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ARTICLE INFORMATION:
Author: Howard Norfolk
Title: MEET AN AQUARIST SERIES: OLGA BETTS
Summary: Olga is a sophisticated lady who keeps immaculate planted tanks in the three main rooms of her house.

Contact for editing purposes:
email: howardnorfolk@aquarticles.com  

(Note: Photos have been re-sized for easy loading. Better quality photos can be provided if required).
Date first published: December 1999
Publication: Vancouver Aquatic Hobbyist Club Newsletter

 

 

 

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Jim Norfolk
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MEET AN AQUARIST SERIES: OLGA BETTS

by Howard Norfolk
First published in the newsletter of The Vancouver Aquatic Hobbyist Club
Aquarticles

Author’s note:  This is one of a series of articles I wrote whilst editing the newsletter of an aquarium society in Vancouver, Canada.  Although the aquarists depicted are from the Vancouver area, no doubt there are people with similar interests in your club.  The articles are intended to give beginning and intermediate aquarists ideas and tips for the further development of their hobby,  and hopefully experts will enjoy a peek into other fish rooms too! 
 

Driving along a leafy street on the residential west side of Vancouver,  I didn’t have to look at the house numbers to tell when I had reached Olga Betts’ house. Even though it was at the back of a twenty foot living room, I could clearly see a brightly lit aquarium shining through the front windows!

Olga is a believer in meticulously maintained show tanks, carefully landscaped with lots of plants.  She does not relegate her hobby to the basement (although there are a couple of utility tanks there), but has aquariums in her living room, den and kitchen, for her to view in comfort and for visitors to see and admire.  The tanks are "high tech.", about which more later, but they are carefully set up so that no unsightly wires or gadgets are visible.  They sit not on "aquarium stands", but on sturdy furniture pieces that fit the décor of the room.

Surely for most of us, fish keeping is a messy business, and the surrounding floors, furniture and even walls suffer from the inevitable water spills and careless feeding.  No such problem at Olga’s however, so she must have some secrets that we don’t know about!

Olga shares her house with husband Russell, Shetland Sheepdog ‘Tristan’, Russian Blue cat "Riley", and two white rabbits which she rescued from abandonment in a nearby wooded park (and for which she is looking for a good home).  Such a pet lover naturally kept fish as a youngster and into her twenties, but she really developed her interest upon re-starting about ten years ago.  Finding that she was “lucky with plants”, they became Olga’s main aquatic passion.  Her tanks have some beautiful fish, but growing plants to their full potential and experimenting with new species is what Olga likes best. 
 


Olga's 50 gallon aquarium

Olga’s number one tank is a fifty gallon beauty in her living room. It stands on a teak cabinet, in which is hidden, as part of the plant fertilising programme, a CO2 injection system which is turned on automatically by an electronic controller when the pH rises to 7.0, and turned off when it drops to 6.8.  For liquid fertiliser Olga uses Tropica Master Grow in all her tanks, added after water changes (one quarter tank every two weeks), but only in the amount recommended for the gallons actually changed.  The substrate consists of gravel and Terralit, a commercial substrate mix.

The tank is brightly lit, with four 40 watt Phillips Ultralume T12 fluorescent tubes, housed in a custom made wooden canopy.  The filter is an Eheim Canister Filter supplemented with a powerhead and Quick Filter for water movement. 
 

 
Next to the tank: electronic pH controller.
Below: timer, Eheim filter, CO2 system.

Olga is well aware of the Latin names of her plants.  The fifty gallon tank contains: Cerapteris siliquosa, Crinum thaianum (onion plant), Gymnocoronis spilanthoides, Hygrophilia polysperma sunset, Najas indica, Rotala rotundifolia, Lysimachia nummularia, Glossostigma elantinoides, Cryptocoryne: wendtii, becketii, willisii, cordata.

No tank would be complete without fish, and setting off Olga’s plants are a shoal of rummy nose tetras, a group of cardinal tetras, and a lovely male pearl gourami. Investigating the bottom of the tank are three large Siamese algae eaters, two farlowellas, four cory cats, two zebra plecos, and three otocynclus.

Olga believes in controlling algae by keeping the nutrients balanced.  This along with algae eating fish and snails as well as abundant plants keeps the algae down.  The fish are fed only once per day with occasional skipped days, to stop wasted food building up toxicities.
 


Siamese algae eaters

The thirty-three gallon aquarium in the den contains a different variety of plants, which Olga lists as follows: Echinodorus: ozelot, oriental, barthii, tenellus, parviflorus, bolivianus, quadricostatus, bleheri; Crytocoryne balansae, Didiplus dandra, Hygrophilia difformis (wisteria), Crinum calamistratum, Salvinia. 

The tank is dominated by a large angelfish bred by a friend. For company he has a shoal of rummy nose tetras and a single red platy, plus three small Siamese algae eaters and a Hoplosternum catfish, which Olga brought back from a recent trip to the Amazon.

Lighting is by three GE 5000k T8 fluorescent tubes, again in a custom wooden hood, and CO2 is generated using a simple home made system (using a mix of yeast and sugar water).  The substrate here is Flourite – more expensive than regular gravel, but a one-time expense that Olga thinks is worth it.  Filtration is by a small Aquaclear filter along with a powerhead and Quick Filter for water movement.
 

 
33 gallon tank

Tucked into a corner of the kitchen eating area is a thirty gallon tall tank.  This only has 40 watts of fluorescent light, but it also receives natural light from the north facing windows.  It is kept at room temperature and is inhabited by a large comet goldfish.  Plants are Ceratopterus siliquosa and the more common C. thalictroides, corkscrew val.,  hornwort, and elodea.  The goldfish nibbles at the hornwort and elodea, but they survive by growing faster than he can eat!  Substrate is plain gravel and filtration is by an Aquaclear 300.  No C02 is added to this tank.

In the basement, Olga has two twenty gallon tanks, again bursting with plants.  Future plans for the basement include some smaller tanks for growing plants with special requirements, and perhaps breeding a few fish…. 

Olga spends time on the Internet researching her hobby.  She particularly recommends the “Aquatic Plants Digest” – a subscription group controlled by a list supervisor.  Questions about plants are answered, and a digest is e-mailed twice a day.  To subscribe to the Aquatic Plants Digest send the command: subscribe aquatic-plants in the BODY of a message to majordomo@actwin.com     Archives are available at http://www.actwin.com/fish/aquatic-plants  

Last March Olga realised a dream of every aquarist, by going on a fish and plant collecting trip to the Amazon and Rio Negro in Brazil, with a group of like-minded people she met via the Internet.

Wait a minute!  Olga’s house does have some aquaria related mess!  On the bathroom counter is a bucket of salvinia that she can’t bear to throw away, and in the basement is a bucket of anubias plants she can’t decide what to do with!


                                                              


Note: Olga wrote an article about her Amazon trip,  which may be seen in Aquarticles' 'Travel, Expeditions, Collecting' section. An article she wrote about growing aquatic plants is in our 'Aquatic Plants' section.