Good Riddance to the ILF

  
Well, here we are at the end of the ILF era. It’s a key date, destined to be part of UK disability history. 

Reading the news, watching lobbying in Parliament and perusing  social network comments, you would think everyone using the fund wanted it back. Nowhere was there a balance of hearing from people like me. Long term fund users who were glad to see it end.

Disabled friends vilified me. How dare I be glad this is happening.  It would mean imprisonment, having no care and feeling you’d be better off dead.

I am going to celebrate a new beginning.

The good…

Actually, my needs had not changed and the local authority did the assessment. They agreed to fund me the part ILF covered. I had no drop in the amount and I’m financially better off as I won’t have to contribute towards my care. So, at least for now, things are good.  

The bad…

The ILF had many problems for me. No longer do I have to do exhausting 3-4 hr reviews -being questioned by the ILF to enable funding for another year. 

No more tears having to tell them over and over how impaired I am – repeating the same thing as Adult Services already knew. No more appeals and lengthy complaints procedures when they would cut my funding giving no explanation. 

No more rules like “we give extra funding for out of pocket carer/PA expenses… but only if you ask” and “you are not allowed to use your ILF funded hours for doing window cleaning, gardening …. “.  They even stopped disabled parents using their funds for Personal Assistance to enable them to care for their children.

Since 1997 I’d been trying to get them to communicate by e-mail because it was the easiest method for me that meant I could read  information privately and easily and access it without physical assistance. That never happened. They continued phoning and  posting printed information. They never understood my needs.

No more arguments between Adult Services and the ILF about exactly who would fund which hour. Would Adult Services fund the first toilet visit on a Tuesday or the ILF? That is how petty it would be. The ILF kept a chart of each hour on each day to see which ones they would fund.  In the end this was nonsense because they both put the money in my account and I just got on with paying my assistants.  

No more having to contribute 50% of my government benefit for care. I can now use that towards care and disability related expenses that fall outside of council funding. 

 The ILF was hardly run in the spirit of transparency and Independent Living.  In fact, it was so bad the Trust had to rewrite its constitution some years ago.

Using the fund was a necessary evil. It got me through university when Direct Payments didn’t exist.  It topped up my high care package that kept me living in my own home and employing PAs.  They reluctantly funded some hours to top up a third funding stream, Access to Work. What a hellish process of persuasion that was. 

and the ugly?

I don’t disagree that the switch over to council funding has been badly organised in England.  People are having a very stressful time. I have too. 

The local authority should have been made to ring fence the extra funding provided to them for ex ILF users.   The amount was only a one off and it seems wasn’t enough to fund people in those local authority areas, causing ‘your funding may decrease’ letters going out.   Also, councils left it until the last minute further adding to the stress. Finally, Social Care law changed in April so practitioners are still getting to grips with new procedures and guidelines which elongates the process.

Where I’m at today

My switch over was exhausting (made me I’ll for 4 days) but positive.  It was done in an understanding manner and I was informed what stage it was at along the way.  It was just a repeat of everything that should have been on file and some hoop jumping.

I am currently applying for Continuing Health Care and a Personal Health Budget.  It’s going badly. It’s a hundred times more stressful and exhausting than the ILF switch because of making me feel dehumanised.  I guess that story will become another blog post! 

Shrimp that change colour – some reasons.

  

A guide to why shrimps seem to change colour.

So, you just discovered your shrimp are a new variety of chameleon shrimp? You put a red one in the tank and now there are only white ones? You bought a blue one that was a rich blue and now it has faded? Perhaps you had one that completely changed colour – from white to green?

What happened?

Here are some top reasons why people have found their shrimp have changed colour.

1) Stress that causes coloured shrimp to become white or very pale.

Shrimp are like tropical fish. I had a bright blue and red cardinal fish once – well it was in the aquatic shop. When I got home the fish in then bag were white and looked a different shape!! I even made the newbie error of phoning up and asking what to do as I’d been given the wrong fish. I swear they looked completely different.

Well, I learnt something that day and felt very stupid. Stressed fish and shrimp can lose their colour within minutes. This can even change the shape we perceive them to be. My white fish soon changed back to the normal colour. Shrimp will do the same – and may also shed their skin (so you see the skin and think they died!!). Give them a few days (or even 24 hrs) and they should perk up.

2) Sick shrimp that turn opaque

Shrimp that start clear and turn opaque are usually ill from a bacterial or fungal infection.

