Thursday, February 11, 2010

Past Deadline: The Fish Tank of Doom

You know when you think you know something about something, but then it is suddenly revealed that, actually, you are an idiot? I hate when that happens.

Last week I wrote about the demise of our long-lived crop of goldfish and our decision, thanks to Nanny’s contribution, to get more fish. Boychild took a shine to neon tetras, and so we set out to repopulate the aquarium.

Nanny and I cleaned the tank and I reassembled everything. We set out last Saturday and purchased 14 little silvery fishies with red and blue racing stripes.

Meanwhile, back at the tank, something was going terribly wrong. Long, sad story short, we introduced the fish and, despite an urgent early morning call to Nanny, within 30 hours we lost them all.

Near as we can figure, something mustn’t have been rinsed enough, and by the time I figured out we had some seriously bad water chemistry going on, it was too late.

It was the Fish Tank of Doom. Boychild took it better than I did. Tears were shed.

I tackled the tank again and this time everything was rinsed within an inch of its inanimate life. I poured in new water, set up a different filter and let it run for a few days. Groom-boy, who knows even less about fish than I do, declared it “pristine” and said he would be pleased to live in it.

One weekday morning while Boychild was at school, Nanny, Girlchild and I set off to another pet store. (I couldn’t go back to the first – what if they asked about the original bunch? Besides, we had pretty much depleted their stock.) This time we purchased a dozen neons and two algae eaters and cheerfully carted them home to enjoy their lovely, clean, non-toxic tank.

I had neon tetras when I was in university, and that tank was not nearly as elaborate as this one. Still, I found them to be fairly hardy. Apparently, I was lucky.

I poured the new neons into the lovely tank. They screamed, “AAAAAAAAAAH!”

Doing that, I now know, is akin to plucking up an Earthling and tossing him onto some other planet. The air and temperature might be kind of the same – or not. The fish went into shock. Their bellies puffed up (swim bladder issues) and they started doing this weird vertical dippy-swimmy thing. Some of them would float to the top, rest a moment and then take off to do loop-de-loops or swim upside-down.

Fish Tank of Doom, I tell you.

I phoned Nanny. She came over, peered into the tank and said, “Hm. It doesn’t look good, Steph.”

I phoned the pet store. They had told me twice to keep the receipt for 14 days and reminded me again on the phone, which was hardly reassuring. “Did you float the bag?” the girl asked. You could tell she’d heard this before.


Float the bag, people. Oh, and there are handy instructions printed on the side of the fish bag. Read those.

Floating the bag for a while stabilizes the water temperature. Then you can gently lift your helpless little friends into their new home. They will love it.

Anyway, Boychild came home from school. Surprise! Here are your new, um, fish. “I have good news and bad news,” I said, and explained his mother is an idiot and some of his fish weren’t adjusting too well to the new tank.

“Well, at least it’s not poisonous,” he said.

True, but it’s still a Fish Tank of Doom.

I compulsively watched those fish for hours. I read up on fish shock and e-mailed a friend who used to work at a pet store. My dad, who knows a thing or two about wild fish, reassured me the swim bladders could go down and they might be okay. Other sources said, “Ha! You’re an idiot and your fish are going to die.” Again.

The next morning, though, things looked better. By the end of that day, the fish looked really good. And by the third day, we had a happy tank full of neon tetras and algae eaters – with no casualties.

So now we have the Fish Tank of Zoom, which is a much nicer place for fish to live.

Published in The Perth Courier on Feb. 9/10.

1 comment:

mamabear said...

You, my dear, have a heart of gold. I would have long given up.