Aquarium Has Been Planted

Planted Tank

After six weeks, I finally have received the plants and planted the entire aquarium.  I ended up using a website in which the domain pretty much sums up what they do, AquariumPlants.com.  They offer a service in which you fill out a lengthy questionaire regarding the size of your tank, lighting, CO2, plant likes, dislikes, etc.  From there, they basically build out a quote, similar to landscapers coming to your home.

It ended up being something like a total of 50 plants and 15 different species.  The plants are then shipped two day air from South Dakota.  When it arrived, it also contained a full size diagram of the aquarium showing exactly where each of the plants should be placed.  It was a good time trying to get all of them in the proper place, and took roughly two hours.  I managed to make quite a mess, so was glad the wife was running errands.  This photo was taken a week later, as I planted everything the day we left for Spring Break.  When I returned, the plants looked like they were acclimating nicely, except I immediately noticed a big problem, the tank has been infiltrated with mini snails.  Next time, I’ll hopefully have an update on getting rid of them.  The first batch of fish is scheduled to be delivered Thursday.

Why I will not be attending another ‘Second Round’ NCAA Game

ncaa

Please use this as a blueprint as to why it isn’t as exciting as it seems to drop at least $100 to drive an hour to pay to walk a 1/2 mile to watch five straight hours of NCAA basketball.

1.  NO BEER – This is number one for a good reason.  I had heard that UD Arena sells beer, so thought it was a forgone conclusion that I would be able to engage in a few overpriced, watered down light beers.  When we got in the arena, I of course started looking around and didn’t see a single person drinking a beer.  It should be said, that it was roughly 12:30 in the afternoon, so I didn’t see the lack of beers as a nail in the coffin.  As we were on the concourse walking a lap to see if there was a sign of this magical beverage, I laid eyes on a giant neon Budweiser sign.  I then saw that beer was $6.50.  This seemed fair, but when I got to the front of the line, I noticed that the handles were off of all of the taps.  I gave the worker a look of despair and asked him if they were serving beer, and he apologized and let us know that the NCAA does not allow the site to sell alcoholic beverages.  After I got by the initial shock, I tried to look on the bright side that I wouldn’t have to be going to the bathroom as often.

2.  No Cell Reception – I had to sit for five hours watching basketball without being able to use my phone at all.  No texts, no email, no using Google to see who the starting five was on the 1987 NCAA championship Indiana University team.  What was even worse is that the fact that it was trying to connect all day just killed the battery.  I kept glancing around and everyone was giving their phone the stink eye.  We are talking 12,000 people in this building and they can’t figure out a way to get cell coverage for everyone.  Hell, the tournament is sponsored by AT&T, they couldn’t park a van outside to blast a signal into the arena so I could check my Twitter feed every three minutes?  I felt like I was in the stone age.

3.  No Scores Being Shown – Let’s face it, everyone loves the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.  Games seem like they are ending every 15 minutes.  The action is incredible.  Now I realized that by going to the game in person, I would be missing this action, but I thought I would at least be kept abreast of the developments.  The last time I was in the UD Arena was approximately ten years ago for the Atlantic 10 tournament, so when we walked in and I saw four large HD video boards at each corner of the arena, I was pleasantly surprised.  Then when I realized that they wouldn’t be showing anything up there other than horrible ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘hide the basketball under the hat’ games.  There were seven other games going on while we were there and they would flash a score maybe once a game and only show it for less than a second so everyone would then be turning to each other asking if they saw what was up on the board.  I decided at one point that I would go up to use the bathroom, well I get into the concourse and it is wall to wall people, you can’t even fit through.  I can’t figure out what is going on, but then realize there is one flat screen television that has the LaSalle game on which is in the last two minutes.  Mind you, this is half time of one of the games, but 1,000 people are wedged together like sardines to watch one 42″ tv because the arena refuses to both show the games and provide coverage so people could be checking the scores on their phone.  Another thing to note, is the television time outs.  There is a time out under 16 min, 12 min, 8 min and 4 min, not to mention each team gets five time outs.  There is so much dead time that it is crazy.  They could easily be showing highlights on the board, but instead I am watching a photo scramble of the leading scorer of the 1993 Arizona team for the fourth time.  I was considering gouging my eyes out.

4.  The Scam of Two Sessions – This one didn’t bother me as I only had tickets for the first session, but they split the two sessions up so that every human has to leave the arena after the first session, and then get back in line to sit in the same seat for the second session.  This actually may have been a good idea if there were say three hours between sessions, you could leave, hit a bar, grab some food, and then come back, but there were two problems.

