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Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

This is a discussion on Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl within the Axolotl General Discussion forums, part of the Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) category; I am a new user. This is my first post. My axolotl Spot I've had since a newt in May--it's ...

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Old 11th December 2008   #1 (permalink)
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Default Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

I am a new user. This is my first post.

My axolotl Spot I've had since a newt in May--it's about seven months old. It's had a history of floating at the top slightly tilted to one side, interspersed with occasional sightings resting on the bottom. I'm guessing it's "she" because it has a curvy belly and doesn't have a bulging cloaca.

I inherited the tilted floater from a departing girlfriend who left it behind uncared for. It had probably spent a week or more in my apartment under her custody at temperatures higher than 70 degrees farenheit during the summertime. When I researched the animal, I deduced that she may have gotten sick from heat stress and followed the advice of users here to put it in a mini-refrigerator for a month, temperature ranging from 37-40 degrees in there. After a few days, she generally laid along the bottom instead of floating.

At September's end, a month had passed in the frig, so I took her out and put her and the 1-2 gallon plastic tank she resided in by a window that kept temperatures at about 50 degrees since it was autumn. After a few days, she began generally floating again and only occasionally laying on bottom.

Until that time, I had been feeding her primarily Hikari Tubifex Worms, and occasionally frozen blood worms, but then read somewhere on here that the Tubifex Worms as a primary diet can be bad for its kidney and should only be used as an occasional treat. I went out and bought some frozen bloodworm and brine shrimp cubes and some Tetrafauna ReptoMin baby mini floating food sticks for small aquatic turtles, newts and frogs, and rarely even give it Tubifex anymore. I found the bloodworm and brine shrimp to be very messy and out of concern for the water quality because I hadn't yet got (and still don't have) a filter, ended up primarily feeding her the floating ReptoMin sticks because they were cleaner and more efficient.

Anyway, she got too big for the small plastic tank, so I bought a 20 gallon glass tank and put her in there with 10 gallons of water. I do a 20-25% water change daily since I do not have a filter, and I plan on getting a wet-dry filter very soon. At first entry in the new tank, she seemed very happy swimming around, or kind of prouncing around with that walking on the moon feel that someone mentioned on a post that seems to indicate a happy axolotl. After a few days however, she reverted back to the tilted float.

I check the water quality and it's generally:
General Hardness: 0
Karbonate Hardness: 0
pH: 6-6.5
NO2: 0-.5
NO3: 20

One concern I had was that when I had put the frozen brine shrimp or frozen bloodworm cubes in the tank, she would occasionally find them and gulp them while they were still slightly frozen and not fully thawed and perhaps getting air trapped in her stomach from the still frozen moisture. Now I'm also wondering if the floating food stick contain air (which is what probably makes them float) that might be making her float.

She doesn't really seem sick per se, she has a VERY healthy appetite, and perhaps I have been even overfeeding her, feeding her once or twice daily. I just read today that at 11-20 cm. long (she is now probably 12-15 cm.), they should be fed once every other day. She only sometimes seems slightly annoyed when she is trying to dive down and always being zoomed back to the top. Usually it appears to be the back of her that is pulling her up which I read could be an indication of constipation. She'll even lay around in bizarre positions sometimes like completely up and down with her head straight down and tail straight up!

how often does an axolotl poop? I think I read that food takes about 3 days to digest, yet although I'd been feeding her daily, I'm lucky to find a poop in the tank more than once every two or three weeks--seems a little infrequent given how much she eats.

Concerned about the rare poop sightings, I began giving her a couple times per week some sun-dried baby gammarus shrimp which although lacking much nutritional value, are supposed to provide roughage to support digestion. Nonetheless I still don't see poop all that often... Anybody know what's going on there? Are gammarus shrimp okay to give her?

Anyway, I made an observation recently as I began feeding her fully thawed bloodworms (bloodworms seem to be her favorite) cubes that sank to the bottom of the tank. When those things are there, she works and works and works, burps out bubbles, struggles her way to the bottom and eventually braces herself on and along objects like the flower pot decoration, etc. until she can stabilize herself enough along the bottom to eat the bloodworms. Plainly put, when there's a reason (i.e. bloodworms), she finds a way to make it happen to lie along the bottom. Also, shortly after she eats them, she remains stable along the bottom and seems to have control of her elevation.

