How to set up Your Aquarium for Mystery Snails

What you need to take care of these aquatic cuties!

  • 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫: I use this heater for my 40 gallon aquarium “EHEIM Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater 100W.” Smaller aquariums can use smaller wattage heaters. Note that ALL heaters you get online are NOT accurate. It’s nice to get a cheapo thermometer to check. My heater is set at 83F and my tank is 76F. Annoying but not a big deal. The reason you need a heater is because it gets too cold here during the winter for the snails to live happy lives! In the summer, you technically don’t need a heater BUT, when the water is warmer, the snails are more active and more fun to watch! Optimal temps are between 68-84F.
  • 𝟏𝟎 𝐠𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐮𝐦: Yes, you can go smaller. This is just the easiest size to take care of. Why? You don’t have to clean it as often! Always buy a NEW tank! Tanks that have been used can contain bad bacteria and the eggs of assassin snails. Assassin snails will eat mystery snails(!!) and they’re REALLY hard to get rid of! I like the brand Aqueon from Petsmart. It’s cheap and hardy.
  • 𝐟𝐢𝐥𝐭𝐞𝐫: It’s always better to get a filter that’s rated for a tank that’s bigger than yours. Again, bigger filter, you clean less! My tank is ~45gal and my filter is rated for 50-75 gallons. Iike this brand “MarineLand Penguin 350 Power Filter 50 – 75 Gallon Aquarium, 350 GPH
  • 𝐩𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫: This one you can’t substitute or do without. The water in our area will 100% kill baby snails. BUT, if you add a few drops of this “Fluval Water Conditioner for Aquariums” then all the bad stuff is neutralized and your snails are safe. Don’t skip this step ever! I have, and it’s bad news!
  • 𝐟𝐨𝐨𝐝: You can technically make your own snail food or try out different veggies to see what they like. I don’t have time for all that so I just buy calcium chips and snail cookies from https://www.crayfishempire.com/ A bag of each will last you more than a year! You also need to buy some frozen mysis shrimp from petsmart. Snails need some meat in their diet, especially as they’re growing! One packet will last you about two months or longer.
  • 𝐜𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠: I have 25 snails so I clean my tank once a week. It takes me about 15 minutes and I use the water to water my houseplants. (It makes them VERY happy!) You can get something super simple like $13 “Luigi’s Aquarium/Fish Tank Siphon and Gravel Cleaner” to clean your tank. I splurged and got “AQQA Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Siphon Kit,6 in 1 Electric Automatic Removable Vacuum Water Changer” It’s $35, but it makes cleaning the tank SO fast and EASY. If you don’t mind spending an extra 20 bucks, I’d recommend it!
  • 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐡: You will need the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. It will last you years. I’m still using my original one! Don’t buy anything else… they’re useless and won’t give you accurate results. Once the tank is established, I like to check my water once a week. Luckily, the snails have a habit of telling you when something is wrong… you’ll see them lined up at the top of the waterline! Then you know you need to check and see what’s up.

SIDE NOTE: If you want to keep plants, you’ll need to buy an aquarium light. Do NOT keep the light on at all times. Fish and snails need to sleep. It’s very bad to keep them in the light all the time. I recommend light for no more than 8 hours a day or you’ll get algae growth.

How to Decorate Your Aquarium

Decorating your tank!

Decorating your tank is SO much fun… especially if kids get involved. You can go wild with decorating! Decorations are also important because it gives your good bacteria a place to grow when you’re setting up your tank. Just keep these tips in mind:

-No metal. Metal will start to degrade and can release harmful chemicals into the water. Baby snails and fish are especially sensitive to changes, and this could kill them.

-No Spongebob-themed stuff. I know! It’s a bummer. But lots of aquarium forums are reporting that there are a lot of Spongebob decorations made of toxic materials… and those toxins have wiped out entire aquariums causing heartache and the loss of hundreds (if not thousands!) of dollars.

-No random plants. Plants can carry bad bacteria and assassin snails. I like purchasing aquatic plants from an online store called Wet Plants. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but I’ve purchased several times and never had a problem! They also have great customer service. If a plant dies really quickly, they’ll send you a new one. You can use fishing string or crazy glue to tie/glue plants to rocks to hold them in place. If you’re using glue, do NOT glue the stem. Only glue a single root. Plants are great because they act like a second filter and make your tank healthier!

-No new snails or fish without quarantine. This isn’t a decoration recommendation, but it’s still important. I’ve had my snails long enough that I know they don’t have a fungus or parasite problem. If you get new snails/fish from a different source, make sure to quarantine them in a separate tank to prevent the spread of disease!

-Substrate. You don’t need rocks or pebbles on the bottom of your tank! It’s actually easier to clean your tank without it. Of course, if you want to, you can add it! I would recommend something that’s not too sharp so it doesn’t hurt the snails.

