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How long does it take to replace all the water in your fish tank? You may be surprised to find out that doing two, 50% water changes does not replace 100% of the water.

I found a great online calculator that helps illustrate this point:

Go to: http://www.hamzasreef.com/Contents/Calculators/EffectiveWaterChange.php

Here's a screen shot:

THE BALD TAX BLOG

June 2012

(This month's entry is still under construction.  My first draft is not up to the usual quality crap you may be expecting.  So, some more work is needed, but as a tease, here is the intro, the only part I can tolerate thus far, but just barely.)

“Fish people are weird!”

I heard that sentence a few times over the years from a long-time club member and friend.  I did not think much of it initially, just my friend pointing out the obvious goofy behavior we can see at times.  But, over time, I’ve learned to understand it, embrace it. 

I am weird, and I’m genuinely comfortable with it.

If you are reading this, most of you already realize that, yes, you too, are weird, or have great potential for being weird.  For those of you who haven’t picked up on it yet, or are in denial, and I may be telling you this for the first time, but you are at least a little weird.

What am I saying here? We are all The Different, yet commonly linked to this hobby of keeping cichlids, and other fish.  And when I mean “The Different”, I am referencing both our individual, personal “differences” and our “oddness,” or, our own individual potential for being weird.

Have you ever answered a non-hobbyist’s question about all the cichlids you keep, about how many tanks you have in your fish room, or other aspects of your fishkeeping and, as you are answering, using all sorts of Latin and Greek names, they begin looking at you strangely? Or they respond, “Oh really? Wow!” and then change the subject?  And then you can see the "Weirdo!!" thought bubble over their head....

TO BE CONTINUED

 

The Bald Tax Blog April 2012

 

April…here it is…. the last month of my “cichlid season”, no April foolin’ (!), when the weather starts to “nicen-up” (fyi - I have my own vocabulary) and my attention turns to the outdoors…my golf game…the backyard pool…the sun…a hoppy ale.  Yes….

 

Did you feel that?  I just felt my blood pressure lower a few points.

 

Before April ends, the fish in my tanks drop way down the pecking order of my attention. Sure…every few years or so I undertake a pond project, with intentions to extend my cichlid season, but I then succeed in becoming distracted, lazy, unmotivated…the pool…the sun….a cocktail.  Yes….You may know of what I speak?  We’ve been fortunate here in Chicago to enjoy Summer during our Winter, so my distraction is happening as I type.

 

Mind you, the fish are never the worse for wear…weekly water changes are never missed during “the Summer of my Coma.”  They all eat…they all grow….they all (most) multiply.  Occasional floaters are netted, garbaged.  Losers of territorial disputes are moved to safer, calmer waters.  The winners of territorial disputes are provided new challengers.  Boys are matched up with potential girlfriends, with resulting marriages or homicides (or both).  My fish are not entirely ignored…but they just simply see less of me.

 

April is about the time I make my plans for the ACA, vowing to register, bring show fish, and begin strategizing those convincing arguments for my wife that, “yes, Indianapolis is a happening summer vacation spot, let’s do it…?”

 

Then around October… “I’m back, Baby!” My cichlid season begins, and my fish startle me (not really), like I’m seeing them for the first time, they have grown more than I recall…and multiplied. I see things in the fish I’ve missed during my “offseason,” variant colors, maybe their deportment, their reaction to me.

 

The fish room suddenly becomes cleaner (almost), more organized.  Food and maintenance supplies seemingly are auto-restocked, sponge filters become clean (finally!) (almost!), some changed for new.  Hang-on back filters are discovered, get cleaned out.  Fry discovered within, and saved from, canister filters…and over-excited, jumping juveniles discovered and peeled from the floor. 

 

October…I begin combing over (insert bald tax guy joke here) my various favorite on-line vendor sale lists for new species…weekly…sometimes daily (hourly).  I start texting, calling guys named Pete, Gage, Snookn21, Dan Ye (actually Dan’s a girl) inquiring about $180 fish, collection points, shipping charges, flight schedules.

