Rio Ucayali Biotope Project

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The flourish arrived yesterday! Didn't have time to dose then, so I'll do that later today. The floaters are growing really well, but hopefully this will eliminate the bit of leaf melting I've been noticing.

Turns out one of the branches that I thought just had New Driftwood Fungus on it actually had black beard algae. Oops... My bad for not recognizing it sooner. I removed the affected branch and one that was immediately adjacent to it and I've been treating them with peroxide. Hopefully it doesn't return in droves, but if it lingers around a bit in the tank, I'm not terribly bothered by it. I've heard it's pretty easy to kill with a spot treatment of Excel every now and then, and once it's dead, algae eaters will come clean it up.

I'd just rather not go crazy scrubbing and cleaning everything in the tank and doing massive water changes and dosing the whole system with peroxide. Even though I haven't been actively trying to grow any, I don't want to kill any nitrifying bacteria that has colonized the tank, and my biofilm has actually come a relatively long way in the short time the tank has been up and running. Most of my driftwood has a nice layer of brown fuzz that I can only imagine is diatoms. Not much on the glass yet though. To be honest, I could probably stand to reduce the photoperiod, but it's good to know that this tank can easily grow biofilm for the otos that'll eventually inhabit it. Otherwise, the rhabdocoels are still going strong and I just noticed the first ostracod today!

Also figured I'd throw in some updated tank shots for visual interest. The water level's a touch low. I'll probably top that up at some point, but you can see how green the water looks now that the frogbit is covering basically the entire surface lol.
 

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It's coming along very well! Love the frogbit surface. Were you going to add botanicals to this? I don't know much about the Ucayali

 
It's coming along very well! Love the frogbit surface. Were you going to add botanicals to this? I don't know much about the Ucayali
Thank you! Yes, I will add botanicals eventually! I was planning on foraging some, but it's been so rainy here that most leaf litter is just a bit mushy right now, so I want to wait for a bit of a drier period to go collecting. Plus, I might want to wait to see if my tap water's KH has seasonal variation. I hope it does, and that it increases a bit in the spring/summer, because I checked the pH in this tank the other day and it was at 6.6! Not sure I really want it any lower than that, to be honest... so yeah, I'm holding off on botanicals for now
 
I have had some black beard algae in my 15 gallon tank for about 2 years. I will kill most of it back, and it come creeping back up over time. I have not been able to eradicate it, but I've been able to keep it pushed back. I have used Excel, APT Fix and manual removal. I wouldn't go crazy removing everything, but if you have plant leaves with it, I would remove the leaves and any hardscape you can scrape it off of, I'd do it.

It has grown more in my tank lately, but it's mostly on the back wall and the shrimp seem to like it. Plus I'm afraid to use a lot of Excel, Fix or Hydrogen Peroxide with shrimp.

Your tank looks great!
 
Tank maintenance day. Did a water change and a little toothbrush scrub on the 5.5gal. My neon's been hiding a lot in his little cave the past couple days, but after the water change, he seems more active. I change water every week, but I guess I'll keep a closer eye on water parameters moving forward, especially if he starts hiding again. Then again, I noticed he was a bit more active yesterday evening after lights out, so I don't know what his deal is... I've heard singleton schoolers can be a mystery in terms of behavior.

Topped up the 25gal as well, so now it has a proper amount of water. I suppose it's not really necessary for it to be full, but it makes me feel better somehow. Also did my first frogbit removal. Took out a nice couple handfuls and it hasn't even made much of a dent. That's a great thing though. Makes me feel confident that the floaters will be able to handle a large portion of the waste in the tank, once I have fish. Not sure if the ferts are doing anything yet, but it's only been a few days since the first dose.

I've been noticing even more critters lately in the tank lately. Starting to see copepods along with the ostracods, and spotted the first detritus worms! Perhaps it's still a little "early" in this tank's life cycle for detritus worms, but there isn't an insignificant amount of detritus on the substrate from the plants and wood, so I'm not surprised they've started showing up. I'm glad to see them though, honestly. I also spotted a hydra on the glass yesterday, but it's gone today. Not sure what happened to it, but oh well.
 
Big update: the tank finally has fish!

I've had a sponge filter sitting in the established 5gal for a bit over three weeks now, so I figured that with the seeded filter and all the floaters, the tank would be ready for a low bioload. So, I went out and got six neons. Bit of a funny story. The LFS I was planning on going to was all out of neons and I'd be leaving town before they got more in, so I thought I might gamble and go to a Petco (big box pet store). Their neons looked alright, but a bit skinny, and there were a few dead ones on the substrate. They were having issues with the tank lights and water leaks though, so no fish were for sale until the issues were resolved. Ended up being a serendipitous situation because the employee I was chatting with recommended an LPS I had never heard of that sold fish. Gave them a call to ask about stock and quarantine procedures and decided their answers were good enough to warrant paying them a visit. Turns out it's a lovely little hidden gem! They focus on fish and reptiles and their fish section was really nice and clean and all the fish looked quite healthy. Even their otos looked pretty good (a couple skinny ones, but the rest were decently plump)! The staff member I was chatting with was actually really knowledgeable for a pet shop employee, and it was a good sign when a couple other customers joined our conversation and also turned out to be pretty knowledgeable, so it seems this store is at least somewhat respected.

