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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Fish Master!

I am the fish master. Behold, my Eclipse System 6 mini-aquarium!

See all that green stuff? Those are real live plants. I have one large Java Fern that is taking up almost all the tank, and another smaller plant I forgot the name of. This is fairly amazing to me, because the light situation in the tank is pretty crappy. The Eclipse system is pretty neat - the filter is in the hood of the tank so nothing hangs off the back. But the light situation sucks ass. I only have a measly 8 watt fluorescent light over 6 gallons of water. That is almost nothing.

So I did the best I could. I selected plants with low light requirements. And they seem to be doing very well! Those plants were placed in the tank at least 10 months ago.

When I set the tank up, I decided to experiment a little. My last freshwater tank was a 55 gallon tank with only 40 watts of light (less light per gallon than the little tank has). With limited resources (being in high school and stuff) I could never really do what I wanted.

The gravel in the little tank is special. It is called "SeaChem Flourite Red". What makes it so special is that it is fractured clay. It is loaded with all kinds of good stuff plant root systems need. It is not treated with any sort of additional chemicals, and is Ph neutral. If you use it, you do not really have to add anything else to the substrate for live plants to be happy. But the stuff is not cheap. A 7 kilogram bag (a little over 15 pounds) costs around $16 - $20 (depending on the store) and can be hard to find. One bag is enough for roughly a 10 gallon tank. So as you can see, for a 55 gallon tank I would need 6 or 7 bags - which would be costly.

But buying one bag for a little tank is not so bad. One word of caution - if you use this stuff it MUST be rinsed very well. It will take a while to do this. The stuff is silty as hell. It is clay after all - so in packaging and shipping a lot of fine dust is created. But once you flush the stuff well with running water you do not have a problem with it.

I do use ONE other additive for the plants. This stuff called "SeaChem Excel". It is supposed to be a liquid carbon supplement. See, plants need carbon dioxide. But adding a carbon dioxide device to such a small tank is a major pain in the ass. Plus, this thing was in my little office at work. I could not have all this equipment in there. It had to be a simple setup. It is easy to keep a bottle of mystery liquid locked up in my desk - it is not so easy to try to hide a CO2 tank under the desk. I do not know if the Excel stuff works like it says it does - but the plants are not dead! NOTE - for a few months no Excel was added to the tank as I was not there to do it. I would just show up from time to time to add more water.

Other than that - the only thing the plants got was the nitrate from the natural breakdown of organic material and fish waste.

WOW that was long! Anyway, this is the quick and short story of the plants. Flourite gravel, liquid Excel additive, and nitrate levels in the 20 - 40 ppm range. When I moved the tank home Friday I did not test the water, but the nitrate levels were probably a LOT higher. No water changed had been done for a long time. There was a lot of algae, a sign of high nitrate levels.

Now back to the photo! See that pink fish? On the left side of the tank? That is my sole surviving "Glo Zebra" fish. I had three of them at one point. The Glo Zebra fish are genetically modified with jellyfish DNA to make them that color. Normal zebras are white with black stripes. Or is it black with white stripes? Who knows. But they are NOT pink with yellow stripes. Under UV light the Glo Zebras are green! Freaky huh? They were invented in a lab in Taiwan, and may be used to test water quality at some point. The lab makes them unable to reproduce so there is no danger of them getting loose in the wild. Plus - they are bright pink! In a natural setting they would quickly get eaten, as it would be hard to hide. There is a reason nature did not make fish that color.

Friday there were only two fish. The Glo Zebra and one neon tetra. So I bought more, to make the tank look more like it did when I first set it up!

These are my neons. I have 6 of them. They are native to Peru and like neutral to slightly acidic water. I keep my little tank at a pH of 7.0 - neutral.

I also got some glass shrimp. These freshwater critters stay very small and are good scavengers. They will eat algae and other stuff they find. They will not get large enough to be a problem to the fish, and the fish will not get large enough to eat them.

I also got a "peppered catfish". This is what it looks like. Upon release in the tank it vanished in the plant forest, so this is a photo I found on the net. So is the shrimp photo. And the next photo.

This is a "pleco" catfish. They are also called "suckermouth catfish". They eat algae.

So there you have it. All the inhabitants of my little 6 gallon mini world. At this point the tank is probably slightly over stocked - but the bio wheel can handle the load. The plants will help soak up some of that nitrate. And of course, water changes will be required every now and then.

By the way, because the tank is so small I can use bottled distilled water. The great thing about this stuff is that it is just water. NOTHING else is in it. If you do a test, everything is zero except for pH which reads acidic. This means I can make it anything I want! Water in South Florida is hard as a rock so having a neutral, soft water aquarium is a royal pain in the ass to pull off. By going deionized I solve all those problems. I buffer the water for a neutral pH (which also makes the water slightly on the "soft" side) and dump it in! With a small tank, this does not cost too much.

