Sunday, October 19, 2008

Aquarium Non-Event : Missed Swordtail Births

Over the last couple of days, I've come to the conclusion that my daughter's swordtail probably gave birth, and we missed it, and the babies were enjoyed by our hungry goldfish.

On Friday evening, I noticed that she was acting a bit strange, following behind and below the goldfish, near the bottom. Like she was cowering or trying to hide behind them. I was also concerned that when she tried to eat the food flakes, they seemed to come back out of her mouth, as if she couldn't swallow them.

On Saturday morning, she was very skinny, as if half her stomach was missing, and seemed to be again hiding from the other fish, and not even making much attempts to eat. I was concerned enough to move her into a small tank, and drop in some food for her, in case she was not able to compete with the others for enough food. But my reading on the 'net indicated that these signs may point to a female who has given birth.

Sure enough, by the evening, she was acting fairly normally, so I introduced her back into the aquarium again. Since then, I've noticed that when the other swordtails swallow the flakes, some portion often comes back out again, so this seems normal. A few days later, our orange female swordtail is still quite skinny, but otherwise seems fine:

Female swordtail - skinny, likely after giving birth
Now I'm looking for signs from the other female swordtail. I read that before giving birth, there is often a dark spot in the anal area, and even some chance of seeing the eyes of the babies inside. Or perhaps I'll note some change in behaviour, and attempts to hide from the other fish.
Other female swordtail, looking nice and round
I am thinking to get a second smaller tank set up, for the offspring, if I am able to retrieve any before they are devoured. (Wow, not much chance of that, since the goldfish are always hungry, and very quick!) That, or a birthing apparatus. We'll see.

A few more photos... My mom gave me two cool lava rocks which she found. I boiled and set them in the tank, and they not only look good, but they hold down the plants (which get otherwise dislodged from the gravel too easily:
My aquarium today, with new lava rocks
I was also excited to get a photo of my pleco in "action" tonight, feeding along the bottom. He looks even more cool, when he has his fins stretched out like this:
Plecostomus feeding on bottom of aquarium
I got a photo of his underside a couple of days ago, this guy looks quite amazing from every angle:
Underside of plecostomus

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Aquarium Casualties : Tetra Treats & Swordtails

Our aquarium has experienced its first casualties. On Wednesday morning, my son noticed one of our goldfish with a small red tail sticking out of its mouth. He counted the neon tetras, and found only 3 of the 5. Then he spotted another one floating on the surface, with its head bitten off. In an interesting reversal of fortune, one of our goldfish, which was being sold as a "feeder" fish, found himself on the top rather than bottom of the foodchain.

The previous night, my husband had asked if I was feeding the fish enough, as he didn't think I was giving them enough flakes. I replied that I'd heard that one could never really underfeed fish, but can overfeed them. But maybe I had been keeping them too hungry. Just in case, I've increased the number (now 2 or 3 per day) and sizes of the feedings.

By Wednesday night, I found myself in a pet store looking at the platy's. They didn't have the coral ones (bright red with black tails), and the red ones and white ones they had were not particularly interesting looking. But then I noticed the swordtails, which are also live-bearers, were on sale 3 for $8. So we bought a male and two females. Here is the male, he's a pretty attractive fellow. My son has claimed him as one of his fish:
Male swordtail - orange with black tail
My daughter claimed the all-orange female as her own:
Orange female swordtail
I claimed this orange female with black tail, since she matches the colours of the male, and I like the dark spot (almost looks like a moustache) on her snout:
Female swordtail - orange with black tail
The plecostomus, who usually spends most of his time hanging onto the bottom of the filter, finally came down this evening (for a brief moment, then returned to the filter), but I managed a photo of him. This is a pretty cool-looking fish, wouldn't you agree?:

Hopefully with the increased feedings, the goldfish will not take interest in the other 3 neon tetras. And the swordtails are large enough to not be considered a snack. In fact, I already noticed the male taking a few nips at one of the goldfish, so I'll need to watch out if that continues.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Aquarium Addition : Pleco

Yesterday we added two more plants to the aquarium, as well as a Pleco which my son picked out, and has named him Spotty. The sign on the tank said Bronze Catfish, but when we went to purchase him, we found out is was a Pleco, which is also a type of catfish. Looked too cool for the $3.88 price, and sure enough he was quite a bit more, but they cut me a deal for $6. Apparently an algae eater, it likes to hide, and hang from the side of the aquarium. It may be a while before I can get any good photos of him, but here's an initial attempt, with him reflected against the glass:
Pleco reflection
Here's the tank today, with the new plants (the reddish one in front and the large green bunch behind it):
Freshwater aquarium
The next addition I'm considering, if all goes well, are some platys, which are live bearers. We saw some coral platys the other night, which were a brilliant red colour, with a touch of black on the tail. We keep seeing glass catfish, which are ultra-cool looking fish, but I read that they are a bit more difficult to keep, and want to be in a small school of 5 or more. So I don't think we're at this level. I don't even have a heated tank, nor do I perform any monitoring of water quality.
I finally got a half-decent shot of the 5 neon tetras:
Neon tetras in the aquarium
And a grainy closeup:
Neon tetra closeup
Here are a few shots of the goldfish again, first of Bubbles (isn't her form beautiful, even if her colours are not so attractive?):
Bubbles goldfish closeup
And finally, the little unnamed black/orange one:
Black / orange goldfish