A.  The game is on campus at Dayton with no other civilization in sight

B.  The Indiana/JMU game ended at 6:18, and the Notre Dame game started at 7:15.  They had to completely clear 12,000 people, and have the next batch of people re-enter and get in their seats in less than an hour.  I snuck out of there with five seconds left in the Indiana game, and just at the exit we were at, I saw at least 500 people waiting in line to get in and it was roughly 40 degrees outside.  They still had to wait for everyone to get out.  Lastly, how exactly do you run a parking lot for two sessions?  I don’t know, and obviously Dayton didn’t know either.  There were huge lines of people trying to get in as well as people trying to get out.  Luckily someone broke open a lock on a gate by where we were parked and we were able to escape in around 30 minutes.

I’m sorry, but in 2013, you have to create a decent user experience.  It’s not like I’m going to a random mid week baseball game.  Everyone cares about all the games.  It keeps the crowd engaged by showing scores/highlights/upsets.  By not showing that, everyone looks like they are going to sleep during the multitude of tv time outs.  A big screen tv, an iPhone and a 12 pack of beer has never looked better.

New Trim on Aquarium

When I decided that I wanted to get serious in the aquarium hobby, I didn’t know what type of aquarium or size I was really interested in.  I just knew I didn’t want anything ‘boxy’ or generic with wood grain.  I was down in Florida for Thanksgiving and was at an aquarium store where I saw an aquarium set made by Fluval that I thought was really cool and modern.

fluval-osaka-260I thought the set looked like nothing I had really seen before, and thought it would look good.  It was 82 gallons and would fit in our house nicely.  So, I was sold, and ordered it from an online pet store on Cyber Monday, as they had 20% off and free shipping.  The listing did say that it would be two to four weeks before the aquarium was shipped.  I put in the notes that we would be out of town for Christmas so it would be great if it could be shipped prior to that time.  A rep from the company called and said they couldn’t guarantee that it would be shipped prior to Christmas, so they were going to put me on the calendar for mid January.  While this stunk, I figured I had no other option.  Fast forward a month later, just before Christmas, I get a call from the same place, “Mr. Fish, I’m calling about your aquarium.  Fluval has discontinued that model and therefore we have to cancel your order, have a nice day.”  I made a very embarrassing noise, something like a soft, ‘oh, noooo’, like someone had died, when it is a silly aquarium.  Nevertheless, it was very frustrating considering I already purchased many of the accessories, and it took them a month to tell me they couldn’t get the aquarium.

I ended up finding a place in Cincinnati, that builds custom aquariums.  I took a photo of the Fluval tank and basically asked if he would build me something close.  What happened was that the tank went from 82 gallons to about 115.  I was also told that it would be an eight week lead time.  He was able to build an acrylic tank with rounded edges like the Fluval, but wasn’t able to build the stainless still trim like the photo.

I figured I would take it one step at a time.  I reached out to Tim of the Howland Group, who had done a ton of work on our house to see if he could build a stand and then figure out a way to install the trim I was looking for.  Tim came up with a new idea for the stand, and wouldn’t you know it, even though we had seven weeks of lead time, it came down to the day I picked up the tank when the stand was delivered!  After the stand was installed, they did some measurements and came up with a cool design for some stainless steel trim, but also some black wood to match the stand itself.

aquarium trimmThey did a great job, and honestly, it looks much better than the Fluval ever did.  Its just comical that something I thought was going to arrive December 1, is still being worked on five months later.  I am having all of the plants delivered Friday, so will show the next update at that time.

 

 

Yep, I’m a Chemist

CO2

When I decided that I wanted to get a sizable aquarium, one of the reasons that I wanted to make it freshwater was my desire to try to grow plants to at least attempt to create a natural environment.  As I started to research this, I discovered that it would take a couple of extra items to make that happen.

1.  High Powered Lighting – For my little aquarium, I went with a LED fixture, instead of the normal halogen.  The LEDs give out a cool ‘shimmering’ effect to the water, and also have what they all a lunar feature which almost looks like a black light in the aquarium which is only activated in the evening.  What I found out is that it is pretty difficult to have both LED and a light powerful enough to provide the proper spectrum of lighting needed for most aquatic plants.  It turns out that Marineland came out with a LED fixture capable of growing plants, but it was more than a little pricy.  I emailed Marineland and gave them the dimensions of the aquarium and they then told me that I would need two of the lights to sufficiently light the aquarium and grow plants.  Not only did I have to purchase an expensive fixture, but now I had to buy two of them.  Since at this time I had about two weeks until the aquarium arrived, I turned in to a massive eBay stalker.  After about a month, I was able to secure a couple of lights and ended up saving over $300 by using eBay.

