18. September 2011 · Comments Off on Fishy Business · Categories: All Posts, Aquarium, At Home

We haven’t been blogging about our aquarium for a few years now; the last such post about our tank at home was nearly three years ago now. The three feet tank still graces our living room, and it was put up five years ago when we first moved to our home here.


The way I’ve set it up from the start is that it mostly runs on auto-mode. Basically, apart from the daily critter feeds and a fortnightly partial change of water, the only other maintenance routines is the about bimonthly cleaning of filter inlets, trimming of plants, and scrubbing of fish-tank waters.

The two major changes since that last post has been removal of a costly CO2 injection system that I added when first setting the tank up (the system was too cumbersome and controlling the flow of the gas for optimal plant growth was too difficult), and adding a second aquarium filter to the tank. One of those dreadfully expensive but highly-regarded made-in-Germay Eheim filters.

The tank has also, remarkably, stabilized very well for the last three years now. We rarely have critter deaths. The last non-natural critter death as I recall it was one tetra that inexplicably took a leap out of the tank two years ago.

We haven’t been replacing the critters though. I had this big idea about replacing the entire substrate layer a year ago (a major and very time-consuming operation for those of us who know about the hobby). The substrate the current tank uses is aquatic soil, and it has a finite life-span; slowly turning into slush. I picked up nearly 30 kilograms of inert replacement gravel, but haven’t quite got round to actually doing it! Oh well; maybe at the end of this year.

Ling was asking about our longest lived critter. It’s this little bugger:


He’s an Albino corydoras. We’ve had him for 4.5 years now. He grew from a little runt of about 2/3rds of an inch, to a grand size of nearly 1.5 inches now.=)

12. January 2009 · Comments Off on Undersea adventures · Categories: All Posts, Aquarium, At Home, Entertainment · Tags: ,

One thing you try to do in a marriage is couple activities. OK, whenever we go out, e.g. to shop for things, to see parents/relatives/friends, or to small group, it’s a couple activity. But when you’re at home, are there as many such activities or are we more likely to disappear to our separate corners in the house to do our own individual thing?

One of the most conscious things I’ve been (trying!) to do is to get Ling involved in computer games. Of course things in this respect would had been that much easier if we’d gotten a Nintendo Wii in Dec 2007 instead of the PS3. Without getting into detailed arguments, let’s just say that serious gamers don’t really regard the Wii as their primary play console, as fun and as social as stuff on it is and that the Wii is the best selling console of the three main players now.

There’s been a couple of PS3 games that I’ve picked up that Ling has been interested in enough to give it a go. There was Virtua Tennis (though she found it pretty tough), the visually stunning exploration sequences in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (though I had to do all the gun battles for her), Prince of Persia (which she watched me play but didn’t want to try) and Lego: Indiana Jones which Matt bought for us in June last year.The latter was plenty of co-op fun, but I think much of that game’s references to the movie trilogy was lost on Ling.

My goal really is to get her interested enough to get her (mildly) addicted. So, four games so far that she’s had an interest in, but not quite to the point where she says things like “Darling, can I try…???”

That was until I found two titles that I think will absolutely do the trick. So, after Open House on Saturday, I picked up the below: Aquanaut’s Holiday:


Funnily, this is a game in the most general of terms. Produced by Artdink, a Tokyo based game development studio, you play an adventurer who’ll explore oceanic life in a fictitious Kisira Atoll situated in Polynesia. The visuals are amazingly life-like. Heck, they’re so good that Ling can recognize all the marine critters from her scuba-diving days, even creatures from a distance where they’re still about a pixel wide on the screen.

The outstanding visuals and that the game really teaches the amazing biodiversity of marine life aside, Aquanaut’s Holiday is no good as a game though. Way too much soliloquy (must be a Japanese thing) where the main character talks aloud to himself, and one story arc is this mystical voice that speaks to him. Breaks the realistic immersion.

