Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aquarium Blog: Day 9 Planted

Wow, I'm really getting into this hobby. The fish are doing great, but I'm continuing to experience some plant die back. I have the Hydor Exclusive CO2 system up and running at about 40 bubbles per min. I'm dosing Seachem fertilizers and have dry fertilizers on the way. Ammonia and Nitrites are at near zero ppm. Nitrates are around 20 ppm (low?). So, I think I'm doing everything right. I just gotta be patient. Reading more: I'm considering getting a T5 36 double strip tomorrow. Shhh, don't tell my wife!
Read more!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Aquarium Blog: Day 8 Planted

Current fauna include (with names, if named):
2 Male Electric Blue Ram (Boron and Xenon)
2 Female German Blue Ram (Freon and Krypton/Helion)
2 Rummy Nose Tetras
2 Emerald Green Cory
5 Scarlet Badis
9 Cherry Shrimp (fish food?)
1 Mystery Snail

Reading more: my wife hates the name Freon.
Read more!

Aquarium Blog: Hydor CO2 green NRG Exclusive

I received my replacement Hydor "pressure reducer" and two disposable cartridges. I wore gloves screwing on the cartridge, he, he. First attempt the pin did not penetrate the disposable cartridge. The pressure reducer comes with two washers installed and I debated removing one, but instead just backed out and back in and succeeded. I hope the washer is intact. The pressure reducer leaked CO2 from a couple of places for about twenty seconds or so before it appeared to "settle". I thought that was pretty odd, but there are no leaks now and it's dispensing CO2 from zero to several bubbles a second as I adjust. I'm certain it's not a long term solution for a 50g tank as the disposable cartridges are not cost efficient for this size tank. I'm pretty happy to retire the DIY system after only one day. Reading more: I'm convinced I'm the only soul in the US using a Hydor pressure reducer. If you are make sure and let me know! Read more!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rotala this, Rotala that!

So I'm thinking my Rotala may be Rotundfolia rather than Indica. That's thanks to forum folks at Aquatic Plant Central (see link to right). I'll be adding this link to the right as well: Plant Finder. AReading more: The forums are invaluable. Check the links to the right. Thanks "ingg" and Cavan Allen at APC forum! Read more!

Aquarium Blog: Electric Blue Ram

My parameters:
50g tank (36x18x19)
~100 watts standard fluorescent various plant grow tubes
about 10hrs full 1hrs 50 watts (I have a glass canopy these lights sit on that has some incredibly stubborn hard water deposits, so I'm guessing I'm losing at least 25% wattage)
Eco-complete substrate
pH (power of hydrogen, fun mnemonic only) 7.2 without CO2 closer to 6.8 with CO2
GH (general hardness) 100 ppm
KH (carbonate hardness) 150
Dosing Seachem as per their Aquarium dosing chart
I plan to mix my own once this wetness behind my ears dries.
Flourish tabs spaced 4-6 inches
Water temp 81F
Ammonia ~0ppm, Nitrite ~ 0ppm, Nitrate ~30ppm
Fluval 305 sponges and bio media only
CO2 DIY with Hydor diffuser on 24/7
Air stone during lights off
Reading more: I'll be testing GH and KH more carefully this afternoon. Read more!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Aquarium Blog: Day 6 Planted

I'm fighting to keep my head above the information waterline!
This CO2 test kit, called a drop checker, comes with a standard solution for accuracy:
drop checker. I just ordered one. The Red Sea test kit just won't pass muster.
I'm using DIY CO2 at the moment so I need an accurate test kit as my injection is rough.
I'm using a dosing table for Seachem (mix my own later).
I've added an information source for planted tanks: The Barr Report.
I'm just waiting for trouble. Reading more: Added standard German Blue Rams, more soon. Read more!

Aquarium Blog: Electric Blue Ram

I decided to give a couple of Electric Blue Ram (EBR) a try. One of my LFS folks thought they were being sold as a sexed pair, but I'm pretty sure these are two males. I very much like the Microgeophagus ramirezi as a species, but I'm not so impressed with this coloration. Could be my lighting or their age. I'm going to provide two typical GBR females (I doubt EBR females are easily found) and see how things go. Reading more: Currently the 50g tank houses the two rams, two emeral green "cory", two rummy nose tetras (more soon), five scarlet badis, and a few scrimp.
Read more!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 3: Five Scarlet Badis and Five Cherry Shrimp added!

