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This website is dedicated to Ol'Conrad.  He passed away shortly after Christmas, 2013.  He had made stupendous contributions to our hobby through his dedicated and careful breeding of aquatic animals.  He was a good friend and best buddy of Pete's and will not only be missed greatly by Pete, the hobby will forever have lost a valuable friend and asset. But his progeny will live on forever in his memory.
Auban is one of those rare folks who thinks outside the box.  Because of his extreme genre of individuals, our lives are  more comfortable, more interesting, and such folks enabled us to leave the stone age,   If you have any questions of Auban, please do not ask me.  Instead, I suggest you join Aquaboards.com, a fantastic forum where you can go to 


It is there you can see his contribution that led to this page, read members comments and contributions as well as comment yourself or leave more information on the subject.  Auban shares freely with his knowledge and I know all who read and share will do so with heart and not with greed.  In others words - DON'T PLAGIARIZE HIS WORK AND NOT GIVE HIM CREDIT!!
So, for a little while now i have been turning this idea around in my head about writing a book, a big compilation of all the tricks and crazy things I have learned through my experiments. then just a few minutes ago, I thought to myself "self, why not start a thread on it?"

  So I am. This thread will be a compilation of the crazy little tricks that I have learned through experimentation. They will come in no particular order, pretty much as I remember them and find the time to write them all down. They will cover no particular topic, pretty much anything and everything in the aquarium hobby. from making your own black water extract to using 24/7 lighting cycles to induce spawning, I'll put them down for everyone to enjoy.

  I wont be able to write them all at once, since I have done a LOT of experimentation throughout my life, so bear with me and tune in every week to see what new craziness I come up with.

So, trick number ONE: black water extract.
  Black water extract is pretty simple. its just tannins dissolved in water, kinda like tea. the easiest source to use for black water extract just so happen to be those things that have the most of it, such as indian almond leaves and alder cones. now, what else do we have readily available to most of us?

  Hardwoods! yep, if you have access to hardwood trees, you have access to all the tannins you will ever need. personally, i prefer oak, but just about any hardwood bark you can get will usually suffice. the bark has the highest concentration, so use that. i find that the best bark to use is that of dead trees, or bark that has fallen off the tree and began to break down. The real reason I prefer it is because it is much easier to ground, but really any bark will work.

  Basically, just grind up small bits of the oak bark in a coffee grinder or a magic bullet, etc, and then brew it in hot water on the stove for a while. when the water is nice and dark, as dark as you want it, just strain the oak bark pieces out and set them aside to dry. Dont throw them away, since they work kinda like alder cones, they don't release all their tannins all at once. Usually, you can make a second batch of black water extract from the same oak bark.
  So, with this in mind, you can make your own blackwater extract.

  Right now, I am also experimenting with chicory, which seems to be working well. so far, none of my fish seem to be suffering ill affects, and I have stained the water even darker than the black water I used to wade into in North Carolina. I have yet to determine if it has any of the stringent qualities of tannin sources, but it seems to be making the fish more calm in general.

  my oak bark boiling in water:

 black water extract after I condensed it down quite a bit:
40 breeder after adding an ounce or so of the condensed black water extract
​-----trick number TWO-------

using hair algae to raise fry, create algae scapes, etc.

From time to time I get into a strange manic mood, in which I utterly fail in every attempt to quiet my mind. During these moments, I have developed some of my most successful ideas, from mutating fish, to ecological applications, and even inventions and innovative ways to blur the lines between electronics theory and its applicability to biology, even aquarium husbandry. right now, I am in such a mood. its one of the most irritating things, I want to sleep so that I am not completely dead tired tomorrow when I go back to class, but I cannot. I have tried many times, and have learned that I will simply lay there for hours and hours, ever getting distracted from sleep by a random visualization that forces itself upon my conscious.
I also love it. its the only time I can write one language with one hand, take notes in another language on another train of thought with the other hand while listening to music and reading an unrelated topic. the feeling of having so much go on is addictive. exhausting, but extremely addictive. for several hours straight I feel like I can do anything, and it is when I think the fastest.