So I picked up the neons and drove them 2.5 hours home. They were all active and curious the moment they were put in the tank and they've all survived the night. The only thing I've noticed is that one was scratching itself on hardscape just now, so I'll keep an eye on that to see if it persists or if it was just a random bit of itchiness. They all ate really well this morning. One even ate a bit too well and is having a bit of trouble swimming with such a full belly 😅 They're itty bitty guys. Not skinny, just little, so their little bellies filled up quick. But they're all voracious little pigs and probably ate more than they should. I'll feed lighter tomorrow lol. They're getting juvenile/fry food, so hopefully that'll be helpful in getting them to grow.

I'll continue to monitor them very closely for the next week or so. I won't consider them out of the woods until around then, but I'm optimistic based on their condition so far.
 

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It's great to see fish in the tank finally! Are you still planning on the zebra ottos?
Yup! They'll wait until the tank is much more mature though. We'll see about sourcing them. I only know of one fish shop that stocks them, but I didn't see them when I visited, so I don't know how well they keep their otos. Their other fish looked pretty healthy though. But basically every decent LFS is at least a 2.5 hour drive away and the one that stocks cocama is in a city that I have no reason to visit aside from getting fish.

I might ask one of the LFSs in the city I go to more often if they can special order some of the cocamas, especially now that I know the one I went to does relatively well by the otos they get in. Otherwise, I might consider breaking the biotope slightly and just getting vittatus instead, which are the much more prevalent and much cheaper species.
 
I have to say, it's been so delightful watching the neons together. My only experience with neons until now has been the singleton I adopted back in December. He's a good boy, but the group dynamics of the new neons are much more interesting. They'll group together, then split up to go explore on their own, then come back together again. Sometimes they chase each other a little. They're constantly foraging and pecking at the wood and substrate (they seem to have almost completely wiped out the rhabdocoel population. I barely see any on the glass or in the water now). I plan on getting another 3-4 to round out the school at some point in the near-ish future (probably next month when I get the hatchets) so I'll be interested to see how the group behavior changes with a slightly larger group.

Tested water today and parameters look pretty good. Total ammonia is just barely at 0.25ppm, but with my pH and temp, free ammonia (NH3) is so low that it's negligible, which is good. I'll be doing a water change on Sunday anyway.

I'm learning that frogbit roots are much more delicate than I thought. I did a ~50% water change right before I introduced the neons which involved scooping water out and dumping it back in. I wasn't violent with it, I broke the fall of the water with my hand so it didn't churn things up. Despite that, a lot of the roots are melting again, just like they did when I first put them in the tank, so I think they're really sensitive to mechanical disturbance, moreso than the leaves. I guess from now on, I'll only remove water via siphon. Moving forward, I'll also try to keep the roots more trimmed down. The kids (neons) like the long roots, but they just get kinda nasty, especially when they melt...
 
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Just did a somewhat emergency water change. To be honest, it might not have been necessary. But I had some candles lit and had left them burning while I went to a social gathering. They're short-burning candles, not supposed to be blown out, and I had them in a fire-safe setup, so no fire risk, but I got home not long ago and noticed a very distinct "burnt-out candle" smell that had apparently lingered in my apartment long after the candles went out.

Well, knowing that volatile compounds, smoke, etc. can be detrimental to fish, especially in open-top tanks, I opened some windows and went to check on the littles and I saw a few sitting right above the substrate with their red patches almost completely faded and colorless. I sort of freaked out, turned the tank light on and got started on a partial water change, hoping that might help.

Got the water change done, but in that time, I realized that they had probably just been sleeping 😅 I vaguely recalled that many fish lose color at night when they sleep and it would make sense that they were hanging out towards the bottom, not moving much. By the time the water change was done, I noticed that they had started coloring up again, probably because they had been awake for a bit. I feel bad for waking them up, but considering the strong smell in the air (which probably isn't great for me to breathe in either), I figured I'd rather be on the slightly paranoid side.
 
Yes, neons do change colour when sleeping, as do their lookalikes cardinals and green neons. When they're really asleep, they turn a brownish colour (or at least the green neons I used have did)

But even with the colour change, good call on the candles/water change.
 
Just did a somewhat emergency water change. To be honest, it might not have been necessary. But I had some candles lit and had left them burning while I went to a social gathering. They're short-burning candles, not supposed to be blown out, and I had them in a fire-safe setup, so no fire risk, but I got home not long ago and noticed a very distinct "burnt-out candle" smell that had apparently lingered in my apartment long after the candles went out.

Well, knowing that volatile compounds, smoke, etc. can be detrimental to fish, especially in open-top tanks, I opened some windows and went to check on the littles and I saw a few sitting right above the substrate with their red patches almost completely faded and colorless. I sort of freaked out, turned the tank light on and got started on a partial water change, hoping that might help.

