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Wheels Does A Fish Thing
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 13375
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 4:09 am    Post subject: Wheels Does A Fish Thing Reply with quote

I'm doing a fish thing. I've wanted to do fish things for years, but time and money vied for top reason not to do a fish thing.
Money has suspended its campaign, leaving time the presumptive winner. But in the general election of this mixed metaphor, I came out over the top and drove a pop fly into the end zone!

It's taking a while, because work. But I'm doing it! I'm doing this fish thing!

So let's follow along with WheelsOfConfusion as he does a fish thing!
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 13375
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 4:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Beginning

A coworker tipped me off to someone giving away a "huge" aquarium. Turns out it's a 56-gallon Marineland column tank (they wanted to keep the stand for it, but the tank and glass cover were the cost of gas there and back).


(Not my photo)

It's got an unusual shape, more on that later.

I'm going to fish it up with some freshwater fishies, and because I must needlessly complicate things it's only going to be stocked with fish, plants, and other critters that are native to North America.

Most fish tanks are cleaned by a powerful filtration system that includes some combination of water-scrubbing sponges or floss, some paper or rocky stuff with tons of surface area for ammonia-eating germs to grow on, and typically something like charcoal that chemically absorbs any leftover wastes.

I'm not doing that. It's a bunch of time, money, and effort to change the filter stuff, change the water once or twice a week, and buy new filter stuff as your old stuff wears out or gets clogged with post-gut fish food.

To keep those fish alive and unpoisoned by their own disgusting excretions, I'm mostly going to rely on a truckload of water plants and some dirt germs.

So the bottom of the tank will have a layer of dirt in it. In order to keep the dirt from becoming a tank of muddy water, I'm going to cover it up with some sandy stuff. Into this wet layer cake of sandy stuff and dirt, I'm going to poke a bunch of plants. The plants will consume fish residues like foamy-lipped shoppers consume doorbusters on Black Friday, keeping the water free of the many disreputable substances fish are known to produce (primarily ammonia and ammonia accessories). What they don't get, the soil bacteria will consume with gusto, like the less foamy-lipped shoppers who get to the store at a reasonable hour and find all the biggest deals already taken but settle for 15% off MSRP for a TV and some bargain-bin DVDs.

That's basically going to be the environment here: plants and dirt and sandy stuff. I'll also through in a small water-moving thingy just to keep circulation going and make sure plants and fish have healthy, well-mixed water from top to bottom, but that and a set of lights are the only real equipment I plan to use here.

More posts to come.
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Sam



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 10696

PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

oh shit, fishy business happening here, ground zero

here let me get you my favorite fishy, a yellow tang

*yellow tang dies instantly in fresh water*

shit
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Michael



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

put water in it!
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Samsally



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool! I'm excited for fishy pictures!
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mouse



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

and native fishies!

just be sure you get fishies that play well together.

years back, when i was a graduate student at a biological station on the texas-oklahoma border, a fellow student started a fish tank with local fishies. one day he caught a tiny baby gar. cute little thing. never saw it move...it just hung out at the surface of the tank, pretending to be a tiny log.

but the other fish started disappearing. and the tiny baby gar kept getting bigger.

by the end of the summer, he had about a 5" gar...and nothing else.


so, um, yeah....don't get a gar.
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WheelsOfConfusion



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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sam wrote:
oh shit, fishy business happening here, ground zero

here let me get you my favorite fishy, a yellow tang

*yellow tang dies instantly in fresh water*

shit

You're supposed to add water to Tang, not the other way around! Did you learn NOTHING at Space Camp?

Michael wrote:
put water in it!

That's just crazy enough to work!

mouse wrote:
so, um, yeah....don't get a gar.

But they're so kyooooooot!





Their extremely poisonous eggs and arrow-head scales are just so endearing! Did I mention that early settlers used to cover their wooden plows with alligator gar hide to make them more durable? No wonder these guys saw the dinosaurs die off and lived to tell about it!

Samsally wrote:
Cool! I'm excited for fishy pictures!

It'll be some time before pictures of actual fish. I'm still cycling the quarantine tank and need to DIY some stuff before the big tank is ready.

Speaking of which:

KWARANTEEN

A quarantine tank is supposed to be a safe, healthy place to isolate new (or sick) fish away from the main tank. Since I'll be sourcing at least a few fish from bait dealers or pet shop feeder tanks, neither of which are known for their cleanliness or fastidious attention to hygiene, all fish will spend at least 3 weeks in the quarantine tank before going into The Big One.

