Thursday 4 December 2014

27 Litre "Anubias Garden" Outdoor Tank

Yet another re-scape of the outdoor tank again...

The previous batch of moss-on-rocks matured and were transferred out, so i had to fill this tank with other plants. Decided to do a very simple low maintenance layout and just tie anubias plants to branchy wood pieces.

Its been running for almost 2 months now and the anubias plants seem to be doing okay. The bunches sprout visible new leaves every few days so it's slowly growing in density.

Current tank residents comprise of 40+ cherry shrimps, 2 horned nerite snails, 2 otocinclus and 5 chili endlers, along with dozens of tiny endler fry.

Still no additional fertilizer dosing, just the usual 30% water change every week and feeding the tank inhabitants some micro pellets and mini algae wafers regularly.

I'm guessing the tank isn't getting as much indirect sunlight nowadays (its currently been raining during most afternoons) which probably explains the relatively algae-free tank glass and plant leaves at the moment.

Maybe the floating plants are also soaking up most of the excess nutrients too, so that may be helping to keep nutrient levels under control (i usually have to remove handfuls of them every week during water change).

Anyways, i have very limited control over the light levels in such outdoor tank setups and local weather conditions can change quickly... so my trusty algae scraper is perpetually on standby. :)

Thursday 27 November 2014

64 Litre "Forest Edge" Tank - Week 68 Update (Final)

This will be the final update for the tank... its been 68 weeks since startup back in August 2013. I plan to re-scape it very soon.

I didn't have time to do any plant pruning or maintenance since the previous update (truthfully, i was just being lazy again), so the plants had absolute freedom to grow and take over the tank.

Here is its latest look...

Cyperus Helferi grew crazy as expected, quickly covering the water surface and arching over to the other side of the tank... i measured the longest leaves and they were more than 110+ cm in length!

Blyxa Japonica also went nuts and ballooned into huge bushes, the cluster on the right has grown tall enough to almost the reach the water surface by a few cm.

Eleocharis sp. 'Mini' continued growing even more densely but still retained its compact and short growth height, interestingly even the areas under shade grew well too. I've still not had to trim it ever since tank startup (which was more than a year ago). Its indeed one of the lowest maintenance carpet plants i've ever kept so far.

It was enjoyable keeping and maintaining this tank for the past year... but i'm expecting less free time due to my increased workload in the near future, so the tank will be re-scaped to a much lower maintenance setup. It'll still be running the same equipment setup (ie. Co2 injection), but instead with slower growing plants and a simpler layout. :)

Monday 13 October 2014

Glass Lily Pipe Cleaning - By Cherry Shrimps + Otocinclus

No matter how algae free we keep our tanks... over time the pristine glass lily pipes will eventually be covered in algae. Algae eaters like shrimps, otocinclus and snails aren't able to access and clean it properly as the filter is constantly in operation.

I gradually discovered that whenever i switch off my canister filters for a few minutes while feeding the fishes, the cherry shrimps and otocinclus always try to rush into the glass lily outflow pipe and munch on the algae accumulated there.

So i ended up practicing a maintenance routine which involves simply switching off the canister filter for a longer duration of 15-20 minutes once a week (not too long to avoid starving the filter's beneficial bacteria). This allows the cherry shrimps and otocinclus time to have a nice "bonus" algae meal and at the same time help clean the glass lily pipe too. :)

Here is a video i managed to capture of the cherry shrimps and otocinclus doing some algae clearing work...

The video was originally around 7 minutes long, but i sped it up by 5x to give an accelerated view of how the glass lily pipe is cleaned. Observe how the shrimp at the top of the glass lily pipe consumes the green algae.

On an important "safety" note, if you are practicing this routine, do keep an eye on the shrimps and otocinclus while they are doing the algae cleaning work, there are times when they may get too enthusiastic and start to swim into the pipe to try to get at more algae, like this curious otocinclus at the right side of the photo...

There was once i stepped out of the room for a while and when i returned a few minutes later, one of the otocinclus actually made it past the top bend of the glass lily pipe, and it was busy eating algae all the way down the hose into the canister filter! I had to eventually disconnect the outflow hose just to rescue it.