I would very much like to set up a 90 gallon freshwater planted tank at home. I could do a lot with that size tank. But it will not be cheap! The lights alone would run into $500 or more. Then add the 9 bags (at least) of Flourite, the 90 gallons of reverse osmosis filtered water from the fish store (lugged home 20 gallons at a time in clean plastic gas cans that have never been used for gas), and all the other stuff and it works out to a lot.



Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

NOTE - if you want a simple table top aquarium, and you only want to spend about $50 for the entire setup (tank, filter, light) then the Eclipse 6 is perfect for you. But the tank has its limitations! The light is weak. For fish only (freshwater or saltwater) the Eclipse is all you need. If you want freshwater live plants, you MUST pick only those plants that do well in low light conditions (1 watt per gallon). Plants that need 3 or 4 watts per gallons will die unless you have supplemental lighting.

If you want serious plants, or a saltwater fish and live rock / reef tank then the better choice is the Oceanic Bio-Cube or the JBJ Nano-Cube.

The next small desktop tank I plan to get is going to be a Bio-Cube or Nano-Cube.

Blogger Badoozie said...

you really outdid yourself, with the plant advice, kudos! i don't want to spend too much time on these matters. it's easier to throw in a new 2 dollar fish when it dies, and those plastic plants, they thrive!
god bless the algae eating fish. i also hate when i clean the tank and get rocks in the garbage disposal. that really sucked

Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

It was not a lot of time. Believe me! This tank was first set up on my desk at work. The gravel is never really "cleaned" anymore, the plants make it impossible to siphon / vacuum the stuff. I did put the lights on a timer so the whole thing was automated.

All I did for maintenance was one or two gallon water changes when the nitrates got too high. Oh yea and use this magnet thing to remove algae from the front. And change the filter pad.

PS - if you siphon / vacuum your gravel here is a little tip. Collect the water in a bucket and dump it outside. Or if you have to dump the old water inside, use the toilet. Or if you must use the sink, pour the water through a fish net - so that the rocks stay in the net.

Blogger Senor Caiman said...

The Lazy,

Very impressive. You seem to be a natural at growing plants. Make sure you pinch back the buds.

You actually start tobacco out in a lake and then move it to a field.

Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

I LOVE it. VERY cool. Interesting about the clay gravel! I used to raise show guppies, and always had fun with them. My fave fish was an African redtail catfish - he was very, very bright and interactive.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badoozie, you crack me up! I had to dig fish gravel out of my garbage disposal just last week! I'm glad I'm not the only one who has that problem.

Lazy, the photos are awesome, I can't believe you've got such healthy plant growth. We have a restaurant here in downtown Houston that has a 50 gallon tank full of neons. It is an incredible thing of beauty to watch. They are incredible little fish.

Blogger Fuzz said...

Wow. Must be fish day or something. I still think there's something fishy about this. Nice fish.

Blogger Badoozie said...

i'm getting this mental picture of how much fish crap is in the bottom of the rocks, and the very thought of it is creating a disturbing impression on my minds eye. you have to clean that out, before I puke all over. how long has it been? my tank water is clear as a bell, but i still clean the whole thing out and rinse the rocks every couple of months and at that its very nasty down there. EWEEEEEYYYYYYY

tinky poopoo

Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

Caiman - there be no buds here. Something about having to pee in a cup on demand. Gotta keep the waste products clean!

Saur - I never got into guppies. They are just too slow. I likes platties and mollies better. And swordtails. And of course, tetras.

Anonymous - a large tank, thickly planted, with a swarm of neons is nice. This is what I want to do with a 90 gallon tank. Tons of plants, and a large school of neon or cardinal tetras. And maybe a few angel fish.

Fuzz - Aquariums are just cool. Setting up a large one is not a great idea right now, so I got my little 6 gallon.

Badoozie - the large plant makes it hard to clean the gravel. I would have to just about uproot the plants, and they do not like this very much. So I count on the plants and helpful bacteria to take care of everything. The water in the tank is all new. I replaced it all the water Friday. When the nitrate levels hit 60 or so I change some water to get the level down to 20 or less.

Blogger Cheesemeister said...

yay aquarium! I've never been smart enough to keep anything but goldfish and bettas, and I had a giant snail that lived for several years.
I had a pleucostamus. I didn't realize that they had spines on their mouths and wondered why I was getting hurt every time I tried to herd the sucker into the net so I could clean the tank. Ouch!

Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

Goldfish like cold water. Bettas and other tropicals like warm water. The two do not do well if kept together.

Blogger Meow said...

Beautiful tank, you've done a wonderful job.
I have always had problems with the neons ... they always committ hari-kari, and jump out !!!
I have a huge bristle nose catfish, who looks similar to the brown spotty one in your pic. I've had him for quite a few years now. Keeps the tank nice and clean.
I have 2 tanks, a big tropical, and a small cold water. They are very relaxing to watch (but a pain in the bum to clean !!).
Have a great week.
Take care, Meow

Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

Meow - you need a tank lid! They can not jump out if there is a tank hood.


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