One day, in such a mood, I walked into my in-laws place and saw their ten gallon tank over run by a tough hair algae. when I saw it, I saw possibilities. my thought process went something like this: that looks like an ugly, unkempt moss. I wonder what it could do if it were actually cultured. so I collected some and brought it home with me. I put it first in my Elassoma gilberti tank, and just let it grow. it grew pretty quick, but in no way was it aesthetically pleasing. it looked like crap. later on, in another such mood, I saw what I needed to do.

I imagined a situation in which the algae grew nice and dense, similar to an attractive moss, and then I recreated the scenario in my head in order to have a model to grow my algae in. What I saw in my head was the algae that grows on rocks in faster flowing streams, which sometimes forms a bit of curly hair type algae on it, which grows in very dense thin mats. What made this algae any different from the algae in a lake? Well, for one it had a very high amount of flow. two, it received full exposure to sunlight every day, since the particular stream I remembered seeing the attractive algae in had virtually no tannins in it and was quite shallow. three, It was constantly being grazed by critters that were able to scrape the algae off, or it was repeatedly exposed to dryness. This caused it to grow back thicker every time, since damaging a thread of algae often causes it to grow back in two or more threads.

So, these were the conditions that I needed to replicate to produce an attractive algae inside my tanks. The first thing I tried was attaching some of it to a little stone and putting it in front of a filter output. That didn't work so well, even with the high flow and regular trimming, it still produced very unattractive loose strands that would grow very long, but wouldn't form much in the way of a tight clump. fast forward a couple weeks. I end up in the mood again and decide to put an airstone on the E. gilberti tank. it felt like a gunshot went off in my head with how fast visualizations flashed along. In the time it took the first bubble to catch a few threads and start lifting it to the surface, my mind raced through a whole process:

Grow the algae out along the surface, leave the lights on 24/7 to promote strands growing in one direction(up). Add another type of algae, which can grow partially immersed, and encourage it to grow on the surface of the loose mat. After it is established, flip the mat over and let it grow until the secondary algae type grows back through the whole thickness of the algae mat and is protruding out the surface again. after this, increase flow to the bottom of the algae mat and turn the lights off. This will cause the algae near the top to die back just a little bit while keeping the bottom part alive. then, do the same thing on the other side. Why? Because the long thin strands of algae are faster growing and store less sugars than the slower growing, more dense type of algae. In other words, it would die faster than the type of algae I actually wanted to grow into a pad. After this, flip it back over and continue doing so until the majority algae is the thick stuff. By that point, I will have a thick pad of algae that I can cut into manageable strips.

So, that's what went through my head as I looked into the tank and watched the bubbles that day. the images that flashed though my head like southern lighting laid out the whole process. I knew how to make hair algae manageable, something that would allow me to make it look good. well, here are some pics of the result. showing some examples of what i have done with it so far. It is also amazing for fry, but more on that later

.showing how the algae looks when it is first grown into a floating mat:

a thin piece, showing the layers it develops after it is flipped over a few times and cut into a thin strip:
showing a piece that I cut and cleaned up a bit
The next few images are showing a few things I did with the algae. I attached them to pieces of wood with black thread
  So, after finding out how to grow the algae, it occurred to me that algae produces a LOT of oxygen. when looking into
  a stagnant tank that I had placed some of the floating mat of algae, I saw that it quickly began to pearl. It was pearling
  without any CO2, and continued to do so until it floated to the surface. This got me thinking. What if I applied current
  to it, and bathed it in 24/7 bright light? It would end up with a LOT of oxygen.