So if you do spot any of them doing such reckless acts in pursuit of more algae, just switch on the filter momentarily for a split second to create abit of flow and nudge them back out, its much easier than having to rescue them later on. :)

Tuesday 9 September 2014

27 Litre "Moss Garden" Outdoor Tank

I decided to change my outdoor tank setup... again.

This time round i'm preparing plant decor in advance for an upcoming aquascape project, so the tank was converted into a simple moss grow-out tank.

Thin layers of christmas moss were tied onto lava rocks and just placed into the tank, then left on their own to grow (i forgot to take the initial setup photos, but it was just mostly bare lava rocks with bits of moss).

This tank still gets indirect sunlight, but since the moss are not fast growers, i added various floating plants to help soak up any excess nutrients that will invariably build up in the tank. No additional fertilizers dosed, just regular weekly 30% water changes and a mini algae wafer every alternate day for the resident group of hardworking cherry shrimps. :)

Current moss growth (around a month after setup)...

There are still some patches of moss yet to fill in, but the growth rate so far has been quite encouraging. The ones on the right side of the tank get more light and flow than the left side, so they are growing noticeably faster... i'll have to start swapping their positions periodically to balance out their growth rates.

Hopefully the tank can maintain this way until the moss fully grow out. :)

Friday 5 September 2014

A Look Inside The Cabinet

Most of the time its mainly the planted tanks that get highlighted in journals and write-ups... but the humble tank cabinet rarely gets much attention, especially on ideas and ways to maximize space usage. Perhaps its time to have a look inside them too.

Just to share, here is my display 2ft tank cabinet and its current layout...

Most of the equipment i have are quite standard in most cabinet setups... ie. canister filter, Co2 tank system, in-line reactor, water top-up flask, maintenance tools, power strip, timers etc.

Along the way, i managed to allocate enough space to place a small 10 Liter nano tank (L20cm x W20cm x H25cm) with its own hang-on filter and clip-on LED lights in the cabinet. It's a narrow fit, but with abit of arrangement, there is still sufficient clearance to allow easy access to the other equipment.

Due to the limited floor space in the cabinet, i had to look into vertical storage methods to keep the rest of the items. A simple solution was found by just using a combination of mesh grate and mesh baskets from Daiso. The whole vertical structure on the left side is modular and held up by heavy duty 3M command hooks.

Hopefully this layout inspires some useful ideas on maximizing space in your tank cabinets too. :)

Thursday 4 September 2014

64 Litre "Forest Edge" Tank - Week 56 Update

This tank has crossed its 1 year mark and still chugging along.

I got really lazy after the last tank update and started to neglect plant trimming, which resulted in the fast growing background stem plants constantly looking wild and unruly. It became a real chore to keep up with pruning and maintenance every week... so 2 months ago, i pulled out all the stem plants and replace them with a few bunches of Cyperus Helferi.

So far so good, this background plant's growth rate is slower and much easier to maintain. The original few bunches have since grown into a nice thicket of tall leaf blades that are starting to curve at the water surface... the tank has officially become a "grass" scape. :)

Yeah, the whole tank looks very green now... luckily there is still a resident colony of cherry shrimps to help add a little bit of red accent to the tank. :)

Saturday 30 August 2014

Phone Camera + Macro Lens - Indostomus Paradoxus

Close-up photo of an Indostomus Paradoxus, taken with the clip-on macro lens...

These tiny fishes have been living in my tank for months and i only catch a glimpse of them occasionally... really rare to be able to actually snap a good photo of one! :)

Saturday 16 August 2014

High-Clarity Low-Iron Glass Tank vs Normal Glass Tank

I've often received questions about the differences between high-clarity low-iron glass tanks and normal glass tanks, so for those who are new to the hobby... here is a visual comparison for reference.

The tank on the left is made from normal "float" glass, it has a noticeable greenish tint. The tank on the right is made from high-clarity low-iron glass and looks almost clear.