But it’s been $65 well spent. It’s just simply fun to watch her squeal excitedly whenever she finds a new discovery: “Darling… see see SEE??? Hammerhead shark!!!!!” She’s gotten so into the game she’ll come check on me frequently when I’m alone in the living room to make sure I’m not playing the game without her LOL.

The litmus test? When I asked her yesterday night if she likes this game, it was a resounding and definitive  ‘yes’. And after a while, she added, “now there’s finally a game I like that doesn’t need me to blow things up!”

Blowing things up. That’s my kind of game. But I guess marriage requires sacrifices, so… :)

blog-2008-aquarium-p1000524-six-ottosOne thing the two of us couldn’t agree about the aquarium at home was how many Otocincluses we had in in the tank. I’ve always thought we’ve got five, but Ling believes there’re six!

For those of us not in the hobby, Otocincluses, or usually just called Otos for short, are dwarf sucker catfishes. They’re among the most hardworking of algae eaters, and one typically finds one or two of them in a freshwater aquarium.

That said, these little critters can be hard to spot if you’ve got a well-planted aquarium, since they typically don’t move around much (ours apparently work at night only too), they’re small, and they can hide underneath plant leaves.

So, it was quite a surprise on Christmas afternoon when we were tidying up the tank for our small group event on the 27th, Ling spotted all of them lined up nicely along the filter intake. I didn’t have time to dig out the D300 or set up a nice shot, so the picture here is taken on Ling’s compact Panasonic camera.:)

All six of them!!

It’s coming to the end of the year again. Towards the end of each year, I’d sit back and reflect on some of the key events and decisions made in the past year or so. It’s a pretty interesting exercise as you’ll see the decisions that turned out right, and those that turned out all wrong; all with the benefit of a mite bit of hindsight at the end of the year now.

So, running off my head and in no particuar order:

Going to Phuket first in June then Bali later in September (WIN). Because right smack on the week we were in Bali in September, thousands of travelers in Singapore had to postpone their Phuket trip because the airport had shut down! Too funny for words. Bali posts tagged here, with Phuket ones here.

Having a baby (IN PROGRESS). Well, not saying too much away here, but the decision wasn’t an easy one. There were concerns about health and well-being for example. Funnily, we faced little of the ‘traditional’ sort of pressures. Oh, Ling’s mum asked about it now and then, but there was absolutely no (even polite) queries or pressure exerted on my side of the family. Nor did the announced incentives in August factor into our decisions. First announced here.

Going with a Nissan Latio (WIN). Well, on the upside, the car hasn’t broken down. Moreover, our Latio survived pretty much unscathed compared to the Honda Civic I bumped into nearly a year ago. On the down side, Ling’s been remarking that the car makes funny squeaky noises occasionally, and doesn’t give her the vibes that the Latio is better built than the old Civic we were driving. And we haven’t been getting the 14 km/litre fuel consumption milleage some drivers claimed. But a 12.5 to 12.8 km/litre isn’t too bad. First blogged here, then here.

Red and silver.

Publishing a book (WIN). This, funnily, was the hardest decision I’ve made this year. My work and research has been published in several places prior to this of course, but publishing in academia is quite different from producing a commercial publication. There’s all the legalese in the author’s contract with the publisher, all my liabilities since there’re now new issues of distribution, ownership and copyright. And to top if all off, it’s not as though my book is gonna be selling a million copies allowing me to enter early retirement. The summative royalties I expect are essentially, for lack of a better word, non-existent. First blogged here.

Deciding between a PS3 or an XBox 360 (WIN). No kidding! I had long chats with Matt about the virtues of one console over the other. Moreover, the decision wasn’t as simple as which had the games I was interested in or studying. The decision to go with one of them was made when the high definition standards war was raging, and investment in the PS3 wasn’t a sure decision. It could had turned into a white elephant! First blogged here then here.

Of course I could have bought both, like Matt…

Ling having a go with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

Investing in a new camera system (IN PROGRESS). And what a huge investment it turned into. I was determined to get it right this time by doing proper research, and proper accounting to what I was acquiring. So far, so good. Ok, so the photos are still a long way off to progressing from ‘crappy’ to ‘mediocre’, but I’m working on it! First blogged here.

