Tobacco Horn Worm Attacks!

August 4th, 2008

Updated June 4, 2012: Thanks to Bart to correctly identifying as Tobacco Horn Worm. Text corrected

I was out in my garden, and I noticed that a few of my tomato plants were nearly stripped bare of their leaves. I had noticed a few branches like this the other day, but couldn’t find the perpetrator. Well, I finally found the bugger — a rather large tobacco horn worm

Stripped Tomato Stalk

Stripped tomato branch

Rather than simply plucking the large caterpillar from the vine, and “removing” him from my garden, I had to do a photo shoot with him first. I’ve been quite fortunate in the past to not have to deal with many of these worms, and the ones I did were usually invaded by wasp parasites.

Tobacco Hornworm

Tobacco Horn Worm, backend

I didn’t realize at first that the horned part of the caterpillar is not their head. They have some incredibly convincing eye spots and markings to make it appear like they’re something you don’t want to mess with.

Tomato Hornworm

In fact, their head is the other end, which is much less intimating. They’ve got three sets of legs or feelers up front that help them to navigate the branches of my poor tomato plants.

Tobacco Hornworm

Tobacco Horn Worm, full body shot

Overall, their body stripes and coloration really make these attractive creatures. This particular fellow did a number on 2-3 of my tomato vines, but I’m hoping that they’ll rebound, despite already being a little bit behind this year. Does anyone else have any experience with the horn worms, and know how to keep them away in the future?

Business Broker

GWAPA July Meeting – Luis Navarro

July 27th, 2008

On Saturday, GWAPA brought Luis Navarro all the way from Houston, TX to do an aquascaping demonstration at our monthly club meeting. I was fortunate to have some time to hang out with him on Friday evening after picking him up from the airport. He’s a really talented and knowledgable aquascaper, so just to talk plants with him was an honor. Prior to the start of the meeting, a few of us gathered at Francine’s house to prepare the 125G aquarium that Luis was going to aquascape. We also had to get the plants he wanted to use ready, which involved tying anubias to small rocks, breaking up Marsilea minuta into small plugs for easy planting, and such.

Around 1:00pm, members started arriving, and by 2:00pm we had almost 30 people packed into Francine’s basement. Everyone was very interested to watch Luis work. He answered a number of questions, and proceed with the aquascape. After about an hour, he had completed this rock scape using Marsilea minuta, Anubias barteri var. ‘nana’, Cryptocoryne crispatula var. balansae, and Vallisneria nana.

Francine's 125

Francine's 125G, Scaped by Luis Navarro.

After the demonstration, we held our auction, which consisted of nearly 100 bags of plants for sale. I came away with a number of items this month, including Rotala verticillatus, Rotala sp. ‘Green Narrow,’ Nuphar japonica, Potamogeton gayi, an assortment of other plants. I also was happy to have some other plants on my doorstep when I got home, including Juncus repens, Limnophila sp. “mini”, Hygrophila difformis “variegated”, and Hemigraphis traian. I barely had room for all of that stuff in my tanks! Thanks GWAPA for another great meeting!

Business Broker

AGA Aquascaping Contest Is Open

July 23rd, 2008

From Bailin Shaw of the Aquatic Gardener’s Association:

Fellow aquascapers, it’s that time of the year again! Time to tidy up the tanks, finish growing and grooming the plants, and time to make the final preparations before you snap the pictures for the annual Aquatic Gardeners Association International Aquascaping Contest. With this year’s convention being held in Atlanta, Georgia, your tank might be one of the winning aquascapes to be presented at the awards banquet. As in past contests, each aquascape will be judged by an esteemed panel of judges, and this year is no exception. Deadline for entry of a tank will be September 15 to allow ample time for judging prior to the convention.

I look forward to another exciting year of new and unique aquascapes.

Kind Regards,
Bailin Shaw
Aquascaping Contest Chair

So what are you waiting for? Prepare your tanks, and submit them for the contest!

Business Broker

Blackworms in the Substrate!

