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Monday, 27 August 2012

More uses for the Ghetto Feeder

Attach a Tubifex block to the feeder to help it sink to the bottom.

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This stops the block just bouncing about on the water surface after its been knocked off the glass after the first bite and ending up pinned to the filter grilles will the current pulls all the food in.

By Bristlenose also enjoys the Tubifex worms and is normally the first to them even when the block is bobbing about aimlessly. He will lift his whole nose out the water to get hold of it and pull it back down into the water. This normally helps the other fish when a load of food is then released.

Being on the bottom makes life a little easier for him…

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Still does all the hard work of freeing up the forms as a bunch of hungry fish hover above him catching up the swept up bits!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Filter Overhaul

Decided today to carry out the full overhaul of the filter system on my Lido.

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I will have 4 pads stacked in the top section of the filter comprising of…

  • Floss Pad
  • Coarse Pad
  • Fine Pad (Currently a Nitrax one)
  • Fine Pad

The lower section has a Juwel Cirax box with the lid remove to act as a cradle for when i life it back out. In there there are…

  • The existing Cirax media (approx. 200-250ml) for seeding
  • 250ml of Seachem Matrix
  • 80ml of Seachem Matrix Carbon
  • 32ml of Seachem Purigen

The floss pad will continue to be swapped approximately every 7 days, with the others been squeezed out in tank water during a change. The coarse and fine pads will periodically be swapped out for new ones.

The ceramic media will be replaced by 50% every 6 months, the carbon every 4-6weeks and the Purigen will remain under observation for now. I will likely replace it once it has changed colour whenever that may be.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Tank Update - Lido 120 - 23/08/2012

Just a few quick pictures of the Lido (sorry for any light flare in the tank glass) and some general updates.

First a quick FTS…

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Plants in some respect seem to be doing exceptionally well and growing light lightning.

I would say a combination of the use of Seachem Equilibrium and the addition of the Dwarf Gourami’s and significantly increased feeding regime i have taken on in the last few weeks may all well be contributing.

I of course also maintain the Flourish and Flourish Excel dosing of 2.5ml/4days and 3ml/day respective. I have also started adding a bit extra Flourish Excel after doing a water change, compensated by what's being exchanged/lost. And works out at around an extra 0.3ml.

The Twisted/Spiral Vallis at the front of the tank have never really done much since they were added. In some cases looking a little sorry for themselves. Recently though they have suddenly started to shoot new, huge bright green leaves which are much wider and thicker than the existing leaves.

Equilibrium might actually be a steroid!

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The straight Vallis meanwhile still reaches for the sky, you can almost sit and watch this stuff grow! I've noted various leaves to grow around 30mm per day!

Still regularly sends out runners to form new plants…

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Yet in the next breath a section will suddenly look sad and sorry and “melt” back to nothing.

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I've found weeding out those leaves as far back as i can get them seem to encourage the rest of the plant to continue growing and also improves the obvious aesthetics of the tank.

A few fish shots… this was during (dry pellet) feeding time…

Brsitlenose takes great delight in hoovering up any that reach the floor.

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One thing i have noted with Ancistrus Catfish is don't buy them and expect them to live solely off algae in the tank, they wont and will not thrive as a result.

Any i have kept, and especially this one, will gorge on just about anything. Yes it will eat some algae but they love any dry, frozen, live or vegetable matter they can get their lips round. He will regular bolt for the surface of the water when i float a Tubifex cube and poke his whole nose out the water in order to get a grip on it and shake it apart. Much to the delight of the other fish who can then chase down the free floating bits.

Gourami swarm, they are feeding directly above the Bristlenose in the previous picture… you can work out his tactics!

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New Seachem products in trial

One thing i had forgot to mention recently, is i have decided to try out the various Seachem filter medias in the tropical tank.

This is instead of using the Juwel pad filters, that are intended for the same job.

I've never had any bad experience with the Juwel pads, i have just never been completely convinced by them.

The carbon pads, although they seem to work, just appear to be very fine carbon dust impregnated onto the sponges surfaces, I've always been concerned over just how good this is, compared to granular carbon.

The Nitrax sponge, there to help with the nitrates etc. never seems to have proven to be a tour de force in that area.

So i have made this decision to try out something different and see if there is any improvement or advantage over the sponges/pads.

In the near future i will be doing a slight reconfiguration of the inside of the Juwel stack. Keeping the floss bad on top, followed by a coarse and then fine sponge. This will serve as the mechanical filter.

In the lower half i will use bags with various medias to see how well each fairs.

For starters i picked up some Aqua One media bags…

Aqua One Meida Bag

And the following Seachem items…

Seachem Matrix CarbonSeachem MatrixSeachem Purigen

  • The Matrix Carbon will replace the existing carbon sponge.
  • Matrix will replace the Cirax ceramic media (which is nearing its usable life)
  • Purigen i will see how well it fairs with the Nitrates etc.