3) Shrimp that turn green or blue when they were transparent.

Shrimp with full or partial segments that are transparent will show the colours of their inside organs. If they have eaten coloured food – then this can show through and a clear segment can turn bright green or blue!!

4) Shrimp that have been fed a colour dye.

Similar to the above, some crooks take clear shrimp, feed them colourings so they turn slightly blue/green/yellow or red … and sell them as shrimp of this colour. They are thus fake varieties and it is very wrong (so choose shrimp from reputable people). The duped person gets them home, they eat normal food, their bodies clean up and become their normal transparent/white colour.

5) Lighting on an aquarium (or reflection from coloured ornaments/plants)

Certain lights can change how the human eye perceives the colour of things in the tank. Some lights make plants look greener or shrimp look brighter. Change the light and they appear to have changed!

6) Age – older shrimps gain brighter colours

Shrimps will naturally get larger colour segments and brighter colours as they age – which can be enhanced by a good diet and optimum conditions.

7) Red ornaments and plants make duller red shrimps.

Shrimp appear brighter and colour up better on a contrasting background. This is why most people choose black substrate, dark wood and green plants.

8) Food options

Some foods and nutrients will keep a shrimp in good colour – I’ve never personally tested different types of foods and how much this is true – but it makes sense that good nutrition gives good coloured healthy shrimps.

Today in the shrimp tank

  

New observations this week

  • Rapid plant growth
  • Anubias leaves have pale patches
  • No algae on the walls which isn’t good for my Nerites .
  • pH is 6.4, TDS 230.
  • Dissolved a small amount of food and dropped the liquid around the tank to see if I can encourage some algae.
  • Lost a blue shrimp but all the others looking great. 
  • A few fungus spots on my wood. 

Little Hotties – temperature in the shrimp tank.

I learnt the hard way. Shrimp in nano tanks (around 30 litres or less) get hot – very quickly. I hear many people in the UK say they are not worried about temperature, then wonder why the shrimp died. It is also a key reason why you can not keep shrimp in small tanks without a suitable cooling method (or having them in a very cool, shady house or garage). My shrimp are not in the sun or by a heater – but they used to die from over heating.

Neocaridina like Red Cherry Shrimp and their colourful variations, have optimum (best and healthiest) temperatures for breeding and living. The hotter your shrimp tank, the quicker they will grow and breed – up to a point. That point is around 27-30 degrees C. They then slow down, start to turn white and die.

First attempt – do nothing

I had shrimp survive to about 30 – then sudden mass death. You see we had a heatwave and I was on holiday. I cooked my beloved shrimps. Even some of my tropical fish cooked.

Second attempt – bottled ice water and a room fan

Hot days (or cold winter days with the heating on) once more brought the temperatures up in the tank.

So I then did the only thing I could – put a fan on them and several times a day had a cycle of frozen bottled water going – one bottle floating in the tank, one in the freezer. Constantly rotating and watching the temperature was a real pain . It also meant sudden drops of 5-10 degrees for the shrimp – not good for their health.

The hotter it gets the less oxygen that dissolves into the water – so now I had a problem because the bubbles were on full blast and I couldn’t add any more air to the tank.

Why not an aquarium fan.

Simply the fact that an aquarium fan will only drop the temperature by about 2-4 degrees C. I needed a drop of over 10 at times. The temperature was rising faster than an aquarium fan could cope with. If my mega floor fan couldn’t cope then a tiny fan hooked over the aquarium was not going to cut it – no matter what angle you put it.

Third attempt – do it properly and automatically with a cooler.

IMG_6925

I had lost so many beautiful shrimps that I knew the solution was to set up a shrimp only tank and regulate the temperature with a cooler. No more fiddling with bottles and fans.

It was expensive – they are around £300 – but worth every penny.

The water comes out of the external filter, into the cooler, and like a fridge, it assesses how much cooling in needed, and the water is sent back into the tank at the chosen temperature (or within a few cycles if the first pass through is not enough).

So my tank cooler is set on 23 degrees C (when the cooler senses a rise to 24, it cools it back to 23). No worries and it only takes a minute or two to get the temperature down.

Maintenance

We change the tubes to and from the cooler every 4-6 months depending on how much algae is in them. This week, we flushed some tap water through the cooler to give the inside a clean.

You need an external filter to run a cooler and the pressure from that filter pump must be high enough to push the water through the tube circuit and through the cooler. Mine came with detailed instructions.