  As it turns out, algae is incredibly efficient at producing oxygen. If you stop and think about it, it makes sense that 
  hair algae would be far more efficient at producing oxygen than plants. Every single cell in a strand of algae will 
  continuously grow. plants don't. Generally speaking, once a leaf is formed, it no longer grows, and is only there to
  support the overall organism. This means that a plant can survive harder times than algae can, since it does not need
  a constant supply of nitrogen to ssurvive. It can survive long periods of relatively infertile times because it can store
  its resources and continue to grow later on. Algae on the other hand, cannot. The best it can do is form some spores that 
  are able to rest in a dormant state and bbegin growing when conditions are more favorable. When conditions are good, it 
  will grow incessantly, since it cannot store much in its cells. any and all nutrients available will be used as fast as 
  the algae can use it.

  Now, on to surface area. A clump of hair algae has a lot of it. We already addressed the way algae grows in a constant 
  vegetative state when it can. When you think about it, that means that one ounce of hair algae will end up pulling out much
  more ammonia and produce much more oxygen than one ounce of plant will. It comes down to how fast the algae           
​  can double its mass.  

  A plant may produce a few more leaves in a week, but hair algae given everything it needs will completely double or 
  maybe even triple its mass. and of course, it will continue to double its mass as long as it is not limited by nutrients. 
  Now, here is the interesting fact: algae can survive with very little in the way of additional nutrients as long as it has 
  access to light.  It's capable of recycling some of the nutrients it has in order to stay alive, just as long as it can carry 
  out photosynthesis. During dark times, if the water is completely devoid of nutrients, it is unable to do this. Cells will 
  begin to produce spores, which don't grow. With light, they just continue producing oxygen, slowly accumulating nutrients 
  until the cell can divide.

  Providing the algae with high flow does several things. First, it ensures a constant exchange of dissolved gasses around 
  the individual cells. The algae becomes more dense because it can. without high flow, it quickly uses up all the available 
  carbon dioxide, supersaturates the water around its cells with oxygen. It will continue to live with all that oxygen present,
  but without new water, it has only the resources in its cells an in the interstitial space between its cells and the cells
  of adjacent strands. providing it with high flow ensures that it will have plenty of resources available to continue doing
  what it does best: turning carbon dioxide into oxygen and converting available phosphorus and nitrogen into more cells.
  In a tank with fish, this means that the water will have the highest possible levels of oxygen, and the lowest possible 
  levels of ammonia and every nutrient that algae needs. The benefit goes beyond this though. every surface under water   
​  bio-film on it. These bio-films are just a bunch of tiny living things, which sometimes produce a matrix of protein and 
  sugar, which protects them and produces a better environment for them to live in. With so much surface area, a dense  
​  clump of algae has a LOT of it. There is a HUGE variety of living things that are able to eat these bio-films. Infusoria     
  living on the surface of decomposing leaves and such is an example. with all the oxygen that algae produces, a dense
  clump of algae can sustain a lot of these tiny critters.

  All this adds up to a tank that is able to produce the best possible environment for fry to live in. With a huge variety 
  of living things available, fry are able to have access to an appropriate food animal at all times, regardless of their 
  size, up until they aare large enough to eat something larger, like grindal worms. The fish is too small to eat newly 
  hatched brine shrimp? no problem! The algae is absolutely crawling in ciliates that it can eat. When it gets a little bigger, 
  eating the rotifers that are also present in such large quantities. After its grown up a little bit, it can start 
  eating the great number of ostracods and copepods that have been growing unrestricted in the algae. later on, if they are 
  present, dero worms and grammarious will be taken up. at that point you can start feeding them grindal worms.

   Actually, at that point you can feed them anything you want. The algae will have reach a point where it is being limited 
​  by nutrients, and anything that isn't eaten by the fish will be quickly converted to algae, just as soon as it starts to break
  down and release ammonia. With so much algae ready to suck up the ammonia, you will probably never be able to get a    
​  reading.  This makes it very hard to over feed.

