Friday 29 March 2013

Greenish Zebra Oto?

Update on the 23 litre "sand cats" tank!

Both the Corydoras Habrosus and Otocinclus Cocama have acclimated well, swimming around actively and looking very healthy so far.

I've added some inert river stones to provide abit more variety in the tank environment and to create additional surfaces for algae to grow. I've also increased the lighting period temporarily to 8 hours in order to encourage the controlled growth of a nice film of algae on the glass tank walls and river stones (it worked!), which will help feed the zebra oto.

Here is a photo of them dining on a slice of blanched zuchinni...

In my attempt to provide enough nutritious natural plant-based food to acclimatize the oto, i have been dropping a fresh slice of blanched zuchinni into the tank everyday for the past week (always removing any uneaten portions after 12 hours) and i see the oto constantly munching on it. Now it looks healthy and is very active.

Interesting thing is... it has also been turning noticeably green! :)

Here is a photo of its underside... notice the nice round tummy.

It has also started to actively scrub the algae on the glass tank walls and river stones too, which is a very good sign that it is adapting to the tank environment.

Not sure if its the diet of zuchinni or the availability of lots of green algae, perhaps all the green colored food that its been eating might have contributed to it turning a tint of green?

Since the zebra oto is already well conditioned, i have now reduced the zuchinni slices to only once every 3-4 days, so i'll see if it gradually reverts back to its original black/white coloration. :)

Sunday 24 March 2013

23 Litre "Sand Cats" Tank

Following up from my 23 lite "sand" tank post, i've finally managed to introduce some fauna into the tank... they are all catfish, so this tank will be dubbed the "Sand Cats" tank. :)

Here are the tank stats:

Tank Size: 48cm x 22cm x 22cm (High Clarity / Low Iron Glass)

Substrate: Sudo Reef Sand

Filter System: Eden 501 + 10mm gUSH Lily Pipe Set

Filter Media: Seachem Matrix + Bio Sponges

Temperature: 27-28 °C

Lighting: Up Aqua Z-Series Pro LED Z-15 (45cm)

Light Duration: 6 hours

Co2: None

Fertilizer: None

Fan/Chiller: None

Water Change Regimen: 20% Weekly

Water Parameters:
Tested using API Freshwater Master Test Kit
pH = 7.0
Ammonia = 0 ppm
Nitrite = 0 ppm
Nitrate = 5-10 ppm

Limnobium Laevigatum
Fissidens Splachnobryoide

Corydoras Habrosus
Otocinclus Cocama
Neocaridina Heteropoda

Hikari Micro Wafers
Hikari Algae Wafers
Hikari Sinking Wafers 
Hikari Sinking Carnivore Pellets
Hikari Shrimp Cuisine
Blanched Zucchini & Green Peas


As this tank has a wide and low design, i choose to stock it with corydoras fishes since they spend most of their time on the substrate scavenging for food, hence the larger "floor area" will be ideal for their natural feeding behavior.

I choose Sudo Reef Sand as its is fine grained, as well as a light beige color which still looks natural, but yet not too glaring.

I narrowed my corydoras species selection down to the smallest "dwarf" variants... namely Corydoras Pygmaeus, Corydoras Hastatus & Corydoras Habrosus.

One of the reasons why i wanted the dwarf variants was so that i could stock more of them in the tank (without creating too high a bio-load) which would encourage them to display their natural shoaling and group interaction behaviors... and the small corys also look cuter too. :)

After reading up and observing the 3 species of dwarf corydoras at aquarium stores, i decided to go for Corydoras Habrosus. This is because out of the 3 species, Corydoras Habrosus seem to be the most out-going and least shy (they never hide and are moving around the tank all day).

In addition, they stay at the bottom of the tank and scavenge around the majority of the time, just like the larger corydoras species.

Here are some of them in the midst of their favorite activity...

Those of you with sharp eyes would have also noticed a much larger catfish in the tank too.

Thats right... its an Otocinclus Cocama (aka Zebra Oto).

I got it from a friend a few weeks ago who recently de-commissioned one of his tanks and needed a new home for this fish, so i offered to adopt it.

Interestingly this particular adult otocinclus has been raised on commercial food and fresh vegetables from young, so it doesn't seem to be interested in algae... i kept it in quarantine for a few weeks in my shrimp-only tank which has lots of green and brown algae to choose from but it only went for the shrimp's food and vegetables.

It also spends most of its time rooting around on the substrate too... this particular oto seems to act more like a cory!
I figure it could have been so accustomed to prepared/commercial food that it doesn't bother with algae anymore. So i decided to shift it to this tank as the sand substrate is more suitable for its feeding habits and it would be more comfortable in the company of corys too.

So far, it seems to fit in nicely and even shoal around with the small corys. Its like a gentle giant amongst the tiny denizens.