It was very easy to set up. One thing I would say is don’t clamp the hose on too tight if using tube clips/clamps – I broke the nozzle on my cooler (but still had enough nozzle to reattach the tubes to).

When it’s on, it is a little noisy – but it’s only on for a few minutes at a time and sometimes only for about 3 times a day (hourly in the summer afternoons).

Collecting Rain Water

When it comes to filling your shrimp tank with water (or changing water or topping up) you have four options.

1) Rainwater

2) RO water (more about this later)

3) Tap water

4) Bottled water.

Tap water and the things to watch out for.

The easy option is tap water. I started my first tank using tap water. Anything from the tap has been through a massive chemical clean up to make it fit for human consumption. Chemicals which are added vary in different countries. They can include a range of things including adding chlorine (and chloramine) and ammonia.  That’s right – the key things you don’t want (unless you want dead aquatic animals).  If you have old copper pipes – then you can add copper to the list of nasties.

So, you then need a de-chlorinator liquid to add. These liquids usually get rid of both Chlorine and Chloramine – BUT check the table as there are some which are chlorine only.

Chlorine, eventually, will dissipate if you leave tap water for long enough (24 hrs or more depending on the amount/surface area). Chloramine is a problem because it is a mix of chlorine and ammonia. This will not dissipate and will kill aquatic life.

Using these liquids can bring up bad results on ammonia test kits – unless they actually measure both free and ionised ammonia (NH3 and NH4+)

Tap water for us is monitored – we are on a water meter so it would cost us to money we didn’t need to spend.

The main problem is the pH – our water is very hard and has a high pH – so high that the shrimps were not coping very well. So for healthier animals, we switched to rainwater.

RO units – why I didn’t choose these.

The cost of purchasing the unit, and nowhere to put it were the main two factors for me.

Example_of_RO_unit

RO water (Reverse Osmosis) is a way of passing water through a group of filters at high pressure. Dissolved organic solids are removed from the water through a membrane to remove impurities. It can involve a number of stages (from 3 to 6) which the water passes through.

How effective they are depends on the filter stages, water temperature and pressure from your mains supply. They can cost £40  to £400.

Filters include sediment, carbon and the membrane itself.

The pH is close to neutral and the TDS (total dissolved solids) measures around 0. Once impurities are removed, water must then be re-mineralized to the level that the aquatic animals need.

Advantages:

  • Pure water –  99% removal with higher end units. TDS around 0
  • Don’t use electricity – they run on your water pressure.

Disadvantages:

  • Plumbing it it – Installation is usually under a sink as it needs to attach to your water supply.
  • Uses tap water – so the expense of that water.
  • Can be slow – can take 12-24 hours to produce enough.
  • You need to keep the filters wet.
  • You will need a pressure pump if sending rainwater through it.
  • many require a connection to a drain for wastewater
  • Up to 50% reduction in the amount of water filtered if pressure and temperature are too low.
  • Filters need replacing every 4-6 months or as stated on the product
  • Units need maintenance – lubrication, filter replacement, replacement parts and flow valves.
  • Storage is needed for the clean water.

 

Rain Water – why I chose this method

The benefits:

  • Free (as a source)
  • Better for aquatic life
  • Better for the environment
  • Easy to add minerals to in the concentration that shrimp prefer.
  • No need to use chemical or chloramine removers.

Disadvantages are:

  • Not as pure as RO (TDS around 50)
  • Initial cost / time adding a way to collect it
  • Initial cost of making a filtering unit and buying a filter canister
  • Running outside every time it’s raining!
  • Storing the filtered and dirty collected rainwater
  • Time filtering it.
  • Storage

The benefits outweighed the effort and intial cost – simple as that.

How we collect and prepare the water.

  

First collecting it

  1. We set up a flexible pipe coming from the drain pipe
  2. Wait until it has rained hard for about 20 minutes (once the rubbish has been washed off the roof and the rain is less likely to bring with it pollutants from the air)
  3. Stick the pipe into a cheap collecting container to collect the rain.

These are 10L containers of food grade Polyethylene (so they are UN tested for Leaks and Impacts and certified safe for food storage). You get two for around £8. If it’s safe for humans it’s safe for shrimps! These are also stackable and very robust. We have about 6.

 

10_L_container

 

Next we filter it.

1) At a time that is convenient, we tip the water into our sediment filtration system and collect it in a clean container labelled ‘filtered water only’ containers.

