selection and take some pictures.

Aqua Forest Aquarium

After spending nearly 30 minutes on the phone with me, reading off (and butchering quite humorously) countless Latin plant names, I finally had a list for her of the ones I wanted. Basically, I was looking for any plant that I either haven’t heard of, or wasn’t entirely sure if could be a variation a plant I’ve seen.

Plants from Aqua Forest Aquarium

We ended up with the following:

  • Hygrophila sp. (Looks like ‘Porto Vehlo’ to me.)
  • Ranunculus paplentus (Looks like ‘R. inundatus’ to me.)
  • Limnophila sp. “Broad Leaf”
  • Limnophila sp. “Needle Leaf”
  • Eriocaulaceae sp. “Large Crown”  (Looks like ‘Type 3’ to me.)
  • Hygrophila balsamica var. ‘Broad Leaf’
  • Nymphea sp. “Four Color”
  • Melastomataceae sp. ‘Sao francisco’
  • Rotala sp. ‘Araguaia’

I’ve got all of these planted now, and hope to grow them out. I can’t imagine being able to go into your local LFS and having the selection of plants that San Franciscan’s have. Truly incredible!

Aqua Forest Aquarium

Otherwise, you can tell that this store knows how to grow and sell plants. Looks how every tank is packed with plants, many of them rare. Their display tanks are phenomenal, appropriately exhibiting an Amanoesque Nature Aquarium style.

Aqua Forest Aquarium

Even down to the fish choice of neon tetras, ADA tanks, and glassware. My wife said that they carried the whole line of ADA aquascaping tools, but didn’t get a price on them. (I probably don’t want to know.)

Aqua Forest Aquarium

In addition, she said that they had made planted tanks out of several non-conventional containers, be it standard fish bowls, vases, etc… They also had a whole selection of shrimp, which from her description sound very much like the new ones from Sulawesi.

Aqua Forest Aquarium

All in all, I’m jealous that I wasn’t able to go myself, but am incredibly thankful that my wife took the time to stop in and take these pictures, and grab the plants for me. I’m a lucky man!

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Raised Brick Pond Update

August 6th, 2008

Earlier this week, I posted a photographic tour of my garden, but I purposely left out my raised brick pond. That’s not because it’s not doing well, but quite the contrary. The pond is currently overgrown with emersed aquarium plants so it warranted its own post.

Raised Brick Pond

Raised Brick Pond - 8/6/2008

The centerpiece plants are two large Crinum americanum plants, which should be flowering quite shortly. They are contained in a single plastic pot of ADA Aquasoil, and surrounding them, I put a smattering of other plants to provide groundcover.

Utricularia graminfolia

Utricularia graminfolia, Taiwan moss, Marsilea quadrifolia stems.

Utricularia graminfolia is growing emersed in that pot, along with quite a bit of Taiwan moss. I haven’t seen any flowers yet on the Utricularia, but I’m really hoping I get some before the summer is over.

Taiwan Moss

Taiwan Moss emersed

Marsilea quadrifolia is sending up new four-leaf-clovers all throughout the pot. Initially, the new leaves are all folded up in a single leaf, which then opens like origami into the clover.

Marsilea quadrifolia

Young Marsilea quadrifolia leaf

The Marsilea really provides a nice softening effect over the sharp leaves (not literally sharp) of the Crinum. They’re also starting to spread throughout the rest of pond, supported by the frogbite which is now ubiqutous.

Marsilea quadrifolia

Marsilea quadrifolia clover

Also, prevalent throughout the pond, Ludwigia arculata x repens is starting to flower, displaying tiny, but attractive, yellow flowers. Notice how the emersed growth of the Ludwigia has a red stem and green leaves, while submersed this plant usually has dark red leaves.

Ludwigia flower

Ludwigia arculata x repens with flower, over frogbite.

I also have Ludwigia peploides, a native plant to this area, growing in the pond. This Ludwigia doesn’t like to live underwater, as it tries to shoot to the surface when submersed. As such, it’s a perfect pond plant!

