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Dickinson Com:minee; Chairs ;: A w a r d :, , Gafiom^eJager

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MODERN vAQUA-RIUM;: ^ . | | - , Photo/LaYWt Editor , Jason1 Dsrectof;/ Bernard ; Mgr. , |. , Mark : Assistant | | i | l | Pat ExeGUtfve Eduor . . . . j-oseph:

Vol. VI, No. 2

February, 1999


v live pius y^ars OK! Sw.0fdcian.t (EcmnadQ.rus bfenerfr. on our cover IS; the subject :.,pf ; :an entertaining ; |a|liinformat^e 'article; 'this month | | | | : Curti:: : | |f | ' : . • . ' • ; : . : • ; . :


Series III

Editor's Babblenest . . .


Forty-Five Years and Still Going


Anubias in the Aquarium


Is it a Fish Tank or an Aquarium?


Don't Have a Green Thumb?


The Amusing Aquarium . . . . . . .


Potting Your Plants


Najas: The Plant I Couldn't Quite Kill . . . . . .


Unplanted Plants


Java: The Ideal Tank Pick-Me-Up


FAASinations - FAAS Delegate Report


NEC Delegate Report


Speaker Biography (Don & Doug Curtin)



The Aquarist's Sketchpad


Surfing The Pubs (Exchange) .


Wet Leaves (Book Review)


Warning: Read Your Label



G.C.A.S. Happenings


Fin Fun (Puzzle Page)


Printing By Postal Press

Articles submitted for consideration in MODERN AQUARIUM must be received no later than the 10th day of the month, three months prior to the month of publication. Copyright 1999 by the Greater City Aquarium Society Inc., a not-for-profit New York State corporation. All rights reserved. Not-for-profit aquarium societies are hereby granted permission to reproduce articles and illustrations from this publication, unless the article indicates that the copyrights have been retained by the author, and provided reprints indicate source and two copies of the publication are sent to the Exchange Editor of this magazine. Any other reproduction or commercial use of the material in this publication is prohibited without express written prior permission. The Greater City Aquarium Society meets every month, except during July and August. Meetings are the first Wednesday of the month and begin at 8:00 P.M. Meetings are held at the Queens Botanical Gardens. For more information, contact Vincent Sileo (718) 846-6984. You can also leave us a message at our Internet Home Page at: http: //ourworId. CompuServe. com/homepages/greatercity

Anubias In The Aquarium: A Discussion of Three Ideal Plants For The Hobbyist by JOSEPH FERDENZI A nubias is a genus of aquatic and thrive under standard aquarium lighting /\c plants that originate conditions (e.g., a 20 from Watt fluorescent bulb over y j tropical West Africa. Although the a 20 high gallon tank; a 15 W fluorescent bulb genus was described in 1857 (and named in over a 10 or 15 gallon tank, etc.). No special honor of the ancient Egyptian deity, Anubis), this bulbs seem to be necessary; "cool white" bulbs group of plants did not become popular aquarium are fine. fixtures until relatively recently. There are Two positive attributes of Anubias have, therefore, been noted: they tolerate a wide range numerous species of Anubias, but this article will of water conditions and are low-light plants. focus on three that this author can recommend There are other attributes that make them based on his experience with them, and which are especially worthwhile aquarium plant choices. commonly available. One such quality is that they are tough, rigid The three species to be discussed are plants. Most aquarium plants are relatively soft barteri, cofeeafolia, and nana. Please be aware and delicate. Indeed, one way to tell that a plant that the identification of plant species is is a true aquatic is to remove it from the sometimes complex and controversial. Some do water — if it stays upright, it is probably not a not consider cofeeafolia and nana to be true true aquatic plant, i.e., not meant to be grown species, but merely varieties of barteri. continuously under water. (Thanks to Steve However, the plants are known by these names in Gruebel of Cameo Pet Shop for that insight.) the trade, and are, therefore, generally sold to Anubias is a notable exception to that "rule of hobbyists as such. Since this is meant to be a practical article for the hobbyist, I will treat them thumb." Because of its toughness, Anubias can as three separate species. withstand a lot of abuse and will not be eaten or Having said that, nevertheless, the ideal shredded by most aquarium animals (Apple growing conditions for the three plants, and their Snails and Silver Dollars will eat them, or any beneficial attributes, are the same. The only other plant for that matter). Anubias can even be significant differences between the three has to grown above the water line (as in a terrarium), as do with their overall size, leaf shape, and leaf long as the tank is covered and kept moist and size. Nana, as its name indicates, (Latin for humid. Another quality of Anubias that sets it apart from many other plants is that they are dwarf), is the smallest, followed by cofeeafolia, relatively slow growing — they won't multiply and then barteri, the largest. so rapidly that your aquarium will be overrun. All Anubias feature a rhizome — a thick Lastly, they are beautiful. The three stem-like structure, from which sprout stemmed subjects of this article all feature deep green leaves and the roots, all along its axis. This leaves. No other common aquarium plant can rhizome should not be buried in the gravel. It is match the deep green color of their leaves. (It is only necessary to place the roots into the also my "rule of thumb" that the darker the substrate. Anubias plants are fairly heavy, and, green, the less light the plant needs to thrive.) therefore, need no additional anchoring. They The leaves are all attractively shaped. Barteri will also grow without gravel, or in pots, or has pointed, spade-shaped leaves. Cofeeafolia attached to rocks and driftwood. leaves are oval, but with a striking wavy pattern Anubias require good, clean water, i.e., (bearing a superficial resemblance to coffee plant water that is free of gross pollution. That means leaves, hence the name). The smallest, nana, has that overcrowded, overfed, and under leaves similar to barteri, but slightly more water-changed tanks are not to their liking. They rounded. Nana makes a great foreground plant seem to prefer neutral to alkaline water (pH in because it spreads out but stays low. Barteri, on the range of 7.0 to 7.8), but they will survive in the other hand, grows large enough to be suitable more acidic or more alkaline water as long as as a centerpiece plant. I have seen some other conditions are met. specimens over at Cameo that would knock your Anubias require less light than many socks off — one such plant would instantly turn other aquarium plants. In my aquariums they

February 1999

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

' ::


