Monday, December 26, 2016

Anglefish Mouth Stuck Open - Fixed

In this 55 gal planted tank next to the sofa, there are a pair of angelfish, about 18 glowlight tetras, seven glass catfish, and a bristlenose pleco.

At the beginning of the month, I saw that my smaller anglefish's mouth appeared to be stuck open.  He could not eat and the other angel began to pick on him with an alarming enthusiasm.

I moved the fish to a quarantine tank and began to do some research.

Searches of the Internet for Anglefish mouth stuck open yielded lots of hits and advice ranging from check its mouth for something stuck in it to there's no hope.  I followed this up with visits to local fish stores.  At one store, the fellow working the shop, not the owner, had never heard of such a thing and had little to offer. At the other, the fellow said he had seen the phenomenon and it happened more among angelfish and dwarf cichlids than other types of fish.  He said they usually starve to death. 

Disheartened, having raised this pair from small juveniles, I resolved to come up with a reasonable plan and at least try to improve my skills and knowledge with respect to injured and sick fish. I then remembered I had biologist friends, Lindsey and Chris, who worked with fish.  I contacted Lindsey and described the problem.  Though she and her husband didn't know the cause and were not familiar with the phenomenon, she did bring up the idea of using clove oil as an anesthetic to relax the fish and sent me a journal article about dosages.  It's critical to get the dosage right because clove oil is also used for euthanizing fish.  Additionally, Lindsey and Chris volunteered to come by and help me look in its mouth to verify nothing was stuck in its mouth or throat. Not having handled my angels out of the water or tried to do any fine work with them like peering in their throats, I welcomed the offer. 

Within a couple of days I put together this plan:
  • Treat with magnesium sulfate to see if relaxing muscles might help. (Magnesium sulfate can also be used to relax fish and is frequently used in cases of constipation.  Not only did I have some on hand, I wasn't as worried about accidental overdose, like the clove oil.)
  • If this didn't work, verify there is nothing stuck in its throat. 
  • If throat is clear and jaw still locked, leave alone for a few more days and see if it resolves on its own
  • If it doesn't, consider euthanization so as to not starve it to death.
I shared this plan with Lindsey.  And then, on a whim, though I didn't expect a response, with Cory, who owns and runs Aquarium Co-Op in Edmonds, Washington, and from whose YouTube channel I've learned some things.  Surprisingly, Cory messaged me back quickly and told me the plan sounded solid.  

Emboldened, I put the plan into action with one modification. Because circumstances were favorable and because I definitely wanted to have Lindsey and Chris teach me how to handle my fish correctly, I used the both the magnesium sulfate and checked the mouth and throat the same day. Unfortunately, if the fish's condition improved, I wouldn't know which treatment to credit.  

We quickly caught the listless fish and secured it folded in a cloth moistened with the tank water. Under a bright light, using a sterilized tip of a small plastic zip tie, Chris and Linsey inspected its throat and declared it clear.  Lindsey also gently manipulated its jaw, which offered no apparent resistance. Not finding anything definitive, we returned the fish to quarantine and tidied up.  Then, peeking back into the tank, we noticed the mouth was no longer wide open. It was a small "O" shape, not quite normal, but different, at least.  Chris recommended some API Stress Coat and we took a wait and see attitude. 

Two days later, the fish's mouth was still slightly puckered and he hadn't shown any interest in eating and moved only to hide when I peeked in the tank. It also had an abnormal whiteness to the upper part of its mouth. I contacted Lindsey and again and she confirmed my impulse to return it to its home tank in hopes that it would reduce stress. 

Back in its tank, the fish hid, but in a couple of days the mouth looked more normal and it was making half-hearted attempts towards food.  In another day, I returned home late and the main lights had already gone out, leaving only the dim bluish moonlight and I put a few flakes at one end for the more aggressive angel, and then sprinkled a few above the ailing fish.  To my delight, it darted to the surface and grabbed a big flake, sucking it in normally, even though its mouth still didn't look quite right. 

Over the next week, the fish continued to improve, showing deepened color, ever increasing enthusiasm for food, and now 20 days later, seems completely recovered. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Yeast CO2 system

I have work to do on the diffuser system, but this is a good start and I can see if it works. I used three 2-liter bottles. Two have the yeast sugar combination and the third ensures no muck from the solution gets to the tank. The air flow from the third bottle goes through a backflow preventer . This way, if water ever sucks back up the hose, it will it will be stopped from flooding anything. The hoses from the solution bottles are submerged in the third bottle. When the system starts generating CO2, I'll be able to get a bubbles per minute count.

Theoretically, in this lightly stocked tank, the plants don't get enough CO2 to make use of available light.  Guess we'll see what happens, especially once the diffuser is improved.

