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Where to Put Your Aquarium

Carefully evaluate the location where you want to put an aquarium before putting it there. Photograph by Leslie R. Morris.

By Leslie R. Morris

After 10 years of experience with my 55-gallon aquarium, I have learned two lessons. Lesson 1: Do not buy an aquarium that is deeper than your arm is long. Lesson 2: Except for a piano, an aquarium is the heaviest object in your home. Even new refrigerators are not very heavy compared to an aquarium.

Since water weighs about 8.35 pounds per gallon, a 55-gallon aquarium weighs 459 pounds plus the glass, rocks, and the stand. It is well over 500 pounds, or a quarter of a ton. A 125-gallon aquarium weighs over a half ton—more than 1,000 pounds.

Homes and apartments, as I learned to my dismay, are not built to support the load of a typical larger aquarium.

Builders call the dirt on which the house rests the “grade.” If your house has no basement, and the builder pours the cement floor on the dirt, it is “on grade.” If there is a basement that has a cement floor, that floor is “below grade.” If your aquarium rests on the flooring that rests on the cement, you need not worry about its weight.

When you place the aquarium on a wooden floor that is laid on wooden joists, you must be careful.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Usually, builders place stairs against a wall. My condominium’s stairs were built with railings placed on both sides. I placed the aquarium against the stairs. It was aesthetically pleasing, it did not sacrifice too much space in the room and it offered easy access to the top and back of the aquarium from the steps through the railings. However, in a few months, I noticed that the stairs were pulling loose from the floor above; I did not realize that the aquarium was the cause, but it finally dawned on me. A steel jack, installed in the basement below the center of the aquarium, solved the problem.

Where Should You Install an Aquarium?

The best place to install an aquarium is on the cement floor in the basement. Equally good is the cement first floor if you have no basement.

A house is a big wooden box that is usually designed and built by carpenters— not engineers. The strongest areas are the corners. The weakest areas are the centers of the rooms. Windows and doors subtract from a wall’s strength. Place your aquarium in a corner. If not in a corner, place it against a wall. Often, there is a steel beam in the basement equidistant from two outside walls. Site your aquarium on the floor above the beam. I wanted to place my aquarium the long way above the beam. My significant other did not want the aquarium cutting the room in half, so it straddles the beam. Every few months I check the ceiling above the aquarium to check for any separation of the walls from the ceiling. If I see any, I will install a couple of jacks in the basement.

If you use an engineer or an engineer to build your new home, tell them about the aquarium and they will build in the necessary supports.

Never Install an Aquarium Here?

I met someone who wanted to install an aquarium at the edge of the loft overlooking the living room. It is a great concept, but unless there is a steel beam supporting the edge of the loft, I predict failure.


I recently saw an ad for a large, round aquarium designed for the center of a room. It scared me. If you install an aquarium in the center of a room, install one or two jacks in the basement directly under the aquarium. Floor jacks retail for about $35.00.

The second floor of a home is a chancy place for a larger aquarium. If it is against the outside wall, it is probably okay. Apartment buildings are usually built stronger than homes. Beware of the teenager who wants several tanks in his bedroom.


Since moving an aquarium even a few feet, requires that you empty the tank and completely restart of the biological cycle, consider the initial placement of your aquarium. You do not want to relocate it.

Check the floor below for supporting beams.

Consider placing supporting jacks in the basement under the aquarium.

Monthly, check walls and ceilings for signs of separation or sagging.

Before installing your third large aquarium, consult an engineer or an architect.

Posted March 16th, 2012.

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Propagating Brain Corals

By Phil Hunt

In his April 2012 article “Great Minds: Keeping Brain Corals in the Reef Aquarium,” Phil Hunt reviews various types of brain corals and the care requirements they have in an aquarium setting. If you are already keeping them successfully, then you might be interested in propagating your brains.

Propagating faviid brain corals is, in theory, relatively simple: Each coral consists of many polyps, and cutting pieces from mother colonies should enable small colonies to be grown on. This needs sharp tools, but if done with care can work well. Once cut, faviid frags, and the mother colony, should be placed in strong water currents and good lighting with excellent water quality. This is to minimize the chances of infections or tissue recession starting from the areas of mechanical damage caused by the cutting process.

