Archive for March, 2011

3/30/2011: An update on life

It’s about time for an update on what’s going on in the fish tanks.

20G Planted tank: Not much to say here, everybody is doing fine, and I’m continuing the never-ending process of trying to select the best balance of fertilizers to maximize plant growth and minimize algae growth. I think I’ve made a recent improvement, in that the type of algae that’s growing now is easy to remove from the plants. Exciting, huh?

55G Freshwater tank: An interesting development here. Last week I took a reading and I got my first zero ammonia/nitrite reading. This is actually a big deal because this is the first indication that the fishless cycle is done. I added ammonia and checked it the next day and I still got the zero readings, which served as a way to double-check that the tank is ready for fish. I started to make arrangements to get fish this past weekend, like I mentioned in my last post, but I was having trouble getting the rams. I went around to a couple more stores and it was looking like I was going to have to order them online. Then, something strange happened, I started getting ammonia readings in the tank. I have no idea what’s causing this, even though the solution is the same regardless of the cause. The worst case scenario is that something wiped out most of the bacteria population I’ve been building over the past several weeks, and I have to start mostly from scratch again. Best case is that it will be ready again next week.

In other news, one of the fish stores I went to had Bolivian Rams in stock. They were all female, but I asked about it and they said they get those fish from a local breeder. I think I’ve made up my mind that this is what I want to do, since it’s a near-ideal situation for both me and the fish. It’s good for the fish because they don’t have to be shipped a long way at any point in their life, and it’s good for me because I know I’m getting the fish very young, and they are small enough at that point that I can add them to the tank basically whenever I want without serious consequences, which I can’t do with a more mature fish like that. There’s no way to know when the breeder will have another batch ready, but I’m willing to wait, and I can fill the tank up with 50+ tetras while I wait.

One last thing on this tank, that same fish store has some absolutely beautiful driftwood sets. They’re expensive, but totally worth it. I’m going to try and stop by there soon and pick one up.

Quarantine tank: Just a little over a week until these guys go into the main tank! They are both eating very well, and appear to be happy, except for the fact that they would like to be in a larger tank. They’re even starting to warm up to me being in the room; the powder brown tang especially. They have started to develop personalities, even in the quarantine: the Atlantic Blue Tang is very similar to Butch, except he can be more persistent in his aggressive behavior. The Powder Brown Tang is friendly and outgoing, but but has a little bit of spunk in him that I’m not sure how to react to yet. I’m not quite sure how he feels playing a submissive role to another tang, hopefully he’ll do better in the larger tank with more hiding places.

150G Saltwater tank: The only real news here is an update on Ruckus. His eye sort of got worse, but now it’s looking much better. There is still some swelling, but it’s mostly gone down, and no other fish have shown any signs of infection or anything bad, so leaving him in the tank was the right way to go. Since it’s not completely healed, I can’t say for sure, but my best guess based on my observations is that he hasn’t lost sight in that eye, but he’s still having trouble seeing out of it now because it’s still not back to normal. I feel OK saying that I think he’ll be back to normal with all of his sight within a week, which is a good thing because soon, this tank will be getting two more aggressive fish and Ruckus doesn’t need to be vulnerable.

That’s all I have for now.

3/25/2011: Weekly? update

An update on a few things that have happened this week. I’ll start with saltwater.

Two weeks from today, the hyposalinity treatment will be finished for the two new tangs. Since they’ve been separated, both of them have vastly improved. I’m finally able to get both of them to eat every type of food I’m giving them, and they’re both starting to bulk up. The powder brown tang’s fins are getting better, now that he’s not getting beat up by the other guy all the time. They’re starting to warm up to me a little bit too, before they would both hide whenever I was anywhere in the room, they wouldn’t even eat until I had left the room. Now I think they understand the fact that I’m the one who feeds them and they don’t have to be scared of me. I’m hoping things get even better when they go into the main tank. Also, if I sneak up and poke my head in the room, I can see the Atlantic Blue Tang without his “I’m stressed” colors on, and it’s nice to see that yellow color. I just can’t nearly get close enough for a good picture yet.