 

October….I get overly excited (not really) and undertake more dedicated efforts in obtaining, breeding uncommon, difficult, dull, brown-colored cichlid species, the fry of which I try to give away but it appears only I want them.  Old World keepers just smile at me, probably wondering to themselves…”What is wrong with this guy…?”

 

October….I vow to purchase a swap table (but never have) and bag up all sorts of my uncommon, difficult, dull, brown-colored cichlid species, just to see if I could give them away to unsuspecting strangers.  But I don’t, imagining those strangers just smiling at me, probably wondering to themselves…”What is wrong with this guy…?”

 

October…I research species during lunch, after work, trying to pronounce collection points and rivers…slowly pronouncing names like “At-a-ba-po”, as if I just awoke from a coma (e.g. 4-5 months of the pool…the sun….cocktails…!)

 

October…I once again begin believing that I can breed a pike species, only to end up with one pike by December. 

 

October…I dig out my DVD’s on Lake Nicaragua and Mexico cichlid species and wonder once again out loud how I can get Tomicichla tuba delivered to my door.  I comb through (insert joke here) Aqualog volumes, wondering whether I could just go book a flight to a random Central American country and take a canoe down something called Rio Malaria, or similar, and scoop up wild specimens for my tanks.

 

October…I once again measure the door dimensions to my fish room and work through the possible steps in getting a 750g acrylic tank down the stairs.

 

October…I once again regret giving away that mated pair of Amphilophus aggressosorum back during the summer coma, and then I find myself looking for a group of  eight juvenile  Amphilophus pissedoffus.

 

October…I once again realize that the ACA convention has come and gone and that Indianapolis is not as happening a summer vacation spot as I had thought it could be, and thus, I have missed yet another ACA convention.  I also once again curse the attendees for the lack of pictures posted of my favorite species (not really…maybe). 

 

So it’s April, and my cichlid season is winding down.  October will be here before I know it.  In the meantime, you can probably rob me blind of fish during the next 6 months.

 

I’ll blog each month of the offseason, and if they’re bad, well… we can all blame my summer coma.  So send me a topic that you would like me to write about…or else you’ll be reading things way worse then this.

 

 

 

If you work with substrate-spawning cichlids, one thing you'll immediately notice is that fry can be extremely small. It's all too easy to siphon them out accidentally when doing a water change.

I keep newly free-swimming fry from egg layers in tiny 2-gallon Rubbermaid restaurant containers and I use a mini-siphon I made myself to carefully clean the bottom of excess food and debris. Here's how to make one yourself.

You'll need:

  • One 12-14" piece of rigid aquarium airline tubing
  • One small piece of insulated #14 electrical wire 
  • A heat source (I use my gas stove)

Here's what to do . . .

 

THE BALD TAX BLOG

March 2012

I’m lazy, so here is a 2009 reproduced article I wrote.  Enjoy….

Aquarium Husbandry (and attempts at pronunciation) of

ex-Cichlasoma grammodes

Scott Womack (April 2009)

“Grammodes”

 

I can certainly type the name, but damned if I’m sure of its pronunciation.

 

In the past, I have written a couple of articles on species that I have kept and bred, and for those, I tried to perform as much research as possible so that I can at least pretend to know what I am writing about.  But I have searched high and low for a phonetic spelling of “grammodes” with no luck…and it’s kind of bugging me.  I have asked some of my fish keeping friends about the pronunciation of “that fish” and I have received the following (pardon my own crude phonetic spelling):

I really don't know why I tried this.

Today, while on a particularly boring conference call, I searched on iTunes using the keyword "cichlid" .

Wouldn't you know it, there is an album called Cichlid by the artist A Riley!

I only previewed one of the songs (they're all marked explicit) and its not really my taste.

There is one song called "Kill Myself" which I sometimes feel like doing when I can't get my fish to breed, but that's a story for another day.

Check out this link if you want to hear it for yourself.

MUNDANE HELP FOR THE FISH ROOM

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MAY 1999

by Rick Borstein

These days, technology has invaded the fish room. Electronic heaters, exotic filtra- tion systems and a wide array of foods and medications are available to the aquarist. However, it is often the more mundane tools that help us the most.