I pulled one of my old (old, old, old, old...) 10 gallon tanks out of the attic for quarantine duty. Despite being old enough to legally purchase vodka, having housed everything from fish to reptiles to mammals, and the silicone being a bit chewed in places, it still holds water without leaking.
After scrubbing it inside and out with baking soda paste and rinsing it with full-strength white vinegar followed by plenty of water, it's passably clean!

There'll be no live plants and no dirt here. In the interest of keeping maintenance simple and not giving pathogens a place to hide, the quarantine tank will be spartan and bare-bottomed, like Spartans. Water changes will be much less hassle in a tiny 10-gallon hat, or fish tank, whatever, so I won't begrudge it here.

The water does need filtered, though. I was disappointed by the selection of gimmicky filters in my local mega-chain pet store, so I built my own filter with stuff from Home Depot. 2 feet of 3/4" PVC pipe, two 90 degree elbows, and two end caps serve as the main structure. Two glossy black wall tiles will serve as the base (blending nicely with the black-painted glass below). A little drilling, a tiny bit of silicone caulking, and I had the major part of two sponge filters done.
But I still needed actual sponge for the filters, plus an air pump and associated tubeworks. For that, the mega-chain pet store was unavoidable. Still, buying just the sponge, air pump, and toobwirks was less expensive than buying one of their stock filters, especially since I won't have to buy refill cartridges or media. That's probably why the mega-chain pet stores don't carry them anymore.

Anybody interested in How I Did It can watch the very same instructional video that I did. Since I followed the directions exactly and my materials differ only slightly in appearance, it'd be redundant to post a step-by-step build log. And as you might have guessed by my use of plurals, the money I spent was enough to make two sponge filters. I've got both of them in the tank. You can never have too much filtration, especially in a quarantine tank.

BEHOLD, FILTERDISE!




Fish in small quarters don't appreciate a lot of light or activity behind the glass that circumscribes their world. It can stress them out.
In order to help keep the patients calm, I've opted to darken the back and bottom of the tank. This also serves to bring out the best fish colors in two ways:
1) Fish show better colors when they feel secure, and dark backgrounds and substrates make them feel more secure. Thus they shouldn't look too washed-out from a bad case of nerves.
2) Black will contrast with their colors like whoa. Ever notice how fish kept in tanks with neon pink and cyan gravel look kind of faded and dull? A lot of that is because the bright colors out-compete the fish.

A quart of matte black Apple Barrel acrylic paint and a 4-inch foam trim brush from Wal-Mart did a decent enough job and were super cheap to boot. I'll probably use the same approach on the display tank (The Big One). Even though only the back and bottom of the tank are painted, from the front it looks like all three sides are done up in black. Thanks, refraction!



A major advantage of going with North American fish is that they aren't picky about temperatures. By and large, they'll do fine at whatever "room temperature" means to you, year-round.
The same is not true of fish pathogens, though. If you raise the temperature gradually up to around 80F/27C will speed up the life cycle of some parasites that need intermediate hosts beyond fish to reach maturity. They will find themselves senior citizens before they know it, having blown through their savings and left no eggs inside other critters to mature. So if I get any fish with flukes or other nasties that like hopping from fish to snails to crabby crayfish, keeping them in with just fish and making sure they rapidly age and die without successfully reproducing is a good way to make sure they don't see my Big Tank.

To handle that, I pulled out yet another attic relic. The glass heater you see in those pictures is as old as the fish tank, and it still works. Jesus Christ! But even an adjustable thermostatically controlled heater is useless without some sort of feedback, feeding the real-world temperature back to you. So I slipped in a cheap sinking thermometer that cost two bucks.



Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted the scrap of 3" diameter PVC pipe that I have cleverly hidden within the pictures. This is to provide my fish with a place of refuge. Ironically, the more refuge options fish have, the less they tend to use them. It's enough to know that they can if they need to; the more hidy spots they have the less they do any hidy-ing. To finish it off, I plopped in a big fake plant.


(Give up? The PVC pipe is behind the plant in this picture!)

No lights and no soils make real plants something something, so this fuzzy green faker will add structure and a touch of familiar color to any vegetation-loving fishies that find themselves in my clutches.

Other stuff I did to this tank is less photojennick. I put 1.25 teaspoons of plain bleach in to kill the scum-forming iron-loving bacteria that my well water is usually lousy with.
After letting that steep for a day, I turned the filters on to encourage chlorine off-gasing.
After another day of that, I added some dechlorinator.
After another day of that, I added some nitrifying bacteria culture to colonize every surface in the tank, especially the sponge type of surface (of which there is plenty).
The nitrifying bacteria in the sponge filters will munch away at any ammonia or nitrites in the water, which is what I want them to do when actual fish are in the tank.
In order to make sure they (the bacteria) don't starve first, I crumbled up a piece of fish food and let it sink to the bottom of the tank to fester. The rotting algae wafer will produce ammonia and nitrites for the good germs to consume, increasing their numbers until they have colonized ALL the surfaces!