Another method that can be used is to carefully break away pieces from the very edge of the colony; when faviid corals are growing well, the skeleton in these areas is often very thin and it is easy to snap pieces off. These fragments can then be attached to pieces of rock and grown on, under good conditions they will fuse onto the substrate quickly. Alternatively, the mother colony can be allowed to extend onto an adjacent rock, then carefully broken away to leave a new small colony behind.

Propagating LPS brain corals can be much easier or much more difficult, depending on the coral in question. Lobophyllia with phaceloid skeletons are very easy to propagate: Individual columns can be broken out of the colony, with no harm done to either the frag or the rest of the coral, due to the lack of damage to soft tissues. For Trachyphyllia, Symphyllia, and those Lobophyllia with more solid skeletons, things are much more difficult. While some hobbyists have successfully propagated such corals by simply cutting up the colonies, cutting through skeleton and soft tissue alike, just like propagating faviid corals, this is a risky procedure that can lead to the loss of the whole colony. Occasionally, corals that have recovered from tissue recession will have areas of tissue isolated by areas of bare skeleton, and these can be divided into new colonies.

Photograph by Phil Hunt.

Posted March 9th, 2012.

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March 2012 Calendar

Tropical Fish Hobbyist’s March 2012 Desktop Calendar is now available!

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Posted March 5th, 2012.

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Bag Water: To Dump or Not to Dump?

Jay F. Hemdal

In the March and April 2012 issues of TFH I discussed basic and advanced acclimation techniques. One question that I did not address, but one that commonly comes up in discussions, is whether or not to dump the bag water into the fish tank. Since I was a child, I was always taught never allow any of a fish’s transport water to enter the aquarium during acclimation. The idea that this shipping water is polluted with both organic wastes and fish parasites is common knowledge to everyone, isn’t it? Knowing this to be true, I parroted that advice to thousands of people during my subsequent career in the pet trade and public aquariums. I never thought much about it, it became dogma for me.

What is the truth though? Certainly, animals produce waste, and while they are contained in a shipping bag, these wastes do build up. However, the amount the fish produces is relative to the shipping time, and if they had been in the operating aquarium for that same time, they would have produced the same amount of waste, yet the biological filter would have dealt with it in short order. If the addition this shipping water, with even an extra day’s build-up of wastes would harm the aquarium, then that system has much bigger problems with its biological filtration system that needs to be corrected.

What about the potential for disease introduction? Since the fish is being moved into the tank, it will be carrying any parasites with it anyway, so this is not as big of an issue as one might think. There is one theory though, that promotes the idea that during shipping, many parasites may become dislodged from their host fish, and that by adding shipping water to the tank you are in effect, adding extra parasites. The issue with this is that it has not been microscopically substantiated, nor is there any proof that such dislodged parasites can return and reinfect fish. Finally, if the fish had an infection, it is impossible that all parasites were dislodged into the shipping water, so the fish will still need to be medicated.

There are only two valid concerns regarding not adding shipping water to the aquarium: First, if the fish had been shipped with chemicals added to the water (including copper, methylene blue, or antibiotics) and secondly, the possibility that the water contains higher than normal levels of heterotrophic bacteria. Neither of these are major issues, especially since the first step of the acclimation process outlined here is to remove most of the original shipping water before the process begins.

Go ahead and let the small original volume of shipping water to return to the aquarium. You can then recover all of the tank water you added during additions, plus it is easier to just slide the fish out of the plastic bag. Most of us have had this happen: you struggle to net a fish out of the shipping bag, and you fumble for it as the fish flips out and hits the floor. Fish can be injured by net frames or caught in the net material itself. Some aquarists advocate transferring the fish by hand, but don’t try that with a rabbitfish or some other venomous species! Human hands are not adept at holding struggling fish, so in the end, it may be best to just tip the bag over and slide them out, water and all!

Photograph by AISPIX/Shutterstock


Posted March 2nd, 2012.

