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Live Chat with Rhonda Wilson

by TFH Magazine on November 14, 2011 at 6:26 am

Photograph by Rhonda Wilson

Crazygar: This evening I have the opportunity to interview and get to know TFH’s Planted Tank columnist Rhonda Wilson (cheering sound like in those Gladiator Movies). Not only is Rhonda a great Planted Tank person whom advocates Natural methods, she also has a great sense of humor and the owner of Natural Aquariums ( .

Before I begin the interview, I would like to remind everyone about a few ground rules before proceeding:

Crazygar: 1) While the interview is in progress, I would like to ask everyone from refraining from popping in with a question or comment. Please write down your question, as we are having a small open forum at the end of the session.

2) When the Open Forum begins, I will queue people on a first come first served basis. Remember, we only have a limited amount of time, so there can only be a limited amount of questions. If not all questions get answered, I am sure Rhonda will answer them via the PM system in time. Remember, like the rest of us, she has a life outside as well.

3) Use the PRIVATE MESSAGE Command on the right hand side of your chat window to ask to be put in queue for a question, an updated list of “order” will be sent (privately) as more participants increase Now that the rules and welcomes are down, let’s begin…

Rhonda, now that you can’t go anywhere, how are you doing this evening? BTW: “gupp” is Rhonda

Rhonda Wilson: Great, Thank you. I’m excited to be here tonight, able to chat. I have to say I’m still pretty excited about some of the things the internet has done for us, which I suppose dates me a bit. But I think it’s wonderful that we can do this.

Crazygar: Your recent column on Anarchris is interesting. I have had ZERO luck on growing this plant. What was the inspiration behind this article and why?

Rhonda Wilson: Anacharis is a old time popular aquarium plant. It’s listed in all the early aquarium literature I have. It’s been a regular in the stores as long as I’ve been keeping aquariums. Yet it has this odd mixture of names and not many people talk about it. And as you said you’ve had trouble with it. It isn’t always the easiest to grow plant but it’s everywhere and I think most people that experiment with aquarium plants are going to have it in their tanks at least once. It’s good to know what we have. Sometimes I think people dismiss things if they’re common. So it’s not a plant that everyone is talking about but we all see it, and it can be useful in the aquarium. I’m also personally constantly fascinated with the discovery and naming of plants and this is one that has several names and is identified differently in a lot of aquarium resources so part of it was a bit of a personal search. On that part I didn’t get quite as much information as I would have liked but I think I did get a little more clarification of all

Oops sorry a bit too long.

… of all the confusion in the naming of the plant. So I guess my answer is 3 fold, giving hobbyists some information on a plant they will undoubtedly see a lot of, encouraging them to maybe check out a plant they might otherwise dismiss because it’s so common, and trying to figure out the mystery of its names.

Crazygar: If you were to pick one plant you are most knowledgeable about, what plant would it be?

Rhonda Wilson: That’s a surprisingly difficult question. I really don’t think there is one plant I know more about than others. I really like primitive plants so I tend to read about the mosses, liverworts and ferns we keep in our aquariums a bit more. I also have a thing for the Potamogetons, there are so many of them. I see them growing in native waters all the time. There are some real cool ones and they are really underutilized in the aquarium.

Crazygar: You advocate Natural Methods to Aquariums. What is your reasoning behind this?

Rhonda Wilson: Well it all started when I was a young high school student trying to pay for multiple aquariums. I had purchased one of the new at the time over the back filters for one of my tanks. The motor on it died and I was just unhappy about it dying so quickly and how much it had cost originally and then what it would cost to fix it. I was tired of messing with the filters and just decided to not fix it. It didn’t seem to adversely affect the tank. So I just started slowly using less equipment on my tanks and it worked.

Then I got on the internet, back in the way back days of FishNet on Compuserve, and finally was able to start talking to other aquarium hobbyists, and people kept telling me I couldn’t do what I was doing. Well I was keeping tanks without filters and it worked so obviously that wasn’t accurate. It’s not that I think that natural aquariums are the only way.

In some situations I would highly advise against such a set up, depending on the type of fish and quantity of them, a natural aquarium could be a recipe for disaster. But on the other hand it offers an alternative. I’m not really out to change everyone to natural aquariums, it’s more that I want to let people know there are multiple ways to have a successful aquarium, and this is one of them.

hmm that should be quantity of them. I’m not sure why it changed in the copy and paste.

Crazygar: Word filter, really have to fix it. Haha.

Rhonda Wilson: I think it’s something strange in the word filter lol

Crazygar: I have noticed that in your monthly columns, you always have a wide variety of fish to complement your Aquariums. Which fish do you find the most Planted Tank friendly and why?

Rhonda Wilson: Most of the small fish that are available to aquarists are suitable for the planted aquarium. It really depends on what the person with the tank prefers. Personally I tend to like small fish that breed easily. Visually colorful schooling fish are very nice in the aquarium also.

