What is pH?

pH is what tells us whether the water is acid or alkaline.
pH below 7 is acidic
pH 7 is neutral <--- middle ground where it is neither basic nor alkaline

pH above 7 is alkaline

Congratulations! That’s all you need to know about pH!

Most fish can adjust themselves to water of different pH as long as it is not too much. If your tap water is around 7 it would be suitable for most fish.

It is better to keep your pH stable than to adjust it all the time because it is stressful (not stressful for you. stressful for the fish!). You need to monintor your aquarium’s pH so that you know when your aquarium pH crashes or shoots up. Most of the time, it is sudden change in pH that kills fish and not because the pH has gone out of the “fish’s pH range”.

One thing to note is that when pH rises, this change can impact on your water parameters. For example, when pH rises harmless ammonia changes to toxic ammonia! (another fish killer).

Weather Loach 101

Common Name: Weather Loach, Weatherfish, Dojo Loach, Pond Loach, Golden Dojo

Origin: Asia – China, Korea, Japan – Often found in streams, ponds and rice paddies.

Category: Bottom Feeders & Catfish

Diet:Omnivore; Sinking algae wafers, tubifex worms, flake food, vegetables, snails, other fish’s eggs.

Temperament: Peaceful fish that will not bother other fish, they will however eat the eggs of other fish. Friendly and can be seen at all times of the day, though it tends to be more nocturnal. The name “weather loach” is due to the erratic swimming patterns of the fish during drops in barometric pressure. These swimming patterns are like an underwater ballet, usually resulting in the fish diving down rapidly, and burying themselves in the substrate.

Care: It is recommended that you provide caves and other dark hiding places. The fish likes to burrow, so provide a fine, soft substrate. A fairly large tank is recommended, as the fish can reach 25 cm or more, but sizes of 12.5 cm – 20 cm are more common. I have one who is on the larger end of the spectrum, at 27 cm.

Temperature: Optimal Temperature is around 22C, but can survive anywhere from 15 – 27C. Cooler temperature tropical tanks will also support this fish.

Lifespan: Approximately 10 years.

pH: 6 – 7.5
gH: 9 – 15
Tank Region: Bottom mostly; mid tank during swimming

Gender: Sexing a Weather Loach is rather easy, the male’s pectoral fins are longer and thicker, giving the fins a triangular shape. Females have rounder pectoral fins. Males often appear to be standing up on their pectoral fins while resting on the bottom of the tank.

Breeding: Being a cold water fish, it requires cooler water in order to spawn. Breeding is very rarely accomplished in the aquarium.

Colors & Variants: Grey, Brown, Black, Spotted, Golden. Golden Dojo’s are not quite albino, more of pinkish color with yellow tint. They are available in most stores, and are sold as “Golden Dojo Loaches”. Spotted and Brown are usually called “Common Spotted Dojo” or “Weather Loach” at fish stores.

About: Weather or “Dojo” Loaches have an elongated, eel-like body and five sets of barbels. They have poor eyesight, and use the barbels to find food. If the barbels become damaged there is a high risk of starvation of this fish. For this reason a soft substrate, such as fine sand or soft edged rounded pebbles, should be provided as they are notorious diggers/burrowers. I also do not recommend having this fish in a tank with plants that require burried root systems, as they will dig them up all the time. They will be much better matched with plants that like free roots, such as Java fern, or other rhizome plants.

Weather loaches are scale-less fish and rough rocks such as lava rock should be covered with moss, to make it softer on the fish. Being a scale-less fish, they do not tolerate salt very well. If there is an illness or injury, do not add salt to try to help heal them. Instead, do frequent water changes, as good, clean, water will help them heal much better than salt. They are a very friendly fish, often eating from their owner’s hand and looking for attention. Mine swim around my hand during water changes, looking to be petted.

They are also known to be escape artists, so a tight fitting lid is key with these fish. You may also use a mesh top to make sure your loaches stay in the tank. Glass, mesh, or whatever you may have as lid, make sure there are no holes for the fish to escape from. They have the ability to jump out of the tank and spend the night on the floor.

Weather loaches are very hardy fish, if you do find your loach on the floor, place it back into the tank and add some Stress Coat or other “slime” coating product to help them. They have the ability to store oxygen in their intestines in cases of low oxygenated water, they can survive like this for a few days. Drying out is more of a concern then oxygen. In the wild they will encase themselves in mud to stay wet, and still have enough air to breathe if the stream dries up for a short time. Dojo Loaches can and will secrete a mucus to keep from drying out if they are out of water for some time.

When these loaches are in the wild, they are known to “walk” great distances to find another body of water. In Australia they are very often seen walking the roads of Queensland. The sale of Weather Loaches in Australia has been banned due to over population. In addition, it is not unusual to see your weather loach float up from the tail. This is nothing to be concerned about if the loach can pass out the excess air stored in the intestine; you will see a stream of bubble rise up out of the anus. It is a way of exhaling this stored air. The fish should then be fine. If you notice this happening for extended amounts of time such as days, there may be another problem such as a swim bladder illness.

Being a cold water fish, good tank mates include other dojo loaches (they like to be in groups). Goldfish also make good tank mates, providing you have a tank large enough to support them both. Cooler water tolerant Cory Cats, and cooler temperature tropicals also do well with dojo loaches. If cared for properly, this fish will bring you many years of joy. They really are a terrific addition to a home aquarium. They will bring fun and few laughs along the way as well.

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.