Got the water change done, but in that time, I realized that they had probably just been sleeping 😅 I vaguely recalled that many fish lose color at night when they sleep and it would make sense that they were hanging out towards the bottom, not moving much. By the time the water change was done, I noticed that they had started coloring up again, probably because they had been awake for a bit. I feel bad for waking them up, but considering the strong smell in the air (which probably isn't great for me to breathe in either), I figured I'd rather be on the slightly paranoid side.
You really are creating an Amazon region tank, with smoke in the air. That is authentic. Now you need a soy farm in the living room.

The colour does change as they sleep, but I think it's important to do a water change if you think you might need one. It does no harm and it can do good.
 
Just saw this thread. Nice tank and a cool idea! Glad you went with the frogbit. I saw there was much discussion of water lettuce. Not sure if water lettuce would count as "biotope" here or not. Probably depends on your definition as water lettuce is an exotic invasive in that area. Native to Africa. I mean with @GaryE 's biotope idea representing the current state of the area, it could work. Soybeans and all.

The other water lettuce thing is the lid issue. Screen tops can work to be sure. But I have also had good luck with solid tops when the top is not closely hugging the water surface. Right now I have 4 cattle tanks I'm using as indoor ponds and they have both solid lids and thriving water lettuce. The thing is the lids are like 4 inches off the surface. So if you made a box type lid you could get your water lettuce in there. The soybeans, I'm still not sure about... ;)
 
You really are creating an Amazon region tank, with smoke in the air. That is authentic. Now you need a soy farm in the living room.

The colour does change as they sleep, but I think it's important to do a water change if you think you might need one. It does no harm and it can do good.
…Well, you aren’t wrong. Unfortunately. But hey, maybe I actually could get a little soy plant and grow it aquaponically. Not sure how feasible that would be, but it could be fun.

And yes, I definitely figured I’d be better off safe than sorry with the water change. Even if it was unnecessary, it couldn’t hurt.

Just saw this thread. Nice tank and a cool idea! Glad you went with the frogbit. I saw there was much discussion of water lettuce. Not sure if water lettuce would count as "biotope" here or not. Probably depends on your definition as water lettuce is an exotic invasive in that area. Native to Africa. I mean with @GaryE 's biotope idea representing the current state of the area, it could work. Soybeans and all.

The other water lettuce thing is the lid issue. Screen tops can work to be sure. But I have also had good luck with solid tops when the top is not closely hugging the water surface. Right now I have 4 cattle tanks I'm using as indoor ponds and they have both solid lids and thriving water lettuce. The thing is the lids are like 4 inches off the surface. So if you made a box type lid you could get your water lettuce in there. The soybeans, I'm still not sure about... ;)
Thank you! I actually did end up getting some water lettuce. Apparently it’s not well-known whether it’s native to only Africa or if it has a native pan-tropical distribution. It was described from the Nile River, but it seems that, for whatever reason, no one is sure whether humans spread it elsewhere or if it spread itself. Regardless, it’s heavily naturalized in South America at this point, so I figured it’d still be good to add. The frogbit’s still very much the dominant plant though haha.

The tank is completely open top right now, but I’ll be getting a screen lid for the hatchets, when I get them.
 
Okay, I feel like I'm updating this journal a lot lately, but I swear, something's always getting thrown at me and I apparently don't deserve a moment's peace.

Today's maintenance day and fasting day for the fish. All well and good. One of the littles was looking a bit bloated yesterday, I think because it ate too much. Bloating is better today, but I think it's having some minor swim bladder issues because of the bloating compressing the swim bladder slightly. So I'll continue monitoring, maybe fast another day, and maybe feed some blanched pea after the fast. The main thing though is that on that same fish, I noticed this morning a singular white spot that for all the world looked like ich. It was white, circular, ever so slightly raised... Great. Thankfully, I have ich-x on hand. Figured I'd just go ahead and treat with that. Did the planned water change, took a good look at everyone once it was done and... no more white spot. It was only that one fish that was affected and now there's nothing on it at all. There hasn't been any flashing or rubbing against hardscape all day either.

I'm wondering if I should still medicate the tank considering the theront (free-living) stage is the only stage killed by the meds and it could still be hanging out in the aquarium environment. But then again, the cysts on the fish are embedded in the skin and aren't easily dislodged. Considering none the fish haven't been scratching themselves and the water change was really gentle, I don't see a plausible way for an ich cyst to have dropped off of the fish so soon, so maybe it's possible it wasn't ich? I guess I'll just continue monitoring for symptoms for now, unless doing a round or two of ich-x is still advisable.

Edit: I think I am going to treat, actually. The spot looked so much like ich that I'd rather be safe and catch it early. It would be a bit early for the cyst to fall off on its own, considering it couldn't have been on the fish for more than ~10 hours, but I'd still rather treat before it reproduces and infects the other fish too. Besides, the ich-x can't really hurt anything in the tank anyway.

At the very least, I trimmed the frogbit roots and did a bit of a substrate vacuum and the tank looks much better now.

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