Modern Aquarium

Page 1

by the way is a good source for a lot of inexpensive items. I also bought 80 Ibs. of rock for about $10.00). Good lighting is very important for good plant growth. Plants are one of nature's filters, but more about plants later. The third engine is water and air exchange. Ask old time aquarists, and they will tell you of the importance of surface area. Water gets really churned up flowing down streams, over rocks, and rushing through rivers. The best way to improve air and water exchange is while you filter your water. My filter of choice is the trickle filter. The idea for trickle filters came from sewage treatment plants — treating ammonia-laden water by slowly trickling it through enormous biological filter beds. The media for these giant filters are plastic structures designed to offer the maximum possible surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow without being dense enough to clog easily. Because the medium is not submerged in water, the bacteria have better access to oxygen, and the conversion of ammonia to nitrate proceeds quickly and efficiently. Just imagine water flowing through the trickle filter. It creates a whole new dimension to the term "water surface area." My tank came with a 50 gallon trickle filter. It has a large drip plate (spray bars clog), lots of mixed bio-medium for the Nitrosomonas bacteria which convert ammonia to nitrite (and for Nitrobacter which converts nitrite to nitrate). In addition, I have an Eheim filter filled with carbon, connected to the output of the trickle's pump. From there, the water goes through a QuickSand filter where it loses a lot of its oxygen, allowing Micrococcus, Denitrobacllas, Pseudomonas, Achromobacter, and Bacillus bacteria, among others, to do their job - the reduction of nitrates to nitrogen gas. This also allows CO2 to build up. This way, you don't need a CO, reactor for the plants. Then the water goes back into the sump. NATURE'S DESIGN When I visualize a natural habitat, I never see fish in an open area. I see tree roots, rocks, and groups of plants. Give your fish a place to hide from each other, from light, and from you. Once they know it's there, they rarely use it; but, fail to provide a hiding spot, and your fish will end up nervous wrecks. When they have caves, rock work, and plants, your fish feel less stressed. When decorating the tank, start with the substrate. I had some at home, but nowhere near what I needed. I then went to Pergament (yes, the hardware store) and bought 50 Ib bags of #5 grit at about $5.00 a bag. That's what they use when they mix concrete. A proper mix of gravel is important. Too fine, and the gravel will pack and

not allow plant roots to spread. Too coarse a gravel, and the roots will not take hold, allowing the plants to float up. Any natural aquarium gravel is good, but it is always good to mix the sizes. A range from #2 to #5 is best. Look around and you could find all the rocks and wood you need, as long as you know what to look for. Avoid rocks that have obvious veins of metal ore in them. Stay away from sandstone and limestone, except when you want the water hard and alkaline. Soluble elements in both these rocks can raise your pH and add dissolved minerals, hardening the water slowly but steadily. One way to test a rock is to pour some regular vinegar on it. If it fizzles, it will make your water alkaline. A rule of thumb — if you're not sure about the rock, leave it alone! Collecting wood requires similar caution, imagination, and know how. The first, fastest, and easiest way is to go to your local pet shop and buy it. The second way depends on whether you live near a clean river, stream, or lake from which you can get well aged submerged wood. If you do, then the best woods to look for are bogwood and driftwood. Bogwood is found either in real bogs or on the bottom of lakes or streams where it has been soaking for years. Driftwood is thoroughly bleached wood that has been floating in the sea and washing around the beach for some time. A TREE GREW IN BROOKLYN I live in Brooklyn, so I go by method number three: oak tree branches. Due to storms or when someone chops down an oak tree, there are plenty of pieces to choose from. When cut right, an inverted tree branch looks a lot like tree roots. I only use oak, but I understand that other hard woods can be used. Stay away from pine. As with the rocks, if you have any doubt about the wood, leave it. It's not worth a problem later. The trick is, don't rush it! Let the piece age, dry out, and lose all its bark, sap and any resin there might be in it. Aging could take up to two months, depending on the size of the piece and how warm and dry the air is where you're aging the wood. I had a piece that I didn't age enough before I put it in the tank. After about a week, it had a little fuzzy growth on it that the Loricariids loved. No matter how you got your wood, boil it thoroughly, scrub it (no soap please), dry it, and soak it again to get it as water logged as possible. Arrange rocks and driftwood into a composition that pleases the eye and suits your fishes' needs for swimming space and shelter. Have fun with it and don't be in such a hurry to get it over with. It's a lot easier to change things now than it would be once everything is all set up.