I keep wild types of livebearers and killifish the most. The fish I keep kind of come about in combinations of what I like, what’s available, what my friends are keeping, and what will do well in the water that comes out of the tap. I think this is kind of how we all end up choosing a lot of our fish.

Crazygar: You spend a lot of time outdoors looking for neat plants for our Aquariums. Have you ever run into something that “does not belong” on your travels?

Rhonda Wilson: Oh yes all the time. Its sad how many invasive plants are everywhere! I used to think that it couldn’t possibly be from aquarium hobby people releasing them. I always thought it was just leftovers from ponds in the old days when people weren’t as smart about not releasing things in the wild. Then I read reports of Glossostigma in California. It was a relatively new plant to the hobby in the United States and it was hard not to realize that it was very likely introduced by aquarium people.

It was a sobering and disappointing realization. And now more and more plants are becoming illegal to own. I believe Texas now has a list of legal plants, anything not on the list isn’t allowed. It’s sad. I personally would rather see the laws we have enforced but I can also understand the frustration with the people trying to keep this stuff out of our natural environments and why they would want to ban these plants. I wish we could find a better way to police ourselves to keep people from being careless or purposefully releasing things, so the government agencies wouldn’t feel the need to introduce laws banning plants.

Crazygar: Well said. Can you give us a sample Aquarium setup in your current possession that has produced wonderful results for growing plants?

Rhonda Wilson: have to admit my aquariums right now are not at their best. I’ve been planning on moving for several years now and am close to going, so I’ve been reducing a lot and not spending as much time keeping them pretty as I did previously. But for just plant growth the best tank I’ve done was with compost and soil under black gravel for substrate and used a yeast CO2 system, and lots of water changes. It was a 20 long and I also had 2 of the light fixtures using the T5 bulbs so a total of 4 tubes, 2 Colormax and 2 6700k.

Honestly it grew so well it was hard to keep up with. You can get a lot of incredible plant growth with these systems and some people go much further than that, but they require a lot more time than a more simple set up. When you have a lot of tanks simple can be a good thing.

Crazygar: What is your favorite fish and why?

Rhonda Wilson: That’s kind of hard to say. I had some Cyprinodon veronicae that I was very fond of a number of years ago, but they really did much better in outside pools than in fishtanks in the house. They were just very beautiful rare fish, they were great to trade with, and I was getting lots of babies at the time.

Also had a very great fondness, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but to my Giessen Guppies. A lot of hobbyists kind of snub their noses at Guppies in general and these ones are ridiculously finned. But I think their attractive fish, I particularly was fond of my big females. It was fun to breed them, there’s a bit of a challenge, and I was really happy with the colors I had after working with them for many years.

Crazygar: Soul Hugger is a Guppy Addict as well. I know where you are coming from. Have you ever strayed outside the Planted Tank world into more exotic tanks? i.e. Marine or Brackish?

Rhonda Wilson: Oh yes, both. I’ve had several marine tanks. They seem to always have had a really bad time whenever I left someone else to care for them whenever I went out of town. I liked keeping a lot of the seaweeds in the marine tank, Caulerpa and some of the pretty red macro algae. I also kept crabs, snails, clown fish, mushroom anemones.

I’ve had a couple brackish tanks too. I’ve found them more frustrating because it’s so hard to find any plants that will grow in them. I did keep a breeding group of Pseudomugil cyanodorsalis in a brackish tank for several years, and killed quite a few plants trying to get them to grow in their tank. The only ones that really survived were mangroves and crypt ciliata.

Crazygar: Your fish room at your residence, how many tanks and which one is your favorite?

Rhonda Wilson: Well I was kind of changing the fish room a bit and cutting down before I started getting ready to move. At one point I was trying to get as many tanks as possible in there, but decided later on that I’d rather have less tanks, but larger and on the shelves long wise instead of with the small ends sticking out. I had close to a hundred at one point but was working with about 70 when I started getting ready to move.

I think my favorite tank has to be my 50 gallon in the living room.

Crazygar: How did you get started with TFH Rhonda?

Rhonda Wilson: I had been reading TFH since I was a kid in the 1970’s. I had already co-written the book, The Simple Guide to Planted Aquariums, for TFH. I just happened to noticed that the regular aquarium plant column that was in the magazine had ended and so I asked if they might be interested in having me write a planted tank column and as they say, the rest is history.

Crazygar: Cool. With the ALA (American Livebearers Association), how did you get involved with this group?

Rhonda Wilson: Once again the internet and being on AOL put me in contact with the person who was chairperson at the time. I was did some artwork for the Livebearers publication, and was eventually asked to join the board then to run for chairperson. Which I did for awhile until my family responsibilities made it difficult.

Crazygar: As I ask everyone… do you keep a tank strictly for “display only”? What type of tank is it?