The next day I fed her one reptomin stick and she was back to floating.

Today, i fed her the bloodworms from the bottom, and she's back to normal. She's sleeping now with her hind legs on the bottom and her front body slightly tilted up. Very cute!

I'm wondering, is it possible she just enjoys floating? Because hell or high water, she'll make it to the bottom and hang out there when there are bloodworms to eat, but otherwise just floats. Does the perpetual floating necessarily indicate a sickness or could it be her preference?

I recently even submerged the 1-2 plastic tank with the cover on into the 20 gallon tank, with the plastic door on top removed for an opening, and she seems to love the set up. When she is floating she has the top of the tank she can touch while floating, and when not floating she can enter it through the opening and seems to enjoy hanging out in it, and she also of course has the flower pot and a few large plastic stones.

I know that I need to get some more river rocks and stones for a substrate and a wet-dry filter to get a more easily-maintainable tank going, but the water seems to always be in good quality because of my daily changes.

I've been going around with this critter for months and read just about everything I can find about axolotls, and am now second-guessing the whole notion that she's sick, seeing what she can do when the bloodworms are calling her.

Perhaps I'll just feed her the bloodworms from the bottom every other day, and refrain from giving her the floating food sticks for a while and see if that results in a more consistent control of her elevation.

Any suggestions on this matter? Is she sick somehow regardless, or does she just like riding the surface?

Are there certain foods that help them to control elevation or that cause them to float more frequently? What is it I should be concerned about?

Most information I read about sick floating axolotls generally mention a loss in appetite. Not her. She floats. She eats. and she eats.

What is the prescribed feeding rate for an axolotl and how often should they poop?

Thanks in advance to any replies this thread might receive.

Oh, one more thing. I'm using American Pharmaceudicals Tap Water Conditioner to dechlorinate the water, and detoxify the metals and chloramines. It takes 3 drops per 2 gallons to dechlorinate the water and detoxify the metals but it takes 6 drops per 1 gallon to detoxify the chloramines, and just realized that I had only been using it at the 3 drops per 2 gallon ratio. However, I usually age the water for 24 hours and use the water conditioner as an additional precaution, but is it possible that chloramines are creating a problem? Does aging the water detoxify the chloramines on its own as dechlorination happens on its own or does the chloramine issue have to be dealt with specifically other than letting the water sit?

Tons of questions, I know, but you guys are the experts and I'm the newbie.

Thanks again.



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Old 11th December 2008   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Hi there,

I think you approached the case sensibly. You have mentioned checking the water chemistry. Did you also test for ammonia? The pH value seems to be on the acidic side, this could lead to increased ammonia toxicity. So i would again recommend checking for ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels again, as well as pH. Also is the temperature in the tank consistent and on the optimal low side? As much as axolotls like cold environment, constantly fluctuating temperatures is stressful and can be detrimental as well. If water chemistry is not ideal, you might like to perform a 20% water change with clean declorinated water.

Floating can be 'physiological' or pathological. Are there any other accompanying signs of illness or stress? Is the axolotl showing signs of stress such as curled gills, curled tail end tip, unusual darting or lethargy, body condition deterioration/weight loss? Are there unusual lesions, discolouration on any part of the body? You mentioned it had a good appetite, however did it merely toy with the food or truly ate the food being offered? If there are other such signs, there may be an underlying condition to address. However, if the axolotl still appears healthy otherwise, it may be just trying to expel air via the mouth end or the bum end (suc as pooping) ^_^. Also take a look at its gills, are they shrunken or discoloured? Air exchange compromise from gill illnesses may cause the axolotl to float in order to supplement air. Is your tank aerated?

Nutrition wise, im learning a lot from you. A variety of food offered will no doubt minimise malnutrition. I personally prefer commercial axolotl pellets and earthworms because for the pellets, the nutritional composition is usually stated and thus i feel more 'complete'. However earthworms are nutritious and cheap as well. I have not experimented with other food types but an definitely inspired to try some out!