High-clarity low-iron glass tanks are sometimes also labelled as "crystal" or "optical" glass. The light transmission for this type of glass is much higher, which results in brighter light perception and more accurate color rendition when viewing the tank.

Here is a close-up look at both tanks side-by-side...

So the next time you go shopping for aquarium tanks, do keep a look out for such tanks... their price difference may not be as wide as you think, and it may be worth just going for the high-clarity ones. :)

Friday 11 July 2014

Phone Camera + Macro Lens - Neocaridina Davidi (Sakura Grade)

The stock camera in my current phone (Samsung Note 3) is good for taking normal photos, but it's not as good at taking proper close-up macro photos. So i recently ordered a cheap clip-on macro lens from eBay to see if it can help the phone camera capture more detailed photos of inhabitants in my tanks.

Here are some close-up photos of a male Neocaridina Davidi (Sakura Grade) taken with the clip-on macro lens...

Granted that the photo quality is still not as high as if it was taken with professional DSLR cameras and more expensive specialized lenses... but considering that i'm not an expert photographer and its just a cheap macro lens clipped onto a phone camera, i think the results are quite good. :)

Wednesday 9 July 2014

27 Litre "Grassy Dune" Outdoor Tank

I decided to upgrade my previous 18 Litre "Glass Planter" Outdoor Tank which has been running for the past 2+ months. Surprisingly with slow growing plants and lot of indirect sunlight throughout the day, not much algae appeared (other than some green algae on the glass which was easily cleaned off), i guess the low-bio load and minimal nutrients probably helped to ward of algae issues.

So i got a longer tank custom made to utilize the shelf space more efficiently, yet still keep to the low-profile style. The new tank dimensions are L60cm x D25cm x H18cm, quite similar to the ADA 60F tank design in terms of dimensions (though with slightly less depth).

As i wasn't planning to create an elaborate scape (and i prefer it to be easily setup and taken down if required), i chose to stick with sand substrate and use the same types of small volcanic rocks.

This time round i was inspired by the grassy sand dunes at beaches which just feature a simple combination of beach grass and rocks.

The sand was piled up higher in the middle of the tank and the rocks were scattered down the slope.

I choose to use Blyxa Japonica to recreate the beach grass look (it coincided with a plant trimming harvest from my other tanks). What i like about Blyxa Japonica is that its an adaptive plant that can grow well as a water column feeder and its easy to get an instant nice grassy hedge with just bunches of them.

The tank is filtered by an Eheim Ecco Pro 130, which is in turn connected to Acrylic Lily Pipes. I adjusted the flow rate to around 70%-80% to regulate the current, to the point that there is good overall circulation and all the plant leaves are swaying gently in the current, but not too much that they get uprooted.

I'd have to say that this tank is one of the fastest i've ever setup, from empty tank to hooking up equipment to hardscaping and planting to completion, all in it only took less than 30 minutes.

A group of 20+ cherry shrimps (aka maintenance crew) were introduced a few hours after tank setup, the filter already contains a portion of cycled bio-media and the sand substrate is inert, so the parameters stay relatively stable for the fauna.

I'll probably add more smaller and shorter plants in between the rocks as accents, perhaps some Eleocharis sp. 'Mini' or maybe some Micranthemum 'Monte Carlo' could be nice. Will see what i can harvest from my other tanks. :)

Friday 6 June 2014

Product Review - Acrylic Lily Pipe Set

Ask anyone who uses glass lily pipes and one of their main gripes would be how easy it is to break those delicate items... its only through enough practice (and a few broken pipes) that one will eventually master the fine art of handling glass pipes. :)

There have been alternative pipes which are made from acrylic over the years, but they have been mostly DIY or custom made projects, and the ones what were available commercially tend to end up falling abit short on design or durability (ie. odd outflow angles or made of 2 separate pieces of cast acrylic and then glued together).

Hence when i spotted a new acrylic lily pipe set available on eBay recently, i decided to take a chance and order it, and surprise... its actually made properly!