-Plastic decoration: You can use toys as decorations! Just crazy glue rocks to the bottom to keep them from floating. Make sure the toys are relatively new. (Nothing from when we were growing up!) Newer toys that are made for kids (or, better yet, infants) are less likely to contain any chemicals that might leech into the water and hurt the snails. (No paper, cloth, stuff that will get icky)

-Wood decorations: Lots of people love using drift wood in their tanks! But don’t just use wood you got outside. Buy wood that’s specifically made for aquariums. If you REALLY want to use your own wood, Google how to clean it properly. I believe it needs to be boiled for a long while.

-Air stone: If there’s enough surface agitation, it’s not necessary to keep your snails and fish healthy, but it IS fun to watch the snails float and play in the bubbles!

How to Cycle a Tank

How to “cycle” your tank
Hi! This is going to be a quick guide so let me know if you have questions. Why do we need to cycle the tank? Basically, your snails will poop and cause the ammonia levels to increase in your tank. Once the ammonia gets too high, the snails die. BUT, if you add beneficial bacteria, the bacteria turns the ammonia into nitrites and then into nitrates, which are safe for snails.
How do we cycle? People used to take goldfish or dead fish and throw them in an uncycled tank to get that ammonia and build up the good bacteria. We won’t do that because it hurts the goldfish, it’s not super accurate and dead fish smell REALLY BAD when they’re rotting.
Instead, buy “Dr. Tim’s Aquatics Ammonium Chloride Aquarium Treatment for Fishless Cycling” and the testing kit I recommended “API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-Test Freshwater Aquarium Water Master Test Kit” and some beneficial bacteria “Fluval Cycle Biological Enhancer, Aquarium Water Treatment”
Follow the directions on the Dr. Tim’s bottle and on the Fluval bottle. You’re going to add ammonia and beneficial bacteria and test the ammonia levels in your water the next day. When you can put in ammonia and 24 hours later it’s been eaten by the bacteria and isn’t showing up on your test, your tank is cycled and you can add snails! During the process, keep your filter running but don’t add carbon filtration or UV light (<–some filters come with that).
How long does this take? When I cycled my tank, it took three weeks. SO LONG. What I didn’t have was filter media from an already established aquarium! That filter media is the BEST source of good bacteria. So ask me or someone else on this group for some filter media, and it will be so much easier!
Extra credit: Sometimes your tank can get a little wonky. Maybe you forgot to clean it or a snail died in it and the ammonia levels spiked. BUT you’re busy and you don’t have time to clean. That’s why I like to have this on-hand “API AMMO-LOCK Ammonia detoxifier.” It’ll make your tank safe for 24 hours and buy you some time before you have to clean it. (Only use this for emergencies because snails deserve to have a clean home!)

How to Treat Columnaris in Fish in 10 steps

I didn’t mean to get an aquarium.

I met a neighbor who had some aquatic snails. We hit it off, bonding over her lovely garden and the weird way mystery snails glide across a tank. When she moved, she asked me to take a few, and I figured I could keep them alive and well in a vase on my dining room table. I was only supposed to get two… when my husband came home with 24!

So I purchased an aquarium. Fast forward a year later, and now I breed snails and have fish!

Fish are far more difficult to keep alive than any cat or dog I’ve ever had. It turns out that fish get sick when they’re stressed, and when I moved my school from one tank to another, a few of them started showing signs of columnaris.

Columnaris is a bacteria that lives inside of most tanks already and comes in several different strains. One of them acts so quickly that the fish die within 24 hours so there’s nothing to do. When fish get stressed, they become more susceptible to disease and may fall prey to the bacteria.

There’s really not a lot of information out there about how to treat this disease. After hours of research, here’s how I did it:

1. Make sure it’s actually columnaris. My local shops had NO idea how to diagnose this disease so, in this case, Google Images is your friend.

2. Move the impacted fish to a hospital tank. It helps if you have two filters running on your main tank so you can just switch one to your hospital tank and it’s pretty much instantly cycled. I didn’t have a spare filter so I had to buy one. Make sure you don’t get something with UV or carbon because that’ll decrease the efficacy of the medication you’ll be adding later. Also buy a thermometer and heater. I recommend using a 10 gallon tank as your hospital tank because most medications are A) expensive and B) meant to be added in 10 gallon increments.

3. Address the reason your fish were stressed in the first place and fix it. It’s no good if you save your fish from columnaris only to have them get sick again when they’re back in the community tank!

4. I purchased aquarium salt, API Fin & Body Cure, gel Terramycin, a siphon and two new buckets on Amazon.

5. Every evening I siphoned out 75% of the water into a “dirty hospital tank water” bucket. I filled another bucket with lukewarm water, added Prime and filled the tank. (Columnaris likes heat so it’s best to keep your tank as cool as your fish can safely handle.)

