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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!!
-------trick number THREE--------

Using a maxijet 400 and a water bottle as a quick and convenient power filter or CO2 diffuser.
It just so happens that the power head modification for the maxijet 400 slips snugly into the mouth of a 20oz dasani water bottle. It will fit into a 20oz coke bottle too, but its a bit of a tight fit. Basically, this allows you to do a lot of things with it. If you cut the bottom of a coke bottle off, and fill it with filter media, you can attach it to the maxijet and use it as a filter. If you run a ceramic disk type diffuser(or any other for that matter) into the coke bottle, it will direct all the tiny CO2 bubbles up into the maxijet, where they will be chopped up and dispersed all over the tank. This will make your DIY CO2 FAR more efficient than just using a disk type diffuser alone, since it forces all the tiny bubbles into the tank, which causes them to spend more time in the water dissolving. This leads to more CO2 in the water for your plants. and besides that, a lot of the smallest bubbles will get stuck on the plants, which further drives their growth.

  A picture of my set up when I had it running as a diffuser:
trick number FOUR

Using hang-on-back breeder boxes to keep your live black worms in.

Many of us love keeping black worms for our fish, but we usually don't have an extra tank that we can devote to keeping the black worms in, and keeping them in a refrigerator only keeps them alive for a week or so. Well, there is a pretty easy way to deal with that. The hang on back breeder boxes, like the ones I have decorating this ten gallon shrimp tank, can easily accommodate enough black worms to feed your fish for quite a while. You could realistically keep a pound of black worms in them, hanging on the side of your tank, ready to be eaten by your fish. there is just one caution, however. If you keep a LOT of black worms in one, watch your ammonia levels in your tank. Generally speaking, I would say its best to do this only on larger planted tanks with fast growing plants (cuz they eat ammonia like kittens eat attention), but if you just buy your black worms a few ounces at a time, it shouldn't be much of an issue. Just be sure to rinse them off real well in some old tank water (or anything without chlorine) before you put them in the box. The worms have a tendency to get to you in less than desirable conditions...

Now, the reason the worms will survive in the boxes is because of the level of water exchange they get. If you have a ten gallon tank, and you only buy a couple ounces of worms, this allows you to keep your worms alive in a ten gallon system, without having to keep them in the refrigerator, and without your fish gobbling them up on day one.

Unfortunately, the boxes can be a bit pricey if you want to equip several tanks with them, but in my experience it works much better to keep them this way than to try and set up a new tank for them. Its also a good way to not tick off your significant other, if he or she is adverse to housing black worms in the fridge. 

----trick number FIVE-----

Many of us like to keep live foods for our fish, or at least feed live foods to our fish. there is certainly no doubt to the importance of live foods for picky eaters and wild caught fish, but as hobbyists, we usually expect to pay for our live foods. well, what if that wasn't the case? What if we could just go collect some live foods for ourselves and culture them on our own?
You can. the most commonly kept live foods would be vernal pool critters. those include brine shrimp, fairy shrimp, daphnia, ostracods, etc etc etc. of those, only brine shrimp is commonly available, and even that is hit or miss. well, believe it or not, you probably live pretty close to a live food source, or at least a place to get starter cultures from.
Vernal pools are the places that dry up every year. They flood during the rainy season, persist for a few months, and then dry up until next year. If you know of such a place, it will almost certainly have the eggs of vernal pool critters at the bottom of it. Even lakes that are attached to a little swampy area that dries out every year will usually leave behind the eggs of such critters. That means that if you want to try your hand at a live food culture, all you really have to do is go collect some of the dry dirt and put it in a tub or a tank full of water and shine a light on it (or put it outside). Within a few days, the daphnia/moina/ostracods/whatever your dirt has, will hatch out and begin to grow.
Now, don't expect your new live food culture to instantly boom. they usually go through stages before leveling out. The good news though, is that you didn't spend a dime on it and if you fail, you know exactly where to go to get more.

There is another source for free live food. as offensive as it sounds, waste water treatment plants.
Yep, thats right. they have large circular basins called "clarifiers", which are nearly always populated by insanely huge numbers of daphnids. If you can get a proper net to collect them with(fine mesh and a LONG handle) its not hard to collect several pounds of daphnia from them in just a few minutes. You have to gain permission to go onto the treatment plant, but my experience is that the personnel working at the treatment plants are usually very curious and friendly, and have no problem letting you in and helping you collect the odd little water bugs.
Just be sure to wear some protective gear to avoid contact with the dirty water, and give the daphnia a GOOD rinse when you get them back home. I wouldn't feed them directly to your fish, but when all else fails, its a place you can get a huge starter colony for free.