The Editor's Dilemma ALEXANDER A. PRIEST his is an article about morals and value judgments. What is it doing in a tropical fish hobbyist publication; and why do I think I am qualified to write it anyway? The answer to the first question is that the editorial staff of any responsible publication is almost constantly making moral and value judgments. The answer to the second is that even though the staff of Modern Aquarium has been together for less than three years, I have been involved with (non-fish) hobby publications a long time before that, as Editor of the monthly newsletter of a local computer user group for over 12 years.



You receive an article that is obviously well intentioned and which contains some good information. But, it is so poorly written as to be nearly unreadable. You could turn it into a readable article only by totally rewriting it. The article's author believes it is well written and would be offended if you either failed to publish it, or made the needed but extensive changes.


Someone promised to write an article which that person wants printed in your next issue. You held the space open but, despite repeated calls, the article is not ready by the last date you can still make changes to your publication before it is printed.


An article that is well written and very entertaining happens to be a not so thinly veiled attack on a sister club or on a member of your own group. Many people (perhaps even yourself) agree with the position being taken. Even though the facts stated in the article are correct, if you publish the article, you and your publication will be subject to criticism. If you don't, you appear to be taking sides against the author, who is a regular contributor.


You receive an article from a long time member of your group. The article is just not appropriate for your publication. The member is well respected by all, yourself included, and someone you don't want to offend.

For just a few moments, while you read this article, I want YOU to put yourself in the Editor's Chair. Comfortable? Not for long! Here come your first set of Editorial decisions: 1)

You receive an article from a member whose writing style you are familiar with; but this new article doesn't fit that person's style at all. You strongly suspect it was copied at least partially from other published material and that there might even be copyright violations if you publish it. The author claims it isn't so, and insists you publish.


You receive an article claiming that a local vendor is engaging in false selling practices, or that a well known product used by many of your readers poses a health or safety hazard. The vendor or manufacturer is well known and frequently contributes items for your group's raffles. The article denouncing the vendor or product is well written and apparently well documented. You personally have never experienced any shoddy practices or workmanship in your dealings with the vendor or manufacturer's products, and know of no one else who has. If you don't publish, and the claims are true, your members could be defrauded, or even harmed. If you do publish, you risk a lawsuit your group cannot afford and the loss of support from the vendor or manufacturer.

ALL of these happened to me, as Editor of a newsletter for a computer group that is half the size of our aquarium society! Imagine the issues the Editor of this publication confronts. Harry Truman had a sign on his desk: "The Buck Stops Here." This referred to the phrase "passing the buck." It meant that he (Harry) was ultimately responsible for all decisions. Editors are in a similar position. Still comfortable in the Editor's Chair?

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Multivitamin 40% Supplement

AquanafilTroptcal; 1. Fish 2. Meat Fish Flakes 3. Wheat

1. Meat Byproducts 2. Dried Kelp 3. Whole Egg

Vitamin C Vitamin A Thiamine Riboflavine


Aquarian : : 1. Fish Herbivore Diet 2. Wheat Flakes 3. Rice

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can still remember my reaction the first time I read an article about "culling." I was stunned when I realized what they were talking about. That was five years ago, when I was very new to the hobby. (I can guess which of our "veteran" aquarists are chuckling to themselves at this point.) I now realize that serious breeders have no choice but to practice some level of culling. I am not a serious breeder. Then, there are those "put your fish out of its misery, and the best way to do it" articles. There's "off with their heads" or "cryoichthicide," (also known as "chill 'em and kill 'em"). The ecologically incorrect may release their unwanted or substandard fishes into a local stream, considering themselves to have behaved "humanely." None of these practices work for me. Anyway, what got me started writing was cleaning my Betta bowls, and realizing each time I do how glad I am to find "O11 What's-Her-Name" still among the eating and swimming. She is well over four years old, and is the last survivor of our very first successful Betta breeding. She is a red doubletail Betta splendens. She is on the small side, and a little crooked. She has never won an award or mothered a spawn of fry. She is kind of cute and kind of friendly, and doesn't eat much. She is quiet and polite, and she even takes care of her



