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I don’t know if you remember that sundew that Chris bought me for my birthday and I painstakingly got peat moss for and distilled water for? Well a little while afterwards, it started to grow mold on it.

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how can it grow mold?! Well, it turns out that the peat moss has the tendency to grow mold, so I bought an all natural a pray for plants and sprayed some on it. Unfortunately, the mold had already taken it’s hold and there was no saving it. It turned into this little black ball, so I’m paretty sure it died.

I don’t understand how I can do so well with aquatic plants, but have a completely black thumb when it comes to terrestrial plants. I just don’t get it. But then again, I did try to grow something that is considered relatively difficult to grow.

When I told Chris about my plants untimely death, he told me not to worry. He will continue to buy me plants to kill until I get better at it. I just don’t know I should subject these poor innocent plants to my murderous attempts.

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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Today is my birthday! And since I have to work a whole bunch today, Chris decided to celebrate my birthday over the weekend. One of the many things we did was go to the Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot. While we were at Disney over the Easter weekend, we had gone onto a ride called The Land. And in that ride, it talks about conservation and living with the land. But also, as part of that ride, it went through a hydroponics greenhouse, as well as a aquaponics. And lo and behold, I discovered that there was a tour of the hydroponics and aquaponics section of the ride. It was, of course, more money. With our annual pass discounts, the tour was only $13 each person.

The greenhouses show a new way of farming. Instead of using huge tracts of land and lots of soil, they are using innovative ways of using hydroponics. They don’t claim to have invented this new way of growing things, but they sure use it a lot. The invention of hydroponics in this vertical way helps people grow food where land and soil is scarce. When you can grow them in huge columns like this, you can feed a lot of people on less than two square feet. There’s easily forty heads of lettuce in this one column and it was a little over six feet tall.

They feed these plants a nutrient solution that they mix themselves. It gets fed through the top and it trickles down to the bottom, where it is siphoned back up to the top again to be reused.

But what really interested me was that some of these plants pretty much grown in air. Here are some brussel sprouts that are grown on a conveyor belt.

When it goes through this unit below,

it sprays a nutrient solution onto the roots.

The same is done with these bean sprouts

And here’s what the roots look like underneath

Not all of them are grown using just hydroponics. Some of them are grown in sand while others are grown in a coconut/perlite/vermiculite mixture. All of these mediums aren’t nutrient rich, but they are capable of growing plants with just the nutrient solution.

They are also growing a lot of plants on these trellis thingies. They were able to break a world record using this technique. They’ve managed to grow the most cherry tomatoes on one single plant. It came out to be 34,000 tomatoes, weighing in at a total of 1,150 pounds. Unfortunately, when I did this tour, they had removed the tomato plant and was growing a new one. They do have lifespans, it seems.

They also cool the greenhouses by dripping water onto these corrugated pieces of cardboard and then blowing air through them.

They had great big walls of this stuff and I admit that the greenhouse was rather cool compared to the outside, but not as cool as the air-conditioned area. They greenhouses are trying to make everything natural and organic. They use other insects to control pests in the greenhouse. Everything grown in the experimental greenhouses are sent to the various restaurants throughout Disney.

They also gave you a little handout on how to begin hydroponics in your own home with a list of links of suppliers. I’m not sure that I’ll start a hydroponics hobby. I don’t have a yard, so hydroponics would definitely be the way to go for me, but with several fish tanks already in tow, I’m not sure I have the time to take care of this other stuff. When I left for five days, all the fishtanks totally grew out of control! But I’ll probably research the idea anyway!

How about you? Do you grow anything?

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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Aquabotanic was selling these blue shrimp that I really wanted. The only problem was that I wasn’t sure if I should get them. They were upwards of $6 each, plus shipping, so I decided to hold off on them for the moment. I wanted to see of my red cherry shrimp would survive under my care.

In the meantime, they were also selling some nerite snails as well as some fontanus fissidens(a moss that I liked the look of). I’d been looking for the nerite snails, but of the zebra and tiger variety only because I liked the looks of them. So I ordered these things from this company.