July 17th, 2008

I try to feed my fish a varied diet of commercially prepared foods, as well as, live foods when I have the extra time to obtain and care for them. A couple months ago, I was cycling a 10G tank, and when I was feeding blackworms to the rest of my tanks, I inadvertantly threw some in the 10G as well.


Blackworms in the 10G Substrate

As you can see, the worms have taken up residence in the substrate, and have actually multiplied quite readily. This is now the tank that I have my yellow shrimp in, and thus far I don’t think the worms are causing a problem. In fact, they’ve done a pretty good job of cleaning up any extra vegetable matter or algae wafers that the shrimp let be.


Blackworms looking for food.

It is a little bit disturbing, however, when you look in the tank, and you see a series of worms waving themselves from the substrate, presumably to filter the water overhead. In some ways, I probably should consider this a boon because I am now culturing my own source for blackworms, verses having to depend on my LFS for fresh shipments.


Just hanging around.

Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to figure out how to adequately harvest them from the tank. I have to be awfully quick with tweezers to snag one because when I get close, they speedily retreat down into the substrate. I may be able to siphon the substrate, through a sieve, and get them that way. Any suggestions? Anyone think they’ll be a problem long term?

Business Broker

Quarantine Your Fish

July 14th, 2008

I’m going to share an embarrassing story about something that I neglected to do, and am continuing to pay the price for. A couple weekends ago, I was at my favorite local fish store, and decided to pickup a dozen Neon Rainbowfish, M. praecox, to add to 7 others I had, in order to form a nice school in my 75G aquarium. The store has a good reputation for properly quarantining their fish for sale, and they all looked extremely healthy and vibrant. So, against my good judgement, I decided to acclimate them directly into my 75G.

Melanotaenia praecox

Well, the next day, I noticed that 2-3 of the fish were off by themselves, some of them having discolored patches on their bodies. The next day, those fish were dead, and over the next 4-5 days, all 12 of the others continued to follow suit. I contacted the store owner, and he had received similar reports from the other customers who bought the fish, and agreed to fully replace them once he got a healthy batch in. That’s fine, and had I quarantined them, that would be the end of a very sad incident.

Red Lizard Catfish

Instead, I’ve lost one of my other M. praecox in the 75G, all five of my beloved Red Lizard Catfish, and my newly bought and favored Apistogramma hongsloi sp. ‘Super Rostrich.’ The corydoras, L729 plecos, and Nannochromis nudiceps so far seem to be unaffected, but I’m not considering myself out of the water yet. In addition, I’ve also incurred the extra expense of having to medicate the entire 75G tank, instead of just a 10G quarantine tank.

Apistogramma honglsoi 'Super Rostrich'

So, please, learn from my mistake, and quarantine your fish. Even if you just keep an empty 10G aquarium lying around, you can fill it with water from your main tank, throw in a sponge filter (preferably a used one), and be setup for 2 weeks prior to introducing the fish to your main aquarium. I usually follow this advice, and wish I did in this instance, as well.

Business Broker

AGA 2008 Convention – Register Now!

July 11th, 2008

The Aquatic Gardener’s Association’s 2008 Convention will be held in Atlanta, Georgia later this year on November 14-16. Showcasing one of the best speaker lineups ever, I can’t wait to attend this meeting. Takashi Amano will make his third appearance at the convention, while other former speakers such as Jeff Senske, Karen Randall, and Greg Morin (Seachem president) will present.

New speakers include Benito Tan, who will talk about aquatic mosses and Michael Kane, who will discuss tissue culturing for the aquarist. They’ll do a live Iron-Aquascaper competition, and of course have one of the best aquatic plant auctions on Sunday. Don’t miss it!

Business Broker

CCA – June Meeting – Steve Edie

June 14th, 2008

Capital Cichlid AssociationToday was the Capital Cichlid Association’s last meeting for the summer. They take July and August off every year to give the board members a break, and to allow members to go on vacation without missing out on anything. In June, Steve Edie from the Missouri Aquarium Society and American Cichlid Association came to speak about Lake Tanganyikan Cichlids.

