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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Benefits of Vermicomposting

 

It was no surprise to my mother, that as a 55 year old man I would have a worm farm in my home as well as planted fish tanks. Growing up in Crawfordsville, Indiana there where two things I was always doing, digging worms to feed to fish and playing in the creek that went through our back yard.

A year ago or so, a good neighbor of mine ask if I would like to have her worm farm. She was tired of dealing with all the white flies and smell.
So I jumped on the opportunity to get a free one already established instead of purchasing a new one and save myself a hundred dollars. I had been interested for some time in Vermi-composting for the benefits of all natural fertilizer for my house plants and also reducing what we send to the local landfill.

For this blog I decided to purchase a new farm called the "Worm Factory 360" from Nature's Footprint and expand my farming. I was totally blown away by the quality of the Worm Factory 360 and everything you need to get started except the worms. The Factory comes with a five year warranty, exclusive offers and resources as well as support through registration on their website. It also contains a DVD with a thick book of information.
It is so complete I don't even need to write a blog on how to achieve Vermi-composting so if you decide to invest in one I would hope that you do come back to this blog because I will be talking about how to use the Worm Factory 360 for it's benefits in the plant world as well as the planted fish tank hobby.

On average I would spend about $27.00 a month on frozen blood worms, that's about $324.00 a year. With the worm farm I could look at it as saving me $324.00 a year or as I see it, the worm farm is saving me $324.00 out of my hobby budget a year to spend on other needed items for my hobby like the recent purchase of a Vecton 200 UV sterilizer . I process the worms to feed to my fish now. Later on I will give a detailed blog on processing the worms for you.



The Worm Factory comes with a paper bag filled with shredded paper. Now this will give you a idea of what kinds of paper combinations to use and is referred to as the browns. We shred all documents, bills or anything that has personal information, brown paper bags, cardboard, and even yard leaves and mix it with old vegetables.
Our household is small now and we don't throw away very much at all, in fact the worms would starve on what we have left over so we have friends that save their throw away veggies, old potatoes and have them freeze it and drop off at our home once a week and in return we give them fresh veggies from our garden.

Sometimes there is an abundance of scraps at our door step and because they are frozen we just pop them into the freezer till feeding time. It is also a good thing to freeze the veggies because it helps them to be more easily consumed by the worms because the freezing breaks the cellar structure, but always thaw them out first before feeding. I have a bucket pictured above right, that I fill with browns and greens (Veggies, indoor plant trimmings, Aquarium plant trimmings) and mix with a big spoon.



My farm can consume a full tray, pictured left, of the mix in a week. It always amazes me how fast they can consume a full tray but when you have between 8000 - 10000 worms in a farm they eat fast. Now in starting this new farm I added a tray of worms from my old farm to populate the new farm. The picture of the worm ball pictured earlier in this post was just a large hand full of compost containing worms from the old farm. Later I will talk about how to remove the worms from the compost by showing the worms that they need to leave the compost they are in, as a result you have a clean pile of worms, or worm ball as it is called, to process into fish food.

In setting up your farm for the first time you want to line the bottom of the tray with wet news paper, no glossy paper and always use dechlorinated or distilled water with your worm farm. This will keep the worms from trying to escape from the new environment.
It's like when you bring a new fish home from the local pet store, you don't just pour the fish into the tank, you have to accumulate the fish into the new environment. The number one reason for new fish death is PH shock the second reason is the stress the fish has to endure getting from the local pet store to there new environment. With worms, they don't like to be disturbed and so they become stressed and like me when I get into stressful situations... I want to leave.
If you ever open up your worm farm and find that the worms have come together to form a ball it is either because your farm is two cold, so move to a warmer place. Ideal temp for your worms is between 55 and 75 degrees compost temperature.

When worms become stressed in their known environment they will come together in a ball and if it is a new environment they have a tendency to want to leave. The wet news paper keeps them from wanting to migrate down and you may need to leave a light on for a few days or place a lamp over the top if you see them coming out the lid. Worms do not like light so they will always stay away from it.

Take ground coconut husk and mix with just enough water for it to expand and become a loose gritty texture, not soggy. Worm bedding should never be soggy so if you squeeze a hand full you don't want to squeeze any water out. Remember moist not wet.


Add some pumice, (crushed volcanic rock) for aeration and drainage and then mix this with your browns,(shredded news paper, card board, brown paper bags, dried leaves). You also need to add minerals, grit because worms need minerals and grit to grind their food up in their stomach.

You also need to add a couple cups of garden soil because it contains organisms that will seed your new mix. Worms need these organisms and bacteria in their environment to help with the digestion process.
Now add some veggies to the corners and cover them up with the bedding. Cover with wet news paper, put the lid on and place your farm in a good location where temp's will be a consistent temperature.

Now if you are setting up your worm farm for the first time, don't buy your worms until you have received your worm farm and set it up. Order your worms at this point and when they arrive the new environment will be ready for farming...

There is more to come so come back to learn about the Benefits of Vermicomposting.