I was only concerned with filtering out particles and do not run the water through carbon – although you could add another level of filtration. We store the unit in the garage and it takes a few minutes to filter 10L

The water flows, under gravity, into the filter canister (£22 from Vyair UK), through the 5 micron RO filter cartridge which is like a fabric/fibre roll with a hole down the middle (£7.99 for a pack of 3 and we use one a year) and out of the pipe into the container on the floor.

The filter is easily replaced – you just unscrew the canister and pop it it!

So it costs very little and produce a particle free water. Yes there could be bacteria and microbes in it but then that’s nature and a risk I’m prepared to take.

2) Sometimes I boil it – sometimes I don’t.

I sometimes boil the water before re-mineralising.  Daphnia and other organisms can still be present unless the water is boiled which seems to kill them. They aren’t harmful to shrimp but they ruin a good shrimp photo.

3) Finally I store the water in the dark until I need it to prevent algae growth.

Re-mineralising

I test the water in my aquarium. If the TDS meter says it is more than 230, I don’t add minerals – I dilute the tank with filtered rain water for top ups to lower the TDS back to what I want.

Salty_ShrimpFor water changes (or top ups if the TDS is 230), I re-mineralise. This is simply a case of adding mineral salts like this (left) until the TDS meter reads 230 or just under (depending on what it is in the tank at the time).

Then into the tank it goes!

The shrimp seem healthier, I get to choose what minerals go in and also the pH.

 

Acclimatising Shrimp

So your new shrimp arrived and it’s time to put them in your aquarium.

Like all aquatic animals, your new shrimps won’t appreciate the trauma of being put straight into new water. 

With fish, you might be familiar with the old ‘float them in your tank and add a little of the new tank water to the bag’ method or similar. 

This brings in two elements we need to do with shrimp – get them used to the temperature and water parameters of their new home.

With shrimp, they are more likely to withstand the shock if you do it very VERY slowly. 

Sensitive shrimp

Freshwater shrimp are sensitive creatures. They can easily be stressed by new changes – even a water change can freak them out! They    can start to frantically swim around, moult ( shed their skin) and lose their colour. They can die because of this.

The best way to introduce them is with such small changes that they don’t even realise. This gives them the best chance.

  
Acclimatisation 

So, this is what I do. 

I put my shrimps into a casserole dish with some moss to hide under. I have a thermometer as well to check the temperature. 

I now gently, with slow movements, take out about 2/3rds of the water with a yogurt pot. 

Next I set up my drip. This consists of an enema bag I got cheap on eBay for just such an occasion.  I flush it through with tank water and adjust the tap to get a flow of about 1 drip per second. 

Next I tape the nozzle so it drips into the bowl with my shrimp. 

…. then I use this 3 hr window to coo over my new shrimps and post their photos on FaceBook. Once my friends are fed up with shrimp, I take out the same amount of water and repeat. This time I go faster with the water – 2 to 3 times faster. 

If they aren’t the same temperature as the tank I use an ice wrap or heat pad around the bowl.  

So now they are used to the water parameters and temperature of my tank – so in they go. I prefer catching them with a glass shrimp catcher and keeping the bowl water out of my tank.

Feeding tube and bowl for shrimp: review

When it comes to feeding time, I used to just try and drop the water soluble granules onto a stone. Often it fell anywhere but where I wanted it, sinking into the soil and messing it up.

  
So I invested £4.50 in buying a feeding tube and bowl. This was the description:

  • Brand new & high quality
  • Tube Inner Diameter: 1.5cm
  • Tube Outside Diameter: 1.9cm
  • Total Length: 27cm
  • Material: Acrylic 

Package Includes:

  • 1x Shrimp Feeding Tube
  • 2x Suction Cups


  

What I thought

The acrylic tube has a pointed end to locate where you require food to drop to. It clips into  plastic grips that suction onto the tank.

The grips were very small and not suited for the pipe  – after a week they snapped and I have had to order more. The quality of the clips were poor but if they had been a bigger size, probably wouldn’t have broke.

The tube is very useful and I’m not using the bowl (you can buy them separately from many people on eBay). Different lengths were available and it’s something I wouldn’t be without as feeding is so much cleaner and easier.

How I use it

I located it over a flat piece of Dragon Stone for a natural look. 


Tips for buying shrimp.

Shrimp_buyingSo your new aquarium is planted, cycled and ready for the excitement of adding shrimp. A lot of people aren’t sure where to buy them from or how to have the best chance of healthy shrimp.  I’ve seen a lot of people complain their shrimp died before they arrived or after a few days.