Note that as these are from eBay sellers (there is no "brand" associated with them), i can't know for sure how consistent the workmanship are. If you are keen on them, just do a search on eBay for "acrylic lily pipe" and the available listings should pop up. The listings will also include the detailed pipe measurements too.

Here is the search link for easier reference:

Each pipe is made from a single acrylic tube, and the measurements follow common lily pipe dimensions that fit braceless aquarium tanks. This is the version that fits 12/16mm hoses. It comes packaged with suction cups and plastic clips to secure the pipes to the side of the aquarium tank.

The outflow lily pipe mouth is shaped properly and tilted to the correct angle. I did notice the acrylic surface on the mouth section was slightly less clear though, which i guess is probably from the heat forming process.

The intake pipe cut slots had some leftover bits of acrylic shavings, but i was able to just trim them off with a hobby knife. The bottom of the intake pipe has a plastic stopper which can be removed to facilitate easier access for pipe cleaning brushes.

Here is the comparison of mouth shape and angle between a VIV glass lily pipe (background) vs the acrylic lily pipe (foreground):

The acrylic lily pipe mouth is  around 3cm width and 3.5cm height, so its slightly smaller in comparison to the VIV glass lily pipe:

Finally there is an acrylic lily pipe set which is made properly and works correctly, so its a good option for those wanting to use lily pipes but have butter fingers and had been afraid to use them... or for those of us who currently use glass lily pipes and would welcome a less fragile alternative. :)

Thursday 29 May 2014

Product Review - Ocean Free Surf Clear

While shopping for aquarium supplies recently, i chanced upon this new surface skimmer from Ocean Free called the Surf Clear. It seems to be a new model so i figured it'll be interesting to try it out and do a review on it.

I have used the Eheim 350 surface skimmer before, so my review will include some comparisons with that model.

The Surf Clear product box and its contents...

It operates on the popular design of a floating skimmer head and motorized pump at the bottom.

The overall build quality is quite good and all the parts fit together well. Its design does somewhat resemble the Eheim 350, and in some ways it also matches the design and color scheme of the Ocean Free Hydra internal filters too.

The inflow speed can be controlled by turning the blue skimmer container's collar left or right. The skimmer head also has grill guards which help to prevent small fishes or shrimps from being pulled into the skimmer (but tiny fry or shrimplets may still get pulled in so do check it regularly).

It comes with an innovative feature which allows users to simply lift the skimmer head and container straight out of the main casing to clean it, without removing the whole unit from the tank. The sponge filter media is housed in the blue skimmer container (not in the main unit). I like this particular feature as it helps to reduce the chances of drips and spills during regular maintenance.

The motorized pump can be easily removed for cleaning whenever necessary. The power consumption and flow rate of the Surf Clear is 3W and 200 l/ph (compared to the Eheim 350 which is 5W and 300 l/ph).

Instead of a conventional single nozzle outflow design, the Surf Clear has a grate style outflow design instead, this disperses the flow to a wider area and directs a more gentle current towards its surroundings.

Here is the Surf Clear operating in one of my tanks...

I've used it in a few tanks and it worked effectively to clear up the surface oil layers.

Overall, my experience with the Surf Clear has been positive so far. I think its worth a look at if you are also in the market for a surface skimmer too. :)

Wednesday 23 April 2014

18 Litre "Glass Planter" Outdoor Tank

I recently got an outdoor shelving system from IKEA to put some potted plants... as usual i ended up filling the extra shelves with aquarium-related items too. :)

My original plan was to just use a normal planter box for terrestrial plants, but then i remembered that i had a spare low-profile glass tank (L40cm x D25cm x H18cm) that was able to fit nicely on the shelf, so i cleaned it and filled the bottom with a simple sand base, then planted it with Anubias Barteri var. Angustifolia (glued to individual small rocks) and further surrounded with more rocks.

Filtration and oxygenation is supplied by a small sponge filter (its sitting just behind the plants).

Some of the anubias plant leaves currently poke out of the water surface but parts of it are still underwater so the leaves are kept hydrated. Hopefully by the time the leaves start to grow taller out of the water they should have adapted back to emersed form.

