Greetings and salutations! Thanks for adding me to your forum. Planted aquariums and the digital space have been a central part of my life for 30+ years, but this is honestly the first time I've considered merging those realms. Mainly to draw out Decepticon sympathizers who also love fish/reptiles/plants; but also, to trade ideas and source new bloodlines for my now aged invertebrate colonies (established 91-95).
The Kaon AqE
The Kaon Aquatic Ecosystem (AqE), is a continuum of plants, microbes, invertebrates, insects and fish that have become endemic to our house. The 16 main components hold about 250 gallons, growing into each other where possible via tangled vines. Everything in the AqE is as close to nature as physically possible within the confines of a glass container - ie, it's all contradictory or paradoxical in some way, and most everything should've died years ago x) The only equipment common to the AqE is full spectrum light. A few have oxygen via ancient whisper pumps, the majority are still water.
2.5 gallon nano jungle, "Mindi's Hollow", part of the Chilipeach Highlands continuum of whitewater tanks, Chilipeach Run
Three aquaria sit upstairs. They have clear water, and neutral(ish) ph. The oldest continuum is Mindi's Hollow, set up in 95 (1 of 6) for a science fair project involving the Mahoning River. Afterward it was used to develop the Kaon guppy - a unique wild type known for high aggression, longevity, and the ability to manipulate three distinct color phases. I've noticed threads online mention this phenomenon, witnessed at a specific public aquarium, and will dedicate a future thread to articulate their creation and behavior. The last remaining descendant from my genesis colony, Mindi, lives here. She is 18 months old and still growing nicely. Efforts to breed Mindi have been... taxing to say the least and will be chronicled soon. Considering her grandmother lived 7 years, I'm only moderately concerned for the bloodline's future. Currently she lives with Azir, a tiny but energetic wild male added November 6th. The two are fed a flake each, twice a week as treats, otherwise they subsist off the ecosystem and vegetables given to the snails.
Competition for resources in the hollow is fierce. Namely over light and free nitrogen. Despite my best efforts the plants never get enough of either. Nearly a quarter of the usable volume has been filled in with moina shells and organic remnants over time. The root complex has long since dug into that soil, and it doesn't matter. Still hungry. The population of snails is absurd, and they are well fed little polluters, still doesn't matter. Adding discard water from the cichlid tank helps temporarily, but literally two days later it's back to starving lol. I blame the tree saplings... even considered removing them but the sugar production would cease, and that would diminish the microcultures, which would diminish the moina - and then Mindi would starve. <sigh> Permaculture is not for the faint of heart. Any suggestions from the community would be greatly appreciated!
J3 "Necrogenesis", 10 gallon blackwater extension, River Kaon. The back wall is dense with java fern and creeping jenny.
About 50 aquaria sit downstairs in the fishroom, but only a dozen are currently operational. They exist under a totally different set of conditions than the tanks upstairs, mainly no real sunlight whatsoever. Because of that key factor the plants are more behaved and consume far less resources. Leaf tannins are able to accumulate, and the water stays nice and dark. As water moves down the line it looks more like coffee and the ph drops. The temperature is warmer. Many years ago, this ecosystem was lush with Discus, angelfish, tetra colonies, corydoras, goodieds, gouramis, anabantids and barbs. Eventually I will see that diversity restored, but Rome wasn't built in a day lol.
Currently the keystone species are all gammarids. Without serious predation they exploded, to the point we fought a literal war to keep the snail populations from being annihilated, not in time to save my assassin snails however (RIP). This led to the introduction of wild fathead minnows, backed up by Xanthic fatheads from the LFS, then fancy guppies and some Goldfish - who also help control duckweed. On that note we're getting Tilapia sooner than later, I'm over scooping out duckweed every week. Now that the invertebrates are stable, all minnows have been consolidated into a 40 breeder (Kaon Arena) and the 125. I left a single gravid female guppy in J3 to keep things in order, she's due any day now. The ecosystem in this tank can support her fry until they're all young adults without intervention. Moina density is so high you can view them openly even with a resident predator. Isopod density is also high, thanks to the pieces of tufa rock. Various algae cover the back rocks (not visible from this angle) to the point we've referred to it as freshwater liverock since about 96. Occasionally I'll take a piece out to seed new tanks.