In the main saltwater tank, there has been one issue. Ruckus has Pop-eye, where it looks like one of his eyes is popped out of its socket. It’s more of a symptom than a disease, really. I freaked out and then I did my research and asked around and it doesn’t look like there is any disease or infection or parasite in the tank. My best guess is that it was caused by trauma, since he’s acting normally (other than the fact that he can’t really see out of that eye, of course). The best thing to do is just to leave him in that tank and make sure it heals, so I’ve been keeping a close eye on that eye for a few days now and it seems OK. If it’s bad enough, Ruckus could possibly become permanently blind in that eye. In the worst case, it means he gets picked on more, but I don’t think it will be any major long-term issue.

Now for the new 55G tank. Earlier this week I got the first reading which indicates that the cycle is done. I started making plans to pick up fish this weekend, but I’m beginning to think I might wait a little longer just to make sure everything is cycled. Without getting too technical, I’ll just say that I want to be 100% certain that the bacteria colony that’s been growing can handle all of the fish I’m planning to put into the tank, and at the moment I’m only about 75% sure. In other news, I’m starting to come up with a more concrete stock list for the tank.

The two “showpiece” fish will probably be a pair of Electric Blue Rams, hopefully a male and a female. I’ll link to a picture of one of these guys, I think the one in the picture is a male. The female will probably not have as bright of a coloration, and I’ve also seen them have a deeper blue color.

Electric Blue Ram

I’m thinking for the tetras, I’ll probably go with two large schools of about 25 fish each. It’s still kind of up in the air, but I’m thinking at the moment of having one school of neon tetras, which will include a couple of different kinds of neons, since I already have blue neons and black neons in the freshwater tank. The other school might either have Ember tetras or Glowlight tetras. I’m hoping to have all of these guys in the tank before next weekend. At that point, there will of course be lots of pictures, and I plan on taking another video of the lighting system.

As for the freshwater tank, I’ve been looking into different kinds of shrimp to put in there. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have just one large colony of Red Cherry shrimp (RCS). This is an easy choice because those shrimp are a nice bright red, and they’re easy to take care of. I’ll link to a picture I took about a year ago of an RCS when I had them back then. Of course, they didn’t make it because fish are natural predators to shrimp, I don’t think we’ll have that problem this time.

Red Cherry Shrimp

3/19/2011: Recent happenings

Well some things have happened, not particularly good or bad, but worth writing about.

A: I was using a different brand of orange LED strips for the lighting project than I was for the white and blue. Well, even though the orange ones were advertised as waterproof, it turns out they aren’t. The strip on the right side shorted out and luckily there was no damage to any of the other components in the setup. So, I ordered a different brand of orange LED strips for the 55G tank and they arrived today. They look just like the other ones (except they give orange light, of course) and I installed them today. So it was a minor problem that’s been fixed, and the only loss is that it was a pain in the butt and I wasted some money on LED strips that turned out not to be waterproof. Oh well.

In related news, the nitrite readings on that tank are already starting to drop. I’m thinking it will be about a week until that tank is ready for fish. This is exciting! I finished the aquascaping in that tank, which was unfinished only because one of the pieces of driftwood I bought wouldn’t sink. I tried submerging it in a 5-gallon bucket, but it’s really big and I fear it’s going to be forever until it decides to sink, so I gave up and zip-tied it to one of the rocks in the tank. Maybe one day it will decide to sink some day, but now it doesn’t really matter anymore.

I’ve already told the fish store to try to get a mated pair of rams, which will be the “showpiece” for this tank. Once the tank is ready for fish, I’ll do a 100% water change, which will mean the water should be clear again (it’s tea-colored right now because of the new driftwood) and at that point I’ll start taking a bunch more pictures. Maybe they’ll be interesting pictures, too, since there will be fish in the tank!

2: After the power struggle in the quarantine tank, I mentioned I had separated those two so the Powder Brown tang could recover from getting beat up on. Well, he came back pretty nicely and so I decided to try removing the barrier after their feeding time, after their lights went out. Well, the next morning the powder brown tang was looking all beat up again. I’ve separated them again and they’re going to stay separated until they go into the big tank, where the powder brown tang will have some places to get away and hide. Other than the aggression, their treatment is going well and it should be less than 3 more weeks before they end up in the big tank.

That’s all for now. Aren’t you glad I’m updating more often?

3/14/2011: Two small things

Just a small update this time, I have two things.

