Review: Floating/submerged moss ball

Not all moss ball ‘kits’ are the same.  Let’s look at products from two eBay retailers (both importing from China).

  
These plastic domes are filled with a fine layer of aquatic moss to create either a floating or floor ball. Only a table spoon of moss is needed for each ball (no room for much more).

First up – from ‘plantsforyourtank’ – £4.49 plus postage.

I ordered the floor version. It comes with filled with small balls of fertiliser. I removed these (the golden rule of don’t put it in the tank if you don’t know what exactly it is).

The ball comes in 3 parts. A plastic mesh cover which has a spike to push this basket outer layer onto a preformed dome shape (and the hollow dome has a base which un screws). I replaced the fertiliser with larva rock fragments. It felt pretty heavy but I still had to anchor it in my tank as it floated.

It was easy to use and held together well.

  
 I ordered 2 more from ‘sseariver2009’ – in the floating version as I could get 2 for £4.99.

However, these were disappointing.

First of all, the picture showed the weights to be glass beads (inert and safe for tanks) [top of picture below]. They were actually metal engraved coins (bottom of the picture was my kit). I would never risk unknown metal of this nature in my tank). The plastic was poorly fitting and very difficult to put together. Overall, poor quality.

 
  
I will let you know how well they grow or if the moss just rots.

Beginner FAQ

  
Starting With Shrimp

The most common questions from new shrimp keepers – part 1.

FAQ Volume 1 – general

Q1. What do I need to keep shrimp?

That will depend on which type you keep. Each variety comes from different places around the world and have adapted to different conditions. Fresh water shrimp need to have these conditions replicated to thrive. Generally you will need:

  1. A tank – the bigger the better (easier to look after).
  2. Tap water that has been treated to remove chlorine/chloramine or ‘pure water’ eg rain/spring that you will add shrimp minerals to.
  3. A cycled tank
  4. Some plants/moss and substrate (gravel or  shrimp soil)
  5. All round shrimp food to give them all the nutrients they need.
  6. Heater or a cooler to maintain a stable temperature.

General care will include small water changes, feeding and glass cleaning (and possibly plant pruning).


Q2: Can you identify this shrimp.

It is not wise to put shrimp in any tank if you don’t know what type they are. There are many types of shrimp and each require different habitats and water conditions.  To place them in the wrong conditions could harm or kill them. 

Tip: If you don’t know what type it is, don’t buy it or take it from the wild. 

Q3.  I have a tank with fish, which shrimp should I get?

Firstly, find out what water conditions your fish live in. Shrimp can live with small, peaceful fish but consider these points:

  • Fish eat adult shrimp and love eating baby shrimp.
  • Shrimp will hide from fish so you might not see them for months at a time.
  • If the fish can fit the shrimp in their mouth they will eat them.
  • Tropical aquariums usually run at 25-28 degrees – shrimp prefer around 22-23 degree temperatures and will cook at around 30!
  • Shrimp water conditions should match what is also good for your fish.
  • Shrimp have a low tolerance to change in conditions and you won’t be able to treat fish illness with some medications as they can kill invertebrates.

Q4. My shrimp came in a sealed echo sphere/closed habitat but they are dying. What should I do.

Sealed units are usually a death trap and pretty cruel. Companies tell people they are self sustaining ecosystems – but they deprive shrimp of  natural behaviours, access to foraging, access to varied foods, deprive them from breeding behaviours and shorten their life considerably. It may be impossible to find out the exact breed of shrimp to know what conditions to keep them in (usually a salt water variety) to set up a proper tank. Inability to maintain an optimum temperature can be a killer – so you might want to see if this is the problem. It might be that an infection is present, not enough oxygen being made, ammonia build up from decaying organisms, lack of algae to eat. Sadly there is no way to help organisms in a sealed unit.

Some advanced keepers make their own sealed habitats but it’s not for beginners and I would argue, not good for shrimp welfare.

  
Q5. I put my cherry shrimp in my tank. They began to swim frantically then by the next morning most were dead. What went wrong?

Did you set up a drip to gradually get them used to their new water over 2-5 hours? If not then the cause could be stress. Other causes could be a tank with ammonia in the water or high concentrations of Copper or  chemicals. Did you put your hands in the water – residues of soap, detergent, creams etc can cause deaths.  Did you put them in spring/bottled/RO water without re-mineralising it?

A mass of shrimp deaths can cause an ammonia spike if left to decay and harm or kill the established residents.

Do a 50% water change, gradually lower the temperature to a stable 20-21 and remove all dead animals.

Q6. How big should my tank be?

If this is your first go at keeping shrimp, the general rule is the bigger the tank, the easier it will be. 28-35 litres is a good starter size.  You want this to be fun – not hard work!

Q7. Do I need a filter?

You will need a filter to house ‘good’ bacteria, circulate nutrients/minerals/oxygen and clean your water – a sponge one inside your tank or an external filter (with mesh over the intake pipe).

Q8. Do I need a heater or a cooler.

Shrimp do not tolerate changes in temperature and if your water gets above 26 they can struggle to survive. Above 30 degrees and they will cook. Equally, drops to below 20-23 and they will breed and swim less. So you will need to stabilise temperature. 

