Posts Tagged ‘air bubbler’

The Post – Scarlett O’Hara “Labor and Delivery” Watch, and Ammonia Monitoring

March 27, 2008

For the last several days, Scarlett has been sitting on top of, or in, the water filter. Even though I shut down the filter Tuesday (so no babies would get sucked up in the filter material should they hatch), she continues to stay inside the empty filter. I guess it’s like a cave – nice and sheltered. She hasn’t come out to eat, but then I imagine that filter material has a ton of bacterial and algal critters all over it.

She DOES need to be in water at some point and on that count I’m not sure how long she can stay out of the water and in the filter. I tried chasing her out of the filter Tuesday afternoon, partially to see if she was okay, and partially to see if overcoming inertia and forcing her out would keep her out, but within minutes she was back inside of the filter. Who knows if she climbs out at night when the lights are off, to go for a swim.

Wed morning she was inside the filter, still sitting at the bottom. She wasn’t moving so I jiggled the filter cartridge enough to see her move. I left her alone until Wed afternooon when I pulled the filter cartridge up a bit. Scarlett O’Hara rushed up and out of the water filter and down into the water. She sat underneath the water filter, so I guess she’s just “staying put in sheltered places.” However, she does appear to be okay.

I tried giving her a couple of shrimp pellets, assuming she must be hungry, but she basically pushed them aside. She did pick at the calcium sand, so I expect she’s looking for algae. I dropped in a couple bits of algae pellets but she ignored those too. So either she isn’t hungry due to the pregnancy, something’s wrong, or she’s full from eating whatever is on that filter packing material. Right now she is still out in the tank and has even wandered over to the air bubbler at the other end of the tank. I am heartened to see her doing her usual activities: climbing up on the bubbler, trying to climb up the side of the tank, and resting on the suction cups behind the air filter that hold it in place. So, for now, I guess, all is well.

My only “curiosity” is “will she stay out into the water to deliver the babies?” I expect she will given that female fiddler crabs look for places in their estuary homes that have active water currents so the eggs can be washed out to sea. So “instinct” alone should propel her back into the tank water at about the time of delivery, no matter how much she likes it inside the water filter. Given she did it right the first time, I can’t imagine she’s forgotten what she needs to do. I missed the delivery the first time so I don’t know exactly what she does to release them. I hope I catch it this time. Also, I do wish I could just ask her why she likes living at the bottom of a dark empty water filter. In lieu of that conversation, all I can do is watch and wait…..

Water parameters Wed afternoon were good: Nitrates 10, Nitrite 0, Hardness >300, Chlorine 0, Alkalinity 300, pH 8.0 and the Ammonia monitor is in the “safe” range at < 0.02 ppm.

The ammonia monitor is a Seachem Ammonia monitor that you can hang inside the tank. No test strips or kits. This one is called the Seachem AmmoniaAlert for Fresh and Marine tanks. It continuously monitors the free ammonia level in the water for over a year.

The monitor is color coded for concentrations:

– Safe (<0.02 ppm), Yellow

– Alert ( 0.05 ppm), Green

– Alarm ( 0.20 mg/dl), Sky Blue

– Toxic ( 0.50 mg/dl), Lavender

The insert says that the “Alert Level” of free ammonia can be tolerated for several days; “Alarm” for a few days; and “Toxic” is rapidly harmful. It would have been interesting to see what it read when I had the phytoplankton overgrowth and high nitrites, the first time I did this.

While I knew that monitoring ammonia was important and somehow related to the level of nitrites and nitrates, I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. I found a good website, The Tropical Tank, done in the UK, that discusses water chemistry, and in particular, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. It’s called: More on the Nitrogen Cycle: Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate

In short, there should be no ammonia or nitrite in a mature tank. Any ammonia is present in two forms: ammonia (NH3) and ammonium ion (NH4+). Ammonia is more toxic than the ion, and the higher the aquarium pH, the higher the ammonia level. Since brackish and marine tanks are basic, ie higher pH, ammonia toxicity is a constant risk.

Ammonia in a mature tank is oxidized by nitrogen-fixing bacteria, to nitrites and again, in a mature tank, nitrites are oxidized to nitrates. While you don’t want to see nitrates run high, a lower level , say < 50 ppm, are considered okay, 25 ppm is even better. If your tank isn’t cycling well, is new and not enough nitrogen-fixing bacteria, you have too many tank inhabitants, or you’ve overfed them, ammonia (and hence nitrites and nitrates) will start to spike.

The bottom line, the appearance of rising ammonia levels is the first clue that things in the tank are not well and even toxic. Given that my last endeavor with crab larvae resulted in mass death due to high nitrites (and yes, the phytoplankton caused an algae bloom that caused ammonia and nitrites to spike and I won’t use it again) I thought it might be interesting to monitor the ammonia levels in the tank on a continuous basis through this project.