Rhonda Wilson: Kind of. My 50 gallon living room tank is supposed to be. It tends to get redesigned every few years, and is featured often in my column. Right now it’s got a huge piece of wood in it, quite a bit of moss, some Hygro difformis, pygmy chain sword, Anubius nana, and Zosterella dubia. The fish are a nice school of celestial pearl danios that have been breeding and keeping the tank nicely populated through the last few redesigns. This is the same tank I’d have to count as my favorite you asked about earlier also. Not technically in the fishroom though. lol

Crazygar: When Dr. Ted Coletti was a feature columnist at TFH, Ted and yourself often exchanged columns at least once a year. What was your favorite “Livebearers Unlimited” article?

Rhonda Wilson: That’s hard to say. I really enjoyed doing the switches because it gave me the opportunity to write about my fish too. It’s sometimes hard to think of what to write about after a few years of doing. I think my favorites were the ones on Characodon and Brachyraphis, because these are both types of fish that I really like.

Crazygar: Any advice for people starting out in the Planted Tank world, as there are so many options available now?

Rhonda Wilson: I think the important thing is to know yourself. People that are very good at being disciplined with themselves that are consistent that want a real showpiece are probably going to do fine and be happy with a high tech set up that requires a lot of care.

For less disciplined folks like me that type of tank my turn out to be more of a nightmare, because it needs regular very consistent care to look it’s best. For busier people or younger children a more simple set up, that doesn’t need as much daily maintenance is probably going to be more successful. I think the most important thing is to try to make that first tank a success. Once someone knows they can do it they will be more willing to try new things in the future.

When I first started writing my column I really thought about what approach I wanted to take. I love aquariums and want to share that with other people. I decided that there were a lot of experts and once someone really gets in to the hobby they’ll probably start finding all the information they need themselves. It’s out there and once a person gets to the hard core aquarists stage they’re able to get that information themselves.

I wanted to address the beginning hobbyists more because I think they need it more. I wanted to help people to not stress about the small stuff and be able to successfully enjoy the hobby. It’s kind of silly but I was talking about this with Shari the other day, and when I started writing the column I really decided that I wanted to be kind of like Bob Ross with his happy little trees in the corner. Try to make it easy, help folks not to sweat the small stuff and enjoy their aquariums.

Crazygar: ROFL @ Bob Ross reference. Have you ever attempted to recreate a specific Biotope in one of your tanks? If so, what was it?

Rhonda Wilson: Lol I know the Bob Ross thing is kind of funny. But Yes several times but I don’t think very successfully. It’s really difficult to first of all find out what exact plants and fish are found together and then actually being able to acquire the specimens needed to complete the tank. Unless you know someone who has been to where the fish were collected and also noted the plant life, and water conditions, or you know someone that lives near where the fish are collected it’s extremely difficult to get more than basic information. It’s not hard to find what continent a plant is from, but what specific bodies of water is much more difficult.

So I have done tanks with fish and plants from the same continent, such as Amazon swords, cories and cardinal tetras, but I doubt any of them have been very accurate. I would love to do some recreations of natural environments I’ve explored. I would really love to be able to explore some more environments. I’ve had a lifelong dream of going to South America to collect.

Then I’d really know what to put together in the tanks.

Crazygar: South America is fun, you’d actually fit right in. You are a very elusive person, obviously, you don’t spend your entire life on the computer. What else do you do that makes you so hard to get a hold of? (haha, you knew I would eventually throw this in)

Rhonda Wilson: This is actually the hardest of the questions to answer. Really the truth is I’m often pretty overwhelmed. I’ve always kept my life pretty full, and then my 2 youngest children are autistic. I used to be a housewife but my husband and I separated a few years ago and so I’ve been trying to balance all that I was doing before and now also try to earn enough money to pay the bills. I was pretty busy before but the last few years have been really crazy. Truthfully, it’s just usually because I just have a lot of trouble fitting more in. I get a lot of requests and I really am honored by them and appreciate them but a lot of the time, I just can’t do more. So I guess the answer is selfish self preservation.

Crazygar: For hobbies outside the Aquarium World, what are they?

Rhonda Wilson: I collect vintage dolls, and pink depression glass. I also love to hike, camp, fish and take nature photos. I garden, I like to decorate, I sew, crochet lace, sometimes draw or sculpt. I bead and make jewelry. Oh and I like books and have a pretty good library, especially aquarium books. Never a dull moment in Rhonda World. lol

Crazygar: Rhonda, you are my GF’s double. Wow

Rhonda Wilson: rofl

Crazygar: When you were the Chairperson of the ALA, what were the typical Duties like?

Rhonda Wilson: Most of it was just organizing what people wanted to do and get everyone to agree on what we were doing. At the time we were still using mostly snail mail. I would write a note that tried to include everyone’s ideas ask for responses then wait until they came in to try to organize them and reach decisions. The conventions were fun, I wish I could have gone to more. Then the Chairperson acts as the host, or hostess, making announcements and chatting to people to get their ideas and thoughts.

Crazygar: The Simple Guide to Planted Aquariums, the book you authored under T.F.H. Publications, what was the inspiration behind that?

Rhonda Wilson: Actually I was contacted by TFH. They had liked my website and asked if I was interested in writing a book on planted aquariums. I felt that at the time I was really just working with natural aquariums and didn’t feel that I knew enough about CO2 and high tech tanks to be able to do so well. I ended up talking to my friend from FishNet Terry Barber, who had written books for TFH before and we decided to do the book together.