I hadn’t read anything bad about them and they were sponsors on theplantedtank.net, so I thought they were a reputable company. (Well, it turns out that since they are sponsors, anything negative posted on the forums are quickly removed! And I might end up with the ban hammer on several sights for posting this, but that’s what multiple email addresses are for aren’ they?) So I bought two tiger nerites and two tiger nerites along with the fissidens.

When the products arrived, I discovered that I hadn’t gotten what I ordered. One of the tigers didn’t look like the other. In actuality, it was an olive nerite. I notified the company and received an email that offered no resolution. It was something akin to “what do you want me to do about it?”. Not something I was expecting. I have yet to receive any resolution and quite frankly, I no longer wish to deal any further with him.

Honestly, I only lost about a dollar between the olive and the tiger nerite (if I bought the olives online). However, if I had a choice, I wouldn’t have spent any money on the olive. I can get olives right here in Florida. They’re native to here, so why would I spend money for shipping if I can get them locally? And for much cheaper?

It wasn’t worth the effort to argue with him about what a good business would do. I am not running his business and I had better things to do. I won’t fight someone over a what amounts to a dollar. But I also won’t be silent about it either. By all means, buy from him if you want, but I’m just saying, caveat emptor.

I’m actually quite glad that I did not get the blue shrimp as he does not guarantee doa nor does he refund your money. You simply get a credit for your next purchase minus your shipping fee. If I had gotten the red shrimp (which average $1-2 each) instead of the blue shrimp, I would have spent a lot of time fighting him about it. I would have overpaid for the shrimp since I would have had to pay for shipping again. I personally won’t be ordering from him again. And I suggest that you should look at his Better business bureau rating before you order. And also read his policy because it says that your are responsible for the risk of ordering from him. And since you are risking the possibility of getting something you didn’t even order, well, that’s too much gambling for me. If I wanted to gamble, I’d rather do it drunk at a poker table.

There are plenty of other vendors who will guarantee your delivery and I think that they are a better bet.

And also for reference. Here is the fissedens that I received from them. It was $9, covered in algae and came with several snails and some creepy crawly things. Not only that, it smelled heavily of fishiness.

I removed as much of the algae as I could before sewing it on the canvas. As of today, the algae remaining on the fissidens is growing quite nicely. However the moss is all brown. It may or not be dead, but I have no hopes for it.

For five dollars, I got this from skewlboy from the plantedtank.net (another hobbyist, not a vendor). No algae and no odd critters and didn’t smell fishy at all. It’s already growing new shoots, so I know it’s healthy. I think I might just toss the brown moss and use the healthy stuff. This way, I won’t have any algae issues on the moss too.

And for your weekly update, here is the 20 gallon:

I can’t seem to stop moving the plants around in this tank. I’ve also removed a bunch of it as I didn’t feel they were adding anything to the tank. I think it looks better now, but what do I know. Next week, it’ll probably look different again.

This tank is having some serious issues with black beard, fuzz and hair algae. I’m trying to get the co2, lights and fertilization into balance as well as dealing with the algae, so there isn’t much that’s happening in this tank either. I want to get it healthy before I deal with how it looks.

And that’s it for this week’s tank update. Until next week!!

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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This photo is from January 14. Notice there is no algae on the sides!

This is the five gallon that some of you have seen before. If you go to the way back machine, you’ll remember it as this tank.

Look how pristine it is!

I wouldn’t suggest getting this tank because if you look at it funny, it will scratch. But I keep it because it’s the first tank that Chris bought for me, so I don’t care if there are scratches on it. I’m using it! Also, I switched out the filter because that one leaked when it got clogged. Totally no good.

Right now, it’s a shrimp tank. All there is inside is juvenile red cherry shrimp. They eat a ton of algae, so there aren’t any on the plants. Just the stuff stuck to the sides of the tank. Like in this photo, which was taken today.

The shrimp are only about half an inch across. Some grow to be as big as an inch. But since they’re so small still, I don’t want to put them in the tanks with fish yet. They’ll just get eaten and these guys are way more expensive than the feeder ghost shrimp. 12 for a $1 these guys are not. Once they’re bigger, I’ll put them in the fish tank. None of the fishes have mouths big enough to swallow them whole.

