Saturday, August 11, 2018

Confessions of a Fish Breeding Entrepreneur

Ever wonder what it takes to convert your fish breeding side hustle into a full-time job? As part of my new series “Confessions of an Aquarium Addict,” I interviewed Greg Sage of Select Aquatics about what it takes to run a one-man aquaculture business from his basement and how he became the premier source of rare livebearers in the US. Topics include:

▶ What are your main challenges when starting a fish breeding business?
▶ How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
▶ How do you decide which species to breed?
▶ What's the secret for making online fish sales profitable?
▶ How do you get new customer leads?
▶ What is Greg's favorite and least favorite part of the job?
▶ What is Greg's #1 piece of advice for someone wanting to breed fish for a living?

Related Links

Question of the Day

What kind of aquarium addict would you like to see me interview next?* Comment below to share your suggestions. Good luck with your fish keeping and I'll see you next time!

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Saturday, August 4, 2018

How to Host a Cheap AND Easy Kids’ Birthday Party

It’s summertime and your 6-year-old kid is growing up, no longer content to share a birthday party with his younger sister whose birthday is a mere 2 weeks later. What do you do? The thought of planning a full-blown Pinterest-perfect party with themed Transformers (his favorite) decorations, games, and foods was just exhausting. Sorry, I work part-time, my parents are in town, and my kids are out of school. Ain’t nobody got time for that. So here are the steps I took to plan a low key celebration that my son claimed was “the best birthday party ever!”

Step 1: Request Form
I had my son fill out a request sheet. Kinda like when you plan a baby shower, you ask the mom-to-be what their favorite color is, who they want to invite, their favorite foods, and so on. That way my son gave me a bunch of ideas as a starting point and he got to practice his writing skills over the summer. Bonus points!

Extra hint: ask him to limit the number of guests because fewer kids means less mess and less stress.

Step 2: Time and Location
I definitely didn’t want to host it at our house and have to clean from top to bottom, plan out games and entertainment, and scrub red Kool-Aid off our carpet. But I didn’t have the money to bring everyone to the pool or some theme park. So I asked around my mom friends for brand new community parks that were free and not super crowded. Found this awesome splash pad and playground area with picnic tables and large umbrellas. Score! Plus, since it’s outdoors, I don’t really have to decorate.

Can you believe this huge splash park was free? ğŸ˜²

As for time, I chose a Wednesday morning from 9-11 a.m. Yes, that meant only kids with stay-at-home parents could attend, but honestly, everyone’s so busy on the weekends, I knew it would be hard to reserve a Saturday. 9-11 a.m. was cool enough to hang out in the summer sun, and it was between breakfast and lunch, so I didn’t have to prepare a whole meal for 20 people.

Step 3: Invitations
No more paper and envelop invites. Since we only invited four people, I just texted everyone individually, but you can also email them or set up a Facebook invite.

Step 4: Food
I deliberately picked finger foods that didn’t need any cutting or utensils, as well as drinks like juice boxes and water bottles. That way I only had to bring paper plates and a roll of paper towels. For the cake, we just made cupcakes from a box, but you could easily pick up a cake from a grocery store or bakery to save time.

Step 5: Party Favors
Rather than send kids home with a bag of dollar store trinkets that will just get tossed in the trash by the end of the day, I went to the cheap toy section of Walmart and got $1 large plastic dinosaurs for the young kids and $2 generic-brand Nerf guns for the older kids. Staple a bag of candy and a thank you note to the top, and you’ve got a party favor.

And there you have it! The kids loved the splash pad and playground, and the adults got to lounge around under the picnic umbrellas. Around the 1-hour mark, we blew out candles, opened birthday presents, and handed out party favors, so that meant people were free to leave whenever they wanted. Couldn’t ask for an easier birthday party that my son absolutely loved!

Question of the Day

Any tips for planning an easy kids birthday party on a budget? Comment below to share your experiences because I'd love some ideas for next year! Hope you’re having fun with your kids, and I’ll see you next time!