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The Yungas

International explorer Heiko Bleher traveled to the Yungas in Bolivia in search of freshwater fish.

By Heiko Bleher

photographs by the author

It was a lovely day in Sarlat, which to me is the most beautiful city of France, in the Dordogne. Sitting in this beautiful old mansion just outside of the city limits, surrounded by greens, plants, trees, and bonsais I was having lunch with Jacques Géry and his wife Georgie. She had served pate du foi gras entier, the whole duck liver, and a delicious red wine, while Jacques was telling me about Nathan Everett Pearson, the student of the famous German/American Ichthyologist  Karl H. Eigenmann (1863–1927), one of the most talented and well respected men in the ichthyological world—the very same which applies to Jacques Géry. Jacques asked me why I had not been to the Yungas on the eastern slope of the Andes in Bolivia. There is very interesting research to be done there. Pearson alone, on the Mulford Expedition of 1921–1922, collected 6775 specimens, of which Characiformes (his lifetime speciality) represented about 50 percent of the collection and 77 of the total of 155 species, there. He found 25 new species and 2 new genera, most of them never seen alive until today.

This tiny characoid was (to me) something special. Less than an inch long, with the brightest golden color and a jet black stripe below the golden stripe all the way into the tail fin, this is a miniature tiny jewel.

Naturally that made me very curious, especially because I collected in Bolivia several times, but never in that region he mentioned. The only other person who did report of some field work in that region was Perugia, who published in Genova, Italy, in 1897 about the collection of 200 specimens Professor Luigi Balzani (Gymnogeophagus balzanii) found in Bolivia. They represented 37 species, out of which 5 came from the Marmoré and 32 from the Beni, in the Yungas. Haseman also collected in Bolivia, but only in the Marmoré/Guaporé region, not in the Yungas or the eastern slopes.

Actually I was very interested in seeing some of those new genera and species in vivo, especially after I researched and found out that no one has ever photographed and much less collected any of those species alive.

The only real predators were members of the wolffish family in a small pond.

Next thing I knew, I was on a plane from Milan to São Paulo and on to La Paz, the highest capital city of the world, which brings back childhood memories. My mother and I took a two-year expedition to South America when I was a child.

The Mulford Expedition

The Mulford Expedition of 1921–1922 was organized by Henry Hurd Rusby to explore the Amazon Valley from the headwaters of the Quime River in Bolivia to the mouth of the Amazon in Brazil. Dr. Rusby, then 70 years old, was a well-known explorer, a professor at Colombia University, and a member of the New York Botanical Garden staff. Funding was obtained from the H. K. Mulford Company. To assist him in collecting and handling plant specimens, Rusby hired Dr. Orland E. White, of Broclyn Botanical Garden.

The expedition started by crossing the high Andes on a mountain trail, passing through the Bolivian Yungas, down the Bopi River by balsa raft, and to the jungle town of Rurrenabaque by way of the Beni River. They searched the Beni savannas for a lake that was rumored to have an outlet to the Beni River. There was no such outlet, so they backtracked to Rurrenabaque. Along the way, five of the eight expedition members departed for reasons that vary from disillusionment to illness. That was in the first year. The remaining members traveled to Manaus in central Brazil, up the Rio Negro, to the Uaupes River, and finally to the Tiquie River where they were blocked by waterfalls and rapids and had to turn around. After a second full year of wandering, the expedition came apart when the final member was left to recover from poisoning in Manaus.


Rurrenabaque was the site of the expedition’s longest stop and the collection point for many specimens. Today it functions as a staging ground for eco-travelers in search of wildlife and adventure. It is a spectacular sight to enter Rurrenabaque by boat from upriver. The narrow gorge is now the grand entrance to Madidi National Park. Rurrenabaque is larger today, but the housing has probably not changed dramatically since the Mulford Expedition.

The expedition started in Rurrenabaque, an area that includes mountains in addition to two other ecosystems.

Rurrenabaque is at the intersection of three major ecosystems—the mountains, the rainforests, and the pampas. The result of this blending is a remarkably high diversity of wildlife, as revealed in the variety of animals collected during their long stay there.


