This week’s AotW is the Eastern Spotted Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens). These are interesting newts with kind of a weird life cycle. They hatch from eggs, go through a “tadpole” larval form, which like most salamanders is entirely aquatic. These then mature into “red efts,” (The animals in the picture at top are still losing their reddish efty coloration) which are entirely terrestrial. Efts are also bright orange-red, and extremely poisonous, so uh, like don’t eat them, OK?
Then once they’re done being efts on land for about three years, the fully matured adults turn yellowish green with a line of bright red spots and return to the water to live aquatically. Isn’t nature weird? Seems like an awful lot of effort just to get back into the water, but it may be that they do the eft thing so they can disperse themselves to new territories, as efts are known to travel away from their birth place to new places. They are also know for being one of the most toxic animals in the east, not quite as poisonous as Taricha granulosa, but pretty darn nasty, so if you find them, seriously, do not eat them. Or get them near open cuts or mucous membranes.
Yesterday evening I picked up my replacement tank with a new hole drilled in it. This time, everything seems to have gone smoothly.
I have the plumbing for the overflow box and intake ready, just need to fit it on and silicone in place. The other stuff that arrived yesterday were my chinese knockoff refractometer (for reading the salinity level) and 200 watt heater. The refractometer looks good, but I want to take it down to the shop and maybe see if they’ll let me test it.
You might have noticed that there wasn’t an update, today, Wednesday the 21st. This is because I’ve decided to reduce the number of page updates for awhile, down to 1 (possibly occasionally two) a week. I agonized over this for a long time, and have arrived at this as the best possible solution. Let me explain why:
First of all, when I started drawing this comic, I was not very good. One of the (many) skills I lacked, was patience. I often cranked out 3 pages in a single evening. Go ahead. Go look at the archive for a minute. There’s very little shading, detail or even background in most of those pages. I cringe a little bit about all that, but whatever, it’s part of the process. I’m still a very fast renderer (comparatively) but I’ve learned to take my friggin time to get something right.
Honestly, I can’t keep pumping out 3 full color pages every week, on the fly. I’ve never really operated with a buffer, but instead, I sit down at least 3 times a week, sometimes more, the night before the comic is supposed to update and try to get as much done as I can after my son goes to sleep. I’ve been pretty disciplined about this, and I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, but in order to make the pages the way I want, I cannot keep going like this. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because I’m not. I love working on the comic. I also have a full time job, a beautiful wife and a young son I kinda sorta like to hang out with occasionally.
The other thing is, quality has become a lot more important to me. I want to make something awesome. Not a lot of mediocre things. So I’m going to be reducing my posting frequency, but also working on building up an actual (oh god, am I really saying this?) buffer. I’ve decided that I will still be posting pages as I finish them on my Patreon page, and will still be (more) actively blogging on this site (Hope you like aquariums and salamanders).
On the Patreon, you can see my process from sketch to ink to completed for a $1 a month, as well as get advanced access to scripts and exclusive backgrounds. Doing more with my Patreon is another reason for the change. I want to offer my supporters as much as I can, and now I’ll have a bit more time to do that. I also have some other projects, I may finally get to resume. I’m also not necessarily going to be doing this forever, and will reassess update schedule once I have a handle on this whole “buffer” thing.
Hope you guys all stick around, there’s some exciting stuff in the works.
American toads, (Anaxyrus americanus) are a common amphibian in the eastern US. They can be found in and around human habitation, in people’s gardens, near drainage ditches, ponds, pools, almost anywhere. They’re largish for toads, and heavily built, with a wide range of browns, reds and blacks making up their colorations. Their eggs can be distinguished from similar masses of frog eggs easily, as they always lay their eggs in connected strands. They eat mostly insects and males make a high trilling sound that usually lasts for about 20 seconds.
OK, fair warning, if you have no interest in aquariums, you can skip this. I’m setting up a new tank and it’s going to be excruciatingly boring if you’re not into that, so sorry. The comic is about 4 inches above this post if you’re lost.
So recently, I started contemplating the idea of getting back into having a salt water aquarium. As a teenager, I worked for a local aquarium shop and was really into marine tanks, especially octopuses. More on that in a future post. The problem is, that this stuff can be ridiculously expensive. Actually, one of the reasons I got out of the hobby was a common attitude that spending more money somehow means you’re a better hobbyist. So the challenge I’ve set for myself is to try to set up a complete tank using nothing but secondhand equipment or DIY solutions. So far, things are going well, with one minor setback.
First things first. The tank itself. I’m going with what’s known as a “40 gallon breeder” tank. It’s 36 inches long, by 18 inches wide, so it’s a wide, but shallow tank. (Most critters don’t care much about vertical space anyways). This will make the tank easy to light should I decide I want to do corals. Since this is a bit of an oddball size, I opted to buy this part new, however, a certain major pet retailer was having a “Dollar per gallon” sale, so I got what would normally be a $130 tank for $40. Score. I also picked up a glass top while I was there, since, again, I don’t really want to hunt one of those down or ship it. (Probably wouldn’t save a lot of money there anyways).
My plan is to use a 20 gallon tank I have lying around in the basement as a sump underneath, and build my own filtration. However, going with a sump means I will need to buy a return pump (can’t make those from scratch), and will mean I need the tank drilled so it can be plumbed down into the sump. I looked up some tutorials on drilling tanks, but after a quick call to my local fish shop, I found out they do it regularly and don’t charge very much, plus they had a used overflow available for half the cost. I dropped the tank off last week.
Now here’s the setback: I went to pick up the tank this weekend, and was all set to load it into my car, when one of the guys noticed a hairline crack right by the drilled hole. DAMN. Well, at least I didn’t crack my own tank by incompetently drilling it or take it home and try to fill it unknowingly. They took it back and agreed to replace the tank and re-drill. Since I don’t have a stand for it yet, I’m not really that worried about waiting.
TO BE CONTINUED.