It seems there has been a power struggle in the quarantine tank. Even though he is smaller, the Powder Brown Tang has been more of a dominant one in the quarantine tank. Last night, though, I looked at the quarantine and I saw the Powder Brown Tang looking kind of beat up and submissive and the Atlantic Blue acting very assertive. It looked bad enough that I decided to put the barrier into the tank and separate the two of them, just to give the Powder Brown a chance to recover. He’s not showing any sign of disease, but he does look kind of beat up and stressed, so hopefully he will bounce back and be fine.

The other thing, I have been making marginal improvements to the LED setup on the new fish tank. I had originally bought an LCD screen to go along with the microcontroller but I couldn’t get it to work. Turns out my soldering skills aren’t very good, but I got that taken care of and now the LCD works! I have a picture:

Now it may not seem like such a big deal, but having the LCD screen actually allows me to set the clock without hooking the microcontroller up to my computer, which is a huge convenience. I still have a couple of minor things I want to do to the LED setup, but all of the significant parts of the setup are done and working at the moment. My guess is that the tank will be ready for fish in 2-3 weeks.

3/11/2011: All-around update

Hi everyone. I’m going to give an update on everything fish tank related, I want it to kind of serve as a summary of how things have gone since I moved. It will include an update on the lighting for the new tank as well.

First, the 20G planted tank: I’ve been trying to leave this one alone as much as possible until I get the new freshwater tank set up. The nine fish in there have been very happy with the nice big tank all to themselves, especially Torpedo who is having a grand old time swimming around between the plants and driftwood. I’ve been tweaking the fertilizers I’ve been giving the tank some more as well; the main reason for that is because with the small number of fish I have in there, they aren’t producing as much CO2 and Nitrate and I need to compensate for that. There’s a little algae but I think the tank looks good. Once the fish are out I’m going to try to get a nice big colony of shrimp in there as quickly as possible.

Now for saltwater. I’ll start with the quarantine tank: the two new tangs have been doing fine. They’ve sort of acclimated to their treatment and to life inside one of my tanks, even though they wish they had more room. They’ve shown no signs of sickness, so if that continues, they can go into the main tank in 4 more weeks. Even though the Powder Brown tang is smaller, it looks like he’s actually becoming the boss between the two of these guys. It’s not set in stone yet but at least that’s the way it looks for now.

In the main tank, I have a couple of updates, though not much has happened (which is a good thing). I haven’t seen Midgee in a long time now, so I’m going to assume he’s dead :-( . I’ve also noticed that the Cardinals have become a lot more assertive and outgoing recently. The breeding-related tension that they had before the move has seemed to resolve itself, and these guys are actually challenging some of the larger fish (even Sarge) when it comes time to eat. It’s amazing how well they can do when they aren’t beating up on each other all of the time.

Also, I finally managed to get done something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time now: instead of resting on top of the tank, the light for the saltwater tank is now suspended from the ceiling. This doesn’t have much effect on the tank itself, but it will make my life easier when I’m doing work on the tank since I’ll be able to easily move the light out of the way.

Now for the new tank: here’s where everything stands. The fishless cycle is already making progress, I’m getting zero ammonia readings, so my guess is that the cycle will be done in 2-3 weeks. I’ve bought the decorations for the tank, which consist of some rocks and driftwood. Most of it is already in the tank except for one piece of driftwood which is still floating at the moment. With driftwood, I have to force it to stay underwater until it becomes waterlogged and then it will sink. The water is the color of tea right now since the new driftwood is releasing its tannins. I’m not too worried about it since I have to do a large water change anyways before I put fish in the tank.

Here’s where the lighting stands: all of the hard work is done, but there are a few things I want to add to the system at some point. First, I’ll probably tweak the lighting schedule several times before I’m happy with it. Also, I bought an LCD screen that I haven’t gotten to work yet. If I can get it to work, it will make setting and displaying the time on the microcontroller a lot easier since I won’t have to hook it up to my computer to do that.

I’ve taken a higher quality video of the lighting schedule — it’s running in super-ultra-fast-forward, so the entire cycle takes a little over a minute to run. I’m going to take down the old videos because they were crap, so here’s the new video:

As you can probably see from the video, there are four different channels of lights. On the left and right sides, there are orange LED strips, one for sunrise and the other for sunset (two channels). On the front and back rims of the tank, there are white and blue LED strips, which are the other two channels. There are a total of four white strips and two blue strips.