By Richard (from Everything Aquatic Forum)



For other articles that may interest readers of this article:

*Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle

*Aquarium Filtration; Filters; this is an excellent article with reviews, information, troubleshooting and more about choosing the correct aquarium filter.
This includes information about under-rated Sponge Filters or Fluidized Sand Bed Filters of which will outperform many of the most expensive canister filters.

*UV Sterilization; this is an excellent article for those desiring to lower the risk of disease in their shrimp tank, especially since shrimp are sensitive to many medications. This article starts with basics, answers many facts and myths, and provides UV bulb maintenance information too.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Problems with Aquarium Water - and How to Solve Them


 

All aquarium keepers experience fish health problems from time to time, however well maintained the tank.
Looking at some of the most common fish health problems and the remedies involved can take some of the guesswork out of fish-keeping.

Ways to avoid health problems…

When adding new fish, aquatics experts advise quarantine for a week in a separate chamber.

Maintenance is key - perform regular water changes of 15-20% and employ an adequate filter to cope with waste levels.

Use a good test kit - regular testing will make sure that you can monitor the elements in the tank before problems start. A master test kit contains tests for a multitude of problems and is great value. Swell UK have a wide range of test kits and aquarium treatments to keep your aquarium in great shape.

Even a slight water problem can cause stress to fish, which makes them more susceptible to infections and diseases. Getting the water quality just right can mean healthier fish for longer.



Common problems


Ammonia

Fish waste is high in ammonia which can have a devastating effect on your fish. It is very common in new aquariums as New Tank Syndrome when the filtration system is not mature enough to cope with the level of waste.

Symptoms:
  • Fish may gasp at the surface
  • White, cloudy water
  • Gills can turn red or purple
  • Dead or dying fish

Treat with a good ammonia remover at the first sign of symptoms. Follow up with regular water testing to monitor levels before a problem occurs.

Algae

Murky green water is often a sign of an abundance of algae. Cells of this natural, hardy plant can quickly spread and reduce visibility, light and oxygen levels in your aquarium.

Algae uses three things to thrive; water, light and nutrients. Of course the water must stay, but reducing the amount of light in the tank can help. Move the aquarium out of direct light and reduce the amount of artificial light to no more than 10 hours per day.

Good maintenance also helps - clean the tank walls and décor regularly to avoid a build-up.

Further Reading/References:
Freshwater Aquarium Basics; Green Water
Aquarium Algae Control

Calcium deficiency

If you have corals, the level of calcium must be monitored to ensure that they have sufficient levels to thrive. Using the relevant test kit will ensure that you can top up as needed so that corals can take what they need from the water. Most reef aquariums aim for a level of 380-420ppm calcium. Corals and invertebrates can quickly deplete levels from the water, so testing is a must for healthy growth.

Symptoms:
  • Slow growth
  • Some corals will appear to shrink back
  • Discolouration of both corals and invertebrates

Use a good calcium supplement along with regular testing to keep levels well maintained. A calcium rich substrate is also a good idea.

Further Information, including importance of calcium for freshwater aquariums: Aquarium Chemistry; Calcium, GH, KH, pH, more

Chlorine

Chlorine is used to make tap water safe for us to drink, however it is not so good for fish. It can cause burns and damage to the fish's delicate gills and mucus membrane which can be fatal.

Symptoms:
  • Gills can develop a white tinge
  • Fish can appear distressed with quick, jerky movements

The best treatment is to add a dechlorinator to tap water during water changes. This not only removes the element but conditions the water too, often incorporating aloe to aid healing. Many dechlorinators are also ideal to use when moving or transporting fish, to lower stress levels. Test for chlorine levels with the relevant test following water changes to ensure a level of 0.

Further Information:
Tap water for my Aquarium or Pond? From Chlorine and Chloramines to Phosphates, Sodium, & TDS

PH level

The pH level is imperative to ensure good water conditions. In all tanks, the pH level is important (although KH/Alkalinity is more important). Marine tanks especially need regular testing to ensure that the pH level is correct. The level indicates how acidic or alkaline the water is. In saltwater aquariums, it's generally more acidic which is beneficial to both reef and marine life.
A pH level of 7 is neutral but if the pH of the water is higher than around 7, it's more alkaline than necessary. Add a suitable buffer to restore the balance and support a healthy tank.

As always good maintenance is key to avoiding a multitude of problems, but regular testing can ensure you are well prepared to meet any issues that may arise. Keeping a good kit of remedies and test kits to hand can help you to tackle problems as they arise!

Further Information: Aquarium Chemistry; pH
Aquarium Chemistry; KH

Further References:

Aquarium Answers; Algae Control


Premium ATI/AAP Sponge Filters

For Aquarium Sponge Filters which are excellent for use in to improve filtration in high bio load and planted aquarium, which in turn lowers nutrients available to algae.

Sponge Filter Use Information
Sponge Filtration; Complete Sponge Filter Use Information



Aquarium or Pond UV Sterilization

True Level One Sterilization can be effective for control or part of a control plan of many types of aquarium algae.


Aquarium Lighting, Information

Aquarium Lighting is a major factor in control of many different algaes including BBA and brown diatom algae

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