6. I added aquarium salt to the box’s directions and a packet of API Fin & Body Cure, also to the box’s directions.

7. I added some gel Terramycin to two clean Q-tips and placed them aside. I scooped out the infection fish with a net and placed it on a clean cutting board. (I’ll sanitize the net in between fish.) I swabbed the gel onto the fish’s wounds and carefully placed it back in the tank.

8. Made sure to give the fish the tastiest food possible. Anorexia is usually part of columnaris so try to entice your fish with their favorite meals!

9. Once the infection is gone, move your little ones back into the community tank and sanitize everything you used in the hospital tank. (For me, the infection cleared up in two weeks!)

10. Celebrate!

 

Photo Source: Abhishek R.

How to Treat Brown Rot in Peaches

Hi! A few people in my AMAZING gardening group had questions about brown rot. I recently purchased a house and the two peach trees in my backyard have severe brown rot. SO I went on Google Scholar and read a lot of academic papers on how to best treat the disease. This is what I’ve learned.

 

  • The first thing you want to do is figure out how tall your tree is, approximately. That will help you create a budget. As much as no one wants to ever cut down a tree, sometimes that’s just the most cost-effective way to manage brown rot.
  • A little about brown rot… all peach trees are probably going to get brown rot (a fungus) at some point. It’s really a matter of just managing it. Other stone fruit trees can also get the disease. Brown rot attacks twigs and leaves but the main issue is when it gets to your peaches! Once brown rot attacks, it’s only a matter of days before the entire peach is mummified and destroyed.
  • The time to act is now, in the winter. Make sure you collect any mummified peaches that are still on the tree or have fallen to the ground. The fungus likes to overwinter in these peaches. Do NOT compost the dead peaches. Put them in a sealed bag and throw them away so as not to spread the fungus.
  • Identify branches and twigs that are dead and prune these off. The fungus lives in these dead areas and will come back during spring. Also look for branches that crisscross each other and prune one of them off. When the wind blows, the branches will rub against each other and create a raw spot that can then become infected by fungus or pests.
  • Use the right tools. I’ve done hours of research, and here’s what I’ve found works the best. It’s pricey, which is why you want to have a budget. And why can’t you just use the shears you’ve had for years? Rusty, dull shears won’t create clean cuts and it’ll take longer for the tree to heal, which leaves more opportunities for those areas to get infected. This is the best pair of basic pruning shears that gardeners on multiple review sites swear by. This is the best ratchet lopper for getting bigger branches. Here’s the best pruning saw for heavy duty pruning. And, if you have a tall tree like I do, this is the best extendable pruning saw that’ll keep you from having to climb a ladder while wielding a sharp object! Safety first!
  • When you prune, make sure to clean off the shears with a solution of bleach after EACH time you make a cut. This will prevent the spread of infection. Take the branches that you’ve pruned and put them in a bag and throw them away. Do not compost.
  • When the tree begins to fruit, prune off any new peaches that are too close together. Keep each fruit at least six inches apart. That way, if one becomes infected, it’s less likely to infect the others.
  • You’ll also need to buy fungicide. According to some recent academic studies, you can use copper fungicide with “moderate” success. Scientists recommend using a combination of fungicides such as: Merivon, Indar and Luna Sensation. Indar + Luna Sensation had a success rate of 91% when combating brown rot! The reason you want to use two to three different types of fungicide is that brown rot can very easily become resistant to a fungicide when it is applied often.
  • “Small handheld sprayers are suitable for a single tree and a larger backpack sprayer is preferable for spraying multiple trees at once. Spray all the surfaces of the tree thoroughly, as well as the ground underneath the tree; the fungus that causes brown rot overwinters throughout the tree, especially inside the crevices of tree bark and on any debris on the ground. A good rule of thumb is to use one gallon of the fungicide solution for every 5 feet of tree height and width. For example, a tree 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide takes about 5 gallons to thoroughly cover the entire surface area.” Source
  • You’ll want to spray three times. Once, right as the tree is budding. Another time three weeks later, and a third time about one week before the fruit is ripening, when it has color but it’s not ready to pick.
  • Finally, check your tree for cankers. Here’s how to handle them: Link here and this is the knife I’d recommend.

Let me know if you have any questions! After creating a budget for my trees and taking into account the cost of pruning and applying fungicide to 20-foot-tall branches, plus removing cankers, the most viable option is for me to cut down the trees and start over with dwarf peaches that I can care for more easily. I hope this research helps you make the right decision for your yard!

Photo Credit: Charles Deluvio

Top Things to do in Kauai, According to my Friends

The Significant Other and I loved Kauai. We had grand plans to do ALL THE THINGS, but (partially due to mudslides and partially due to our own exhaustion) we wound up doing nothing. And, you know what? It was AMAZING.

