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Animal Rescue Community Tank Rehab


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Hi Everyone! I wanted to share my journey with rehabbing this 75 Gallon fish tank for a local Animal Rescue in Kennesaw, Georgia. 

I'd initially expected volunteer orientation to consist of learning how to manage 40+ shelter dogs. However, during training, we rounded a bend, and there I saw it! At the end of a prominent hallway stood a dark, murky 75 gallon Aquarium! A weird, black hairy algae covered every surface, and at first I felt pity and horror at the thought of those poor fish (in a Shelter no less!).  But then I was impressed as I saw it was also full of healthy, green Java Fern. I was humbled as my own Java fern struggles with black holes and general lack of vigor, despite my best efforts.

In fact, far from being "neglected", this tank was much loved, yet it had no one who really knew how to take care of it. I knew that I could make this tank look really good, but could I convince it's "caretakers" to let me take it over? Diplomacy would be called for. Luckily, the offer of my services for free tank rehab and regular maintenance were accepted, along with promises that I, and I'm quoting here: "could spend whatever I wanted". Well, if that doesn't make a Nerm giddy, I don't know what would! Anyway, though I've kept my receipts, I'm certainly not spending "whatever I want" ! I've even donated some of my own plants - ok now I will post pics. 

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This is the first picture I took after a MASSIVE 2X water change - with Buckets! Luckily, this shelter has court ordered community service volunteers who helped with all the carrying, but I was still exhausted. Had to teach them basics such as DO NOT pour HOT water into the aquarium. The black algae came out in clumps very easily, not wicked difficult like BBA - I wonder what it was? Anyway, more posts to come! This pic was taken on May 6, 2021. 

Java Fern, All Hardscape, and Gravel were already there (observe how pretty the Java Fern is, especially on the fake wood - subsequent photos will show its not as pretty after my interventions. I know for certain it DID NOT like liquid Carbon) -I added the Cabomba, Pogostemon stellatus and Hornwort from my own tanks.

 

Edited by Cyndi
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Here it is on May 8 after everything cleared up. S., the volunteer coordinator, had to reset some of the Java Fern as it had gotten dislodged during the massive over turn of gravel. I don't think she was expecting such a major overhaul as she said "you didn't have to do all that work!" Here was my first introduction to well-intended comments running counter to my carefully considered plans! I would have to continue to practice diplomacy - and I mean practice

S., if you are reading this, please know that I really appreciate you for letting me take on this project! This journal is meant to chronicle not only the journey of the tank, but also my personal journey in learning how to manage differing expectations while also getting to do what I want!

MMMay8.JPG

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Posted (edited)

Here is the tank on May 17. You can see the Cabomba and Pogostemon is really growing in nicely. BTW, Pogostemon was initially purchased from the Co-op and is a great nutrient sponge - which is just what this tank needed! Also has some floating plants. I couldn't figure out where all the nutrients were initially coming from. Tank is only stocked with Lyretail mollies, some black neon tetras, 3 neons, and 2 (or 3 depending on whom you ask) small clown loaches. Certainly not enough to cause a nutrient explosion resulting in that all-pervasive black ,wavy BBA-like algae. 

One Sunday, I'm working in the tank, and M., the Shelter Manager on duty, says, "Oh, there used to be a huge black log in there".  (I'd heard of this mythical log, had found lots of decayed remnants of it, and was trying to locate this gem). He says, "I reached in there and pulled out the slimiest, grossest thing you ever did see - and it stunk so bad too!" He tells me that at that point he was committed and just threw the whole thing in the dumpster. So at least that explains where the log went and where all the nutrients came from! It might also explain where one of the Shelter volunteer's missing pleco went. Probably stuck to that log for dear life - poor thing! 

Note how the Java fern is deteriorating - even though I didn't add any more liquid carbon.