Crazygar: Your Forum (​)  Natural Aquariums, it’s been around for a long time. It’s been an invaluable resource for many of us looking for more natural methods to keeping planted tanks. How long has it been running for now?

Rhonda Wilson: Thank you, I started the site back in about 1997. I had been working on the PetsForum web pages, which FishNet was a part of. So I taught myself html because the programs that did it back then were really bad. Then I decided to do my own site. I started with a little one that came with my ISP, then moved on to my own URL. So almost 15 years.

Crazygar: Wow. Impressive. Did you ever think for a minute, when you were younger, that you’d be this involved in the hobby as you are now?

Rhonda Wilson: I knew this one was coming up so I didn’t elaborate on the “how did you get started with TFH” question. This is pretty hokey really but I’ve been reading TFH since the mid 70’s, when I was a young girl. I still have those magazines. I loved the collecting trip articles by Dr. Axelrod.

Always thought it would be an incredible dream job to be able to travel the world and write about collecting fish. I haven’t found anyone willing to pay me to collect fish around the world yet, but I do feel incredibly happy about the fact that I am able to write for TFH. And it really was a childhood dream come true.

So I didn’t know but I was thinking about it even back then.

Crazygar: Technology wise, what is your view on the greatest Aquarium innovation in the last 20 years that has made it that much more simpler to keep Planted Aquaria?

Rhonda Wilson: Well my favorite aquarium innovation is probably a bit older than that, which is my python. I used to do water changes with a bucket and used a hose to fill them, starting the siphon, by sucking on the hose like a straw to get the water flowing and then dumping the end in the bucket before it got to my mouth. The last time I did that was cleaning a cichlid tank, and I wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was doing. I started the hose, in a nasty corner of the tank, and then got distracted at the wrong time ending up with a mouth full of really nasty water. I got my first python right after that.

In general for plants the addition of added CO2 has been good for many plant keepers though that’s not really an innovation. For fish I would say the breathable bags, though I don’t like using those bags for plants. Better lighting options have helped too.

I think the thing that has probably been the best for the planted hobby in general has been Takashi Amano. People really got up and took notice and it really vitalized the whole planted tank hobby. It got a lot more people interested and encouraged the experimentation that’s led to more knowledge in general of planted aquariums and aquarium plants. And of course he really was what got people wanting shrimp in their aquariums also which has been a fun new addition to the hobby.

Crazygar: Your children, what do they think of your Aquarium hobby? Do they actively participate or is this solely your thing?

Rhonda Wilson: My older 2 boys have had some fish tanks but aren’t that interested. My youngest son likes to feed the fish sometimes, but no they aren’t really that interested. I did used to keep an aquarium in the media center of my youngest sons school and did weekly talks for the different classes for a couple years. It was a really good experience and I really enjoyed working with the kids.

Crazygar: I know that you collect/sell Antique Dolls and Pink Depression Glass. What are your favorite pieces and why?

Rhonda Wilson: I like my dolls I still have from my childhood. Otherwise I have quite a few favorites. I mostly collect older hard plastic dolls from the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. My favorites seem to have the most distinctive faces, with chubby cheeks. I like the dolls, they’re cute, I make clothes for them too. I’m not really sure why I like them I just do.

With the pink glass I started collecting with a few pieces from my Great Grandmother. One of her old pieces is probably still my favorite. It’s an unusual very long tall bowl, one of the few pieces I’ve still never been able to identify. My mom collects ruby depression glass so this was kind of a hobby I do with my mom.

Crazygar: How did you get into the Antique Doll hobby? What is the oldest one in your current collection?

Rhonda Wilson: I started by trying to replace a few pieces of furniture in an old Marx dollhouse that had been my moms. It used to sit on the fireplace at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house when I was a girl. My little brother and sister had lost some of the pieces when they were playing with it after Grandma and Grandpa passed away.

So I replaced those pieces, but while looking found a bunch of other neat furniture from the same era so I got a second house, then started getting a few dolls, then branched over to more dolls. I’ve been selling the majority of them lately. It kind of got out of control. I think there may be a bit of a theme there, with the many tanks, many dolls.

I have a few small dolls from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s and several composition dolls from the 20’s and 30’s. Though most are from the 40’s and 50’s.

Crazygar: In regards to other Pets, what else do you keep other than Aquatic?

Rhonda Wilson: Well I like having a cat but my last one died (she was elderly) a little over a year ago and knowing I was thinking of moving I haven’t gotten another yet. I also like to keep chickens and sometimes ducks. I used to keep a lot of small pets but just don’t feel like I have the time or energy for that any more.

Crazygar: Rhonda, you are a person doing many things all the time, when do you find the time to just relax and do nothing?

