Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Aquarium Saga

When I asked for an aquarium a couple of years ago, I don't think I had fully contemplated the difficulty in actually having fish live in it. An aquarium is a wonderful thing when you get it set up just the way you like it, with colored rocks, gravel, sand, ... whathaveyou. Then you turn on the light in the aquarium hood and you admire your handiwork, and think,"Yes, if I were a fish, I'd love to live in there, with the little treasure chest to hide in, and the fake plant life to play in."

You know what? Ignorance really is bliss. Because there are factors that you tend to ignore when you're looking at your handiwork, and patting yourself on the back. Such as... oh, the pH balance of the water (which is freaking high, and it doesn't go down regardless of how much neutralizing agent I dump in there). Or insignificant things like 3 gallon tanks don't have enough water in them to keep a stable temperature to the water (which is also a problem if you have certain types of fish). There is also the possibility that the brand, spanking new pump, that came with the tank, that has a fantastic track record of not dying, does the unthinkable. It dies.

But, let us go back to actually putting fish into your perfectly set up tank. When I started, I put three Red Phantom Tetras into a three gallon tank to "start the tank". Which means introducing enough fishy poop and right types of bacteria to help get the bio-filter going. One tetra died at the end of the first week. That was to be expected, because he was tiny and unfortunately for the tiny, they don't do well in really wacky tap water. Tap water that is actually from a lake higher up on our mountain divide. Tap water that has a pH balance of 7.8, probably higher, given that my tester only goes up that high. It's also hard water, and is treated with... god only knows what. So, when fishy number 1 expired, I was saddened, but not surprised. The other two fish went on happily living in the 3 gallon tank for about 2 months. Then I introduced the Peppered (I got the name!) Cory Cat... who died unexpectedly 13 days later. I have no idea what happened, but I was annoyed.

During all of this, I'd been running water down to the pet-store to have it tested... and tested... and more tested. They kept saying,"You're water is fine. Just need to lower the pH." After a month of trying to lower the pH, and failing with wild abandon, I asked if they have fish that like sky-high pH balanced water. "OH! Sure we do!"

.... why the HELL didn't you say that to begin with?! WHY?!!

Oh, and,"Try changing your filter. It might be a bad filter."

*my eyes roll beseechingly to the heavens*

This is how I found myself standing poised over my 3 gallon fish tank with a bag of new filters clutched in my hand... and realizing that the pump had died. In which case the filters would do me no good whatsoever. Gee... maybe all my problems were from a bad PUMP!! It ran for 2 months and DIED! I peered into the tank at the two little tetras. They peered back. They looked fine. Listing, but fine. I stood up and decided that the two tetras were in fact mutants.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Fish? nah...

Spider-fish? no.


Tetra-loids! That'll work.

At this point I took a second look at them and began to wonder if my Cory Cat hadn't been murdered. The tetras appeared innocent, but ... Let's just say my suspicions have been aroused.

The next day I once again made an appearance at the pet-shop, this time with a dead pump. Much exclaiming and shock was tossed about as the pump from an eclipse system was examined, prodded and bashed against a professional hand. Apparently this doesn't happen often. In fact they said something to the effect that this hadn't happened in 6 years. Yes, I'm special. At this point I threw my hands up in disgust and bought a 6 gallon tank, a back up pump/filter, and some more decorations and gravel for the new tank.

I set up the new tank, using the water from the old tank, and waited patiently for a day, for the crap to settle in the new tank. Not literal crap. When you put gravel into a new tank, they tell you to rinse the gravel until it rinses clear. This is in fact bull sh!t. You can rinse your new gravel until doomsday, and it will never rinse clear. Thus when you put water into your new set up, you will have the silt of ages happily fluffing around the tank for, in my case, three days. Yes, I rinsed for hours, and it doesn't help much.

Meanwhile one of the Tetra-loids had begun to swim with a pronounced list. I wasn't too worried because this particular Tetra-loid has been strange since day one. But, he'd been eating, pooping, swimming and bullying his fellow mutant for some time now. His rather tattered buddy wasn't much better. He almost never stays in an standard north position, but I chalked this up to the fact that his eyes are not in the same spot on either side of his head. If your world is askew, then so should you be. However, by the next morning I'd lost another mutant fish... and creepily he was stashed in the same place I'd found the Cory's corpse. Face first down, in the middle of the grass plant. Took me forever to get it out of there. The whole time the last Tetra-loid looked on from afar. Granted that you can't really get far away in a 6 gallon tank, but still, it watched my every move. Although I watched closely he never actually rubbed his fins together in morbid glee.

A few days later I decided to thumb my nose at Fate and bought myself a really nice little Beta fish (aka Japanese Fighting Fish). He lived in a plastic bowl for a day, then I decided I'd pop him into the big tank and see how he'd do. So far, he's just fine, although he managed to get his tippy tip fins on his tail shredded. None of other other fish in there currently are aggressive towards him, and he's not aggressive towards them. I suspect he was sleeping, and got his tail fins caught in a prickly type plastic plant (I'll be removing it soon, as it's tried to kill two fish so far by trapping them between itself and the tank wall) in the tank... Panicked when he realized he was caught, and did the damage himself. But I can't say that for certain.

A few days after I got the Beta, I decided I'd get some of the fish that supposedly do well in high pH balanced water. Anything that bears live young are supposed to be alright with that, which means Guppies, Mollies and Platys. Guppies were out. First... I'm not fond of Guppies, and secondly the Beta, although quite placid with the Tetra-loid, may lose himself to blood-thirsty aspirations when presented with a small bodied fish, dragging a damned banner behind it, in all its fluttery, colorful, delicate glory. This leaves me with Mollies and Platys. I asked about Platys, and was presented with Mollies instead. Quite frankly I can't tell the difference between the two. Anyway, the Mollies, of which I purchased two, are currently living in the tank with a very very placid Beta, and the Tetra-loid. No deaths have occurred yet, but that may change.

Why? Well, because the Tetra-loid has gone insane. He thinks he's a barracuda. He's staked out the middle of the tank and nips anyone either coming into his 'territory' (except the Beta), or showing any sort of display. The Mollies like to display at each other with their colorful little bodies (not that sort of displaying, that's just sick. Shame on you.). Tetra-loid doesn't like this at all. This shameless display must cease IMMEDIATELY! When he's not playing at fish gestapo, he's attempting to school with the Mollies, who given his behavior, want nothing to do with him. He's like a stalker. Nice one minute, evil psycho the next.

In his mind its all about the schooling, and Mollies don't school. "Why won't you school? Stop showing off at each other! This isn't how it's supposed to be! SCHOOL DAMNIT! ITS BEEN SOO LOOOOONG!" If he had hair, I'm sure he would've pulled it all out by now.

This is in part my fault, as I haven't gotten him replacement Tetras... although with the way he's been behaving I'm not sure its such a good idea to introduce naive new fish to the tank. Its like dumping a bunch of teenagers at the camp where Jason resides. Or telling a bunch of cute girls that Norman Bates runs a fine upstanding motel.

*sighs* And the whole reason I wanted an aquarium was because I thought it'd be nice to watch the fish swim around. Relaxing you know?

.... the car accident was more relaxing... sheesh!