Here is a pic of how I culture a lot of my live foods:

--- trick number SIX ---

Using kava kava root for anesthetizing shrimp.

Now, normally you would never need to do this, but I recently started looking at shrimp under my microscope and wanted to show people what I was seeing, so I had to come up with something. well, after experimenting with a lot of different things, I would have to say that kava root works the best. basically, brew a teaspoon of the stuff in about 8 ounces of water and let it settle. Once it does, pour the clear liquid off and add it to a dish with the shrimp you want to photograph under a microscope (or just look at closely). the next part takes a little patients and a lot of diligence. at first, the shrimp will be swimming around everywhere, but within a few minutes it will slow down and even roll over on its back. As soon as it does, remove it from the water it's in and put it in a dish with clean water. It will be paralyzed for quite some time, but will recover as long as it is placed in clean water.

It allows you to really take a close look at a shrimps chromatophores, which are the pigment cells responsible for their color. all shrimp have them, even clear ghost shrimp.

I only do it so that I can get a better idea of how shrimp genetics are expressed with color. So far, I've come up with this:
Shrimp have multiple types of color pigments and cells that contain them come in different sizes and shapes, and the color blue is not caused by a pigment at all. Blue can present in the form of tiny granules in the shrimps body, similar to pigments, or it can present as an over all tint of the shrimps tissue underneath its skin(pigments are in the skin).

These are chromatophores of a ghost shrimp at 1000x and 400x respectively. notice the similarity to the next pic...

  Low grade cherry shrimp at 400x:
From what I can tell the chromatophores grow in yellow between molts (new branches and such), and when they molt they turn red. so, the yellow areas are the new growth. Chromatophores typically get larger in shrimp as they age.
Now, the color blue usually comes in the granule form for wild shrimp, as in this Amano shrimp at 1000x:
What does all this mean?

Well, for one you could theoretically produce a red ghost shrimp if you could breed them easily. Also, you may be able to predict what your possibilities are if you take a closer look and see what kind of colors the shrimp are actually capable of producing.

Neat stuff I think.

The kava root only helps with photographing them. shrimp don't like to stand still...

I like to think that my experiments led to this green Neocardinia. probably a fluke, but still cool.
Almost forgot, high grade cherry shrimp look like they have a mutation that causes the chromatophores to be elongated and web-like.
If I breed certain low grades to high grades (that come from the same line of shrimp), I get all low grades that are capable of producing the high grades, so I am assuming the "Painted fire red" look comes from a recessive gene. 

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trick number SEVEN:

Using astaxanthin powder to create green water.

Ok, so most of us don't want green water. but, what about those of use who like to raise our own live foods? Well, there is a product available on the market that you can use to make green water for your daphnia and moinas. Astaxanthin powder is made from the micro algae Haematococcus pluvialis. It is a unique micro algae that lives in tiny pools of water that dry out regularly. in order to survive desiccation, the algae has adapted to be able to go into cyst form incredibly fast when conditions start to get harsh... literally overnight. when it does this, it produces a lot of the red pigment called astaxanthin.

So what does all this mean? It means that astaxanthin is a micro algae that is literally alive. It is just in cyst form. when you add it to water, it comes back to life and produces green water in a few days.

For those of you who want to make green water in fresh water, I really cant recommend a better algae. even if your daphnia can eat it all before it really comes back to life, it still works great. its so small that it stays suspended in the water column where it can be eaten.

And all that isn't even mentioning the benefits it has on your fish in terms of color. Feed your fish some astaxanthin locked up in the bellies of some plump daphnia and the colors will blow your mind. Astaxanthin is a pigment that takes a pretty fish and turns it into an enviously gorgeous fish. 

trick number EIGHT:

Vodka dosing your freshwater water tank.

Yep, you read that correctly. If any of you have kept salt water tanks, you may have heard of the vodka method for reducing nitrates. The idea is that the vodka is an organic source of carbon that the bacteria in your tank can use. The bacteria eats the carbon in the alcohol and binds up nitrates into the form of proteins. in marine tanks, the proteins are usually removed in a protein skimmer.

In a freshwater tank, it has the same effect. The only difference that I have noticed is that it causes biofilms to form on the various surfaces of the tank. For the most part, they are invisible, but if you have a problem with "diatoms" it could make it more obvious. Otherwise, it seems to work great. Just stick to a similar dosage as salt water tanks, if not less.
Well, I guess I should mention that I tried it on warm tanks and a couple cold tanks. In the warm tanks, it seems more volatile. so, it WILL reduce nitrates, but it CAN cause a drop in oxygen levels as the bacteria have a field day eating up all the carbon in the alcohol.

