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Where do we go from here?

Photo by Katie Godowski on Pexels.com

The last few years have been mad ones. Our interactions with each other, our national and international politics, COVID-19, Ukraine – and there is a load of other stuff tightly packed in and around those few. The world seems to be sliding off the rails. I hear John Noble voicing Denethor echoing in my head, “Abandon your posts! Flee! Flee for your lives!”

But where can we go?

We are all sailing through space, on a little glob of earth. On the surface of that glob are a few drops of water and the tiniest sliver of miraculous life.  The world is full of puffed up and angry people who imagine themselves giants when in reality we are all less than amoebas on the cosmic slide that holds the speck that is our Earth.

We should be working together to solve the great challenges of mankind. Each country has knowledge and resources that could fix problems elsewhere in the world. Instead we hoard our wealth and fight to gain power over each other.

Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com
I speak of the human race as a whole. This may not apply to you. You may be outraged, hurt or even offended by my words. That is not my intent. The truth is that I am talking to myself on this blog to see if it is any better than screaming into the wind.

There are good people on this earth but the ignorant are louder and their words and actions are contagion.

If we don’t do something differently then one day we’ll be gone. Every one of us gone. No more spring time, or Mardi Gras. No more concerts, Marvel movies, good food or babies. No more of anything. Good, bad, famous, unknown, rich, poor, black, white, tall, short, talented…. none of it will matter.

What a terrible waste that would be.

 

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Current State of My Aquarium

A few months ago my CO2 regulator valve died and almost took the fish with it. I decided to forgo the CO2. I have some bucephalandra and they started to get hair algae as the plants that required CO2 faded away. I added a few less demanding plants to suck up the excess nutrients and started using Seachem Flourish Excel which provides some bio-available carbon and seems to depress the algae a little. I also started using Seachem Flourish Advance Growth Supplement which has some plant hormones that can stimulate root growth.

It took a while to eradicate the algae. I had otocinclus, nerites and shrimp on patrol but with the excess light and nutrient build up it was an algae-tastrophy waiting to happen. It took some time and a lot of muttering but it finally turned around.

My tank is a little on the wild and disheveled side. I have never really had a carefully manicured tank like some of the incredible ones I see on the international aquascaping contest websites, but maybe one day I will. Still, the tank is healthy. I spend some time watching it every day. It is relaxing and I have always enjoyed watching the fish and other critters doing their thing.

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Amazon Reviews

I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon. A lot. Not a lot of big things but it has become such an easy way for me to find things I can’t easily find, get some reviews to help me make a purchasing decision, quickly send stuff to my son in college. In short it has made itself very convenient and useful.

Now and then I star rate or review products on Amazon. A lot of them are 4 and 5 star reviews because I do research before I buy. In any case I thought I will share some of them here as I make them. I will add affiliate links because if I earn a few cents it will offset the money I spend on Amazon if only by a penny here and there.

After a bit, if I see from the stats that people are visiting the reviews I made add a feedback form so you can recommend things to review in the categories of stuff I buy – books, aquarium stuff, mad science and the like.

Here is my review page on Amazon.

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Algae Eaters for the Planted Aquarium

Algae is a common problem in aquariums. It flourishes anytime there are enough nutrients and light to meet its needs. There are a lot of ways to combat algae; some revolve around making sure algae doesn’t get what it needs to grow. Others include targeting outbreaks with manual removal, or spot treatments with hydrogen peroxide.

Other things we can do:

  • make water changes to reduce the waste products they feed on
  • reduce our fish stocking density
  • check our lighting fixtures & bulbs
  • put timers on our lighting so doesn’t run longer than needed to ensure plant health
  • introduce plants that will compete with algae for the available nutrients
  • add inhabitants to the aquarium who love to munch on algae

We’ll talk about some of those other methods in future posts but for now, I want to introduce you to a few of my favorite algae eating critters for planted aquariums.

Note: the list of suitable algae eaters can vary depending on your tank setup and your fish selection. I have smaller peaceful fish including Rasboras, Neon Tetra, Rummy Nose, Pencil Fish, Celestial Danio, Guppies and a few types of shrimp in a densely planted tank. My recommendations below are based on this type of community tank.

Fish

Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus vestitus
Otocinclus (Otocinclus vestitus)
Fremen [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Otocinclus are small peaceful catfish native to South America and often referred to as dwarf suckers, oto cats, or just plain otos.

I’m not sure what it is about otos, but like a lot of people with planted tanks I find them fascinating. I started with three in my 29 gallon and now am up to about eight. They scrape at the algae on the glass, suck at algae on the plant leaves and eagerly tackle any other food scraps in the tank. They are good tankmates for a variety of peaceful fish. They like clean but established tanks, with plants, some algae and biofilm.

