30. April 2012 · Comments Off on Florida Discoveries 21: Dolphin Cruising in Destin · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

We had a wonderful afternoon on a dolphin cruise. The weather couldn't have been more cooperative!

I guess it’s been a while since I wrote one of these “Discoveries” posts, isn’t it? It doesn’t mean we didn’t do anything — in fact, I’m reminded that I should relabel my USS Alabama, Mardi Gras and Santa Train posts “Alabama Discoveries”…we do seem to spend a lot of time there, don’t we?

Maybe while I’m at it I’ll rename our Atlanta road trips “Georgia Discoveries” 🙂

Thanks to a Groupon I purchased several months ago, we were able to take advantage of a dolphin cruise around Destin Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico this past weekend. The Groupon benefits expired on April 30th, so in typical Major Mom fashion, we took the trip on April 29th.

We took a 30 minute narrated tour of Destin Harbor and then traveled through the East Pass into the Gulf and got up close and personal with three separate pods of dolphins. As you might have read or heard, dolphins are indeed very social and friendly. The younger ones enjoyed showing off for us — trying to get as much air as possible when jumping! More »

25. April 2012 · Comments Off on Our Fishtank · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever written about our fishtank before. I know I’ve written several times about our fountain/pond set up in the front yard of our current house. We have a 5 gallon tank in our kitchen also.

Jacob got his first fish around his 5th birthday. Small tanks with bettas and danios. Easy-to-care-for fish. We took the fishtank (sans fish) to Nebraska, and tried out some other fish — Glo-Fish danios were popular with the boys but they seemed to not live for more than 3-4 months at a time, and cost twice as much as non-fluorescent danios.

In Florida, we set up one more time, this time with fancy guppies. We kept 3-4 guppies in the tank and they did quite well. We lost one of them after about 6 months, which seemed par for the course.

About a year ago, we took on a blue gourami from a friend who was moving. A BIG blue gourami who proceeded to eat the tails off two of the guppies…the ones with the prettiest, fanciest tails. Since they were apparently threats to him even though he was about 20x their sizes. A fish with no tail doesn’t last long.

From May 2011 until April 2012, we had a small Endler’s guppy (which had a very plain tail and therefore was allowed to live) and the blue gourami. They existed in very quiet harmony.

The guppy is still with us, the blue gourami passed away at the beginning of this month.

So we repopulated the fish tank with some smaller fish. And decided to replace the really old plastic plants and anchor-thingy tank decoration in the tank while we were at it.

Zebra danios have always done well with us…so we bought 3 of them. You want to get groups of three because they’re “community fish”, and are happiest in groups.

We also chose a new kind of fish — new to us. “Mickey Mouse” platys. These are also community fish — considering the boys’ obsession with Hidden Mickeys, these were PERFECT! The boys love them!

Here are two fo the Mickey Mouse platys. Aren't they cute? They're about the size of feeder goldfish.

A closeup of the tail. See the Hidden Mickey?

While we were at it, we redecorated the tank to Post-Modern Bikini Bottom. Enjoy!

You can see one of our zebra danios towards the top of the pineapple.

14. July 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,

This week I put away the “kitchen laptop” once and for all.  We got our weather webcam working again with Dave’s old PC laptop that had been sitting in our front office unused since we moved here.

With no kitchen laptop to occupy my time reformatting and partitioning, I’ve taken on a new hopeless project.  Wasn’t sure whether to call it my Waterloo or my Achilles’ heel or what, but it’s effectively taken the place of the kitchen laptop.

I’ve talked about the small pond in front my rental house before.  It’s pretty, and the cascading fountain is really really cool.  Most of the time my involvement with the pond isn’t the greatest.

The hose in the background is connected to our well pump, thus making it easy (and free-of-charge) to refill the pond with non-chlorinated water.

It’s too small.  I’m going to guess the homeowner doesn’t read this blog so I’ll just be honest here and declare that it’s almost inhumane to have tried to keep 4 large koi in that small space.  I’d guess it’s about 55-60 gallons.  Not enough for large goldfish.

I’ve been keeping notes of my “pond issues”.

  • At first there was a lot of splashing out of those cascading trays and when the sprinklers weren’t running in the winter, I had to manually refill the pond almost daily.  I recently rearranged the trays and virtually eliminated this problem.
  • The hose that runs up the center of the fountain often slips and without warning the water isn’t cascading down the trays.  I have to remove one of the trays to access the hose and thread it back up the center of the fountain.  Darned gravity!
  • As I had written about this past spring, I had killed all 4 of the original koi that were with the house when we moved here in December.  So I had replaced those koi with 3 smaller ones.  The day we left on vacation we had thunderstorms and the outdoor electrical circuit that includes the pond pump shorted out.  Within 24 hours, those new koi were dead.
  • The algae!!!  Once the weather started warming up the amounts of algae have been very difficult to control.  The pond is too small for a UV filter, which probably would solve all of our problems, so I’m trying humane methods to control the algae: barley straw packets and manual water changes.
  • There is a frog that lives in or near the pond.  He’s really loud.  My neighbors send me Facebook wall posts, he’s so loud.
  • Or shall I say…”She?”