Q9. How often do I clean and feed them?

I only do extra water changes if my TDS has increased. Some people do a 20% or 50% change weekly! People have different opinions. For a shrimp only tank, I do 15% approximately every 6 weeks and feed as much as they can consume in 1-2 hours (all round shrimp food), every 2 days.

Making a new planted tank

  
Yesterday was an exciting day. After 3 months of buying all new stuff – the day to create my new fish tank had arrived.

I’m writing about how easy it was to do because it’s exactly the same whether you put fish or shrimp in it. I hope it might inspire you to care for a beautiful aquarium too!

Step one

Research what you need and get everything ready. Over the course of 3 months I bought:

  • 50 litre tank (Dennerle)
  • External filter (Eheim 150)
  • Scrapers soil (Dennerle)
  • 2 Lights (Leddy Smart Plant LED)
  • Heater (Tetra)
  • 1 unit to put the tank on.

The day before we connected up the filter and added an additional plug socket  in the wall. The empty aquarium had already been pre filled and emptied to check for leaks. The light and heater were added.

We had also collected 5 X 10 litre tubs of rainwater and filtered it through our home made filter station.

So this is how we looked the night before if you ignore the moist soil!

 

Step 2

On the day it took about 4 hrs to complete. We re -mineralised the rainwater and poured it into the soil until it started to pool. We then landscaped it – less at the front and higher into the back for perspective.

Step 3

Now for the fun bit. I already had wood planted up with a variety of plants that was in the fish tank. Basically I glued rhizome plants on the wood.  So that came out of the fish tank.

I also had some spare pieces of Dragon Stone (About Dragon Stone) and some green slate paddle stone from the outdoor pond. Paddle stone is slate which has been tumbled smooth to look like rock that has been washed by a river for decades. 

I washed it several times in a high vinegar to water ratio. This removed dust and tested for fizzing. If a rock fizzes when acid is poured on it this indicates carbonate is present which will increase pH. Vinegar isn’t a strong acid so it’s not the best test but the only thing I had to hand. It did fizz slightly so I will use with caution and check the pH. I can always take them out.

  
Next I took out masses of Pogostemon (See blog page About Pogostemon) from my shrimp tank. I also took out all their moss which had taken over and not stayed attached to any wood where I glued it!

 Now it was just a case of arranging it in the new tank.

I kept tall plants to the back (Pogostemon) wood plants in the front but away from touching the glass as much as possible. 

These are some overhead pictures before the water went in.

   
 
I also played around with some moss- more about that in another blog post.

Step 4

Next we added re-mineralised water very slowly so as to not disturb the soil or plants. 

 
About an hour later it was complete.

  
The filter was turned on, heater and thermometer used, spray bar adjusted and voilà! The filter is totally silent – superb. Plants have a good  sway to them and the water is crystal clear thanks to gentle pouring of water and polishing from added Purigen.

Bacteria were added, the soil has ammonia so just letting it cycle now for 4-6 weeks or until it’s balanced. Then it’s ready for aquatic animals.

The future – A word that cuts like a knife

The future. Tomorrow, next week, Christmas, next Summer …. these words can be the harshest ones to hear if you live with a medical condition that is destroying your body. You might not make it into this future – and it hurts like hell.  I’m going to share with you how I make this hell a happier place to live – so if you want a totally doom and gloom blog then look away now.  Happy Back to The Future Day. :-)


My different future.

You probably don’t realise it but people are always talking about the future. Maybe it’s planning a day out at the weekend, deciding on what food to buy for the week ahead, a forthcoming birthday, booking next year’s holiday, eagerly waiting for a favourite film to be released in the coming years.

The future can be the next minute, hour, day …. some people with life shortening medical conditions work though life one minute at a time – particularly when you aren’t ‘well’ or in a lot of pain.  Others work to weeks or years – everyone is different.

When you have an impairment, where your friends with the same impairment and age suddenly drop dead – it’s a very different sort of life. My life is characterised by not planning much more than a few days in advance where possible and being prepared to cancel plans on the day if I wake up and feel unwell.

Childhood perceptions of the future.

Parents of children with Muscular Dystrophy worry a lot about ‘the future’- maybe because there is so much emphasis on what a ‘normal’ life should look like e.g. walking upright, achieving at school, becoming an adult, getting married, earning a living etc. Once parents have a disabled child sometimes you can see they immediately grieve for the loss of their child being in their future.  I think this is instantly damaging – yes their child might die as a teenager but like me and many of my friends – they might also live to be 40 or even 50!! Oh yes, they might also graduate with honours, get married, become parents and earn a living …. so here is

 STRATEGY ONE: Don’t believe everything a Dr or medical book says. They can get it very wrong and lead you to fear what might not happen for many many years and restrict what you do in life.

I wrote myself off – back in 1985 I was 3 years and many falls into my diagnosis. People like me died when they were teenagers. I intentionally never played ‘House’ where you pretended to be a mummy in a make believe future, because that wouldn’t be my future. I’d be dead. What was the point. Yes a 10 year old child can think like that. As the years went by, I got nearer my late teens and didn’t feel like I’d be dead soon … actually, apart from not being able to walk very well and mostly using a wheelchair, I didn’t feel near death at all. So, I changed my mind and decided to live like I’d get to 100.

