Wednesday 23 September 2015

Aquarium Plant Treatment & Quarantine

Time and time again, i've read aquarists posting on forums about finding algae, parasites, pest snails, worms and other critters invading their tanks shortly after startup... and when asked if they treated or quarantined their plants beforehand, often the answer is no.

When i started out in the hobby, i also encountered numerous algae and pest outbreaks in my tanks too, and had my share of fighting uphill battles trying to solve multiple tank problems. This eventually prompted me to practice treatment and quarantine procedures for all new plants that i buy.

I have been receiving a number of queries on this topic, so for information sharing and reference purposes, here is an example of my current on-going aquarium plant treatment and quarantine setup...

My procedure is split into 3 stages:

Stage 1 (Plastic container on the left)

After the new plants are rinsed and washed thoroughly under running tap water, they are put into this container. The container is dosed with anti-snail chemical treatment (to ensure that pest snails/critters and their eggs are all eliminated, i usually overdose up to 10x the recommended dosage). Currently i use ISTA snail remover (any other anti-snail treatment can be used too, just have to try various dosages and see what works). The plants sit submerged in this container for up to 24 hours.

After this time, the plants are inspected closely. If any pests are still observed to be alive, i dose more chemical treatment and let the plants soak for another 24 hours. This is repeated until no more pests are observed.

Once the treatment is complete, i rinse the plants thoroughly in running tap water.

Stage 2 (Plastic tank in the middle)

Next, the plants are put into this tank which has a small hang-on filter running on it. I dose anti-algae and anti-parasite treatment to weaken and inhibit any algae and parasites that may be hitchhiking on the plants. Currently i use Easy Life AlgExit and Seachem Paraguard. As there are no livestock in this tank, i also overdose the treatments up to 2-3x the recommended dosage.

The plants will usually stay in this tank for up to 7 days and receive a regular light schedule and fertilizer dosing. If any traces of algae are still observed on the plants, i will extend the treatment period and dosages accordingly.

Once the treatment is complete, i rinse the plants thoroughly in running tap water again.

Stage 3 (Plastic tank on the right)

This is the holding quarantine tank. All new plants that have completed the anti-snail/critter, anti-algae and anti-parasite treatments will be put into this tank. This tank also has a small hang-on filter running on it, along with activated carbon to help adsorb the residual traces of previous chemical treatments.

The treated plants will usually stay in this tank for up to 7 days (sometimes longer if they are not required for use yet). Regular water changes are done in this tank as well as receiving a regular light schedule and fertilizer dosing. Algae eating shrimps (ie. cherry shrimps and yamato shrimps) are also present in this tank to help clean up any leftover algae that may still be on the plants.

Once the full process is complete, the new plants will be added to my main tanks.


Yes... it does seem like a very long and tedious process (and it definitely is!), but over the years of trying various methods, this procedure has kept my main tanks mostly algae and pest free so far... it might not be 100% (certain algae or pests do still slip though in some tanks when i'm not careful or diligent enough), but at least the chances of any outbreaks are heavily reduced.

Alternatively, for those who have the budget but no time (or patience) to treat and quarantine plants, it might be better to just spend more and purchase good quality tissue-cultured plants (ie. from brands like Tropica or Dennerle) which are guaranteed algae and pest free from the start. :)


Recently had a chance to take a snapshot of how i do anti-pest and anti-algae chemical treatments on multiple plants at the same time. In this case, a batch of bucephalandra variants which i wanted to keep separated and labelled, so that they don't get mixed up...

I basically utilize small plastic containers commonly used to store sweets and tidbits (usually sold at houseware stores or sundry shops) to hold each group of plants. The transparent containers allow me to monitor their treatment progress and observe the condition of the individual plants more closely. This helps to make the overall process alot more manageable and organized.

Sunday 30 August 2015

Monday 20 July 2015

Limnopilos Naiyanetri (Thai Micro Crab) - Update

I've been keeping a small group of thai micro crabs in one of my planted tanks for the past 2+ months, and during that period i only saw them appear a handful of times.