own Java fern. Once in a while one of the males will still shoot off a flare in her direction. She shows no signs of being miserable. Anyone else would have "culled" her. I don't think that this little allegory would be enhanced by a photo or a drawing of "O11," her beauty is best viewed by the mind's eye. She shares a shelf with the first, second, and honorable mention award winning Bettas from our April 1996 Show. They all receive the same care. (O.K., so they're a little spoiled!) She represents to me to me what the joy of fishkeeping is all about. Among other things, it is about not being a snob, letting nature take its course, and doing the best job we can. Some of you may find a contradiction in what I have said, but remember — WE are also part of nature. Occasionally, my husband brings home what I call an "orphan." The most recent example was the last female molly in the store. "It will divide the attentions of our male molly, and make life better for the female we already have. Besides, who knows what would have become of her?" I have to admit that if he brought home "O11 What's Her Name," I would probably give him a hard time over it. But she is already here, and has proven herself to be a "Keeper."





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As is evident from its list of quality ingredients, this flake is designed for herbivorous fish. However, it is also a great "change of pace" flake for all aquarium fish.

Wardley Spirulina:

The sinking "disk" food is perfect for algae eaters such as Plecostomus catfish. As it softens, other fish will pick on it as well.

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This product is also a great food for bottom feeding Catfish and Loaches. This food is essentially powered flake food held together by skim milk in the form of an aspirin tablet. As it slowly dissolves in the water, fish will nibble on it. This food is also ideal for baby fish - it is powdered flake food, so baby fish are capable of picking the food as it is dissolved.

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This is a semi-floating pellet (initially floats, then sinks). As the name implies, it is "micro" in size. Very small fish can eat this pellet, so it is very versatile. Since it is in pellet form, it is very easy to dispense.

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the exchange column

ALEXANDER A. PRIEST he Tankquilizer is the publication of the Tropical Fish Society of Rhode Island (TFSRI). Its Editor is Paula Andrus. The publication is printed (as is Modern Aquarium) on H"xl7" paper, folded in half to create 8'/2 "xl 1" pages. The front cover sports a black and white illustration or drawing, which changes from month to month. The articles in each issue are listed, without page numbers, in a box on the front cover. Its two column layout and extensive use of clipart and drawings result in an attractive and easy to read format. I have reviewed nearly a year's worth of this publication to prepare this article, to see what the publication tells me about the Society and their differences and similarities to GCAS. As many societies do (including GCAS), the TFSRI has a Breeders Award Program (BAP). Their program differs from ours in the number of categories. GCAS has only four levels: Breeder, Advanced, Master, and Grand Master Breeder. In comparison, the TFSRI has seven levels: Future Breeder, Breeder, Senior Breeder, Advanced Breeder, Expert Breeder, Superior Breeder, and the Jacques Brousseau Award (which appears to be for those with over 1,000 points). As does GCAS, they also have a Breeder of the Year award and an annual award for breeding the most difficult fish. Each issue of Tankquilizer has a running update on the BAP totals. The exchange column in Tankquilizer is called "Mailbag." That column's author, Roger Pontes, summarizes selected articles in exchange publications, with the entire article available to members upon request. "Surfing The Pubs" compares activities of other societies, as reported by their publications. I don't usually mention articles or columns (except the exchange column), but two recent articles and one column deserve note.