The one caution I have for you is to start SMALL! It's much better to dose very little and see no results at first than to dose high right of the get go and see your tank turn to soup. I currently go with about 3ml in my 55 gallon planted guppy tank, per day. once a day.

Start small, like 1ml for 50 gallons. step it up from there, until you see beneficial results. step it up a ml per day until you find out what will help you.

Just be sure to watch your fish to make sure that in the event the bacteria blooms out of control, you can do a water change.

Now, all that said, i did at one point have an entire gallon of liquid from an spent DIY reactor siphon into my tank. I lost a few fish out of about 90... not too bad I think, considering how much went into the tank. fresh water fish are just tough I guess. 

trick number NINE

Using seltzer water to nuke your tank.

Sometimes, our tanks can become infected with bad little critters, like planaria, pest snails, or scuds. If we are running a planted shrimp tank, they can quickly overrun the tank and produce an appearance that is anything but what we want. so, what to do in these situations?

Well, one route would be to use harsh chemicals. but, what if we have critters that would die from the residue left over by the harsh chemicals? What then? We could use bleach and then treat the tank with dechlor, but what about the plants? The bleach will kill them. We could use copper, but it could kill the shrimp after the treatment is done. What do you do when you just want to kill everything without removing the plants?

Well, that's where seltzer water comes in. and by seltzer water, I mean regular carbonated water. Think about it. we can gas out our shrimp pretty easily if we let the CO2 run too high. In order to do that, however, we have to dissolve the CO2 into the water. think about carbonated water... it already has the CO2 dissolved into it.

If you take a two liter bottle of carbonated water (seltzer water or club soda) you can spike the CO2 levels in the tank instantaneously. Normally, this would be extremely dangerous for fish and inverts, so you would have to remove them. But, its just as dangerous to the pest critters as it is to the fish and inverts that you actually want to keep. so, this means that you can dump a LOT of CO2 into the water, drop the pH below the chart in an instant, and start starving the little pest critters for oxygen. The plants will be ok as long as you leave on the lights. Some might suffer from the low ph, but even if they do, the treatment lasts a very short time. once its done (after a few hours), the CO2 will have completely dissipated and the tank returns back to normal.

I'm talking about raising the CO2 to well over 600 ppm instantaneously, before all those pest critters even have the slightest hope of being able to adjust. After they die, let the system go back to normal. the critters will be dead, the plants will still be alive, and you can add your fish and shrimp back into the tank.

Personally, this is my favorite technique for getting rid of snails. the snails simply cannot handle a blast of carbonated water. as soon as I pour it into a tank, every one of them starts racing for the surface, or dies trying to get there. whatever does manage to escape gets scooped up and converted into shrimp food (crushed).

No residue, no harsh chemicals, and it doesn't kill the plants.

Whats not to love?

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the inches squared rule

  I have often seen the inch per gallon rule for beginners. But, I think it's lacking. Even for beginners. So, I came up with another rule... multiply the fishes body length by itself. There you have it. That's how many gallons you need. It's a beginner rule. So....

  a 1 inch fish needs a gallon.
  a 2 inch fish needs 4 gallons.
  a 3 inch fish needs 9 gallons.
  a 4 inch fish needs 16 gallons.

  Etc etc etc.

  This is of course still a beginner rule of thumb and you could easily stock tanks higher if you know what you are doing. But, it keeps a beginner from sticking a seven inch fish in a ten gallon thinking it will be fine. Instead, it will go into the 50 gallon tank where it belongs.

  if a LFS employee tells someone getting their first tank that the seven inch fish they want needs at least 49 gallons, they are likely to just go for a common 50 gallon tank to put it in, which is far more reasonable than trying to put it in a ten gallon, or even a 20 gallon. same with a three inch fish. since it needs at least 9 gallons, they will probably just get the cheap ten gallon. either way, it may not be the greatest fish tank for the fish, but its also not that bad. and its a lot easier to remember than trying to calculate bioload and such. it just happens to get it pretty close to a good beginner stocking limit, regardless of how big the fish are.

  and it still works the same as the inch per gallon rule for small fish. ten neons can fit in a ten gallon just fine because each neon only needs a gallon of water. but a five inch fish wont go into a ten gallon. they need 25 gallons at least.

  i think we should teach our local fish stores the "inches squared rule".