My big fish tank, the 55-gallon one, has had snails in it for some time. I have tentatively identified these as Malaysian trumpet snails, which on balance are thought to be good critters to have in a planted tank. They aren’t thought to be much interested in the plants, but spend their time eating leftover food and aerating the substrate. I have from time to time removed some from the tank, when their number became excessive, but I don’t think they’re doing much harm even then.

I added a couple of mystery snails a little while back, as part of my holiday restocking effort. The tank officially now contains eight Otocinclus, for algae control, and three Siamese algae eaters, ditto; two Bolivian rams; an Ancistrus catfish; and two turquoise rainbowfish, in addition to the two clown loaches and five Boesemani rainbow fish already in the tank. All are doing well now. I wish I could say that about all the Otocinclus; they’re notorious for poor survival the first week, and I lost at least four. (So I originally put twelve into my tank.) They seem to be fairly tough fish once they settle in, which raises suspicion that the collectors in South America aren’t taking great care of them before they arrive at your local pet store. They’re apparently very common in their natural range, schooling by the thousands, and you can get them for about $3 a pop.

The rams are amusing little fish. They are relatively calm fish, capable of the most amazing underwater acrobatics (I’ve never seen a fish more maneuverable) and they seem almost fearless in spite of their small size. The dachshunds of the tropical fish world? The two in my tank occasionally lock lips to work out who is top fish.

The Ancistrus is something like a plecostomus but which does not get bigger than about six inches. With age, he should develop a nice set of bristles on his snout, but at present he’s just an inch long and bristle-free. This youngster is a mostly noctural species and is pretty good at slipping out of sight when he sees me coming, but seems to be doing well. So are the turquoise rainbowfish. All are eating well and otherwise active and seem to have settled right in.

I was worried for a few days that they might have brought some ich into the tank; one of the other fish was scratching his snout on the side of the tank, and I thought I saw a few white specks on some fish. All gone now. I’ve been using a glutaraldehyde product for algae control (and, supposedly, a carbon source for my plants, though I am skeptical) and I strongly suspect it is lethal to free-swimming ich. Also, I had an ich outbreak years ago from which my two clown loaches are survivors; loach survivors of ich may actually protect the whole tank, because they have developed antibodies that are present in their slime and they are constantly working over the bottom of the tank where the newly hatched free-swimming ich are present. Supposedly the ich goes after the loaches and is promptly killed by the antibodies.

I’ve got a jury-rigged CO2 injection system to try to make the plants happier. My tank has a big free-floating mass of hornwort, a bunch of Anubias barteri, several sword plants, a spring or two of water wisteria, some Telianthus, some Bacopa, and some dwarf cryptocorynes. The hornwort is doing great; the Anubias and cryptocoryines pretty good; and everything else seems to be struggling. There’s a fair amount of algae in the tank but that is coming under control, between the gutaraldehyde, the algae eaters, and adjustments to CO2 levels. My injection system is a Chinese kit (really, literally) that uses a couple of soda bottles, one with citric acid solution, and he other with baking soda solution, and there’s a simple feedback mechanism to keep the CO2 pressure up. Which is unreliable; I’ve come home a couple of times to find the citric acid all in the baking soda bottle, the pressure in the system a lot higher than it should be, CO2 bubbling in quantity through the tank, and the fish looking slightly bothered. I’ve now rigged the system so that there is a limit to how much citric acid can be injected during the time I’m out. The CO2 is right where it should be now for my tank water hardness (Los Alamos water has a carbonate hardness of 6 dH) and the nitrate and phosphate levels look okay. I have an iron test kit, as well, but it has yet to show any detectable iron in the tank in spite of me adding a capful of chelated iron every morning.

Apologies for boring you with my fish tank. There will be more geology once some of the snow melts and the weather dries out — but that may be weeks away yet.

The mystery snails are definitely feeling happy:

That’s the back wall of my tank. There’s a sheet of styrofoam painted with black paint hanging outside the tank to give the sense that they’re in a half-closed space. One of my badly algae-encrusted swords is at left. The gizmo is a bubble ladder for CO2 injection; I also have a spun glass diffuser, and I run both to keep my fairly large tank charged with the right level of CO2 for the plants.

The white specks appeared one morning. They’re almost certainly mystery snail eggs. They can’t be Malaysian trumpet snail eggs, because Malaysian trumpet snails are oviviparous (their eggs hatch internally) and, besides, I have the trumpet snails for years, they’ve obviously been multiplying, and I’ve never seen eggs before. Not the fish, most likely, because none of my species attach eggs to surfaces and then leave them. There is surprisingly contradictory information on Malaysian snails on the Web, but the odds are this species can lay eggs asexually; though, with two in the tank, I can’t rule out sexual reproduction.

Meanwhile, I have just set up a 5.5 gallon tank as a possible quarantine/hospital tank, and populated it with a single snail and a gourami. Putting a fish in a new tank is a risk, but I inoculated it with gravel from the old tank and have been checking ammonia and nitrite every day, and changing out most of the water at the first sign of ammonium. The fish seemed to be doing well until last night; I came home to find it looking very, very sick — hanging just below the water surface and not much interested in food. Snow; ammonia. But the tank tested free of ammonia or nitrite. I changed out all the water today anyway. Fish is still looking very, very sick. Go figure.

Will report back the fate of the poor guy.

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