2.  Carbon Dioxide Infusion – Believe me, I knew nothing about this before I started reading about it, but it turns out that aquatic plants need to have some form of CO2 during the time that they are receiving sunlight.  Whereas at night, they put out CO2.  Many aquatic plants won’t do well in an aquarium unless they are treated with some form of CO2.  There are many DIY systems out there, where you literally pull the carbonation from beverages such as below.

[diy co2 aquarium]

I decided that I wanted to try something a little more official, so I reached out to the guys at GreenLeafAquariums.com.  They designed a nice looking system for me, shown in the top photo to the post.  Basically the CO2 is put on a timer to only be activated when the lights of the aquarium are on.  When the system is activated, CO2 begins to flow from the tank through the bubble counters (silver & red).  There is a regulator to dial in the exact amount you are looking for. The gas then goes through each of the tubes to two atomic diffusers that I have set up on each side of the tank.

Atomic DiffuserIn theory this is supposed to assist in the nutrients for the plants, but as of today, the tank isn’t yet filled with plants.  That said, I have a big order of 45 plants being delivered this Friday, so will see if I really am a chemist.

 

Stump Boil a Huge Success

Cleanest Tank in Town

After buying a garbage can and roughly 14 hours of a boil, I gave the driftwood stump a week to dry out.  During this two day boil marathon, I did see my neighbors in their backyard a few times, and they had to be wondering if I had truly lost my mind.  I gave the driftwood five days to dry out and then put it into the aquarium, and it didn’t leach tannins in the least.  I was borderline shocked that it actually worked, but it did.

I am having a custom canopy installed on the aquarium this afternoon, and the next step will be having 40 plants delivered March 29.  Believe it or not, I actually intend to put some real fish in the aquarium, they are on order to be delivered April 9.  We are having another Cinco de Mayo party at the house this year, and the goal is to have the tank in perfect shape by the party.

Tomorrow, update on the CO2 system.

 

Who is Hungry for a Stump Boil?

So from my post last week, my aquarium looked something like the broth from french onion soup.  I had to do something about it.  I saw various potential remedies to attempt to diminish the tannins in driftwood.

  • Run it through the dishwasher twice with no detergent – No chance that thing fits in my dishwasher so had to scrap that idea
  • Put 8-10 layers of Thompson’s Water Sealant on the driftwood – This way it would seal in all of the tannins which discolor the water.  Honestly, this one scared me as I really don’t think it makes a lot of sense to have those chemicals in a place where I’m trying to raise fish & plants
  • Bake it in the oven at 200 degrees for six hours – I explored this option, but again it was simply too big to get in the oven
  • Boil it for 3-6 hours and then let dry out – I couldn’t initially go this route as of course I don’t have a pot to fit this behemoth
  • Deal with it…fish like brown water – While that may be true, an aquarium is very unsightly when it doesn’t have clear water, so I had to come up with something.
  • Channel your “Inner Redneck” – The only option left of the table.

Stump Boil

I went to Lowe’s and picked up a galvanized garbage can, put a garbage bag in, wedged the driftwood in there and cranked on the propane to the stand from a turkey fryer.  It did leak a bit, but seemed to work for the most part.  It took almost five hours to get the water to boil.  I let it run just about all day Saturday and Sunday.  I took it out Monday morning and then plan to let it dry out all week and try it in the aquarium this weekend.

If that doesn’t work, and it still makes the tank look like a swamp, I may have to turn it into a really large paperweight!! (check out my ‘work towel’)

Boiled Stump

 

Well, that Doesn’t Look Right…

Cloudy AquariumI finally got my new aquarium and started putting it together last week, doesn’t it look great?  Oh, it looks more like a Florida swamp?  I’m still trying to learn the ropes here.

I was a bit giddy working through getting the thing together.  I mixed some aquarium sand with a product called flourite, which is basically plant fertilizer.  I then used aquarium gravel over that and tried to put together a sand ‘path’ of sorts through the middle of the tank.  My dad got me a big piece of manzanita driftwood driftwood for Christmas that looks like a stump.  I had read that you should wash a stump in a dishwasher with no soap to try to steam it to get it ready for the aquarium.  I tried this, but the darn thing was simply too large to fit in the dishwasher so I soaked it in hot water in a sink in our basement.  I put it in the tank, and used the hose to fill up the beast. The stump proceed to float, so I had to put a ton of rocks on it to hold it down.  The filter and lights were pretty easy to set up, so I felt pretty good when I went to bed.