They also all work out quite a bit cheaper than the sponges in the short to medium run. There is enough Matrix Carbon to equal out the cost of 4 sponge changes, the Matrix works out roughly the same as the Cirax media and although the Purigen is considerably more expensive (£22.49 for 250ml as above) you do use it in very small quantities (around 35ml for the Lidos volume) and you can regenerate it using bleach! So in theory it never runs out.

However i probably wont go to the trouble of regenerating the Purigen since it is being used in such small quantities. But its a good thought if you are using much larger amount of it.

The Matrix Carbon is already in use might i add, it was added into the system during the last water change as the existing pad was at the end of its usable period. It is in a bag, awkwardly squashed under the upper sponge layers in the original space of the carbon sponge, but as i said before, the loose media will be position in the lower section very soon.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The minor things…

Just a small update to my Reef tank build.

With the hole produced in the Riffsystem back plates being larger than the Vortech wet side, it was evident that some light spill may have resulted from the adjacent window, and or you could see through the edges and then the wallpaper behind.

Easily fixed with a small sheet of black vinyl!

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Jobs a good ‘un!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Avast Reactors - Part 2

The following day for my reactor builds…

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I did a wet test on the existing joints.

It soon became apparent that trying to do this late at night when it was dark and i was tired had left a few flaws in the gluing process!

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I should have waited until the weekend and done it in a better frame of mind rather than getting too excited and wanting to to it there and then!

A quick fix with an extra bead of glue and left it them over night again.

Prepped the top plates…

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And did a pressure test on the ones that didn't leak…

Thankfully they didn’t have additional issues at this point either…

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Avast Reactors - Part 1

Another piece of equipment for my Reef Aquarium arrived recently…

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Several kit form rectors from Avast Marine!

One for phosphate, one for ozone and two for carbon, where one will carry out the main carbon duties and the other will be connected in series to the ozone reactor to absorb and free floating gas that doesnt get saturated into the water.

Off to the garage!

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Great pieces! All nicely machine…

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A lint free cloth, an essential tool for constructing acrylic items…

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Starting the construction as per the Avast instructions, pretty straight forward to be honest. I chose the kit form to save a bit of money and i like the fact that i can be constructive for a change!

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The HDPE ribbon media for the Ozone reactor

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Got a bit of a production line going!

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Other ends going on, with a simple trick to get each end square with the other…

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Attaching the plates to the down pipes, using a workbench, an axle stand and a roll of insulation tape to knock it into position!

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A very, very tight fit, but i still applied a bit of glue!

Parts curing over night…

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Saturday, 18 August 2012

Sand Dunes?

An odd occurrence i have noted recently in the Lido…

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The Koralia Nano power head i have on the side of the filter box appears to have something trying to bury it!

I noted this over a few days and had no idea how this was happening, initially assuming it was the Bristlenose flicking sand about as her tears around the tank sometimes. However their is an awful lot up there compared to the occasional wave that he produces.

The out the corner of my eye on afternoon while stood in the hallway i saw a plume of sand falling down directly onto the top of the power head!

I strode over to it, just to see one of the Dwarf Gourami’s appear and swim away from being positioned above it!

I have no idea how or why it is doing such a thing! I would naturally assume it has scooped up some substrate in its mouth and then deposited it on the power head… although i did seem far too much for what you would think the fish could carry in such a way!

If you have Gourami’s and have noted similar behaviour, please let me know as i am intrigued!

I have been watching for the fish to do the same thing again, but have had no luck on catching them in the act, even to the moment where it looked like one was ready to scoop up some sand. However i do get home sometimes and the power head has grown its sand toupee once again! So they are still at it.

On a note the power head only runs a couple of times per day for an hour, just to swirl up the typical dead spot in the front corner of a Juwel tank and stop the detritus building up. When it powers up it does blow the sand away.

Do fish sleep?

A common question I've been asked over my years of keeping fish, do they sleep?

Well every living thing “sleeps” to some degree. However as human beings go, we are a typically jaded to the fact that sleep involves shutting your eyes and finding somewhere warm and comfortable and then off to dream land.

Most mammals, birds and reptiles, in fact, most none aquatic based beings follow a similar pattern, amply demonstrated by my cat Millie, the dominant and most experiences species when it comes to the art of catching 40 winks!

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So how do you sleep when you don't have eye lids and the potential to be swept away by water currents… or sink?

I have always enjoyed looking into my aquariums in the small hours of the mornings as much as i do when they lights are on. Many nocturnal species can be very interesting to watch during these quieter times, especially in marine/reef setups where many of the invertebrates will be active and some select fish species.

The fish then, that spend most of their time out in the open, this is their time to recuperate, and i have noted many examples of how they go about it.

