Plant update (week 17)

Before trimming

I have been trimming the Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan’ once per week, selling off 60-100 cm at a time. If you want some, send me an email or leave a message! The H. leucocephala, which can be seen growing at the centre front has been moved to the back now.

The Lindernia rotundifolia has also started to take off, and since I took the first cutting two weeks ago, a couple more stems are now close to the surface, so I expect to cut them back next weekend or the weekend after.

All of the Cryptocorynes are growing well, although slowly, with C. beckettii ‘petchii’ being the fastest.

I have even managed to find some Rotala rotundifolia cuttings which are recovering slowly!

Mosses are also doing well. While I originally added only Vesicularia ferriei, the weeping moss has sprouted strands of Taxiphyllum sp. ‘peacock’ and there are a few strands of what I suspect to be T. sp. ‘stringy moss’, which is also sometimes labelled as ‘Japan moss’.

Another coupld of hitch-hikers have also made it into the aquarium: Hemianthus callitrichoides ‘Cuba’ and Riccia fluitans. The Riccia is not doing so well, while the Hemianthus has gotten caught on one of the C. beckettii ‘petchii’ leaves and seems to be growing. Both species are often considered difficult or impossible to grow in “low-tech” set-up, so it will be interesting to see how these do.

The Pogostemon erectus is surviving, although no longer doing well. I added a root tab underneath it a couple of days ago and moved it out from under the C. wendtii ‘Tropica’, which had started trying to grow over the Pogostemon.

After taking the photo, I pruned back all the Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan’ from around the heater as I did not like how it looked and gathered the L. rotundifolia closer together, towards the back of the aquarium.

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First pruning of Lindernia rotundifolia

Lindernia rotundifolia cuttingYesterday, I finally took the first Lindernia rotundifolia cutting! Pruning would be exaggerating a bit as only one stalk had reached the surface, so I cut it back by around 5 cm, right above a node and planted the new cutting towards the front, where I can observe how it does. It is possible to see the first node in the photo, with the stem buried in the sand.

Splitting up the Crypt. parva

Crypt. parva, spread and clumped

When I first received the Cryptocoryne parva in a tub, the roots were relatively short and matted, so I separated it into only 10 clumps, instead of separating all the plants into individual ones. Now that the roots have had time to grow, I decided to separate a couple of the clumps into individual plants. I pulled up two of the clumps in the front-left area of the Crypts and found the roots to be around 30-50 mm long for most of the plants. I started by pulling apart as many plants as I could by hand. The rest I had separate by cutting the rhizome into two or more parts with a pen knife. This can be a bit laborious with such small plants as C. parva, and a lot of care is needed to avoid damaging the roots. Once I had all the plants separated, I planted individual plants approximately 15-20 mm apart and added a root tab underneath the area.

I also added a root tab under the C. wendtii ‘Mi Oya’, one under C. wendtii ‘green gecko’ and another under the Pogostemon helferi.

It has now been five days: none of the C. parva plants have come up and there have been no problems.

Update on Pogostemon erectus

Pogostemon erectus drawing by Kirsten TindSince I added the two small Pogostemon erectus cuttings to this aquarium, the parent plant in my larger display aquarium has done poorly. I think this is in part because of the lower light at 0.6 wpg (the plant growth stagnated), and that the plecos and snails have taken to it as dinner.

I have now moved all the remains of the plant to the back, right corner of this aquarium, the area where the Rotala rotundifolia was originally meant to go. They seem to be settling in. Although growth is slow, new stems and buds are growing consistently along all the stems.

The drawing is by Kirsten Tind. It is of a style known as botanical illustration, which are traditionally printed along side descriptions of the plants. This particular drawing was commissioned by Tropica Aquarium Plants and looks very similar to how my Pogostemon erectus cutting looked when it arrived in July.

Danios settling in

Danios are in

It has been almost a week since the Danios were added, they have settled in well and are relatively bold, but do not seem to appreciate when someone walks quickly across the room (as is expected). They certainly seem to enjoy the piece of wood, spending much of their time swimming through the holes in the base and around the stems, but do come right to the front of the glass when they notice me looking at them. The females are receiving plenty of attention from the males and one is looking considerably more plump now, so they may spawn soon.

The fish found the flow of the filter to be disturbing, so I have attempted to slow it down by wrapping filter wool around the rough sponge and placing more still between the sponge and the bio media. It seems to have helped slightly, but not enough, so I am still thinking about how to slow it down further. The stand building project has come to a bit of a stand still as I am quite lazy, but this has given me an incentive to get it going again because the external filter has a 300 lph rating compared to the 700 lph that came with the aquarium.

