September 18, 2018

Step 1 Surprise

From my previous posts, you'll see that I have considered my angel and hospital tanks as the "clean" tanks. They have been consistently at low ammonia levels. Although cloudy, my goldfish tank has normally been around 1ppm of ammonia. And the danio tank has been my "dirty" tank - consistently around 4 ppm of ammonia.

Today I took samples of the goldfish tank and danio tank to test. One of the tubes immediately turned green (from the goldfish tank) and I thought I got the samples mixed up. I retested the danio tank.

Lo and behold! The danio tank is now showing 0 ppm ammonia! Look at it. It's yellow, right? Yeah, that's yellow. I was so surprised. Since I finally got a good ammonia reading, I finally started doing the other water tests. The pH is 6.8 -- Nitrites are 2 ppm - Nitrates are either 40 or 80 ppm. Step 1 of the nitrogen cycle has completed - where the bacteria on the filter/tank is converting the ammonia to nitrite. Now for the "other" bacteria need to grow that feed on the nitrite and convert it to nitrate. Step 1 looks like it's done. That's the good news.

The bad news is that since the goldfish tank was moved, it has remained cloudy. And now the ammonia is up to 4 ppm. I took the hornwort out of the tank to grow it in a small tank by itself. It's supposed to grow fast - so when I get some extra, the goldfish get it back. That may have contributed to the bad reading. Regardless - it's time for water changes.

Posted by BlueWolf on September 18, 2018

September 14, 2018

Water Bridge

I've already admitted that I have MTS (multi-tank syndrome) - and I have to admit that I'm rather proud of myself tonight. I went to the big box fish store and did not buy any tanks. I also did not buy any fish (although I looked long and hard at the Koi Angelfish). I did get the proper light for the 10 gal tank (they were out of them last time I visited) and a decoration for the hospital tank.

I'm still trying to figure out how the saltwater tank is going to fit in the house with everything else. It's still empty and I need to determine its place before I put anything in it. I'm not too tickled about where I first placed it. So I have a lot of design and redesign going on in my head.

There are a lot of variables to consider. First - where does it fit? The tank is 3 feet long - so its location needs to be planned carefully. It can't go against any wall that has a baseboard heater. And it can't go against any wall that doesn't have an electrical outlet. Its current location works for both of those items, but it is not very visible. I can see the other 4 tanks from where I'm sitting - and I would need to go into another room to see the saltwater tank. This means I'm doing mental gymnastics to rearrange everything in the house to find a place. My tape measure is currently my best friend.

Since one problem is not enough to occupy my mind (apparently), my MTS has suddenly created a new idea to consider - a mult-tank bridge.

This is the coolest thing! I would love to have that between two tanks and watch the fish swim back and forth between the tanks. However, these are not sold - they must be created. I'm not really confident that I can create a DIY refugium for the salt water tank, much less one of these. However - I wish I had this:

And as we know - anything that can be done will be taken to the extreme by someone:

I think these images say enough... Enjoy.

Posted by BlueWolf on September 14, 2018

September 13, 2018

Water Test - Water Change

I hope you're not tired of hearing about the fish and their tanks. I'm not tired of writing about them.

Here is today's horrifying water test for ammonia.

On the far left, you can see the color chart. The tubes from left to right belong to the angel tank, the hospital tank, the danio tank and the goldfish tank. The results of these tests have been consistent, so I'm going to set a baseline in hopes that soon this will change. However - in a nutshell - the tanks have not yet cycled and I'm still doing a partial water change on all four tanks tonight.

Angel tank - 20 gal long
AquaClear 50 filter
7 live plants, 3 cory catfish
Test results are either 0.25 or 0.50 ppm Ammonia
I could stare at this for a long time and for a while I convince myself it's one reading and then convince myself it's the other. It looks like it's got some of a yellowish tint. You know what - it doesn't matter. It still needs a water change. It's NOT yellow.