Btw, i've read that some otos mimic corys in the wild to avoid predation (as corys have poisonous barbs which predators avoid, the otos adopt similar colors and behaviors to trick them too)... i think this oto is probably doing the same! :)

Tuesday 19 March 2013

32 Litre "Tree Scape" Tank (Week 8) - Update

I see shrimplets everywhere! :)

The new batch of shrimplets have grown large enough and started to surface out of the HC carpet to graze on the top layer... previously they were hiding inside the HC carpet enjoying all the nutritious microscopic foods that grow there and only popping out occasionally to check for predators.

The dense HC carpet offers alot of protection against fishes, this ensures a very high survival rate for the shrimplets (especially in community tanks with a mix of fauna).

I would estimate from their size and colors that these shrimplets are probably around 3-4 weeks old, large (and brave) enough to move around the tank on their own without getting bothered by the fishes.

Here is another photo of two more skipping along the tank glass...

In total, i have counted around 25+ juvenile shrimplets separately scattered across the tank so far (there are probably alot more smaller ones that i still haven't spotted yet), quite a good breeding rate considering that i only introduced in a batch of 30+ adult shrimps 8 weeks ago and there were no special attempts to breed them.

I guess once tank conditions are favorable, they'll multiply like rabbits. :)

Sunday 17 March 2013

23 Litre "Sand" Tank

I managed to get around to setting up the 48cm wide / 23 litre tank on the middle shelf of my stainless steel aquarium rack.

As i'm keen to try keeping bottom dwelling corydoras fish species (the smaller sized types) in this tank, i decided to use fine sand as the substrate of choice.

I picked the light colored Sudo Reef Sand and it turned out rather nice! :)

Btw, i've already tested this sand to be inert and doesn't affect the water parameters (despite its "reef" label), my comparison tests are detailed here.

Quite a refreshing change from the dark brown ADA Aqua Soil substrate that i have been looking at over the past few months.

As you can see, i transferred the bogwood with fissidens from my 13 litre nano tank (which has since been decommissioned) over to this new tank... it'll be the current hard scape for the moment while i'm thinking about how to scape it further.

I also directly transferred over the Eden 501 canister filter too, so it now sits just below the tank on the bottom shelf of the rack.

Even though the canister filter holds well established bio media and most of the previous tank's items were carried over, the tank is currently being run initially with just a small group of cherry shrimps for a few more days to ensure and confirm that all the water parameters are stable, before i add in more fauna.

The lights i am using for this tank is the Up Aqua Z-Series Pro LED Z-15 / 45cm version.

It is still able to fit this 48cm width tank as the plastic holders on the sides can be adjusted abit wider to accommodate the tank's extra 3cm width.

This is the first time i'm using sand based substrate and i'm really starting to like the look of it!

Will update as the tank progresses. :)

Tuesday 5 March 2013

32 Litre "Tree Scape" Tank (Week 6) - Update

Time for a progress update on my 32 Litre "Tree Scape" Tank!

Still no Co2 injection, no Excel, no fertilizers added... and the Hemianthus Callitrichoides (HC) carpet is still growing steadily.

Although i actually do have Co2 injection equipment, chemicals and fertilizers available to use, i'm now very keen to see how this tank progresses without the help of those items. It will be an on-going experiment in using a low-tech/low-maintenance natural approach to plant growth.

I have also added in a group of Danio Margaritatus (aka Celestial Pearl Danio) and Danio Erythromicron (aka Emerald Dwarf Danio) as the new resident fauna, both are very similar in size, shape, behavior and habits, often banding together in small "hunting" packs and patrolling the mid-bottom levels of the tank.

In addition, i spotted many small shrimplets in the tank recently, so to prevent them from getting sucked into the canister filter, i've also had to install a stainless steel mesh guard on the filter intake too. :)

Here is a photo of the tank at Week 6: 

Notice that the HC carpet on the left side of the tank looks much brighter and more lush than those on the right side?

My guess is that the bogwood piece is perhaps overshadowing that area, so the growth is slower there. It could also be due to the water current being better at the left side too (based on the flow direction of the lily pipe output).

This probably resembles the effect of large trees in nature, where the areas under them usually have less plant growth, due to the tree canopy blocking out sunlight and drawing in more nutrients.

The biggest surprise for me is the growth of the Fissidens Fontanus on the bogwood tree structure, there is definitely a very noticeable difference in the span of 4 weeks... the fissidens cling to the wood very securely on their own after just a few weeks and alot of fresh new growth can be seen sprouting out from the sides of the trunk and branches.

I was expecting the fissidens to grow very slowly, but it turns out that they are actually growing much faster than i expected.

Looks like i don't have to wait too long for a nice lush fissiden tree after all! :)

Monday 4 March 2013

Aquarium Rack Setup Journal

Lately i have been looking to keep more fish tanks, yet still fit them within the limited space allocated in my room... so the most efficient solution was to setup a rack system.

While i could have custom made a rack system to my specifications, the rack makers i spoke to either took too long to custom make them, quoted really high prices, or simply refused to make the rack to my particular dimensions and color specification (i wanted a powder coated light grey or at least a bare steel look).