For declorination, i would follow the manufacturer's instructions accordingly. However just in case you want to be extra extra safe, you might like to allow the water to stand overnight after treating with the chemicals. By allowing the water to stand, harmful chlorines is dissipated through gaseous form. However, presence of heavy metals if any will remain.

Hope i could help!

Regards



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Old 11th December 2008   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

At 7 months old your axolotl is still youngish. I observed with my axolotls that at a young age they were more prone to floating with their back ends up and the head end down. It could be that their digestive system is less mature and I liken this behaviour to a human baby that swallows a lot of air whilst feeding and then burps a lot after.
You say you have noticed she settles after eating bloodworm so I would suggest feeding more of this and another excellent food is earthworms. Earthworms are the staple diet of my axolotl with the occasional prawn, piece of liver and fish thrown in sometimes.
When you are feeding the reptomin sticks, are you feeding them at the surface of the water? This may cause her to gulp more air. It sounds as though you are doing a good job, and if she is eating that is a good sign. Generally axolotls may refuse food if they are unwell.

Oh and the pooing thing. Axolotl poo can turn to dust pretty quickly hence you are missing seeing it sometimes.



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Last edited by gr33neyes; 11th December 2008 at 16:22. Reason: forgot pooing bit lol
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Old 11th December 2008   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Thanks for your replies.

I am realizing now that my water testing kit tests for nitrite and nitrates, but not ammonia. I thought that nitrites and nitrates tests were the tests for ammonia--that they are two different kinds of ammonia, but now have boughta test that will test for ammonia separately from just nitrites and nitrates and will report back the results.

Axolotls like harder water, correct? Is my water too soft?

The temperature is pretty consistent. The tank is in my bedroom by the winter and I live in Maine, U.S. so it's pretty cold outside. I keep the heat off in that room and the temperature is usually around 55 degrees varying sometimes to temps between 50-60, but not quickly or too severely that I've noticed.

No curled gills, tails, or lethargy or strange behavior (other than being a strange creature already). She does seem to have a nice growing round belly but it doesn't seem so big as to be "bloated" as I've seen in pictures of bloated axies. She definitely eats the food, in fact she cleans up every last scrap she can find of the bloodworms!

Is my tank aerated? What does this mean to have an aerated tank? Do I need a special device?

Where does one get these commercial axolotl pellets?

I will definitely try using the declorinator to sit as the water ages as opposed to doing it vice versa, to reduce chemical exposure--thanks for that tip!

I do feed her the reptomin sticks from the top surface of the water. They float there and won't sink.

I will report back about the ammonia level when I test it tonight. Thanks so much for guiding me in the right direction!



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Old 11th December 2008   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Oh also, it is hard to find anywhere what the proper feeding schedule is for these buggers. Accounts seem to vary all over the place, anywhere from twice a day to once every three or four days. Any thoughts on this? I've been feeding her once to twice daily, but recently only once, and am now thinking of trying just once every two days.

It's hard to tell what is the best schedule for their physiology. Isn't their a manual for these things? lol.



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Old 11th December 2008   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

www.axolotl.org is the best manual out there.



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Old 12th December 2008   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Quote:
Originally Posted by mzcmn View Post
It takes 3 drops per 2 gallons to dechlorinate the water and detoxify the metals but it takes 6 drops per 1 gallon to detoxify the chloramines, and just realized that I had only been using it at the 3 drops per 2 gallon ratio. However, I usually age the water for 24 hours and use the water conditioner as an additional precaution, but is it possible that chloramines are creating a problem? Does aging the water detoxify the chloramines on its own as dechlorination happens on its own or does the chloramine issue have to be dealt with specifically other than letting the water sit?
Letting the water age will NOT get rid of the chloramines. You need to use the 6 drops per 1gal ratio. Chloramines can be very toxic to axies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mzcmn View Post
Is my tank aerated? What does this mean to have an aerated tank? Do I need a special device?

Where does one get these commercial axolotl pellets?

To have an aerated tanks means that you are adding oxygen to the water. To aerate your tanks you can either add a filter (best choice) or add a air pump and a air stone.

The axie pellets can be bought at some pet shops.



