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.