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Aquarium Experiment: Early Beginnings

I still think of it as an experiment, since it started quite casually and rather unexpectedly, to me at least. When we released our turtle in August (see post), I ended up with a tank and pump, and a whim to pick up some 99 cent pond goldfish at the nearby garden centre. Less than 2 months later, I have collected 12 fish, 2 snail, 4 varieties of plants, visiting pet stores (I can always talk the kids into that), and boiling a large pot of driftwood on the stove. I think I'm just a little hooked.

If you're like I was less than 6 months ago, you'll want to click away, since I was not in the least bit interested in captive fish or aquariums. Fish tanks were something that you expected in the dentist's office, and that's about it.

[Fish always seemed so oblivious, so remote... I had never even imagined that within days the fish would be poking their little faces against the glass when they see me pass by, hoping that I will stop to feed them.]

Anyhow, at the start we already had the tank and pump, in which I had left a little of the "turtle water", so the pump would be already primed with some beneficial bacteria. I bought a bag of epoxy-coated gravel from WalMart, and added tap water which had been allowed to sit for a few days, to allow the chlorine to evaporate. In mid-September, the kids and I went to pick out our 99 cent goldfish, but found that they were all sold out, so ended up picking 2 fancy fantail $2.99 goldfish. I added some floating plants from a local ditch, which the fish promptly devoured. Here was the tank then:
Aquarium humble beginnings
...with the two fantail goldfish. The silver one is "Bubbles", picked by my daughter. The orange one is "Autumn", picked by my son:
Two fantail goldfish
Here is the tank today (I apologize for the poor quality photos, but click any for a larger view):
Aquarium with fish and plants
We have a total of 12 fish today, despite the common advice to "cycle" the tank for 4 to 6 weeks before adding more fish. I guess the 60+ gallon tank, and live plants, helps a lot. Especially since I haven't done any special testing or conditioning or anything of the water. I use only tap water, set out for a few days, and I've been replacing only a small portion once or twice a week.

After the 2 fantail goldfish, I stumbled across 39 cent goldfish in a pet store. They looked pretty much like the other $2.99+ fish, but they were referred to as "feeder" fish (i.e. bought to feed to other fish!). I was told half of them may not survive past one week, so instead of buying 3, I bought 5, and we resisted naming them, just in case. But a couple of weeks later, we probably should put some names to them, now.

One of my favourites is this dark black / orange one:
Black / orange goldfish
There's also this one, white with reddish back:
Red / white goldfish
One with three bars of orange on a white body:
Goldfish white with orange bars
One almost completely white on one side:
Goldfish white one side
...with just a spot and fin marking of orange on the other side:
Goldfish white (other side)
And finally this one which appeared black when I picked him, but looks a lot more silver / chocolate:
Chocolate silver goldfish
Here's the 7 goldfish together:
7 Goldfish
Then there's two algae-eating Bumblebee snails, which I had bought for my son while we had the turtle (although we kept them in a smaller container, they would have disappeared in the turtle's murky water). The smaller one is "Stripe":
Bumblebee snail 'Stripe'
The larger one is "Buzz":
Bumblebee snail 'Buzz'
Today we added to the mix 5 neon tetras (since they were on a 5 for $5 sale). I don't know if the goldfish will eat them. There seemed to be a few times today they chased them, but the tetras are pretty quick. So we'll see.

I've bought 4 different clumps of plants, and added a rock (possibly petrified wood) I found a while back on the beach, but boiled before adding it. I am really keen on buying some more plants. I am told I need better lighting for many of the plants. We'll see. It's just an experiment at this point, I tell myself. ;-)

ASIDE: The practical side of me does a quick reality check, on how much I am spending, in the $5-at-a-time increments. So far, here's how it adds up:

$40 Tank (which would have been over $200 new)
$40 Filter
$15 gravel
$5 net
$100 tank set up

$6 Fancy goldfish x 2
$2 Feeder goldfish x 5
$5 Neon tetras x 5
$18 4 clumps of plants (many turned out to be multiple plants)
$6 Bumblebee snails x 2

So still under $150 for the experiment to date. Which is still under the price of the tank, if we had bought a new one. So I think I can still call it "casual". ;-)
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