JEREMY GAY

The warm weather and long days are ideal for ponds, but they of­fer po­ten­tial ben­e­fits for in­door fish, too. Make the most of the rest of the sum­mer with th­ese sim­ple ideas.

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Welcome - WORDS: JEREMY GAY

is a for­mer PFK ed­i­tor and now Evo­lu­tion Aqua’s busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager. He brings us some great out­door projects to ben­e­fit you and your fish.

1 Make RO wa­ter

With no risk of frost, you can fit an RO unit to your out­side gar­den tap. There you can mer­rily fill 25 l drums ga­lore, with­out the anx­i­ety of what to do if it over­flows. Run it 24/7 (if you’re not on a wa­ter me­ter that is) and if your drums fill and spill over into the gar­den, no prob­lem. And you can wa­ter your gar­den with the gal­lons and gal­lons of waste wa­ter pro­duced.

2 Cul­ture live foods

There is no bet­ter thing in the world than free live food for fresh­wa­ter fish, and in the sum­mer live foods are avail­able in abun­dance, in your own back yard. Fill any­thing with wa­ter — and I mean any­thing: a bucket, a dish, a poly­thene sheet — and within days all those an­noy­ing gnats and mos­qui­toes will find it and lay their eggs in it. I get two forms of lar­vae; blood­worms which form lit­tle de­tri­tus nests on the bot­tom and black mos­quito lar­vae which hang at the sur­face. Throw a few brown tree leaves in and you’ll have a con­stant sup­ply of th­ese two fish foods through­out the sum­mer.

Us­ing a stan­dard sized fish catch­ing net I can har­vest a de­cent feed once a week, even from only a few litres of wa­ter, so by plac­ing wa­ter all over the place you’ll get daily feed­ing quan­ti­ties. Just keep fish out, as ob­vi­ously they will pre­date the lar­vae. Look closely on the sur­face and you’ll see black float­ing rafts of mos­quito eggs. I skim th­ese off with a jug and feed those too. Small trop­i­cal fish were lit­er­ally made to eat live gnat and mos­quito lar­vae!

If you want to re­ally push the boat out, farm Daph­nia too. For a pound or less I buy a bag of live Daph­nia from the fish shop. Don’t worry if they are look­ing ropey in the bag — you’ll only need a few live ones to start a cul­ture. Again, th­ese need only a few litres of tap­wa­ter, but this time I leave it out in the gar­den un­til it goes green. As soon as it does, the Daph­nia can go in and you will have swarms of very healthy live food within days to weeks. Plan ahead so you al­ways have a bucket of green wa­ter ready and you can sim­ply net some out and place them into the next bucket.

If you only have only one ves­sel, no prob­lem, — you can feed Daph­nia on the tan­nins from oak leaves, al­gae and even de­tri­tus from when you clean the fil­ter me­dia. Sev­eral times I’ve ac­tu­ally ac­quired Daph­nia for free. At my last house, some poly­thene sheet was put on the ground, it filled with a few inches of rain­wa­ter and some fallen oak leaves and to my sur­prise, the most ro­bust, colour­ful and abun­dant Daph­nia I’ve ever seen turned up in it. I don’t know to this day how they got there!

3 Breed your pond fish

If you want a low hassle, fun fish breed­ing project then why not breed some of your pond fish? Choose a plump fe­male and at least two males and place them in a shal­low tank or vat with gen­tle, air pow­ered fil­tra­tion. Place them some­where the vat will catch the morn­ing sun and wait un­til wa­ter tem­per­a­tures hit 20°C. Add some feath­ery oxy­genat­ing plants, wool spawn­ing mops or Koi spawn­ing brushes and they’ll spawn like clock­work.

You can raise the sub­se­quent fry quickly on newly hatched Artemia (brine shrimp), but if you want na­ture to take its course, re­move the adults, slow the fil­tra­tion down even more, let the wa­ter go green, add live Daph­nia and you are away.

There’s some­thing won­der­ful about the food chain that is wa­ter-al­gae-daph­nia-fish. If you have enough of the first three, the fish will sur­vive and grow all by them­selves. It’s a very low main­te­nance breed­ing project, uses hardly any elec­tric­ity or bought food and it’s a lot of fun.

4 Breed am­phib­ians

The na­tion’s am­phib­ians need you, so if you haven’t got any form of wa­ter in the gar­den, please con­sider some. It doesn’t even need to be an ac­tual pond, or very big. This year I laid down an old fi­bre­glass tray on my deck­ing. It’s only 10cm/4in high and it filled with 7.5cm/3in of rain­wa­ter. De­spite no pre­vi­ous pond or signs of frogs, they found it, spawned in it and I raised sev­eral hun­dred tad­poles to frog stage, where they hopped off and can now oc­ca­sion­ally be seen in my flower beds. When the eggs hatched, I put plenty of oxy­genat­ing plants in, and when they be­came free swim­ming tad­poles, I fed them on dry fish foods. Pro­vide a home for them and they will come.