Hospital tank - 10 gal
Penguin 150 filter
12 live plants, 2 crayfish and 1 guppy
Test results are clearly 1 ppm

Danio tank - 20 gal long
Two Penguin 150 filters (previously used)
6 live plants, 10 zebra danios (all still living >1 week)
Test results are a solid 4 ppm

Goldfish tank - 20 gal long
One Penguin 150 filter
One large live plant (hornwort), large carp, 2 comets, 2 albino cory catfish, 6 plecos
Test results 2 ppm

Rinse the tubes soon after you've completed your test. If you don't, you're likely to get a yellow residue in the tube. This can be easily cleaned with a swab - but normal swabs (from your bathroom) are just slightly too short to reach the bottom of the tube. [If you grab the end with a tweezer, you can reach the bottom.]

Notice that I have a piece of white paper behind the tubes. This is not just for the photo. Put a clean piece of white paper behind the tube and make sure the light is above/behind you when you compare the tube to the chart. It may be helpful. However, it's all still green - regardless of shade (level). If you start doubting the results or are unsure if you have ammonia - test your drinking water. This is yellow. The test works.

I've been doing partial water changes daily for about two weeks. I've lost about a dozen angelfish, 9 guppies, one catfish that didn't look like the others (seemed sluggish and dull) and one crayfish.

Notice that the ammonia levels do not correspond exactly with the number of fish. The goldfish tank has more fish, larger fish and fewer plants, but the ammonia levels are lower. Normally the levels are the same as the angel tank, but I may get another ammonia spike there since I changed the filter pump on the tank. [Found that the one I was using was recalled due to being a shock hazard.] To prevent losing all the beneficial bacteria, I took the old filter cartridge and shoved it into the new filter. This is another reason I like the Penguins - they have slots for two filter cartridges. I left it there for about 24 hrs and then discarded it.

I've gotten the water changes down to about 90 min. I fill the 5 gal bucket with water, treat the water and then remove water from two tanks. I fill the bottom tank first. Once the bucket is empty, I refill and treat and pull water from the other two tanks. Once that bucket is empty, I refill, treat and take a break. Then I empty that bucket (always start with the bottom tank) and fill, treat and break. This allows time for the chemicals to interact with the water and remove the chlorine. I fill the bottom tanks first because it's easier to dump the end of the bucket in the top tanks.

Using the siphon, when you switch from sending water to the bucket to pulling water out, make sure all the water has been evacuated from the hose. Otherwise you will have trouble getting any kind of suction when trying to vacuum the gravel. I lift the end of the hose and continue this all along the hose until I reach the sink. You can hear a louder sound when it's empty. And do not use the lever at the tube end to stop the water. This works well on my garden hose, so I tried it on the siphon - once. When the bucket is full, change the lever at the sink. You don't have to believe me. They sell the replacement part at the same pet store where you bought the siphon. They don't cost much. Buy one and clean up the water.

Posted by BlueWolf on September 13, 2018

September 11, 2018

Angels in Heaven and Filters

All my angels went to heaven. I no longer have any angelfish in my tanks. It's my fault and I am sorry. I loved watching them.

The first two died after a few days. I saw them struggling and I tested the water - 1 ppm ammonia. I quickly set up a new (old) tank to put them in with fresh water, but by the time I had it set up - they were already dead.

I took that as a lesson and set up a "hospital" tank to have at the ready in case more fish struggled. It's a small 10 gal tank with live plants and a Penguin 150 filter. The filter runs 100 gph (gallons per hour) and is for up to a 20 gal tank. This filter runs the entire 10 gal tank 10 times per hour.

By the time the next two fish were struggling (a few days later), I quickly transferred them into the tank. The struggling fish eventually recovered and lasted to the end (they were the last angels to go).

A few days later (after about a week or two) six fish died. I didn't even see them struggle. I looked over at the tank and four were laying flat on the bottom. I scooped them out and about an hour later I saw two more.

I know I overstocked the tank. I thought the tank was ready - but it wasn't. I thought the AquaClear 50 pumping 200 gals per hour would compensate. I hoped the Nitra-Zorb would help to fix my mistakes. But it didn't. And now I know you don't add the fish all at once.

It will probably be a month before I get any replacement fish. I took the 3 cory catfish from the guppy tank and put them in the angel tank. From my experience in the goldfish tank, I know cory cats are resilient. And you have to have some fish in there (creating ammonia) to complete the nitrogen cycle. I believe my catfish are up to the job!

