I've kept fish for many years, but about three months ago I decided to get serious about a planted tank. My display tank is a 55 gallon Oceanic tank, initially equipped with a heating element, a double-barrelled biowheel filter, and AquaticLife 48" T5 HO fluorescent lighting.
Inhabitants when I started this were five Boesmani rainbowfish, a couple of clown loaches, an indeterminate number of Malaysian trumpet snails, some dwarf anubias that was badly algae encrusted, and some hornwort floating loose in the tank.
I started by adding Nicrew 48" LED lighting plus two DIY citric acid/soda carbon dioxide generators feeding a bubble ladder and a pollen ceramic diffuser. I added some drifwood, Amazon swords, dwarf cryptocoryne, water wisteria, bacopa, and alternanthera. I also added eight otocinclus, three Siamese flying foxes, two turquoise rainbowfish, two Bolivian rams, and a couple of nerite snails.
Then I got hit with ich, probably from one of the new fish. I had acquired a quarantine tank but it hadn't cycled yet and I didn't quarantine the fish. Batting the ich took three weeks, elevated temperature, malachite green and formaldehyde, and cost me a clown loach, one of the otocinclus, and two of the flying foxes.
So this weekend I began round two with a shopping trip to Albuquerque, the closest thing to a big city in New Mexico. It's an hour and a half drive.
I start with the Clark's Pet Emporium on Menaul. My tank is rather bare, so I pick out a big piece of driftwood (actually a grape vine that boasts of being sandblasted and heat treated and chemical-free, as if that was possible); they also have the vallisneria I am looking for. Crep, there are guppies
in the tank. They looked healthy, happy, and fecund, but there’s always a risk of parasites in a plant tank that also has fish. The store did not have Siamese algae eaters, but the clerk phoned the Lomas store and ascertained that they
I stop by the Petsmart on Wyoming on my way. I've been there before and it seems better run than most. Alas, they have no Siamese algae eaters either, but I get some frozen bloodworms as a treat for the fish and pick up some spare filters for the new quarantine tank (which has now cycled, due to a steady diet of ammonium alum.) Then off to the Lomas store; the algae eaters are stiff at $8 a fish, but they look healthy. Also, they look more like flying foxes than algae eaters, but the two are very similar and I’m not going to find the exact species anywhere else in New Mexico. Crep, the bag with the fish feels cold; did the clerk actually fill it from the tap? No, I saw him fill it from the tank. Must just be a colder tank than I’m used to; mine has been cranked up to fight ich. I make my purchase, pop the fish in the thermos box, and head home.
I pop the Siamese algae eater bag into the quarantine tank, to equalize temperature. Then online and look up the latest advice on acclimatizing fish for a new tank: The bottom line seems to be that “drop and plop” seems to work just as well as elaborate slow acclimation. I decide to take my walking exercise and “plop and drop” when I get back. The fish scramble for the bottom and race around the (rather small) quarantine tank; crep, hope they’ll not stress out and die.
Next is to disinfect the vallisneria, since they came from a tank with fish in it. The advice I find online is to dip for five minutes in 3% hydrogen peroxide. Crep, that’s straight out of the bottle! Well, the plants aren't terribly expensive, so here goes nothing. The plants fizz merrily in the peroxide bath, I time five minutes, then rinse thoroughly and plant them in my display tank.
Now for the big project: I have a rather empty looking tank,
which I wish to decorate with a large piece of “driftwood”:
With a new tank, I’d silicone it securely in place. But this is a running tank. My solution:
Yeah, we're low-tech here. I’ve had this sitting around for fifteen years, from a project my wife talked me out of, and I finally have a use for it. I’ll let the stump end of the driftwood sit on the tank bottom, and suspend the other end of the driftwood from the center support of my tank using the nylon line.
Except for one unanticipated problem.
The driftwood is dry enough that it does not sink. Well, crep. I consider. It’s barely above the surface; it won’t have to soak much before it’s heavier than water. I leave it.
And I remove most of the hornwort. Hornwort has its place, and I decide that that place is in the quarantine tank, where it will provide some cover for nervous fish.
The next day, I come home to find the driftwood sunk to the bottom. I start looking at how to string it up, then consider. The invisible line is going to be a hazard to a fast-moving fish, and, y’know the driftwood actually looks kind of good where it settled on the bottom. Just a few adjustments needed and it’s great. I decide to go with that.
The new fish are still alive, but nervous They seem uninterested in food and scurry to the back of the tank whenever I approach. Crep. On the other hand, the fish in the display tank are ecstatic when I give them their first cube of frozen bloodworm.
The day after, I come home and find that my driftwood has grown a fur coat.
It’s actually kind of cool looking. It looks exactly like fog drifting along the surface of the driftwood. It’s probably some kind of harmless bacterial bloom; the fish and plants seem quite untroubled by it, so I’m letting it be. It will probably disappear on its own in a few days.
Meanwhile, the vallisneria did not like the peroxide. The leaves are pretty much melted down, though there are some signs of green left in the crowns. I'll leave them for now and see if they recover; in the meanwhile, ix-nay on straight peroxide disinfection. The instructions may have left out a step where you dilute
the 3% peroxide? Next time, if I have to replace the vals, I'll just let them sit in a bucket for three days, then rinse thoroughly; that should starve out any ich.
The algae eaters in the quarantine tank seem to have settled down, and show some interest in an algae wafer. But they still head for cover when I approach. Mad at me, I suppose.