Otos do best in established planted tanks, with peaceful tank mates and in groups of three or more. Remember that you need to make sure otos have enough to eat. People sometimes think suckers and catfish survive just on scraps and I have seen oto cats get skinny and die from neglect.

Tip: Some of my absolute favorite foods for Otos, other algae eaters and biofilm grazers -like Stiphodon Gobies- are Respashy’s Soilent Green and Community Plus gel foods. In fact these Repashy foods are so darn good I just decided I’ll be adding a post just about them.

Shrimp

Next on the list of algae warriors are the shrimp. I have a few types in my tank but two of the most productive algae grazers in my tank are the Amano and the Cherry shrimps – members of the Caridina & Neocaridina genus respectively (note: there are other family members and color variations of these shrimp species that may be just as effective, these are the ones I have in my tank).

Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata)
Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata)
Seotaro [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
These are hardy and active shrimp and a good choice for first-timers. They tend to grow bigger than Neocaridinia and while I have heard anecdotally that big shrimp may prey on smaller species I have not seen this behavior; some of my Amanos are 1 1/2″ long and I haven’t seen them bother the tiny baby Cherry shrimp in my tank.

Having said all that – they are greedy! They are always on the lookout for food and when I drop tablet food into the aquarium the Amanos will grab it and try to drag it into a hidey-hole so they don’t have to share.

One thing to keep in mind with both the Amano and Cherry shrimps is that if you have lots of other food in the tank they won’t be as enticed by the algae. Why? Well just imagine if I gave you a choice between your favorite food, and a small hard biscuit that I told you had the same nutritional value – which would you rather eat? Don’t overfeed, and you’ll notice that as the day goes on the Amanos will be furiously picking at many types of algae and biofilm while they wait for your next feeding..

Cherry Shrimp

Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)
Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)
TheJammingYam at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL]
Cherry shrimp are a peaceful, hardy and industrious shrimp from Taiwan which is very popular among planted tank enthusiasts. There are a wide range of color morphs that have resulted from selective breeding and culling which include red, yellow, orange, green, blue, violet, black. Within those colors you’ll find yet more intense and brilliant variations with names like Blue Diamond or Sapphire, Bloody Mary and striped or patterned varieties like Rili. They breed readily and can be a fascinating addition to an aquarium.

Cherry shrimp are omnivores that feed on biofilm and algae. Like the Amano they’ll eat all of your prepared food gladly, so if you want them to help control your algae you’ll need to find a balance. I haven’t verified this with any sophisticated testing but if these things were as big as Amanos I think they’d eat twice as much algae. It is pretty amazing to watch how fast their tiny legs pick and shove food into their mouths.

Shrimp will scavenge and help clean the tank but be sure they are getting enough food! Two of the foods I use are Shrimp Fit and Shrimp Cuisine. The Shrimp Fit is a powder and will help grow biofilm and provide sustenance for the baby shrimp. I’ll add another blog post soon just about shrimp.

Zebra Nerite Snails

Zebra Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis sp. zebra)
Zebra Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis sp. zebra)

The Nerite Snails that are commonly sold for freshwater tanks are interesting and hard working. They are hardy though they seem to have a relatively short lifespan in freshwater aquaria of about a year.

One of the key selling points of these snails is not only how much algae they eat but that with their strong rasping teeth they are able to remove the harder spot algae from the aquarium glass. Another benefit of these snails is that they need brackish water to reproduce so you don’t have to worry about hordes of babies – unless you are adding salt to your aquarium. I’ve read that they can lay sesame seed sized eggs, attached to various objects in the tank but I have not had that occur in the 8 months I’ve had them.

Keep in mind that since algae and biofilm are primary food sources for these snails they will do better in an established tank with some algae growth. Probably best not to introduce them into a brand new tank.

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Here We Go Again

Burt Abreu, AuthorWell this is the typical “Hello World!” post. I’ve had several sites over the years focused on various interests. This particular domain has changed focus a few times from art, to writing, and other topics. It has been built using plain old static HTML, an opensource CMS and finally WordPress. For the last few years it has languished like a hallway closet with clothes that no longer fit anyone in the house.

Did I have a moment’s inspiration, or was it the hot dog I had for lunch? I’m not sure but I decided to have another go of it, using a blog format this time around and just see where it goes.

For the record I’m not one of those internet mavens who is suave and sophisticated. I’m not a snazzy dresser. My posts will not influence the stock market or world events. I also have a head the size of a prize-winning state fair pumpkin. I mention this because, unless you’re a pumpkin farmer, I have no idea why you’re here (or even if you are here!).

In fact, I may just be talking to myself. In public. On the internet.

Guess we’ll find out.