I was able to add five Scarlet Badis and five Cherry Shrimp Today. Oh, and one mystery snail. I'm working to improve my aquarium photos. I gotta figure out how to do a manual focus! Reading more: I hope to add Rams on Friday. Read more!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 3: I mistake Jave Fern Reproduction for Parasite/Disease

I read that Java Fern can develop spores on the underside of leaves which develop into plantlets.
Wow! That's interesting. Reading more: First place I read this was here http://fishandfishery.blogfa.com/post-9.aspx. Fish and shrimp in a few hours, I hope. Read more!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Day 2

Only plant "pearling" today was Vallisneria.
One plant actually seems like it has grown overnight if that's even possible: Rotala Indica.
I have what my wife calls a "control panel" look going on the left side that I will hide or remove soon. Reading more: Adding some fish/shrimp tomorrow I hope.
Read more!

Day 2

I Placed my Anubias Nana on the driftwood this morning. They look great. I also repositioned my other Anubias and Java Fern such that thier rhizomes were not buried in the substrate (thanks www.aquariumadvice.com forum dwellers joy13 and FishEggs!) . LFS pro noted they had ammonia problems with an Eco complete install in the past. So, I bought a test kit and am happy to report ~0ppm. I've read bad batches of eco complete were shipped a couple of years back and that Caribsea responded well to the problem. In any case, I'm loving mine so far. I'm just learning to take pictures of the aquarium. LFS pro also thought my day 1 pic looked like "new tank syndrome", but it's my photography. In "real life" the water does not look hazy. Ah, with a little saturation tweak the tank looks more like real life. I'll take another bigger pic tonight. Reading more: I'm learning. The forums are great (try www.aquariumadvice.com). I'm pretty sure the LFS pro would have given me the same advice the next day, but the immediate feedback of a forum can be really helpful.
Read more!

Hydor CO2 instructions in English wrong! Fig 1 correct. Seeking confirmation!

Dear Mr Mastin,
we thank you for your contact.
Thanks to your inquiry, we have verified the instruction's texts and there is an error in the English translation.

The right text should be:
"Take the pressure reducer (N) and make sure
that the regulation knob is closed (turn anti-clockwise)
-Fig. 1-, then turn the pressure reducer
upside-down and make sure that the o-ring is in
the correct position and there are no particles or
dust inside the connection or on the top of the
cartridge. (M). Screw on the CO2 cartridge slowly..."

This is an error born during the english translation: in fact the translation in the other languages is right. We guarantee we are already correcting the text, and we apologize for this inconvenience.

In reference to the indications of turning the reducer upside-down, this is only for inspection that the o-ring is correctly positioned and there are no particles.We should have probably added a sentence indicating to turn back in an upright position the pressure reducer before screwing on the cartridge.

Thank you again for informing us, we will update the English translation as soon as possible.

May we suggest you contact HYDOR USA directly to get a replacement cartridge.

Best regards.

Paolo Mariotto


Reading more: How refreshing. The cynical side of me says the staff attorney must be on vacation.
Read more!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 1 Planted

I'm declaring "day 1" of the planted tank. Looking pretty good. I just learned that Anubias should have their rhizomes out of the substrate, so I corrected that and will provide an updated pic soon. See the posts below of a list of the plants. As a reminder, this is a 50 gallon tank with 100 watts of fluorescent lighting, eco-complete substrate, and no CO2 (yet). My water is warm, slightly acid, and moderately hard. Reading more: I may be able to add a emerald cory or two tomorrow. More fish in a week.
Read more!

Missing dwarf hairgrass and yellow hornwort. Follow-up (AquariumGarden.com)

My email to aquairumgarden.com and the reply:

Hey Vic,
I received my order today (36 Discus Assortment order placed 6/11/09).
Lots of plants that traveled well.
-Lots of anacharis and yellow/brown hornwort.
-And no dwarf hairgrass as indicated on the web and especially disappointing as I specifically requested some ground cover.

I attached a picture of the anacharis and hornwort.
I don't really care about the yellow hornwort, but it would be nice to have some some ground cover.

Thanks! David

Dear David,

Thank you for your interest in our products and your order with us.

We are glad to hear that most plants arrived in good shape. We apologize for the yellow hornwort: unfortunately, such things happen sometimes with live item shipments especially during hot weather.

Unfortunately, we do not have hairgrass in stock at the moment - we may be able to get some this or next week, we'll make sure to send it to you if that happens. Also - would you please let me know what kind of ground cover you are looking for? We may be able to include it as well.

Once again, we apologize for the issues and thank you for your purchase. Please let us know if you have more questions, we'll be happy to help.

