Tales from the Crypts
by Heidy Rubin

We gathered on Friday, 27th February at the home of myself and my husband, Alan, in Northgate. There were 11 people in attendance on the night, with several others sending their apologies. After a bit of socialising and having a look at the fish tanks, our meeting got under way.

I started off by discussing the topics listed on our website. The first being that of controlling algae through the use of coal in the aquarium. I first observed this phenomenon in Ron Bowman's fish room. Several of his small trays in one section of his fish room had coal layering the bottom of the tray. The water in the trays was crystal clear and there was no algae present. To the right and left of these coal trays were several other trays of the same size and shape that didn't have coal in them. These had various forms of algae and the water was not so clear. Ron was in the process of doing some experimenting with the coal, but we moved from Melbourne and weren't able to observe these experiments. I must contact him to see what, if any, additional information has been discovered.

I also did a bit of searching around on the internet to see if there were any other documented sources for using coal as a control for algae. The only information that kept coming up was the use of coal in pool filters. It seems that finely ground coal is used in pool filters for the purpose of 'burning off' or oxidising accumulated organic matter and controlling algae. I suppose if we think about it, some of the filtering systems used in aquariums have a coal bag or some sort of coal component for filtering. What is it in coal that 'controls' algae? Ken wanted to know what type of coal it was that Ron used. I didn't even realise there were different types of coal. Does type matter? Seweryn was concerned with the issue of oil used to control coal dust. What are its effects? Seems like there are lots of questions to be answered. I guess we will have to do some more research and perhaps even some experiments.

Our second topic for the night was on the changing of plant names. It seems that there are many aquatic plants that have had their names changed throughout the years. Why is this? Well, in my research it seems that some of the changes are a result of errors in taxonomy and new discoveries. Bruce added that new techniques and technologies are applied in research which provide more details. Phil said that the name changes also allow for the researchers to convince the Government to give more grant money towards the new study. Seweryn said that these name changes are a result of more scientific studies being carried out on plants. Greg added that finding new specimens that match closer to the original also account for some of the changes.

These name changes don't seem to be limited to the aquatic plant world. They occur in the naming of animals and other plants as well. Take for instance killifish, the names change quite frequently. Alan wanted to know if the majority of the group thought it a positive experience to rename the plants. Most agreed it was. I suppose instead of thinking of the renaming as an inconvenience or negative aspect of science, we should look at it as providing us with more specific details on the plant/animal. After all, as Bruce said, more time and effort is being put into looking at the plants structurally and physically. Greg added that some reference bodies have applied to keep the original names of some plants/animals. Sometimes it is knocked down and other times it is accepted to keep the original name. Bruce added that the name change usually isn't done on a whim. They usually look at all the characteristics to make sure the object fits into the new group. Looks like we will have to keep up with the name changes. As science advances, I'm sure there will be lots of new changes.

Since there were no other major topics on the agenda for the night, we went around the room and got updates on everyone's fish and plants.

Starting off with one of our new members, Seweryn. Seweryn used to keep Tanganyika Cichlids, but not many plants while living in the U.S. Here in Australia he has one 40L quarantine tank, one 40L dead space tank, and a 3 foot tank he uses as his work area. He has encountered a quick learning curve with growing plants. His fish include mostly South American fish, some catfish - Corydoras adolphi (Aldolphi) and Corydoras aeneus (Bronze), some shrimp, 2 Ancistrus temminicki (bristlenose catfish), and some Crossocheilus siamensis (siamese algae eaters). Some of his catfish spawned, but he only discovered the babies in the filter system after shaking it hard. He hasn't had them spawn since. Phil advised that if he does a water change, turns up the air, and adds ice blocks during a thunderstorm he will see his catfish spawning again. He also has a yeast CO2 set-up.

Ken has branched off into marine aquariums and will keep us up to date with the struggles to keep the tank in perfect harmony. He has started off with a smaller tank and will expand if he can keep the little one going strong. We expect to hear regular updates on this adventure.