Anubias barteri attached to driftwood Photo by Joe Ferdenzi any aquarium into a thing of beauty. In fact, I do have aquariums that are decorated with nothing but gravel and one or two Anubias. On top of all that, Anubias are in the regular habit of producing underwater flowers that are surrounded by a green or white spathe (very similar in appearance to that of the terrestrial Spathiphyllum, or so-called Peace Lily). I have Anubias plants that are upwards of ten years old. Incidentally, I do not usually add fertilizers to the aquarium. They seem to do just fine without them. If conditions in the tanks were to become not to their liking, the plants might begin to deteriorate. If water changes and other measures do not halt the erosion, do not despair. Place the remaining rhizome in a spare container of water, covered, with some diffused lighting, and be patient. The rhizomes kept in these quiet and still waters often come back to life. Indeed, I have a spare 2!/2 gallon tank full of little Anubias that were grown from just remnants. Having waxed poetic about these wonderful plants, a word of caution is in order. My experience tells me that not all Anubias species are equally suited for aquarium life as are

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

the three discussed. I would be particularly wary of Anubias plants sold under the names of azfelii or lanceolata. These Anubias feature relatively long, spear-shaped leaves. They do not seem to thrive under water. One unscientific experiment seems to convey this clearly. I had a ten gallon aquarium in which I placed three identical clay flowerpots, each filled with #3 quartz gravel. In one pot was planted an Anubias nana, in the center an azfelii, and on the left a barteri. Only the azfelii rotted away. The others are still healthy and vigorous. An explanation for this phenomena may be culled from the fact that, in the wild, many of these plants actually grow in bogs or on the banks of water ways — they are not true underwater plants. Some, like the azfelii, are probably less suited to being underwater, and hence my lack of success in trying to keep them submersed. Of course, today, most of the Anubias imported for the aquarium trade are grown in huge farms in the Far East. This has resulted in gorgeous plants that are relatively inexpensive, but it has not changed their suitability as aquarium plants — some just aren't. Stick with the three I've discussed, and I'm sure you'll be pleased.

February 1999

Is It A Fish Tank Or An Aquarium? by DON CURTIN Light n the hobby there are two methods of maintaining and breeding tropical fish. One A light source (12 to 14 hours) is is a fish tank: a multi-sided glass container necessary for plants to utilize nutrients to produce new cell growth (photosynthesis). with three or more sides, a glass bottom, and an open top, containing a heater and filtration Snails system, rocks and/or clay flower pots, depending Snails are necessary for eating both the on the type of fish excess food, and the being kept. Usually in algae which grows on this type of set up, the plants and the sides frequent tank cleanings of the aquarium. They and water changes are are also good indicators necessary. of a healthy aquarium. The other type If the snails are active, of set up is the natural going up and down the aquarium. This requires leaves and glass, and less equipment and appear to be growing maintenance. A natural and multiplying, then aquarium is a balanced ||||||f||i||f|^ water conditions for the system consisting of a fish are also good. fish tank of three or more sides, a light liiliHii Plants source, water, gravel The p l a n t s Snaits (#2 or #3 grade), plants, convert carbon dioxide snails, and, of course (expelled by the fish), to fish. Heating and oxygen, remove fish waste from the water filtration are strictly (after it has been optional. Most tropical fish do quite well at converted by bacteria), room temperatures, so and add visual beauty. lili Combined with the fish, an outside source of they add to the heat is usually not enjoyment of the necessary. Filtration is aquarist. If thickly only necessary to planted, plants also offer support a greater a safe refuge for shy quantity of fish than the i^ fish and baby fish. plants and bacteria can normally handle. Each ^ Fish part of the system is The last necessary for the balance of the whole. component necessary to the system is fish. They We will now analyze the function of supply carbon dioxide and waste necessary for each of the components of a natural aquarium. plant growth. They supply endless hours of The fish tank should contain, in addition to water: enjoyment and tranquility for their owner. That gravel, light, snails, plants, and fish. is what makes it all worth while. So, if you decide on maintaining a fish tank or an aquarium Gravel you will derive untold satisfaction from both or The gravel is necessary for the spreading either of them. Some fish won't allow a planted of the roots of planted plants. It houses good aquarium to exist, so your choice of fish will also bacteria which convert fish wastes to nutrients determine which you will maintain. utilized by the plants.



February 1999

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

Don't Have A Green Thumb? by DOUG CURTIN embers come up to me and say that they buy my plants, which are a lush green with healthy roots at the Greater City auction, and when they try to grow them the leaves either turn brown or fall off. I ask them the following general questions: Do you use light on your aquariums? Do you have fish in the aquarium? Do you do partial water changes? The answers are most always "yes." I tell them that they are doing everything right for the growing of aquatic plants. But that is because I am visualizing my aquariums, and I don't really see the lack of balance in their aquariums. Therefore, I have compiled a list of problems that could cause the loss of a Green Thumb.


1) Excessive Aeration - Vigorous aeration removes carbon dioxide which plants must have to grow. 2) Light - The light must be kept on 12 to 14 hours a day. Use a timer. Intensity is not that important, but don't try to grow plants in a 150 gallon aquarium using a 7 watt fluorescent bulb! 3) Temperature - Some plants like cooler temperatures. Select plants for the temperature in the aquarium. 4) Too Coarse Substrate - Use #2 or #3 gravel (about 1/16" to 1/8") to house bacteria for the creation of nitrates for plant growth. 5) Water Movement For a fast moving aquarium (with rapidly moving water caused by the use of power filters, etc.), select Amazon Sword, Vallisneria, Java fern (planted in gravel or attached to rocks), and Temple plants (Giant Hygrophila). For a quiet aquarium (with little or no water movement), select Cryptocoryne,Cabomba, Anacharis, Japanese cress, and Hornwort. 6) Water - Change 20% of the water monthly. Use standing water aged one to two days or cold water directly from the faucet if it doesn't stress your fish. Water changes remove chemicals produced by fish which retard plant growth. If Brine Shrimp is fed to the fish, salt will accumulate which will affect plant growth.