Trying to fatten Matt up (LOST). As soon as Matt firmed up arrangements to visit and stay with us for a month in June this year, Ling and I drew up a strategy to make sure that this time, he’d leave Singapore weighing heavier than he arrived. And boy, did we try hard! We enlisted everyone’s help. Even my mum, and Doreen. Even our small group was involved. But Matt easily showed that he could beat us all without trying, and he left Singapore weighing less than when he arrived. So we failed miserably again.

He conquered durians even.

But as soon as he’s firmed up plans for a third visit, this time, it’s WAR. If we have to bury him with Banquet pratas or drown him with teh tariks this time, we will!! Ling’s tribute to The Champion here.

There you go. If I can think of any more significant milestones, I’ll append them here later.

The highlight of the first day with Dewa Marco, a driver I’ve decided to coin as “The Best Driver in Bali”, was our sunset visit to Tanah Lot. This temple sits on a rock formation and is set some distance from the shoreline, and is only accessible in low tides. At high tides and sunset, the temple offers stunning views that one can find pictures of with some Googling.

As for the both of us, we decided to do a slightly off beaten route by heading to the shoreline on the other side of Tanah Lot, and I finally got to use my newly acquired B+W neutral density filter. Here’s a small selection of the sunset shots, taken using stacked ND + CPL filters, with exposure times of about 20 to 25. For the second shot in this post, Ling had to remain absolutely still for 6 seconds; I got another shot of her in the same backdrop where I opened the shutter for 30 seconds… but she moved LOL :).

30. May 2007 · Comments Off on Aquarama 2007 @ Suntec City · Categories: All Posts, Aquarium, At Home · Tags: , ,

One of those things about attending ornamental fishes and aquarium exhibitions like these is that you get very inspired about setting up your own aquarium if you haven’t already got one – and in our case, feeling very dejected at how awful ours look in comparison to the demonstration setups we saw.:)


The exhibition was held at Suntec City over a period of four days, with the last two days opened to the public. There were many families there, and at least a few carted back 1 to 1.5 small tanks when they left the place. Hopefully the kids who’re likely going to get acquired to their new hobby will at least get some guidance on the many aspects of keeping fish alive and healthy. Keeping these little critters isn’t simply a matter of just getting a bucket of water and tossing them in.


There were several competitions running in the conference; for freshwater planted tanks, marine tanks, and the different families of fishes, including Arowanas, Cichlids, Plecos, Goldfishes, Discuses, Bettas, and Guppies. Some of the goldfishes look pretty grotesque even, what with their super-bloated bellies. Ugh. I was pretty disappointed to see that my favourite critters – Corydoras – were not well-represented though. It was a really wonderful way to spend the later part of Sunday morning, and we walked off with several new plants for our sitting room tank and a whole bag of “night reading” materials and brochures.:)

28. May 2007 · Comments Off on Aquarium v4.1 · Categories: All Posts, Aquarium, At Home

We had a nasty outbreak of algae in our tank last week, and this is despite the fact that we’ve got five Ottocinclus critters living in the tank. These five Ottos are quite a temperamental bunch: of the five, two of them are so fat from chewing up algae they look like they’re about to burst. They’ve effectively stopped eating. Two others seem to enjoy grazing on the gravel instead of the leaves. The fifth one seems to be doing his job at least and valiantly trying his best to eat up all the green mess.


I suspect the algae outbreak has been because of the new replacement florescent tubes we’ve installed in the aquarium lighting system. In any case, we decided to go for a two prong approach: we went by Nature Aquarium at Balestier on Saturday to pick up three more Ottos. and also a whole bunch of plants from there and also Sea View at Seletar (the following day we topped them all up with more plants from Aquarama). Right now, the tank looks, visually, a mess – but it’s heavily saturated with plants, hopefully sufficient enough to eat up all the nutrients I’ve got in the gravel and leave nothing to the algae.

