Plecos - An Overview

Keeping Plecos in the Aquarium

Plecos are tropical fish.  They will also grow to about a foot long.  Some individual fish have grow to about 2 feet.  This should be kept in mind before purchasing the fish.
Plecos require a large tank about 55 gallons.  They are pretty hardy fish.  It is easy to care for them.
A pH of 6.5 to 7.5 is ideal.  The temperature can be between 23 and 30 degree Celsius.

Provide plenty of hiding places such as rock overhangs, driftwood and plants for the pleco to rest during the day time. 

Plecos are nocturnal fish and they are most active at night.

Plecos are highly territorial.  They require at least 75 gallons per individual.  While they get along well with fish of other species, they become aggressive and hostile with members of their own species.  Hence, it is not advisable to have plecos together.

Having More than one Pleco
Besides, plecos have a high bioload. 

They are voracious eaters and produce copious amounts of waste.  The water in the tank can get dirty with many plecos.

If you must have more than one plecos, ensure that the tank is large enough.  Make plenty of hiding places and ensure a thick vegetation.  Also make sure that the Filtration system can handle the waste produced.  It is better to put plecos together when they are young so that they can get used to company of their own kind.

Feeding Plecos
Plecos are bottom feeders. 

In the wild, they feed on plant matter and detritus on the bottom of the river or stream.  They also eat other vegetation.  In a tank or pond setting, you can feed plecos algae wafers.  You can also feed them vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage and lettuce.  One problem in giving vegetables is to get the vegetables to sink down to the bottom. 

Some vegetables like cucumbers will sink down after a few hours.  Other like cabbages and lettuce will need to be held down by a piece of stone or a vegetable clip.

While plecos eat the algae growth in the aquarium, it is not sufficient.  They need to be fed the food mentioned above.  Baby plecos in the first days will have to be fed infusoria or baby brine shrimp.


What are the Aquarium conditions to be maintained for Plecos
Plecos are tropical fish. They will also grow to about a foot long. Some individual fish have grow to about 2 feet. This should be kept in mind before purchasing the fish.  Plecos require a large tank about 55 gallons. They are pretty hardy fish. It is easy to care for them.

A pH of 6.5 to 7.5 is ideal. The temperature can be between 23 and 30 degree Celsius.

Provide plenty of hiding places such as rock overhangs, driftwood and plants for the pleco to rest during the day time. Plecos are nocturnal fish and they are most active at night.

What should I feed my Pleco ?

Plecos are bottom feeders. In the wild, they feed on plant matter and detritus on the bottom of the river or stream. They also eat other vegetation.

In a tank or pond setting, you can feed plecos algae wafers. You can also feed them vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage and lettuce. One problem in giving vegetables is to get the vegetables to sink down to the bottom. Some vegetables like cucumbers will sink down after a few hours.

Other like cabbages and lettuce will need to be held down by a piece of stone or a vegetable clip.

While plecos eat the algae growth in the aquarium, it is not sufficient. They need to be fed the food mentioned above.  Baby plecos in the first days will have to be fed infusoria or baby brine shrimp.

How can we tell the male pleco from the female pleco ?

Plecos are difficult to tell apart based on their gender. It is almost impossible for the aquarist to tell them apart.  Experts say that the genital papilla of the male protrudes during the mating season. This distinguishes it from the female.  This is very inconspicuous and the difference is not obvious to the untrained eye. 


How to Breed Plecos in Captivity

Plecos are difficult to breed in the aquarium. Breeding has been done in large aquariums and in fish farms.

Sexing the Pleco
Plecos are difficult to tell apart based on their gender. It is almost impossible for the aquarist to tell them apart.  Experts say that the genital papilla of the male protrudes during the mating season. This distinguishes it from the female.  This is very inconspicuous and the difference is not obvious to the untrained eye.

Plecos are from South America. They live in the many streams and water bodies which make the Amazon basin. In the wild, plecos breed in small underwater caves in the banks of the river. This can be difficult to mimic in the aquarium or pond setting. Some people have reported success with small pots which act as the caves.