Sincerely Yours,

Nothing more to report.
Read more!

Impressed with Hydor Customer Service

Here is the email I received today from Hydor Customer Service!


Thank you for the photo. You can't just put those parts back in. I will have to send you a new regulator. I also send you a new CO2 canister. I need the following information.


The key to this system is to not over tighten the canister. Also make sure there are no sharp edges or debris in the regulator. Follow the picture instructions. You turn the rugulator top counter clockwise to close it.

Once I get your shipping info, I will send you the parts.



Hydor USA, Inc.
Customer Service
4740 Northgate Blvd #125
Sacramento, CA 95834
866-493-6787 Phone
866-629-4937 Fax Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it. Read more!

Plants have arrived! (from AquariumGarden.com )

The pics are arranged 1-8 with 8 at the top and 1 at the bottom. The narrative is below. See post below for narrative. Read more!

Plants have arrived! (from AquariumGarden.com)

Pics above are the contents of each bag!
Priority Mail box unpacked. So far so good (pic 1, check jpg label to confirm which pic is which).
First bag labeled Anacharis and Java Fern (pic 2). Second bag labeled Wisteria, three included(pic 3). Third bag labeled Rotala Indica, Anubias Nana, and Hornwort, lots of Hornwort that looks yellow (pic 4). Fourth bag labeled Anubias Barteri and Hygro-gaint (pic 5). Fifth bag labeled Vallisneria-Corkscrew (pic 6). Sixth bag labeled Anubias Frazeri and Sword-Ruffled (pic 7). Seventh bag labeled Vallisneria-Italian and Sword-Amazon (pic 8).

Lots of plants that traveled well.
Lots of anacharis and yellow/brown hornwort.
No dwarf hairgrass as indicated. Especially disappointing as I specifically requested some ground cover. "The plants are selected to tolerate discus tank environment conditions, specificaly - higher temperatures up to about 85F. The plants we include are a collection of several anubias species, hygrophila species, anacharis, hornwort, rotala indica, wisteria, java fern species, amazon and ruffle swords, and also some dwarf hairgrass."
See above for pics of all plants as received.

Reading more: No more here. Read more!

Hydor Help!

Here is the email I sent to Hydor customer care this morning (hydor.usa@hydor.com;

I've recently been having trouble with a CO2 green NRG Exclusive kit I purchased.
The first time I attached a disposable cartridge I turned the cartridge too tightly and one of the silicone disks tore.
The second time I attached a disposable cartridge I turned the valve in the direction indicated on the instruction picture and burned my hand.
The instructions and instruction picture do not match.
When I removed the disposable cartridge the needle valve came out.

-Can you please give me a diagram of the valve so I can make sure I put the spring and needle in correctly?

-Can you replace the two wasted disposable cartridges?

-Can you explain how to install the disposable cartridge as the instructions in English say one thing and the picture shows another (the text says turn clock-wise and the picture shows counter-clockwise).

Thank you very much.


Also the instructions read:

"Take the pressure reducer (N) and make sure
that the regulation knob is closed (turn clockwise)
-Fig. 1-, then turn the pressure reducer
upside-down and make sure that the o-ring is in
the correct position and there are no particles or
dust inside the connection or on the top of the
cartridge. (M). Screw on the CO2 cartridge slowly..."

Note that the instructions say "turn the pressure reducer upside-down" and next instruct to "screw on the CO2 cartridge". Having the upside-down when screwing on the CO2 cartridge would seem especially dangerous if someone had turned the valve counter-clockwise as indicated in Fig 1.

Thank you,

And here is the rest of it. Read more!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

CO2 Madness

Rather than continue to obsess with the Hydor CO2 Green NRG Exclusive valve I have, I decided to possibly purchase a Hydor CO2 Green NRG Advanced kit retail from the LFS. The Hydor website notes that the Adavanced system "can be connected with the special adapters to any rechargeable or disposable canister". I purchased a 24oz rechargeable CO2 canister, had it filled, and took it to the LFS. I told them if they could connect the canister to the Hydor advanced system I would happily purchase it. These folks are super nice and were willing to help. First try the owner turned the valve counter-clockwise as indicated in Fig 1. (just like I did with my valve) and CO2 escaped from the second exhaust port. Fortunately, his hand didn't burn as mine did. The 0-ring, pin, tiny air filter, and spring shot out when he aborted and removed the cartridge (spring lost). Second try was with another of the same valves from another kit. This time with the valve turned clockwise as indicated in the text. No gas escaped the second port, but so much gas was escaping the first safety port he aborted the attempt. He suggested I purchase a on/off valve for the canister and he'd be willing to try again. That's a good idea, but WTH is going on with these valves? I have another pair of disposable cartridges on the way so I might give the Exclusive system another go first, with leather gloves on this time. I really hope I can get an exploded diagram from Hydor so I can double-check the Exclusive system I have. Also the LFS promised to speak with his Hydor rep. Please let me know if you have any experiences with these valves or know anyone that does. Reading More: The final move of the LFS owner was to show me a Milwalke CO2 regulator and suggest this might be a wiser purchase.
Read more!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Leaning Toward Completely Insane

