It Isn’t Easy Being’ Green

That greenish-blue gunk that eventually grows on your aquarium glass, on the decorations and plants, and on the gravel is called algae. Though it looks like something that should be eradicated immediately, it’s just living plant matter that is a perfectly natural occurrence in an aquatic environment. It’s actually good to have some algae in an aquarium as long as that amount is controlled.
Algae is like any other plant; it requires light to grow and to survive and it generates oxygen during “daytime” and carbon dioxide at “night time.” Algae consumes nitrate from the aquarium water as well and serves as food for many fish in the aquarium. Algae-eating fish return the favor to the aquarium owner by helping to keep the glass clean, and by controlling the amount of algae growth in the aquarium. Not a bad little ecosystem, huh?
On the down side, algae is difficult to clean and remove from the aquarium. When it grows unchecked, it becomes an eyesore and a source of pollutants, which overstresses your filtration and your fish. Just like everything else in our aquarium, algae has to follow the rules of moderation to keep everyone happy. Here are a few ways to keep your algae under control:

Do not place the aquarium where it is exposed to direct sunlight. Do not keep your aquarium lights on for longer than a natural day. If possible, set your aquarium light on a timer to replicate a natural day/night cycle. This is good for the well being of your fish, too.
Add some notorious algae-eating fish to the aquarium. These fish are almost always peaceful, easy to care for fish and they do windows to boot.

Although this adds some complexity to your aquarium hobby, adding live plants will help control algae growth tremendously. Live plants hog up all of the nutrients in the water, starving out most of the algae.
Remove ugly algae growth from the aquarium during your regular cleaning sessions.

Purchase an algae scrubber from your aquatics retailer, one that is designed specifically to remove tough algae growth from the aquarium glass.
Remember that regular water changes keep nitrate levels low and low nitrate means less algae food.

Here We Go Again – Part 1

“I never know what to give you” says my wife at almost any gift giving holiday or birthday! The reply, “anything will be great as long as it comes from you”, great husband retort and very safe. So I usually get great stuff that I really don’t need… but then again I asked for it.

So this year, for my May birthday I started in late March, leaving Foster and Smith catalogs laying about with the page corner turned over and the item circled. I left them on the table, in my wife’s chair, on the dinner place mats, in the library (bathroom) and on the bed stand.

The item, a Aquapod Nano reef system 12 gallon tank. I decided to start another salt water aquarium after my last one of 10 years. My last one was a fish only 44 gallon tank with a few anemones and some “live rock” and a couple of weird stuff like a Sea apple, that killed all my fish! I never could understand why they called it “live rock” I didn’t look any different from “base rock” other than being three as much. Neither the live or base rock had any action to it or any animals living around on or in. But except for the instance with the Sea Apple the salt water tank was a success with most of the fish dying of old age after many years.

However, I lost interest because nothing bred, nothing died, it was just the same fish week after month after year. I soon gave all the fish away, sold the dead coral and other salt water stuff and turned the 44 gallon tank into a planted 56 gallon bow front fresh water tank with a great trade.

So with great anticipation my birthday arrive with out the usual questions of “what do you want”. What did I get, clothes. With much tack and couth, I inquired, “didn’t you notice the catalogue laying around?” With the answer being, “ya I got tired of moving it, why?” The tank ended up being ordered for Fathers day!

The tank is great. It is a square 12 gallon glass tank with curved corners full hood with 1 27 watt actinic white bulb with a cooling fan, one blue actinic 27 watt bulb and two LED moon lights. All lights have a separate switch so you can simulate dawn, noon, dusk and night lighting. The tank also comes with a 150 gallon per hour in tank hidden filter with moveable weirs.

I started of by filling the tank with R.O. salt water and about 1″ of live sand. So much has changed since my last foray into salt about 16 years ago. The lighting alone has made Reef tanks so much affordable. “Live sand” was new to me. So, I asked my good friend Jake Mang over at the Fish Place for a quick course. Live sand is an Aragonite product with millions of nitrate reducing bacteria. The sand insures a faster and safer initial cycling and better bio-filtering once established.