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

7) Fish - Some fish destroy or eat plants. Select fish that are compatible with plants. Livebearers are good for plant growth. Have enough fish to supply nutrients. One guppy alone with a seven watt fluorescent in the 150 gallon aquarium isn't going to make it. 8) Overfeeding Fish - Uneaten food produces ammonia, which destroys plant roots. 9) Plants Too many floating plants: Water Sprite (one plant) can completely cover a 20 gallon aquarium, causing the rooted plants to die from lack of light. Too many varieties in one community: Use only one to three varieties in one aquarium. Plants compete for nutrients. In nature, you only see one variety for long stretches. See the list of plants below, which I recommend for aquarists growing a green thumb. Vallisneria spiral is (Eel Grass) Temperature: 50°-85°F. Height: Short variety 18"; Long variety 24". Light: medium. Small white flowers at surface of water from stalks starting at base of plant. A good oxygenator. Cryptocoryne grifflthi - Temperature: 68°-86°F Height: 8"-16" Blooms in aquarium. Reddish tube flower. Grows very rapidly when established. Good neighbor for Amazon Swordplant, Discus, or Angelfish. Cryptocoryne willisii - Temperature: 68°-86°F. Height: 4"-9". Reddish brown leaves (narrow ripple edged). Good foreground plant or centerpiece in small aquarium (five gallon). Takes a while to establish, but hardy. Leaves don't melt when changing to another aquarium. Very beautiful. Good with livebearers. Cardamine lyrata - (Japanese Cress) Temperature: 59°-68°F. When planted, it grows upward and then trails the surface. Beautiful pale green colored leaves. Medium light. Echinodorus bleheri (Broadleaf Swordplant named rangeri in the trade) - Temperature: 68°77°F. Will grow well under single 20 watt cool white fluorescent. Good companion for Angels and Discus. Will overtake a 20 gallon aquarium.

February 1999

Microsoriumpteropus (Java Fern) - Temperature: 68°-77°F. Very easy to grow. Can be planted in gravel or attached to rocks. Baby plants appear on the leaves. Medium light. 15-20 watt cool white fluorescent on a 20 gallon aquarium. Cabomba caroliniana (Fanwort) - Temperature 55°-77°F. Warm regions of North and South America. Sends off runners about 1" to 2" from the main plant. Grows toward and trails surface of water. Very beautiful. One of the most decorative of stem plants. Plant with Cryptocorynes. Moderate light. Ceratophyllum demersum (common Hornwort) Temperature: 50°-65°F. Best at 59°F. North America. No roots. Floats at the surface. Sensitive to water changes. Will shed leaves. Use standing water. Only change 25% of the water. Good oxygenator. Medium light.

Elodea (Anacharis, Dutch Moss) - Temperature: 48°-70°F. Can be left floating where it will soon send down roots and anchor itself. Easy to grow. Good oxygenator. Grows very rapidly. Have to keep harvesting. Will eventually block out light for rooted plants such as Vallisneria. Grows well by itself in a 214 gallon aquarium. Nomaphila stricta (Giant Hygrophila, Temple Plant). Temperature: 68°-85°F. Rooted plant. Grows to water surface. Pinch off top four to six inches and place in gravel. Where the original plant was pinched, two shoots will now grow. Medium light. Beautiful green leaves that will get darker brown as it gets nearer the light. The color doesn't indicate it is not healthy; just that it received too much light. This color is actually more beautiful than the green. I grow all of the ten plants listed and they are all beautiful. Now, after reading this article, look at your thumb. Notice the green?

i "Doc, every time I try to floss, the string just keeps breaking!" February 1999

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

POTTING YOUR PLANTS by GREG WUEST think that most of us would agree that a live plant looks great in an aquarium. However getting a plant to stay alive, never mind thrive, can be a real challenge. I have found a way in my tank to have most plants grow very well. I plant them in a pot. A number of years ago, I decided that I wanted a tank to be a beautiful planted display tank. I saw all those pictures and if they could do it, so could I. I had read enough to know that light was a major requirement for keeping beautiful plants. So when I purchased my dream 90 gallon tank, I purchased 2 strip lights each with two 40 watt fluorescent bulbs. This way I figured enough light would penetrate the depth of this tank and allow everything to grow well. I added 3 inches of gravel and I was on my way. Even though I had what I thought was the perfect tank and set up, my plants did just OK. They would do well at first but would eventually die back. What did those tanks in the pictures have that I did not have? GCAS had the occasion to bring Dorothy Reimer down from Canada to give a talk about plants. One of the ideas that she raised was to plant the plants in a soil substrate. This made sense to me because, after all, most plants come from a river or lake that had some sort of soil substrate. I decided to try this, not by replacing my gravel, but rather by putting the plant in a pot full of soil. To make sure that my experiment meant something, I purchased two Cryptocoryne wendtii. I put one in a pot with some potting soil I got from a garden center. The other I just planted in the gravel. It didn't take long before I noticed that the potted plant was growing faster, had darker leaves, and was in general looking much healthier. Over a longer period, the difference was much more amazing. At one point you would not think that they were the same type of plant, purchased at the same time. Over the years, I have tried this technique with many different plants and I have always had great success. The only requirement is that you need a plant that likes to have its roots in the substrate. Java Fern, Java Moss, or any of the floating plants would not do well with this method. There are other benefits to this method besides beautiful, healthy plants. If you do not like where the plant is located, you can simply take the pot and put it where you want. There


Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

will be no disruption to the plant or its roots. Also, if you have a fish that likes to dig, the plant will not be bothered by the gravel around the outside the pot being moved. I have not experienced any negative impact on either the water quality or on any other aspect of tank maintenance. To pot my plants: 1) I purchase a small clay pot from a garden store. 2) I put a little filter floss on the bottom of the pot to cover the drainage hole. 3) Then I pour in sterilized potting soil so that the pot is about 3/4 full. 4) I cut a filter pad the same size as the top of the flower pot. (Poke a hole in the filter pad so that the roots can be put through the hole.) 5) I plant the roots in the potting soil and make sure that the pad covers the top of the pot. (The leaves should now be exposed with the roots in the soil and the pad covering the dirt.) 6) Just to make sure that everything stays in place, I put some of the gravel from the tank on top of the filter pad. This has the added advantage of making the pot look esthetically nice. 7) Finally, I drop the whole thing in the tank and watch it grow. Grave I Hole FiIter Pad Steri le Pott ing Soi I Fi Iter Floss If you have not had much luck with plants, and you have the other factors correct (such as good lighting), give this a try. It is an easy way to get beautiful healthy plants that seem to keep on growing.