The guppy/danio tank - which was (and still is) my dirtiest tank was losing guppies daily. Not a one danio has even shown signs of slowing down, much less cuddling the filter (dying). That 20 gal tank has live plants and two Penguin 150 filters. Yes, that means that 200 gallons per hour are running through the filters. It's my dirtiest tank because it was way overstocked. I put in two plecos, 10 zebra danios and 10 guppies. It was spectacular! And it was also a spectacular fail.

The three remaining guppies are now in the hospital tank. Hopefully that has increased their chance for survival. And they are helping to cycle the hospital tank now that the angels are gone. They also have two crayfish for tank cleaners. I call the crayfish my little micro-lobsters. They look just like lobsters - and they were expensive (about $10 each). They are really amusing to watch (the cat agrees). I wasn't so amused when one of them grabbed an angelfish by the tail and wouldn't let go. That's how they ended up in the hospital tank. [Many of the angels were still alive at the time.]

The goldfish tank is still doing fine. It has the large carp, two comets, two albino cory catfish and six plecos. It has one live plant that is getting nibbled quite a bit. It only has one TopFin 20 filter. The fish in this tank survived (I don't know how) without a filter for years. But since I was setting up all the other filters, I put one on this tank. I went to look for the specs online - and found that this filter has been recalled. Apparently there is a shock hazard.

In a way, that's fine. It's probably better to have all of the same filters. I like the Penguins because they have two filter chambers. This makes it a bit easier to swap out filter cartridges. You can add a new filter (in front or in back) and wait a while before removing the old filter. If you merely swap out a filter, you are removing much of the beneficial bacteria along with the old filter. With the Penguin filters, you also have a "bio-wheel" so when you swap out filters, you don't lose all of the bacteria. The bio-wheel should never be replaced. If there is build-up on it - you rinse it with tank water and plop it back in. And the size B filter cartridges come in a 6 pack - so it's more convenient to only need one type of filter replacement.

The AquaClear 50 on the angel tank is a little different. It has 3 stages - a foam filter, activated charcoal and biomax beads. The activated charcoal is to be replaced every month, the foam insert every two months and the biomax beads every three months. It's going to take more effort to keep on that schedule for just one filter, but I do like that this one has an adjustable flow. The angelfish like less turbulent water - so I have a gang valve on the bubble stone and an adjustable flow on my power filter.

One last note about additives - I'm also using Stabilize in the three new tanks. It's supposed to cycle the tank faster by adding beneficial bacteria. There are a number of "tips and tricks" to cycle the tank faster. But from my testing, I can see that it's not as fast as you imagine. It just takes time. The daily water changes may help, but they are not completely solving the ammonia problem.

Posted by BlueWolf on September 11, 2018

September 08, 2018

Water Testing

I've mentioned a few times that you can't visually tell when your aquarium water should be changed. You really need a test kit for this. The test kit I use is the API Freshwater Master Test Kit.

You can get this kit from $21.99 online to $34.98 at some pet stores. It is the test kit that is mentioned on all the expert sites and used by most people. I also bought a few packs of the test strips. The strips are easier to use, but the test kits are much more accurate.

When you first start testing water, one of the biggest things you will run up against is comparing the colors. The test strips do not help you in that area - they still use color charts for readings.

I can understand the concern because some of the shades are not easy to distinguish. The close colors sometimes give you wiggle room to see what you want to see. If you have 0.5 ppm ammonia, it's easy to convince yourself that it's only 0.25 - or 1.0 depending on your personality (or mood). But once you test regularly, you get more confident in your results. And I was not confident in my 0.5 readings until I saw a 2.0 ppm reading.

One of the things I realized was that it really doesn't matter if it's 0.5 or 1.0 - if it's not 0 ammonia, you need a water change.

Since I have multiple tanks, I wanted a digital meter to probe and view a digital readout. I looked around and saw some for about $50 [Hanna checkers] - but they seemed to require constant calibration to function correctly. That sounds like more work than the tubes and reagents.

The other thing I'm still looking around for are replacement reagents for the test kit. From what I've seen there are separate tests (like for ammonia) - but the color charts on those are different. Right now a test kit is not my biggest problem, so I have some time to look a little harder.

My plan for the saltwater aquarium setup would be to have a probe somehow connected to an arduino/raspberry pi to send notifications to my phone/laptop. So I will be looking into this much further.

Posted by BlueWolf on September 08, 2018