Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Resurrecting the fishy hobby!

Fish and photography have been two passions which have helped define me, kept me sane in this mad mad world. And yet in the last couple of years these have got the least amount of time from me...Life happened :)

Fishkeeping had gone into a "sustenance" mode with me managing only a couple of tanks - water changes alone. There used to be a time when I'd "borrow" large-ish utensils from mom's kitchen to house new-hatched fry. Staying away from active fishkeeping had it's effect, a hollow feeling which persisted. I'm sure many keen hobbyists who've been through this phase will relate.
All that changed when I introduced my daughter to the Channa barca, she took an instant liking to fish and would squeal with excitement each time she'd see fish. This brought about some much needed impetus to revive the hobby. Spring cleaned a couple of tanks and went about clicking a few after AGES, many thanks to Vyas for letting me borrow his camera and keep it for a very long time!

A before/after animation on one of the tanks needing cleaning

This image to be explains the whole inspiration behind the resurrection :)

A few closeups of the Barca

A couple of the Channa sp. "Chocolate" bleheri

These two are spending a lot of time together, and a lot of body contact

Went about reading up and revisiting some old ideas on spending least amount of time on the "chores" of the hobby. Some tasks which take up a LOT of time are
1. Water changes
2. Cleaning the filters
3. Vacuuming the gravel

While at it, set myself a few must-haves

  • All tanks to be well lit - DONE!
  • Filtered well for good visibility - WIP
  • Photograph the fish that I keep, and do it well
  • Dedicated tubs for keeping a plant "repository" - had to clamor quite a bit to get the common plants - WIP
  • A shrimp colony to keep any live-feed dependent fish happy - WIP
Will be starting back with Channa (Snakeheads) as they to me are the most forgiving, watch for 6 months if I can do justice and then decide on keeping other demanding species.

Details on a couple of mini-projects to assist the hobby

1. No-hands water changer

This was inspired by the Overflow sump system most marine hobbyists use, where water is constantly drained into a sump and is pumped back into the tank.
In this case the idea was to have water coming in from the tap as the input and water drained going out through a hose to a drain/garden (to help re-use the water, plus the nutrient rich aquarium water is great for plants)

Used the concept very nicely defined the in the video below to make my own PVC overflow

A neatly explained schematic here - http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=298704&d=1230483975

Here's what my version looks like

To use this all I would do is begin the siphon at one end of the tank, and pump in fresh water at the other end of the tank. Yet to measure the outflow rate, but given that this is a 1" PVC according to calculations it will be ok for a 2000 litres/hour. Running this for 10 minutes or so on a 3 footer should amount to a 30% water change.
The overflow ensures there's no overflowing, say bye-bye to overflowing tanks while you're busy doing maintenance jobs on other tanks.

Yet to come up with a solution which ensures this isn't sucking in floating leaves, I could use a drilled end pipe, but that would reduce flow.

2. Python-like water changer

The original Python water changer wastes a lot of water since it uses the tap water to initiate and keep the water flowing. My idea was to use the tap water to fill the hose and then let gravity do it's job


The hose is kept in the tank using a U-pipe.

One could argue this could be done with a single hose but that would mean going switching pipes to fill/drain. I wanted something that can be done easy, even during my absence. Plus the "outflow" hose can go to the garden thereby reducing overall water wastage.

3. High power Gravel Vacuum

We hobbyists generally gravel vac by letting gravity provide the pressure to "lift" gravel, while the broad reverse funnel ensures gravel falls back into the tank. The idea here is to use an external water pump to provide the pressure to lift larger amounts of gravel to vacuum faster.

The pump can also be used in tanks on the lower levels of racks where gravity doesn't provide sufficient pressure.

4. Use hydroponics to maintain good water quality

We have a LOT of water and there are many non-aquatic plants which do well with submerged roots. The concept is to use these plants outside the tank but roots submerged to suck up nutrients. This apparently is used widely, and with good effect - both practically and aesthetically! The plant of choice seems to be the commonly available "Money plant", with the Golden leaf variant being most effective.
More here - https://www.google.co.in/?q=pothos%20in%20the%20aquarium

Have a couple of ideas for filtration, will post as I make some progress.

PS: Huge props to the various hobbyists who share as they learn, can't go back and thank each. One can only PAY IT FORWARD :-)
Gratitude to fellow hobbyists who've helped me with some fish to start back.


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