Four of the panda cory eggs hatched last night, and one this afternoon! In an attempt to keep this latest batch alive, I got a mini tank.
It's a 1-gallon (tiny!) acrylic tank, not useful for much except raising fry. It came as one of those tank-in-a-box package dealies, with the tank, hood, one incandescent bulb, undergravel filter plate, an air pump, tubing, and air stone. Not expensive ($5.99) and also cheap (-quality). This is not the thing to get if you want a real tank. For the fry, though, I think it will work fine.
I didn't put in the undergravel filter, since I didn't want the fry to get lost in the gravel or under the plate. I just put the air stone in the riser tube and plugged the lower end with a bit of fiberfill so the babies wouldn't get sucked up and bashed around. The air stone creates an upward current, agitates the surface for gas exchange, and keeps the water in the tank moving gently. Just what I needed. I don't plan on keeping this tank running on a permanent basis anyway, just until the fry are big enough to go in the main tank (cross your fingers), so I didn't want to deal with gravel.
I put a rock and plant from the main tank in there, for two reasons. First, it gives the babies someplace to hide.
Two babies visible in this picture. Although it wasn't planned, I like how the cable-tie I used to attach the java fern to the rock holds it up off the bottom. Much less danger of the babies getting crushed, and it makes a sort of "cave" for them.
The second reason for putting the rock and plant in there is for nitrogen conversion. This tank was obviously just set up today, so is not cycled. The rock and plant came from my existing tank, and should be coated with the beneficial bacteria. This will hopefully work to process the small amount of waste from the tiny fry immediately, and seed the tank surfaces and fiberfill in the bubble tube so that as the bioload increases as the fry grow, all will be well. I was going to use gravel from the existing tank for this, but decided to go with a bare floor for now so I can see the fry. Hopefully the rock and plant have enough bacteria to start the process.
There's no heater, since I couldn't find one small enough, but I think the incandescent bulb (a large nightlight bulb) will throw off enough heat to keep it warm. Our house is at about 65 right now, and the tank has been holding steady at ~70 for the past four hours, so it should be OK. My main tank has a fluorescent light, which is much better, but definitely would not maintain the temperature by itself. Yet another lesson on why fluorescent is better than incandescent.
I feel so much better, now, having the fry in this set up rather than in the little tub. There was no circulation in the little tub, and I think even twice-daily water changes weren't enough. Plus, all that water-changing was probably pretty stressful.
We shall see.