I’d highly recommend doing nothing. Maybe snorkel at Lawaii Beach or take a short hike to Secret Beach to watch the sunrise. Definitely eat Mexican food at Da Crack, Thai food at Craving Thai and grab some Kombucha at Kauai Juice Company (recycle your bottles for 50 cents off!). For coffee, check out Lappert’s. For açaí bowls and poke, go to Kukuiula Market. Other than that, relax, and enjoy the Garden Island.

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7 Reasons Job Hunting is Wonderful (with GIFs)

Job hunting is insuperably splendiferous.

There are lots of articles along the lines of “how to make job hunting suck less” and “how to not go crazy while searching for work,” but I haven’t seen any “silver lining” stories pop up on the world wide web. While I certainly understand the downside of looking for gigs, there are plenty of reasons why job hunting is oh-so wonderful:

Meet new people


It’s all about who you know. The more people who have your name at the forefront of their brains, the more successful you’ll be with your job hunt. Even if you don’t land the gig, you have the potential to get a freelancing assignment out of it. Plus, everyone in the journalism biz hops around all.the.time. You might not work for the company now, but there’s a high likelihood you’ll end up on a future team with someone from the organization.

Scope out the field


When else do you get to chit chat with the Editor in Chief? ask about the publication’s biggest successes—and failures? When will you have another opportunity to discuss the company’s editorial direction? the short-term and long-term goals?

Job hunting is a perfect time to scope out the field and learn more about your industry.

Learn about yourself


Nobody likes introspection, but everybody needs a healthy dose of it. You can’t apply for everysinglejobopportunityever so you have to pick and choose. Job hunting forces you to think deeply (and realistically) about your dreams and goals. What makes you tick? What makes you happy? What qualities do you consider important? What is a work-life balance, anyway? How will you reconcile the need for money with the need for workplace satisfaction? What are your long-term goals?

Searching for gainful employment also gives you the opportunity to learn how you can improve. Maybe there’s a coding class you need to take. Perhaps a time-management workshop would be helpful. Or, it’s possible that you just need to up your self-confidence and improve your self-promotion skills. Whatever the case, job hunting gives you the perfect excuse to tackle that self-improvement project.

Find your friends


Notice how I didn’t title this “Why Job Hunting is Fun.” Looking for work isn’t exactly high up on the list of ways I’d like to spend my time. And, let’s be honest here, sometimes it just suckslikeawholebunch. But when the chips are down, your true friends will come out of the woodwork.

There’s the friend who will listen to your rants about howawfulthejobmarketisrightnow and whyamIeveninthisindustryanway and provide the necessary support. Friends who will buy beers after a particularly stressful interview. Friends who will send you job openings, articles on how to perfect your resume and little words of encouragement every once in a while. And then there are those saints who will offer to edit your cover letter.

These people are golden. Make sure to return the favor when they’re in the same boat.

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Job Hunting Across the U.S.

Job hunting engenders a fascinating array of emotions—fear, surprise, sadness, embarrassment, excitement, joy, etc. It’s amazing how the pursuit of gainful employment holds so much power over our lives. Looking for work can be exhilarating and uplifting as well as totally and completely soul-crushing.

I’m on a cross-country road trip with the Significant Other, traveling from D.C. to San Francisco and back. Throughout the trip, I’ve been applying for jobs: typing follow-up emails in the car, practicing for interviews in 7-11 bathroom mirrors and penning cover letters in tents. But I don’t just want a job, I want the job. When you’re spending the majority of your life moving heaven and earth on a boss’s whim, it better damn well be worth it.

So how do I go about finding that elusive gig? You know, the one that makes working late nights and weekends oddly satisfying? I did what any journo would do when seeking answers—I interviewed people across America.

Give Back

Rena Bob, a Grand Canyon National Park Interpretive Park Ranger, on the importance of giving back with your work:parkrangerI’m a park ranger. I have a cultural background as a Navajo. That’s what’s unique about me and any native working in the park. I have knowledge about the plants and the earth. I am a liaison between the native people and visitors. I educate the public about what is special to us as native people so these histories can be passed on to new generations and respected.
We educate kids to protect these places. It’s such a good feeling that the kids are interested in the history of the park, in the history of the Navajo. There’s hope for the future.
This interview has been lightly edited and paraphrased.

Don’t Sell Out

Here’s advice from Kat Flanigan, a cannabis property acquisitions specialist:

cannabis, marijuana, portland, oregon

PORTLAND—I’m a commercial broker, and I help people lease property to be used for medicinal and recreational marijuana. I got into it by accident. I was in real estate for years, and the market crashed. Then I found people who needed help. My job is a job—it segued into activism.

Don’t live to work. If you’re starting out and looking for the surest thing, it’s find your passion. I used to be an artist. Don’t sell out because I did.

This interview has been lightly edited and paraphrased.