The fish are feeding well on frozen Daphnia and Artemia, with a supplement of high-protein granules and generic flakes. The 10 fish eat only tiny amounts, so even the smallest tub of fish food will last for years at this rate. Given that most fish food goes off in a matter of 1-6 months, it makes sense to separate it into smaller containers, freezing or chilling the majority of it until it is needed.

There have not really been any major signs of algae, I am still cleaning off mild signs of diatoms from the glass every couple of weeks, but that is it. Most of the plants are doing well, and I plan to split up one or two of the Cryptocoryne parva bunches into individual plants over the next week.

Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan’ overgrowing

Taking photos of plants for saleThe Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan’ has been growing very fast, so I decided to trim a few strands back and sell them to recoup the original cost of the plants. I prefer to show photos of the actual plants I am selling, so the buyer knows exactly what they are going to receive. I usually lay out the plants of a white towel, sometimes placing a ruler next to them for size comparison, then take the photo from above. As it can take a few days for the plants to sell, I normally keep them separated at this point, inside a tub of water, which is usually placed in a bright place.

Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan' for saleI picked out three strands which are about 18-20 cm, two which are around 8-10 cm long and one which is slightly shorter. I am asking for GBP 2.50 for the plants posted in UK, or EUR 3.00 posted to anywhere else in the EU. (Reply if you’re interested!)

Sinking the wood

A friend of mine told me that his red moor wood took 4-6 weeks to sink, so I decided to give mine a little helping hand by placing a fish-bag-full of inert rocks on top of it, after moving it into position. On my second attempt, about a week later, I was able to remove the bag of stones, with the wood not floating up. I took the opportunity to move the weeping moss onto the wood, rocks and all included, as it is best when grown hanging off branches.

Deciding on fish numbers

Most aquarium fish can be classed into one of three living preferences:

Schooling and shoaling:
These fish, depending on the species, live in groups that range form a few hundred to a few million individuals. Home aquariums are most often not able to hold groups that large, but the bigger the group the better it is. I usually recommend that one should aim to keep 10 – 15+ individuals per schooling species as there is no excuse to not do so if stocking a new aquarium. Unfortunately, some people find out that they have only a few individuals from a schooling species after the aquarium is fully stocked, in which case it is best to try and increase the numbers to at least 6 individuals per species or to find them a new home. In some way, fish are aware of individuals up to a point, at which the individuals become “many”. I think that 6 individuals is this point for many species. One of the most important functions of schooling is to protect the individual fish from predators, either by letting the weaker fish in the group be picked off first (as easier prey) or appearing as one larger fish. The main difference between schooling and shoaling fish is that shoaling fish will normally only swim in a tight formation when threatened, usually going about their own business (for example, Trigonostigma heteromorpha). On the other hand, schooling fish (such as Paracheirodon innesi) will spend most of their time swimming close together, even to the point of facing the same way. The group includes fish like tetras, rasboras, danios, barbs, many loaches and rainbows. One unusual member of this group is Neolamprologus brichardi, a shoaling cichlid.
Small groups:
There are a few different variations of small groups which can be found. These include small groups of social fish, which do not have much social structure (such as livebearers) or which have a specific social structure (for example, cichlids); closely knit family groups; pairs of breeding male and female couples; harem groups of one male and a number of females (often seen in many Apistogramma species), or quite rarely, one female with some males. As with schooling fish, small groups provide security for individuals. For some mildly aggressive species, such as Pterophyllum scalare, it may even be possible to keep them peacefully only individually, in proven breeding pairs or in small groups of more than 6 individuals because the dominant fish can then spread the aggression over multiple individuals, instead concentrate it on a single one.
Solitary:
Some of these fish are too aggressive to keep with any others of their own kind, and in some cases, even with other fish which would occupy the same area inside the aquarium, while others simply do not interact with one another on a regular basis. This group includes some loaches, cichlids and gouramis.

It is quite important to try and keep the fish in appropriately sized groups as some may otherwise display odd or aggressive behaviour. The easiest way to find out appropriate stocking numbers is to research the conditions in which the species is found in the wild.

Some basic research showed me that Danio margaritatus and Yunnanilus sp. ‘rosy’ is a peaceful, mid-water schooling fish, which automatically means that I should be considering 10 individuals per species. This is a good number to start with, and there is always the option of adding more later.