Friday, November 06, 2015

For all things cycling... new blog posts at different location

If you still get updates on this blog and you're interested in cyclocross racing, all my posts about that have moved to the Goldenrod Pastries Cyclocross blog.  I've written a couple of reflective pieces (start at the bottom of the page and read up) on my return to racing and there are also race reports, and quite a few pictures.  It's really been a fun process and I will have some new geo-location stuff up here sometime soonish. maybe. :)

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Garden update: focus on composting

Composting is one of my favorite parts of gardening. I find it fascinating to watch nature do its work and take kitchen refuse, shredded leaves, grass clippings, and other miscellany and turn it into rich matter that sends my veggies a growing.  There's simply no way to make enough.  In fact, it's only the first part of June and I've already used up all the leaves from last fall.

If you do not yet compost, here's the recipe:  1 part green + 2 parts brown.  Layer and wait.

Green refers to nitrogen-rich items like kitchen scraps (no meats or grease - veggie only), while "brown" refers to things like fall leaves, newspaper, and cardboard.

In my kitchen, I keep a one-gallon container into which go coffee grounds, veggie trimmings, and egg shells.  This sits under my prep table and gets taken out to the main pile about every other day. It doesn't stick or anything like that.  I do have a fancy stainless steel one, but it has a lid and just isn't as handy for me.  (Let me know if you're interested.)  I usually chop things up into smaller bits, especially if they don't break down quickly.  For example, pineapple takes a while, so I chop it up.  In contrast, tomatoes and bell pepper cores break down rapidly.

I find old ice cream buckets to be incredibly useful for compost as well as fermentation containers for bread-making.

My beloved food processor earns its keep in
so many ways: nut butters, slaws,
doughs, and compost making. 

Materials from the kitchen are then layered in on the compost pile, which is contained by three wooden pallets, rendering it about 3.5 feet square.  I shake out the bucket contents across the top and add grass clippings to complete the layer if MFD has recently mowed.  Then, I top that layer with a layer of shredded leaves, or other "brown" items such as shredded paper or cardboard to twice the thickness of the "green" layer.

In short order, the materials are broken down as shown by this forkful below.

I will build the pile to about 2.5-3 feet tall, then mix it by forking into an adjacent bin.  This will give it a good boost of oxygen and rev up the breakdown process.  The next pile will start.  A compost pile should never stink.  If it does, then there is too much "green" or it's too wet and you have some anaerobic decay, which is when oxygen is in short supply.  It will get really hot (think lawn clippings in a pile) and stink.   If your compost pile gets too hot, you may also kill the earthworms and other organisms working to break it down.  If it's too cold, then it takes much longer to break down into useable compost.  This is why the ratio is important. 

A note on the egg shells

Dad keeps a bunch of chickens on The Farm.  The Chicken Patrol roams the property munching grasshoppers and flies along with working the stable manure pile for larvae. Their work greatly reduces the pest problems and has the side benefit of multitudes of eggs and an occasional pot of stewed chicken.  The bounty is shared with us townies. Personally, I love eggs and often have them for breakfast.  I usually do them up as one yolk with three whites in olive oil topped with fresh dill and chives with a sprinkling of red and black peppers.  Then, I compost the shells.

Last year, I just crunched them up however it happened in the compost pile, but this year I've been a bit more industrious so that when I put the compost in the beds, the shells are bit finer in texture.  I put the shells in the processor, crunch them down a bit with a wood spoon, the turn it on for a few seconds, et voila! Nice, fine shells to mix in with coffee grounds and even the torn up scraps of the cardboard egg cartons.   (Yes, I could reuse those, but Mom says they have  basement full, so back to the earth they go for now.)

I put compost directly on the beds, about 1-2 inches deep, and plant. This pic shows the bush beans, emerging cukes, and the upper level has broccoli, herbs, and another variety of beans.  All last year's compost went into these two beds. The soil is much improved.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Playing "Allotment"

So, mom and I have been watching "Sean's Allotment Garden" on YouTube - and have been completely charmed by the unpretentious, unscripted, unprogrammed  , unproduced - that's the word I'm looking for -- nature of the series and are now pretending we have our own out at The Farm.  Mom has this great big bed with fantastic soil constructed in the foundation of an old chicken house, but it was overrun with weeds, with raspberries running amok on the north side, and more weed beds on the south.  To take control of it is a big job, so my mother, ever the clever one, calls me up and says, "do you need a little more space?"  Of course I do.  I'm a sprawler.  I mean, where oh where are my squash going to go? And, there is simply not enough bell pepper space at the cottage.


Mom got busy first and cleared the top level of weeds.