Rhonda Wilson: Umm, well, I don’t really watch TV or anything the closest I think is playing silly games on Facebook; farmville, etc. Though I haven’t been doing that much the last couple months. I really enjoy just working in my garden, just sitting and pulling weeds, or trimming plants. I usually have friends stopping by everyday so I like visiting with them. I don’t really do much of the doing nothing.

Crazygar: Yeah, no more getting battered with Facebook invites to games.. I wondered about that. ROFL

Rhonda Wilson: lol

Crazygar: As we near the end of the Q&A Session, I’d like to thank Rhonda Wilson for letting us get to know a bit more about herself outside the Aquatic World. I’ve had a great time this evening and it was nice to finally interview you for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine. Before I get to the open Forum, I have one random question I ask each interviewee…

Crazygar: You ready?

Rhonda Wilson: Yes, I hope

Crazygar: Ok, on the terms of music, your favourite type and then all time favourite band (please, no disco…)

Rhonda Wilson: Ahh music. I could talk a lot about that. I’m mostly a rock type girl. I was in choir and jazz choir in high school so enjoy singing along to jazz sometimes too. I think my current favorite band is probably Incubus.

Crazygar: ROFL I never would had you pegged for that!

Rhonda Wilson: But I like a lot of music, Nightwish, Tool, and older bands. I worked in radio for many years. so kind of got tired of some of the old bands. Led Zeppelin

Crazygar: I’m a Led Hed, hear you there, I listen to music off the beaten path. On behalf of Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, the people whom have shown up for this event this evening, we’d like to thank you for taking the time to chat with us this evening and finally getting a good insight into your world.

J.B.: Incubus is the best!

Rhonda Wilson: Told you I could talk music a lot. rofl

Crazygar: At this point, we’ll have an open Forum where you can ask Rhonda some questions in turn, please respect the question being asked by not typing until your turn. A transcript of this chat will be up shortly within the TFH Forum and TFH Magazine Website shortly. Thanks and Rhonda, I turn the floor to you for some questions. Remember, at 7pm (TFH Standard Time), the interview session concludes…

Never mind the time folks, 1 hour, 20min of Open session. I forgot that the rest of the world had a time change. My bad.

Rhonda Wilson: All night chat party.

Crazygar: Ok, and our first runner up is Seedreemer

Seedreemer: Thank you, crazygar.

Seedreemer: Hi Rhonda and thank you for taking the time to chat tonight. I just planted some Anubias congensis directly into my substrate while leaving the rizome exposed above the substrate. I’ve read they grow fine this way but is that true?

Rhonda Wilson: As long as the rhizome isn’t under the substrate it should be fine. The Anubias will send roots down on their own too.

Seedreemer: Great! Thank you.

Crazygar: Next… Thanks Seedreemer

Rhonda Wilson: Even on logs and things they will send some down to root in the substrate.

Seedreemer: Yes, I have others that have done that. Thanks!

J.B.: Hey Rhonda…is there one particular plant that has been your “Achilles Heel” so-to-speak?

Rhonda Wilson: I had a terrible time with Glosso for the longest time until I used CO2, then it grows like crazy. I love water sprite but it won’t grow in this water without CO2 either. I used to grow it like crazy when I lived up north. I’m hoping after my move I’ll be able to grow that again.

There are quite a few plants that don’t like the hard water we have here and will only grow well with additional CO2.

J.B.: believe it or not, my most difficult plant is Java Fern…I cannot get it to grow in my tanks and it’s not my water…I’ve given a fellow, local aquarist some of mine and it’s beautiful in his tanks

Rhonda Wilson: I’ve had issues with that one sometimes too but CO2 fixed it also. It’s just the water here I think.

J.B.: OTH…I can grow Vals like nobody’s business and they die almost immediately in his tank. *OTOH

Rhonda Wilson: Hmmm, do you have a bubbler or water movement in your tank? I’ve sometimes wondered about java fern and water movement.

J.B.: plenty of flow in my tanks

Rhonda Wilson: Yes val grows like crazy for me too.

J.B.: Gary will say I don’t leave my tanks alone enough for things to grow, but I’ve been much better about that lately

Crazygar: Hahaha

Rhonda Wilson: You know I think there are just so many things going on that it’s more difficult to really know what’s happening in our tanks than I think most people thing it is. That was a poor sentence. sigh

J.B.: I understood what you meant

Rhonda Wilson: I just think that there are so many factors, not just the water and nutrients and things we put in, but every organism in the tank changes it too. I kind of think of it like chaos in science.

Crazygar: Thanks J.B., next is N2Biomes…

N2Biomes: Thank you, Crazygar

Rhonda Wilson: You can know a lot of it, and you can have a pretty good idea of what’s happening, but there are just so many factors that we can’t really know that can change things.

N2Biomes: Rhonda, you said you have had a group of Cyprinodon veronicae. Do you have them still?

Rhonda Wilson: No, I’ve been trying to get some back for the last 11 years. I sent out over 300 fry one summer yet no one seemed to be able to get them going.