Pseudosphromenus dayi, on the other hand, is a solitary fish which breeds in pairs. Males may occasionally be persistent, so I decided that it is better to have 1 male and 2 females, to give the females a bit of a break in case of uninvited attention.

So for my first “final stocking”, I will be aiming at the following:

  • 10 × D. margaritatus
  • 3 (1m 2f) × P. dayi
  • 10 × Y. sp. ‘rosy’

It is very common for final stock to evolve with time, which is why I am referring to this as my first one. As for how I decided on the total number of fish? That is rather difficult to explain as there are no set rules, nor have I seen any good guidelines. I chose the number based on my experience and I always base my decisions on adult size. The stocking numbers are also affected by the amount of plants in the aquarium as they will use up ammonium. For an aquarium which is 60 × 30 × 30 cm in size, I would normally expect to stock between 6 individuals of the larger species I list and 25 individuals of the smaller species. I would also stock conservatively if I pick female livebearers because they will drop fry and it is best to reduce chances of overstocking.

The best advice I can offer on stocking is to not stock more than one feels comfortable with, even if others say that the aquarium will take more fish, and if one is being advised to stock less than one plans to, to try the lower stock first.

Plants have arrived!

_MG_6340Last Tuesday, I ordered 1 × C. parva cup, 1 × Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Tropica’ pot, 1 × C. wendtii ‘Mi Oya’ pot, 1 × C. wendtii ‘green gecko’ pot and 2 × Rotala rotundifolia bunches from Wasserpflanzen-Freunde, which is owned and run by Roland Strößner. The C. wendtii ‘green gecko’ was an impulse buy: I had never heard of it before, so had a search for some images, which I liked the look of and after confirming that it was suitable for the aquarium, I decided to go for it. Today I received, as always with some freebies, 1 × Cryptocoryne beckettii ‘petchii’ pot, 1 × C. parva cup, 1 × C. wendtii ‘Tropica’ pot, 1 × C. wendtii ‘Mi Oya’ pot, 2 × C. wendtii ‘green gecko’ pots and 2 × Rotala rotundifolia pots from the seller. The Crypts are in excellent condition, although the C. wendtii ‘Mi Oya’ is much smaller than I expected, but the R. rotundifolia was melting and in generally bad health. The pots were packed tightly into tall bags, similar to those used for fish, wrapped in a lot of newspaper and placed inside a cardboard box, with more newspaper stuffed around them so that they did not move around.

UnwrappedI start preparing the plants for the aquarium by removing them from the bags, laying them out on my trusty white bath sheet. Then, I removed the pots and the wool, making sure I pulled off as much wool as possible. Some people don’t worry about leaving the wool on the roots, but I find that it is sharp and irritates my hands, so I expect it is likely to affect any fish that try to eat it, which is why I think it is better to always remove it. While I was doing this, I also sprayed the plants with water using a spray bottle so that they do not dry out. I found that I had to spray them at least once every few minutes to keep the leaves glistening.

Taking off the woolOnce all the wool was removed, I started separating the plant bunches into individual ones. I plant aquariums back to front, so I started with the R. rotundifolia, which was meant for the back right corner. Because I did not want to damage the stems, I floated the bunches inside the aquarium and gently agitated them to encourage the stems to separate. I estimate that there were approximately forty or so stems between the two pots, but most were rotting. Given the existing damage, I used a pair of “flat tip conventional” tweezers to push bunches of 2 – 3 plants, 3 – 6 cm into the sand, while trying to hold them (for the most part, unsuccessfully) gently.

DepottedNext, the Cryptocoryne went in: I started in the back right corner and worked my way to the left side of the aquarium. Normally, I would need to trim back the roots on the Cryptocoryne to be 5 cm or shorter, but these did not have particularly long roots, so I could plant them straight in. I did this by clearing the sand, pushing the individual plants in, covering them with sand and gently pulling the plant up from the sand so that the rosette is just barely exposed, which discourages rotting.

I had to pull up some of the Hydrocotyle sp. ‘Japan’ and Lindernia rotundifolia to make space for the new plants, so lastly, I replanted all of these. The L. rotundifolia is doing well and the H. sp. ‘Japan’ has grown so fast that I will soon have to start finding some of it a new home.

It took me about two hours to finish the planting, mainly because the aquarium is still on the floor, which makes it difficult to see into it from the front. If I had invertebrates or fish that are sensitive to copper in the aquarium, I would have soaked the plants overnight in a bucket first to remove any remnants of any medication or snail-killing solutions which the plants may have been exposed to. As it is, I added the plants straight into the aquarium.