 

MMMay17.jpg

Edited by Cyndi
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Posted (edited)

June 15. I've been away for a month. Cabomba has gone crazy and the Pogo is getting leggy. Hornwort is growing as a floating plant along with some floating salvinia - great for sucking out nutrients, but also significantly blocking the light. Photos taken on same day - I remembered to take before and after pics - hooray! I added a cute Elephant decoration from my personal collection.

MMJune15.jpg

 

MMJune15also.jpg

Edited by Cyndi
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@Cyndi, I know this is contrary to some popular guides on Java Fern care but I’m beginning to see evidence that it does well with lots of fertilizer. I’m dosing Easy Green and API Leaf Zone at the levels recommended for medium light and seeing good results. I’m not 100% positive there is a direct correlation but it’s sure not hurting! 

Edited by Patrick_G
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Posted (edited)

Monday July 5 and Wednesday July 7

More Before an After pics - I'm getting good! The black mollies and clown loaches are practically invisible. To create more of a contrast, I've been contemplating adding cleaned pool filter sand, but it's gotten crazy expensive - $15 a bag! I decide it's worth it. The results are much better than I expect! I moved the foreground gravel to the back, creating hills, and poured the sand in the front. At some point, I've also added some sad tissue-culture Pink Flamingo Crypts along with some Ludwigia. Though tiny, they are growing well with the addition of Easy Root Tabs. On July 7, I decided that we've sucked out so many nutrients that it's time to fertilize. Of course, Easy Green is my first choice!

MMJuly5.jpg

MMJuly7.jpg

Edited by Cyndi
Second photo slightly enhanced
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On 7/10/2021 at 3:02 PM, Patrick_G said:

@Cyndi, I know this is contrary to some popular guides on Java Fern care but I’m beginning to see evidence that it does well with lots of fertilizer. I’m dosing Easy Green and API Leaf Zone at the levels recommended for medium light and seeing good results. I’m not 100% positive there is a direct correlation but it’s sure not hurting! 

I think you are right! Especially since it was doing so beautifully with zero care! Other volunteers have also shown me their "neglected" Java ferns in seasoned tanks and they look LOADS better than mine!

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On 7/10/2021 at 3:24 PM, Patrick_G said:

I bet the shelter folks think you’re some sort of fish tank goddess! What a transformation. I’m reminded of the before and after on a home renovation show. May you should start “Flip This Tank”! 😀

Awe!That is sweet and encouraging! Yes, the reaction has been favorable - sometimes embarrassing - Often I don't know how to take the compliment. And OH YES! I'd love to "Flip This Tank!" Once you get a bead on what is happening in a particular setup, there really isn't anything you can't do! It isn't rocket science, but figuring it out can feel like it. It helps that this isn't far from my house, so our water sources are probably the same. 

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I'm sure this shelter indeed appreciates you. I used to be in management for a cat/dog shelter but we got critters too and it was harder to get volunteers to work with them as opposed to cats/dogs so often the employees had to do double duty for them (I have had 5 pet hamsters- Jet, Patriot, Cheeky, Sasquatch and Chupacabra- from that job because of that AND even changed some employee's previously held opinions to "hamsters and rats are scary" to "these are the coolest animals ever"). Keep doing what you're doing! 

Edited by xXInkedPhoenixX
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On 7/10/2021 at 7:47 PM, xXInkedPhoenixX said:

I'm sure this shelter indeed appreciates you. I used to be in management for a cat/dog shelter but we got critters too and it was harder to get volunteers to work with them as opposed to cats/dogs so often the employees had to do double duty for them (I have had 5 pet hamsters- Jet, Patriot, Cheeky, Sasquatch and Chupacabra- from that job because of that AND even changed some employee's previously held opinions to "hamsters and rats are scary" to "these are the coolest animals ever"). Keep doing what you're doing! 

But Chupacabra Does sound scary! (😜 JK). Yeah, one of the things I like about managing the Shelter tank is that it gives me the opportunity to talk about how fish ACTUALLY need care - just like any other animal! I've noticed that a beautifully maintained tank can help change minds.