Water changes up to 50% have to be done every day. This simulates the rainfall in its native region.
During the breeding season, a male takes over a cave. He cleans it and arranges its side. If a female is interested, she will deposit her eggs in the cave. The male then looks after the eggs.

After a few days, the eggs hatch. The young ones have a yolk sac which sustains for the first few days. Once the yolk is depleted, the babies started eating from the algae. Remove the babies to a separate aquarium to protect them from being eaten by the other fish. Once the eggs hatch, you can provide it with infusoria or baby brine shrimp.






Guppies - An overview

Guppies–Factsheet

Common Name: Guppy

Scientific Name: Poecilia reticulata

Native Range: Northern South America from western Venezuela to Guyana

Size: Males: 2.5 cms; Females up to 6 cms

Food: Guppies eat a wide range of food. From home made grain based food to flaked foods. They can also eat Daphnia, bloodworms and Brine Shrimp

Life Expectance: 2 to 3 years

Temperament: Peaceful

pH: 6.8 to 7.8

Temperature : Guppies are tropical fish. The recommended temperature range is 22 to 26 degrees Celsius.

Reproduction: Viviparous (Live bearers)

Sexing: Male guppies are brightly colored with markings all over the body. Females are have dull colored bodies with colored tails.

How do we distinguish between male and female guppies ?

Male Guppies are bright in color and have markings all over their bodies. Female guppies have markings only on the tail. The body is dull colored, often semi-transparent. Females tend to be larger than the males.

In addition, male guppies have a gonapodium, a modification of the anal fin, which serves to deposit the sperm in the female's body.

The Gravid Spot in guppies

In Live bearing fish such as guppies and mollies, the pregnant female develops a dark spot near the anal fin. This is an indicator of pregnancy. As the embryoes grow inside the female, the gravid spot becomes darker and more pronounced.

Observing the g
ravid spot will give an indication of the stage of the pregnancy and the approximate time of delivery.  The gravid spot is most visible in female Guppies.

Can guppies live with Goldfish ?

Guppies and Goldfish are non-agressive species which are ideal for beginners. While guppies and goldfish can live together. There are many problems one will encounter. Goldfish will grow bigger over time. While goldfish are not aggressive, they may consider anything smaller than their mouths to be prey.

You may find a few guppy missing over time. Another problem is the difference in bio-load. Guppies do not excrete much and thus have a smaller bio-load.

Goldfish on the other hand, eat voraciously and almost continuously. Hence, they produce copious amounts of excrement. This may dirty the water and the water needs frequent changes. If the tank is not maintained properly, the guppy will be affected by the high ammonia levels.

Another issue is the temperature, Goldfish are cold water fish which require lower temperature while guppies are ttropical fish which require warmer temperature.

In community aquariums, the world over, guppies live with goldfish. Ensure that there are adequate plants for smaller guppies to stay and avoid the goldfish. Perform water changes regularly to keep the water clean.




Selecting Fish and Plants for the Aquarium

The centerpiece of your aquarium are your fish.  Hence, it is important to select the type and the number of fishes carefully.

Select Fish which are sturdy and adaptable.


As a beginner who is yet to get a hang of maintaining an aquarium, it is prudent to go for species which can withstand adverse conditions.  Selecting species which are sensitive to temperature and water quality can result in death.  Species such as guppies, platys and mollies are good to start with.

Select Cheap Ones

Budgeting is important in maintaining an aquarium.  You need money to buy aquarium equipment like filters, aerators, etc.  Hence, as a beginner you can opt for fish which are inexpensive.  As a beginner it is better to spend more money on aquarium equipment which will contribute to the long term health of your aquarium.

Choose species which are not aggressive

Fishes which are aggressive can attack other fishes, get into fights and injure other fish and themselves.  You will end up with injured fish or even dead fish.  Hence, it is necessary to select species based on temperament.  Fish like Guppies, Mollies and Platys are good to begin with.