Turns out the Hydor instruction text is likely correct and Hydor Figure 1 provided with the instructions is wrong.
Here are the instructions: "Take the pressure reducer (N) and make sure that the regulation knob is closed (turn clockwise) -Fig. 1-", I thought when turning the valve counter clockwise as indicated in Fig 1 a spring controlled pin would be released such that CO2 would be blocked from escaping into the central well. Unfortunately it didn't and this time the CO2 escaped from a different pressure relief hole. You might say that clockwise is "righty tighty" is obviously closed but Fig 1, and the fact that a small plus sign to the left of the word Hydor and a minus to the right led to imagine minus meant closed and Fig 1 was correct and counterclockwise was the way to go. A further indication these instructions are screwed up is that next statement referencing the valve reads "Slowly turn clockwise the regulation knob on the pressure reducer checking that the CO2 reaches the bubbles counter, then proceed with the first regulation setting the desired amount of bubbles". Following the text instructions the valve is already in the completely clockwise position! Geese. Open/closed, plus/minus, clockwise/counterclockwise! I have a nice CO2 burn on my hand now and a second wasted CO2 cartridge. Reading more: Aaaaagh. Sorry no more. Read more!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hydor CO2 Troubleshooting

Here I describe several days of Hydor trouble shooting, including working with Hydor customer support. See the links to the right for more related entries. Please know that my comments pertain to the Hydor CO2 Green NRG Exclusive/Advanced system.

I have attached the pressure reducer to a new 74 gr cartridge firmly by hand. When I open the pressure reducer no gas escapes. When I turn the pressure reducer from open to closed I can hear brief puffs of escaping gas but then it stops immediately. No consistent gas is released. When I screwed the cartridge gas on the first time some gas escaped around the threads so I know the cartridge is pressurized. When I unscrew the cartridge slightly some gas escapes around the threads so I know it is still pressurized. Any advice?
---As I unscrewed the valve somewhat some plastic was extruded from what I assume is a pressure relief hole. Now CO2 will flow from this hole when the valve is somewhat unscrewed from the cartridge.---Well, I got the pressure relieved and unscrewed the valve so I see what was going on. It looks like there were two "o-rings" in the valve, two clear disks with a hole in the center. One of them looks shredded. Was the unit supposed to ship with both rings inserted? I screwed the cartridge on with hand strength only and I'm not a strong guy. Any thoughts out there? I'll grab a new cartridge tomorrow. I wonder if operating with one "O-ring" is acceptable. I did attach the valve to the provided air line and dipped the end into water and saw no movement at all, so I'm still concerned. Reading more: Please Comment. I'm waiting to hear from Hydor. I'm tempted to go buy another cartridge and try again with only one disk inserted, but the cartridges are over $20.
Read more!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hydor CO2

I received my Hydor Co2 system in the mail today. It's the "CO2 green NRG exclusive" model.
Reading more: The dis advantage of this model is that it only works with the proprietary small cartridges. Other models work with paintball cartridges and larger tanks. The "CO2 green NRG advanced" model would be the way to go as I understand it has an adapter for paitball sized canisters. Read more!

Python Water Changer

I just gotta say I really appreciate having a Python No Spill Clean & Fill thingy. It's very convenient for partial water changes. I can barely remember years ago using a tube and bucket. I'm continuing to do daily small water changes. Reading more: I'd be happy to answer questions you may have about this product. Read more!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Just In: Blood for your aquarium:

OMG, check this new release from Hydor! I love it, I mean I hate it, oh good grief! It's blood streaming out of a cow skull. What's not to love/hate? I have been noticing more decorations utilizing led lighting of late. I'm going for a more natural look, but for those darker aquarium fans out there, this might be for you. Um, do I need to say it? Er, it's not really blood.
Reading more:
Check the Hydor link for ordering details. I'd write more, but I don't have more to say right now. Why not leave a comment?
Read more!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Plants, Aquariums, and Cons

I've found Rex's Planted Tank Guide to be quite useful. As a teacher and scientist I've been irritated by advertisements for the water purification gadget (the Eco-Aqualizer) you see to the right. Rex gives an excellent analysis. Find it here: bad science. Add your web site suggestions via a comment. I am also enjoying The Planted Tank. The forums are great and I like to browse the submitted aquariums. Read more!