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Old 12th December 2008   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

axolotl.org is a good site, but while it has a great explanation of what you can feed an axolotl, it doesn't once say anywhere how often to feed it. What are your feeding schedules everybody?



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Old 14th December 2008   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

My axies are 4 months old (around 9-10cm) and I feed them once everyday because the tank is around 18-20C.



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Old 17th December 2008   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Okay, update on Spotty...

FLOATER... she's no longer a perpetual floater, wanders the tank at will up or down. I attribute it to the adjustment in water conditioning to break the chloramine bond because she's stopped floating since then. I've addier floating sticks back into her diet and they don't seem to cause her to float.

AMMONIA... I got the "Red Sea" Ammonia Fresh Test kit, and find it confusing to administer. If anybody knows of an easier testing kit out there, I wouldn't mind knowing it.
The directions for this thing say, after adding two different reagant solutions and shaking tube, to...
"8. Read off the ppm value of the color that is closest to the sample in the test tube. This is a measure of the total dissolved ammonia."
I got .25
"9. Using the table below calculate the level of toxic ammonia."
The table, based on temperature and pH only goes as low as 68 deg. F. (20 deg. C.), and 7.2 pH, while I am usually at 56 deg. F. and 6.0 pH. Using the lowest number on the table .6, as the percentage of toxic ammonia in the total dissolved ammonia, I get .0015.
Is this a reliable test of my water's ammonia?

AIR STONE.... I bought an AirPod Aquarium Air Pump for up to 20 gallons and a long air stone, but when I turned it on, it was way too turbulent! Spotty's little gills bent immediately, showing stess--seemed pretty wigged out... so I unplugged it. Is there an air pump slow enough to not terrorize my axol, or do I bury it under river rocks or something? ... or... will my tank be aerated enough by the Marine Land Bio-Wheel Power Fileter Penguin 100 that I just bought?

FILTER... now that I got a filter, I'm going to remove Spotty from tank back into smaller one, then cycle the large tank for several weeks before putting her/him back in, right? I do look forward to not having to do the daily 20% water change!

SUBSTRATE... haven't got any large river rocks or the likes yet because the store didn't have any that looked confidently big enough to avoid suction into the mouth. I was wondering if anybody had any experience with the glass marbles that they sell that are kind of flattened. They look like they could questionably make their way in..

POOP... thanks gr33neyes for the tip on the poop. I noticed a pile in there, and she barrelled her nuzzle through it apparently perhaps thinking it was a sitting clump of bloodworms or brine shrimp, and yeah it disappeared pretty quick!

GENDER... I notice a slight bulge developing in the area of the groin and am waiting to see if it is possibly a large supply of excretion on the way out? or possibly.. could she actually be a he? At what point in their development do signs of their gender become visible? Thanks y'all!



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Old 17th December 2008   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

She could be a he (you can normally tell around 6 months of age).

Regarding the ammonia test, I would only read the 'dissolved' reading as any ammonia is not good.

If you have a filter you shouldn't need a air stone. The aeration from the filter is fine.

As for substrate, don't use the glass marbles or anything like that. They will get swallowed. I have found that the best thing to use is sand.

Hope this helps



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Old 17th December 2008   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Won't he/she/it suck the sand in when it scours for food from the bottom? It's accustomed to scouring the floor now because of how I was feeding it to remedy its floating situation, and ultimately blood worms and brine shrimp find their way there and it knows it...



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Old 17th December 2008   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Yes 'it' will but thats ok because sand passes through an axie without any problems or your axie will expell the sand through the gills (cool and freaky to watch!!)



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Old 17th December 2008   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Maybe I'll give sand consideration. I also read in the tank setup forum of someone who used a combination of slate, large pebbles (larger than head) and bare floor. I guess it will come down to which way is easier to maintain!



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Old 18th December 2008   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Your water is very soft and slightly acid and the axolotl will probably appreciate the use of added salts to harden the water. The formulae on axolotl.org work well.

At low pH ammonia is almost all in the non-toxic form and the total level of 0.25 is not going to cause problems even if the pH is raised. One problem with acidic conditions is the filter bacteria do not work as effectively so the ammonia can pile up if you do not keep up water changes and then if you raise the pH you create toxic conditions.