So i decided to transfer them to another tank with a more suitable layout that allows them to be observed easily, yet still replicating a dense plant environment for them to hide and feel safe.

This is their new "home"...

I converted the 10 Liter nano tank situated inside my tank cabinet into a thai micro crab habitat. Clumps of java moss were added to create a latticework of plant strands for the micro crabs to climb around on and forage for food. They share the tank with a few golden clams and some cherry shrimps.

This setup seems to be working well as i noticed the micro crabs are much more active in this tank, and yet i can still view them quite easily.

I even managed to get some nice close-up macro photos and a video of them too:

These thai micro crabs are really unique creatures when you can see them in such close-up detail... but due to their incredibly tiny sizes, unless they are viewed through a macro lens or magnifying glass, most aquarists would probably never get to observe and appreciate them to this extent.

Hopefully the macro photos and video here can provide a nice detailed glimpse of these interesting creatures. :)

Sunday 19 July 2015

Live Foods - Microfex / Dero Worms Culture

Back in May 2015, i managed to obtain a starter culture of microfex (aka dero worms) from J'adore at the Aquatic Quotient forum.

Microfex are similar to tubifex but they are much smaller in size, hence easier for smaller fishes and fish fry to eat. In addition, they are hardy and can consume all sorts of food, so their care and maintenance is relatively simple.

I set about experimenting with different methods to culture the microfex as live food for my fishes. The starter culture i got was perhaps 20-30 worms, a small ball of them measured around the size of a pin head.

Here is the initial starter culture ball of microfex worms (it is sitting on a Hikari sinking wafer of less than 1cm diameter for scale comparison):

This is the size of the culture after approximately 1 month of growth:

You can compare the difference in density and size of the worm culture based on the same sinking wafers in the container.

For reference, here is a close up macro photo and video of a small ball of microfex worms:

How To Culture:

During the early stages of my microfex culture experiments, i divided the starter culture into a few separate containers to test different water parameters and feeding techniques, eventually i settled on a setup which worked for my space and feed requirements.

Part of my methods are based on accumulated info from other keepers and research documents online. Here is the link to a detailed research document on laboratory mass culture of dero worms:

My latest culture setup is based on a 1.5 liter plastic jug (bought from Daiso), i choose it because the volume is sufficient for maintaining a good sized culture, doesn't require much space to keep and is still easy to carry around to do water changes with its narrowed flow lip and handle:

No filter or air stone installed (based on the research document findings) and no substrate added (to make maintaining the container and harvesting the worms easier).

Feeding the culture is just a matter of periodically adding fish or shrimp food into the container, the microfex will automatically crawl towards the food and start feeding on it. Each time i feed a combination of algae or sinking wafers/pellets equivalent to the mass of the worms. The worms usually finish eating that amount of food within a day.

Maintenance and water changes is simply pouring out the container water (usually when it gets stinky) and then replacing it with clean dechlorinated tap water. I usually change 90% of the water every 2-3 days (pouring out the old water through a fine brine shrimp net to catch any free swimming microfex, which i then return back into the container). The majority of microfex will clump up at the bottom of the container anyways, so its quite easy to manage.

During the water change process, i usually take the opportunity to also pick out some microfex to feed my fishes. I use a pair of small tweezers to pick up a ball of microfex...

... and then swish it around in the tank. The microfex will scatter and start swimming in the water column. Its time for the fishes to start hunting!

Final Thoughts + Tips:

Based on my experience culturing microfex so far, i've found that the speed of their population growth depends greatly on the amount of food they consume. They reproduce by fission method, a young worm grows from one end of an adult worm and they eventually detach to form 2 worms... so more food = more growth = the faster they multiply.

Therefore if you want to grow the population fast, just supply them with more food. But therein lies the issue of water quality, more food = more waste. Although microfex seem to be highly tolerant to poor water conditions (even when i left my microfex cultures for almost a week without food and the water turned super stinky, they still survived), their reproduction rate will stall significantly.