Not being very knowledgeable about African Lake cichlids, I was quite interested in attending Steve’s presentation. Lake Tanganyika is a huge rift lake the covers over 12,850 square miles, is nearly a mile deep in some places, and encompasses over 1200 miles of coastline. Since evaporation is the primary source of water leaving the lake, mineral content is incredibly high which causes a pH of 8.6-9.3 degrees and 12-14 degree GH. Despite these harsh conditions, over 500 species of fish inhabit the lake, half of them being cichlids. Steve discussed a whole variety of the different types of cichlids found in the lake, but I can’t possibly reproduce all of that information here.

To keep these fish in your aquarium, Steve recommends a minimum tank size of 29G, with 55G being a more appropriate starting point. For substrate, he suggests any calcium based material such as dolomite, crushed coral, and/or sand. Rocks are essential, but leave out the driftwood because the wood’s tannins will lower the pH of the water. Not many plants will survive in this environment, but anubias, java fern, val, and even an amazon sword may survive. Steve doesn’t add any buffers/salt to his water unless he is importing a wild specimen that isn’t used to standard tap water.  He mentions that most of the cichlids are carnivorous or at least omnivorous in this lake, so be sure to feed your fish food with a high protein content.

I don’t know when I’ll actually get around to keeping any Lake Tanganyikan cichlids, but after hearing Steve’s presentation, I’m inspired to try them eventually.

Business Broker

NEW Photo Gallery

February 14th, 2008

Anubias barteri Flower

Today, I’ve added a new feature to my website — a photo gallery. I plan on maintaining a set of my favorite/best pictures, in one place, so that they’re easy to scan through. Hopefully this will keep everything more organized than it currently is on Flickr.

African Cichlid

You can easily access the photo gallery by using the new link at the top of every page. Every picture should have the EXIF camera data displayed so that you can see what focal lengths, iso, etc… I used when shooting the picture. I hope you enjoy my photos as much as I enjoy taking them.

Business Broker

An Aquascapers Holiday Wishlist

December 12th, 2007

It’s the holiday season, and the time where many show their friends and family that they care by exchanging gifts. Not surprisingly, those trying to buy for the aquarium keeper, particularly the planted aquarium keeper, are a little baffled by our wish lists. And who can blame them? The iPod, Elmo, or latest bestseller are great for many folks, but they’re not exactly useful in an aquarium. Let me help everyone out by supplying a short list of perfect gifts for the aquarium keeper.

Dirt – Yes, that’s right, dirt. And, if it’s fancy ADA kiln-fired dirt from Japan, that’s really going to tickle their fancy. Of course, if cost is an issue, nothing shows love like “homemade dirt,” dried and aged topsoil, free of humus, that will happily supply nutrients to root feeding plants without causing green water.

Fertilizer – No, you probably won’t end up on Homeland Security’s watch list for buying this for us. (No guarantee’s though!) Simple fact, the plants need it, and we need to supply it. It might not seem like the warm and cuddly gift, but we’ll use it daily, and our plants will thank you.

Air – What could be easier? It’s all around us, but if you could simply separate the CO2 out and bottle it, we’d be most appreciative. Nothing says love like a bottle full of nothing!

Worms – Creepy, crawly, and utterly delicious, or so I’m told by my fish. Avoid the candy-coated nuts, and fine chocolates — they’re just a sticky mess in the aquarium. The worms will do, and the fish will thank you!

Technology – Finally something you’re used to, right? Well, this stuff can’t be found in any big-box gadget store. We want pH readers, state-of-the-art lights, pumps that push massive amounts of water, water heaters, and water purification systems.

Sticks – This gift does indeed grow on trees! But, don’t think it’s as simple as going out and sawing down a Christmas tree. Oh no, this needs to be a special piece that’s dried out, free of sap, full of character, and boiled to perfection. And after all of that, if it sinks it’ll raise a smile.

