Driving along a leafy street on the residential west side of Vancouver, I
didnt 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 Olgas however, so she must have some secrets that
we dont 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 Olgas 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
Olgas 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 Olgas 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
email@example.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! Olgas house does have some aquaria related mess! On
the bathroom counter is a bucket of salvinia that she cant bear to throw away, and
in the basement is a bucket of anubias plants she cant 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