my family had a mexican dinner at my aunt and uncle's place in arlington. the last time we were there was back in july when my grandmother was still in town. a simple affair, we had tortilla wraps stuffed with things like salsa, beans, mexican rice, and pulled pork. above the table was a complex choreography of arms and hands spooning, forking, and passing around various dishes. surprisingly, the most favorite was the savory special rice. for dessert we had a chocolate souffle with vanilla ice cream; i've never had a souffle before, tasted like a really puffy hot brownie.

earlier i was doing some more aquarium water tests, trying to figure out why the male guppies tank does so poorly when compared to the female guppies tank. it's not just the guppies, but the plants as well don't seem to thrive in the male tank. for the longest time i thought the problem had something to do with the filtration system: the female tank has an old whisper model 10 (my least favorite brand) while the male tank has a fancy penguin bio-wheel 100. difference? the bio-wheel is intended for a 20 gallon tank while the whisper is for a 10 gallon. the bio-wheel also has no adjustments for the intake, so it's always on full filtration. i thought perhaps the overpowering water recycle rate (100 gallons per hour) was putting too much stress on the male guppies. that could still be a problem, but after doing a bunch of research on light wavelengths and photosynthesis for my indoor garden project, i realized one of the reasons why the plants in the male tank weren't doing very well was the fluorescent light (15watts 8000°K full spectrum all-glass) was giving the wrong spectrum for photosynthesis, leaning more towards yellow rather than blue and red. so i dug out an old light hood and replaced that light with a GE aqua rays fresh/saltwater fluorescent bulb (9325°K). it's an old bulb (i got it used, i'm guessing it's at least a decade old) and shines pretty dimly but has light wavelengths more in the red and blue, more conducive to plant growth.

with the light problem temporarily out of the way, i started focusing on the water chemistry. i tested the hardness rating a week ago, didn't find anything wrong, if anything the aquarium water was surprisingly soft. i ran a few more tests today, on both male and female tanks, and the values for both were the same: very low pH (6 and maybe lower, it ran off the chart), no nitrites, but about a 20+ ppm level of nitrate. the nitrate level is acceptable, but i'd like to see it lower. high nitrate promotes algae growth, which is a severe problem in the male tank (even after a cleaning, algae reappears in 3-4 days) but almost negligible in the female tank. the male tank should have lower nitrate level theoretically because the bio-wheel filtration system is better at removing nitrates, but apparently that doesn't seem to be the case. it could be because i don't keep the filter very clean, which quickly becomes clogged with dead plant matter. nitrate levels are also high because i don't have enough plants growing in the tanks, although the plants in the female tank are definitely healthier compared to the male tank.

so given all that information, when i came back home tonight i found another dead male guppy. this one was a particularly overweight individual, perhaps just ate himself to death, but after i took him out of the tank, i put the body in observation for a few hours to check for signs of internal parasites (there were none).

so a couple of things i have to do in order to make a better home for the guppies: buy more plants, get better fluorescent lights, replace the filter, and buffer the water to a higher pH (guppies like it in the 7-8 pH range).