So there will be a limit to how many worms and food (aka bio-load) a container can handle based on its water volume. If you are looking at just feeding your fishes live microfex every few days as a treat, then my 1.5 liter container culture example as mentioned above is a simple, space saving way to do it.

But if you want to culture more microfex to feed more fishes on a daily basis, then you'll need to increase the container size and water volume accordingly, so that it can support a much larger population of worms and the increased amount of food required to sustain them.

Co-culturing daphnia or moina with microfex is also a good technique, i add a small amount of moina into my microfex cultures and they filter feed on the suspended bacteria created by waste production from the worms. This enables the culturing of two varieties of live food in one container (do note that with moina in the container, the overall bio-load can overload very quickly due to the speed at which they can multiply, so you'll need to keep a closer eye on the water conditions to avoid a crash).

If you do get the opportunity to obtain some microfex to start a culture, do give it a try. Your fishes will love snacking on these wiggly critters! :)

Friday 8 May 2015

64 Litre "Hidden Paths" Tank (Week 16) - Video Update

64 Litre "Hidden Paths" Tank - Week 16 Update

Its been around 16 weeks since the 64 Litre "Hidden Paths" Tank was started... so i guess its due for a much needed update. :)

So far its been running well with very little maintenance required, as per my original plan.

Over time, i've gradually stopped dosing fertilizers and excel as i found that the plants already get sufficient nutrients from the tank's ecosystem and their carbon requirements aren't very high anyways. The fact that all of the plants are rhizome based also helps as they can store lots of resources for future usage, so the plants have their own inbuilt buffers against fluctuating nutrient levels.

Platinum rummy nose tetras were added just after the tank was setup, they form the main group of fishes for the tank now. Their exceptional schooling ability really ties everything together perfectly.

Despite their slower growth rates, the plants sprouted out quite a good amount of new leaves... the various anubias and bucephalandra clumps have developed into denser bunches and slowly filled out the aquascape.

I was initially planning to swap out plants, but after seeing everything settle in nicely, i figured its probably better if i just leave it be and simply let the plants grow out. :)

Sunday 3 May 2015

Limnopilos Naiyanetri (Thai Micro Crab)

Finally got the opportunity to get my hands on a group of Limnopilos Naiyanetri... aka Thai Micro Crabs!

These are some of the more unique crabs available that are fully aquatic. Add to the fact that they stay very tiny in size (only around 1 cm in length, excluding their legs), these micro crabs make for very interesting inhabitants in smaller tank setups.

Just for scale comparison... here is one resting on my palm.

They seem to be quite capable of traversing across dry "land", i guess in nature they can crawl around to different water sources in search of food and shelter.

While i was in the midst of transferring them to my main tank, one hopped off the net and started to scuttle around my hand.

When newly introduced into a tank (after a suitable period of drip acclimation), they tend to exhibit a pale transparent coloration.

Once they adapt to the tank environment, their original brownish colors gradually return, though i noticed that they will still switch between colors depending on mood and also to match their surroundings.

So far, i've only caught brief glimpses of them in my tank. Once they disappeared into the plant growth, i've not been able to get a good photo of them yet... thats one of the considerations when keeping micro crabs, they are tough to observe in planted tanks!

Can you spot the micro crab hiding inside this clump of Anubias sp. "Petite"?

They spend most of their time moving between dense plant growth while scavenging for food, i've seen them actively picking along the surfaces of plant roots and leaves, they also graze on algae wafers and blanched zuchinni too. It seems they are quite similar to cherry shrimps in terms of diet and care.

Overall, they are interesting additions to an aquarium... though if you have a layout with lots of hardscape and plants, chances are they will tend to be hidden most of the time. :)

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Platinum Rummy Nose Tetra

Just to share a "new" variant of rummy nose tetra that seems to be appearing at various LFS recently, i bought a few batches of them from different LFS over the past few weeks to gradually stock up my tanks.