The test kit you are using sounds complicated but simpler versions often fudge the details. The one I use does not give temperature corrections, just presumes everyone runs a tropical tank. At the moment you have a wide margin before the ammonia becomes a problem but you need to watch it if you do harden the water.

It may be informative to test the water after de-chlorination before addition to the tank. If there was chloramine in it it may show a significant ammonia level (the amine bit of chloramine becomes ammonia on de-chlorination). Do you test the tank before or after the partial water change? It may be the ammonia is nil before the change but 0.25 for a few minutes after the change!



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Old 19th December 2008   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Hi all,

My apologies about a point i made in an earlier post, which paulism has kindly alerted me to. I would like to clarify the point to avoid any misinformation or misunderstanding.

In my earlier post i wrote:

"The pH value seems to be on the acidic side, this could lead to increased ammonia toxicity".

This statement is misleading and vague. I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate.

Ammonia refers to two chemical species which are in equilibrium in water (NH3, un-ionized and NH4+, ionized). Tests for ammonia usually measure total ammonia (NH3 plus NH4+).

The toxicity to ammonia is primarily attributable to the un-ionized form (NH3), as opposed to the ionized form (NH4+). In general, more NH3 and greater toxicity exists at higher pH. Percent NH3 increases with temperature and pH. An increase of one pH unit will increase the NH3 concentration about 10-fold. As pH and temperature decrease, more total ammonia can be tolerated.

However, studies has also indicated that less NH3 is needed at lower pH to produce its toxic effects. Thus, less un-ionized NH3 is needed at lower pH to be lethal.

Also low pH can be attributed to unremoved nitrogenous waste accumulation.

Thus, in conclusion, the concept of higher pH, higher ammonia toxicity still rings true. However, low pH can still result in toxicity by the unionized form, which can be compounded in the first place by insufficient/irregular water changes. For axolotls though, a neutral pH (7.5 ish) is still the optimum.

Hope i didn't cause too much of an inconveniece!

Cheers


References

1. US Environmental Protection Agency. Ambient Water Quality Criteria for Ammonia, (EPA 440/5-85-001). January 1985.

2. Glodek, Garrett S. "Ammonia in the Closed System Aquarium," FAMA, June 1991.



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Old 19th December 2008   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Wow, there's no end to the learning to be had here! Thanks Darkmaverick and oceanblue for your posts about pH, temp. and ammonia.

Right now, the Bio-Wheel Filter is in. pH has always been at 6.0 and general and karbonate hardness both at 0. Still true.

I have always tested the level after the water change, but thanks for the advice on pre-testing both the dechlorinated water and the tank water pre-change, oceanblue. I'll see what that yields.

There's been no problem with the axolotl floating ever since I started using enough drops to break the chloramine bonds, it pretty much goes up and down at will.

One question I have about my MarineLand Penguin wet/dry filter is this: Is the current created by it okay or stressful for the axolotl? This critter has been spoiled with still water for almost eight months while I did manual water changes and he/she seemed a little freaked out at first but I think it might be getting used to it.

Also, there are faint whisps of clouds whirling around in the tank now that the water is circulating and I was wondering what it is? Is it just material that's always been in there that I never noticed before because perhaps it just settled to the bottom and now is constantly being stirred about, or is it new material in the tank that's been introduced by the filter? Is the water supposed to be completely clear, or is it normal to have a faint haze in it?

Thanks again!



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Old 20th December 2008   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: Introducing Spot, the floating axolotl

Some axolotls are agitated by too vigorous a current but you can usually get round this by redirecting the filter output against the side of the tank or using a filter bar. If all else fails a bit of material like ground cover fabric or horticultural fleece across the filter intake will moderate the flow further. See how it goes but if its gills are not curled forwards it is probably OK.

I don't know what the debris in the water in your tank is (disintegrated axolotl droppings?) but there is plenty of junk in the water in all my tanks, even the ones with filters. In my tanks it is mostly bits of decaying watercress half consumed by ostecods. The axolotls don't mind it. I think of my tanks as indoor muddy ponds not the tropical reef look so many people seem to strive for .



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