In certain species, the males cannot be kept together as they will start attacking each other.  Other species such as Tiger barbs are notorious fin rippers.  They will tear the fins of other fishes

Choose the right number of fish
The number of fish should be based on the size of the tank.  Select a number so that the individuals can have their own personal space.  This will also prevent overcrowding and fights and attacks.  Selecting too less a number will make the tank seem vacant.

Select the right size of fish
Select the right size of fish.  Species like Arrowana, gourami, etc  tend to grow big.  Such species need plenty or room.  They are not suitable for small tanks.

Choose active fish
Select fish which are active.  This will make the tank lively and help you sustain interest in the hobby.

Plants in the Aquarium

It is difficult to think of a beautiful and well designed aquarium without plants.  Plants are an integral part of any aquarium.  They help in maintaining water quality.

During the daytime, they also absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.  They help small fish and fry hide from other big fish and help them survive.  They add to the general beauty of the tank and can give your tank a natural appearance.

When it comes to selecting the vegatation for your aquarium, the hobbyist is faced with the choice of going for natural or artificial plants.  This is a difficult choice as both have their pros and the cons.

Natural plants grow along with the aquarium.  They lend a natural appearance to the tank. They can control nitrate levels and help in maintaining the general health of the aquarium.  The can also serve as food for some fish.

The downside is that they  give out carbon dioxide during the night.  Adding excess plants may result in the depletion of oxygen levels in the tank.  Aeration may be required. When they decay, they can cause contamination and should be removed immediately.  Live Plants can also carry parasites.  Besides, they require proper lighting to grow.

Today, artificial plants which resemble real ones are available.  These plants are easy to fix in the aquarium and require minimal care.  They can be washed once in a while.  They also do not require care like natural plants.

The downside is they are passive and do not play any role in the overall health and living processes in the aquarium.

Floating plants in the Aquarium

Floating plants in the aquarium give a look which resembles a pond surface. There are many floating plants to choose from. Floating plants absorb nutrients from the water. Hence, they keep the nitrate levels in check.

If you have strong light in the aquarium, these floating plants can provide shades which provides a cool, subdued lighting effect to the aquarium.

The Roots of floating plants can also be a safe place for fish fry to hide.

Common floating plants are Pistia and Azolla carolinenensis

Tools For the Aquarium

Some Aquarists prefer to have dedicated tools for their aquarium, particularly if it has live plants. Aquarium tools are useful for trimming and pruning the plants. They can also be used to arrange gravel, remove dead fish and scrape the aquarium surfaces to remove algae.

Different tools are available for different functions. Examples are tools such as bent scissors, tweezers, scraper etc.

Specialized Tools may be required while handling corals in marine aquariums. These tools make handling plants easy.


Aquarium - Benefits and Maintenance

An Aquarium can be a very beautiful and engaging addition to your home. The principle reason why people want to have an aquarium in their home is for aesthetics. Aquarium add to the beauty of the home.

The graceful movement of fish relaxes the mind. It lowers stress levels and is proven to improve health and wellness in peoples.

Patients who have been made to view aquariums have been known to recover faster.

An aquarium also teaches us about harmony. Within the closed environment of the aquarium are complex biological and chemical processes. We understand how everything in nature is related. A slice of a natural water body such as a pond or a river is brought into our homes.

Interacting with fish helps people build empathy and compassion towards animals and people. The fact that a totally helpless animal is entirely dependent on you brings a sense of responsibility and helps people develop a caring nature.

Checking water parameters of your Aquarium

Water quality is extremely important.  Fish are sensitive even to small changes in water parameters.  Hence, it is necessary to have a regular testing schedule to monitor the water parameters.


A pH which is less than 7 is acidic while a value above 7 indicates alkalinity. As dirt accumulates in the water, the pH increases.  Regular water changes can help maintain the pH level.

Chlorine is added at your water utility.  Chlorine should be removed by using a dechlorinator.  Ammonia, nitrite and nitrates are the results of the waste produced by the fish.  Proper water changes at regular intervals help keep these levels within limits. 

Temperature should be maintained properly.  Fish are cold blooded creatures which means that they cannot regulate their body temperature on their own.  Hence, they are very sensitive to temperature changes.