The July 1996 issue of Tankquilizer had "Synodontis Multipunctatus," an article by Elaine Lefaivre. If you enjoyed John Moran's "Synodontis Multipunctatus By Way Of (Lake) Victoria's Secret" (Modern Aquarium June, 1996), Elaine's article is a "must read." (And, yes, I already sent John a copy of this article.) Another recent article I enjoyed was by their Editor, Paula Andrus, who understands that an enjoyable aquarium hobby publication has to have some humor and human interest articles. Her "Hubby To The Rescue" in the September 1996 issue "hooked" me, as a reader, drawing me personally into a crisis she experienced, from which a lesson in fishkeeping can be learned. Finally, an interesting and informative award winning column (best column - 1995 NEC publication awards) that appeared in most of the issues received this past year is "Oddball Livebearers" by Bill Simakauskas. Some of the "oddballs" Bill writes about will have you running to your favorite fish atlas — you won't find them at your local pet shop. It is obvious from reading several issues of Tankquilizer that the TFSRI is very active in the North East Council of Aquarium Societies (NEC), of which GCAS is also a member society. Frequent reprints from the NEC's newsletter can be found in Tankquilizer. along with information on the activities of other NEC members. (This same information, to the extent we become aware of it, is also now available on Greater City's website, as is a link to the NEC's own home page. The TFSRI is also a member of the Federation of American Aquarium Societies (FAAS), as is GCAS, and our website also has a link to the FAAS home page on the Internet.) It appears as though Tankquilizer is mailed to members in advance of the TFSRI monthly meeting (and they meet 12 months a year). The back outside cover serves both as a "mailer" (place for name and address) and carries reminder information on that month's meeting date. The issues often feature a "Speaker Profile," which is a brief introduction to the speaker that month. Overall, this is an informative and interesting publication I look forward to reading every month. As with all the publications reviewed in this series, copies are available for review upon request. This includes the articles and column specifically mentioned above.





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Teaching Your Fish To Read A series by "The Undergravel Reporter"

K ! n s spites idf I popular idernand to tjija| contrary/ tliissiitjmoii^g^sinformatiop icoiiimnscontinues. As usual, it does| NOT necessarily represent .v:-trÂťe| opinions ;of! th^l;::EditbT|t:or of thel :Greater":;City A^uariurn-Sodt^ty. Ill

f I could only get my fish to read. Then, they would know what they are "supposed" to do. For example, recently I attempted a Betta breeding. (Yes, while I may have written articles against "breeding for points," I firmly believe in breeding for quality and my Betta breeder friend gave me a beautiful pair whose traits I wanted to see continued for future generations.) Well, while I followed the books (and the excellent articles written here in Modern Aquarium), my pair did not follow the script. First, it seemed everything was going as expected. The male built a bubblenest (but under a floating plant, not under the styrofoam cup the experienced authors of the articles told me to put in the tank.) Naturally, the plant was at the back of the tank, making observation by me nearly impossible. If the male Betta read "It doesn't LOOK Like a Rice Paddy" (Modern Aquarium. October '94) or "Education of a Betta Breeder" (Modern Aquarium. October '95), he would know he couldn't resist the styrofoam cup half in the front of the tank (where I could view the mating process easily). After a few days, nothing at all was happening in the spawning department. At this point, it seemed as though they decided on peaceful coexistence. The books constantly preach patience, so I left them alone to continue their peaceful (and chaste) behavior towards each other — until I found the male's body half eaten at the bottom of the tank. Then, there is the matter of feeding. My "bottom feeder" Corys and Loaches routinely snag "floating" pellets intended for my "top feeder" Paradise Fish, and vice-versa. My Tiger Barbs and Angelfish (both, according to the literature, "middle" level feeders) do excellent imitations of Headstanders while picking food from the gravel on the bottom of



their respective tanks. My Flying Fox exhibits its supposed love of algae by allowing it to grow everywhere undisturbed. And, none of my fish have read that their stomachs are only as big as their eyes. In the several years I've have them, my Clown Loaches have never "played dead," although that is a trait all of the books mention as a distinguishing trait. My Swordtails have never exhibited signs of being "jumpers" (which most of the books warn you about) but several of my Mollys have been "leapers" (even though none of the books I've read warn you about this trait in these fish). I've have hard-to-breed Guppies, and unplanned spawnings of (according to the books, hard to breed) endangered African Cichlids. I've had an "annual" killifish live for over 2 years. I've had plants flourish under plain household florescent bulbs and not grow at all under full spectrum bulbs, which cost me three times as much. None of this is what the books and magazine articles lead you to expect. Don't get me wrong. I firmly believe in reading about a new acquisition in advance of purchase. And I will admit that most of the time articles such as those you find here in Modern Aquarium, in the commercial aquarium hobbyist publications, and in books, are useful and provide much needed information. BUT, there always seems to be a fish or two that haven't read the books and articles. Maybe it's because those fish haven't been "schooled" enough to read.