Take for example, the bucket. Could you keep fish without one? I have my own favorite. It’s a Rubbermaid bucket that has wide pouring spout, comfortable handle, and holds about 2-1/2 gallons. It’s tan, so it looks clean even if it isn’t. I have several 5-gallon white buckets, too. They’re useful, but they don’t fit under the faucet of my utility sink very well and they are just too big to be used as often.

A recent find of mine is new kind lid for 5-gallon buckets called a Gamma Seal. You snap a lid ring on the bucket, then use the included screw-in top with rubber seal. It’s great for transporting fish because it is water tight, but easy to unscrew and net fish out. The screw lids are about six bucks and would be a great way to take fish to a show. I ordered mine from the Sportsman’s Guide catalog at 800.888.3006.

Another mundane tool that I use daily is a turkey baster. I use it for feeding brine shrimp, removing eggs and fry from filters and cleaning up fry tanks. It’s also fun to use as a “squirt gun” to drive away an over-protective cichlid when you’re trying to snatch a slate full of eggs.

I keep a flashlight in my fish room. Most of my tanks are planted, so it can be pretty difficult to see if a spawn has taken place. Recently, I noticed that my Neolamprologus gracilus were behaving a bit differently. I couldn’t see any activity, but had a hunch that they were getting ready to spawn. The next day I looked again and couldn’t detect a thing. Time to grab the flashlight! With the help of the light, I was able to look through the thick forest of Cryptocryne to see a thick plaque of eggs deposited at the base of some driftwood. A couple of days later I used the flashlight again to find the wrigglers. Boring tool, but without it I wouldn’t have those fry.

I have a 150-gallon tank with a wet/dry system. Wet/dry filters are great, but I was having a hard time keeping the pre-filter clean. Uneaten food (Doromin sticks and floating pellets), quickly clogged the foam pre-filter. My solution was a $3.85 floating feeding ring. The foam keeps the ring afloat and my Frontosa haven’t been able to dislodge it yet.

I like planted tanks and that means having adequate lighting. I use standard fluores- cent shop lights stocked with Gro-Lite bulbs over each tank. The light is great for the plants, but is also very good at growing algae! I’ve tried a variety of algae scrapers, algae magnets, algae pads, but I haven’t yet found anything as effective as a good old single-edged razor blades. I buy them in a 100-pack from a nearby True Value hard- ware store for about five bucks. I use a new blade each week when I do my tank maintenance. A minor concession to convenience is that I do keep around a couple of blade holders. These come in fluorescent colors which makes them much easier to find when you drop them in your tank. I always scrape the tank walls before I do my water changes. Once you drop the water level, it seems that the green stuff gets a lot harder to remove.

Old toothbrushes often find their way down to my fishroom. They still perform better than any expensive filter brush I’ve used, and you can’t beat the price. For really small items, try a kid-size toothbrush we have a lot of these around, too you can clean some really tight places.

Sometimes little things can save you from having to think a lot. I usually do my water changes on Saturday mornings while trying to take care of a one year old, so I get easily distracted. I usually change about 30–50% water change on every tank. Each tank needs a different amount of dechlorinator and it’s hard to remember how much to put in. For under a dollar, I purchased a Garden Measure at a local nursery. This small graduated plastic measure is marked off in both teaspoons and milliliters. You will also find free graduated measures with kid’s cough syrup and products like Nyquil. I used a permanent marker to write the gallon equivalents next to the teaspoons on the Garden Measure. Now that I measure everything exactly, I find that I use less and save money. A gallon of Novaqua is about $30, so it pays to measure exactly.

I was talking to my wife Sharon the other day, and I remarked to her that I thought I had found every way there was to flood our basement floor when I do my water changes! I had spilled buckets of water, forgot to turn off the Python, left the plug in the sink and had it overflow and a variety of other idiotic methods. To Sharon, the glass is always half full and she was sure that there were lots more ways to turn my fishroom floor into a swimming pool.

Of course, she was right! I came home from a long business trip and looked into my 6-month-old, black-sealed 25 gallon aquarium and noticed that it was only halfway full of water. I was really tired and pulled out the Shopvac, broke down the tank, moved the fish, etc.