Then I used my pond-digging skills to create a path and a raised bed that we secured with some wood stolen from my dad's collection.  Before dark, we were able to put in a row of bell peppers and cucumbers that we will trellis on the fence.  Next up, put some chips down on the paths and create the other beds.  However, Mom has been quite busy.  She's cleared out the unproductive raspberry brambles and the south beds, which are now fully of tomatoes and asparagus growing fantastically. 

The thing we need next is a nearby garden shed where we can have our tea. That's what Sean and his allotment friends do, unless they're having a cold beer (see one of the Geoff episodes). 

Allotment gardens are widespread and here in the U.S. are similar to the community garden movement along with the "victory gardens" from WWII.  I don't know much about the historical roots of either movement right now, but here are a few links of interest:

If you know more or have a link to share, please do so in the comments. 

June 9 update

Mom has really dug into our project.  I am feeling the slacker. 
View from the south.  There are raised beds along this side with asparagus (far right), tomatoes, as well as hollyhocks.

Getting in upper-body work for sure. New beds already dug in.  Mom is a hard act to follow.

I was just thinking we needed a place to have our lemonade and admire our work.

Best reuse of tires: squash planters.  The wire will keep the chickens out until the plants establish themselves.


Friday, May 08, 2015

Illuminating Lincoln: Lighthouse - map and map files

So far, I have tested with my iPad and my Android phone.  On Android, use the .kml file with Google Earth and use the .gpx file with a mapping app like OsmAnd.   In iOS, try the .kml file first.  Tweet pics when you locate them using the #lightbulbchallenge.

For more information about the project see the Journal Star article and the Lighthouse website.

Edit: A better article about the project on the Journal Star site.

Download files:


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Kitchen Garden, Visit from a Marine, and Fight Club

Terraces + raised bed = ~900 sq. ft. 

Kitchen Garden

Last year, I expanded the raised herb garden by terracing the slope. This gave me four ~16'x2' beds separated by old railroad ties.  The terrace beds have good drainage and the ties give me a place to walk such that I never have to step on the soil. Consequently, it doesn't require any digging before planting really, though I did dig in my compost and some leaf mold in last fall.  The soil, like much of that in eastern Nebraska, is clumpy because of the clay, but with regular applications of compost and leaf mulch combined with a multitude of earthworms, I expect rich loamy soil in time.
Just like the picture
on the seed package. 

This month we also used the broken concrete from the back patio to make stepping stones from the front walk to the garden, then on around to the patio.  This makes it easy for me to dart from the kitchen to the garden with no shoes. Additionally, it saves us from hauling the concrete to the landfill or somesuch.

The radishes are "French Breakfast" and have a milder flavor that other varieties. The grow quickly and I've been planting a few every two weeks to space out the harvest. I chopped up the radish tops, sauteed them lightly, and had them for dinner atop brown rice with a couple of eggs.  My folks have chickens who patrol the farm for grasshoppers and other bugs, as well as earn their keep turning the compost piles. In turn, they produce the most delicious eggs which my mother generously drops by the house when she's in town.

A Visit from Corporal Brown

Nick treated us with a visit this month and we hosted a small garden party.  It was a bit early and the weather was windy and chill in the  morning, but by late afternoon when people began to arrive, the weather had warmed and it was quite pleasant.
4x4s and cinder blocks provided expanded fire pit seating.
This view will change substantially this year.
The Founders All-Day IPA proved popular. 

My little darlings. 

Solomon's Seal and the last tulip graced the buffet table.

After most everyone left, Lyle ventured forth. He prefers pond water to his kitchen bowl.

Lacerations and Punctures

Speaking of the three-legged wonder, there's a new member at fight club - we'll call him Fangs. I suspect a feral tom cat from the severity of the wounds Lyle is bringing home.  The first time, it wasn't too deep, but the second round merited a visit to the vet.  Fangs digs into the right side of Lyle's neck, then shreds his belly with his back claws.  It isn't pretty and Lyle's new name should probably be "Scarbelly". 

In response, we tried to keep Lyle in, but if you've ever heard him yowl, you know it's impossible. So, we made a short fence using chicken wire.

This wouldn't contain most cats, but Lyle doesn't have much of a vertical jump, so it kept him in so long as he had
supervision.  If you went inside or put him out at night, he found ways to get under the fence. 
The wire didn't hold him for long, but for a couple of weeks we kept him contained and his wounds healed up. This last weekend, however, he ran into Fangs again and again has neck wounds.  This time, no trip to the vet.  Instead, I stocked up on vet supplies and have been taking care of it and things seem to be healing nicely.  The real challenge is how to keep Lyle from running into Fangs in the future. 

Although a bit high-maintenance, the rare short-legged tripod feline
makes it all worth it when he greets me at the door and
insists on post-work lap time.