Following are the limits of the various parameters which are monitored.

pH Level
Recommended Range: 6.5-8.2

Chlorine and Chloramine
Recommended Range: 0.0 mg/L

Ammonia
Recommended Range: 0.0-0.25 mg/L

Nitrite
Recommended Range: 0.0-0.5 mg/L

Nitrate
Recommended Range: 0-40 mg/L

Hardness
Recommended Range: 100-250 mg/L

Alkalinity
Recommended Range: 120-300 mg/L

Temperature
Recommended Range 74-82º F (23-28º C)

Performing Water Changes in the Fish Tank

Your Fish Tank requires periodic Water Changes.   The fish excrement and leftover food contaminate the water leading to the generation of nitrates.  This turns the water acidic and can be injurious to the health of the fish even killing them.

Some people mistakenly believe that a good filtration system is sufficient to maintain water quality.  No filtration system can be a substitute for periodic water changes.

Hence, maintaining water quality is of paramount importance.  It is not necessary to change all the water in the tank.  In fact, doing so change lead to fluctuations in temperature and water properties like pH.

Hence, it is ideal to make partial water changes.

Regular water changes are necessary. Change 10% of the water every week.  The water should be replaced with dechlorinated water.

Change 25% of the water in the tank every month.

Doing a water change is easy.  Just get a siphon available at any hardware store.

Get a bucket and place it near the aquarium.

Start the flow of water through the siphon by squeezing the bellow in the siphon.  Once the water starts flowing, the flow will continue.

Move the suction point of the siphon inside the tank and so that dirt at the bottom of the tank are sucked out.

In addition to water changes, the water parameters like pH, nitrate content should be measured periodically and recorded.

Once the water has been removed. Let the water settle down for a about 10 minutes

Getting the New water ready

The new water should be free of chlorine.
Check the pH of the water.
The new water to be added should at the same temperature as that in the water.

Add the water to the tank in small amounts, with a small bowl so as not to agitate the tank.  This can make the water cloudy.

Stamp Exhibitions and Philately Clubs

Stamp Exhibitions

Stamp exhibitions, also known as philatelic exhibitions are held in regional, national and international level to show the world some of the best stamp collections made by philatelists from all over the world. They also serve the purpose of creating awareness about stamp collections and also help stamp dealers and post offices sell stamps and related antiquities and other philatelic items.

What happens in a stamp exhibition?

A philatelic exhibition facilitates the study of stamps, their history and various facts surrounding them. Stamp auctioning and display of various rare stamps give an unforgettable experience to any avid stamp collector.

Stamp collectors compete for medals and are judged upon by qualified judges with a profound knowledge of philately.

Stamp exhibitions mostly happen as regular events conducted by well-known philatelic societies.

Types of exhibition

Exhibitions may be of international, national or regional scope and have a target audience correspondingly.  They may theme based displaying a collection of stamps particular to a certain theme or a general type of exhibition.

Stamp exhibitions that are granted the FIP patronage are considered to be the most prestigious.
Some of the well-known stamp exhibitions are

• STAMPEX
• INDIPEX
• ASIANA
• EXPONET is a virtual stamp exhibition that allows the user to have the joy of visiting a stamp exhibition right from their home via the Internet.

Each country has its own international stamp exhibition at some point in time and these exhibitions have striven hard to keep the art of philately alive in the present days even though postal communication has dwindled.

Philately Clubs

Stamp collection is all the fascination and the thrill of collecting and treasuring hundreds of stamps with a passion and zeal for the love of philately. Hobbyists find philately very interesting and it has been an active hobby for the past 2 centuries.

The zeal for stamp collection is kept alive by the various philately clubs and societies that are formed by activists from all over the world sharing a same passion for philately.

A place to share and explore
Stamp clubs serve as a wonderful platform for stamp collectors to share and explore with people of common interests.  They help you to connect with the local stamp collectors’ community and also maintain a huge base of stamps that you can admire and explore with. Philately clubs can be the best places that can understand your fascination for stamps and let you show off your collection to similar minded people.

