Sunday, October 12, 2008

Something fishy's going on

Remember Blue Blue? You'd think we would have learned, but we're attempting fish experiment # 2 (Electric Boogaloo!)

Clay wanted a dog, and when we told him no, he shifted focus and again asked for a fish. We agreed, figuring that if we got a proper aquarium, a couple of fish could be peaceful and an interesting science project for the kids. But, we wanted it to be something Clay had to work for, and so we told him that we'd get an aquarium after he learned his next violin song, Lightly Row, well enough to perform in a recital. I figured it would take him until Christmas. Of course, I overestimated. Clay worked on it for one month, and he's performing it in next weekend's recital. So, we've started preparing for a fish house.

All in all, I think we should have okay'ed the dog instead. We went to the pet store on Monday and bought a tank, filter, gravel and conditioner. This cost us $80. I balked at the stand b/c it was only a 15 gallon tank, and I figured we could find a nice flat surface for it. As we left the store, the sales clerk called helpfully: "Don't forget to make sure the tank is perfectly level. One gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, and a 15 gallon tank that isn't perfectly level will have too much stress on the joints."

Okay, so the quick math meant we had to find a spot for 130 pounds of weight contained in a footprint of 24 inches by 12 inches. We had nothing.

Tuesday, Mike went out to find a stand. He found one for $90, and tried to put it together before I got home. Half of the cam connectors broke, and somehow he got one of the dowels in the wrong hole and couldn't get it out. By the time I got home he was wild eyed and tousled, looking like the wild man of Borneo. I sent him out for more cam connectors and tried to get the dowel out. Clay hopped up and down eager to set up the tank. He helpfully went and put on his play tool belt, and offered us his plastic hammer for dowel dislodging. By 9 p.m., we had the tank set up, and an overtired little boy who didn't understand why we still had no fish.

Wednesday night, we went to a pet store recommended by a colleague. Goldmine! These folks were GREAT. We looked at all their freshwater tropicals, helpfully color coded by temperament and ease of care. We were focusing on the black and yellow labeled fish. "Peaceful" and "Easy" said the legend, and I started humming the Eagles. We grabbed a heater (because it was clear that freshwater tropicals instead of goldfish were the way to go) and some plastic plants. I had originally thought live plants were what I wanted, but the sales woman suggested I stick with plastic until we knew what we were doing. Clay grabbed a sunken ship and two pirate skeleton figurines. The sales woman said we needed a bacteria conditioner. Total with a 10% "new customer" discount: $75.

Have you been doing the math? We're now into this simpler-than-a-dog pet project for nearly $200. And we have yet to buy any fish.

Saturday after violin, Mike and Clay went back to the pet store. We were going to get some fish! Upon everyone's advice, we were only going to get 3 little fish. We would add two or three fish for the next several weeks until we had about 10-12 fish total. An hour after they left, Mike and Clay returned witb 3 neon tetras named Roger, Pete and Keith. We introduced them to the tank per the store's instructions and then we spent the rest of the afternoon just looking at the tank. It was all worth it! Last night we turned off the light and said goodnight to the band.

This morning the boys and I said good morning to the fish and had some toast. A little later we checked on the tank and strangely, the trio was now a duet. Mike took a look but the third, which we figured was Keith going on a bender, was still MIA. We figured he was enjoying the sunken ship, and I went off for a shower so we could get to church. As I was drying my hair, Mike came in the bathroom and said he'd found Keith in the filter. Dead. We put him in a little cup to return to the store, which was closed today. However, Mike went to PetsMart this afternoon to replace him. We didn't want to upset Clay.

Neon tetra #4, "John" was introduced to the tank at 2 pm this afternoon. At 3:30, another tetra bit the dust, for lack of an aquatically appropriate metaphor. Perhaps little Pete, for lack of his namesake's guitar, used a pirate skeleton instead and little John couldn't handle the stress? I dunno, but Clay noticed this time, and much wailing and teeth gnashing ensued.

I was concerned that we were really doing something wrong, but I couldn't figure out what. We had the water tested, and it was fine. We were introducing fish slowly. We chose easy fish. Finally a couple of comments on an aquarist's bulletin board told us the ugly truth: "Tetras: they'll either last forever or will die on you in a couple of days".

Indeed. Statistically speaking, that's about right. We bought 3 + 1 tetras and now have two. Both tetras and rock stars could use an intervention.


Burgh Baby said...

Oh, where to start. First, I didn't buy a stand for our crazy expensive salt tank and it busted, flooding the house. Good move giving in before learning the hard way!

Second, we have a freshwater tank with neon tetras in it that are easily 8 years old. So, yeah. Either they croak right away, or you've got them forever.

Good luck! (And next time? GET A DOG!)

DTB said...

Loved this story, Nancy! Sometime I'll have to tell you about our "simple and easy" pet gerbil experience. SPOILER ALERT: did you know gerbil's are murderers?

Love to the family!