Here is a photo of them (best i could get with my smartphone camera, they swim way too fast to photograph properly):

The photo above doesn't really show the full extent of their colors... but as you can see, their bodies have a much more intense silverish/blue shine to the scales. At some of the LFS that i bought them from, there were "normal" rummy nose tetras for sale in nearby tanks and i could see the big difference in their body colors. The normal rummy nose tetras have their usual whitish/silver body color, but way less shiny than the platinum ones. The difference could be seen even from just a few meters away.

They were labeled as "Platinum rummy nose tetra" or "Rummy nose sp platinum", and cost double that of normal rummy nose tetras.

I've been searching the internet trying to find more information on this particular variant and it seems no one has posted anything about them yet. This is the first time i've seen these particular fishes appear at any LFS.

One of the reasons why i was never too keen on rummy nose tetras is because while they have bright red noses and excellent schooling ability, the rest of their body tends to look abit bland and dull... but these platinum variants look absolutely amazing.

I do hope this variant is a regular import as they are quickly becoming my most favorite fishes... bright red nose + shiny platinum body + perfect schooling ability = best combination!

Thursday 15 January 2015

64 Litre "Hidden Paths" Tank

I recently decided to re-scape my 64 litre tank into an ultra-low maintenance aquascape.

It is based on just sand substrate, rock and wood hardscape, and hardy plants tied to objects. This setup will still retain the use of Co2 injection to support the plant growth.

The main objective of this aquascape is quick setup and easy adjustment of the layout without mess or hassle. The selected slower growing plants require alot less maintenance too. In addition, the tank will also be used to grow out various plants for transfer to larger tanks in the near future.

Here is a short walk-through of the tank's setup process...

I started by filling the tank with a small mound of sand in the back and middle, keeping the layers thin at the front.

The benefit of using sand substrate is the ability to aquascape with the tank filled with water, and it stays clear throughout without the usual mess and cloudiness associated with soil substrates.

Next i placed piles of small volcanic rocks across the sand substrate with paths between them.

This is followed up by the addition of branchy driftwood to simulate some random root-like structures around the rocks, along with Anubias sp. Angustifolia as the initial background plants.

Bunches of smaller Anubias sp. "Petite" and various Bucephalandra sp. are added to help fill in the gaps and create accents around the hardscape.

And its done... the entire layout was completed in less than 30 minutes. Quick and simple.

The tank's canister filter was allowed to run for a few hours, then livestock from the previous setup were acclimatized and added back into the tank (no issues with ammonia spikes or tank re-cycle due to the use of inert sand substrate).

I'll be swapping out plants and adding in new ones regularly (one of the objectives of this tank is to make that process easier), so the aquascape will change over time... and it'll help satiate my aquarist "itchy fingers" syndrome too. :)


Here are the tank stats:

Tank Size: 60cm x 30cm x 36cm (High Clarity / Low Iron Glass)
Substrate: Sudo Reef Sand

Filter System: Eheim Ecco Pro 300 + 13mm gUSH glass intake / VIV glass lily pipe output
Filter Media: Seachem Matrix
Temperature: 28-29°C (Day) / 27-28°C (Night)

Lighting: Up Aqua Z-Series Pro LED Z-20 (60cm) 1st Generation Version
Light Duration: 8 hours (10am-6pm)

Pressurized Co2: ANS Co2 System + ISTA Inline Reactor / 0.25bps / 30ppm
Co2 Duration: 7 hours (10am-5pm)
Carbon Supplement: Seachem Excel / 1ml daily
Fertilizer: Tropica Plant Growth Premium Fertilizer / 1ml daily
Fan/Chiller: None

Water Change Regimen: 20% Weekly

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

Otocinclus Cocama
Boraras Brigittae
Indostomus Paradoxus 
Neocaridina Davidi 
Clithon Corona