Local philately clubs

Finding your nearest philately clubs can be very easy with the help of internet. Just a simple Google search can lead you the place where you can connect with your contemporaries.
Local philately clubs could be a great resource for individual stamp collectors and since philately is rather an individual hobby; clubs could be a great way to socialize.

National and international level philately clubs

There are many national international online societies available that help you add more fun to your hobby. Some of the well-known international philately clubs are
• American Philately Society
• Royal Philatelic Society London
• International Philatelic Union

There are many regional and national philatelic organizations available in every country.

Importance of stamp clubs
Stamp clubs can be ultimate source of help and fun, by rendering in each of these effective ways:
• Provide a way to connect with fellow stamp collectors
• Share information
• Organize stamp exhibitions
• Give alerts on stamp auctions and deals
• Give an open access to its resources

Connect with the nearby philately club today!

Stamp Collection - Preservation - Antique value of stamps

Stamp collection is a fulfilling hobby taken up by people world over. But acquiring stamps is not the only requisition of stamp collection. After collecting the stamps, care should be taken to preserve them. A slight careless attitude can prove troublesome. Below are a few pointers that will ensure that your hard work do not go waste.

There are easy peel hinges available in the market to stick the stamps on album pages. There is a fixative on the back of these hinges which make it easier to remove the stamps when you need to study them or maintain them.

Stamp mounts which are made of clear plastic sleeves should be used to store the brand new stamps or precious stamps. These mounts help to conserve the adhesive on the back of the stamp that is there originally when the stamp is made. While using such mounts, stamps can be slid into the transparent sleeves of the mount and placed in the album.

Once you have mounted the stamps, you should place them in a stamp album. The stamp albums are used for preservation of stamps. There are different types of stamp albums. Some have plastic sheets into which full envelopes can be inserted. Some have small pockets to store individual stamps.

While placing stamps in a stamp album, always keep a distance between two stamps. Also when you place stamps in an album, place them only on one side and leave the other side of the page blank. If you stick stamps to both sides of a page it could lead to damage of stamps due to compression when they come in contact with each other.

You should always store your stamp album in moderate temperature to avoid damaging the stamps.
Make sure that you follow each of these steps and preserve your collection all-well.

Antique Value of Stamps

Stamp collection is a very passionate and age old hobby known as philately and is one of the most widely practiced hobby by stamp collectors from all over the world who appreciate the details and antique value of stamps.

Antique stamps

The value and reverence for a stamp grows with the antiquity factor in it. Any item that is more than a century old is known to be antique and stamps especially from the 20th century and before have a better value than recently published stamps  within a span of 70 years.

Antique stamps are more difficult to collect and also need a complete verification of very small details like a small symbol, engraving or paper quality to ensure its authenticity.

Value of stamps 

The value of stamps depends on various factors like
• Its antique value
• Type of collection
• Quality
• Condition (Used or unused stamp)
• Availability

General facts on antique value of stamps

• Used stamps have lesser value than unused mint stamps with original gum
• The more a stamp is older, the higher is its value.
• Perfect stamps are worth more than stamps with tears, creases and other faults.
• Loose used stamps are not very highly valued.
• Incomplete stamp albums are valued less.
• Beginner’s stamp albums are valued very less.
• The availability of stamps also matter. An antique stamp that is available in huge numbers even today will not be valued highly whereas a rare antique stamp could cost a fortune.
• An antique stamp that is unique and has some distinguishing fine detail that is not normally known could be valued very highly due to its exceptionality. For instance, out of two similar antique stamps, one with a misprint or extra detail like an engraving could be much more highly valued than the other one.
So having these points in mind and collecting the rare and most valued antique stamps will add more spice to your philatelic passion.

How to arrange the Stamps in Your Collection. Tools to be used.

Stamp collection is not just about finding new stamps for your collection. A stamp collection is more about organization and management. Philately deals with finding ways on the basis of which different stamps stand different and unique.

There are a lot of ways by which one can arrange the stamps. Let’s figure out the most popular ones!

Country-wise
This is the easiest way to arrange the stamps. This also makes the cataloging process easy along with simplified future references.