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Epic Planted Aquarium Showroom — Aquarium Design Group

I got to visit the Aquarium Design Group (ADG) in Houston, TX recently where they have an incredible showroom featuring their custom designed planted, hardscape only, and saltwater aquariums. The Senske brothers have combined art, design, and architecture to make a collection of beautifully sophisticated aquatic installations. They also have a full retail aquarium store where you can purchase live corals and plants, fish, hardscape, aquascaping tools, and more. Here is a visual tour of some of the most impressive fish tanks I saw displayed during summer 2018:

While I don’t have all the details of what each aquarium entails, here is some information I collected from ADG’s Instagram (certain aspects may have been altered):
  • 90P Planted Aquarium: Blyxa “red” sp. in background (used by Amano), uses CO2, Twinstar 900E light with inline dimmer
  • 90cm Tank with Lava Stone: Eleocharis acicularis “mini” (from Tropica tissue culture cup) as carpet, coral moss (Riccardia chamedryfolia) on the rock
  • 20 Gallon Long with Lava Stone: contains bucephalandra, anubias nana petite, and coral moss (Riccardia chamedryfolia); Twinstar 900E light; Carib-Sea white sand?
  • Tripod Archway: Ultum Nature Systems 60U; uses only attached/epiphytic plants such as buce and coral moss (aka riccardia or mini pellia)
  • Wild Discus Hardscape: Planet Aquariums rimless tank with 3M vinyl frosted film as the background; livestock includes wild red Heckel discus, green laser corydoras, cardinal tetras, and angelfish
  • Lake Tanganyika Tank: 460 gallon, 7' x 4' x 4'??
  • West African Tank: 9-foot African riverine hardscape with four Kessil A80 LED lights
  • 425-Gallon Reef Tank

Related Links
Aquarium Design Group
ADG FaceBook page
ADG Instagram

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

How to Survive the Terrible Threes

Do you have an adorable two- or three-year-old who is simultaneously the love of your life and the bane of your existence? Yeah, got one of those, too. Keep reading to find out how we survived the terrible twos and threes.

Now, my son is like me, super chill and compliant by nature, so we hardly experienced the terrible twos with him. My daughter, on the other hand, is like her father, a strong-willed force of nature who has to do everything herself. Her “terrible twos” started when she was 18 months old and lasted until now when she’s about to turn 4. That first year was intolerable because we could not figure out what made her tick! She didn’t seem to respond to any kind of correction or training.

Corrective Methods We Tried First

We tried positive reinforcement, but she didn’t care about our approval or rewards. She cared more about getting that lollipop into her mouth now!

We tried swatting her on the hand or butt, and… it would only add fuel to the fire. Instead of instilling a contrite spirit, she would furiously react by trying to hit or attack us in retaliation. (Good self-defense response, I guess.)

We tried time-outs, and this girl would calmly stand in the corner and proceed to deliberately pee in her underwear as a form of protest.

I would remove her toys and privileges, but she didn’t care. She’s not very materialistic like that and would rather see it all burn rather than give in.

Redirection kinda worked, but it mostly served to defuse tantrums and I’m not sure it made any lasting impressions.

Success: The "Straitjacket Hug"

After much trial and error, we developed what I call the “straitjacket hug.” See, our daughter really values her independence, so what we do is take away her physical freedom. I put her on my lap facing away from me, put her hands in each of mine, and then wrap my arms around her. If she starts kicking me, I clamp her legs between mine. And she basically stays like that until she apologizes (and I believe it’s genuine). If she does it again, then she gets a tighter hug and for a longer period of time.

How to discipline toddlers with the straitjacket hug

The pros of this method is that it’s a good way of helping her to calm down because sometimes she has trouble calming down on her own. And in public, it looks like I’m merely hugging her, not disciplining or hurting her. (No Child Protective Services, thank you very much...) My daughter even asks me to hug her backwards when she needs comforting, so clearly she knows the difference between a corrective hug and a regular hug.

The cons is that she's free to cry and vent her frustration vocally, so usually I stay silent till she’s calmed down and apologized before attempting to talk about her behavior.

Now that we’re out of the terrible twos and threes, we don’t have to use the straight-jacket hug as often. She knows that as soon as I lock her down, I’m going to patiently out-wait her no matter what it takes. And now that she’s almost four, every day doesn't feel like a battlefield from sunrise to sundown, and I feel like I can actually breathe a little. I’m so grateful we found a simple disciplinary method that’s effective and works well for our family. So to all you parents of young kids who are at your wits end, don’t give up. Keep researching, keep trying new things, and eventually the tide will turn and this season will pass.

Question of the Day

what tips and tricks do you have for surviving the terrible twos and threes? Comment below to share your experiences because I’d love to hear them. I know you’re doing an amazing job parenting your kid, so chin up and I’ll see you next time!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

BUCEPHALANDRA CARE GUIDE | How to Plant, Grow & Propagate Buce

Bucephalandra is such an easy and beautiful aquarium plant that’s perfect for low tech planted tanks and nano aquascapes, but is it worth the hefty price tag? Keep reading to find out more:

What is Bucephalandra?