No fauna at the moment... though i'll probably add in a few small hardy fishes soon to prevent mosquito breeding.

The tank is positioned in a shaded area and blocked by other plants but it still gets indirect sunlight for most of the day.

With slow growing plants in a full glass tank outdoors, i guess it'll probably be a count down to algae fest in 3... 2... 1... *fingers crossed*. :)

Sunday 20 April 2014

64 Litre "Forest Edge" Tank - Week 37 Update

Quick update on this tank...

The only major change was i removed the Anubias sp. 'Petite' carpet a few weeks back to aquascape another tank, which created a gap in the middle... so i harvested some bunches of Eleocharis sp. 'Mini' and re-planted them into the empty area to fill it in.

No changes in lights, Co2 and ferts. The background plants are trimmed every 1-2 weeks to maintain their fresh growth (or when i'm less lazy). I recently did a big trim on the Blyxa Japonica and removed alot of it, so it looks less crowded.

I frequently leave this tank unattended for days and it just runs on its own, so its been a relatively low maintenance system so far. :)

Friday 11 April 2014

64 Litre "Forest Edge" Tank - Week 36 Update

Added a group of Corbicula Fluminea (aka Golden Clam) to the tank...

I've actually been keeping them for the past few months in another sand-based tank, but its currently being rescaped, so i transferred them over to this tank.

I wasn't keen on letting them dig into the soil substrate in this tank and mess up the plants though, so i created a suspended "sand bed" for them to live in. Its basically made from an acrylic feeding dish filled with a layer of sand and attached to the glass wall.

The sand bed is positioned in the path of the filter flow, as these clams are micro filter feeders and do best with water constantly circulating around them.

Here is a close-up photo of the clams in their sand bed...

These clams are quite active creatures, they will move around the dish and dig into the sand using their "foot"... but they aren't able to climb over the edge of the dish (and disappear into the plants and soil below), so its much easier to keep and observe them this way. :)

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Product Test - Easy-Life AlgExit

I read some positive reviews about AlgExit, so when i chanced upon it at a shop a few weeks ago, i decided to get a bottle to try out.

Although i don't have any major algae issues in my tanks at the moment, i do allow a layer of green fuzzy algae to grow on bare hardscape, which i actually consider as part of the aquascape. So i figured it would be interesting to see the treatment's effect on this type of algae (in case i need to manage it in the future).

I dosed according to the bottle instructions at 1 ml per 10 liters of tank volume per week. My tank volume is around 64 liters so i dosed slightly less at just 6 ml each time. The active ingredient listed on the bottle is salicylate.

There was no change in my routine maintenance, water changes, lights, Co2, fertilizer dosing or feeding regimen... everything was still kept the same. No noticeable issues encountered with the fishes and shrimps during the treatment, so it seems to be safe with most fauna.

Here is the effect shown on Week 1 (left photo) vs Week 4 (right photo):

From the side-by-side comparisons, the treatment worked quite well to gradually reduce this type of algae. At least now i know how to manage it if required.

After completing the 4 week recommended treatment course, i missed seeing the nice green fuzzy algae covering the rocks... so i've since stopped treatment dosing to allow the algae to grow back. :)

- Update (12 October 2014) -

Since i had a fair bit of extra AlgExit solution leftover, i decided to do a follow-up side-by-side comparison test of the effects of this algae treatment to see the difference between tank water samples that have it added versus those that don't have any treatment.

I set up the comparison by using 2 clear plastic containers, one has old tank water with AlgExit added, while the other one also has the same old tank water but no AlgExit added. Both containers are overdosed with Tropica Specialized fertilizers (contains macro + micro nutrients) and are placed outdoors at a balcony area which receives full direct sunlight.

Left Container: With AlgExit / Right Container: Without AlgExit

After a week, these are the results...

The container with AlgExit added has very little traces of algae... on the otherhand, the container without AlgExit has a visible coating of green algae.

