Friday, March 30, 2007

Anubias barteri var. nana

Common Name: Anubias nana
Scientific Name: Anubias barteri var. nana
Geographic Location: Central Africa
Temperature: 72F-80F
pH: 5.5-9.0
Light: Low (1.5WPG) to Moderate (2.5WPG)
Growth: Slow
Difficulty: Beginner

Anubias are an extremely hardy creeping plant from Africa, but most varieties grow far too large for normal sized aquariums. However, the Anubias nana is one of the smaller varieties, growing only about 6 inches tall. Like other Anubias, the Anubias nana grows very slowly, at about one new leaf a month. The leaves are thick and rigid and almost nothing will eat them, making it perfectly suited for aquariums with more destructive fish. The leaves can also last for months, if not years.

Anubias are similar to Java Ferns in that they grow off of a rhizome which must not be buried in the substrate. For best results, tie the rhizome to a piece of driftwood or rock, and the roots of the Anubia will soon anchor the plant. Also, placement is key for these plants as they creep horizontally more than vertically and grow in one direction, so plan accordingly. In order to trim an Anubia, simply cut off part the rhizome with sharp scissors or a knife, making sure to cut enough rhizome to contain a few leaves if you wish to keep the trimmed portion to grow into another plant.

Anubias nana makes few demands in terms of nutrients or light. In fact, because the leaves grow so slowly and last so long, high light leads to algae growth on the surface of older leaves. Therefore, place the Anubia nana out of direct light, or in an aquarium with moderate light. An Anubia will grow with almost no attention and needs very little fertilization. Even with ample fertilization and CO2, you will not see much of an increase in growth.

Perfect for beginners or those who never thought they could grow plants due to destructive fish or low light, Anubias nana can add contrast to an aquascape with large, lush bright green leaves and require little or no effort to maintain.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Do's and Don'ts of Water Changes in the Planted Aquarium

I recently received an email from a reader concerning water changes in a small 1 gallon planted aquarium. She was planning on keeping a few Heterandria formosa (tiny live bearing fish, pictured above) and live plants but had some questions about water changes:

But I can't figure out, how often and how much for water changes? Will water changes in this circumstance harm the system more than help it? What do you think?

This got me thinking. Why not write a post on the do's and don'ts of water changes in the planted aquarium? So, here they are:

Do change 30-50% of the aquarium's water every 1-2 weeks. This is variable based on fish load and filtration, but not on the aquarium's size. From 1 gallon to 100 gallons, 30-50% is a good rule of thumb. This removes all the toxins and excess nutrients that build up in the water.

Don't rely on filters to clean the water. Filters don't remove excess nutrients and toxins from the water, they just trap it so it can be removed easier when you clean your filter. However, filters also can't remove many things effectively.

Do make sure the water you use to fill the aquarium back up is the same temperature as the aquarium water. Drastic changes in temperature stress the fish and can lead to disease and even instant death in extreme cases.

Don't forget to add a water conditioner that removes chlorine and/or chloramines if you are using tap water. These can kill fish and even plants if not removed. Water conditioners also often remove heavy metals such as copper that may harm plants and fish.

Do water changes after courses of medication, after stirring up the substrate doing a re-scape, or after accidentally overdosing anything, including fertilizers. Water changes help to "reset" the aquarium by removing dissolved waste and chemicals. They are often a cure-all for many aquarium related problems, and rarely cause harm if done in moderation.

Don't remove more than 50% of the water during a water change if you can help it. Sometimes, more than 50% is needed in extreme cases (such as ammonia spikes or overdoses), but this can put stress on the fish and the beneficial bacteria in the aquarium. It can lead to rapid changes in water parameters (such as pH) that are as stressful to fish as rapid temperature changes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Galaxy Rasbora - Celestichthys margaritatus

Common name: Galaxy Rasbora, Celestial Pearl Danio
Scientific name: Celestichthys margaritatus, Microrasbora sp.
Geographic location: Inle Lake, Myanmar
Size: Up to 2.5cm (1 inch)
Temperament: Peaceful
Conditions: 70F-78F, pH 7.0-7.5
Skill level: Intermediate
Minimum tank size: 2.5-5 gallons

This is a brand new species, only first discovered last year. It was also recently renamed from "Galaxy Rasbora - Microrasbora sp." to "Celestial Pearl Danio - Celestichthys margaritatus." It comes from only one known location in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and due to over-collection is already threatened.

