A fishy weekend!

Or rather, an aquatic weekend, as I attended a planted tank convention – the fish were definitely second fiddle and there were at least as many tiny, brightly colored shrimp available! This wasn’t my first con, but it was my first aquarium convention, and I really enjoyed it, even though I had to miss several of the events due to schedule conflicts. However, since I’m on the spring “get back into all my hobbies” kick (I seem to have decided to concurrently do aquarium stuff, painting, scrapbooking, and outdoor gardening!) I’m very happy to have gotten a chance to see some awesome aquarium designs up close and personal!

I’m going to put a break on this post because it’s definitely far into TL;DR range if you’re not a fish nerd – and there’s not even any pics either, because I don’t love you that much. (J/K, it’s actually because the tanks need some cleaning before I take nice pictures.)

Having neglected the 55 for so long, it really had fallen into a dismal state – especially since the fish plague medication was the aquatic plant equivalent of a tacnuke. I think I literally lost 95% of my java fern – it had been a beautifully huge clump on top of a chunk of driftwood, which is now forlorn and bare with only a few small new leaves on the few rhisomes that survived. To fill in a while back, I picked up some “African water fern” – some kind of Bolbitis – from two different places. The pet shop version was a beautiful, large aquatic form, but the PetSmart version was a few tiny bits of emmersed rhisome with a single leaf at the end. One rhisome successfully made the transition to aquatic form, but the others simply threw off baby plants on the tips of the leaf that it did have, and don’t seem to be interested in growing new leaves for themselves. Meanwhile the “windelov” java fern is making a strong comeback!

The anubias nana suffered as well, particularly the oldest part of the rhisome, which actually did die and had to be removed. However, the thing grows quite well and I had nicked it before to get it to branch out, so I had plenty of young growing tips to save and reweave on top of its driftwood piece. In fact, when I went into the tank today to trim I actually had to cut off two pieces and leave them off! Perhaps more snack for my cichlids? They do like anubias leaves quite a lot! But now that the medication phase is over and several large water changes and some carbon filter media later, I’m not worried about my newest anubias – a good-sized coffeefolia! I was very happy to nab that one at the con auction for a great price – I’ve been wanting one of these for ages! But I’ll have to see about water nutrients – my narrow-leaf anubias doesn’t seem to be growing too well for me. Perhaps it’s missing some preferred nutrient, since I’m a slacker and I don’t usually dose other than fish food.

The big new thing in the trade appears to be “buces” – bucephalandra species. There was a vendor selling a huge amount of it at the con, but although the other hobbyists said it was a good price, it was still expensive in my opinion! I did come home with a tiny sprig of “hades” that I perched on the end of the spraybar that I use to diffuse CO2. I’m hoping that it will like the higher placement, greater flow and CO2 levels in that spot. I’m wondering just how “slow” a slow grower it is compared to the anubias! And hoping it doesn’t do its own version of “crypt melt” on me.

Speaking of crypts, my wendtii was one of the first to bounce back after the Plague – I think it really likes the new LED light! (Finnex Stingray, 48″) My cheap Wal-Mart shop light died so I used that as an excuse to go LED – a considerable long-term savings considering the cost of planted tank fluorescent bulbs that have to be replaced about twice a year or the plants suffer! I’m still running an old planted T8 bulb in a standard fixture too but I doubt it’s adding much at this point. The balansae is also doing okay – plenty of plants, but the leaves are disappointingly curled over on themselves. I ran across a picture from when I originally got them and the leaves are straight and tall – apparently this species likes a lot of calcium and will get “osteoporosis” if there’s not enough!

Also new to the stable is some Staurogyne repens – I was picking up some mosses from a vendor, and they had a buy 4-get-1-free offer, so I just picked it up as a lark. Well it turns out that one of the pro aquascapers used it along with crypt parva in his iwagumi tank. I didn’t manage to snag any parva the next day – sold out already! – but I’ll have to keep my eye out for it next. With the newly-higher light (probably now at “medium-low” instead of “quite low”) I’m hoping for a good result. Apparently you should hack the stuff back pretty severely at trimming time to get it to carpet nicely. Great – now I’m going to have to mow a lawn underwater, too! lol

The next new addition is some Hygrophila pinnatifida – seven little plantlets in one of the Aquainnova tissue culture cups. (Apparently they are branching out into the US so you may not see them in stores for a few months – they still need to line up distribution.) I have killed this plant before. Therefore one plantlet got placed in my “backup” container – a straight-sided cylindrical vase with soil capped with sand and just a little water in it – almost an emersed setup. I’ve got some kind of grassy thing whose name I forget in there that died out of the 55 back when I was using a shop light, too – probably ought to fish out a few nodes of that and give it another try as well. The main problem with the pinnatifida was potassium deficiency, not light, I think – pinnatifida is a K hog. So I’m definitely going to have to train myself to dose the tank with fertilizers regularly for this one as well as the crypt balansae!

