One week with fish 

  Well the fish have been in a week officially and seem really happy especially the past two days. I think the cheap flakes I had on hand were messing with them, or the too frequent water changes, or both. I changed their food to New Life Spectrum Small Fish food.

I’m still dealing with a shadow of Ammonia readings on the test, just a faint green tinge, but I’m still in the process of dosing with Stability so I’m hoping the bacteria gets fully established in the next day or so. The tank has been planted for 10 days and I see good growth on all the plants now. I’ve ordered some tools to help me remove and plant the baby Java ferns before they get close enough to decide where to go themselves.

Obviously without the more frequent water changes, the tannins from the soil or the driftwood or both are majorly showing up, but that’s not hurting anything, and I’ve read they’ll eventually go away on their own. I’m not running the carbon filter or any activated charcoal, just the Seachem Matrix in the filter.


10 Gallon Filter update

The Marina S10 filter came today, got it set up with Seachem Matrix Bio Media and dosed with Seachem Stability. I put the filter on the side because there’s a little more room for the Pothos vine there. This set up makes for some dead space on the far side of the tank. Will keep an eye out for biofilm there, and see if it become a problem.
  The cuttings and roots are now in the filter itself with the Seachem matrix underneath. I used about half of a 250ml jar of the Matrix. I couldn’t find a 100ml on Amazon, but I figure now I have enough to set up a second ten-gallon sometime. Yes, I might already be suffering from multiple tank syndrome, lol.   Best part is the ammonia is now down to 0ppm!! And I didn’t change the water today. I had put a filter bag with some Zeolite crystals in yesterday as a stop-gap until I could get the filter running. I will take that out tomorrow morning. I’m not sure if the Stability zapped the ammonia or the flow of water next to the Zeolite because by themselves, the Zeolite didn’t help that much yesterday. You don’t want to have to use Zeolite except in an emergency because ammonia should be zero, but I couldn’t get this tank out of it’s mini-cycle with the fish and I wanted to be sure I didn’t hurt them or lose the shrimp.

Ten Gallon Update

So I skipped a few days of logging. I’ve been battling a constant ammonia reading of 0.25ppm. I lost one of the minnows on Monday. I’m baffled as to the cause though. See, the shrimp are doing great, as are the other five fish, so I feel like it can’t be ammonia poisoning, but she had red spots by her gills and several red spots that developed along her body before she died. She had acted strange all day, and I finally netted her out. I was fighting with some biofilm, and by the end of monday I felt like all the fish were a little sluggish, but she had started sticking her mouth out the top. Clearly, she couldn’t breath. The others had started hanging closer to the top as well, but none of them were exhibiting gasping behavior. I had been skimming the biofilm with a paper towel, but I went and skimmed it with a cup, wiped the sides, and basically did another 10% or so water change by the time I’d finished skimming all the oily spots I could see.

Tuesday morning the ammonia readings were the same, but all the fish had resumed normal behavior and I’ve been closely watching and haven’t seen any strange behavior or redness at the gills from any of the rest. And the shrimp are still both fine, very translucent, and active.

The only other thing I could find that talked about red spots on the body was a weird virus which sounded fairly rare. Combine that with the fact that no other fish seem sick, and the LFS I got them at is the best one in town, I doubt it was that. Might have to chalk it up to a mystery death.

I have ordered a filter since I don’t want to hand skim for biofilm every day and I’m adding some bottled bacteria to try to help the tank finish this mini-cycle and drop the ammonia. I hope the filter doesn’t cause a CO2 depletion, but I need a little surface movement. I’m not using the media that comes with it, I’m putting Seachem Matrix Bio Media in it, and if it’ll fit, the roots of my Pothos vine. I decided on the Marina S10, because of its size and because it’s supposed to be silent and easily customizable. Plus it’s sort of a cross  between an internal filter and a HOB (hang on back) from what I can tell, though the water flow is like a HOB in that it will break the surface, but I think that’s what I need to prevent the biofilm that was starving out the oxygen.

Ten Gallon Walstad with Fish!

  So after reading a ton about planted tanks, and Walstad tanks in particular, I realized the reason I never really got any readings for Nitrites and Nitrates on my bowl before the ammonia dropped was that these tanks don’t work like the typical non-planted tanks. There’s this thing called a “silent cycle” where none of the readings ever spike as long as you are maintaining the tank, poking the soil until the roots are established (7-10 days, when you see significant growth), and testing daily. Any ammonia issues can be solved by water changes and treating with Prime as a back-up just to be safe for the fish. But the exciting thing is you can essentially add fish immediately. Some wait up to a week, I waited about 48 hours to give the plants a head start. Six of these cuties came home with us last night. I don’t have a drip acclimation system so I set their bag in a large vase on my desk next to the tank after pouring out over half the water they came home in very carefully. I started using my 5 ml dropper to squirt water every few minutes into their vase, a little at a time, for well over an hour (probably closer to an hour and a half, until the water volume was triple what they’d started with. Then I netted them and released them into the big tank.
  I’m pretty sure I have 2 males and 4 females, and I’ve read their perfect breeding temperature is 68 degrees which is pretty much what this tank stays at.This morning all 6 are healthy and active, ate well, and there was barely any ammonia registered. The color on the test was faintly green, so something less than 0.25 ppm. I’m going to do a 25% water change and treat with Prime just to be extra safe.
  Both shrimp are thriving and swimming in ways they couldn’t in the bowl because it was too stuffed with plants.
Seymour has been moving around more too and even parachuting from time to time which is really fun.