Ludwigia peploides

Ludwigia peploides

Finally, the water sprite is quite healthy and thriving throughout the pond. I’m a little bit scared to see how big the root system will be when I pull it out in the fall.

Water Sprite

Water sprite

When I do that, I’ll probably cram a 20L full of all of these floating plants, and see if I can get some threadfin rainbowfish to breed in the roots. Until then, I’m really enjoying the pond, as a wonderful complement to the rest of my garden.

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A Walk Around the Garden

August 5th, 2008

Despite the sometimes scorching heat and suffocating humidity, this is one of the best times of the year as a gardener. All of the hard work and anticipation that we’ve put into a small plot of land out back, is finally starting to be rewarded. The backyard is green and overgrown, and in-between much of that growth are fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Let me walk you through our garden…

Peppers and Lemon Grass

Peppers and Lemongrass

Around our raised brick pond, we have a small bed containing peppers (frying and jalapeno), and one monstrous eggplant. I have one cucumber vine that finally just started to take off after a battle with slugs.



The eggplant is finally ready for harvest, with so many more on the way that I’ll probably be sick of it after 2 months. This particular fruit is destined for Baigan Bhartha, a wonderful Indian dish.

Frying Pepper

Cubanelle Peppers

Our peppers are doing quite well! The Cubanelle peppers are looking great and the Jalapenos are absolutely exploding! We will definitely not have to worry about the salmonella outbreak on peppers, as we have plenty ourselves!


Jalapeno Peppers

We planted lemongrass this year for the first time, mainly to create a nice backdrop for the pond, but I’m looking forward to using it in some Asian recipes.

Lemon Grass


Our tomatoes are currently the biggest disappointment this year. They’re growing, but they seem to be about a month behind schedule for some reason. We support our tomatoes with clothesline, supported by multiple 6-foot poles. We manually feed the vines through the string. By fall, we’ll have a thick 6-7 foot wall of them.

Tomatoes and Squash

Tomatoes with Amish Squash Creeping Up

While behind schedule, we still have a number of tomatoes forming, so hopefully they’ll come around eventually; horn worms not withstanding.


Unripe tomato

Next to and in front of the tomatoes, we planted three varieties of squash: Amish squash, yellow neck, and black beauty. Somehow, we missed the fact that the Amish variety is a winter squash, that can produce fruits up to 60-80 pounds.

Squash overrunning everything

Squash overtaking Okra and Pepper plants.

We’ve got a couple of these giants starting. I’m unsure whether they’ll ever actually ripen, however, as unfortunately, bacterial wilt seems to have afflicted much of the vine.

Amish Squash

Amish Squash

The vines, by the way, stretch about 15 feet long, with side shoots spanning the full 4 feet of the bed, and up the fence in some places. I’m not terribly upset that it’s dying back a little bit because it was strangling the rest of the plants in that bed. If anyone has any suggestions on how to prevent/combat bacterial wilt, I would be interested to learn, however.

Bacterial Wilt :-(

Squash leaves affected by bacterial wilt.

Coming into the hot weather, our Okra has started to take off. It’s beginning to shoot toward the sky, with our first pod shown below. While I never had Okra growing up, I really love the stuff now, even though it’s admittedly an acquired taste.

Okra Pod

Okra pod

In our back raised bed, we have a number of thing going on. The grape and bean vines are clinging to the fence and tripods I’ve setup. We have our evergrowing sage bush in the front left, with some greens in the front right. Carrots, beets, and turnips are behind those things

Beans & Grapes Overrun

Back bed: Sage, greens, carrots, turnips, beets, beans, and grapes.

Our first group of beets are starting to pop out of the ground. I’m going to let them get a little bit bigger before picking, but I do want to get a second crop in the ground soon for late harvest.



We have a number of other herbs growing in our garden, including basil, stevia, oregano, rosemary, thyme, catnip, mint, chamomile, and dill. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of our garden. We definitely love this time of year!

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