Here’s a photo of one on a piece of zuchini.

This tank will most likely remain a shrimp only tank since there may be babies that hatch and I would like some of them to grow to adulthood. The only problem is that the shrimp are really good at hiding and I can usually only see 5 of them out of the 20 that I got.

It’s also a pretty low-tech and cheap tank. It’s just straight up gravel, which you can buy for about $8 (10 lbs for 5 gallon tank). You don’t need any fancy plant growing substrate! I did, however, put in Flourish Root tabs for some fertilizatoin. The filter was about $10-$15 (it’s the Azoo palm filter, but you can get it’s renamed counterpart at Petco as Red Sea Nano filter.).

Clamp-on work light for $7. A GE compact flourescent light bulb (make sure you get the daylight one’s and not the soft white one’s), $4. A regular square 5 gallon glass tank won’t cost you more than $10 or so. And there you have it! A tank that can grow plants for less than $50. You don’t need a stand because it’s so tiny. You can keep it on your bedside table or your work desk (like me!) All you need to buy are plants and fish/shrimp and you’re ready to go! For me, the plants are leftovers. Whatever didn’t fit in the other tanks went in here. I stuck the plants in wherever there was room and it looks just fine to me!

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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And since I’m talking about fish tanks, let’s talk about the old 10 gallon that I had. Sometime around my wedding, I had let this tank go to ruins. I think the last time anyone saw it was Jenn, it was covered in blue green algae.

So over the past year, I’ve been trying to rehabilitate it. But there was just too much algae of several types. It was just easier to start over and save whatever plants were left. (Luckily, these were cheap Petsmart plants and nothing fancy.)

Back in its hayday, it looked like this:

I got new substrate (since those bllue rocks were just covered in hair algae. The new substrate is eco-complete, btw, for those who care.). And placed the salvaged plants in.

Don’t ask me what I was thinking putting that plastic cup in there. I thought the shrimp could hide in there, but it’s clear, so everybody knows where they are! Turned out that the fish liked to hide in there, but the problem is that sometimes they couldn’t find their way out. Cuz, you know, it’s clear. So I took it out. There’s nothing worse than watching fish freak the hell out. You think they’re dying.

What’s all that junk hanging off the back, you ask? Well, the very left is a Hagen CO2 generator holder. And the middle 2 are filters. The right filter is the old one that’s not doing so well. The impeller has died due to the fact that thousands of pond snails have wandered in there and got pulverized. So for the time being, there are 2 filters until the tank goes through it’s new nitrogen cycle. You know nitrifying bacteria lives in there!

This is what it looked like on the 14th, before I took all the tetras out. The reason why I took them out was because they were fin nippers and I wanted to put in a betta. It seems that I’ve always had bettas. And I’ve always had this particular kind. It’s a crowntail, which means that it’s got frilly tail. We haven’t named this one yet because we got a yellow one, that didn’t survive. His name was Swavwell. Chris said he was only going to name this fish if it survived longer than a week. He’s going on four days now, so his prognosis looks good.

Here is a blurry picture because he won’t sit still. I’m thinking of calling him Hamtastico because every time I try to take a photo of something else, he comes right in front of the frame. I think he’s dark purple and red. But in this photo, he looks blue and red. It can be a trick of the light. He could be both blue and purple!

The other inhabitants of the tank are 2 otos (for cleaning algae), an innumerable bunch of ghost shrimp (also for cleaning algae), and 2 bumblebee gobies (because they were cute! You can’t find them anywhere anymore. Like people stopped selling them because people couldn’t keep them alive. Same with dwarf puffers. What the hell? I had dwarf puffers for like 2 years and these bumblebee gobies are going on three. So I don’t know what people were doing to kill these things. And if I had another tank, and I could find dwarf puffers, I’d totally get them again. They are way cute.).

I am not completely satisfied with the tank yet. There’s something that’s a little bit off that’s bugging me, but shifting around plants hasn’t helped at all. Maybe it just needs to fill in some more. We’ll have to see, I guess.

Here’s a photo of what it looks like as of yesterday.

I also have a 5 gallon and a 1.5 gallon tank. Oh yeah, it’s going to be all about the tanks this week. I bet you’re thrilled. Just THRILLED.