I’m adding new shrimp this week – so I thought it would make a useful topic to write about, today it’s about buying shrimp, next time it will be about acclimatisation and putting them in your tank.

Some of the things I do / have done and what to look out for.

First up – where to buy them from.

First batch – from a local aquatic shop (who got them via a breeder):

My first ever batch of shrimp (a few tiger and cherry shrimp) I ordered from a trusted aquatic shop attached to a garden centre. If you are buying them from a shop, some things you should consider:

  • What is the health status of the fish/shrimp/plants in the shop. I’ve been into places like my local Pets At Home and seen some very sorry sights – half dead animals or high incidence of disease (or staff who don’t seem to be knowledgeable).
  • Do you know what a healthy shrimp should look like? Watch some YouTube videos to get an idea of normal behaviours.
  • Do you know what the type of shrimp is – are you being sold what you think you are (as some shrimp need different water parameters or are for more experienced keepers).
  • Don’t get mixed up with names e.g. a Red Fire shrimp with a Fire Red Shrimp – one is saltwater the other is freshwater!
  • Shrimp colour – some places actually feed shrimp food which changes their body colour – so without the colouring, your blue shrimp might actually be clear after a few days and never go blue again – and you will have been conned.
  • How knowledgable about shrimp are staff?

The first aquatic shop I tried (attached also to a garden centre) had tanks of dead fish and when I asked staff if they were getting any shrimp in, the response was ‘no they don’t breed at this time of year’. I had read that shrimps will breed all the time given the right habitat – they don’t just mate a few months in the year. This is a Neocaridina shrimp we are talking about not a panda.

The next shop was the one I normally bought my fish from. The stock was healthy and the staff very knowledgeable. I asked which shrimp they could get in and learnt about Cherry types and colours and Tiger shrimps – so went for a few of those. As soon as they came in, the shop called and I went to pick up my new tank mates for the fish (at the time my shrimp lived with my fish). They looked healthy and just like I’d seen on the internet (bagged and taken care of nicely – and I saw the tanks they had kept them in at the shop).

So I was very pleased and they moved into the fish tank and produced lots of babies and were very happy.

 

Untitled

Second batch onwards – I had them posted from a shop I found on the internet.

When I decided to start a planted tank just for shrimp – I wanted more choice, so I searched the internet and found two shops – both who specialised in shrimps.

I would never buy shrimp from a random eBay seller or person on a forum – there are sellers out there who breed shrimp properly and ship them with the greatest of care – but unless I knew them well, I personally would only trust a specialist shop.

Things to consider when using an internet shop:

  • Wider choice of shrimp and products
  • Usually very knowledgeable and can help you with your choice
  • Usually well packaged
    • Expect to pay around £10 postage and choose a delivery date (if you are like me, you will be excitedly waiting for the postman anyway and not likely to be out!!)
    • A good shop will provide heat packs during the winter – although I have had a package of shrimp survive being left outside the door on a frosty day with a failed heat pack – they were icy cold.
    • Good packaging is double bagged with a small amount of moss or something for the shrimp to cling to is often added – and the bags may be padded with polystyrene or similar to protect from banging around.
    • Double check whether all shrimp will be put in one bag – you might not want them interbreeding if they are to live in tanks just for their own type – and you never know what might happen during their transit!!
  • Don’t be afraid to buy through the post from a reputable place.
  • Accidents happen – maybe the parcel was kept next to something cold, maybe a heat pack failed, maybe the shrimp got too hot or were handled badly in the post? Sometimes accidents happen that is out of the control of the seller.
    • A good dealer will have a policy on what to do to get a refund if your shrimp arrive dead (usually take a video or photo of the packaging intact clearly showing shrimp that are dead – so they can determine if they really did arrive dead or died because of how you opened the bag for example)
    • You usually have to tell the store within so many hours of them arriving or within the first day – so read the details and don’t just dive in, open the bags and realise you can’t claim if you see any dead.
    • Order shrimp in smaller quantities – if you spend hundreds of pounds for one shipment – and that shipment goes wrong or there is a problem you can’t prove was the postal service, you could lose a lot of money.

Personally, I buy from Sharnbrook Shrimp most of the time, I’ve never had any dead shrimp on arrival and the quality of shrimp has been excellent. I’ve used a few other places for things they haven’t stocked and never had any dead shrimp or nerites arrive or problems with my on-line orders.