Among the “filler” plants I picked up after the Great Plague was a spiky poky thing that turns out to be some kind of Eleocharis, probably acicularis – appropriately called hairgrass. I’m apparently subconsciously in love with having to mow even more lawn. (Will it grow nicer if I trim it? I think I should trim it and see. I’ll need curvy scissors though!) It definitely seemed to like my tank, sending out plenty of runners that I scattered about the tank today to fill in some background and corners. According to the internet, other people use it as a foreground plant though! Oops? The variety I’ve got was quite tall when I purchased it, although the new plants seem to be content to be a little shorter. Or perhaps they’re just young.

The Hygrophila difformis suffered through the plague and is finally, finally coming back – I was quite worried about it for a while since it’s usually an aggressive stem! The Ludwigia repens is still struggling in plague mode, though. I do have a few tattered stems of it in the cichlid tank if I decide I want it back. The repens is actually quite a beautiful emersed plant, but of course it requires high humidity or it will dry out and shrivel. I ought to put a stem in a vase with some soil, actually! It would make a beautiful cover plant for a little damp terrarium setup. I also have a bit of cardinal plant in the emersed pot, which is good because I think the last little bit of it in the 55 got lost when I rescaped the tank. (Ooops.) My ocelot green Amazon sword – the beautiful monster – is survived by a tiny tiny baby plant that I moved out to the foreground so I could keep an eye on it (and it could get some light.) Technically it’s still too big for this aquarium but between my hacking it back and the plague it’s stayed small. My red lotus plant also suffered and is down to one tiny bulb – I’m not sure if it’s going to come back or not. That plant is odd, it seems to have its own dormancy/growth cycle that it follows on its own. Hopefully it will come back, but if not it shouldn’t be too hard to replace.

The java moss came back with a vengeance – I actually trimmed most of it back during the rescape, and I’m not sure what to do with the extra! It’s such a messy looking moss. I actually got three new mosses at the convention, as well as some HC, to go on a pair of driftwood branch pieces I bought. Thankfully the four plants are in tissue culture cups and will be stable in storage like that for a couple weeks (according to the vendor) as long as they stay in indirect light at room temperature. I need to soak the “driftwood” to get it to sink and scrub the lichen bits off!

Chatting with one of the hobbyists at the con, I mentioned that I’d been having some trouble with BBA, and he mentioned that BBA is usually due to buildup of organics – I knew that already, and I usually clean my canisters fairly regularly (though perhaps not regularly enough!) – so he asked when was the last time I vacuumed my substrate. Ahah. Vacuum my substrate? I haven’t done that! It’s sand, so I just skimmed the surface. He recommended doing that, which I did when I got home. Ugh, I really should have considered substrate cleaning before. I mean, yes, I don’t want to disturb things too much but a glass box is not a natural ecosystem so some inputs and exports are required! And I should have figured that there was a large amount of dead root mass down there from the plague, and all the Malaysian trumpet snail poo that wouldn’t get pulled out and into the filter to be cleaned as well. Yes, they churn the sand a bit with their digging down and up but not THAT much!

So now the water is quite cloudy. I didn’t disturb the entire substrate – there’s one corner that I’ll have to vacuum next time – but it’s far cleaner now, and I took the opportunity to uproot the crypts, shove the sand into a bit of a nice slope from back to front, and replant them in a more aesthetic arrangement. (I fully expect that they will consequently melt as punishment for my presumptuous high-handed treatment.) It’s amazing how much better the tank looks now, with the plants placed in nice clusters and the sand in a slope rather than a flat uniform plane. The inch of front glass thus exposed was, of course, covered in algae – my bristlenose pleco had a great time munching it! The one corner that I didn’t disturb too much really brings home how big an impact that tiny slope has on the aesthetics. It’s downright amazing, I had no idea!

Tomorrow will be more tank work – I got vals for the cichlids and there’s filter maintenance to be done as well as scrubbing some algae off the glass!

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About pancakeloach

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