February 1999

Najas: The Plant I Couldn't Quite Kill by JEFF GEORGE

his tale begins twenty-odd years ago, in the bedroom of a eager young fishkeeper named Jeff, in Phoenix, Arizona. Our hero was enamored of livebearers, especially wild swordtails, sailfin mollies, and show guppies. He was also interested in growing live plants, to provide his charges with beautiful, natural surroundings. Unfortunately, all he was able to find were guppies from Singapore, which seldom thrived and never bred true; pineapple swords, whose gaudy colors couldn't match the beauty of their wild cousins; and sailfin mollies that were, for a twelve-year-old, expensive and delicate. His plants fared no better—some died quickly, others lingered for a few weeks, but only the occasional Vallisneria lived long enough to send out a runner and start a new plant. A little research and some basic water testing revealed the local tap water to be a clear, runny form of cement, with a pH of 8.5 to 10, and a hardness scoring off the top of any chart Jeff could find. No wonder the plants and livebearers failed. At just that time, African cichlids first appeared in local petshops. Young master Jeff abandoned his first loves, and began a decades-long relationship with Mbuna, flowerpots, and plastic plants. Then, two years ago, I moved to New York City, and for the first time in my life had tap water that you didn't need a diamond-bladed lapidary saw to cut. Having learned that it is much easier to love fish that live in your water, rather than force water to match the fish you love, I decided to try some new species. I sought out softer-water cichlid species, rare livebearers, and show guppies. And I decided to take another crack at plants—after all, if plants keep showing up at the auctions, someone must be able to keep them alive. The 75th Anniversary Show, in May, 1997, was only the second GCAS event I attended. At the auction, I bid on fish and plants more suited to the local water, snagging an assortment of plants, including well-known species like water sprite, Java moss, and Java fern. I also picked up a bag—half a bag, actually, since I was splitting it with another member—of a bunch-plant I'd never heard of.



The bag, donated by Mark Soberman, was labeled "Najas," and the plant was a rootless bundle of stems and narrow, pointed leaves. I brought my plants home and distributed them among my tanks, placing them with guppies, some newly-acquired killies, and Neotropical cichlids. My tanks — fives, tens, and fifteens — were placed on racks end-on, with a single four-foot fluorescent fixture running across as many as four or five tanks. Water chemistry in the guppy and cichlid tanks was adjusted to about 7.4 pH, with 5-7 degrees general and carbonate hardness, while the killies were in straight Queens tap water, with a neutral pH and almost no measurable hardness. Despite the lack of light, fertilization, and even substrate in most cases, the water sprite, Java moss, and Java fern all did well. The Najas, however, did not. Not sure what to do with it, I put it first in with the killies, where it dwindled by half in a couple of weeks. I moved it to a guppy tank with better light, and it continued to fade. Over the summer, I moved my evershrinking Najas to every tank in the fish room — except for my African cichlid tanks (yes, I still had a few!), which I was certain would be death to any plant species. By September, I had one scraggly, little three-inch stem of Najas left. I had essentially given up on this plant, though my sprite, moss and fern were growing well. Without thinking, I tossed the last bit of Najas into a tank of Julidochromis ornatus, then forgot about it. A few weeks later, I was cleaning tanks, paying close attention to the Julie tank for the first time in a while. What I found there amazed me. That forlorn little scrap of Najas, given up for dead, had grown into a cloud of bright green leaves the size of a volleyball. Within another month or two, it had expanded to fill the entire back half of the tank. I pulled half of it out, spreading it among other tanks with non-destructive hard-water fish, including Telmatochromis burgeoni, Julidochromis regani, and the red-tailed goodeid, Xenotoca eiseni. In each case, the Najas thrived, in tanks with a pH of at least 8.0 and a hardness of 10 degrees or more. In these same tanks, water sprite had wasted away, while Java moss and fern

February 1999

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

had barely held their own. Even the all-but-immortal duckweed had faded in these tanks, while Najas grew and grew. Today, I have Najas in all my hard-water tanks, except those containing fish which eat plants, like the Mbuna of Lake Malawi. My julies, lamprologines, hard-hard-water livebearers, and even my Victorian haplochromines all glide through clouds of Najas, which float and tumble over the flowerpots they call home. Najas guadelupensis is known among biologists as the Southern Naiad, though in aquarium circles it is usually called simply "Najas." Native to the tropical and subtropical Americas, including the southern United States as well as islands in the Caribbean, Najas prefers water with a higher pH and ^^^^^^^^™ h a r d n e s s than most aquarium plants. It thrives in water modified for fish like African cichlids. Najas does well in temperatures throughout the 70s, and though it appreciates strong light, it is satisfied with the moderate light provided by typical fluorescent aquarium hoods. Najas vaguely resembles other bunch plants like Anacharis and hornwort in its general structure, but with its very narrow, inch-long, bright green leaves, it would not be mistaken for them. It can be rooted in gravel, but I have had my best success letting float loose in the tank. Grown this way, Najas forms a loose mat of intertwining leaves and stems which gradually drifts and tumbles in the water currents. The leaves are thick enough to provide cover for small fish and fry, but not so dense as to trap larger fish. Although it is hardy and fast-growing, Najas is seldom seen in aquarium stores, due no doubt to its very brittle structure. Najas must be transported in bags of water, like fish; when rapped in damp newspaper, as aquarium plants usually are for shipping, Najas breaks into unsaleable little bits. Even so, the smallest hunk Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

of stem can grow into a full colony of plants, provided it is green and possesses at least a few intact leaves. Overall, Najas guadelupensis is an excellent plant for even the least-experienced aquatic gardener, if he can provide tanks with suitable water conditions. Drop a sprig or two in with your Brichardi, and in three months, you'll have enough to supply the whole club!

Reference: "February 1997 Plant of the Month: Najas," Vivaparous, website of the Livebearer Information Service, http ://home. clara.net/xenotoca.