The cries of red howler monkeys were heard every morning.

Every morning, red howler monkeys  made deep, guttural howls and, at sundown, hoatzins (a bizarre bird whose young have clawed wings), squawked in loud bunches along the waterside. The raucous chatter of macaws and parrots periodically penetrated the constant drill of cicadas. A jewel-like dung beetle, in particular, captured my attention. Its beautiful exterior seemed inconsistent with the job it performs in the rainforest animals. We also saw capybaras (a large rodent), a bright green parrot snake, toucans, and delicate butterflies.

The Bolivian government to establish Madidi National Park in 1995. The park is home to 85 percent of the bird species in Bolivia (11 percent of all the bird species in the world), 75 percent of Bolivian mammal species, and 40 percent of Bolivian reptile species. Endangered jaguars, giant otters, spectacled bears, and black caiman all roam within its forests. But, Madidi is not only important because of the rich biodiversity it protects within its borders, but because it is now part of a series of protected areas that stretch across international lines and an eclectic variety of habitats. Madidi, like other protected areas in the Amazon, will survive only if the people who live in and around the park have an incentive to keep it protected.

At the end of the road behind Alto Madidi I was lucky and found this tiny blue shiny tetra.

A proposed dam across the Beni at the entrance of Madidi National Park would flood Chalalan Lodge and surrounding rainforests. The proposal seems to be on hold for now, but there are road projects in the works and two companies hold concessions to search for and extract hydrocarbons within the park’s boundaries.

Posted February 17th, 2012.

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Overconfidence in the Tropical Fish Hobbyist


Skin flukes (Gyrodactylus spp.). Photograph by Craig Adams.

By Craig Adams

“I am God’s gift to koi,” my client began, “or so I thought, until this year.” We were standing at the edge of this gentleman’s pond in late June, who was having unexplained losses and was frustrated in his effort to keep his population of koi healthy. He ultimately lost about half of his large collection before the situation was brought under control. My client has had a 20,000-gallon pond for 20 years with a beautiful collection of koi, many of which were spawned in that very pond. Being a very advanced hobbyist, he even has an 8,000-gallon tropical tank in his yard in western Washingtonthat includes an amazing assortment of large tankbusters, such as Arapaima gigas, redtail catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus), and Colossoma macropomum. He understands water quality, nutrition, and many of the intricacies of husbandry that allow him to be an ultra-successful hobbyist. The koi spawned and raised in his pond were like his children, so thinning their population to an appropriate level was difficult for him to do. Eventually, it caught up with him.

White Noise

Overconfidence can sometimes be damaging because it clouds our judgment and prevents us from seeing what is in front of us. This happened to me recently at home as well. My wife and I were trying to transition our baby girl from sleeping in a cradle in our bedroom to sleeping in the crib in her room. We started the transition by having her nap in the new crib during the day. We ran into trouble, however, because she seemed to be more aware of the everyday sounds around her and had trouble sleeping.

My wife thought that adding some white noise to her surroundings might help to drown out the other noises and let her sleep. Some people use the vacuum cleaner for white noise. There is even a white-noise machine on the market that sounds a bit like the static we used to get from the television in the pre-cable days when we could not get reception. That seemed like a colossal waste of resources to me. It did not take me long to come up with the perfect white-noise generator. I grabbed an empty 20-gallon tank from the workshop next to my fishroom and set it up in the baby’s room. Naturally, this gave me a great excuse to buy some new fish to stock it.

We do not have a large selection of local fish stores in our area, at least for freshwater fish. Since this was an emergency (I certainly could not generate white noise with an aquarium that was devoid of fish), I headed to the local outlet of a nationwide distributor. I chose two of my all-time favorites: angelfish and Corydoras catfish. My wife selected a small school of each species, a plastic sea turtle, and an artificial Amazon sword plant. We were now prepared to convert our baby’s nursery into a white-noise paradise. She would no longer be jolted awake by cars honking, dogs barking, or me tiptoeing down the carpeted hallway while holding my breath.