STRATEGY TWO: Death dates are rubbish – I ignore them! Don’t write yourself off too soon. The future is different for everyone.

When I was in my twenties I asked the Dr what age do people die now? He said in their early 30’s.

When I was in my thirties, I asked the Dr what age do people live to now? He said maybe 40.

Last month I was 40. I have lived long enough to be able to wear my grey hair as a badge of honour and a reminder to stick two fingers up to those Dr’s. I survived. I made it into the future they said I would never had. THAT is a good result don’t you think?  Good job I didn’t take their prediction too seriously.

Don’t waste time

Here is another time wasting trap that you can easily fall into – the search for a cure.

STRATEGY THREE: Don’t waste too much time looking for a cure … get on with life with what you have.

Maybe a therapy will be found, maybe not. Don’t spend days scouring the internet for the latest research each week, constantly campaigning for research or trying new drugs. Have a little read then get on with life. I see so many people spending hours and hours every week fundraising for a cure, reading up about research … all the time precious days and hours are wasting away just like your body. I’ve seen someone spends hundreds of pounds each week on a so called ‘miracle diet’.

IMG_0841
Snake Oil, targeted at people who fear their future with dystrophy. Diet alone is not going to cure someone – here is my diet tip when time is short.

STRATEGY FOUR: Eat what the hell you like or love and be happy.

Food is a pleasure for me. I love eating curries, chocolate and anything with the word cheese in it. Eating makes me happy. Eating is something I won’t always be able to do because MD eventually stops you being able to swallow.


So to hell with diets. I’m going to eat whatever I want – sensibly. I don’t want to put on weight or clog up my arteries – especially when MD can give you heart problems as well. I don’t want to accelerate my death but I’m certainly not going to hold back on things I love! I will be creating memories when I can no longer swallow and that is my way of dealing with the future.

Awkward conversations

It’s harder to join in with conversations when your future is unsure.

Imagine this one – you are at the hairdressers and they ask the classic “going anywhere nice on your holidays this year?”.  What a conversation killer to say, well actually this time next summer I might be too ill to go on holiday or might even be dead.  Even something as simple as ‘Shall I book the cinema tickets for next week’ can be tricky. The true answer would be I can’t commit to going out because my health may take a nose dive. Of course if you are well, you’ve missed an opportunity to go to the cinema with friends, but on the other hand you haven’t wasted money or your friend’s time.

STRATEGY FIVE : We generally only book hotels, restaurants if they have refundable or zero cancellation fees for example. If I am not well then we can cancel without losing money.

STRATEGY SIX: I do more things alone or just with my husband – because there is less pressure to have to attend events when I am not well. I don’t like messing people around if I suddenly have to cancel – and not everyone understands.

Valuing friends

The majority of my friends have impairments – and most of them have progressive medical conditions. Some could die at any moment. It’s hard to suddenly see your friend’s name on Facebook with RIP next to it. Normally you wouldn’t be bothered if your healthy friends hadn’t been around social media for a while. But with my friends it often means only one thing … that heart stopping moment where you rush to their profile page, preparing for the worse.

I wonder whether the thing I just shared on social media might be the last – and what will that say to people who might visit my memorial page! What lasting impression will I give people … it’s kind of amusing. Read your last tweets/retweets and status updates and see if that is how you want to be remembered. It might make you think.

So maybe we value each other a bit more and the time we have – e-mails and chats are responded to quicker – tomorrow may never come.  We joke more about the future and about being old with our 20 year old friends. Birthdays become very poignant – a celebration of making it to that age and a harsh reminder of how little time might be ahead.

Live life quicker

STRATEGY SEVEN – pack as much into your life whilst you can.

It’s the classic – don’t put off doing something today because you think you can do it tomorrow.


You have to pack into life, the things you want to do or experience, in a much shorter time.  It might be something as simple as having a favourite meal or as big as a trip away to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Sometimes things are just not possible and you have to have a ‘next best thing’ strategy. I substitute the ‘go round the world’ adventure for a jaunt on google earth or the immersive experience of interacting with world travellers live on Periscope from the comfort of my own home.

Final thought

So, like Marty in the classic movie we mark today – living without a definite future can be tricky, sometimes we see our image fade before our very eyes. Missing from the albums of future weddings and special occasions. Sometimes it’s amusing and brings up unique conversations.   Most times it’s pretty darn good and not set in stone – but I AM disappointed we haven’t invented the hover chair yet ….. See you in the future ….

Beginner shrimps for new keepers

Beginners may want to start out with these shrimps. With optimum conditions they can live 1 – 2 years.

Good starter shrimp for first time keepers are Cherry (many colours but red is the hardiest in my experience) and Rili (again red has been hardier).

Click on the chart for a larger image.

easy_shrimp

Other good shrimp are Blue Jelly, Pearl and one of my favourites – the hardy Skunk or Rhino Horn shrimp.

Beginner shrimp 2