February 1999


[/ffplanted Plants by SUSAN PRIEST e have all fallen prey to that ingenious marketing scheme which lures us into making an impulse purchase at the cash register. For you, the irresistible item might be a keychain with an "8 Ball" attached, or a pencil with a hairy troll doll where the eraser should be. For me, it has been the "AIR PLANT." Air plants are usually small and spiky-looking, probably from the Bromeliad family (some of them look more like ferns). These plants claim to thrive on neglect; their only needs are air and an occasional misting of water. They are invariably "potted" in a sea shell, and usually have a magnet glued to the back so you can display them on your refrigerator. I am convinced that air plants were spawned by a frustrated aquarist who was tired of raking leaves off the bottom of the aquarium. That aquarist was probably 1) trying to relieve the frustration of being a failure at growing aquatic plants, and 2) trying to recoup some of the cash wasted on what was soon to become leaf litter. I CAN RELATE! Growing aquatic plants should be easy, right? You plant the roots into the gravel, the fish supply the fertilizer, and the water supplies, well, THE WATER! As we all know, it ain't that simple. Or is it? After having planted many an aquatic plant into the gravel, only to end up removing it when it took on the appearance of an unidentifiable, overcooked vegetable, I knew something was missing from the equation. The prevailing opinion, in much of the literature I consulted, recommended incorporating potting soil into the aquarium. What do you do when you walk by a stream? You stop to look into it! Ditto with a babbling brook, a peaceful pond, or even a lake. What do you do when you see a mud puddle? You walk away without giving it more of a glance than you need to identify it as something you don't want to spend much time looking at. What do you do when you see an aquarium? You stop and look into it. If it resembled a mud puddle, how much time would you spend looking? I couldn't imagine any attempt on my part to add potting soil to a tank full of water that would not result in something having the appearance of a glass-enclosed mud puddle!



My solution to this problem has a lot in common with air plants. All of our aquariums (except our 90 gallon community, which is home to a plant eating Apple Snail), have live plants in them, and none are planted! The Betta bowls each have a sprig of Java Fern. One Blue-eye Rainbowfish tank has a few Amazon Sword plants sprouting up through an artificial log, and an Anubias is "held down" by some free-floating Java Ferns which have entwined themselves in the stems. The Salvinia floating on the surface of the Ctenopoma tank has a very calming effect on their skittish nature (there are also Java Ferns protruding from a "drain pipe"). Sparkle the Angelfish has nurtured her Java Fern to nearly a foot in height. It is attached to a ceramic bridge with dental floss. There is also an Anubias with its rhizome held down by one end of the bridge. Unquestionably, the best aquatic gardener in the family is Goldie, a sibling of Sparkle. Goldie has a large clump of free-floating Java Moss, a very vigorous Java Fern anchored inside an artificial log, as well as some smaller ones which have set down roots (these may be the only "planted" plants in the house, other than African Violets). There is a Temple Plant (Giant Hygrophila) which started out in a pot, but has taken on a life of its own by sending out shoots and roots in several directions. There is also a "Mystery Plant" which we almost killed a couple of times until we placed it under Goldie's care. This aquarium is very beautiful. Unplanted plants have many advantages. They can be moved from tank to tank easily. In bare-bottom tanks (for example, the typical hospital tank), a planted plant is not possible and a potted plant looks, at least to me, unnatural. Many fish supposed to be hard on plants have that reputation not because they eat plants, but rather because they uproot them while doing their own aquascaping. An unplanted plant in such a tank merely floats to a new location, unharmed. Cleaning the tank is faster and easier, as you need not worry that your gravel cleaner will go too deep and disturb or even kill tender roots. All our unplanted plants are "thriving on neglect," and have had a longer life span than any of the air plants. So, if you have a few empty sea shells with magnets glued to the back, you too may find success with wwplanted plants!

February 1999

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

lava: JHE local jam PICK-ME-UP by ALEXANDER A. PRIEST secretary at work once commented that my 16 ounce coffee cup resembled her son's cereal bowl. I had to admit it DID look somewhat like a bowl with a cup handle, so I replaced it with a mug that is definitely coffee-mug shaped (and which holds 22 ounces of coffee). Yes, one could say I like my "Java" (a common nickname for coffee). This article is, however, about another "Java" that I also like quite a bit — Microsorium pteropus, or "Java Fern." Java Fern is an aquatic plant that originates in Southern China, India, and the regions of Indonesia and Malaysia, extending as far as the Philippine Islands. Java Fern grows equally well as a "planted" plant, an "anchored" plant, or as a "free-floating" plant. I started off with free-floating sprigs of Java Fern in all my Belta splendens containers. From there, the plant spread to several tanks of Angelfish, to two tanks of Blue-eye Rainbowfish, then on to tanks and containers of Badis badis, Betta fasciata, Ctenopoma am orget, etc. In short, this plant is now in all my tanks, except for one with extremely hard water and a community tank which houses a huge Apple Snail that devours all vegetation (and which is big enough to actually "hold" upright and "chew" baby carrot pieces!). Most of the Java Fern I have came from plants in my own tanks. Since Java Fern is relatively inexpensive at our society auctions (although I know of only a few pet stores that regularly stock it), and since it propagates without much extra effort, this plant is also a smart purchase. In only one of my tanks is any Java Fern "planted." In several tanks, it is anchored to or inside of logs and other aquarium decorations. Generally, it floats free in the tank or container. Interestingly enough, this plant does not seem to care whether it is "planted" or not. I get as many "daughter" plants from mature plants that are free floating or anchored as I do from my one "planted" plant. This makes it an excellent choice for "bare bottom" tanks, which are often


Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

preferred for, among other things, breeding Angelfish or Discus (to reduce areas for bacterial attachment) and Bettas (to make it easier for the male to spot and retrieve eggs expelled from the female during the mating embrace). I mentioned before that, from an initial few plants, I had enough offshoots to be able eventually to put this plant in virtually every tank and container of fish I have. This is because Java Fern propagates by means of "daughter" plants that develop along the edges of the larger leaves. These "daughter" plants are almost exact miniatures of the main plant, even including roots that can be planted as soon as the daughter plants either break free by themselves, or are removed by the aquarist. This plant is also tolerant of a wide range of lighting conditions. My Ctenopoma ansorgei tank has a dense growth of Salvinia, a floating plant, between the water surface and the light source. Few non-floating plants could grow in the very subdued light that manages to penetrate the Salvinia covered surface. While the Java Fern in that particular tank has not produced many Rhizone daughter plant offshoots, it is Root quite healthy and green, and has been so for quite a while. So, this plant is also an excellent choice for a "low-light" tank. Java Fern is a "rhizome" plant, which is to say that it has a fleshy stem that grows horizontally, just above the surface of the gravel or soil. Descending down from the rhizome are the roots. However the rhizome itself is not a root; and it is important, if rooting a Java Fern plant, that only the roots, and not the rhizome, be covered by the soil or gravel. Java Fern is tolerant of a wide range of water conditions, and equally tolerant of an aquarist who, like myself, has neither the skill nor the expertise to grow most aquatic plants. In short, if there were an "Aquatic Plants For Dummies" book, Java Fern would most certainly be the featured plant in that (undoubtedly very slim) volume.