Michael indicated that the heat has been a shocker for him. He has lost some fish in his fish room due to the heat. During the heat wave his air pump decided not to pump air, and the algaes went bizerck. He managed to restore some order to the fish room after fixing the air pump. The indoor tanks are surviving, but not getting much attention. The fish are doing okay in the indoor tanks. The outdoor pond was dry as a bone and is now full of water. Plants are sprouting up everywhere. Ludwidgia sediodes was the first to reach the surface of the water. Micranthemum sp. is also growing nicely. There is also some Hygrophila polysperma brought in by ducks or something that is growing as well. Another small leaf plant, that might be from a local waterway, is also growing. There were some Pseudomugil gertrudae, but he thinks they got washed away. The frogs have been breeding like mad and there are heaps of tadpoles (not toadpoles) in the pond. Lots of different frogs too.

George, another newcomer to our group has some aquatic plants. He endured a power outage, during the heat wave, that lasted from 4 in the afternoon until the following day. During the power failure he discovered that the internal filter in one of his tanks was keeping the tank very warm. The tank temperature actually dropped during the power outage, which alerted him that something might be wrong. There is now a new filter on the tank. I guess we can say sometimes power outages are good. George also wanted to know if shutting the lights off on the tank will affect the plants and fish. He had his lights on for only a few hours during the very hot days. Overall the group agreed that if the lights were kept off for long periods of time, then the plants would most likely start to decline. Alan and I left our lights off for 3 days straight during the heat and the plants didn't show any decline. If anything, the plants suffered because of the high water temperatures in the tanks.

Alan wanted to know if plants in the tanks use up all the oxygen without the lights on. Michael said it depends on how heavily the plants and fish are stocked in the tank. I described a back-up air supply that we used in the U.S. for power outages. This device was plugged into an outlet in a wall and when the power went off it was 'activated'. It was sort of like a small air pump and pumped air into the tank. It did seem to help the fish out in cases where the power was out for more than 12 hours. Bruce said it might be hard to use one of these divices if you have a lot of tanks to supply air to. I am not sure if they have larger ones that could supply multiple tanks. Alan and I only had one tank at the time, so it worked well.

Bruce said the power outages changed his timers, which disturbed his fish. They jumped out of the tanks and the dogs apparently cleaned them up. Bruce had been wondering where the fish were going and why there weren't any bodies to be found. I guess the dogs had some nice treats.

Phil had fish die during the heat wave, even in his lower (cooler) tanks. The rainbows seemed to do fairly well. He used yeast CO2 until it got so hot that he saw no point in watching the yeast die. The plants showed the effects of no CO2, but didn't die. He did discover a new fertiliser - dead rat. He discovered a dead rat in one of his tanks with Vallisneria sp. which was growing rapidly. So, he highly recommends dead rats for fertiliser. He did caution that they should only be used for outside tanks. Phil said some good things have come from the heat wave. Some of his fish have started spawning.

Peter lost his Myoxocephalus scorpius (Bull Rout) and a few fish inside and outside, due to the heat. He is working on replanting his display tank upstairs. To try and alleviate some of the problems experienced by the heat, he did water changes, took off the cover glasses and shut off the metal halide lights. Alan and I also did some water changes and kept the lids on the tanks open for a few hours each evening.

Alan added that our Ludwidgia sediodes (mosaic plant) was doing quite well. We brought some plants back from Cairns. I didn't plant them straight away and they were only stems when I finally got around to planting them. There is a pot of them in one of our outdoor ponds. It is doing very well.

Greg's fish room reached 45C, but his fish tanks only to 32C. All his fish survived the heat wave. He floated bottles of frozen water in the tanks, and think that the small numbers of fish in each tank might have helped as well. Greg also brought along a Powerpoint presentation on the Aquarama talk he gave at the Cichlid group. He also mentioned that Edmonds sells a 12v thermostat-regulated exhaust unit. For those of us who aren't handy, they will also do installation. Greg has one in his fish room and says it works well.

Alan wanted to know if everyone felt that the plants did better than the fish in the heat. Everyone agreed that for the most part, the plants did better. We experienced only one major loss in the plant realm, and that was our Myriophyllum sp. which died back. It seemed to be doing quite well in the four foot tank, but when the heat hit, it died back. There are a few sprigs left, so I am hoping it makes a recovery. Fingers crossed.

The Brisbane Plant Study Group (BPSG) meetings are held on the 4th Friday of every month and begin around 8PM. If you need directions or have any questions, please feel free to contact me via email at bpsg2002@hotmail.com or via mobile on 0403 790 701. For the latest information, please visit our website at http://bpsg.frell.org