I got up the next morning and the tank looked like the above! The stump was in the process of releasing a bunch of tannins into the aquarium, so basically its like throwing a giant tea bag into a clear glass of water.  I gave it 24 hours thinking the filter would clean it up.  No such luck, the water looked even worse a day later.  I decided to read up on it and found that some people have driftwood that leaches tannins for over a YEAR.  I couldn’t take that, so I decided to take it out, and I’m going to let it soak for another month or so, and see if it is in better shape then.

After a significant water change, the tank is crystal clear.  Just crazy that a piece of wood can change the water color that drastically.

Over the next week, I’m going to try to set up the carbon dioxide fertilization system as well as put in another heater.  Unfortunately the largest heater I could find won’t keep the tank above 76 degrees, so I’m going to put in a second heater to try to keep the tank steady at 81 degrees, as the species of fish I’m going to put in require warm water.

 

The Biggest Mass Murderer of My Time

algae-eater

In my last post, I spoke about starting up an aquarium on Labor Day, 2012.  Here I am nearly five months later, and I finally came to the realization as to why the hell I keep killing dozens of fish.  I’ve gone through the gauntlet of potential reasons:

  • Water parameters – Did I put too much chlorine remover in?
  • Water changes – Was once a week too much?
  • Feeding – Was I feeding too much, too little?
  • Lighting – Did I have the lights on too much?
  • Water Temperature – Was I shocking the fish when I did a water change because the temp was not to the exact degree?

Now, since I put normal fish in my aquarium, seven species have lived the entire time.  I have two ghost shrimp, one cherry red shrimp, two algae eating shrimp, an albino cory catfish, and a Chinese algae eater.  During that time, I have assassinated probably 20 neon tetras, 15 cardinal tetras, and 12 rasboras, and one yellow snail, which I will get to later.  For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the neons would last for almost exactly two weeks, starting to look sick after ten days, and then dying around 14 days?  Not to mention that invertebrates (my shrimp) are supposed to be difficult to keep, but have lasted months and months.

I hit a breaking point when I got back from vacation with my wife a couple of weeks ago around midnight.  I go into my four year old’s bedroom to give him a hug, and out of a dead sleep, the first thing he says to me is, “Dad, the snail died.”, and then went back to sleep.

Our poor babysitter house sat while we were in Florida over Christmas during a mass killing, and was also there when the snail died, so of course she thought she was doing something wrong, which of course she wasn’t, it was the idiot who didn’t notice that there was a slow killer in the tank.

From there, I vowed that I wouldn’t put any more fish in the aquarium until the bigger one showed up.  I followed that promise for a solid week.  Then, I was sitting on a chair next to the aquarium to put my shoes on, when I noticed the devil himself, the Chinese algae eater, trying to suck onto the side of the cory catfish.  He kept chasing him around the tank trying to latch on to the last other fish left into the tank.  It reminded me of seeing photos of sharks with parasite fish attached to them.

Shark

 

After seeing this, a light popped on, and I started doing some searches.  Turns out that a select few of these Chinese algae eaters have the urge to be a predator at night, and try to suck the “slime coat” off of smaller fish in an aquarium.  The only reason the cory cat was unharmed is that the algae eater didn’t go after him until he had to, as he was the biggest fish in the tank.  Mind you, that deadly Chinese algae eater is less than two inches long, and are supposed to do exactly as the name states, eat algae in the tank, but instead he was slowly torturing all of the other fish.  It also turns out that shrimp do not have a “slime coat” so he decided to completely leave them alone.

I probably should have figured that out, I don’t know, maybe three months ago?  Quite a few fish had to be buried at sea because of that evil beast, but I decided that he finally had to go.  In the week since he has been gone I’ve put seven new fish in, and they all seem to be doing fine.  All of that said, if you see another post from me in another week or two saying all the fish died, I’ll have to come up with another excuse….

 

Potential Aquarium Nerd

So I have a couple of things going against me.  My last name, not many people with the last name ‘Fish’, so having an aquarium is at least kind of funny with that name.  Second is that my Dad had aquariums around our house as a kid.  Now, in my adult life, my wife and I have always been 100% against having pets.  I already have two kids, they are animals enough for me, so we have shot them down every single time they asked about getting a dog, cat, bird, rat, or anything else.  We like going places for weekends and never wanted to have to ask someone to deal with our annoying pets while we were gone.