February 1999


The Federation of American Aquarium Societies by ALEXANDER A. PRIEST ast month, I listed the new categories in the FAAS Publication Awards. Here is a brief, unofficial, overview of the differences between the old and new categories:


These categories are new for 1998: • #5 (Best FAAS-Related Article), • #12 (Best Article on a species of Fish), and • #15 (Best Continuous FAAS Column) These former categories were simply deleted: • Review Article (Formerly Category R), • Traveling Aquarist (Formerly Category S), • Article Not Nominated in Any of the Other Classes (Formerly Category U), and • Author of the Year (Formerly Category X) These former categories have been split: Former Category D (Changing Cover) is now Category 4a (Changing Cover-Original Art) and 4b (Changing Cover, Non-Original Art); Former Category E (Exchange/Review Column) is now Category 6 (Exchange Column) and 7 (Review Column); Former Category K (Marine Article) is now Category 13 (Marine Article - Fish) and 14 (Marine Article - Invertebrates); Former Category L (Horticulture/ Aquascaping) is now Category 16 (Aquascaping/ Design) and 17 (Plant Maintenance/Cultivation/ Reproduction); Former Category M (Show/Judging) is now Category 18 (Show Article) and 19 (Judging Article); and Former Category W (Best Artist/ Cartoonist) is now Category 25 (Best Artist, Original Works) and 26 (Best Cartoonist). Also, former Category P (Best Article by a Junior Aquarist) is no longer a separate category. Now all categories have three "junior" levels: Level I (5 to 10 years old), Level II (11 to 13 years old), and Level III (14 to 18 years old). Yea, right, an 18 year old "junior"! The FAAS Report (FR) declared several years in a row that an article could not be entered more than once, and that in the Best Editor/ Publication category no more than six issues may be submitted. No one at FAAS bothered to state in FR that those restrictions no longer apply.


A literal reading of the Nov/Dec 1998 FR would disqualify Calgary, Montreal, St. Catharines, and all other Canadian societies, and the Bermuda Fry Angle Aquarium Society by stating: "Please take notice that all entries MUST conform to the rules or they WILL BE REJECTED. NO EXCEPTIONS! Entries MUST be sent via UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE - CERTIFIED/RETURN RECEIPT!" Do you think it might be hard to find a U.S. post office in Bermuda, or in the Canadian Rockies? The new rules also state: "All entries, except Best Editor/Publication,must be submitted on standard 8 l/2x 11 paper, single sided copies. For smaller formats the entries need to be copied to standard paper..." Since FAAS can accept South and Central American members, it's lucky they don't have any. Only in North America is SV^'xl 1" paper "standard." The rest of the world uses ISO (International Standards Organization) sizes. ISO paper sizes have designations such as "A4," "A3," and "C3," etc. As a comparison, North American "letter size" is 8.5"xll" (about 216 x 279 millimeters); while the closest ISO size to that is A4 at 8.27"xll.7" (210 x 297 millimeters). Once again, the "Ugly American" syndrome: "Our (the good oP U.S.A. of N.A.) way is the only way!" This, and the U.S. mail fiasco, mar the image of a true international organization. Some thought (with the rules in draft form circulated among the members for comment before release) could have avoided this. When Craig Morfitt (Bermuda Fry Angle A.S.) complained to FAAS that an article on his visit to New York now has no category, he was told it would not have even have qualified under the old "Traveling Aquarist" category. Well, if a trip of 700+ miles by a society President to another country to speak on fishkeeping in his country, and on his trip to the ACA convention, is not a "traveling" article, I don't know what is! No word yet on the Logo contest! More on the Publication awards next month.

February 1999

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

News From:

The Northeast Council Of Aquarium Societies by CLAUDIA DICKINSON

he general meeting had a record turnout of delegates present and we were able to cover much ground and exchange many ideas and information between clubs! Of course the big topic of discussion was the fast approaching NEC Convention, with all plans falling neatly into place. Our big 25th anniversary of the NEC has Grande events in the works! One of these events will be a HUGE show and auction to be hosted by the Norwalk Aquarium Society the first weekend of October, in the year 2000. A lot of effort will be put into making this a fun-filled success and the coordinators are already enthusiastically working away! They would all be just thrilled to have as many "bodies" (and cheerful faces!) to assist with the affair ~ so please consider it! Remember ~ there is no more fun and satisfaction than to be involved! We also discussed an opportunity for a very low-rate insurance plan to benefit all member clubs, program planning that would be of interest to all clubs, as well as the upcoming photo contest and individual club news.



NEC Convention- April 9 ~ 11! Only 65 days left to go! The excitement is building! You will have received your brochures by now ~ are your plans all made and the dates marked on your calendars? (My dates get circled with a Big Smiling Fish, which includes all GCAS meetings!!!) Remember those incredible speakers ~ Chuck Davis, Lee Finley, Wayne Leibel, Oliver Lucanus, Mike Hellweg, Scott Michael, Larry Jackson, Randy Carey, Thorney Pattenaude, Gary Elson and banquet MC ~ Ray Lucas! Wow!!! The chance of a lifetime! The fabulous Hartford Marriott Hotel awaits you with more fun and excitement than you can imagine! Along with the speakers there will be a Fish Store Tour, vendors, manufacturers rooms, demonstrations, plant sales, dry goods auction, awards banquet and of course, the Giant Fish Auction on Sunday! Let's make a great showing of the GCAS and coordinate our agendas and carpools where necessary. So Come On! Join in the Fun! & "Tie One On"!!! with all our "fishy" friends at the NEC! Please feel free to come to me with any questions ~ 516-668-5125, as well as contacting David & Janine Banks at 802-372-8716.