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July 12 - One of the headaches about maintaining a tank off-site is that I can't be there to keep an eye on things. We've been having a persistent problem with ich on some/ or one of the clown loaches (there are 5). I've been treating with Ich-X at full strength every other day after doing a 1/3 WC.  It's a lot to keep up with - and I'm going out of town next week- hope all will be well - any advice is welcomed!

The first pic is showing the light colored clown loach and his size compared to a molly. The second is just a cute picture of Groot with some neons ☺️.

MMJuly12.jpg

MMJuly12groot.jpg

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@Cyndiwhat about just turning temp up a couple degrees for the Ich? That way you can continue all the good work you’ve done with the Ich-x and not have to worry too much. Also salts great because it sticks around. There’s a myth that you can’t use salt with clown loaches but they can tolerate brief periods with salt as they sometimes intentionally travel to brackish water in the wild. Also beautiful job on this tank. It’s really well done!  

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Posted (edited)
On 7/15/2021 at 12:16 PM, Beardedbillygoat1975 said:

@Cyndiwhat about just turning temp up a couple degrees for the Ich? That way you can continue all the good work you’ve done with the Ich-x and not have to worry too much. Also salts great because it sticks around. There’s a myth that you can’t use salt with clown loaches but they can tolerate brief periods with salt as they sometimes intentionally travel to brackish water in the wild. Also beautiful job on this tank. It’s really well done!  

Raising the temp sounds like a good idea- though you may notice that there are neons in the tank. I would think it's already too hot for them, but they do seem to be faring well. Temp is 80 (when I remember to plug the heater back in).  

Worst case scenario is that I have to set up a QT to use salt - I've experimented and these plants don't do well with salt.  Thanks so much for the suggestions!

 

Edited by Cyndi
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Posted (edited)

July 16 - Today we had a minor victory- I found the mythical, lost pleco! One of our loyal volunteers mentioned that a long time ago she put a brown and black striped pleco in the tank but that she hadn't seen him since. I thought he must have been lost during the giant log removal, but today I saw him chilln' underneath the little elephant! I was so excited I ended up chasing him away with my camera **sigh**🙄  I've included a pic from the internet - does anyone know what kind of pleco this is??? Any info is great!!

More good news! The ich treatments seem to be working. For this reason, I have decided not to raise the temps any further than 80 degrees. I don't want to stress the neons any more than need be. Why are the neons even there you may be asking???? Because they are a shelter favorite, and I don't have a better situation lined up for them. This tank is helping me learn to compromise! 

MMJuly16Pleco.jpg.737ca326c6a5c27f2cd0ac71bb26bb8f.jpg

Edited by Cyndi
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Posted (edited)
On 7/16/2021 at 10:25 PM, Colu said:

It a species of peckoltia it look similar to L15 peckoltia vittata

Thanks! I looked it up and it seems L15 is more strikingly colored than my specimen. But that could be the lack of real driftwood. I will add some just in case that helps him get more colorful! Someone else suggested it might be a clown pleco - does this ring a bell? 

Edited by Cyndi
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On 7/16/2021 at 7:05 PM, Cyndi said:

July 16 - Today we had a minor victory- I found the mythical, lost pleco! One of our loyal volunteers mentioned that a long time ago she put a brown and black striped pleco in the tank but that she hadn't seen him since. I thought he must have been lost during the giant log removal, but today I saw him chilln' underneath the little elephant! I was so excited I ended up chasing him away with my camera **sigh**🙄  I've included a pic from the internet - does anyone know what kind of pleco this is??? Any info is great!!

More good news! The ich treatments seem to be working. For this reason, I have decided not to raise the temps any further than 80 degrees. I don't want to stress the neons any more than need be. Why are the neons even there you may be asking???? Because they are a shelter favorite, and I don't have a better situation lined up for them. This tank is helping me learn to compromise! 

MMJuly16Pleco.jpg.737ca326c6a5c27f2cd0ac71bb26bb8f.jpg

Wonderful news!

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