Release date
Arranging stamps on the basis of the year in which they were issued is another simple way to arrange the stamps and make a catalog for them.

Theme based
Another widespread method of arranging the stamps in a collection is to arrange them according to the theme on the stamps.

For example, stamps with world renowned people on them, stamps with world famous monuments, stamps with animals, stamps with birds etc.

Denomination
You can also arrange the stamp in your collection based on the value that is printed on the stamp.

Current value
If you are aware of the present market value of the stamps in your collection then you can also arrange the stamps according to their current market value. But it should be kept in mind that the denomination which is written on the stamp is not necessarily its current value.

Rare and vintage stamps could have a very high market value.

Quality
Arrange the stamps according to the condition they are in. A stamp in good condition has more market value than a stamp which is damaged or worn.

Color
You can also arrange your stamps based on their colors.

Stamp setting
Arrange your stamps on the basis of the stamp setting.

Different types of stamp settings are special releases, first day covers and blocks.

Shape and dimension
Last but not the least; stamps can be classified according to their sizes and shapes. Though most of the stamps are rectangular or square, there are also stamps in other shapes like triangles.
Organize it the best way!


Equipments for Handling Stamps

Stamp collection is an interesting hobby and doesn’t need much of equipments, but yes there exist few which can make stamp collection easier and a wonderful experience. Let’s see what all should be there in your equipment box for this exciting hobby!

• Stamp tongs

It’s a tool which looks like a tweezers but is round and polished so that you can pick up and hold your delicate stamps in it, as holding them in your hand can crease them or give them stains.

• A magnifying glass
It’s one of the very useful tools as you can read and see all the intricacies and related features in a stamp which can make it easy for you to put it in a particular category. You can also pick a magnifying glass with a battery operated light attached to it.

• Perforation Gauge
It’s a tool which is required and comes handy while measuring the size of perforations on each stamp which in turn is useful to compare and get detailed information about a stamp. Metal perforation gauges are better and long lasting.

• Watermark detector
Generally no two same looking stamps are same as there is a watermark on the back of the image of the stamp which makes it different from others. Watermark detector can be used to see that watermark on a stamp.

• Stamp lifting fluids
These fluids are used to remove a stamp without damaging it.
These tools are inexpensive and can be bought from stamp dealers or mail order dealers. These can also be obtained from shopping websites. Just Google and you can buy them online.



Philately - the Hobby of collecting stamps

Getting Your First Stamps

Stamp collection is considered to be one of the most famous hobbies around the world. Choosing the very first stamp for your collection is special and hence requires some basic knowledge about this hobby, type of stamps and tools required. So, let’s get started.

Used or mint?

Many collectors decide and collect used stamps, meaning, they pull out or clip out stamps from envelops and add them to their collection or album. While there are others who go for unused or mint stamps which can be bought locally from post offices or from auctions. But that doesn’t limit the option of collecting both. Of course one can collect both kinds of stamps and make a beautiful album.

For used stamps, first clip them from envelop. Next, soak them in warm water to remove them from the paper. Give a quick soak in clean water. After rinsing, air dry your stamps and flatten them by putting under a heavy book, and the stamps are ready to become a part of your collection.

Local or Global?

Most of the collectors collect stamps locally. Collecting Stamps of a country where one lives is a rather easy task, but you can choose to decorate your collection from many countries or all the countries in the world. But as your area get’s wider the search gets complicated. So, take a slow pace.

For stamps from other countries, you can shop from “new issue dealers” or can directly gather them from the philatelic bureau of that country’s postal service.

You can also organize your album of stamps according to one or various topics.

Putting Together Your First Stamp Album

If you are starting out to collect stamps as a hobby you can find stamps for your collection from a nearby post office or from old letters or also ask your friends and relatives who live overseas to send you different kinds of stamps.

Once you collect the stamps you need to store them carefully to prevent them from getting lost or damaged. You can do this by putting them in a stamp album.  A stamp album serves many purposes. It provides a place where the stamps can be stored and displayed, so that you can look at them whenever you want to.