The sand will also increases the buffering capacity of your aquarium and stabilizes the pH. It will also discourage the growth of unwanted algae. After about a week I noticed the tank water level going down. So I started to check for leaks. Sure enough there was a small drip in one of the back corners. So I decided to let it leak,( into a pan) until it stopped. About a inch down from the top the dripping stopped. I emptied out another couple of inches and re-silicone the corners, waited 48 hrs and re-filled the tank.. So far it is still holding. The tank stood that way for about two weeks. Again I went up to the Fish Place looking for some “live rock”. Well at least this hasn’t change much thru the years, the rock offered was still dead! I opted for a great piece of rock in one of the fish tanks that had two great looking Discosoma sanctihomae, St. Thomas false coral.

These look a lot like an anemone, but have short tentacles and only one mouth opening. They were about two inches in diameter and about two inches tall. They are brown to tan in color about half the time but at feeding tile they turn a lighter green. Are great find and about the same price as a like piece of “live” dead rock. So, the tank stood this way, with the live sand and the two St. Thomas false coral for about a month. When I turn off the light at night and just have the LED moon lights on the Discosoma starts to fluoresces a bright lime green. I decided to look in the phone book to see if there were any saltwater only stores in the area and found two, Salt Water Paradise in Tonawanda and the Reef Creation in Cheektowaga. Liz and I decided on the former.

The store is located on Main St. in Tonawanda and is owner by Joe and Annette Kosak. They have a very nice shop with several tanks of fish and several more with various live coral and competitive prices. They also offer fully cured Live Rock from the Fiji Islands that is actually live! Who would have thunk! Each piece was loaded with all sorts of coralline algae in purples and green, different types of macro algae and on the two pieces I selected a couple of Ricordia and a red sea squirt and several orange sponges. We went home and placed about 12 pounds of rock in the tank. That night when we turned off the lights I had to go back in the office about a half hour later. That’s when I noticed all the fluoresces in the live rock. The tank shimmered in greens and light blues. The tank was almost prettier with the moon lights than with the lights on. The following couple of weeks we really found out how Live this rock really is. Small clams and oysters started to open and a small brown mantis shrimp made a brief appearance before diving back into its hole. A couple of small snails came to life along with several bristle worms were seen at feeding time. A couple of rock anemones came out, along with some limpets. Liz and I sit for a hour or so every night and spot new things, all this in a small 12 gallon tank.

I was starting to have a slight hair algae problem along with algae growing on the sides of the tank. We went back to see Joe and couple of weeks later and bought a few blue footed hermit crabs and four turbo snails and that stopped the algae problem. Both Joe and Annette are very helpful and always ready to give advice.

Liz and I stopped at the Reef Creation in Cheektowaga and was
very impressed again at the selection of corals especially from Australia. The shop is very neat and clean with many large tanks of fish and corals. He has a four or five foot square tank about 12 inches deep loaded with some of the most exotic corals I have ever seen for sale. Still not really sure what I’m doing yet and having a tank in operation for only 6 months we decided to go with a 4″ piece of green star polyps and a stand of zoanthids. The green stars wave in the current of the water and are a zooplankton eater. The Zoanthids are like small brown anemones with green interiors. The seem to eat anything that they can catch as long as its small. Like I said the tank has been up and running for about 6 months and we have bought our first and maybe only fish, a one inch orange tailed blue Damsel. While watching the fish to make sure he is compatible with the other fauna in the tank we spot a small porcelain crab and a nudibranch that finally decided to show its self. Now even Liz is talking about getting a larger tank, not to be able to buy more fish but so we can buy more live rock and be constantly surprised to see what comes out next. With this tank I am again revitalize in a whole new aspect of the hobby and this may very well be the first of many installments.