  Using these methods, I have been able to raise this many bluefin killifish in a five gallon tank, up until they are all at
  least an inch long.

There are somewhere around 50 in there. they are now around 2 inches, are still in the same five gallon tank, which has no filter on it, and I still cant get an ammonia reading. they get about a teaspoon of grindal worms a day, which dont die until they are eaten. there is enough oxygen present to keep the grindal worms alive until they are eaten. the algae is pretty incredible stuff. I currently have a couple hundred blue fin killifish that I need to get rid of... and they are all crammed in about 20 gallons of water. please, don't start telling me i am cruel for doing so. i want to know the limits of the algaes abilities, and therefore must push these tanks to the absolute limit. I know its not a good idea to keep fifty or a hundred inches of fish in five gallons of water. I also would not have thought it possible a couple years ago...

(NOTE: i no longer have these bluefin killifish in the five gallon. I ended up selling most of them, and moved the rest to a 55g tank. the five gallons now house elassoma gilberti)

Anyway, I have been able to raise about 20 fish to about an inch long without feeding them at all, as long as I can keep the flow high enough in the tank and keep the lights on 24/7. The affect produces large clumps of algae that are so dense that the fish cannot graze all of it, so their area "reserves" that keep the food items from going extinct. This has allowed me to inoculate the algae with black worms and not feed the tank at all. at a certain point though, I have too feed the tank something. other wise, the fish get too big, eat too much, and start to starve. When I do feed them, the algae starts to grow more and so do the fish.

A power outage can absolutely destroy the affect that the algae produces. In such a case, flow stops, light is no longer produced, and the algae starts to use up the available oxygen at a phenomenal rate. This will quickly kill everything in a tank and tank and turn it into a nasty smelling soup. In such case, the tanks can be saved with a relatively simple solution. remove the algae.

The algae is able to survive outside the water as long as it is kept moist. It's kinda like a plant in that sense. in order to keep a tank alive with a lot of fish though, you would need a battery powered air stone. Usually, blackouts don't last very long, so removing the algae, setting it aside somewhere it can stay moist and still be exposed to air, and adding an airstone can keep a tank alive until the power comes back on. once it does, just drop the algae back into the tank and you're good to go. I have weathered a few blackouts this way. the one tank I decided to let go(experiment) turned into soup. Note: you can get battery powered pumps for such emergencies.

now, onto blue LEDs...

There are grow panels available that use very little electricity, but produce nothing but blue light that is supposed to be usable for plants for photosynthesis. I have tested several of them, and while they do work, the plants don't produce a very appealing look. algae, on the other hand, grows very well under them. using the all blue grow lights, you can use much less energy, produce much less heat, and still have all the beneficial affects of the algae. It really dosn't take a lot of 455nm light to keep the algae thriving. I have successfully kept fish alive in just a bag, with a battery operated LED, and some algae. even hermetically sealed, I have kept fish alive for weeks, with no more than a large bubble of actual airspace. it just goes to show how good the algae is at producing oxygen and sucking up ammonia. I believe that any hermetically sealed tank would need to have some kind of algae in it, with a constant light source. 

Why did I do such experiments? I saw the scenario flash through my head and I wanted to test it. I have a fascination with ecology, probably because it has so many things going on. when I go manic, it's a very appealing thing to think about, since it requires one to consider a large number of variables simultaneously. In order to produce a hermetically sealed environment and keep it alive, one would have to account for a very large number of processes going on simultaneously. Very few attempts to produce a self sustaining environment take into account everything going on, so they are destined to fail. The first mistake I always see is that people turn the lights off. They think that its a realistic representation of the earth, since we have a day and night schedule. What they fail to take into account is the fact that oxygen is being produced on the other side of the planet during the night. When you turn a light off in a sealed tank, oxygen isn't being produced anywhere. Its like eliminating the sun entirely.

Last edited by Auban : 07-04-2013 at 01:33 AM. 

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