After a while I'll start testing the water for any of those nasty chemicals. If I can't find any, I'll start adding some intentionally. Mad? Perhaps! But not without purpose! Once the tank is "cycled" with the bacteria established enough to draw down my ammonia offerings within a day, it'll be ready to accept guests with a backbone. Then it can graduate to sewage duty instead of wafer duty. They grow up so fast!

So that's about where I am now. I'm growing germs in a decrepit glass box with a paint job.
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Taemon



Joined: 08 Aug 2013
Posts: 900
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 11:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Boy. I just love obessions. Keep us posted!
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fritterdonut



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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2016 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sam wrote:

here let me get you my favorite fishy, a yellow tang

*yellow tang dies instantly in fresh water*


Orange tang is far superior, you uncultured cretin
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mouse



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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2016 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WheelsOfConfusion wrote:

Their extremely poisonous eggs


well now that just seems like overkill. not sporting, gar.
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Ookamo



Joined: 16 Apr 2012
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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2016 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No modern-day aquarium is worth talking about without some elaborate GOT-inspired undersea castle.
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WheelsOfConfusion



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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2016 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But castles made of sand melt into the sea... eventually...

Well, last time on Wheels Does a Fish Thing I had my hospital tank set up and put some fish food in there to feed the germs. It cost less than tuppence a bag! The algae tablet I dropped in two weeks ago had mostly dissolved, leaving a little brown mulm that was steadily reduced with two weekly partial (very partial) water changes.

I tested today and my nitrites, nitrates, and ammonia are all at the lowest detectable levels of an API Master Freshwater Test Kit, but the results also seemed to indicate that my water had a pH of 8. That's about 0.9 higher than it tested straight out of the well a few years back, and since pH is a logarithmic scale that means it's about as basic as sea water. So I may swing by the nearest megachain pet supercenter store for a free water test from somebody who has done this more than, like, three times (in all likelihood).
A "second opinion," if you will.

But if it turns out that my testing is right then, well... it's a good thing I'm thinking of some very unfussy fish to keep. Most American freshwater gill-breathers like a pH around 7-7.2-ish. A pH of 8 is enough to give even hardy, sea-loving sailfin mollies or sheepshead minnows pause.

Anyway the low nitrogen waste content, despite all the rotting food, should mean my quarantine tank is ready to start housing a few fish, which buys me at least a month to a month-point-five to get my main tank set up after the quarantine begins. In the meantime, I'll probably switch out the disappointing Petsmart store brand "20 gallon" air pump for a real deal Tetra Whisper model rated to work in 40 gallon tanks. I'm not happy with the trickle of bubbles in the current setup; the sponge filters probably need to suck in more water than they do to handle a half-dozen or so active fish instead of a dinky little waterlogged wafer.

My next scheduled day off is Thursday so I'll probably hold off on things until then.
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Ookamo



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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2016 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How about a deep-sea diver if no castle...?
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WheelsOfConfusion



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PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The diver isn't PADI Open Water certified, let alone deep dive!

So I had some time today to get the water tested, and the assistant confirmed my 8-ish pH.

When I got back home, I took out three test tubes and filled two with straight tap water and one with tank water. The tap tubes got the recommended amount of indicator from the normal and "high range" pH bottles, respectively, and I used the high range stuff on the tank water.





Left and middle: Tap water maxing out the normal pH indicator, minning out the High Range indicator. I'd say between 7.4 and 7.8
Right: Tank water comfortably scooshing in around 8-8.2.

This is puzzling because we had our well water tested a few years ago and the pH was about 7.2. It also has a very low hardness (53 mg/L, which translates to about 3 dGH in aquariumspeak).
The tank itself has nothing but inert materials (glass, PVC, silicone, plastic plants, wall tiles weighing down the filters) so I don't know where the increased pH is coming from. The nitrogenous wastes are all at zero so it can't be excess ammonia. There's still some decaying algae tablet in there to feed the filter bacteria but I don't see how they'd be raising the pH instead of lowering it.
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mouse



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PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

could there be any residues (soap, etc.) in there? although i suspect you washed things carefully.

the fact that the tap water is up too is...interesting. but it's too long since i dealt with water chemistry to even hazard a guess.
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