Carnivorous Pitcher Plant

Carnivorous Pitcher Plant
one of the first plants in our swim pond

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

new life

Standing by my pool/pond this morning I could see lots of life. The water has just about recovered - most of the green is gone and I can see what is occurring in the water. There are less tadpoles, and the reason was soon obvious.

The little frogs are leaving the water. On one plant there were 11 of the little cuties! I don't yet know what they are, so I have requested help from a froggy web site.

You can see the stump of his tadpole tail still.

One froglett was being eaten alive by the larva of a water creature. Joe thinks it is a water beetle larva. We will grow it out if we can to see what it is. Nearby another drama was just as gruesome - a brilliant blue dragonfly was caught in a spider web and the spider was in the act of disabling it. 

Meanwhile large red dragonflies were mating, and the fish (blue eyes) were chasing each other with the males displaying their colourful fins. Maybe they were mating - but surely they are thinking about it!

Pixie, our little dog likes to imagine she can catch fish or tadpoles. She seems to enjoy pond watching as much as I do!

The usual three baby water dragons were sunning themselves on the rocks. They are there every day and they have grown significantly since we first saw them. They seem to be catching ants and other small insects around the pool.

The weather has cooled off and it isn't so inviting to go swimming now. One of the things I like about this set up is that during winter when a pool lies idle, still costing, the pond/natural pool continues to have loads of interest. And this costs only about $340 per year to run - much less than a chemical swimming pool.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Green water!

I am now able to report that we have had a crisis and have come out the other side! Last week we had a downpour which lasted several days. We had water going into the pool from our roof. Suddenly the pool was green, and over a few days it became very green. It was so green we couldn't see the bottom at all. However we remained calm and after a few days it began to clear. Now it is almost fully clear again. Whew. We don't really know the cause of the greening, but it will have something to do with our already high phosphates. Perhaps some water flowed over the edge in a down pour bringing soil and more nutrients into the pool. Perhaps it was simply run off from the surrounds of the pool with bird droppings. But the amazing thing is that the biological system, despite not yet being fully established and stable, eventually righted the situation without any chemicals or other help from us. Today we had our first froglets emerging from the water onto the plants. They are tiny Limnodynastes peroni, about 2 cm long. That's great. Now that is evidence of really good water!

Friday, 9 March 2012

blood worms and fish

Today is day 10 since the start of the filling of the pool. The water is very clear, but as you can see from the photo the overall effect is green. The green colour is the biofilm which has formed on all of the surfaces. This is a green algae. I'm not sure whether this is the colour it will remain or whether a brown algae will over take the green one. we could vacuum the film away, but for now we will leave it be. Hopefully the same thing is happening inside the filter. technically we could remove it from the visible surfaces and still have the filter working properly. But we don't intend to do that. We want all of the life which will develop on the biofilm. This will form the basis of the ecosystem which we are wanting to develop.

There are tadpoles in there now, at least two species (Adelotus brevis and Limnodynastes sp). They are feeding on the biofilm. There are also larvae of a number of insects which I do not recognise, also in the biofilm.

The speckles  on the bottom are tiny red worms which have built themselves a casing of vegetable matter. They are probably the larvae of a tiny fly or midge. This may or may not be a biting midge. They may well be the same genus as the blood worm fed to aquarium fish.

This tells me it is time to add some fish to feast on all of this bounty. So today we went to the aquarium shop and bought 5 Pacific Blue Eyes. These are very small (1.5 cm) locally native fish which love to eat mosquito larvae but will not harm tadpoles. Perfect! The last I saw they sheltering under the lotus leaves.

While I was at the aquarium shop I bought more aquarium plants. The ones I planted after my last visit there have done very well. They have runners already so I have now added more species, in preparation for my underwater gardening exercise.

Last night I heard a calling toad. Joe went to investigate and caught 4 of the blighters! They didn't appear to be mating and there were no egg strings in the pool this morning so we may have got them in time. I had thought the toad mating season was over by now, so we hadn't finished the toad barrier that we have started. Now we will give it more urgency! I do NOT want toads in there.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The biofilm begins