Location: This beautiful plant is found along banks of fast-moving streams in Borneo, using its strong roots to attach to rocks. In the aquarium hobby, we usually grow them underwater as submsered, but because of their locale's wet and dry seasons, they can also be grown out of water as emersed plants. There are over 200 varieties but less than 10 named species last I heard.

Size: The plant grows to about two to four (or more) inches in height, and even taller when grown emersed. The leaves are usually half an inch to four inches long, making buce a good plant to grow in the foreground, mid-ground, or attached to hardscape.

Appearance: The most common varieties on the market are usually seen with oval-shaped leaves that have a wavy edge. However, many other varieties can have leaves that are smaller, skinner, straight-edged, and so on. Their colors range from light to dark green, sometimes with purples, reds, and blues mixed in. The leaves are known for having an iridescent sheen with small white dots. Bucephalandra can produce pink or white flowers, although they don’t always survive well underwater.

Growth Pattern: Depending on the variety, buce can creep along laterally, grow in a mat, or grow upright (which seem to be harder to keep according to Rachel O’leary).

Bucephalandra in an aquascaped tank by Aquarium Design Group

How to Care for and Maintain Buce

Most of the care information can be summarized in the chart above, but their care level is fairly easy and similar to keeping anubias. The growth rate is slow (depending on your lighting, CO2, and other conditions). From what I've read, they seem to handle a wide range of temperatures from 70's to 80's °F, as well as a pretty wide pH range of 6.0 to 8.0.

The lighting can range from low in the shade to high near the top of the tank (although if it's too high, you may have algae problems since buce is so slow growing). CO2 is not necessary, but will help of course. Like any rhizome plant, it will benefit from fertilizers in the water column. And finally, buce likes good water movement since it comes from river environments.

Where to Buy Buce

I rarely see bucephalandra at my local fish store, and if I do, it's usually a mystery variety. People don't really sell them at fish club auctions either since they're still relatively rare and grow slowly. Your best bet is to find an online retailer. has a great website and offers a ton of varieties, so I would definitely check them out (#notsponsored).

Bucephalandra mini coin and wavy green in betta planted tank

I think the reason why buce is so expensive is because it's still new-ish to the hobby and I've heard new laws and restrictions were put in place to help stop the illegal export of buce since it was being overharvested from the wild. So try to buy commercially produced or farm-raised plants if at all possible.

How to Propagate Buce

In the wild, their flowers produce scents to attract beetles for pollination. However in the aquarium hobby, propagation is as easy as cutting the rhizome. Just use some sharp, clean scissors, and avoid cutting the rhizome sections too short.

Bucephalandra flower bud purchased from local fish store

How to Plant Buce

When you receive your new buce, remove any sickly leaves before planting. You can place the buce into the substrate, but make sure to only cover the roots and not the rhizome. You can also wedge it between rocks and crevices in driftwood. If you'd like to attach it directly to the hardscape, you can tie it with thread or fishing line, or use super glue gel (my favorite method).

Similar to crytocoryne plants, bucephalandra may melt with sudden changes in water parameters – like moving it from submersed to emersed or even moving it to a different tank. When buce melts, it loses its leaves and stores nutrients all the way down to the rhizome, so don’t throw away the rhizome. Give it some time to see if it will recover in its new environment.

Conclusion: Plant Rating

In summary, bucephalandra is a beautiful plant with iridescent leaves, is easy to care for, and is perfect for low tech tanks and nano tanks. However, it is relatively expensive, may melt initially, and takes lots of patience since it's slow growing. So I'm going to give the bucephalandra 4 stars out of 5. If you’re looking for something a little unique that’s not anubias or java fern, definitely check it out!

Related Links
50 Shades of Buce!
Buce Infographic
Growing Bucephalandra

Question of the Day

Do you have any care tips for bucephalandra? Do you think buce is worth all the hype? Comment below to let me know what you think.

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

How to Raise Cory Catfish Fry

Apparently your cory catfish have been, ahem, gettin’ busy, and there are white little eggs all over your glass. Babies! So what in the world do you do now? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about raising corydoras fry.

How to Breed Cory Catfish

Okay, for most of you, breeding corydoras was probably an accident, but here’s what you can do to encourage it. For me, I had a 20 gallon tank with 6 adult-sized albino cory catfish (to increase my chances of having enough males and females). To get them in the mood, condition them by feeding lots of good food, and then do some water changes with fresh water a few degrees cooler than normal. Next thing you know, everyone’s gettin’ frisky, the males are chasing the females and doing the T-shaped mating position, and then the female lays sticky eggs on any ol’ flat surface around.