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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Happy New Year! Yes, I am a few (weeks) days late. Don’t shoot me!

So I’m going to go back in time a little bit to tell you about my Christmas present. Santa brought me a new 20 gallon fish tank complete with stand.

The tank came in a kit from Petsmart. Now that I think about it, I should have just bought the setup piecemeal. The light and hood that came with the tank weren’t up to specs for growing plants. Even though the bulb might say for plants, the likelihood that it will actually grow anything but moss is quite unlikely. (There’s a whole long ass article about PAR and lumens and all sorts of things, all of which bored the crap out of me and no doubt will bore you too, so I won’t go into detail about that. Suffice it to say, I needed a new light).

I had read about these new compact flourescent lights that you could get at any neighborhood store (Target, Walmart, etc.) and they were only about $5 a bulb. (Most plant bulbs are about $20+.). So I decided to try it out. The only problem was that I had miscalculated. Instead of 2 bulbs, I needed at least 4. And the light fixtures I bought couldn’t handle that.

Don’t ask me why I bought plants before I had a light solution. It wasn’t the best idea, but the tank looked so bare with just gravel and flourite! (Flourite is a substrate that helps plants grow, but you can grow things in regular gravel or sand or whatever. You just need to fertilize them more. Flourite will soak up the fertilizer and keep it handy whereas inert substrates won’t.)

So while I was researching alternatives, I bought 5 sunset platys. (Tanks need to go through a nitrogen cycle, that consists of fish poop, ammonia being turned into nitrite, then being turned to nitrate and then the plants can use that to grow.). All tanks go through these, and the suggestion is to get some hardy fish that you want to keep (don’t use goldfish they poop like crazy. You’ll end up with green water, so don’t listen to people who tell you to use goldfish.)

So I bought 5 platys. 2 died, were exchanged for 2 more, 2 died (1 old and 1 new), and exchanged for 2 more. Then I realized that they had ick. Oh yes. Why did I buy these at Petsmart? I returned to the store and bought organic medicine for the fish. It cost a bundle and turned the water brown, but hey, it wasn’t toxic!

The one with the worst ick died. I finished the medical regiment and everyone seemed to be fine. After I was sure that all the ick was gone, I moved some of the fish from the 10 gallon to their new home!

Currently, there are 4 sunset platys, 2 black skirt tetras, 1 neon tetra, and 1 blue tetra. The tetras used to have more buddies. I originally bought 2 or 3, but as with all fish, they eventually die. So the one’s that are left are the really hardy ones.

In the meantime, I’d decided to just buy a new light. For a little while, I thought about making my own canopy, but the cost was almost as much as buying an already built fancy one. And then there was the fact that I would have to make it. From scratch. With tools. Yeah, no.

When my light finally arrived(without legs! I had to wait another day before I could properly put it on the tank), I started to order plants from other hobbyists.

This is what it looked like on Saturday.

You might think that the bland bland plants that you see in fish stores are the only plants possible in the planted tank trade, but that is not so. The one’s you see at the store are the one’s that are easy to grow in masse and easy to keep without much problem while at the store. Much more colorful and rare plants are available by special order. Luckily for me, a lot of plants have already been ordered by enthusiasts and sometimes they will sell clippings for a moderate and sometimes downright cheap price.

This is what the tank looked like yesterday (I tried writing this entry twice, but the iPhone Wordpress app never saved them!). I trimmed the plants at the sides, moved some plants around and I also have a few more plants coming this week.

The photo period was about 12 hours, but that was growing too much algae, So I’m dialing it down to 10 hours. Hopefully, that will get the algae growth to go down. I had to scrape the sides of the tank twice already! If this doesn’t work, then it goes down to 8 hours. If that doesn’t work, then I need to get more plants. The idea is that the plants will out-compete the algae for available nutrients.

Once all my plants are here, all that’s left is to do is make sure there’s enough CO2 and fertilizer. And just wait for them to grow.

I will try to update you when I get new plants or if there’s tremendous growth. Maybe I’ll just take a photo every Monday and show you progress. Until next time!

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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Samantha Ling

August 2013

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