It is now a week since we started filling the pool. The water which started cloudy from the dusts and soil has cleared nicely. It is very clear. We have continued to plant into various planters and pots. We have a cumber of water lilies, the lotus, bull rushes, reeds, kana kong, iris, allcasia - all in the filter bed area. This is in addition to the plants in the shallow step area. Last night we had frogs calling from the pool, and this morning we have 2 egg masses in the shallow area, one under rocks and the other in a floating plant. There are also a few isolated tadpoles in there - goodness knows how that happened. There are many water boatmen. Today I saw dragon flies laying eggs among the floating plants. Yesterday I saw an adult female water dragon (P leseuri) and three very small baby dragons, all at the same time in the pool and on the surrounding rocks. But the most important development today is the beginning of the biofilm. This film of biological activity which forms on all of the surfaces of the pool is the engine room of water cleansing for a natural system like this. Not only is it forming on the walls of the pool but also inside the submerged filter system. We plan to leave it undisturbed except on the steps where it could become too slippery. Once the system settles down there should be a thin film of life but initially it could be quite significant, especially in view of our high phosphate levels. So we are watching the developement of our biofilm with interest. It is a very welcome sign that nature is taking over. Once the biofilm develops it will also sustain the insect life which we expect in and around the pool. There will be herbivores which feed on the biofilm, and then carnivores which feed on those. The first of these carnivores will ne dragon fly nymphs. These little critters are ferocious hunters of small insects. We will see their skins where they have crawled out on the water plants to hatch out as adult dragonflies and fly away. In the meantime we are enjoying the swimming.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The pool day 1 photos

At last the pool is full!- not that this has prevented me from swimming. I think I am water logged. But I am very satisfied with the way the pool looks. This morning while I was in the pool a large water dragon (Charles) decided to join me me in the water. He spent some time partly submerged at the edge of the rocky area and some time on the bottom of the pool when our little dog came too close. He was wary of me but not in too much hurry to leave. I had a great feeling of satisfaction - this is what it is all about for me! Unfortunately I was not in a position to take photos.

The step area has the shallow water for the marginal plants, and this has turned out to be very decorative. I think we have gotten the placement of the rocks about right. However it turns out to be too shallow for the water lilly, so I will have to move that to deeper water. It is fine for the water cress though.

We have a number of edible plants in here - water cress, kang kong, lotus, water chestnuts, water celery. I don't know how they'll go but its worth a try.

I have installed a replacement for my carnivorous plant which did not survive in the pool originally- it was not stable and fell over and drowned. The new one is firmly anchored in the rocks - that's the red plant at the back of the rockery. It looks quite dramatic I think.

The filter bed area is deeper than the rockery area. The water is a meter deep so it presents a different challenge with planting. So far we have a lotus (whose leaves don't quite reach the surface yet), a lilly, and an alocasia. These last two are in tall pots bringing them up close to the surface. We also have a bull rush plant which we are establishing elsewhere until we can put into the deep water too. There is also a water lilly (not shown) which is still submerged at present. This is the area where I want to make my underwater garden of aquarium plants.

And we still have to plant three more jugs (which hang on the walls) and two planter boxes,also to be fixed to the pool wall.

So that's how the pool looks on day 1! The plants are still sparse having been divided so there is potential for a much lusher appearance later.

And there is at least one tadpole in the pool! goodness knows how it got there - maybe in one of the plants. Surely it can't have developed there already.

Underwater gardening

The water has cleared considerably over night. It still has a brownish tinge but I don't think it is tannins. I think it is the effect of the paint with the water taking out the reds, leaving a brown -which is actually what we intended! So all good so far. I have had a brainwave too, triggered by the snorkeling yesterday and the aquarium plants we bought. Have you heard of Takashi Amano? I have one of his books from my aquarium hobby days. Here is a link I don't see why I can't garden specifically for viewing from underwater (snorkeling) and try to achieve a landscape like Amano's but on a bigger scale. And I can also see that the water will be clear enough that my underwater landscape would be quite visible from above on our deck. So I am looking for an attractive log or root buttress to submerge over the filter area. From my aquarium days I know this needs to be wood from a stream or lake so that it is already waterlogged and will sink, and has no softwood left to rot. Alternatively it can be Australian hardwood which is heavy and will not flat, and which has lost its sapwood so will not rot. This can then be dressed with small plants. I think any fish in the pond would like this area and gravitate there, further enhancing the underwater view. I wondered whether the low nutrient water will sustain such luxuriant growth of the small plants? Ralf says I need oligotrophic and mesotrophic plants (favoring low nutrient conditions)such as vallniseria and potomegaton species. Perhaps I should change the name of this blog to "Beryl's natural swim Aquarium"! Today the dragon flies were mating and laying in the pool, and there are frogs calling tonight. There are still a couple of inches to go with the fill - so pictures tomorrow.