Female albino corydoras carrying newly fertilized eggs in her pelvic fins
Female albino cory catfish carrying newly fertilized eggs in her pelvic fins

How to Collect Corydoras Eggs

If you leave the eggs alone, it’s like a natural form of population control because most of them will get eaten. However, if you want maximum survival rate, remove the eggs with a credit card or your finger (my preference) and put them either in a grow-out tank or use a smaller container with no holes that floats in the main tank. Add an air stone for gentle water agitation and put a few drops of methylene blue to prevent fungal growth. And then perform daily 50% water changes as needed.

The fertilized eggs turn clearish yellow-brown, whereas the unfertilized eggs turn solid white. Remove the unfertilized eggs so they won’t grow fungus that spreads to the fertilized eggs. After the eggs hatch in 2 to 5 days, clear out the methylene blue from the water.

Cory catfish fertilized eggs, unfertilized eggs, and 1-day-old newly hatched fry with yolk sac
1 solid white unfertilized egg - second from the right (upper left box), 2 fertilized eggs (upper right box), and 1-day-old newly hatched corydoras fry with their yolk sacs (bottom boxes)

Where to Raise Corydoras Fry

I’ve used both breeder baskets and grow-out tanks, and I now prefer the latter. My plastic breeder basket had slits at the bottom that the fry kept falling out of (when they were less than 3 weeks old), and the mesh breeder basket had corners that the fry kept getting stuck in. The grow-out tank I used was just a 10-gallon clear plastic tub I normally keep as my quarantine tank, and I feel like the larger volume kept the water cleaner and gave the fry more swimming room to avoid stunted growth.

To keep the water quality high, I did 50% water changes 3 to 4 times a week with a large siphon, covered with a filter media bag and thick rubber band to prevent casualties. To remove fish waste or uneaten food, you can siphon with airline tubing. I like to tie a chopstick to the vacuuming end (for easier maneuverability) and then clamp the other end of the tube into a net or bucket so you can catch any escapees.

Top view of 2-week-old albino cory catfish fry in a plastic breeder container
Top view of 2-week-old albino corydoras fry in a breeder basket

What to Feed Corydoras Fry

In the first 1 to 2 days, the cory catfish are still feeding off their yolk sac so don’t give them anything to eat. After that I feed the fry about 2 to 3 times a day. Each week I introduce a new kind of food and then alternate between the different foods for greater variety and nutrition.

  • Week 1: I feed Hikari First Bites or other powdered fry food. Don’t use your fingers because the dust just gets stuck under your fingernail. Just stick a chopstick in the bag to collect a little food and then swirl it around in the fry tank to make the powder sink. I don’t use egg yolk because it’s too messy and crushed flakes float too much for the catfish fry to reach.
  • Week 2: I add frozen baby brine shrimp to the menu. It kinda looks like pink liquid when you feed it to them because the particles are so small.
  • Week 3: I introduce the straight-up, raw powder form of Repashy Community Plus gel food. (I don’t bother making the gel until they’re a little bigger.)
  • Week 4: The fry now get frozen daphnia or frozen cyclops, depending on what I can find at my local fish store.
What to feed baby corydoras fry
A variety of cory catfish fry foods, such as Hikari First Bites, frozen baby brine shrimp, frozen daphnia, and Repashy Community Plus gel foods

Once the fry can eat adult food and they’re too big to be eaten by the other fish, they can join adults (usually around 1.5 to 3 months old). Remember, the longer they spend in fry tank with no food competition, the faster and bigger they’ll grow.

When to Cull Fry

No one likes to talk about culling, but if a fry has a genetic defect that shouldn’t be passed on, consider euthanizing that fish. I had an issue where one of my biggest fry had a crooked spine, and while it didn’t seem to hinder him, I couldn’t in good conscience allow him to spread the disorder to future generations. (I personally use clove oil for humane fish euthanasia.)

How to Rehome Fry

With my first batch of eggs, I ended up with about 15 healthy fry that were big enough to join the community tank. However, that means my aquarium is kinda on the overstocked side. If you’ve got a population boom, consider giving fry away to friends, selling them through your local fish club or Craigslist, or giving them to a fish store (where you may or may not get store credit). Unless you have a super rare species of corydoras, you’re probably not going to get a lot of money from them, but hey, most of us are in this hobby because we love it, not necessary to make rent.