Well, that changed somehow this summer.  I guess it is a tradition at the pool we go to, that on Labor Day they release 1,500 goldfish into the pool and the kids get to jump in and capture them and take them home to rot in a bowl.  I’m pretty confident that PETA is not aware of this practice.  However, my kids of course went crazy and caught ten of the vermin.

Damn Fishs

From there I thought I better head to WalMart and get a legitimate tank so I don’t traumatize the impressional kids when their fish start floating upside down after a few hours.  I ended up buying a super generic 10 gallon aquarium, some neon gravel, and a couple of fake plants.  My boys really loved looking at the fish for at least five minutes, to then moving on to legos or something far more important.  I ended up taking care of of those damn fish for a couple of weeks and actually enjoyed working on the aquarium.  Of course I decided I should upgrade to a nicer filter, then get rid of the halogen light and get the new “led” lights, etc, etc.  My wife thought, well still thinks, that I was a true weirdo, but heck I thought it was fun to mess with.

I do need to stop in the middle of this, and admit to the fact that it is pretty strange for a 36 year old man to be writing about a dumpy aquarium.  I will say that my old boss, Jonathan Shapiro, did something similar about five years ago about wood working and I thought it was really funny, so why not.

So after I had my “goldfish” tank with the proper filtration they deserve, I went out and bought some natural looking gravel and tried to start growing some real plants in the tank.  I figured it would be interesting to see if I could pull it off.  I do need to be clear about goldfish, I don’t have much against them, but I truly fear what they turn into, the big disgusting carp that you see at some lakes (mostly in redneck areas where they let you feed them).  I can say that those things are one of my top five fears on this earth.  Last summer, we were in West Virginia at a resort and kids were feeding thousands of them.  It gave me the creeps so badly that I had to leave the dock.  Nicole took this photo just in case she ever wants to freak me out.

Gross CarpSo

So I began to realize after the goldfish had about a month in the tank that they were growing and feeding just like the heinous carp pictured above.  At the same time, each morning I would get up and some of the plants would be uprooted around the aquarium which really fired me up.  I decided it was time for them to go.  My wife was rightfully giving me the business that the whole reason we got the tank was because of the goldfish, but I had to get them out of there.  So I netted all ten of them, threw them on the floor stomped on each of them and threw them in the trash.  Actually, I was a real wimp and put them all in a giant pitcher and drove them to a pond about five miles from our house, and dumped them on in after saying a tearful goodbye.  I sure hope nobody decides to swim in there this summer for fear of being attacked by the giant goldfish and their sadistic offspring.

That left me to finally put some decent fish in the tank.  Loaded up with a half dozen shrimp, a cool snail, a cory catfish, some rasboras, and about 15 neon tetras.  All of the fish have done well except that I’ve probably killed about 30 neons, but I keep trying.  Water changes each week, checking the water make up all the time, everything checked out, but the more I read, it seems that they are hard to maintain in a tank that small since any changes of the parameter of the water gets magnified in such a small space.  Here is a look at the tank as of now.

10 gal aquarium

So of course since I can’t master a ten gallon tank, I had to do what any good excuse maker would do.  I asked for a big aquarium for Christmas!!

I ended up ordering a 112 gallon custom acrylic aquarium, that for some strange reason my wife has allowed for me to put in our kitchen.  As I have gotten older, my only hobby has been golf, so this gives me another opportunity to do something instead of watching Real Housewives of fill in the blank with my wife.  Our contractor is building a cool stand for the tank to sit on, and I’ve wasted many hours reading about the best way to set it up, etc.  The tank is supposed to arrive around March 1, and I’ll get started with it.  I’m moving the little tank up to Carter’s room as he is the only other one in the house who cares one bit.  Even though I have another month plus before it is ready to go, that hasn’t stopped me from making sure I am ready for its arrival.  My office has turned into a storage area.

Aquarium gear

Anyway, yes, it may be lame, but I’m going to do some posting over the year as to the status of the tank.  I really think it has the potential to take my readers from 9 down to somewhere around 3.

 

Back to Work

RM try 3

Exciting day for me today.  Starting up on a new project after over a decade working on the company I founded in 2001.  It was a roller coaster ride and change my life as well as my family’s forever, but looking forward to a new journey.  I am now the President of ReputationManagement.com.  A group of us will strive to help all people protect their reputation online.  The web gets more and more complex every day, and everyone now has a voice.  Sometimes those voices can be used to write blatantly false or misunderstood things about you or your business.  Our goal will be to educate people and provide the tools to make sense out of protecting your brand and reputation.  I made my first post on the site today which explains everything in a more detailed fashion, but looking forward to working hard to create something fun and useful for our users.  More updates to follow…