So i decided to just shop around for ready-made shelving which could suit my requirements... and i found it at IKEA:

This is called the "Limhamn" series and its made of stainless steel. It is found at the IKEA kitchen section (its actually meant to be used in kitchens). :)

Since the shelving is completely made of stainless steel, it is naturally water resistant (perfect for aquariums) and the frame is bolted to the top and bottom shelf (along with a steel cross-brace), so the entire structure is quite sturdy. The middle shelves are adjustable and held with steel pins.

They come in 3 configurations: 178cm height x 36cm wide, 89cm height x 36cm wide and 89cm height x 60cm wide (all have 35cm depth).

I choose the 89cm height x 60cm wide version, as i plan to have tanks which are at least 45cm wide.

For that shelving configuration, its information label mentions that the middle shelf can take up to 25kg load. Although its probably a conservative load measurement, i will still try to keep to that weight load recommendation for the middle shelf.

Now on to the tanks...

I noticed straight away that there will be an issue with the tank placed on the middle shelf, even at the lowest height setting, if i were to use a standard 45cm wide x 30cm tall tank, there will be very little space for me to work on the tank during setup and maintenance, so i need to get a tank that is wide yet short.

After shopping around, i found that the GEX Glassterior 450 could fit the dimensions i want, but it is made of normal glass... and i was looking for low-iron high clarity glass tanks.

Okay, let me elaborate why i'm abit more particular about getting low-iron high clarity glass tanks.

Ever since i got tanks made with low-iron glass, i guess my eyes have become too accustomed to looking at high clarity tanks... so everytime i see tanks made with normal glass, i keep getting reminded of those classic green-tinted Kickapoo joy juice glass bottles. :)

In addition, normal glass tanks tend to look noticeably out of place amongst a setup with multiple low-iron glass tanks, so i have to make sure all my tanks have consistent glass clarity.

Unfortunately, low-iron glass tanks are not as common as normal glass tanks, and the current ones i see in local aquarium shops don't come in the wide but short design that i was looking for.

I was recommended to custom make it (costs alot more and have to wait), instead i decided to continue my search for suitable ones.

After more searching, i chanced upon this tank from Rainbow Aquarium...

Its dimensions are 48cm width, 22cm depth and 23.5cm height... and its made of low-iron high clarity glass. This is the exact wide but short glass tank that i was looking for!

The only issue was that it has an internal overflow sump (IOS) compartment built into the tank. While this is good for those who are planning to use an IOS filter system... i plan to use a canister filter with glass lily pipes, so the IOS compartment will not be used.

Luckily the IOS compartment is attached to the tank with silicon, so it can be removed.

In addition, the tank comes with plastic feet attached to the bottom with silicone. I prefer a flat bottom tank placed on a foam base sheet, so those plastic feet will also have to be removed (it'll help further reduce the tank height too).

After a few hours of tedious trimming and careful scraping of the silicone, both the IOS compartment and plastic feet are removed... a good rinse and dry, and the tank is ready!

After modification, the tank dimensions is now 48cm width x 22cm depth x 22cm height, which works out to around 23 litres in volume.

With the rack and tank done, here is what it looks like after initial setup with room light on...

My existing 32 litre/45cm "Tree Scape" tank is currently placed on a custom made cabinet positioned beside it.

This is what it looks like without room lights...

I will be setting up another 32 litre/45cm tank on top of the steel rack, and the 13 litre/30cm tank will be shifted (again) to another location. :)

There is a tall enough gap between the tank on the middle shelf and the top shelf, so its easy to access it during tank maintenance.

In this configuration, the bottom shelf still has around 30cm in height space, which is enough to fit short canister filters like the Eden 501 or the Eheim Ecco Pro 130 (i'll be using that filter for the larger tank on top).

Yes, i could have put up to 60cm wide tanks on this rack too, but i choose to stick to 45-48cm wide ones as i prefer to have some extra working space on the sides, and the tank in the middle shelf will not be blocked by the steel frame too.

Overall, i'm very happy with how this rack setup turned out... hopefully it gives those who are keen on similar setups some good ideas too. :)


6th March 2013 - Update!

Fellow AquaticQuotient forumer Merviso highlighted that with the steel structure and tanks of water on the shelving, my power extension strip at the bottom shelf could become a hazard if water happens to drip down to that area, so his suggestion was to raise the power extension strip higher on top of some insulation material to minimize danger in case of any water leakage or spillage incident.

I looked around and came up with a DIY solution... two rubber door stoppers from Daiso. :)

As shown in the photo above, the power extension strip simply sits on the rubber door stoppers positioned at both ends so that it is insulated from the steel shelving. In addition, it is also placed at an angle on the rubber door stoppers (like on a ramp), so the switches are also now much easier to view and access too.

I have also ensured that all the wiring are positioned in a "drip loop" configuration and all the power plug holes are fully covered, so hopefully this will further help reduce the chances of any potential electrical issues in this setup.