Meet Mr. Tadpole, one of about a dozen living in the pond now!  Perhaps this picture is difficult to see?  I brought 3 of the tadpoles into the house to show to the boys.

So I now have 3 tadpoles in the kitchen swimming in a Pyrex glass and I’m not sure what to do with them.  I’m considering setting up a small habitat and seeing if we can see the development over the next few weeks…a cool summer science project, right?  After all, I’m the ant-farming, vermicomposting Mom, right?

Also, to replace the koi that died during our vacation, I bought 8 feeder goldfish from our local Wal-mart.  At 38 cents a piece, I’ve officially thrown in the towel on making large investments in this pond.

I tried to get pictures of the new little goldfish trucking around the pond, but the water is so incredibly murky from the algae, it’s been near impossible:

Do you trust me when I say there’s a goldfish in there?

Wish me luck!

26. April 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,
This is not the dead fish itself, but the calicos I killed looked VERY similar.

Yeah.  That would be me.  I killed not one, but FOUR fish today.

Back in December I mentioned the four 6″+ beautiful koi who were living in our water feature in the front yard of our current house when we moved in.  I diligently kept up with the water levels, water cleanliness and feeding of those fish all through the winter…

Let me refresh your memory here from my December 8th blog post:

And finally, I’ll share my newest hobby: a small fountain/pond in my yard.  Among the fancy front-yard landscaping is a pond/fountain, a plain fountain and a birdbath!  I’m looking forward to seeing more birds in the front yard when the weather gets warmer.

The pond was certainly a nice bonus to our house — and we were pleasantly surprised to see 4 good-sized goldfish swimming around in the pond.  The weather’s been so cold the fish are more or less dormant so it isn’t very interesting.  They’re also pretty shy, hiding under the fountain column a lot of the time.  The algae in the pond has been a problem.  So these past few days I’ve been spending 30-45 minutes per day working on cleaning out the pond.  As of now, I’ve done a 2/3 water change, scrubbed the algae off the concrete, and I’m making sure to run the fountain during the day so the water is well aerated.  The water I add to the pond is from a well, which means I don’t have to worry about chemical treatments or anything like that.  Every time I’d agitate the water the algae would stir up and become almost opaque green — seeing the fish at all has been difficult.  Once the temperatures warm up more in a couple months, we’ll start feeding them and hopefully we’ll see them come out more often.

The fountain.  The pump sends the water up to the very top of the column and then it trickles down the “trays” that are spiraling around the column.  It’s very pretty, but I’ve been challenged with setting the water pressure such that the water doesn’t blast out of the trays sloppily.

Here’s one of the fish on a rare occasion that the algae in the water was settled to the bottom.  The boys haven’t named the fish yet (I see that coming real soon), but this one likes to hang out near the warmer pump unit when the water’s cold.  We have two gold ones, and two calicos.  Each are 6-8″ long.

Today I was mortified to see all 4 of the fish lying DEAD among the rocks that surround the fountain/pond.  It was really strange…it struck me as odd that all four of the fish were in one general area outside the pond.  Two of them were even on top of each other!

My first thought was foul play.  That someone physically removed all the fish and tossed them onto the rocks.  However, that was a stretch because the fish are quite shy, so far I’ve been the only one who can stand near the pond without the fish dashing under the fountain to hide!

But upon further thought, I realized that there were probably numerous contributors:

  • Over the weekend I had increased the time that the sprinklers run every day.  It hasn’t rained in nearly 3 weeks and the yard was starting to suffer from it.  So there’s a good chance the pond overflowed and the fish were outside of the confines of their pond when the water receded.  
  • The hose that runs water all the way to the top of the feature had slipped and the evaporation rate had reduced significantly.  I usually count on about 1/3 of the water sloshing out daily from the sloppiness of the water pouring down the trays of the fountain.  So there was even more water than usual in the pond.
  • One of the hoses became disconnected and water was rushing out of that loose hose…in the direction of the rocks the dead fish were on.  I wonder if the fish swam in front of that jet of water and were propelled out of the pond.

I feel awful those fish perished.  Tomorrow I will head over to the local pet store…the owner seems VERY knowledgable about fish and will help me replace these four.