N2Biomes: That’s too bad…. they are an endangered species in the wild

Rhonda Wilson: I suppose when I move it will be pointless anyway because they really do well in kiddie pools in Arizona year round. It will be too cold in Washington for that until we get the greenhouses built. lol

N2Biomes: I have quite a few endangered species in my fishroom, part of the C.A.R.E.S. program

Rhonda Wilson: Are there still any in the wild? I was trying to check today and couldn’t find the information.

N2Biomes: I hope you are able to find the species again. http://www.carespreservation.​com/?FAST=1&merge=priority_list_&​SEARCH_SPECIES_ID==E&doc=priority​_list.html

Rhonda Wilson: I had thought they weren’t but wasn’t sure. I’m really hoping to start building up my collection again after I move.


N2Biomes: Thanks, Rhonda!

Rhonda Wilson: Clearly it’s a pupfish. They can be hard to tell apart. The males would get very blue when breeding. They’re such pretty fish.

Crazygar: Ok Rhonda, next is Fred O, he’s local and a part of the Aquarium Society I belong to…

Crazygar: Fred…

FredO: I love plants. Most of my tanks are jungles (except my Malawi tank). I agree with Rhonda there is more happening in our tanks than we realize. Some of my plants will grow in one tank but not another(same water same fish}.

Rhonda Wilson: I have the same thing happen in my tanks too. Plants will do great in one and not another even if they are sitting right next to each other and get the same care.

FredO: Just like my kids same house same food but different outcomes.

Rhonda Wilson: Lol

Crazygar: Your wife cooks so well Fred!

Rhonda Wilson: Hehe I can cook too.

FredO: Thanks Rhonda. Loved to “meet” you.

Crazygar: Next we have RipariumGuy… you have the floor sir…

Rhonda Wilson: Thank you I love meeting new fish folk also.

RipariumGuy: Thanks CrazyGar! Hello Rhonda! I am a fellow aquarium writer (kind of…) Other then keeping up with my own aquarium blog (, I had my first magazine article published in the recent December 2011 issue of Tropical Fish Hobbyist (“Planted Ripariums An Introduction” by Jacob Jung). I love planted aquarium especially, but am having trouble finding good topics. Do you have any tips, tricks or thoughts on selecting a good topic for an article?

Rhonda Wilson: That can get difficult sometimes. A good place to come up with ideas is in people questions. With a blog you probably get a lot of them. Also just when you have issues or questions yourself.

Doing research for yourself can also be research shared. And of course sometimes there’s just something neat or a fun idea I think of.

And sometimes I pace for days trying to think of something.

RipariumGuy: Haha! I only “casually” blog. If I had to write as regularly as you, I think I’d go mad!

Rhonda Wilson: When you do think of topics it helps to keep a list that you can go back to also. Sometimes I think of several at once. I love it when that happens.

It really helps to have someone saying, Rhonda I need that column now.

Crazygar: I can only guess who that would be…

RipariumGuy: Oh, I am sure! I bet it would help if I had dead lines…

J.B.: (cough)Shari(cough)

RipariumGuy: lol

Shari Horowitz: It’s more fun when I say, Rhonda I need that column yesterday

Crazygar: hAHAHA

Rhonda Wilson: I’m very bad.

Crazygar: Thanks Jacob, that was a good one. Does anyone else have a question for Rhonda…

I believe JB has another question… JB…

J.B.: okay…on to music

Rhonda Wilson: Shari probably wants to know when that next column will be in.

Shari Horowitz: and here I thought I was being good by not asking…

Rhonda Wilson: Or what it will be about.

J.B.: on the latest Incubus album (that’s a CD to the youngsters here) what is your favorite song and why?

Rhonda Wilson: Umm I think Eupterus had a question. I mean an aquarium question.

Crazygar: After JB…. qued up

Rhonda Wilson: Umm, I don’t know what songs are on which albums, lol I just listen on pandora and grooveshark. I like a lot of the things from a couple years ago.

Rhonda Wilson: I like 11am for personal reasons, I really like Here in my room. There are so many

J.B.: their latest CD is somewhat of a change from their previous style and it seems as if Brandon is really finding his range…the song “In the Company of Wolves” is probably my fave, you’ll have to go take a listen when you get chance

J.B.: your turn Eupterus

Rhonda Wilson: There was one that popped up on pandora the other day from the new album. I just noticed on the thing while I was listening. And I did notice it was a lot different. He has a really nice voice though.

Eupterus: Ok, I was wondering if LED lights are any good for growing plants. Seen mixed responses on this.

Rhonda Wilson: You know I honestly haven’t tried them. Sorry, I just don’t know.

Crazygar: IlianaM, you have a question you’d like to ask?

IlianaM: yes. I have a tub pond with a plant called Pennywort in it. I’m not sure how exactly to overwinter this plant. Should I trim it down? Leave it alone and let it die? There’s actually still some little flowers on it, so I’m not sure what to do. It’s just beginning to get cold here in Texas, with on and off cold spells. I was also wondering if I should replant these in mesh pots once spring comes around..

All my current pots are solid ones, does it matter for marginals?