Exchange Issues and Exchange Issues should be mailed to: Alexander Priest 1558 McDonald St.; Bronx, NY 10461 Correspondence to Modern Aquarium should be mailed to: Warren Feuer 68-61 Yellowstone Blvd, apt. 406 Forest Hills, NY 11375



word dictionary tells you that you will find individual and alphabetically arranged entries of specific information. I can't bring myself to offer examples of poor titles for fear of offending the authors. Just scan your own bookshelf, and you will probably find a few. They will also A Series On Books For The Hobbyist probably turn out to be seldom selected volumes. SUSAN PRIEST Many authors make excellent use of sub-titling to enhance the presentation of their topics. am taking a departure from my usual Fishkeeping is a visual hobby, and in "book review" format this month, in order almost all cases, a good aquarium book should be to call your attention to an opportunity to illustrated. Drawings, diagrams, charts, maps, shape the future of the aquarium hobby. In the and, most often, photographs of fish, make up the September 1996 issue of Aquarium Fish bulk of this category. The Illustrated Dictionary Magazine, Lee Finley published the "Aquarists1 contains examples of all of the above, as well as Library" survey. I hope that many of you took some of my personal favorites; artist renderings the time to compose a response. In addition to of fish. Sometimes the combination of lighting, "how many," "how much," and "which ones," he camera settings, types of film, and many other asked some very challenging questions. In contributing factors, can yield photographs in particular, I found question #9, "Which topics which the colors are not "true." With an artist, would you like to see publishers of new what they see is what aquarium books you get! In my opinion, cover?," almost as sjii: the iSeptember •? 1996 issoe|i)f the intimate relationship difficult as it was Aquarium fish Magiiiiane that artists develop with important. My first their subjects adds a response was no liveliness that photography lacks. response: I was going to leave it blank. But, Now we come to the toughest and most after I read it a couple of times, I knew it was important aspect. You did not ask "what makes one of the most significant, and I couldn't let a good beginner's book?" or "what makes a good myself off the hook that easily. Our collective advanced book?". Questions 12 and 13 response to this question could shape the notwithstanding, your survey was published in a aquarium hobby for years to come, so please hobbyist magazine. I can only assume that by challenge yourself to a reply. "aquarium book" you are not referring to I found question #15, "What makes a scientific literature, but books written for home good aquarium book?," a little less daunting, but aquarists. Therefore, I must say that a good equally worth while. For your consideration, I aquarium book is one which has something for am printing the response which I submitted to the everyone. There are almost as many levels of survey. experience in this hobby as there are fishkeepers. I believe that every aquarist should be able to What Makes A Good Aquarium Book? pick up an aquarium-related book and find something of usefulness to them. I realize that One of many pleasant surprises that have this sounds a bit like chasing windmills, (an come my way since I joined the ranks of the impossible dream), but it is actually very often aquarium hobby was the discovery that I could accomplished, much to the credit of the authors combine it with one of my long-time interests; in the genre. If you think that now I'm going to namely, books. The world of tropical fish is so say the Illustrated Dictionary achieves this better vast and varied that the books devoted to it can than any of my other books, you would be and must take many forms. What makes a good wrong. (I never said it was PERFECT!) one? Tough question, but I'll take a stab at it by In summary, a good aquarium book using one of my favorites as an example. 1 should have 1) an informative title, 2) lots of acquired this book at a silent auction held by the illustrations and 3) subject matter of interest and Greater City Aquarium Society a few years ago. usefulness to all levels of experience. It became a fast and enduring favorite. The first thing any good book needs is a good title. Case in point: Illustrated Dictionary Of Tropical Fishes. This is an excellent title. It reference: gives concise and complete information as to Illustrated Dictionary Of Tropical Fishes by Hans Frey, TFH Pub., 1961 768pp what the reader can expect. In particular, the




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