Once we got them home, the cories quickly began exploring their surroundings and rooting through the sand substrate looking for food. The angelfish established their pecking order and chose spots along the plant and plastic turtle while keeping a keen eye out for the bits of food that magically appeared on the water’s surface a couple of times a day. This was, for all practical purposes, an Amazonian biotope setup from the plastic sea-turtle region of South America. Ahh, fishkeeping nirvana.


Unfortunately, all was not as it seemed—I lost an angelfish on the following day. This is not unusual with a new batch of fish. Just the act of netting fish and transporting them to a new tank can cause stress, elevated cortisol levels, and subsequent reduced immunity. Transport losses are expected to a certain degree, but never welcome. Did I quarantine these fish? No. This was a new setup, but the filter was already mature since I pulled the foam insert from another tank I already had running. I was therefore treating the entire system as a quarantine tank. I would not have thought of putting these fish directly into any of my other tanks that already had fish in them.

Over the course of the next few days, I slowly lost fish, both cories and angelfish. My wife chided me a bit since the big fish doctor was losing fish in his own daughter’s room. I tested the water on a daily basis, as should be done on all new tanks. The filter was functional, and I never recorded ammonia or nitrite spikes. I chalked the losses up to ongoing stress following the move from the store. One afternoon after changing a diaper, I was watching the fish with my daughter. By finally paying close attention, I could see that one of the angelfish was hanging back a little while the others were actively feeding. I decided that enough was enough. I got some of my equipment and performed a skinscraping on that fish—what I found shocked me.


I was dealing with one of the worst Gyrodactylus infestations I had seen for a long time. These are sometimes called skin flukes. There is a similar fluke, Dactylogyrus, which is also known as a gill fluke. They have different life cycles and can be found on the skin or the gills. Gyrodactylus flukes are viviparous (livebearing) while Dactylogyrus flukes are oviparous and have eggs that settle on the substrate to hatch prior to attaching to a host. Gyrodactylids attach to a fish with large anchors present in the opisthaptor (attachment organ). They are quite prolific, and in warm conditions, a population of flukes can double in 24 hours.

Once attached, they scrape mucus and epithelial cells from the host. This leads to irritation, excessive mucus production, secondary infections, and even respiratory distress if they are on the gills. They can quickly kill fish. One easy way to tell if the fluke is a gyrodactylid or a dactylogyrid is to look for the presence of an embryo in the fluke. The hooks on the embryo are often visible. These are microscopic parasites, so you will not see them with the naked eye. Excessive mucus on a fish is a clue, but it is not enough to make a diagnosis of a fluke infestation. Both of these are monogeneans—they do not require an intermediate host as part of their lifecycle. Digeneans, in contrast, are flukes that do require an intermediate host, such as a snail or a worm.


Well, once I had a diagnosis, I felt a little foolish. I had been operating under the false assumption that the problem was just stress related. Stress certainly could have played a role, but ignoring the problem would not make it go away. I added 2.5 ppt pickling salt (sodium chloride without anticaking agents) and 15 ppm formalin every other day with 50-percent water changes on the off days for three treatments. The salt was added to help reduce the osmotic stress that the fish were experiencing. Formalin is an aqueous solution of formaldehyde gas. As you can imagine, it is a dangerous substance to deal with if not handled properly. I happened to have some on hand since it is an approved medication for some food-fish diseases, so I decided to use it.

Most of you will not have it at home, and you would not know where to get it if you needed it. There is, however, a much safer alternative called praziquantel, which is a medication used to treat tapeworms and other parasites. There is a good chance that if you have a dog or a cat, your veterinarian has used it on your pet. Many of my fish patients live in ponds, and treatment with praziquantel can be very costly when such a large volume is needed, but treating an aquarium (even a large one) can be done for a reasonable price, usually less than the cost of replacing all the livestock.


Like a contractor with a home that has an unfinished basement or a painter with psychedelic wallpaper from 1970, the fish vet can have losses in his own tank. Once we step back, analyze the problem, and determine what is going on, the proper treatment becomes less of a mystery. Wait-and-see is not usually the best course of action. Most veterinarians could diagnose a fluke infestation in a fish whether they know it or not, but few veterinarians will travel to your house to make the diagnosis (although a growing number of us will). If you have a very sick or freshly dead fish and suspect flukes, you can put it into a bag for the veterinarian to look at in the office. Once you have a diagnosis, a treatment plan can be arranged to try and save the rest of the fish in your system.