Spurred to action, I purchased a water alarm for a bout fifteen bucks. The tiny box is powered by a 9-volt battery and when it detects water, it emits a piercing alarm. You will find them in the home improvement centers located near the sump pumps. If your home has a sump pump, believe me, you’ll want more than one!

I like to feed my dwarf plecos (Ancistrus sp.) some vegetable matter every week or so. I tried a variety of veggie clips without much luck. I guess a dozen plecos and several cichlids attacking a half zucchini was too much to ask these products to withstand. I gave up on the store bought solution. Now, I rubber band the zucchini to a heavy piece of slate and put it that the tank. The fish like it and I now I don’t have zuchinni islands floating around my tanks.

Recently, I had the unenviable task of trying to remove a large Geophagus that was bullying my Frontosas in my 150. In my heavily landscaped tank, this was no easy task. After twenty fruitless minutes trying to coax the fish out of the rock work, I got an idea. I grabbed a 36” piece of rigid one-eight inch plastic tubing, and blew into cave where the fish was hiding. Success! Scared by the bubbles, he moved right out and I was able to catch him easily. Cost for the tubing? Under a dollar.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are both cheaper and better. So, look around your fish room and try to discover the mundane, but effective solution. 

If you've kept fish, no doubt you've also dealt with sick fish. If you have a fishroom full of healthy fish, you need to be careful when bringing in fish from the outside, from pet shops, swap meets and auctions. While quarantining is essential, you also need to be mindful that you don't inadvertently transfer disease from tank to tank when netting fish or changing water.

A few years ago, I visited my good friend Chuck Rambo in San Jose, CA. Chuck took me a large wholesaler in the Bay Area. We first checked out a cart which included a net and a small container of Net Soak. Before using the net in a new tank, you had to dip the net in the Net Soak and shake it out.

Net Soak is usually a solution of Potassium permangenate which is an oxidizer. It helps to prevent the transfer of disease organisms by oxidation. Unlike other oxidizers such as bleach, it is gentle on nets and your hands, and pretty safe to use. Net Soak prevents most bacteria from spreading, but not viruses. 

SUPPLEMENTING NEWLY HATCHED ARTEMIA

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MAY 1999

by Bill Vannerson with contributions from David Kawahigashi and Eric Lund

There was a discussion on several Internet Killifish email lists regarding supple menting newly hatched baby brine shrimp (BBS), Artemia, with vitamins or cal- cium. The results of that discussion brought two important points to light for fish keepers of any species. One, hobbyists can supplement their BBS to add valuable nutrients to their fish, both fry and adults. Two, the power of the internet as a resource. 

Supplementing BBS

Supplementing live food is nothing new. Many hobbyists have been adding vitamins to their worm cultures before feeding to fish and, to a lesser extent, adult brine shrimp as well. The strategy is to have the supplement ingested by the food and then by the fish when they consume the food. The debate on the mailing lists started when some- one questioned the effectiveness of applying this technique to BBS. Would supple- ments added to the hatching water be ingested by brine shrimp nauplii and then consumed by the fish? Or would the supplement simply stay suspended in the hatch- ing water without providing and additional value to our fish?

The answer comes down to whether or not newly hatched Artemia will consume the supplement. The answer is yes, but not right away. Artemia are filter feeders but don’t start feeding until after their second molt, referred to as the instar 2 stage.

According to David Kawahigashi at San Francisco Bay Brand, the commercial fisheries have been practicing this for quite a while. “Supplementing nutritional components, such as vitamins or calcium, into live brine shrimp has been practiced by aquaculture hatcheries for around 10 years. This bio-enrichment or bioencapsulation of brine shrimp nauplii (instar 2 or adults) began using emulsified fish oils containing high HUFA’s or highly unsaturated fatty acids for marine finfish and crustacean larvae. This ‘break- through’ enabled the culture of many other new marine species to be developed (flounder, sea bass, tuna, ornamental marine sp.).”