The picture here is as it was on Saturday evening, without the new plants we picked up at Aquarama the following morning on Sunday. The tank setups we saw at the exhibition at Suntec City were amazing. Our next home we’ll have to invest in a four footer tank.:)

07. April 2007 · Comments Off on Size comparisons · Categories: All Posts, Aquarium, At Home · Tags:

Upon reading my earlier entry on our new Sterbai Cory – which Ling has named GG – addition to the tank, I realized that it’s rather difficult to tell the relative size of this gentle giant compared to the other Corys in the tank. So here’re two quick pictures I snapped in the evening to better show how they compare.:)


The four types of catfishes nicely caught in the picture above. From left to right, a Leopard Cory (they look very similar to Sterbai Corys), one of our five pygmy catfishes or Ottocinclus, GG, and a Bronze Cory. They’re scrounging around for tasty morsels in the gravel; those white little bits that you see in the picture are fish food.:)


They’re a lovely bunch. Ling’s gradually growing to them too.:)

03. April 2007 · Comments Off on Tank Version 5.0 · Categories: All Posts, Aquarium, At Home

The last of the four Lionheads, Patches, expired a fortnight ago after losing a bout with white spots. Ling was especially sad since they were the four critters that got us started on our aquarium hobby. We decided to start anew with a new tank, so on the 19 March Sunday, headed out after the morning service at Wesley to several aquarium shops all over Singapore to pick up what we need.

blog-2007-aquarium-PICT3241-new-tank.jpgMany Singaporeans would have kept an aquarium at some point of their lives, but for those who haven’t, here’s a quick orientation to the (very) low initial costs involved in getting into the hobby and enjoying these lovely fellows.

  1. 14 inch glass tank (Lam Hong Aquarium at Ang Mo Kio) – $18
  2. Hagen external filter (Sea View at Seletar) – $17
  3. Critters (two Guppies, three Corys, two Gobys) – $7
  4. 10 kg of Aquarium gravel (Aquastar at Yishun) – $10
  5. 24 hour Timer (Cold Storage) – $12

Several items were recycled from the old tank, including the fluorescent lamp for lighting, water treatment, gravel stones, a cooling fan, with the plants taken from the larger living room tank. Our expenditure for the Sunday setup was just $65ish, and Ling now gets a pretty nice view on her table.:)

28. March 2007 · Comments Off on Gentle Giant · Categories: All Posts, Aquarium, At Home · Tags:

blog-2007-aquarium-PICT3216-giant-leopard.JPGOf all the different species of Corydoras we’ve tried keeping in our two aquariums at home, we’ve had the most luck with the Leopard Corys. They’ve been terrifically robust, gregarious, and very social to the other inhabitants in the tank. These are actually pretty small critters, and the four we’ve got in our large living room aquarium each measure just under an inch.

We’ve been keeping our eye open to see if we can get new companions for these four from Sea View Aquarium for several weeks, but no luck. Until over the last weekend, we went by Lam Hong and saw the largest Corydoras yet in Singapore, and Sterbai Cories according to the species ! These babies were going for $6 (about four times more expensive than the normal ones), and they each measured more than 2.5 inches from head to fin! Sterbais look very much like Leopards, though closer examination of the pectoral fins will show a difference of colors.

I don’t think these large Cories were bred here in the local farms, since I’ve not seen them at the other aquariums here; my guess is that these are possibly the ones that have been caught in the wild. The very large specimens are commonly found in the rivers of Latin America, and while this huge fellow and the little ones are technically the same species, they’re certainly not from the same source.In any case, we picked up this fellow, alongside eight Neon Tetras to join the current shoal. You can get an idea of the comparative sizes in the picture above. As with other new critters we pick up, the bag floats in the tank for a while so that the water temperatures can equalize.


It’s pretty funny to see the big fellow swim around in the tank now. He’s so big he looks like he could gulp any one of our Neon Tetras. But he’s really a gentle giant; so much so that Ling is determined to name him “GG” for Gentle Giant. The other fellows in the tank aren’t intimidated by GG at all, even though he does tend to create quite a bit of water turbulence when he swims around.

Here’re more information on this species: here and here.