Saturday, March 3, 2007

Hair grass


Hair grass or Eleocharis acicularis (also called as 'Needle Spike-rush') is one of the most difficult species that I have handled. As the name suggests (Hair Grass), this is a grass-like plant with very fine leaves resembling human hair. This is low height plant that requires high light and nutrient rich substrate and forms a dense underwater 'lawn', making it quite popular among the aquarists, as a 'foreground' plant. It does really well with regular CO2 supply and fertilization.

Hair grass, is found as a bunch of thin threads, entangled with each other. The toughest job is to plant them. Hair grass does extremely well if individual plants are separated in smaller clumps and each clumps are planted in the substrate, separately with a pair of tweezers. Once planted, do not forget to clip the tips off, after a week or two. Hair grass is also very prone to be affected by brush algae. Clipping the tips regularly, helps to control the brush algae growth on the thin leaves of hair grass. Once, the thick 'carpet' is formed, remember to vaccum regularly to get rid of the debris, deposited in the dense 'carpet' of hair grass.

Pistia stratiotes

Pistia or Water Lettuce in Samit's Tank
The above image shows, Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) in my tank. This is a free-floating plant with little thick and spongy spongy, pale green leaves. The leaves are covered with tiny hairs, making them water-resistant. Usually the leaves are 1 to 6 inches wide in wild, but in indoor setups, it might be much smaller. This is a very aggressive invader and can grow very very fast. This has no known direct food value to wildlife and is considered a pest species.

Pistia could be used very effectively in new setups, to absorb extra nutirents that couses algae bloom, but it needs to be monitored very closely on a regular basis, so that it does not cover the whole tank.

Pistia shows a very interresting instance of Allelopathy (Allelopathy - a chemical process that a plant uses to keep other plants from growing too close to it. See Wiki ) with Salvina natans. If Salvina is introduced to a tank that is infested with Pistia, within a week or so, all pistia will disappear and melt away, leaving only the Salvina in the tank.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Salvina molesta

Giant Salvina (Salvina molesta)
Photograph of a Giant Salvina (Salvina molesta) in my outdoor tub, a breeding heaven for my mixed live bearer community. This is a very aggressive and fast growing plant and can take over your entire tank or tub or pond or stream and lake or river very quickly. Origin of this plant is actually Brazil, but it had been introduced to the hobbyist and aquarists all over the world as a decorative addition to home aquariums. Soon, this aggressive species covered local water bodies choking indigenous plant species to death. Many countries, announced this particular species as an invasive alien species and a pest.

In Zambia, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) has described this Salvina molesta {locally known as Kariba weed) as obnoxious weeds under the Obnoxious Weeds Act, along with few other introduced species like Lantana camara and the aquatic fern. Among them Salvinia molesta or Giant Salvina has also been reported to be a major cause of death and depletion of certain forms of aquatic life including edible fish and reptiles, in Zambia.

It is not welcome in other countries, too. UNESCO World Heritage Center had to put Djoudj Water Sanctuary in Senegal under Danger List in 1981, because of the menace created by this introduced species. However recently, in 2006, Djoudj has been taken out of the Danger List of WHC.

In US, people have started providing professional help to aquarists and fishery owners to eradicate this ‘monster’ weed. A significant growth Salvina is also reported from Australia, Honolulu, UK and other parts of Europe.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Golden CAE

Golden CAE or Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)
Above is a photograph of a Golden CAE or Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) from my tank. This is also called as Sucking loach or Indian Algae Eater. As the name suggests, they are good algae eaters. But you need to be little careful while adding CAE in your planted community tank. Number one, they will eat but only when they are young. Grown up CAEs do not touch algae. Number two, grown up CAEs they can become very aggressive and territorial, causing trouble to other CAEs in the tank as well as all other inhabitants of the tank. Again, CAEs can grow up to 8”-10” making them unsuitable for usual home set ups.

However, the golden variety of CAE is a nice addition to a planted tank. But, make sure you introduce him young; introduce only one or maximum 2 (if you have l-a-r-g-e tank) specimen of the species; create enough hiding places for other inhabitants, specially if you have other bottom feeders and algae eaters; plan for an old age home for the guy!

The usual specimen species has complete different coloration than this golden variation of the same species. The usual ones have burnt yellow sides with a dark brown stripe running through length of the body and the stripe is usually interrupted with brown irregular spots. The tail and dorsal fins are usually clear but might have some small patches.

See photograph of the usual specimen of this species from biology.ualberta.ca

In the photo, you can also see a juvenile Pleco along with the CAE.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bronze Cory

Bronze Corydora from Samit's planted tank
Photograph of a Bronze Cory (Corydoras aeneus), one of the most common Corydoras you will find in hobbyists' tanks around the world. This fish is originally from Amazon region, Trinidad and the Guianan plateau of South America and grow up to 7 cm. Ideal pH of the water should be 7.3 and ideal temperature would be 24°C. This is a very peaceful species and ideal for community tanks. A tank with minimum 50L capacity is recommended for Bronze Corys. Bronze Cories are best kept in groups. A small group of 5-6 fishes are ideal for a mid-sized tank. These fishes are bottom feeder like most other cat fishes. In wild, they feed on algae and lower plants as well as insects, crustaceans and worms. Captive Cories eat sinking pelletes, sinking wafers, frozen bloodworms, shrimp pellets and of course the left over from other fishes. Soft sand as substrate is ideal for these guys, as it will not damage their sensitive barbels.

Cories have a strange but very interesting behaviour. They will dart to the top of the tank to take air. However, they should not do this often and this behaviour, if happens repeatedly, should be considered as one of the first signs that a water change is overdue. Though, bronze cories are bottom feeder like other cories and cat fishes, they will also feed at the top if they realize that their other tankmates are doing so. Quite intelligent and quick learner!

Fish room

Samit's Fish Room
This photograph shows a partial view of my fish room. Well, to be frank, it was never a fish room. It is our guest room that I use as my fish room. Of course, our guests like this room very much.

Common Spiny Loach

Indian Spiny Loach of Samit Roy
This is an indigenous loach species, commonly called as Indian Spiny Loach or Common Spiny Loach or Malabar Loach (Lepidocephalichthys thermalis). This is a very peaceful fish, like most of the loaches and could be kept in a community tank. They need plenty of hiding places with soft substrate, like fine sand. Use bogwoods, driftwoods, earthen pots, river stones and plants to provide enough refuge. Ideally, like other loaches, this fish should be kept in groups. It is recommended that minimum 3-4 fishes should kept together. Very active species that love to spring around. They love to burrow themselves under soft sand. A canopy is must if you do not provide enough hiding space in your tank. Try to have a have medium water flow in your tank. Avoid sharp stones, thick sands, as these fishes have a very delicate skin. Feeding habit of these Spiny Loaches are easy. In wild they feed on detritus and occasional algae. In captivity, they could be fed with flake, sinking pellets, thawed frozen mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, daphnia etc. They have very fascinating eating habit. They put a tiny amount of fine sand in their mouth, eat the tiny food particles attached with that, and then throw out the sand through their gills!
pH range required: 6.5 - 7;
Temperature Required: 22 - 24°C