Here We Go Again – Part 2

Well the tank is still going strong but some of the things that came out of the rock have disappeared but new stuff is still making an appearance. My cute small brown mantis shrimp has turned medium size little over an inch peacock mantis shrimp. May have to find a trap. Most of my bristle worms are gone. Shrimp food? My St. Thomas false coral has budded. The “bud is about a 1/4 inch in diameter and is a light green in color. It has just started showing some sort of tentacles. The Zoanthids (Protopalythoa sp.) are starting to spread and multiply. My two peppermint shrimp turned into a pair and the female was carrying about 100 eggs on the underside of her tail. The eggs hatched after ten days but I didn’t find any baby shrimp, but then again there are many hiding places and also, then again there is the mantis shrimp. Again with the trap idea. A few weeks ago we added a burnt orange mushroom coral, Actinodiscus cardinalis, and a stand of button polyps, probably Protopalysthoa vestitus. Under the blue actinic light this polyps edges are a bright green with a purple center.

We took another trip into the Reef Creations, just for the ride, because we didn’t really need or have the room for any more animals. Well, a $150 later, we walked out with a very nice hairy mushroom rock with many green tipped hairy mushrooms, some pink centered Protopalythoa sp. and a neat Zoanthus pulchellus, another button polyp. I am a great one for buying and reading books on all the animals , whether fish or inverts I buy. Something in the back of my mind kept bothering me about the animals just bought, but I just couldn’t remember. After getting home and acclimating the corals I started to find room in the tank for them. I moved some rock around and took some more none interesting ones out but we finally got every coral in just the right spot. The pink centered, because they were not anchored to a piece of rock didn’t want to stay were I wanted them so I had to put my hand in the tank and move them into place a couple of times with the last time I wedge them between two rocks and changed the water flow on my weir.

Only then did I refer to my book on Corals by Eric Borneman to properly idenify what we just bought. I opened the book to the Zoanthids section and in a highlighted section I noticed the word “Neurotoxin warning!” Well, it seems that the really neat pink centered Protopalythoa sp. Produce a chemical called palytoxin in their mucus and gonads. The indigenous Pacific tribes use this neuromuscular agent to dip their spear points in order to paralyze animals and their enemies.

If one chooses to keep these animals, one should were protected gloves when placing ones hands in the aquarium. I also read that there’s an aquarists in Washington that after handling some polyps became very ill for a few days and ended up with a Vibrio infection. Things started to sound bad. I started to get tingles in my arm that radiated up toward my neck. I was almost hoping that it was the onset of a heart attack but I remembered it was the left arm and not the right. My heart started to pump hard and I thought a cold sweat broke out on my forehead. Did I also mention that times my mind runs away on me! Suggestion is a powerful thing. False alarm and I live to see another sunrise. God, this hobby’s fun.

Bubble Eye Goldfish

Bubble Eye goldfish are a “fancy” variety, which is characterized by fluid filled sacs beneath the eyes. Bubble Eyes lack dorsal fins and have double tail fins. They can be found in gold, red, black, white and calico colors. The fish can reach eight inches long and the bubble sacs grow with the fish, sometimes occluding the fish’s vision.

Bubble Eye goldfish are as cheap and readily available as any fancy breed, but are not recommended for new fish owners. The vulnerable sacs are easily damaged and require care to reduce risk. The contents of the tank must be screened to ensure no sharp or abrasive surfaces such as sharp rocks or even filter fixtures can threaten the fish. If the sacs are punctured, the water must be kept especially clean and topical medicine may be required. A punctured sac can heal, but will almost always scar.

Bubble Eye goldfish must also be kept with slow and peaceful fish due to the vulnerable eye sacs. These can get large enough to hinder the fish’s ability to swim and thus the fish will not compete as well. Other bubble eyes, telescopes and celestial eyes are particularly suitable.

Bubble Eye goldfish prefer still waters. They require a minimum of ten gallons of water, and up to fifty gallons may be optimal for large bubble eyes. This breed is best in slightly warmer water, seventy six to seventy eight degrees.

However, at these temperatures it is important to properly aerate the water. With proper use of air stones and bubble walls, bubble eyes can be healthy in water up to ninety degrees.

