Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Aquascape of the Week: Jorge Oliveira

This aquascaped aquarium is a simple, but stunning work from Jorge Oliveira. Great use of the Golden Rule and a V shaped aquascape. For more information on the aquarium, including plant species, lighting and fertilizer specs, and hardscape pictures, check out the thread here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Planted Aquarium Mishaps

I'm sure we've all had our share of mishaps when it comes to keeping aquariums. Mixing glass, water, and electricity is a recipe for disaster. I thought this thread about aquarium mishaps was pretty interesting, and I'll share my biggest mishaps to date.

First of all, I've come to the realization that heaters, submersible or not, are probably the most dangerous piece of equipment in an aquarium. They're often glass, and sometimes non-submersible. Combined with electricity...well, it's a bad mixture. Most of the time it's as simple as forgetting to turn the heater off when you do a water change. The heater turns on, heats up much to fast (since it's supposed to be "cooled" by water) and either burns up or, even worse, when you refill the tank, cracks the glass when it comes into contact with water again. Some heaters are designed with an auto-off switch to prevent this. I've killed at least two heaters this way. Luckily, it's fairly easy to notice, given the smoke, steam, and possible fireworks. One of mine just burned up before I raised the water back up, but the other shattered when it contacted the water. Luckily, my fish (and me!) got away without any injuries. I've vowed to never buy cheap heaters again, and always, always use a GFCI outlet or power strip (which should probably added to the 10 Items a Planted Aquarium Keeper Can't Live Without list).

Another mishap occurred when setting up my pressurized CO2 system. I bought a regulator with a bubble counter and filled it with water. I screwed the cap on tight and everything was great for about 2 weeks. Then I noticed that my water level was dropping more than normal between water changes, and the bubble counter was often full of water. It had an integrated check valve, so I wasn't worried about my regulator being damaged. However, I then realized that the floor of the stand underneath the tank was literally mushy and soaked. I examined the CO2 setup for leaks and realized that on the back side of the bubble counter, hidden out of view, was a nice big crack that must have been slowly spreading since I screwed the cap on. Each night, when the CO2 went off, water would siphon back and drip out through the crack. My stand is pretty funky inside now, and the particle board that got wet is deformed and expanded. Let's just say the floor inside isn't exactly flat anymore. I ordered another bubble counter and was extra careful screwing it in.

A few more minor mishaps:

  • I've accidentally overfilled my tank while doing a water change and watching TV at the same time. I suddenly had a waterfall in my living room! Don't multitask while filling your aquarium back up.
  • I've accidentally run my Eheim filter overnight with a kinked hose. Woke up wondering what the funny burning rubber/plastic smell was, till I realized it was my fish tank. The Eheim took it like a champ though, and still works fine.

I count myself lucky that I've avoided most major mishaps (no cracked tanks, major water damage, etc).

What about you? What planted aquarium mishaps have you had?

Monday, July 20, 2009

How to Move an Aquarium Part 2: Moving Day

My apologies for being a bit late on this, but moving is one of the most stressful life events, and all the planning in the world can't prepare you for everything. It took the internet company 2 weeks to sort out the internet to finally work at the new place, so my blogging has been limited.

Just as a recap, this is the story of moving my two aquariums, a 10 gallon and a 46 gallon bowfront, both fully planted. The goal was to move them without messing up the aquascape too much and without completely emptying the aquariums, while keeping all fish alive.

On moving day, I brought out the plastic tubs and a siphon tube and siphoned out about 5 or 6 gallons of the tank water into it (less for the 10 gallon). Then I caught each fish one by one and put them into the water in the plastic container. This was easily the hardest part of the whole day. I nearly ripped up each and every plant to try to catch the fish. The hardest by far were not the Otocinclus catfish as I had expected, but the Rummynose Tetras. They had a distinct ability to swim under the carpet of Blyxa japonica and would not come out without poking and proding. Once I had all fish in the plastic tub, I put some plants in with them to provide cover and oxygen. I also put the container's lid on to keep it dark and prevent as much stress as I could. You have to be careful though, since a sealed container will eventually run out of oxygen and the fish will suffocate. Only leave the lid tightly on when absolutely necessary.

With all the fish safely ready for transport, I turned my attention to draining the remaining water. I made sure to turn of and disconnect my canister filter, CO2, and lighting and packed them up separately. Using my Python, I drained the water down as far as I could (about 1/2" of water left above the substrate).

I packed the stands, tanks, and plastic containers into the rented van and trunk of my car with the help of a friend and made sure they were well secured and padded. The last thing I needed was for the plastic container to become a permanent home. I used glass covers to keep the moist air inside and a spray mister to make sure the plants didn't dry out. I carefully made the drive over to the new place with all pieces and fish arriving safe and sound. Now it was time to set everything back up.

I had planned out where I wanted each aquarium to go in the new place, so this wasn't hard. I set it up and began to fill it with tap water, along with dechlorinator. While it was filling, I took a bowl and began scooping some of the water from the plastic tub into the tank. That way the water parameters would be a little bit closer to the old tank. I was only moving across town, so the water was the same as the tap water in my old place, but if it's very different, you'll want to use as much of the old water as you can to mitigate the difference.

Once the tank is fairly full, you can start catching the fish in the tub and putting them back into the tank. Watch them carefully for signs of distress. The temperature should be roughly the same. Too great a difference could kill them. Reconnect all your equipment, top off the tank, and you're back in business!

Quick Tips:

  • You're going to be sweaty, stinky, and gross after you move a tank. Don't plan on any social events after!
  • Catching fish with lots of plants and driftwood is a nightmare. Try to remove whatever you can without affecting the aquascape too much.
  • If you run into problems catching fast little fish, keep at it. Eventually they will get tired and slow down. Just try not to harass them any more than necessary, since it will stress them out. Having a friend to help with another net is priceless!
  • Keep your filter full of water so the bacteria inside can survive the trip.
  • Set up the tank as soon as you can at the new place. The less time the fish spend in the temporary plastic container the better. Certainly don't keep them in there for longer than 6 hours, or you may need to add a temporary bubble filter or change out some of the water to prevent fouling.

Overall, the whole process was fairly easy. No fish or plants were lost and everything is getting back to normal. The key here is patience and planning. I didn't move both tanks on the same day along with all my other furniture. That would have been just plain crazy. I would recommend planning plenty of time to move an aquarium, and then double it. It always takes longer than you expected, especially if you have expert hiders like the tetras! Good luck!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Aquarium Moving Write Up Coming Soon

I just wanted to post a quick note that I have finished moving successfully (no fish, plants, or equipment were lost!) and I will post an article on the move, but it's going to be a bit delayed since I'm dealing with some internet issues at the new place so my connection is a bit sporadic. Hopefully I'll get it fixed soon and have a full write up of the next part of the aquarium moving series done soon as well.

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