In all cases, fish “shut down” into that state that we are all familiar with. But remember we do not go completely motionless. We continue to breath etc.. and most people will make the odd autonomous movements to regain comfort or when the body senses the blood supply being cut off.

Angel Fish are a good species to observe at night, i used to keep a magnificent breeding pair of wild caught Angles several years ago and they would remain in the main body of the water, yet they would appear to be in a state of suspended animation.

They would hang floating in the water, not moving a millimetre against the flow of water. Their fins would be slowly moving in a circular motion, keeping themselves stable and upright. Their gills would continue to open and close gently, as would their mouth, and their eyes would be just completely transfixed, staring off into the distance.

As long as you were slow and didn't make any sudden movements you could sit their and watch them. If you did make a startling movement or somehow significantly changed the light activity, they would suddenly “wake” and bolt to the other side of the tank.

Very similar to if you jumped on somebodies be while they're sleeping, or crept about and not disturbing them.

The Dwarf Gourami's that i keep at the moment, have a similar ritual, however they appear to find a nook or small cave to sleep in. They appear to prefer a bit of security rather than the Angels which had the speed and performance to outwit predators should it be looming upon them.

I find the Gourami's to sit in plants, shuffle up against bits of wood or rocks, or get inside ornaments. One of mine in particular likes to sleep in the sunken tank ornament!

And finally, there are the fish that seem to literally sink to a stop and literally lie on whatever surface they find or favour. The Dwarf Puffers are especially prone to this.

I have managed to capture a few images of them doing such things, sorry, some are blurred as i had to do my best to take the images with a remote light source as to not scare them.

One Puffer beds down right in the corner of the tank on the sand bed…

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Another on the sand bed out in the middle…

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Sometimes a leaf makes as a comfy hammock type arrangement…

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Or get in between two leaves of a plant…

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Finally you could always kept comfy on the ornaments!

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So do they sleep? Well yes, both scientifically and physically as far as i am concerned, and its another great way to observe your aquariums live stock, should you want to be up early in the morning!

Working shifts as i do is always an advantage and i tend to eat my breakfast sat in front of the aquarium watching them all sleep… wishing i was still doing the same!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

System R&D Update

Remember this?


If you haven't seen my earlier post. That was my Mark 1 system SketchUp.

The long bit on the left is the main sump, the cube next to it is the refugium, and the bit tagged on the end is a combined RO and Balling fluid storage unit.

The physical side of things of my build may be a tad slow at the moment but the virtual R&D side of things and the cogs in my head are still turning quite readily.

That first sketch was my initial foray into realising this part of the build. Since then i have evaluated and built on the ideas and helpful feedback i had from people when i first showed it off.


  • The RO and Balling containers are too small.

I worked out the approximate volume of the containers and came to the conclusion that there was not enough, especially in the RO compartment. The RO would have been around 10litres and the Balling, approximately 3litres for each mix.

Now at this point i am trying to engineer future solutions into the system...

My aim is to be mixed, SPS heavy, bit less on the LPS and a few odds and ends softie wise, granted this and the grow out period are a loooooooong way away at the time of writing, however when i go away for a fortnight i would like the aquariums carer during that period to have very little to do, other than feeding and general checks. I would rather not be explaining to a "less than novice" person with no real interest in the tanks fundamental systems, how they have to add scary sounding chemicals into very specific areas and so on and so forth. Ideally, i want my supplies to last around this 2 week period.

I know this is impossible to estimate now! But i would rather have too much now, than not enough later.

  • Filling those storage containers would be a faff.

Seriously it would! A bit of an oversight at the time, but as i sat back and visualised, even to the point of pretending to fill the tanks in the empty cabinet! It would be awkward for several reasons, or would need some kind of hand pump to transfer RO to the rear of the tank.

And flying slightly blind for the Balling mixes, i could see the wrong fluid going in the wrong section.

As pointed out by someone on the original post, it would be difficult to visually check the levels. I had thought of an overly complex electronic system to show the levels (as i do) but that was completely unnecessary.

  • The refugium has no mechanical redundancy.

The original design only shows one hole in the face, which would have been for the return pipe.

The 'fuge will be fed by a pump and drain back through that hole (via a pipe of course), but what if that pipe were too be blocked by an errant lump of chaeto? Well essentially i would get a wet floor!

It was never a design intent to have one return as it was, i had always envisaged having at least two returns, and an electronic float switch to cut-out the pump should that be overwhelmed too.

The final design however, has three! Two of which will serve as general returns and the third will act like a weir emergency overflow, with a level switch as electronic back up to switch the pump off if need be. The switch will likely be in a position to stop the pump BEFORE the third overflow is required. More of a last ditch attempt if the switch failed.

  • The flow through the 'fuge will be pretty useless.