Its bright coloration and small size make it a perfect addition to a planted nano aquarium. It is similar to other danios in habits and shape. The males are much more brightly colored than the females and have a deeper blue coloration with much more red on the fins. Since this fish is so small even fully grown, it is advisable to keep it in a tank of non-aggressive smaller fish that won't try to eat it (and you won't want to loose one of these, they commonly go for $8-10 each or more, and that's only likely to go up). It prefers cooler, more alkaline water, but not much information is available on its natural habitat, as Myanmar is a military dictatorship. Like almost any fish, it will be much healthier and happier with live aquarium plants.

Some hobbyists have already called for a boycott of the fish to prevent it from being collected into extinction in the wild. Fish collectors are already reporting dramatically reduced catches. Others have tried and successfully bred these little fish in the aquarium. My opinion is, if you want to seriously try to breed these fish, go ahead and get some. Otherwise, who wants to contribute to the extinction of such a beautiful species?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Eheim 2213 Review

I recently realized I've never done a formal review for my Eheim 2213. I've had the filter for almost a year now and feel like I've gotten to know all of its quirks. The Eheim 2213 is the smallest of the Classic canister filter line made by Eheim, and although they claim it can handle aquariums up to 66 gallons, it wasn't enough for my 29 gallon aquarium.

First, I'll start out with the facts. The 2213 pumps up t
o 116gph and has complete three stage filtration. It comes with all the filter media including EHFIMECH mechanical filtration media, EHFISUBSTRAT PRO biological media, and coarse, fine, and carbon pads. It also comes with all tubing and, the best feature, double disconnect valves. These valves work great and make up for the fact that the Eheim 2213 has no auto-start feature (more on this later). Everything is high quality and you can tell a lot of thought and design went into each piece, which is typical Eheim style.

Setting up the filter is fairly easy, although the instruction manual is not very helpful. Pictures and intuition are paramount and whatever you do, don't cut the tubing before you're absolutely sure it'll reach where you want it to go! The Eheim 2213 is different from the larger 2217 in that inside the canister it has a media basket. All the media is place
d inside instead of just being dumped into the canister in layers. However, the benefits of this are few and far between and I think the designers should have put some more thought into the way the top of the basket twists on. When you go to clean the filter out, trying to twist on or off a slippery, dirty, slimy piece of plastic with absolutely no leverage besides a flimsy handle to lift the basket out is not easy.
Once you get all the media set up the hardest part is actually starting the filter for the first time. Since there is no auto-start feature, you're forced to find a way to create a siphon (usually by sucking on the end of the tube, which is never pleasant). The good news is, once you fill it up, you never have to do it again. Just remember to shut the double valves before you shut off the filter and the tubes will stay filled. That way, you just plug it in, start it up, and open up the valves and you're ready to go again.

In terms of effectiveness, it is extremely efficient (only 8W, compared to the 2217's 20W or 30W+ for those cheaper canister filters). The flow is very low, but this is apparently why it is so efficient, both in terms of power and removing nitrates and ammonia from the water. Longer contact time with the media means more wastes are absorbed by the bacteria. However, in terms of mechanical effectiveness, the flow rate doesn't really work. I had it on a 29 gallon planted aquarium with a heavy fish load and it couldn't keep up. Debris and mulm started to accumulate on the bottom of my tank. I'm guessing that with a non-planted tank and with a regular fish load, it may be able to handle a 66 gallon tank. But in terms of usage on a planted tank, I'd say the maximum effective capacity is 30 gallons. It works great on my 20 gallon tank now, and an Eheim 2217 does the job perfectly on the 29 gallon aquarium.

Overall, the Eheim 2213 is a great little filter. Aside from being a bit underpowered for medium or larger planted tanks, its design is top notch. And luckily, Eheim offers a full range of (more powerful) classic line canister filters that larger planted aquarium enthusiasts can choose from.
I give the Eheim 2213 four out of five fish:

Buy an Eheim Classic Canister 2213 from Drs. Foster & Smith now.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Top 5 Algae Eaters for the Planted Aquarium

When it comes to combating algae in the aquarium, balancing nutrients and water quality will only take you so far. The most powerful tool in the anti-algae arsenal is actually the appetite of an algae eater. They come in all shapes and sizes and some are more effective than others. The ideal balance is a non-aggressive animal that doesn't get too big for your tank and eats types of algae that are harder to control yourself. These are the top five algae eaters for the planted aquarium:

1. Otocinclus affinis (Oto cat)

These little catfish are amazing algae eaters. First, they are relatively small and stay under 2" so they can be used in almost any aquarium size. Second, they aren't aggressive and are actually quite fun to watch, often being compared to little monkeys, hopping around from branch to branch. And finally, they eat lots of algae and won't touch your plants. They love brown algae (diatoms) that is common in newly started tanks and also eat all kinds of soft green algae including green dust algae. The only thing to worry about is that they have enough to eat and that there aren't large enough fish in the tank to see these as a snack (angels and other cichlids have been known to try to eat otos). Keep these guys in groups, give them plenty of algae to eat (or zucchini), and they'll keep your tank free of most algae!