I think I might be able to make the lights brighter by clearing the water of the tannins, but also the water level was low enough that most of the LEDs were not submerged. If the LEDS are submerged, I think the tank will be brighter, so I think I want to play with that some more.

The second video I had, the “behind the scenes” video, I think would work better as still pictures, so I have a few of those. The LED strips are attached to the rim of the tank using plastic zip ties and hot glue.

The wires run behind the tank to the bottom where I have a lovely project enclosure box that will keep all of my electrical stuff safe from water, just in case I accidentally splash some down there. I also mounted a switch on the outside of the box that will bypass the timer on the white LEDs and just turn them on at full intensity. This is useful in case I want to work on the tank when the lights are normally off, or if I want to feed the fish at an odd time for some reason.

Next, I have a picture of the inside of the box, which just holds the breadboard and all of my electrical stuff. Look at how much of a geek I am!

More updates to come. I’m sure I’ll have more changes to the lighting to write about in the next couple of weeks, and I’ll probably upload some pictures of the tank once the aquascaping is done.

3/7/2011: The lighting is basically done

I spent a lot of the weekend playing around with the LEDs and the microcontroller that came in the mail. I’m happy to say that I’ve basically finished the lighting for the 55G tank. I’ve taken a couple of videos of it, but they aren’t very good; I’ll have to re-take them. The problem is that I don’t feel well now so it may be a few days before I can get to it. I’ll link to the videos here and post more pictures and videos when I get the chance.

EDIT 3/11/2011: I’ve removed these videos because they are crap, and I posted a new video in my 3/11/2011 entry along with some still pictures.

3/3/2011: Some exciting news

Well I’ve been planning it for a while now, sort of gathering my inspiration and a big picture for my next fish tank, and I’ve finally started with it! Here’s the plan:

The new tank is going to be a 55-gallon freshwater tank. I’m going to have a couple of large schools of tetras, which means all of the fish from the freshwater tank (even Torpedo) will eventually be moved to this tank. That means I have plans for the 20G tank too! I’m looking to have a total of 50-70 tetras in the 55G tank when it’s all over. I also want to have one or two larger “showpiece” fish in the tank, something a little more aggressive so the tetras will stay in their schools and I can see that behavior. At the moment I’m leaning towards a mated pair of Rams (a type of Cichlid), but it really depends on what I can get a hold of.

Once the 20G tank has no more fish in it, I’m going to start some shrimp colonies in there and have it just be a shrimp tank: I’m hoping to have enough shrimp that they can have a stable, sustainable colony since there will be no fish around. They’ll also do a great job of keeping the plants clean.

The decor for the 55G tank will be like this: solid black background, with substrate being Tahitian Moon Sand, which is a shiny black sand. No live plants, I’m going to try to have all of the decorations be driftwood and rocks, but I may end up putting some fake plants or something in there. The ambitious thing for this tank is going to be the lighting — I’m going to make my own custom lighting system. I’m going to use strips of waterproof LEDs and attach them to the inside of the top rim of the tank, so there will be nothing on top of the tank. They’ll be controlled with a microcontroller, and I’m going to have enough colors to simulate a sunrise on one side of the tank and a sunset on the other, along with some moonlight as well. I want most of the color in the tank to come from the fish and the lighting.

Last weekend I got all of the equipment I needed to start a fishless cycle on the tank, and I got that started so it should be less than 6 weeks until it’s time to add fish. The tank isn’t much to look at yet because there are no decorations yet, and I’m still waiting for the lighting equipment to arrive. When those things arrive, there will be pictures.

There’s an aquarium forum I’ve been posting at for a while, it’s where I learned most of what I know about fish tanks, and I’m working with a couple of people there on this DIY LED light project. I’ll link to that thread below in case you’re interested in some more technical details; it’s sort of a behind-the-scenes look at what will go into the lighting and over the next couple of weeks it should be interesting to watch how it develops. I should also mention that you don’t need to sign up for anything to read the post.

http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums/f20/diy-led-lighting-142178.html

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