I have completed marking your feedback on the experimentation for next year. Many of you did not apply your research skills that you should have been learning or simply produced ideas that are too costly or complicated to undertake. Other were simply too demanding with issues like "musts". At the moment I have been personally subsiding this (out of my own pocket) as the department does not have the funds to pay for all the incurred costs. The department paid for the jars and substrate - I paid for the rest. Please respect this contribution that is being made to helping your education. Possibly we just pass on the real costs to you.
Unfortunately the glass jars provided are the largest locally available ones. You cannot get larger jars. Plastic containers and jars are also much more expensive than glass - they are also more difficult to observe the fish (less clear). A small plastic aquarium is about R300. We had intended to use square plastic jars which were a bit bigger and twice the price but they are not manufactured any more.
The only alternative is to actually charge you about R100 and to custom-make small glass aquariums (they cost about R120). One problem is they cannot be moved once filled with water and are difficult to transport (very fragile). Remember a 10-litre tank with substrate will weigh about 12-15 kg.
WOULD YOU BE PREPARED TO PAY R100 AND GET A SMALL GLASS AQUARIUM OR A DEDICATED BETTA BOWL? - PLEASE COMMENT.
The Betta is the only practical fish since they can breath air and do need aerated water and live singularly. They are weak swimmers so can live in small spaces. They are also more tolerant of changes in water chemistry and temperatures. Some of you assumed the fish were of low quality, I can assure you these were the best quality fish locally available and in the pet shops would have cost R30 or more. Some suggested using female fish - they have less defined personalities.
FOR NEXT YEAR WE CAN HAVE HALF THE FISH MALES AND THE OTHER HALF FEMALES AND MAKE DIRECT COMPARISONS - PLEASE COMMENT.
The plants were added to make the exercise more challenging and for you to do more research. The Amazon Sword was chosen as it is one of the hardier plants that also have roots. Plants are still more difficult to keep than the fish themselves. Remember the plant was used to help take up nitrates and waste nutrients from the substrate. Some of you thought you needed more fertiliser - this would have added more stress to your water quality (called nutrient loading). The black sand was expensive since it was formulated for growing plants - especially the selected Amazon Swords. The Amazon Swords were again high quality plants as they had a lot of roots. Alternatives could be found but would add an extra R2 per plant and be smaller sized.
FOR NEXT YEAR WE WILL SELECT ANOTHER SPECIES OF AQUATIC PLANT THAT IS SMALLER - PLEASE COMMENT.
This year we tried the special plant growing substrate called Seachem flourite black sand. Our own research has confirmed that it is a very good growing medium for aquatic plants, but it appears not to have been that successful in your tanks. I am surprised that you had such problems with water quality. Given the cost we will not use it next year. The trouble with using coarse gravel or pebbles is that they contain no nutrient value so the plants will have to receive liquid fertilisers (expensive at R400 per bottle and difficult to give you - it is a liquid).
FOR NEXT YEAR WE WILL SELECT ANOTHER SUBSTRATE (COARSER GRAVEL WITH A SLOWER GROWING PLANT) TOGETHER WITH GROWTH STICKS - PLEASE COMMENT.
We had originally intended to give you stick-on liquid crystal thermometers, unfortunately there was no supply of them in Cape Town at the time of handing out the equipment. These work out to about R20 each at wholesale prices.
FOR NEXT YEAR WE WILL HAVE SOME THERMOMETERS FOR STUDENTS TO BUY AT R20 EACH - PLEASE COMMENT.
There was some comment that we should supply complete aquarium kits. About the cheapest this can be done is R250 each excluding fish and plants. They are difficult for us to transport and store and difficult for you to transport back home without breakage. A heater will add a further R80 to the cost and a light an additional R100. It becomes obvious that this is both too expensive (still less than a text book) and too awkward to manage.
AN ALTERNATIVE IS TO SET UP A TANK FOR A SMALL GROUP (8 STUDENTS) AND THESE ARE KEPT AT BCB 5th FLOOR IN THE PASSAGE BEHIND THE INSTRUCTION LAB. THIS OF COURSE TAKES OUT SOME OF THE "PARTICIPATION" AND WILL MEAN YOU WILL HAVE TO KEEP COMING UP TO THE FIFTH FLOOR TO DO YOUR OBSERVATIONS. THERE IS ACTUALLY MORE WORK ATTACHED TO KEEPING THESE THAT YOUR JARS AND YOU STILL NEED TO TOP UP AND DO WATER CHANGES. PLEASE COMMENT ON THIS IDEA.
We have tested Cape Town's water - it has rather low chlorines but is a bit on the soft side. It can be hardened by adding about a tablespoon of pure salt (without iodine) per 10 litres of water. Contrary to many people's suggestions using it does not mean fewer water changes - we have tried it out and measured the water quality. If you leave the water to stand overnight and it is at room temperature and the container you used has not had chemicals in it there is no reason to use liquid conditioners. You are welcome to buy your own and test it out but we have found no positive gains by using them. Contrary to what has been written they would add about R30 to the cost - they are fairly expensive.
PROPOSE NO CHANGE FOR NEXT YEAR.
We provided a high quality food in the form of the dried tubifex worms (one of the most expensive prepared fish foods). All our past experiments have used this as the main diet for Bettas which are little carnivores and this is the closest dried food we can find to their natural diet of mosquito larvae. The second reason is that it floats so excess food can be taken off. We have had less success feeding specialised Betta pellets with our own research fish. Remember each fish has individual tastes. You were also expected to make a small sacrifice in terms of purchasing some food for your fish (R12 a packet - which could be shared with your friend). It is about making personal investment into the welfare of you fish for the price of a cup of coffee on campus! Not much to ask and further nobody requested I give them more food as they had no money.
PROPOSE NO CHANGE FOR NEXT YEAR.
Providing more information
This is meant to be your own research project. It is for you to research and develop a management plan. That is why we asked you to do your own background research first. To give you instructions works against this being an authentic personal learning experience. WE WILL NEVER GIVE OUT DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS - FIRSTLY WHAT MIGHT WORK FOR ONE INDIVIDUAL WILL NOT WORK FOR ANOTHER, SECONDLY IT NO LONGER BECOMES AN "ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT EXERCISE". IT IS MEANT TO BE A LITTLE BIT OF WORK AND COMMITMENT - NO PAIN NO GAIN IN THE WORDS OF JANE FONDA.
If your fish died and you have no intention to keep another fish PLEASE RETURN YOUR JAR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO EITHER ME OR GWEN. IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KEEP YOUR FISH ALSO PLEASE RETURN FISH AND JAR TO US SO WE CAN TRY SOME NEW IDEAS OUT FOR NEXT YEAR. YOU ARE WELCOME TO KEEP THE FISH AND JARS BUT WE WOULD APPRECIATE THAT SOME JARS AND SUBSTRATE ARE RETURNED TO US FOR RECYCLING INTO OTHER COURSES FOR NEXT YEAR.