3.5-month-old albino cory catfish hanging out with his parents

Question of the Day

What’s your favorite type of fish to breed and why? Comment below so I can get some ideas for my next breeding project. If you like this video, hit that subscribe button and follow me on Instagram for daily updates. Good luck with your cory catfish and I’ll see you next time!

Related Links
How To Raise Corys The Easy Way, From Egg To Adult
So You Want to Breed Corys?
Hatching & Raising Cory Fry

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Learning to Say No to People Pleasing

Learning to Say No to People Pleasing

I've always been super conflict adverse as a kid and now an adult, carefully avoiding saying anything controversial to keep the peace. After all, doesn't the Bible say, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." (Romans 12:18)? While that verse is certainly truth, I now know my heart has always been in the wrong place, had the wrong motivation. In reality, I have an unhealthy fear of man, instead of an appropriate fear of God.

book nerd icon
Being good at school will make me feel loved and respected, right?

As a child, I was always the good little girl, eager to win my parents' and teachers' praise. If I did everything right, I was worthy, valuable, special, loved. In middle school, my natural introversion made it hard for me to make friends, which seeded great doubts and insecurities into my heart. As the song goes, "Nobody likes me, Everybody hates me, Guess I'll go eat worms." While I was fortunate to have a close-knit group of friends in high school, apparently the hurt was still there. I deliberately attended an out-of-state college where no one knew me and reinvented myself as "outgoing, talkative Anne" who had lots of friends and activities to keep me busy.

Unfortunately, these old wounds continued to haunt me in adulthood since, at the core, I still desperately feared being disliked and rejected by others. My early years of marriage with Mr. Gamer were rough. I tended to stuff areas of disagreement deep inside (because I wanted to be a "good wife"), only to have them blow up a couple of months later in front of my confused husband's face. "But I just wanted to eat pizza at home tonight, not go out. Why are you crying?" he would ask.

eating pizza and Italian food icon
It's never really a fight about pizza, is it?

Mr. Gamer is truly my match made in heaven because he is my complete opposite – extroverted, strong-willed, a born leader. If he wanted his way, usually he got it because of his overwhelming personality and because I hated to disappoint the one I loved most. Obviously that's not healthy in the long run for one spouse to always give in to the other. By marrying Mr. Gamer, I was forced to come out of my shell, to stand up to the challenge, to be iron sharpening iron. And by standing up to my husband and absorbing some of his force of will, I've become stronger and less of a pushover gradually over time. But the awkwardness and fear of others' opinions still exist.

I just finished reading When People Are Big and God is Small, written by a Christian counselor for people-pleasers. The content is biblically solid and several key points stuck out to me:
  • Why fear man over God when He is so much bigger in every way? (Matthew 10:28)
  • As one of God's children, He fully accepts (not rejects) me with rejoicing and singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
  • "Need other people less. Love other people more." (Chapter 11 of the book)
While the book isn't one of my favorites, God really used it as a conversation starter between me and Him to dig deeper into my fear of man and feelings of unworthiness. Yes, I'm still maturing when it comes to making God my end-all and be-all, but at this point in my walk right now, He wants to pour His love on me and make sure I understand it in all its ramifications. Slowly but surely, He's bringing out the "real Anne," the introvert who also has a will of her own, who has wisdom that is worth considering, and who has beauty worth uncovering.

playing and holding hands icon
"Need other people less. Love other people more."

P.S. I don't know if this will help anyone out there, but God left me with some personal words that I'd like to share with you:
You are forever accepted, wanted, loved, and found worthy!
Believe it, dear daughter. Just as you love your children and delight over them and know their precious value, you too are adored and cherished by Me.
Never call yourself unattractive, unworthy, unloved.
Your path is not the path of men and cannot be understood by them.
Only I can understand you fully and completely and forever!
Know that if you're serious about your relationship with God, He will pursue you, He will love you, and He will make you like Jesus Christ for His glory. All you have to do is be willing to peel back those painful layers and let Him do the surgery and healing it takes, so that you truly can love Him with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. ğŸ¤—

Related Links

Lay Aside the Fear of Man

Question of the Day

Do you struggle with people pleasing, and if so, how did you learn to say no? Comment below to share your answers!

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DISCLAIMER: Consult a licensed psychologist, therapist, counselor, etc. for professional treatment concerning life issues and mental health problems. The information shared here is general advice and my personal opinion on the topic, and I shall not be liable for any losses or damages related to the content of the article. Please use your own discretion to evaluate the presented information and seek professional help when needed.