2. Caridina japonica (Amano shrimp)

Made popular by Takashi Amano in his nature aquarium style aquascapes, these shrimp are fairly hardy algae eaters that will eat algae that most other algae eaters leave alone. They eat hair algae and other green algaes and even clean up excess food. Although they won't breed in a freshwater aquarium like other shrimp (they need salt water to develop) they are relatively large and are rarely eaten by most normal community fish. Larger loaches and gouramis may try to make them a meal, so be careful. They aren't aggressive, though have been known to eat fry if they are available. Like other invertebrates, they are extremely sensitive to copper, a common ingredient in fish medications.

3. Neocaridina denticulata sinensis var "Red" (Cherry Shrimp)

Cherry shrimp are both pretty to look at because of their bright red coloration, and keep your planted tanks sparkling clean! If you ever need anything cleaned of algae, just put it in a tank with a crew of cherries and they'll swarm all over it, eating all the algae! They eat most types of soft algae and won't eat plants. Even better, they'll breed and given the right conditions, you'll always have an algae clean-up crew. However, they are quite small and are sensitive to water conditions (including copper), and so can be eaten by larger fish (or all babies can be eaten by almost any fish) and are best kept alone.

4. Plecostomus (pleco)

Plecos come in all shapes and sizes, and some are better suited for planted tanks than others. Most plecos grow to be over 12" in length when mature and are therefore not a good idea for most normal sized aquariums. On top of that, they often munch on plants once they get large and can even damage acrylic aquariums with their powerful mouths. Therefore, smaller plecos are the only ones that should be considered for a planted aquarium. One of these smaller plecos is the Bristlenose pleco (shown above), which only reaches 4 or 5 inches in length. There is little that can match the appetite of a pleco and they will keep your tank walls crystal clear. They can even scrape off green spot algae from the glass that other algae eaters can't eat. As long as you get the right kind, plecos are unmatched in their algae appetite and are a fairly good algae eater for a larger planted aquarium. They can also be mixed in with larger more aggressive fish, as they have a pair of barbs on their cheeks that can be used in defense and only mainly come out at night.

5. Crossocheilus siamensis (Siamese Algae Eater or SAE)

Siamese Algae Eaters just barely make it onto this list. Aside from being hard to find and having lots of look-a-likes passed off as SAEs, they have a few major benefits, but along with these come major drawbacks. First, they are some of the only fish to eat red algae and black beard algae. They also seem to love hair algae. However, their appetite doesn't always stop with algae. They also eat fine leaved plants including mosses, hairgrass, and mayaca. Their appetite for algae also seems to wane as they get older until they eat very little of it at all (especially when there is other food present). They can also turn aggressive as they get older, bullying other fish in the tank as they reach their maximum size of about 5 to 6 inches in length. However, a hobbyist's arsenal is limited when it comes to red algae, black beard algae, and hair algae, and these can prove a life-saver as long as you don't have any fine-leaved plants or easily stressed fish.

Planted Aquarium Search

So I've been playing around with a new Web 2.0 toy and I think it might be really useful to the community of planted aquarium hobbyists. It's called a Swicki, which is sort of a cross between a search engine and a wiki (a user built and moderated collection of information, like Wikipedia). You can find the search box here on the right side right under "Contact Me" but it can also be reached by going to
Aquatic Eden Planted Aquarium Search.

Here are some benefits of the Swicki:
  1. Use it like you would any search engine, except it doesn't give you unrelated results, only those concerning aquariums and planted aquariums from websites that are authorities in the subject. No more wading through government noxious weed websites or shops when looking for information on an aquatic plant.
  2. Users can vote for websites in the results. A website with more votes will appear closer to the top of the results, thus the most useful sites will be listed first. The community can add, delete, or change the results.
  3. If you don't find your answer in the results, you can ask your question right then and there and the community will respond. So if you have a question, ask it there!
  4. The most popular searches are shown in "tag clouds" where more popular results are shown in bigger and bolder font. This allows you to find information on popular subjects quickly.

Feel free to leave comments on the Swicki here or if you have any questions about how to use it.

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