And the Anubis is putting out its second bloom! It’s good it’s pretty because its driftwood was infested with tiny pond snails. I’ve manually removed them over the past 2 days and I’ve only found one today so far. The first morning after I planted the tank out, I scooped out at least 12 or so. I may have to get some lettuce, I read that if you put a leaf of lettuce in the tank at bedtime, the snails will be all over it in the morning and you can trap them that way. Plus, I think I read that Romaine specifically was a good snack for the WCMM. I need to go double check that, but either way it won’t hurt.

A bigger world

  So I was given a 10-gallon tank two days ago and it seemed like a sign to go bigger, lol. Still a Nano setup, but so much more room to work! I tore down my shrimp bowl because I wanted the creeping Jenny and Marimo moss ball for this tank.

I planted some strands of Anacharis in each corner, as well as sticking the end of the Cabomba strand from the shrimp bowl in the substrate behind the rock.

Then there ‘s the two clumps of Creeping Jenny on either side of the zebra rock. On the right we have the sprigs of Anacharis, two Java ferns, and an anubis on driftwood that was so pretty I thought it was worth springing for. It’s already got a bloom on it! It’s little hard to see because it’s hiding under a leaf, but it’s pretty!

In the foreground, I divided a clump of Pygmy Sword and planted part in front of the drift wood and part in front of the zebra rock. I put some aquarium gravel on top of the sand around the bases of the plants because it helps hold them down and keeps the dirt from seeping through the sand.
  I’ve got duckweed and water sprite floating on the top to help speed up the cycle while the other plants get established. The dirt is a little too thick on the right side, about 1 3/4 inches, but I think it’ll be okay. I had measured a bunch of places and keep it right to 1 inch, but somehow missed that it was ramping up towards the right. Fingers crossed for no anaerobic activity. I’ve heard other people have pushed towards 2 inches and it’s been fine, so I think I’m good, I’ll just be extra careful to poke the soil on that side until the ferns get established.


Day six! Bowl is cycled!

Folks, I give you a cycled bowl! Day six and the morning readings showed no Ammonia, Nitrites, or Nitrates! And if you look at the comparison below, the creeping Jenny has definitely grown, I’m going to probably have to take some out now. There’s a small clump at the back that’s not rooted as deeply, I may try to gently remove that and plant it somewhere else soon. Or else I’ll trim all of it back and just root the cuttings for planting in the sub-tropical 15 gallon I’m planning. So exciting!

Plant growth

I noticed today that the Creeping Jenny on the right side had begun to emerge from the surface, so I snapped a picture to compare with Wednesday when I planted the bowl. On land, Creeping Jenny spreads out and is ground cover, but when it grows submerged it grows upright.

Not sure if I’m seeing actual growth yet, or just adaptation to its new environment, but either way, it’s looking good!

Triops Bowl

 So after I set up the shrimp bowl I decided that if both were going to live on my desk that Trigy the Triops needed to be in a matching jar. And yes, I already owned these gallon jars. I took some of the aquarium gravel out of the critter keeper where he was hanging out and did a half-and-half gravel and sand floor. Triops sort through sand like shrimp, so I’d been feeling bad for him having all gravel. He’s been thriving regardless, mainly I think because he’s eaten all his tank-mates (fellow hatchlings and every other triops that hatched after him). Then I transferred some of his water, mixed it with some fresh, treated water, and moved the rest of the hornwort over. I only changed the water out once, so it’s still a little cloudy from the sand, but it will settle. His jar doesn’t look as pristine as the shrimp jar, but hey, they live in mud puddles in the wild.

Trigy is somewhere between 2 and 3 weeks old, and is a little over 3/4 of an inch long (not including the long forked tail). If he keeps thriving he could live as long as 5 more weeks.

Technically this isn’t a Walstad bowl since nothing is planted, but Triops have such a short life, he’ll do just fine with a bit of floating plant life.

Trigy came from the Smithsonian Prehistoric Monster’s kit that my five year old picked out himself with birthday money.

Shrimp Bowl


The Story:

Two days ago I started a planted Shrimp bowl following this article from Diana Walstad. Except I didn’t quite follow it. I thought it would be okay to use the organic garden soil I had instead of the Miracle Gro organic potting soil she recommends. BAD idea. I didn’t read the bag closely enough and it contained fertilizer other than compost. Never assume! So Tuesday Morning I came down to one dead shrimp (started with 5), and the other 4 were super sluggish, and Seymour the snail had locked himself in his shell.