Photo Contest! Those photos are coming in for the NEC photo contest to be judged at the NEC Convention! You will have received a flyer with all of the information and I have lots of copies if you do not have yours. Please see me with any questions and assistance with submissions! February "Fishy" Fever? Well pack up the fish and the family because thanks to NEC Member Clubs, there's LOTS to do! The Norwalk Aquarium Society Auction is on the 7th, the Pioneer Valley Aquarium Society Auction is on the 14th, the Tropical Fish Society of Rhode Island's "Buck a Bag" Auction is on the 20th, and the Exotic Fish Society of Hartford Auction is close on their heels on March 7th. This should turn February into a great "fish-filled" month! I'll see you here next month! Take care for now!

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

February 1999


The GCAS Proudly Welcomes Our February Speakers:

DON & DOUG CURTIN Speaking on:

The Art of Raising Aquatic Plants Using the 'Natural Aquarium Method" of the 1940 's & 50 's by CLAUDIA DICKINSON

he year was 1949 when the bubbling tank of goldfish beckoned in a Brooklyn science classroom to spark the future of the twelve year old Curtin brothers. With their father's reassurance and forever supportive guidance, Don and Doug's first 1 l/2 gallon tank was purchased and soon shimmered with guppies. Enthusiasm soaring, the boys forthwith set up an 8 !/2 gallon tank, and the rest is history! Aquariums, fish, and plants have been an integral part of their lives ever since. Don and Doug have earned quite an admirable reputation for themselves in the world of plant husbandry. Filters and "gadgets" were not as abundant or sophisticated when they started in the hobby as they are today, and those that were available, the boys found high-priced and the motors difficult to maintain. Therefore, they used their resourceful skills to form a natural balance between plants, fish, and water within the walls of their aquariums. The art was instinctive to Don and Doug as their tanks became masterpieces of rich beauty, with swaying Vallisneria, Cryptocoryne,


Cabomba, Hygrophila and Echinodorus. The proliferation of bettas, gouramis, swordtails, platys, and danios gave credence to the perfection of equilibrium within their aquariums, using no filtration lest a finely tuned nitrogen cycle. To this day, Don and Doug's tanks flourish and abound between their two homes. In the continuing tradition begun by the boys' parents, charming wives Linda and Isabelle inspire and encourage Don and Doug's 25 tanks which range from 1-150 gallons. Always eager to share their knowledge and expertise on aquatic plants and the "Natural Aquarium," the Curtin brothers have spoken at many other clubs throughout the Northeast and written numerous articles for Modern Aquarium. There is not an auction table at a meeting or event that does not overflow with the generous donations of Don and Doug. The GCAS could not be more proud than to have Don and Doug as longtime active members and honored to have them as our speakers for February!


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February 1999

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

it to the meeting and receives 5 points. Kevin, just back from Mars, buys the plant in the auction stating 'I bet Mary would like this!'" The NJAS GAP also has a: • "Specialist Certification Program." the exchange column This recognizes plants propagated or flowered in a particular category (such as "free-floating" plants, or rhizome plants); • "Grower of the Year Race," which recognizes the member with the most by ALEXANDER A. PRIEST GAP points for the year; and a • "GAP Achievement Award" to he Greater City Aquarium Society does recognize a "feat of aquatic horticultural not currently have a Horticultural excellence." Award Program (or "HAP"). Perhaps As with our own Breeders Award and our resident historian and archivist, Joe Ferdenzi, Author Award programs, the NJAS GAP has can determine if GCAS ever had such a program award levels. The Program provides for six and, if so, the reason or reasons it was levels: Grower (50 points), Advanced Grower discontinued. Be that as it may, many societies (100 points), Senior Grower (150 points), Expert do have a HAP program and, instead of Grower (250 points), Master Grower (400 reviewing a society monthly newsletter, this points), and Grand Master Grower (600 points). month I'm going to review another type of Interestingly, for every level beyond Grower, publication from a sister society. articles or presentations are required (with one The horticultural award program of the required for Advanced Grower going up to 5 for North Jersey Aquarium, Society (NJAS) is called Grand Master Grower). While I can appreciate a "Growers Award Program" (or GAP). The the intent, I have seen reason I have chosen many BAP programs to r e v i e w t h i s that require articles program is not just result in articles because of this North Jersey Aquarium Society showing minimal month's theme issue e f f o r t that are on aquatic plants. Rather it is the unique and obviously done under duress (like the book excellent "Official Handbook" of the NJAS report you were made to write in school). I Growers Award Program. hope this does not happen here. As you might expect, this handbook has Finally, the NJAS GAP handbook is a list of plants with the point values for their also an excellent handbook on growing aquatic propagation (additional points are awarded for plants. It features articles such as "Everything flowering). Those lists are as interesting as any You Need to Know to Grow Live Plants" by list of scientific and common names — which is NJAS member Ted Coletti, as well as five other to say, not very. But, this well designed articles from various sources. So, if this aquatic handbook is much more than a boring list. plant theme issue of Modern Aquarium has First off, there are the illustrations and sparked your interest, and you want to learn even cartoons (such as a baby guppy hiding in a plant more, you might want to borrow a copy of this "saying" "My Mommy and Daddy didn't eat handbook, just for the articles. me!" and another of a pair off fish swimming The NJAS GAP provides that plants through plants with one fish "saying" to the cannot simply be grown out by a member — they other "This beats pvc pipe any day!"). Cartoons must be propagated by the member (although such as these drive the value of plants home to members can share a tank — and the points, or the reader in very direct and humorous way. be registered as a team). Submitted plants must Then, there are "examples" of how the also be placed into the auction. program works. Again, these examples are As with our publication exchange issues, served up with humor. For example: "Sick of the North Jersey Aquarium Society's hearing about her husband Kevin's Chocolate Horticultural Award Program handbook is Cichlids for the upteenth time, Mary Caroll takes available for review or loan to any GCAS a cutting of Hygrophilia and places it into the member upon advance request. gravel of a 10 gallon tank. The cutting grows to the water's surface, at which time Mary brings


Growers Award Program


February 1999

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)



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WARNING: Read Your Label

On a syphon: WARNING: do not use for both automotive and aquarium use. Not for internal use.