I guess this simple comparison demonstrates the effectiveness of AlgExit at helping to inhibit green algae growth. :)

Friday 28 March 2014

Outdoor Plant Grow Project - Fissidens

I started this outdoor project a month ago, it was originally meant as a way to keep excess harvested fissidens and get them to continue growing outside without taking up valuable space in my indoor tanks (and with minimal attention required).

Here is my setup...

To start with, i layer strands of fissidens on pieces of coconut shells (didn't bother to manually tie them on, the fissidens will eventually root in and attach on their own anyways) and then add abit of water into the container.

I prefer to use coconut shells as the base as they have a more natural curved shape once the fissidens establish (like small green hills), compared to using steel meshes which tend to create a rather flat artificial look.

This process is sort of like a "dry start method" (aka DSM) whereby the plants are grown emersed for a while before being submerged. The bottom layer of water will naturally wick up the coconut shells to keep the fissidens hydrated during this period of time.

The containers i use are just transparent IKEA plastic boxes. The lids are kept closed at all times to retain high humidity in the container (very important for fissidens undergoing DSM) and also to prevent mosquito breeding.

In the photo above, the top container  has fissidens growing on coconut shells, while the bottom container has loose fissidens just grown floating in the water. The containers are stacked up to save space.

After 1-2 weeks, once the fissidens attach to the coconut shells, i fill the container with water and they will continue their growth submerged.

On a weekly basis, i do a full water change with de-chlorinated water, no fertilizers added. So far, i've not spotted algae in any of the containers, even in the presence of direct sunlight. Most likely the limited nutrients available are all used up by the fissidens and the sealed environment probably helps prevent external contaminants/spores from being introduced too.

Here is a batch showing the growth rate after around 1 month...

As you can see, there is "pearling" (excess oxygen bubbles from active photosynthesis) even from the fissidens... sunlight is a very powerful light source indeed!

Due to direct sunlight exposure and the covered container environment, the water temperature in the containers can often times reach 31-32°C, but interestingly the fissidens didn't seem to show any signs of deterioration and instead seem to grow even faster and greener (compared to my indoor tanks), so i guess fissidens can adapt and thrive in high temperature conditions too.

Looks like growing aquarium plants outdoors can be a useful method to cultivate them... sometimes even better than growing them indoors. :)

Sunday 23 March 2014

Sunday 2 March 2014

64 Litre "Forest Edge" Tank - Week 30 Update

Just a quick update, this tank has now been running for around 7+ months and the tank conditions are still stable, plants are growing well, the fishes and shrimps are healthy, algae is still minimal so its stayed relatively low maintenance so far.

Due to the dense growth of plants, i found it difficult to feed the fishes and shrimps without food quickly disappearing into the plant mass (especially when feeding algae wafers)... so i recently installed a feeding dish to help contain the food in one convenient spot.

I chose to use an acrylic dish with an attached feeding tube (those commonly used for shrimp tanks), but soon discovered that the curious Otocinclus Cocama like to swim into the tube and get stuck in it, so i removed the tube and just used the dish on its own.

Otocinclus feeding time with a nice buffet spread of zucchini slice and wafer bits...

Alot less messy and makes it much easier to remove uneaten food... i should have installed this months ago! :)

Monday 20 January 2014

108 Litre "Puddle Garden" Outdoor Balcony Pond - Week 6 Update

Quick update on the "Puddle Garden"... i noticed the Limnobium Laevigatum (aka frogbits) starting to display a yellowish hue on their older leaves, which from my experience, could be an indicator of nutrient shortage.

So i did a set of water parameter measurements and these were the results...

From left: pH, Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate.

I took the water sample at night, and as expected the pH (yellow) is on the lower side, most likely due to the increase in Co2 levels from the high plant density respiring during darkness.

Ammonia (yellow) and nitrite (light blue) measurements are zero which indicate that the cycle is stable.

Nitrate (yellow) is also at zero level as expected , which means the fast growing plants are indeed consuming all the nitrates as soon as its produced.

Looks like the plants in the water garden are able to more than handle the current bio-load so far, therefore i might have to start dosing some fertilizers (or perhaps increase the bio-load progressively) to supply more nutrients to the growing plant mass.