I had a second bowl with just treated water and some creeping Jenny I had floated in there to root, so I just scooped everyone out and dropped them in the backup bowl. I wasn’t sure if that would shock them, but I thought the water was probably toxic.

Then my five year old and I embarked on an experiment to diagnose the problem. Within a few hours, the shrimp were all happily zooming around the second bowl, seemingly recovered. One of them did molt, but then it had been very stressed lately, lol.

We tested the water in the first bowl only to discover the Nitrite and Nitrate levels were through the roof. The Nitrate registered at 160ppm (highest the test goes) and the Nitrite at 5 ppm. The second bowl was registering 0.25 ppm on the Nitrite (possibly because transferred the plants without rinsing them, hindsight!), and 0ppm on the Nitrate. The Ammonia in both bowls was 0.25 ppm and the pH was in a good range for shrimp at 7.4.

I left them in their emergency bowl for 24 hours, went out and bought a bag of the Miracle Gro Organic Potting soil. I spread out about 4 cups on a tray and let it air out over night. I read somewhere about letting it off-gas just to be safe, so I decided I wasn’t taking any more chances.

Then I sort out the biggest pieces of bark and wood this morning until I had two cups of soil. I added that to the bottom of the bowl (bowl is actually a 1 gallon cracker jar), and then slowly poured in about 3/4 a cup of water. I then added my two creeping Jenny plants. Note, this is regular creeping Jenny, but it’s been in my garden for about 6 weeks, so I figured it should be pretty safe to add since it’s rained a lot! Everything I’ve read says it will grow submerged, and I’ve seen pics of it in other tanks. So far, so good. I’ll let you know if it starts to melt.

I put in about a cup of play sand (from Lowes. I soaked some in water for about 12 hours and tested the water to see if it changed the pH at all before I used, and it didn’t) to cap the dirt, and then added a bit of aquarium gravel around the bases of the the plants to help keep the roots down and help them become established.

Then I filled the bowl up by slowing pouring water from a jelly jar over my fingers and the largest plant and gravel. It was cloudy and some dirt still floated up, so I scooped the water back out with the same jar, which pulled a good deal of the floating bark into it. Plus when I lowered the water level enough, most of the other floating bits stuck to the higher parts of the glass, and I just wiped them off with a paper towel.

I did that about 4 times until it was clear. Then I treated the water with Seachem Prime (Just one drop from a medical dropper is enough for a gallon), then I reduced the water down to about 3 cups. Yes, after I treated it, stirred it, let it sit, I then dumped some of the treated water. This is because a gallon is the least you can reasonably treat with Seachem Prime, and I didn’t want to over treat it. I wanted to add the water from the emergency bowl into the new one to provide as little water shock as possible, so this constituted about a 30% water change for the shrimp. I’ve read you shouldn’t change more than 20-25% ideally as they are very sensitive to changes.

I carefully picked the plants out of the bowl the shrimp were in, and put the Marimo moss ball and the strand of Cabomba (bought from a local fish store, or LFS if you’ve started reading forums, lol!), to the new bowl. Then I scooped most of the water out and added it to the new bowl, and added a little reserved new water to the old bowl.

Then I ended up having to heat the new bowl with a mini heater (Jamberry for the win!) from the outside because it was so freakishly cold here this morning that the room temp water I had to fill the bowl with had gotten chilled to about 60 degrees whereas the bowl under my grow light (clamp light with daylight CFL bulb) was sitting at about 73 degrees. Obviously I wouldn’t heat water from the outside with small heater with the animals in the bowl, but this worked since I don’t have a bowl heater and wasn’t planning to use on as the house should stay about 71 even at night once it decides to be summer.

I turned the heater off, stirred the water to equalize the heat, and let it sit.

Then I scooped up about 4 oz of water in to a jelly jar (so about half way full, captured the shrimp with a net, which was easy since there wasn’t anything else in the water for them to hide behind, and put them in the jar with Seymour the snail. Then I floated the jar in the new aquarium. The plants held it upright, and I was able to just let it sit there.

Then after about 10 minutes (maybe I should have waited longer, I read 5 minutes of floated, plus 5 minutes with new water added was the minimum recommended for adding new critters, and they had been sitting with some of the new water added for at least 30 minutes, and then  I floated them until the water in the jar was the same temp as the water in the rest of the bowl), I gently tipped the glass and let the water flow in and the shrimp swim out. Seymour had locked down after being moved so he sort of drifted into the creeping Jenny and hung out for about an hour before he started exploring.

The stock: 4 ghost shrimp, 1 mystery snail

Water Parameters on the new bowl after complete:

pH: 7.4 on the high pH test), Ammonia: 0ppm, Nitrites: 0ppm, Nitrates: 0ppm.