Why Supplement

Eric Lund, researcher from University of Wisconsin, Madison, explains, “Briefly, salt- water fish all require a fatty acid that is common in marine fish oils called DHA (docosahexanoic acid) in their diet. They cannot make it from precursors, so it must be present in their food. Freshwater fish have a limited ability to make DHA from a particular precursor fatty acid of the omega-3 variety (linolenic acid), but they too can grow and reproduce well on a diet that includes DHA.”

“Brine shrimp are a great food for all small carnivorous fish, but they contain virtually no DHA. Marine fish larvae fed only Artemia exhibit mass mortality a few days after they start feeding. Aquaculture operations get around this problem by adding an emulsion of phospholipids rich in DHA to newly hatched Artemia. The Artemia eat the emulsion (more of it also sticks to the outside of their bodies). The Artemia are then fed to the fish or can then be kept refrigerated for up to three days.”

Enriching or bioencapsulation Artemia is essential for marine fish, but not for freshwater fish. Then why bother at all? Eric further explains, “I do believe, however, that for some delicate killies [and other freshwater fish] that experience high moralities before sexing out, that enriching Artemia may be of some benefit. Another tactic worth trying is to feed enriched Artemia to the adults for several weeks prior to breeding them. In other species, fish eggs with low levels of DHA generally have poorer survivorship to first feeding than eggs that are rich in DHA. Giving females a diet high in DHA allows them to put more DHA into their eggs. As you all know, weak and feeble killie fry can be the result of several factors including inbreeding, bad water conditions and improper incu- bation conditions, but poor parental nutrition may play a role as well.”

Symptoms of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency

The essential fatty acid end product, DHA, is an important component of cell mem- branes in retinal tissue (eyes), neural tissue and cardiac tissue. Deficiency symptoms may include:

  • Sudden fright syndrome— Fish, usually juveniles, go into shock or twitch convulsively when frightened.

  • Poor visual acuity— reduced ability to locate prey

  • Worn fins

  • Poor growth rates

  • Poor egg viability

  • High mortality rates under stressful conditions such as shipping

    Note that factors other than essential fatty acid deficiency can cause all of these symptoms. Essential fatty acid deficiency is not a problem with most freshwater fish fed a varied diet. It is possible, however, that supplementation with a lipid emulsion may increase growth rates, fecundity and fry survivorship. So, if you are having problems raising a particular species, it may be worth a try.

    How to Supplement

    There are three ways you can feed your fish bioenriched shrimp; buy enriched frozen shrimp, enrich live adult shrimp or enrich newly hatched nauplii.

  • Bioenriched frozen shrimp
    Bioenriched frozen shrimp are available but may be difficult to find. David Kawahigashi explains, “Although we do not market any enrichment formula, we do enrich and freeze live adult
    Artemia with a HUFA formula and Spirulina algae for the aquaculture and aquarium markets. However, almost all of the sales for these two enriched products go to the aquaculture market due to the “unawareness” of the benefits of bioenrichment in the aquarium trade.”

  • Enrich live adults
    Enriching live adults is not difficult. Just add the supplement to brine shrimp 12-16 before feeding fish.

  • Enrich Nauplii
    Adding supplements to newly hatch brine shrimp is a little more complicated. Baby brine shrimp will not ingest the supplements until after the instar 2 stage begins, about 12 hours after the nauplii hatch. However, most fish breeders prefer to feed newly hatched Artemia as close to hatching as possible in order to maximize the nutritional value.

Once the cyst hatches, the nauplii begin to consume stored protein reserves, just as newborn fry live off of their egg sac. The longer you wait to feed them, the less nutritional value that’s passed on to the fish. The only way to counter act this is to feed the Artemia. This is not usually done because of difficulties in raising nauplii to adulthood. It’s just not worth the effort when one can readily purchase adult brine shrimp.

A compromise solution is to maintain two separate sources of baby brine shrimp, one that is bioenriched and one that is not but has higher protein reserves. Follow your normal routine for collecting and feeding from hatcheries that are not enriched. Re- duce the amount you would normally feed and replace with a portion from the en- riched hatcheries. Since enriching requires extra time, you may want to set up multiple hatcheries to alternate. You also may store enriched Artemia in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Quick List

Here’s a quick checklist of the steps required to produce bioenriched Artemia:

  • Prepare and hatch baby brine shrimp as normal, 24 hours for standard cysts or 16

    hours for decapsulated cysts.

