Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Auction

The Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society is having their Spring Auction on Sunday, April 27. I went last year and it was a good auction, lots of variety in plants and fish. If you live within driving distance maybe you should hop on over. http://www.gpasi.org/auctionpage.html

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Buying from the LFS

I've spent far too much time stumbling through aquarium related websites in the past couple of years, and here is one thing that I have learned: many people online have a very negative opinion of local fish stores (LFS). There is plenty of reason for this, I'm sure, just as there is reason to complain about Microsoft, Dell, Ford, Starbucks or any of the other oft maligned organizations out there. I'd like to take a minute to talk about the good that I've experienced with my LFS.

I will admit to feeling lucky that I live in Pittsburgh, home to one of the most respected LFS around, Elmer's Aquarium. Elmer's suffers from many common retail problems, a fairly transient staff, limited space, high costs associated with maintaining a storefront in a good location and, an LFS specialty, the difficulty inherent in making a messy product look attractive. Somehow, despite these obstacles, Elmer's maintains a high product knowledge level among their staff, has a consistent level of satisfactory service, a good range of product and livestock and, most importantly, very hardy fish. Where they may be lacking is attractive presentation, which is often a deciding factor among the less knowledgeable consumer. It's easy to assume that a store with pretty cabinetry and spotless tanks does a better job of caring for their fish, but in my experience this is just not so. Algae in the tank does not mean poor water quality or mistreatment. A small amount of algae is normal in any tank. It's also easy to assume that the ease with which a clerk answers a question can tell you how much they know about their product, also not true. I have heard some pet store employees giving quick and polished answers about fish or plants that were patently untrue.

I believe that having a set of questions that you already know the answers to may make your job as a consumer easier, sort of like giving your LFS a test. When I try out a new store I like to ask them about some of their scavengers because I find that the less product-educated will immediately assume that scavengers and algae eaters are the same thing. I also ask about community tank fish and see if they recommend any that I know to be unsuitable. Disease questions are always good, because every LFS employee should know how to treat basic aquatic illnesses like Ick. I always ask about the store's quarantine policy and ask to see their quarantine tanks, if they allow me. One thing I am also certain to pay attention to is whether the store has mixed up their tanks, putting soft water fish into African Cichlid tanks, warm water fish in with cold water fish, etc. Fish do not like regular changes to their water parameters and very few fish have the capacity to adapt long-term to conditions that are too far from their ideal. Certainly some people at home have managed to acclimate fish to different water types, but an LFS that feels it's o.k. to do that just to display fish, in my opinion, is too causal about the health of their livestock.

I have received some odd advice from LFS, that's true. I have also seen some particularly bad advice on the web. When something is written it is much easier to accept it as truth, but there is so much misinformation out there that you really should compare facts from multiple reliable sources before you trust anyone live or online. One thing I have found to be true in the LFS or on forums or other sites, if you feel like you've been given a guess instead of an answer then go talk to someone else. The manager of the LFS, or the owner, will almost always have the most knowledge in the store. It doesn't hurt to call the store and ask when that person will be in so you can get the best information possible. Same thing online, if you need an answer go the best source you can, whether it be the senior person on a site or a better site like a professional organization.

Either way I believe that you are just as likely to get the good or bad in person as you are online.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rate my Fish Tank

Sometimes it happens, your aquaddiction suffers a lull. It can happen after a battle with disease or the death of a favorite fish, or when those plants just won't thrive, from lack of time due to work or family obligations, or from a lack of money to buy cool new gadgets and fish. Whatever the reason, most of us aquarium lovers have periods of less interest in our fish tanks.

I've found that if I'm wallowing in one of those phases I can pop out of it by just mentally planning what I'll do someday when I do have the time, the money or the working wet green thumb. One of my favorite sources of inspiration in these times is Ratemyfishtank.com. It's also a great place to start when you are ready to launch a new project or replace your existing tanks.

Right now one of my favorite tanks there is this indoor waterfall set-up. I have long wanted to try to put together an indoor corner waterfall with foliage rising up and out of the tank and here this guy has it already done. It is so much like what i had in mind I have to go stare at it every now and then. I am very jealous.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Snail Eating Fish

As I've mentioned, I am hoping to get a few Dwarf Chain Loaches for my 20 long planted tank that has become a snail haven. I've done a bit of research about what fish to get, using search terms like, "Fish that eat snails," "best snail eaters," "get rid of snails," etc. Loaches and Gouramis seem to be the favorites and in my small tank the only suitable fish would be the Dwarf Chain Loach. I'm still worried that they might eat my shrimp but I'll give it a test run.

