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Related Articles: General Freshwater Aquarium Set-Up Checklist by Bob Fenner, Treating TapwaterAquascaping, Freshwater Livestock, Freshwater Maintenance

Karen Kees’ Delightful “Kitchen” 12 gal. Eclipse

By Bob Fenner



The local San Diego Tropical Fish Society has a long habit of enjoyable excursions; trips out to the Salton Sea area to sample irrigation drainage ditches, doing the same at Formosa Slough in Ocean Beach/OB, visits to UCSD’s Scripps/Birch Aquarium for behind the scene’s tours, and just visiting at the homes of our members. One such outing was the SDTFS Garden Party, Spring Bloom in Karen & Mike’s Garden! And what a delight it was.

            Nestled deceptively at the terminus of an upscale Poway area tract home development, their home is a well-preserved/improved 1929 residence, w/ (thank goodness) strong floors! Karen has numerous systems, one of two hundred gallons volume; all are prime examples of what one might do to promote good freshwater livestock health, w/ a modicum of maintenance.

            Karen’s tanks are prodigiously planted, lighted w/ stock fixtures, numbers of lamps, and filtration. Most of her maintenance involves weekly half water change-outs and copious feeding.


Philosophy: Purposes of Design

In asking Karen what her goal/s were in setting up this system, I noted that there are many small/juvenile "Plecostomus" here and know she’s a breeder of same. Additionally, there is an abundance of cherry shrimp... She states: “This tank is my little show tank for my enjoyment at meals--that's why it's on the kitchen table. I keep small interesting fish in the tank. I usually have male guppies because they are so active, cheery and playful.”


The Set Up:

Re the system make-up; this is a stock twelve gallon Marineland Eclipse unit. Nothing has been done to modify it from the original. Of note in particular, the lighting has not been changed, augmented. There is just the one provided daylight fluorescent lamp; on for twelve hours a day.  

What re the filtration here? Again, just the included “Patented BioWheel 3 Stage” Eclipse built into the hood/canopy, moving water over the top tray; the water stream from the tray rotating the BioWheel. This very simple arrangement provides for effective for filtration, circulation and aeration.

Décor: on the right is a piece of upright driftwood... this is a dense, hard, sinking African root: Mopani driftwood. The substrate is CaribSea’s Tahitian Moon Black sand, about 15 pounds, with some local dark-blue “wampum” stones and striped metamorphic accent rocks.  Live plants occupy a good deal of the middle and background. We’ll cover them below.



Karen has very nice live plantings in all her system, sometimes with a theme. No specific theme however. She uses plants that grow well under each tank's lighting. “My sixty has especially low light, so I use it for her Cryptocorynes and Anubias--many species of both. The corner tank (92 gallons) has high light, so I grow more stem plants and ground-cover plants in there.” <Both shown>



Karen’s sixty “Ancistrus” tank

The brighter 92 gallon.

The ferns:  Include the narrow leafed Java Fern and lacy Wendelov:
http://www.azgardens.com/p-878-java-fern-lace-tropica-aquarium-plant.aspx. Both of these are in the kitchen tank and doing very well, despite the local hard and alkaline San Diego tap water. Oh and there is a similarly tolerant Anubias sp. in the back on the left.


Karen’s 12 gallon kitchen system ferns and Anubias barteri

Snail species:

“Nerite snails: olive and tiger striped. They are brackish water snails and don't breed in freshwater. They are the best hard algae eaters; they are the only animal I know of that will eat hard green algae off of glass.

Assassin Snails, Anentome Helena/Clea Helena:

The above are my good snails. My bad ones are the ubiquitous Ramshorn and the livebearing Malaysian trumpet snail--both of which I detest. I cultured a population of Assassins especially to deal with these baddies.”

The Cherry Shrimp keep the plants clean. “They multiply like crazy in all of my four Eclipse Twelve tanks. I carefully rescue all shrimp caught by the siphon--I'm especially watchful for babies--from old aquarium each time I change water. This seems helps sustain the shrimp population.”

The type/breed of Guppy:  “Tropical Sunrise. It is new. I think it is a color variation of the Tequila Sunrise guppy--some of which were in the tank too. The difference between the two is that the Tropical has a metallic blue shimmer on the tail end of its body. I'm growing the Tropical Sunrise gups and will sell them when I have enough. They are hardier than fancy show guppies. Unlike fancy show guppies, the Tequila and Tropical Sunrise can be kept successfully in community tanks.”

The Plecs: “The male nurtures the eggs/fry in his hole in a piece of wood in the front right. A pair of brown long fin bushy nose Plecos produces babies in there regularly. Once the newest batch is out of the hole, I move the previous batch to other Eclipse Twelve’s in the fish room.

They are the long finned type of bushy nose Plecos, one of the many Ancistrus species: http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=830+837+1039&pcatid=1039. I have albinos and chocolates--the young of which have striking white edging on their tails.”



“I feed a lot and change water a lot: 50% per week.”

I note that Karen feeds mostly commercial dried foods... but supplements w/ others. She states, “The staple diet is TetraMin flakes. I supplement with hulled brine shrimp eggs, Ken's Earthworm and veggie sticks and algae wafers. I have a culture of vinegar eels, but, I rarely have time to deal with them, unless I have tiny fry. Very occasionally, my fish get frozen blood worms.
     Fish are fed only once a day, but, a lot at that time. It's not ideal, but, I don't have time for more feedings, as it takes quite a while to feed.
My fish don't seem to mind. They all grow well and seem healthy enough. The loaches, barbs and Siamese Algae Eaters even get fat!”

Karen had mentioned that she employs our San Diego "liquid rock" tapwater straight w/o filtering, changing out half per week as your maintenance regimen. What other additives, fertilizers, if any do you utilize, particularly for your plants?
     “When I remember, I use Flourish Iron and regular Flourish. When the Nymphaea water lilies and sword plants' growth slows, I add Flourish (and other brands) tabs under the sand. But, weeks, even months go by where I do neither.
     I consider my plant growing low tech: no fancy high light systems and no CO2.
I like to use Sunset Hygrophila for nitrogen uptake and shade--to reduce algae growth. I grow it in all my tanks when needed.”


Cloze: As an olde timey member of the SDTFS (was the president for three years back in the 90’s), I try to take in regular meetings as well as our occasional outings. Am so glad to have attended this spring luncheon and visit, and gotten to see and chat w/ Karen re her outstanding systems. Again, I thank her, husband Mike Fry and the club for putting on this lunch party.

            Karen’s tanks are testimony to what can be achieved and enjoyed w/ stock systems and components, knowledge, patience and an artistic touch.

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