  • Add bioenrichment 6 hours after hatching This will be after the instar 2 or second molt.

  • Feed within 12-16 hours or the shrimp will have digested the enhancement for- mula and you need to start over

  • Store any unused nauplii in the refrigerator for up to three days.

    The Future

    David mentions, “I am now working on bioenriching Haematococcus algae [super high astaxanthin for color enhancement] and some anti-bacterials into our live Artemia for product development. Because Artemia are non-selective and continuous filter- feeders, pretty much anything can be taken into the gut of a live Artemia, as long as the particle size is between 5 to 50 microns. Vitamin supplements must be in a non- soluble form as Artemia cannot ‘drink’ soluble components.”

    Eric Lund is also working on some new research at UWM that he’s not at liberty to discuss in detail

Selcon is a popular liquid supplement for enriching artemia nauplii.

This convenient product includes an eyedropper top for easy dosing and complete directions.

This article was originally published by the author in another journal and is presented here at the request of the author.

The Internet as an Aquarium Resource

The whole issue of enriching Artemia began as a relatively benign question posted to an Internet email lists. In a few days, input from hobbyists and experts, who are also hobbyists, poured in, adding to the collective knowledge of the group. The dynamics of this information exchange and the speed at which it was dissemi- nated is a prime example on how the power of the internet can benefit the hobby. For those of you not familiar with email or the Internet, I’ll explain.

Lists

An author of a message sends it to the list server via standard email services from his or her local Internet service provider (ISP). An ISP is company that provides Internet connection, including companies such as America Online, CompuServe and a whole host of others both large and small. The list server replicates the message and sends it out to all of the subscribers. So if there are 500 people subscribing to a particular list, then 500 people will receive a copy of the email message.

Anyone on the list can respond to the original message either privately to the origina- tor or back to the list server, where everyone can see the response. It’s best to respond back to the list if the topic of the email is of public interest, that way everyone can benefit from the shared knowledge of all of the responses. The collection of messages and the responses is referred to as a thread, as in a string of correspondence.

Subscribers to a list can be from anywhere in the world. I have seen contributions from Alaska to Australia, Hungary to Hong Kong, South America to Singapore. The only place I haven’t seen a message from is Antarctica, but I’m sure it could happen.

There are several lists that I subscribe to including Killies, KillieTalk, Live food, Apistos and Cichlids.

There are a bunch of others, including one focusing on brine shrimp alone. Visit FishLinkCentral for a more comprehensive source of lists.

Access to Experts & Speed of Information Exchange

Because threads are open conversations between fish folks from around the world, subscribers can benefit from the knowledge and opinions of some of the best experts available. David and Eric happen to be two extremely knowledge- able experts on supplementing Artemia that participate on several email lists. When the original question was posted, they both decided to freely join in and share their knowledge and expertise. Most hobbyists probably would not have known them or the expertise using traditional means of communication, such as letters —referred to as “snail mail” by Internet users. And if someone did know them, the response most likely would have been addressed to single individual, not to hundreds around the world. And the exchange was quick! Within days, literally hundreds of hobbyists learned about the benefits of supplementing BBS. There has been a lot of fanfare regarding the information age and the Internet.

 

Marina Hang-On Breeding Box,Fellow GCCA Member Jason let me know about the Marina Hang-on Holding and Breeding Box, raving about how useful this piece of equipment is for raising baby fish.

In fact, Jason wanted me to test them out so he gave me one. I later acquired another one at the GCCA Holiday Party gift exchange, so I thought it was probably about time I checked it out.

The Marina Box is very much like an air-driven power filter that hangs on the outside of your tank. The construction is good and the material is very clear plastic measuring 9.5 W X 3.5W X 5 deep. I tested the Large size box. On Amazon, this product is about $21. Smaller version are in the $14 range. I believe some wholesales offer them for less.

The product comes with a divider so you can separate some fry or perhaps a smaller adult fish on each side. One nice feature is the offsets on the bottom which allow you to easily adjust the offset of the unit from the tank so that it hangs perpindicular to the side of the tank.

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