Aqualight Lunar Blue Moon Glow
The DrF&S price looks reasonable.
I'm inspired by this pic of a tank lit by the above light.
Note: not my pic.
As I mentioned in my first post my lighting consists of two 36 inch and two 24 inch fluorescent tubes (100 watts total). The doublestrip 24 inch fixture was on hand and I purchased the doublestrip 36 inch (DrF&S) $94.99. The bulbs are a mix of Flora Sun 24" 17W ($15.99), Nutri Grow Plant Lamp 36" 30W ($16.49), and Spectra Rays Full-Spectrum 24" 20W ($11.99).
More to come. I'll do a post on my thoughts regarding these tubes.
Read more!

Tannic Acid

My Malaysian driftwood is releasing tannins as expected, but not as much as I thought it might. As you can see the water is only a little brown. Aesthetically, it looks natural. What about water conditions? The pH I inherited from the previous setup was over 7.0. The eco-complete substrate may raise the pH a bit, whereas the driftwood tannins may lower it. My goal is an acidic environment for Blue Rams (pH below 7). I'll be patient as see how the water stabilizes over time and I'll continue to do small water changes every day or two. I won an auction for a Co2 generation system day before yesterday. I'll report on this when it arrives. Injecting Co2 should keep my pH where I want it. I have more to learn about water chemistry for sure. Wow, check out this heated discourse on water chemistry. Total alkalinity/buffering capacity 120ppm. Total hardness 120ppm. Nitrite at or near zero. Nitrate 80ppm. I found this article on driftwood. There's lots of good info out there in various forums as well. Read more!

What's under there?

Here's a peek at what's under my tank. I'm looking forward to giving the Seachem Matrix a try. It'll go in the Fluval 305. See anything interesting? The plan is to work on water quality this week. Add plants Monday, assuming they arrive then. And add fish shortly thereafter.

Is anybody out there? I'll post a picture of the tank with then now tannin added water later today. Read more!


I hope to have a heavily planted tank with Blue Rams as the fish stars. Some of these tanks are my inspiration. I plan to only post original pics, so I'll forgo posting any pics of other folks plants or fish. Instead here's a pic of me and my buds. L to R, Pat the archeologist, John the statistician, Luke the carpenter, and me, David the psychologist. I'm doing 10-20% water changes every day so I'll post an update when I do that tomorrow. It'll be interesting to see if the driftwood affects the Ph of the water.

We've been friends since high school. What to know more? Just let me know. Read more!

Current Occupant

Emerald Green Cory or Brochis splendens.
He/she has survived in this tank for years, even back when Earl the red ear pond slider lived here. I'm happy to have him here eating and pooping, but I feel I either need to get him some species mates or find him another home.

Would he be a good member of a community tank with blue rams? I wonder if he would eat any eggs they produced. I read female Green Corys have more girth and males are more slender. I'm thinking this is a female.
Read more!

Monday, June 15, 2009


I'm pretty excited to showoff the piece of driftwood that will be the decorative centerpiece of the tank. I acquired it from the local fish shop (LFS). The tag it came with identifies it as Malaysian Wood XXL. You can find the website listed on the tag here, although I don't see the XXL listed. I paid $55 for this piece. The price seemed quite reasonable. When I showed my wife the price tag she did not complain. It's quite large, about 24Lx13Wx18H. I anticipate some tannins.

The piece in it's original form had one spar that was a little off. The LFS dude suggested I take a chainsaw to it. It never occurred to me to modify the pieces of driftwood I'd seen. A jigsaw did the trick. Read more!


Aquarium: 50 gallons (36 L x 18W x 19H inches) already on hand. Originally served as home for a red eared pond slider (Earl).
Substrate: Eco-Complete Plant Substrate from http://www.drsfostersmith.com/ (DrF&S). Four twenty pound bags, shipping only $11.99.
Lighting: two 36 inch and two 24 inch flourescent tubes (100 watts total). The 24 inch fixture was onhand and I purchased the doublestrip 36 inch (DrF&S) $94.99.
Heating: J├Ąger TS Automatic Heaters 150 watt (DrF&S) $27.99.
Filtration: Fluval 305, on hand.

Read more!