It also saves the stamps from natural elements like heat or moisture. It also gives a place to sort the stamp in an order that suits you.  Here are a few pointers that will help you to put together your first stamp album.


  1. Buy a binder which has acid free paper to sort your stamps. There are many kinds of binders available in the market.
  2. Buy mounts for stamps with plastic sheets which can be used to stick the stamps and prevent them from damage.
  3. Keep a list of your stamp collection in your album.
  4. You can also decorate the pages of your stamp album.
  5. After preparing the stamp album, next step is to organize the stamps in the album.
  6. Organizing the stamps is a personal choice. You can arrange them according to the countries they are from or according to the subject of the stamp like pictures of famous monarchs and presidents, pictures of butterflies, pictures of flowers and so on.
  7. Collect, organize and preserve your hard earned stamps well.


Build On Your Stamp Collection

Once you start collecting stamps and putting them in your stamp album, it becomes a passion which you cannot give up on. You get an urge to collect more stamps for your collection. But it is not easy to find stamps. You need to find stamps which are not already there in your collection. Given below are a few pointers which might help you in building up on your stamp collection.

Ask your friends, pen friends and relatives

The most common method to build up on your stamp collection is to ask your family, friends and relatives. They’ll pass on the stamps to you which they receive and which they find are new and different.

Visit online auction sites
You can find lots of rare and famous stamps on various auction websites which devote a section to stamps. This is an easy way to build up your stamp collection.

Local dealers
You will find many local dealers who sell packets of stamps with lots of stamps in them. You might find some stamps in such packets which you do not have and can include them in your collection.

Large Main Dealers
There are many large dealers, who deal in buying and selling of stamps and also arrange auctions for rare and vintage stamps. By going to such dealers, you can find rare stamps for your collections.

Swapping Stamps
If you get in touch with other people who collect stamps, you will find that you can exchange some stamps with them as both parties might have more than one of the same kinds of stamp.

Philately clubs

These are the clubs joined by people interested in philately. Networking with like-minded people always yield meaningful ideas and ways with which you can boost your stamp collection.
These guidelines will help you in collecting more stamps for your collection and which in turn will yield you happiness and fulfillment when you’ll see your collection growing manifolds.


Charts, Apps and Magazines for Amateur Astronomy

Getting your Sky Chart for Astronomy

A sky chart is a map of the night sky over a period of time. Most sky maps are dated over months. Astronomical magazines and websites publish maps of the night sky every month. Sky charts are different for different places on the earth.

There are charts on the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere and the Equatorial Regions. Sky charts also list down the different objects which can be seen with the naked eye, with binoculars and with telescopes.

Skycharts today are available for free download at many internet sites.

Following are some of the sites which publish free monthly sky charts.

http://www.cloudynights.com/page/articles/cat/articles/observing-skills/free-mag-7-star-charts-r1021

http://www.ap-i.net

http://www.space.com/skywatching/

Mobile Apps for Astronomy

With the advent of the smartphone, astronomy has become easier than ever. Special software which can be downloaded to your phone identifies your location through GPS and generates the nightsky for your location for the current date.

Such apps also name the object and makes it easy for the amateur astronomer to identify them. They also specify objects which can be seen with the naked eye and with binoculars and with the telescopes.

Just point your smartphone at the sky and the app generates the map for you. Just look-up and try to identify the objects.


Astronomy Magazines

There are many astronomy magazines.  It is good to subscribe to them.  Astronomy Magazines help you keep abreast of the latest news in the field of Astronomy and new viewing techniques such as new telescopes, popular mobile apps. etc.

There are many magazines which your can subscribe to

We have compiled a list for you

www.astronomy.com

www.astronomynow.com

www.skyandtelescope.com

www.skynews.ca 

Telescopes - An Overview

Getting your first telescope

Once you are able to identify the most common objects in the night sky with your naked eye and with binoculars, it is time to get you first telescope. This is an important step in your road to becoming an amateur astronomer.