Water changes must occur often to keep the nitrate levels below forty parts per million.

While all goldfish are vulnerable to poor food choices, bubble eye goldfish are especially vulnerable due to the breed’s large belly. The fish have best results from sinking food and a variety of fruit and vegetables. Floating food can lead to air ingestion, and bubble eye goldfish are even more vulnerable to this than most goldfish. This can lead to constipation and swim bladder problems. The fish will have trouble swimming upright and will spend time near the surface or bottom. These symptoms can also be caused by poor water cleanliness. Swim bladder problems should be treated with a fast of twenty four hours followed by a diet of frozen green peas for several days. If processed, floating food must be used, it should be allowed to soak up water before being fed to the fish.

Cherry Barb

Family: Cyprinidae
Species: Barbus titteya
Size: 2 in (5 cm)
Diet: Omnivorous
Temperament: Peaceful
TankConditions: 74-79°F; pH 6.0-7.0; dH 4-10
TankLevels: Middle and Lower

Barbs are predominantly small to medium sized fish with a typical diamond-shape, compressed laterally. A few species do grow large, but these are not commonly seen in the aquarium trade. Many, but not all, barbs have small barbels. Most barbs offered for sale come from Asia and belong to the genus Puntius, but barbs are also found throughout Africa. Many barbs (and other cyprinids) have a distinctive iridescence caused by the presence of guanin. Barbs belong to the sub-family Cyprininae, as does the well-known Silver “shark”.

Many barbs are quite undemanding of water quality, although there are exceptions. In general the waters to which these fish are native are slightly acid to neutral, of moderate hardness, clear and swift flowing. Apart from the few delicate species, barbs are quite adaptable to higher pH and hardness. However, to promote breeding behaviors, more specific conditions are usually needed, see the breeding section. Most barbs need a heated tank, but a few species, namely Rosy, China and Odessa barbs, can be kept indoor in unheated (coldwater) aquaria.

Most barbs are happy with a tank that provides plenty of swimming room with some plants or other decoration to provide shelter.

Barbs are generally peaceful, schooling fish, although some (e.g. Rosy barb, Tiger barb) are prone to be nippy. Any aggression is minimized by keeping them in a school of four to six fish, and they can then be mixed with most community fish. However it is not recommended to mix most of the larger-sized barbs with timid, very tiny, or fancy-finned fish. Larger barbs are lively, active and can be boisterous, so timid fish may become shy even if they are not being bullied. Many of the bigger species can be kept with quite large community fish or with cichlids. On the other hand, many barbs, and particularly small species such as the cherry barb, are extremely peaceful fish, sometimes inclined to be timid themselves.

Apart from a few plant-eating species that are not readily available, barbs are quite well-suited to planted aquaria.

Breeding: Barbs are egg scatterers that do not tend their eggs or fry and so a separate spawning/fry tank is needed. Spawning usually occurs between pairs, but in some species, one male may spawn with a group of two to three females.

In some species there are few visual differences between males and females, but in many males are more colourful than females and not as plump. To bring the adults into breeding condition, plenty of frozen foods should be included in the diet, and the water should be kept soft, slightly acid and with blackwater extract added. Fine leaved plants or an artificial spawning mop should be used to collect the eggs. A bare bottom is recommended so that the tank can be kept very clean. After spawning the parents should be removed.

The eggs take between 1 and 2 days to hatch. Very fine live foods, e.g. infusoria, are usually needed to raise the fry. Frequent feeding is important, as are daily water changes to keep water quality high.

The Cherry Barb is a very timid fish. The Cherry Barb is suitable for small aquariums and should be kept with other small fishes. Subdued lighting conditions complement the fish’s coloring. During spawning, the male will turn bright cherry red. HABITAT: Borneo, Indonesia, Sumatra.

Compatibility: Barbs, Gouramis, larger Livebearers, Dwarf Cichlids, Sharks, Rainbowfish, Plecos, Catfish, and Loaches

A WNY aquarium club for the tropical fish hobbyist