This article also gives information on how to start up the nitrogen cycle in a fishless tank. I wondered how you get the cycle going when there are no fish or fish wastes to start the process.

If you are interested, this same UK website has two other interesting articles:

The Basis of Cycling: a good overview of the maturing nitrogen cycle in aquariums

Fishless Cycling Data provided to them by a US forum member, William Wallace; some concrete data on how Mr. Wallace actually did this process.

To return to the tank and Scarlett:

Wed evening, the water looked cloudy and while other parameters were still fine, I noticed a trace amount of nitrites now. I also noticed a few green spots in the yellow safe zone of the ammonia monitor. The green spots are the beginning of a change to “alert.” Given that I think we’re a few days away from birth yet, I decided to turn the water filter back on for a day or so to try and improve the tank conditions. I suspect that adding Scarlett to the tank was enough to catalyze the nitrogen cycle into high gear. It’s to be expected to see “some” ammonia and nitrites, and there also is a “good” level of nitrates, but still, I don’t want to lose the battle of water quality before the babies are even born. I will continue to monitor water quality closely today today. If necessary, I’ll do some water changes, but I would rather not do that. Since the nitrogen cycle is in its early stages, every time I take water out and put in new water, it removes some of the very nitrogen-fixing bacteria I need. The gentleman at the aquarium store said it would be best to just let the tank evolve. So as long as we don’t go beyond “alert” on the ammonia monitor, I’ll let it “evolve.” Otherwise…I’ll have to start water changes. I wish I’d known earlier about the fishless cycling Mr. Wallace did. I could have done that with this tank to get the nitrogen cycle established before moving Scarlett into it.

Tank parameters this morning are the same as yesterday afternoon and Scarlett is out walking around the tank, so, no better, no worse.

Stay tuned.

The Post – Update Time – Fiddler Pregnancy and Book “Delivery”

March 22, 2008

Well the fiddler crab, Scarlett O’Hara’s pregnancy progresses well. I am through “labor and delivery” with Under the Pier’s second draft, and we had an RIP moment for my laser printer, which died trying to print the last two chapters of that draft.

Now, to expand on each just a bit:

Scarlett O’Hara is busy eating or just sitting behind the air filter, in the main fiddler crab tank. Her pregnancy progresses with no odd happenings. Her “nursery” tank is doing well – water parameters are fine and salinity was down to 1.012 when I diluted the water, earlier in the week. I will recheck water parameters and salinity tomorrow in the nursery tank. If they are fine, I will most likely move Scarlett over to that tank Monday or Tuesday. We first noticed her carrying eggs on Monday the 17th. On Sunday the 16th, we saw no evidence of eggs, but that’s when she was spending days living on top of the water filter, sitting in the water currents. So best guess here, is that Monday will be one week. The last time she delivered her babies, it was just about two weeks. So I will move her to the nursery early this coming week. Also, I will shut down the water filter again and just leave the air bubbler running.

I picked up eggs and supplies to hatch brine shrimp and will talk more about that tomorrow. I also picked up a liquid food geared toward larval invertebrates, that is a good brine shrimp substitute. NO MORE LIVE PHYTOPLANKTON. I’m hoping that sticking to the zooplankton food approach will work better and not end up with high nitrites that kill off the babies. So more on this tomorrow and this week.

I spent most of the day on Good Friday, polishing the last chapter of Under the Pier’s second draft. It is finished. Of course it needs more work, but at least now it is a real book. There are no giant piles of fix-it cards or empty places in the chapters where I still had to figure out something or add in a description. Next up in the project:

1) Continue on with the posts about writing Under the Pier – I left off on location as character and Part II of that coming up this week will be more info about specific locations in the story — which though fiction, are amalgamations of real places, as well as how I researched them.

2) I will be putting together the submission package for a couple of editors from last year’s Carolinas – SCBWI conference. These packages include three sample chapters, chapter summaries, and any other info I want to include. At least according to one editor. I have a “map of my story’s town,” a schematic of the diner and the diner area, a smaller map of the area around Max’s house, a schematic of Max’s house, a glossary, probably a bibliography of some of the sources including research papers and the researchers I talked to….and of course, this blog’s address. 🙂

3) Start draft three. This time, I can now read through “completed” chapters, and listen out loud to their rhythm, see where they bog down, see where they need more “sensory details” and also go through the large “revision” charts I made up to see if I’ve covered everything. A later post will cover what I compiled for those revision charts.