Rhonda Wilson: Do you know if anyone is growing it outside year round near you?  If it starts dying back I would trim the leaves off so it won’t just rot in your pond, I’ve had year round ponds here in Arizona and some plants and fish can survive the winter and some don’t.

IlianaM: not sure..I don’t really know anyone with a pond  (I’m a college student that lives in an apartment) but I have seen it growing outside before, so I guess it survives without any help?

Rhonda Wilson: The summer actually kills more things here than the winter though.

IlianaM: I wasn’t sure if it being in a pot made a difference, since it’s above ground and all

(2011.11.09 – 19:18:18) Rhonda Wilson: If the pots are submerged I don’t know that it would make that much of a difference. I’ve used both pots and just planting in the substrate. Most of the time I like the regular ones.

Rhonda Wilson: In those you can add real dirt and not have it float out.

IlianaM: ok, thank you so much!

Rhonda Wilson: Is your pond above ground like a kiddie pool or is it a dug out sunken pond?

IlianaM: It’s above ground. It’s on a concrete patio so I have it on blocks to keep it from getting too hot

Rhonda Wilson: Then I don’t think it will make much of a difference as to the coldness if it’s in a pot or not. If it was a dug out pond the plants might have a little more protection in the actual pond substrate, since it might be slightly less cold.

Rhonda Wilson: if you have a tank inside you might try moving a little in just so you have back up if it doesn’t survive the winter outside.

IlianaM: hmm ok, good idea, thanks again!

Crazygar: Thanks Iliana, good question. Up next is Soul-Hugger (Erin), so now I have to behave (only for a short period of time), Erin…

Soul-hugger: This question is about Guppies.

Rhonda Wilson: woohoo! I hope it’s not too hard.

Soul-hugger: I’m just getting started with them, and so far I have had two issues: Columnaris, and Callamanus Worms. How would you treat a tank for these problems, especially if there are fry in it?

Rhonda Wilson: Wow that’s terrible. I’ve never really had any trouble with either of those in my fish. Were these store bought fish?

Soul-hugger: Yeah, it’s been frustrating. So far I’ve elected to do nothing but keep the tank very clean. Only one fish appeared to have the Callamanus, and she unfortunately didn’t make it.

Yes, they were store bought. Perhaps that was my first mistake…

Rhonda Wilson: Sadly store bought fish seem to have more disease problems than those from other hobbyists. I’m a little more familiar with ich, but I just haven’t had to deal with those issues so I don’t know what the best way to get rid of them is.

Soul-hugger: Wow, you are lucky then! I haven’t deal with diseases other than ich, up until now. The store bought Guppies just seem to be genetically weak.


N2Biomes: fortunately, not me… but I know of hobbyists who have used levamasole successfully

Crazygar: I will have to admit, the store we bought them from, for some strange reason, can not keep Guppies alive. EM, Lavasomile

N2Biomes: for columnaris, perhaps Maracin I and II?

Crazygar: (or close to it)

Rhonda Wilson: erythromycin that’s what I was thinking of. Might it help?

Soul-hugger: I heard Formalin, but I’m pretty sure that’s one of the harsher medications.

Rhonda Wilson: Erythromycin can mess up the rest of your biological filter but it does get rid of bg algae which is also a bacteria.

Soul-hugger: It’s good for some human infections too, but real hard on the stomach! Thanks everyone for the suggestions, and thanks, Rhonda, for listening to my question

Rhonda Wilson: So I just wondered if it might help with the columnaris? Oh wait I just read it and they say since the columnaris is gram negative it won’t help. Erythromycin is for gram positive bacteria apparently.

Soul-hugger: Yes, I think it just might. It’s something I can do research on… I love that sort of thing.

Crazygar: I see it’s going to be the home chemistry lab again, thanks Erin! Next we have kevmo911, you have the floor…

Kevmo911: Wonderful to meet you! Hopefully quick question – with so many tanks, do you have a “standard” as far as tank size and lighting, or do you have a little bit of everything? Is there an ideal setup that you just love (that 50 maybe)?

Rhonda Wilson: Not really much in the way of standard. I really like the 20 long tanks. I use a lot of shop lights. I bought a bunch of fixtures that use the T5 bulbs a few years ago and loved them at first. I was going to get more but then they started dying.

Kevmo911: Yeah, shop lights do have a sort of industrial charm, and they seem to last forever.

Rhonda Wilson: The bulbs are more expensive than the whole fixtures, they don’t last long, and the fixtures themselves started dying early. Very disappointing really, so I’m mostly back to shop lights.

J.B.: which bulbs do you use in the shop lights?

Rhonda Wilson: I have found that the old incandescent fixtures have new life with the screw in florescent bulbs now

Eupterus: That’s why I wanted to switch to LED, I hear it lasts longer.

Rhonda Wilson: They keep changing the names of the bulbs, basically I go with a pink and blue one. I just get the 40 watt ones you can get by the box at home depot.

Kevmo911: I have a 20L among others, and I love it too. Really easy to light, and plenty of floor space.