5 Farm al­gae

Sum­mer time doesn’t have to be all about fight­ing green wa­ter and blan­ketweed. Al­gae can also be your friend. Green­wa­ter is good for con­di­tion­ing Gold­fish and Koi, and for feed­ing to Daph­nia, but other types of al­gae can ben­e­fit your in­door aquar­i­ums too. Place rocks and wood in wa­ter out­side and wait for them to go green. That lush green mat­ting on the sur­face is per­fect for all kinds of al­gae graz­ing in­door fish to feed on, from mbuna to ple­cos to live­bear­ers and even fresh­wa­ter shrimp. And it costs noth­ing. Cir­cu­late rocks and wood be­tween out­side and in­side so you al­ways have some al­gae cov­ered ones to move in, and some grazed ones to re­place them and go back out­side.

6 Soak bog­wood

Keep­ing wood un­der­wa­ter also has the ben­e­fit of pre-soak­ing it. Far too many aquar­ium woods sold th­ese days ac­tu­ally float, and there’s noth­ing worse than spend­ing days aquas­cap­ing an aquar­ium only for ev­ery­thing to flip up­side down and float off when you fill it. Wa­ter butts with lids are good for soak­ing mul­ti­ple pieces of bog­wood, or even just throw the wood into your pond to be re­trieved at a later date.

7 Seek in­spi­ra­tion

You may have been lucky to have vis­ited rivers and streams in trop­i­cal coun­tries, but the good news is that the UK’S are ex­actly the same, only colder. Go for a walk and study the lo­cal streams and rivers. Watch the flow and how the wa­ter moves and, if you’re lucky, the way the fish swim in it. Look at the sub­strates and boul­ders and how they in­ter­mix and where. Study the un­der­cut river­banks and the over­hang­ing fo­liage and where any true aquatic plants are grow­ing. A typ­i­cal UK min­now habi­tat per­fectly repli­cates danio habi­tats in Asia, so re­pro­duce that for Asian river­ine barbs, dan­ios, ras­b­ora and loaches Look at the dap­pled light­ing and light/ shade con­trast through­out the day and repli­cate this with con­trolled LED spot­light­ing over one end of the tank. Look at where the fish hang out — small fish seek the safety of shal­low wa­ter; larger fish seek the depths. Over­hang­ing veg­e­ta­tion pro­vides shade and cover for river­ine fish and ex­tra food comes from ter­res­trial in­sects that fall into the wa­ter.

8 For­age

Get to know your lo­cal trees in readi­ness for when they’ll be of use to you and your aquar­ium. Find oak and beech trees for leaf and twig gath­er­ing. Find alder for those all im­por­tant cones, which beat any black­wa­ter treat­ment for stain­ing wa­ter brown. The branches of Cherry trees look good un­der­wa­ter, and find out what an Azalea looks like. The roots of Azalea bushes are none other than good old ‘Red­moor wood’. Find dead Trachy­car­pus leaves in parks and botan­i­cal gar­dens as they look su­perb in Ama­zo­nian themed tanks.

A typ­i­cal UK min­now habi­tat per­fectly repli­cates danio habi­tats in Asia, so re­pro­duce that at home, and your Asian river­ine barbs, dan­ios, ras­b­o­ras and loaches will be very happy.

9 Put some hardy trop­i­cal fish out­side

This is some­what con­tro­ver­sial, as some fish species could be con­sid­ered a threat to na­tive species, but I’m talk­ing about true trop­i­cal fish species here, that in no way would sur­vive out­side in the UK year round.

Hope­fully the fact that we are leav­ing Europe will also pre­vent the farce that has been ban­ning Ap­ple snails and Wa­ter hy­acinth from be­ing re­peated (South Amer­i­can Ap­ple snails were found to be breed­ing out­side in Spain). And if Theresa May ever wants some­one to ar­gue the case for those two species, I’ll hap­pily go to Brussels and ne­go­ti­ate for them on her be­half. I do feel that Ap­ple snails might be low down on the ne­go­ti­a­tions list, how­ever!

Start by har­ness­ing as much sun­shine as you pos­si­bly can. That means us­ing black pond liner or plas­tic which heats up quickly.

Next is po­si­tion­ing. Place the black lined pond or tank in a south fac­ing lo­ca­tion. Then there’s in­su­la­tion. Put the tank in a green­house, or build a poly­tun­nel or cold frame over the top of it. It’s all about ex­tend­ing those sum­mer tem­per­a­tures for as long through­out the sea­son as you can, and pre­vent­ing rapid cool­ing at night. Then you need a ther­mome­ter to mon­i­tor day and night wa­ter tem­per­a­tures, and it would be wise to take the ex­tra pre­cau­tion of putting an aquar­ium heater in there too, just to be on the safe side.

If you then do all the usual things such as us­ing a ma­ture fil­ter and mon­i­tor­ing wa­ter qual­ity, what’s stop­ping you putting some of your hardy trop­i­cal fish out­side if the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture is 24°C? Ac­cli­ma­tise them care­fully, just as you would when trans­fer­ring any fish from one tank to an­other.

I’ve taken lots of trop­i­cal fish species out­side for the sum­mer over the years and when I bring them back in­doors again at the end of the sea­son, their colours are in­tense from all that green wa­ter, live food and the sun on

their backs.

Get free food with mos­quito lar­vae (above) or breed your own Daph­nia (left).

Your Garra will love those pre-pre­pared green rocks and stones.

Par­adise fish.

Varia­tus platy.

Ho­plo cat­fish.

Paraguay earth­e­ater, Gymno­geoph­a­gus balzani.

Hill­stream loach, Pseu­do­gas­tromy­zon cheni.

Mous­tached danio, Danio dan­gila.

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