Re the demise of my laser printer – FRUSTRATING!!!! I was halfway through printing the last two chapters when it seized up and died. Now I can’t really complain. I’ve had that printer almost 7 years and have printed thousands of pages. I got my money’s worth out of it. I was just hoping not to have to a) deal with buying a new printer just to finish printing my book and b) spend the money now. But…. c’est la vie. We now have a new HP Laserjet P3005dn. I need to make it my friend. 🙂

Anyway, that’s the state of affairs here. Oh, and also, given the impending draft three of the book, I need to get going on “Creature Features” So stay tuned!

The Post – Odd Goings-On in the Fiddler Tank – Is Scarlett Acting Pregnant Again?

March 16, 2008

When I first I walked by the fiddler tank yesterday morning, I was sleepy and oblivious. Then I did a double-take. Sitting at the front of the tank was the discarded molted shell of somebody. On closer examination, and with my husband’s consultation too, we both agreed it was Melanie Hamilton’s discard. That means she is at the moment most likely to get pregnant if Admiral Byrd invites her in.

At the same time we noticed that Scarlett O’Hara was sitting on top of the water filter….again. The last time she did that, we noticed shortly afterward that she was pregnant.

Admiral Byrd of course, was marching up and down the tank, claw arm held high, and waving.

To continue – Scarlett O’Hara spent the entire day and evening yesterday, on top of the water filter. She is still there this morning. She has never done that before or since, except when she was pregnant. I know she is still alive because she is “blowing bubbles.” Crabs foam sometimes when they’re out of water, to moisten their gills.

Even when I freaked out Admiral Byrd yesterday, and scared Melanie Hamilton out of her live rock because I was cleaning the tank and accidentally bumped the live rock, Scarlett O’Hara didn’t leave the filter perch. She just moved down into the filter for a bit, then climbed back up. Admiral Byrd meanwhile kept trying to climb the heater power cord up to the top of the filter to be near her, but he couldn’t quite do it with that large claw.

Yesterday afternoon we noticed that Melanie Hamilton remained outside the live rock, sitting there on the gravel serenely watching Admiral Byrd flex his claw. Then she spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in his cave lair. This morning she was resting just outside his lair, picking algae off the rock. He was napping inside.

With any luck, we can try the larvae thing again somtime soon?

I am in the middle of re-establishing the nursery tank. I had emptied everything from the original set-up, cleaned out the tank, put down the one inch or so of the calcium-releasing sand, and added the water. Now I did forget to rinse the sand out, so the tank water was cloudy at first, but it has settle out by now. I’m not sure how one effectively rinses sand out anyway without half of it going down the drain. I will say the white sand really makes the inside of the tank bright when the light is on. If we get babies again, it should be much easier to see them in such a bright tank.

I couldn’t decide whether to make the 3 gallons of water I added marine or brackish. I guess I should start brackish because first we’ll have to move the mom, whichever one of them it is, from their tank, which is brackish into this one. I wouldn’t want to shock them. Right now the tank is on the “marine side” of brackish. I’ll adjust the salinity with a bit more water shortly.

The live rock is back in the tank hopefully doing its thing to establish the nitrogen cycle. Both the air filter AND the bubbler are running and so hopefullly the tank environment will establish itself as quickly as possible. Rather than replace the old water filter cartridge and lose whatever nitrogen-fixing bacteria that had started to thrive in it, I left everything in place and returned it to the tank.

An interesting about the old water in that tank. I tested it before I emptied it out just to see if the nitrite levels ever came down. They read zero, and the nitrates were in the “okay” zone. I guess once I stopped using the live phytoplankton and let the water filter run for a few days, that was what it needed. So the phytoplankton was most likely the culprit in the high nitrites. In any event, I dumped the old water and just started with fresh sea/brackish water all over again.

One thing – that Reef Calcium product that I’d hoped would raise the alkalinity but not raise the pH, when added to half strength Instant Ocean… maybe it didn’t raise the pH but it didn’t solve the problem of the pH being too high from the Instant Ocean even when I used that at half strength. So I still had to use a pH lowering solution and this morning it is about 8.0 vs 8.4 that it was yesterday. So that’s perfect . At least though, the Reef Calcium did raise the alkalinity.

I will keep you all posted on any news from the adult tank. Keeping good thoughts for a new crop of larvae babies. Stay tuned.

The Post – The Fiddler Babies are Dead, But We’ll Start Over And Prove Horseyhannah Wrong!!

March 10, 2008

The fiddler babies are dead.

I am sad, because I really did like the fiddler babies. I looked around on the web last night for clues to their demise and that’s when I got ticked.

The Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet Online Forum had a discussion of how to raise fiddler crab larvae. “Horseyhannah,” a senior member on the forum basically told a member who asked how to raise fiddler larvae that it’s so hard and requires hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment to simulate ocean environments, waves, tides, etc. so it’s really not possible. Horseyhannah told the person to just enjoy the adult fiddler crabs and don’t bother to raise the babies. Needless to say, the person asking the question was polite, said thank you, agreed it will probably be hard, but would still like to know horseyhannah’s info source…just in case she decided to raise them anyway. My answer to that person is: GO FOR IT!!!! PROVE HORSEYHANNAH WRONG!!!!!

In fact, I am determined to do just that. In my book, Horseyhannah has thrown down the gauntlet and I am determined to prove her wrong.

I will concede failure on this first attempt. I am sad as I was so looking forward to having some fiddler grandchildren survive. I was frustrated and disappointed because contrary to the advice above, I think it was not only possible, but it was happening. Because I lost them so quickly, that tells me something overwhelming happened in the tank to kill them all off at once.

To review, by Friday afternoon, there were no babies moving around. It was a rapid decline, and up until that point, we still had quite a large number alive. I have to conclude it was a water quality issue and I think the biggest culprit was the live phytoplankton. But to go through this methodically, let me look at several things. If it were salinity, ie they didn’t like the marine environment I don’t think they would have lived that long in it to start with. I suspect the following things were problems:

1) I used gravel and we did lose MANY babies because they burrowed into the gravel crevices and died there.

2) The nitrite levels in the water spiked suddenly and got very toxic. Thoughts on this point:

a) I didn’t get the tank set up early enough to have a mature and well-functioning nitrogen cycle.

b) I either fed them the wrong food, or too much, or both. The wrong food or too much food meant it didn’t get eaten, sat in the tank and rotted. OR it created a huge algae bloom that raised nitrite levels beyond a tolerable level.

c) I didn’t change the water fast enough once I realized the nitrites were a problem, though given the phytoplankton issue, I was probablly fighting a losing battle from the beginning.

d) I no doubt lost babies doing the water changes because my only option was to bail water out of the tank and pour it down the drain

So boys and girls, what have I learned from this first attempt that can be done better next time?

1) I will use calcium sand not gravel. Aside from the fact that the babies won’t get trapped in the substrate material, the calcium sand will provide enough calcium for the babies to stay healthy during many molts.

2) Figure out the right food and amount. The gentleman from Finland whose article I quoted a few days back (he raised the Red Clayed Mangrove crabs) fed his larval crab Artemia…brine shrimp. He had a hatchery right in the tank to have a fresh supply. He also used something called JBL Nobilfluid for when the larvae were too small for the brine shrimp. This product is probably similar to the Small Fry liquid food I was using. It it made by a company in Germany and I’m trying to find out if it is marketed here. It has 50 different vitamins and minerals as well as brine shrimp and is geared for newly hatched aquatic animals too small to tackle live brine shrimp yet.

3) DON’T USE LIVE PHYTOPLANKTON this time. In spite of an almost 50% water change, I could not get the nitrite levels down. In fact, they kept rising. Now I am finding information that phytoplankton excrete nitrites. The better the phytoplankton did, the higher the nitrites. And with each feeding I basically inoculated the tank with more. I created my very own algae bloom which released such high nitrite levels, the babies were doomed.

Frankly, the tank seemed to be doing okay until I started using the phytoplankton. I would feed the liquid Small Fry food and while the tank would be cloudy initially, it cleared quickly, telling me the babies ate the food. At that point, in spite of it being a new tank with an unestablished nitrogen cycle, the nitrite levels stayed pretty low. However, once I started using the phytoplankton, the tank got cloudy quickly, the nitrite levels spiked, the water had a greenish tint, and the larval crabs numbers dropped dramatically. So, NO phytoplankton.

4) For water changes, instead of bailing water out, I will use the water bubbler as my “filter” to keep the babies in the tank, and let gravity siphon water out of the tube. I have the bubbler’s pump set up beneath the tank and have a regulator valve in the line to keep water from back-flowing from the air bubbler, into the pump. If I remove the valve and let the tube sit in a bucket, it will slowly siphon off water through the bubbler. This should let me slowly get water out for changes, without bailing larval crabs out of the tank and sending them down my kitchen drain.

So. I will start over. Admiral Byrd is doing his part, trying to get Scarlett O’Hara to notice him. Scarlett O’Hara has been eating and hanging around Admiral Byrd’s cave den. I figure it’s only a matter of time before Scarlett has eggs again. Therefore, tomorrow, I will take down the nursery tank, clean it out, get some calcium sand, and get that tank up and running again with the live rock in it, and get that nitrogen cycle stable.

We are going to try this again! My husband and I would love some fiddler grandchildren, 🙂 and even he said that we must prove Horseyhannah wrong!!! Stay tuned.