Stones – Always wanted to fill someone’s stocking with rocks, but never had the guts? Well, here’s you’re opportunity, and they might even thank you for it! Please don’t waste your money on any fancy, shiny, polished rocks from the jewelers. We much prefer rocks that are course, unrefined, and look like miniature mountains.

So there you have it. I hope I’ve helped clarify what every aquarium keeper dreams to find inside their gift-wrapped package. Make your slightly eccentric loved one happy, by giving a gift they’ll truly appreciate. Good luck, and Happy Holidays!

Business Broker

AGA 2007 Contest – My Favorites

November 8th, 2007

It’s been a few days since the 2007 AGA results were announced, and I’ve had a chance to go through all of the entries. I thought it might be fun to display my own “best of” list for this years tanks. Not surprisingly, my tastes differ from the judges, as their Best In Show doesn’t even make my list. No offense to anyone if I didn’t pick your tank, as this is as much personal taste as anything.

So, here’s my top seven in reverse order.

The first tank I really liked isn’t a true aquascape as much as it is more of an art piece. The wood is really nicely organized, and I could just imagine having this on a coffee table. The rock work in the sand is appealing, and the plants themselves, while somewhat minimalistic, all go together.

Entry #86: 63L (17 gallon) Aquatic Garden: “Permeate worlds”
Piotr Suty, Warszawa mazowieckie Poland

This is one of those tanks that I feel I shouldn’t technically like, but I kept coming back to. On paper, you’d say that the left side is too cluttered, and the symmetry is a bit off. That said, I really like the colors, the wood, and just the feat of maintaining all of these stems and making them look this good requires a lot of work.

Entry #149: 250L (66 gallon) Aquatic Garden: “Passage Across The Wood”
Fabio Lorusso, Bologna Italy Italy

As a rule, I tend to really like hillscapes. I love the negative space, and the colors are great. Some of the plants could be a little bit better groomed, but in a way, the wild look of some of the stems gives the hill a bit more character.

Entry #159: 217L (57 gallon) Aquatic Garden: “”Puntius in harmony””
André Luiz Longarço, São Paulo SP Brazil

Another hillscape! This one is a little bit more refined. It also incorporates more rocks nicely into the hill itself, and is quite serene.

Entry #112: 243L (64 gallon) Aquatic Garden: “Sonata”
Guillermin Nicolas, Poissy France

I’ve seen this tank before, as Jason is a GWAPA member, but really isn’t clouding my judgement. I’m not exactly sure how to categorize this aquascape. It’s not exactly a nature aquarium style, but it isn’t quite dutch either. I love the use of color in this tank, and the moss work on the rocks is fantastic. It looks more like an illustration than a real tank, and I love its uniqueness.

Entry #146: 284L (75 gallon) Aquatic Garden: “Valley to the East”
Jason Baliban, Phoenixville PA USA

A fantastic scape that was ranked highly in this years’ ADA contest, and one that deserves any accolade that it receives. I love the use of the petrified wood-looking rocks, as you don’t often see these used effectively in many aquascapes. The moss is trimmed masterfully, and overall everything is almost perfect.

Entry #190: 160L (42 gallon) Aquatic Garden: “Field of Dreams”
Hui Kam Man, Hong Kong Hong Kong

What may be my favorite scape of all time, all you have to do is mention “the tree scape” at your local club meeting, and everyone knows that this is the tank you’re referring to. The surrounding ground cover around the tree could be fuller, but the tree itself provides such a focal point that none of that matters. The moss is groomed perfectly to look like a tree. The fish resemble birds in the sky, and the use of negative space and depth through sloping is fantastic. What else can I say, this is my Best In Show!

Entry #20: 57L (15 gallon) Aquatic Garden: “Syrah”
Filipe Alves Oliveira, Porto Matosinhos Portugal

Do you agree with my favorites? Are there tanks that I’ve forgotten. Please sound off in the comments.

Business Broker

« Previous Entries   Next Entries »