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.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The monsoon drive - Go Goa!

Monsoon brings in loads of rain and with it comes the transformation of the landscape enriched with the various hues of greens/yellows. This year finally got time to get a break from office work and decided it would be Goa to enjoy the monsoon rains.

We started off and crossed Tumkur in no time with a slight drizzle. The morning chill and the rains were a good combination. Made good progress and reached Hubli soon enough, stopped to grab a quick bite of Idly/Pooris at Kamath. With tummies full and a quick fuel top-up we made our way through the lush green fields, roads being patchy at best. The pace slowed down but the sights made up for it.

Soon enough we reached the Ghats and the landscapes got a lot more interesting. Found it hard balancing driving and glancing at the landscape :D

Each turn would show up a mini-waterfall with the water from the slopes trickling down

The other side would have the low lying passing clouds vying for attention

We reached Mollem and turned off towards Nature's nest at Surla - a wonderfully maintained eco-lodging run by Pankaj Lad. Was very co-operative and has great staff to assist

With us having spent the majority of day enjoying the sights we rested for a while and then enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the rains.

The freshness one can see once the rain stops is something else! Each leaf shimmers, the creatures come out to sip on the precious drops.

Enjoyed a sumptuous dinner with a good talk on the flora and fauna found around with Ramesh and Omkar (naturalists here)
The next day brought more rains and sights of the birds which throng here. The bulbuls - red vented and red whiskered

The first timer - Spider hunter

The purple rumped sunbird

Trees around our room were filled with bird calls as well, the cackle of the Hornbill being contested by the Flameback woodpecker

Quick breakfast, the food here's basic but yummy!

The moisture had a lot of mushrooms popping up everywhere

and so did the ferns/mosses taking up every nook and corner

Butterfly orchid

The carefully selected flowers were quite the magnet and the butterflies thronged!

Birdwing on Clerodendrum

Sipping here just to give you a sense of scale, these butterflies are HUGE!

Common rose

Blue mormon sipping

Looked like it was the season for love, many of them following their mates around

Found this beautifully colored jumping spider..had to make do with the kit lens :(

Late afternoon the workers at the coconut grove called us out - they had two Humpnose pit vipers. Got some shots while Ramesh captured them to be released elsewhere.

We went for a short walk on the boundary of Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, enjoyed every bit of it

The red land crab keeping a watch over us

Meandering through the leaf littered path

Looking for creatures

Stick insect

The property also has a natural spring which is also fed by a trickle.

Flowers blooming everywhere!

We were given a free pedicure with the schools of Puntius fasciatus, Puntius setnai, Garra sp., Rasbora daniconius and even the aplocheilus lineatus nibbling at the hair.

An inquisitive buffalo checking us out

The Samsung grand proved to be a good in-pocket camera with it's close focusing/image quality giving us enough confidence to leave the cameras behind. Have never noticed this fly/bee before with it's gigantic proboscis.

Found this Tortoise beetle along the sides

The strangler fig - which engulfs the host tree and hollows it out over time, what's left remaining is the intricate set of roots like a mesh with the host tree long gone.

We decided we'll check out some of the beaches as well and headed out to Panjim. The inner roads of Goa were a treat to drive

The skies opened up and so did the mercury levels

Spent the next couple of days exploring the beaches, enjoying the food and ferry rides.

The night markets brought new color

Started back and took the Karwar -> Ankola -> Yellapur -> Hubli route - fabulous roads and sights, barring the few stretches of bad road in the ghats.

Saw this beautiful sunset as we stopped at Kamath again for a quick snack

Then the clouds let go and followed us right through till Bangalore.

Adios and cheers till the next time! Dedicated to my wifey who let me share precious holiday time with the camera as well :P