Central to this build are a dozen pieces of shagbark hickory bark, the Claws of Hector, anchored in the sediment and extending out of the water. Unfortunately, the plants have grown in so much it's hard to view the structure. That and the pile of oak leaves currently in the hollow. I add more than necessary whenever fry are due, it boosts infusoria populations in advance. An airstone is currently required as a result of this strategy, otherwise the bloom would cloud everything. The only time I find such a massive bloom necessary is when breeding small tetra (namely glowlight), but that requires a carpet of java moss or other dense plant, to keep the eggs from being eaten immediately.
J1 "Neville's Wreck", 10 gallon blackwater extension, River Kaon. (The pothos vines are mainly growing out of J3, which is barely visible)
My first aquarium; established May 27th, 1988. Literally what started it all. I'm pretty sure no one expected the addiction it created would be so total and complete, least of all my poor mother x) By sixth grade kid me had orchestrated the fishroom pictured above, by eighth grade it held a thousand gallons. During those early years I made pretty good money selling fry, and just about every penny went into equipment and new species. I was blessed to have a wonderful club nearby (YATFS), and with it a cadre of local hobbyists willing to provide guidance and rides to auctions, speakers and shows. Most notably Curt Smith, editor of our club's journal and my mentor in all thing's aquarium. By freshman year of high school, I was published (thanks to Curt), consulting with numerous zoos, public aquariums and Seaworld; addressed the Ohio Academy of Science, received a scholarship to YSU, and got to meet some very amazing pro Ichthyologists. Personally, the highlight of that early life was getting Pseudotropheus directly out of Africa - delivered to the fishroom by the man who caught them. (You know who you are - I still have the book you gave me, and the ecological system I envisioned then is finally real... the lynchpin ended up being etymology!!)
Right after high school I tried to maintain a small LFS, but it was a trainwreck, and my life was spiraling out of control. Which directly led to joining the Army. Thankfully there are programs for nutterball eagle scouts who embrace any biome and don't mind going to war torn countries in search of new species (literally happened, twice). The highlight of that life is a tossup between hunting monitor lizards on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (H-Minus!), and/or deploying mosquito fish into stagnant lakes from a C130 in South America... Unfortunately, the darker facets of that profession combined with a healthy dose of autism led to extreme paranoia, and therefore extreme difficulty interfacing with people IRL. If it wasn't for aquatic ecology, ice hockey and cryptocurrency, I wouldn't have a reason to talk about anything with humans. But alas, here we are despite that garbage ^^
J1 root complex. The bottom was covered with java ferns and java moss until a year ago, lost during the gammarid war. The takeaway here is don't let amphipods starve, they will devour everything possible! I had previously thought java ferns indestructible, having survived all manner of cichlids and snails...
Now that J1 has been (mostly) rehabilitated, a new strain of guppy is taking shape. Central to that is Viego, an atypical pink tux male with high orange coloration and a high dorsal fin. He is the only resident fish currently, waiting on some half black females to grow out and start the next wave. Those offspring will be crossed into the descendants of Yang, an atypical yellow female with orange highlights. The premise of this build has always revolved around tetras though, namely glowlight - but it's successfully supported neon, black neon, cardinal, and that one pair of extra shy black tetras who freaked out in the 55 gallon. The lighting is usually diminished, but I needed the shop light on to highlight everything else.
(Annnd it's almost 4 am?!! >.< Detailing the other aquaria and projects would go far beyond the scope of this introduction anyway so we'll just cut it.)
Teifer Creek in all its fury, outer reserve. Much of our wild stock comes from here.
Lady Aiya, outer reserve
If introductions are in order, it wouldn't be right to exclude Aiya, our Redtail Hawk. Born in the grove across the street spring of 2019, Aiya has quickly become a cherished member of our family. She is very chatty and loves to follow us on collecting adventures in the nearby woods, on the bike trail, and sometimes during walks around town. Squirrels are her main course; the local shagbark hickory groves ensure there are plenty of them.