Again, another issue that hadn't be fully realised at that point.

I only intend on having very gentle flow through the 'fuge as i am favouring a DSB in there and would like it reasonably tranquil in the hope that copepods and the like will be able to thrive, i don't want a raging torrent in there, something around 500lph would be fine with me and will provide a steady flow for the DSB.

With it being quite a deep vessel, most of the flow would just up and out through the return pipe, so i have added a baffle in to force the flow down and essentially through the DSB.

So here is the latest 'fuge design, showing the outlets...


A look inside... the clear panel removed for clarity. You can see the standpipes if you will. Although in this picture they are at 3 different heights... honestly i will be able to adjust this quite readily...


A gap at the bottom of the baffle between the itself and the sand bed, water will have to push down and go underneath and essentially move through the sand to some degree...


The new Balling containers, easy to see into and will be located at the front of the cabinet. The rear half of the "lid" is fixed and has the provision for the required pipework. The front section lifts off for filling...


The original provision at the end which would have been both RO and Balling is now completely dedicated to RO...

With similar access and installation provisions...

Ro Tank

The new "assembly", the rear panel of the balling containers will most likely be clear so it is possible to see into the sump.


And the whole system in the cabinet...

Latest In Cab

Last thing is to add into the mix is where the reactors will fit in, i have bits for them on the way so i can begin to work those fundamentals out.

When it looks like i have a plan i would start to construct all the odds and ends and eventually get onto the fill.

Importantly, RO storage is now around 24-25l and Balling is around 8l per part, should be more than enough for future requirements

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Home’s for sale…

A bit of unfortunate news today. First of all my original Trapdoor snail has died and all the babies that i posted about recently appear to have been the main course for someone.

Now the babies… i did return them to the main tank after initially removing them and putting them in a separate tub. I was contemplating setting up something to grow them out in, but instead decided to return them to the main tank where an abundance of food is available and i wouldn't have to make special care arrangements for them.

This could have gone one of two ways…

  • The snails went about their business, grew to a size where i could part them out, and do a job of helping hoover up crud from the floor, and get rid of any degrading plant matter (one thing i have noticed Trapdoors to be quite efficient at!) and keep the sand turned over when then burrow down for the daylight hours.
  • Or… they would be dinner for my Dwarf Puffers. I have known for a while that Puffers enjoy hunting and eating the odd snail, but i was always reluctant to add anything that would take over the tank.

The latter point seems to be the outcome, as i discovered a shell scrap yard in the tank in one corner!

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Hopefully the Puffers have enjoyed the feast, but it is kind off annoying that they have also ended up this way!

Anyway, my original big one, as said, has also passed away!

It spent quite a while not doing much at all, but i had hopes that it was just being lazy for a while due to its door occasionally opening and having a look round, only to go back to bed.

Over the last few days though, i have noticed the door receding down into the shell. So i decided to give him a nudge today to see if there was any reaction…

Sadly on further investigation, i tapped on the door with my tweezers to see if it moved… but it just fell off… and then that “dead snail stench” hit my sinus… a smell that only an aquarist would know!

RIP Stinky…

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Kind of a bad move on me i guess. I should have been a bit more vigilant and looked at helping him earlier… it may have been old age… but i will definitely keep a good eye on my remaining one to ensure it doesnt show any abnormalities. In which case its been motoring around like there is no tomorrow… so Stinky might have just had enough!

On an event like this i would always recommend a good water change, especially as my water smelt a bit “off” after this discovery… it may have been the snail smell lingering, but didn't seem right none the less, so i carried out a 30% (roughly 36l) water change on the tank…

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It was also part of my maintenance schedule for this tank to swap out one of the filter sponges. I generally tend to follow the Juwel recommended change intervals, and this time round it was time to switch out the coarse pad.

I do squeeze the top level of sponges out during every water change, but i do feel the very depths of the sponge will get to the point where it is clogged up and not clearing out as efficiently. I don't find them that expensive so switching out for a fresh one is no big deal.

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As a precaution i carried out a full set of Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate tests to see if anything was amiss with the snail going belly up.

Thankfully the system is working very efficiently and nothing registered on both the Ammonia and the Nitrite.

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But my Nitrates have jumped up a little compared to the last couple of months.

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This may be down to the death in the tank, or it may also be a by-product of the new fish that have been added recently. I must admit i have upped the feeding quite a bit recently to get them settled and monitor what they will and wont eat. Thankfully the “wont” list has just been gathering dust! As they will pretty much devour anything! As a result the whole tank gets a varied diet between frozen bloodworms, white mosquito worms, daphnia, artemia, Hikari micro pellets, King British Algae wafers and the occasional treat of a slice of Nori seaweed.

I will keep an eye on the Nitrates and recheck them through the week. But don't think there will be any adverse affects from this.