A series by "The Under gravel Reporter"

On a "self-stick" thermometer: Do not stick on inside (water side) of aquarium. Not for internal use. On an air-pump: Connect tubing to opening and insert tube into water. Do not put pump into the aquarium. Not for internal use.


he Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch, a consumer advocacy group, runs an annual contest awarding a small cash prize to the person who submits the silliest product warning label. All the labels submitted in the 1998 contest resulted from product liability lawsuits the group thinks the courts should have thrown out. This year's contenders included: A sleeping pill prescription warning that the drug may cause sleepiness. • A fireplace lighter caution against using the device near fire, flame, or sparks. A laser printer cartridge warning people not to eat the toner. and the winner was: • "Remove your child before folding the baby stroller." (Anyone who needs THAT warning should not be having children. We don't need their contributions to the human gene pool.) At Halloween, the Superman costumes declare: "WARNING: does not enable user to fly" I've been told that a brand of peanuts has the statement on its can: "WARNING...contains nuts." (If you know you're allergic to nuts and you buy peanuts, you ARE nuts and don't need a warning label.) And, who could forget the lawsuit against a famous hamburger chain for selling coffee that was too hot, so that now all of their coffee cups have a warning on them? Warnings are everywhere. Even my can of cooking spray, after warning me not to store it near heat or a flame, or to spray it in my eyes (DARN, I was going to use it to unstick my eyelids), warns me that "Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal." I wonder if there is a 12 step program for those addicted to snorting non-stick cooking spray? This got me thinking about warning labels for aquarium related items.


Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

On a fish net: • Not recommended for use on aquatic mammals or for fish exceeding the width of net. Not for internal use. On air line suction cup holders: • Not intended for use as Christmas card holders or for electric wires. Not for internal use. On gravel: WARNING: excessive use of this product can result in insufficient room for fish. Do not place in nose or ears. Not for internal use. On a piece of driftwood: • Warning: Do not clean with furniture polish or wood soap. May cause splinters if eaten. Not for internal use. On a breeding mop: WARNING: Not for use on floors or counter tops. Not intended as wearing apparel. Not for internal use. On cleaning magnets: WARNING: do not release grip on magnets while body parts are between them. Do not use on fish or plants or in the bathtub. Not for internal use. On aquarium salt: Do not pour directly into tank. Dissolve in water first. Not for use on popcorn or nuts. Not for internal use. On aquarium societies: WARNING: joining an aquarium society can result in fascination with all things aquatic and may result in long-term friendships and loss of control in pet stores.

January 1999


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G.C.A.S. HAPPENINGS There was no Bowl Show last month (Holiday Party)

1) 2) 3) 4)

Sept *98 — June '99 Bowl Show Standings to date: Tom Miglio - 11 points Howard Berdach - 9 points (tie) Leonard Ramroop and Bob Wranovics - 5 points (tie) Pat Piccione and Jeff Geprgff^g ptiiiiits

American Livebearer Association Convention Dates: May 14-1 Jg"! 999

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170Qf;baglgy R%^ (I Interstate 71) • Middleburg Heights, 6#4||i) Speakers : J=ii: %: j| ,,,<-m^, iEf ::x


\s K Langhammer-retired

JuaryVIiguel Artigas Azas-Collector,hobbyist,un^|||p|r|}lipbgragher ll|p;i GiNi|p6nthal-Ph.D. candidate "The behaviorap^|fOg^ §|pisual signaling in the Rio

to be announced Assis|jijg Club: Cleveland Aquarium Socigt| Infbrrhatibii: Rich Serva 330-65p^& m:mm Dave Williamsofi^:30-945-4326

Here arg meeting times and

or goodeids@aol.com ^

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GREATER CITY Speaker: (Sl Topig:;€at|| i;?PM:':::||i|een§

Aquarium Society ; February 12 P . Schreibman":::S^l|f Final p§||Frontier" Education ' Hall ^

Garden Sileo

: BAS ^jnail : llcirlllli^ity @c6ittjft;f gierve . com

Meets: 8i : l|P.M. '-i:l||;;|}nirSiilay of e||| month at the Ifegens Bolll Contacts: Jeff ^|p / Gene Telephone: (718)lil|im/(516)345-6399


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Donald Telephone: (718) Gdiihty Aquarium Society

Long Island Aquarium Meets: 8:00 P.M. - 3rd Friday of each month at Holtsville Park and Zoo, 249 Buckley Rd. Holtsville, NY 11801 Contact: Mr. Vinny Kreyling Telephone: (516) 938-4066

Meets: 8:00 P.M. - 2nd Tuesday of each month at the William M. Grouse Post 3211 V.F.W., Rte. 107, Hicksville, NY Contact: Mr. Ken Smith Telephone: (516) 589-0913

North Jersey Aquarium Society

Norwalk Aquarium Society

Meets: 8PM - 3rd Thursday of the month at the American Legion Hall, Nutley, NJ (exit 151 Garden State Pkwy., near Rt. 3) Contact: NJAS Hotline at (201) 332-4415 ore-mail: tcoletti@obius.jnj.com

Meets: 8:00 P.M. - 3rd Thursday of each month at the Nature Center for Environmental Activities, Westport, CT Contact: Mrs. Anne Stone Broadmeyer Telephone: (203) 834-2253

odern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

February 1999


Fin Fun Cultivating Your Vocabulary Have you been reading carefully? The word or phrase needed to complete each definition can be found within the pages of this issue. 1) Fleshy horizontal stem 2) The common name for Microsorium pterorus

3) End product of the breakdown of fish wastes, which can be used as a fertilizer by most plants

4) A non-branching plant in which the stem can be seen between the leaves 5) Absorbs water and nutrients, and transports them to the green part of a plant 6) A young plant which develops along the edge of a mature leaf 7) A modified leaf which curls around a blossom 8) The scientific name of a Temple Plant

Solution to Last Month's Puzzle: Snack Time:

And, yes we know there are both Chocolate Gouramis and Chocolate Cichlids, but there is only one combination that solves the entire puzzle.


February 1999

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

Profile for Dan Radebaugh

Modern Aquarium  

February 1999 volume VI number 2

Modern Aquarium  

February 1999 volume VI number 2