The telescope will help you look further into the night sky. Telescopes can magnify distant objects which cannot be seen with the naked eye or even with a binocular.
When you are getting your first telescope, it is better to invest more and get a good quality one. There are many professional telescopes. A telescope with a big aperture will have greater clarity and will cost more. It will also be more difficult to handle as it would be heavy.

All beginner telescopes today have in built computer tracking systems. The user will have to enter the name of the object and the telescopes automatically aligns itself to it. This helps the beginner traverse the night sky easily.

It is also necessary to get a good tripod with the telescope to get steady images.

Check out this Telescope buying Guide.
http://www.space.com/15693-telescopes-beginners-telescope-reviews-buying-guide.html

Reflecting Telescopes – An Overview

The Reflecting Telescope works by allowing light from the distant object to fall on a mirror in the rear of the telescope. This light is reflected to another mirror which is located at the top of the telescopic tube. This mirror directs the image to the viewer.

The reflecting telescope is generally credited to Sir Isaac newton. Reflecting telescopes are also known as Newtonian Telescopes.

Reflecting telescopes are widely used in professional astronomy. They are small in size for the same magnification when compared to the refracting telescope. They do not suffer from chromatic aberration as the refracting telescope.

The downside is that the many components of the optical system such as mirrors and lenses can get out of alignment. Since, the reflecting tube is open from one end, there are chances for moisture and dust to enter.

The reflecting telescope may be more difficult for children to handle.

Refracting Telescopes – An Overview

Refractor Telescopes are probably the oldest type of telescopes. They are also extremely common. This is because of the simplicity of construction. The telescope consists of a hollow tube with lenses which refract the light. This produces the magnification of the distant object.

Refracting telescopes are also known as dioptric telescope. Refractors are also cheaper than other types of telescopes. You will find them in hobby stores as well as in your neighbourhood departmental store. These telescopes are lightweight and are easier to care for and maintain. For the amateur astronomer, this is often the first telescope.

The downside of these telescopes is that they get very heavy for larger apertures. Hence, at higher magnification required in professional astronomy, they are not much used. Besides, there is the problem of secondary colour (chromatic aberration). The lens gets too big for higher magnification which causes the lens to sag

Modern materials used in lenses have improved the quality of images.  The refracting telescope can provide good images of the moon, planets and other deep space objects.
Modern refracting telescopes have “Go to” controllers which can point the telescope to any object the user specifies. Special azimuth motors will track the object overtime. This makes locating objects in the night sky easier for even amateurs.


Protecting your Telescope Lenses from Dust


Dust is present everywhere around us. It is only natural that sooner or later your telescope will be coated with a layer of dust. While a thin layer of dust will not probably interfere with your image. A thicker layer can affect your image. Hence, it is essential that the telescope lens is protected from dust.

Telescopes are provided with covers. Always fit the covers over the lenses when you are not using them.  Some astronomy shops provide compressed air to clean the lenses.

Never touch the surface of the lens with your bare hands. The oils in skin can affect the coating on the glass.  Never blow into the lens, droplets of saliva can get deposited on the surface and damage the lens.

How is collimation done in a telescope ?

Collimation refers to the process of adjusting the different components of the optical system such as lens, prism and the mirrors. A telescope which is not collimated will result in blurry images. 

Different types of telescopes have different methods of collimation.

How to collimate a telescope ?
http://www.viewfromascope.com/how-to-collimate-a-telescope/



Binoculars for Astronomy

Once you are familiar with the basics of the night sky, you can take the next step with binoculars.
Binoculars are great for astronomy as they give a wider field of vision though they have lower magnification. They are also cheaper than telescopes.  Binoculars are portable and are easily available.

Binoculars are specified on the basis of the magnification as well as the aperture size. A bigger aperture size permits more light to enter and provides clearer images.

For instance, 8 x 40 means that the binocular has a magnifying power of 8 and an aperture size of 40.

Common specifications are 7 x 35, 8 x 40, 10 x 50, etc.

A binocular will greatly increase you reach into the sky.  It is estimated that with binoculars an astronomer can watch nearly 100,000 stars.

Check out these resources on choosing a good binocular.

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-equipment/binoculars-for-astronomy/