Just adding one of these new fish to any of my existing aquariums could have led to the death of many of the fish already in my collection. That would not look good for a fish doctor. Always remember to quarantine. Your fish will thank you for quarantining, and they may even start to refer to you as “God’s gift to fish”!

Posted January 23rd, 2012.


A Brackish Paludarium

Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus). Photograph by MP. & C. Piednoir

By Joshua Wiegert

Brackish-water fishes are some of the most interesting and unique fishes available to the aquarist. At least three types of brackish fishes make perfect addition to the paludarium. The most obvious of these are the various mudskippers.

Mudskippers are small gobies that have evolved the ability to exit water. They are typically found in intertidal areas—tide pools and the like—where water levels vary dramatically throughout the day. They resemble a fantasy version of what we imagine the first animals to conquer land might look like. Evolutionarily, mudskippers evolved recently; they are not remnants. However, they may give insight as to how animals first conquered land. In the aquarium, they may be fed small crabs, shrimp, crickets, and various frozen foods.

Another option is archerfish. Maintaining the archer fish in a paladurium gives the aquarist the potential opportunity to witness one of the most fascinating feeding mechanisms among fishes. When archer fish locate a prey item on an overhanging leaf, branch, or other terrestrial structure, they spit a quick stream of water at it. The prey item falls into the water, where it is eaten.

An archerfish paludarium. Photograph by Abe Schwartz.

Lastly, the four-eyed fish (Anableps spp.) are brackish water fish that have developed a split eye structure allowing them to see both above and below the water. They cruise along the surface of the water, their eyes held at the water line. This allows them to locate surface prey items, such as insects, and avoid predators from below.

Four-eyed fish (Anableps anableps). Photograph by Edward Taylor.

All of these are brackish water fishes, which means they cannot survive in a standard freshwater aquarium. They require approximately marine salt in their water to survive. Unfortunately, this greatly limits the number of available plants–salt and plants tend not to mix well. There are a number of salt-adapted plants, though these are seldom available to hobbyists. The seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera) is occasionally available at plant nurseries near costal areas, unfortunately at a rather large size. Fortunate hobbyists may be able to collect some shoreline plants, though check on the legality of collecting before you head out.

The best plant for aquarists to try, however, is the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). This plant has become a staple in the marine hobby, where it is grown paludarium style. Propagules are typically sold and they look like a large green bean. They may have some roots on the bottom, and some leaves at the top. Given time, they will quickly develop into a small tree, which must be trimmed to keep to a small size.

Mangroves can be grown in everything from brackish water to full seawater. Photograph by Nicholas Violand.

Mangroves can be slipped through the mesh of egg crate, though this will restrict their growth over time. More simply, the roots can be anchored to a large rock with fishing line, rubber bands, or the like until they develop a hold. A simple solution is to take a square of hard foam (ask your local fish store for a fish box) and cut a hole through it. Pushing a pen or a screwdriver through it will work just fine. Gently slip the leaves through the hard foam (be careful not to break them), and let it float. Once anchored, the foam can just be cut away, or the holes simply widened to allow growth.

Despite rumors to the contrary, mangroves can be grown in pure saltwater, brackish water, or even straight freshwater—I’ve put them outdoors in tubs during the summer.

Posted January 6th, 2012.

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January 2012 Calendar

Tropical Fish Hobbyist’s January 2012 Desktop Calendar is now available!

Click on the size below that best matches your desktop.


Visit the Web Extras section of for additional downloads, videos, and much more!

Posted January 3rd, 2012.

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December 2011 Calendar

Tropical Fish Hobbyist’s December 2011 Desktop Calendar is now available.

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Our 2011 Calendar Cover

2011 Calendar Cover

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Posted December 1st, 2011.

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Live Chat with Rhonda Wilson

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

Posted November 14th, 2011.

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