Rhonda Wilson: Yes the 20 longs are really nice, a good tank to decorate and nice size for fish. I usually keep one species of fish per tank, I like to breed them a lot too, the 20 longs are great

Crazygar: I will have to agree with that Statement. That’s favourite around here as well.

Kevmo911: The closest I come to a natural tank is that one, just because of the soil with Flourite cap. But the HOB and pressurized CO2 sort of ruin it, i suppose  Okay, I appreciate your time, thanks!

J.B.: 33-long is what i’m itching to get my hands on

N2Biomes: that’s one lovely tank size LOL

Crazygar: Thanks Kevmo911!

Rhonda Wilson: what are the dimensions on that?

N2Biomes: its a cut down 55G

Rhonda Wilson: Nice

J.B.: they’re like 48 x 13 x 12

Crazygar: Honey! I Shrunk the 55!

J.B.: that’s fine…i’ll take it! lol

Eupterus: I’ve never seen a 33 long.

Crazygar: Ok, does anyone else have a question they’d like to ask Rhonda as are winding down to T Minus 15min.

Eupterus: I wish I could have a 75 gal with the foot print of a 55 gal. So I could re-use the stand.

Rhonda Wilson: I want a pond with a window. lol

Crazygar: I want an indoor pond aquarium with a River running into a built in Greenhouse in the back.

Rhonda Wilson: That sounds good!

ScottFish: Rhonda: what’s your thoughts on micro and macro nutrients

Rhonda Wilson: Well I don’t generally add anything to my tanks. I think water changes are very helpful. To me mostly it seems like an extra thing I won’t keep up with anyway. Which is probably a bad answer but I’m really kind of a lazy aquarist.

2rivers: Always late and rushed. Its me Brandon Olson. just saying hi

Rhonda Wilson: Hi Brandon, glad to see you could make it, even for the last few minutes. Anyway if you have a really fast growing tank with CO2 and high lighting you’re probably going to need to add things.

ScottFish: No, my Java fern is holy and I’m looking for answers. Potassium?

Rhonda Wilson: Ahh we were talking about Java ferns earlier. They can be really great or really temperamental

ScottFish: yep; that’s what I’m thinking

Crazygar: What’s your pH?

ScottFish: that tank: 7.6

Crazygar: Good for Java Fern.

Rhonda Wilson: Have you tried just adding a general fert?

ScottFish: Flourish… Comprehensive, it’s a 5 gal tank in the office; maybe just need more water changes

Rhonda Wilson: Hmm maybe. Does anyone else in the office have some? Is it having the same issues?

ScottFish: no other people with tanks

Crazygar: 5minutes folk.

ScottFish: perhaps java isn’t the right plant for that tank; I’ll throw in something else; thanks

Crazygar: Rhonda, a quick question…

Rhonda Wilson: I would just try making some changes and see if it starts helping, the water changes are good. I would also try maybe adding more ferts. I was just trying to do a little search and noticed a similar sounding thread, and they seemed to fix the problem going to dry ferts and adding more. Yes…

Crazygar: Amongst your ever busy schedule (and keeping up with deadlines), do you ever plan to write a book again? And what would it be?

Rhonda Wilson: I really would like to write more books, both aquarium and maybe someday even fiction. lol I would like to do a book on Natural Aquariums, I’d also like to write a children’s book on ponds and what’s in them.

Crazygar: Now that’s pretty cool with the Children’s Book on Ponds. Loads of critters in there! Good stuff, obviously T.F.H. Publications!

Crazygar: Now that the session has come to a close, I would like to thank all whom attended this evening with the live chat with Rhonda Wilson. I’m glad I’ve finally had the opportunity to interview you. Thanks and a good and safe evening to all. The next live Interview will not be until January 2012, so Season’s Greetings as well.

J.B.: Thanks for allowing us to get to know you and entertaining our questions, Rhonda…it’s been a nice chat and we look forward to a next time.

Crazygar: Rhonda, thanks! We cut it close!

Rhonda Wilson: May I say thank you to everyone that came also. It’s been a long time since I did a chat and it was really fu n!

N2Biomes: thanks Rhonda and mods for a very enjoyable and interesting chat tonight!

J.B.: please say thank you to your little ones, for sharing you with us tonight

Crazygar: Yeah, that was really INFORMATIVE. Looking forward to putting up the Transcript. Everyone thanks again! It’s been a great evening and time well spent.

Rhonda Wilson: Lol yes the youngest was screaming a bit in computer frustration at the end there, but his brother helped him out. He’s getting pretty demanding right now again thoug.

ScottFish: (notice N2 thanked the Mods;not the Admins.)

Crazygar: We are used to it. ROFL. Good night folks, I have dinner to attend to.

ScottFish: I have a demanding teenager; want to switch?

N2Biomes: oh geez, thank you Red People

J.B.: take care Gary

Rhonda Wilson: Enjoy your dinner and thank you for hosting tonight!

Crazygar: My pleasure. Good evening

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Posted in Uncategorized by TFH Magazine on November 14th, 2011 at 6:26 am.

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