Today I took some of my snails and dropped them into my 55 as a snack for my Yoyo and Gold Dojo Loaches. Before they could even get a sniff the snails were gobbled up by my Geophagus Steindachneri, aka the Red Hump Eartheater. Now I've named these two girls(I believe they are girls because neither has developed a hump) Mouth and Little Mouth for a reason; they eat absolutely everything and never stop trying to find more. Still, I have not seen anything written about them eating snails. But here they were, snatching them before they could hit the bottom and rolling the snails around in their mouths for a while until the meat was gone. They dropped the empty snail shell after a while.

I was very impressed with this and very surprised. It seems that they got the taste for it because a little while later Mouth found a snail that had slipped through onto the gravel. Mouth sucked that little guy right up into his mouth off of the substrate and did exactly what he had done with the other one. Now this still doesn't solve my snail problem in the small tank because the Steindachneris are just too big and would eat everybody in the 20 long, but it was sure an interesting thing to learn.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Infinity Pools for Fish

I like the look of these Zero Edge Aquariums, but I'm not sure I'd want one. I think I'd need more space than I currently have. Maybe in my next house.

Teach Your Fish to do Tricks!

I will let this article speak for itself: http://www.underwatertimes.com/news.php?article_id=98435710261

I am stunned.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Nano? You ain't seen nothin' yet

A couple of weeks ago I was searching for some information about Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus Callitrichoides) and found myself cruising around Aquahobby.com when I stumbled upon some of the loveliest little setups I have ever seen. They were created by Rony Suzuki and Fabio Yoshida and can be found here: http://www.aquahobby.com/tanks/e_tank0603.php. I was astounded by how gorgeous they were, and what unbelievable sizes, as well.

It's actually very simple to create a "palmtop aquarium," as they're named in the article. Most small glass containers will do for the tank(that seems like an odd word to use for such tiny aquariums). A little Laterite or Eco-Complete for the substrate, one or two small plants, or even a small carpet of Dwarf Baby Tears, Riccia or a moss, some water and you are done. You may even get away with adding a shrimp of some kind for the slightly larger palmtop or a snail for the small ones.

If there is anyone out there trying this, I'd love to see what you've done so far.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Interesting Sites

I ran across this site the other day; http://swisstropicals.com/, and was very impressed by Dr. Stephan Tanner's fish list. He has some great varieties for sale, things you really don't stumble upon every day. One of my favorites is the Tippecanoe Darter, a small North American fish native to areas from Pennsylvania down to Tennessee. This is not a fish often found for sale. Here in Pennsylvania it's endangered, so no scooping them out of local waters is allowed. Same thing goes in Indiana, I believe. In Ohio you need to submit a written request to the chief of the division of wildlife. Dr. Tanner seems like a responsible adult, so I'll assume he followed the regulations. I would think that the darters would be a good fit for aquariums. I think I'll do a little research and look into keeping some in the near future.

Swiss Tropicals also has a nice variety of odd loaches and other fish you don't hear about every day. I particularly like Acanthocobitis zonalternans. It's a lovely little loach. I think I'll write to Dr. Tanner to see if he'll be attending the GPASI Spring Auction here in Pittsburgh. I'd like to see some of his fish in person. The auction is on April 27th, if you're interested.

Here's a link to the GPASI February Newsletter: http://gpasi.org/feb08fin.pdf , lots of info in there about upcoming events and a nice article about the Rainbow Shiner.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Hello Aquaddicts!

I am very disappointed today, because it snowed mightily yesterday and I had to miss the February meeting of the Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society. They had a good lineup of plant related topics and I was hoping to find some Dwarf Chain Loaches and Otos in the auction phase of the meeting. I also wanted to join, since I haven't done that yet. I am having some serious issues with algae and snails in my 20 long planted tank and need the help that active munchers can provide. I am more than a little worried about how the loaches will treat the Cherry Shrimp, but it's a chance I'm willing to take. Normal measures are not doing the trick, and since I have the shrimp I can't use any chemical treatments on the snails. I would be quite wary of that anyway since I'm not really a fan of chemical treatments.
The tank does not look nearly as orderly as it does in the picture. Some of the plants have died, the Ludwigia has become a bit of a forest and, of course, the algae and snail problems are visible. It still looks pretty good, certainly better than it did before I added the 65W Coralife Aqualight and the CO2 system that I bought at Elmer's Aquarium. I cannot believe how fast the plants grow! It's so very cool to see, and the fish seem happier than ever. Once I add the new fish then I hope to concentrate a little more on the other tanks. They could use it, that's for sure.