Saturday, March 31, 2012

Past Deadline: Springtime in the Tank

I try to be careful about what I say regarding our fish tank because I have learned good news can turn into bad very quickly.

Never, for example, talk about how pristine and crystalline your tank is unless you have tested the water. Deadly water, I have found, can be very pretty.

You may recall that when I first wrote about our fish tank in these pages I dubbed it The Fish Tank of Doom for good reason. I started off by accidentally killing, um, a few fish due to my lack of knowledge (research) about water chemistry.

Now that I am a little more knowledgeable (and a lot more pessimistic), I will risk sharing some exciting recent developments.

It would appear our little tank has become exceptionally fertile! Must be spring.

For a while now it has been home to two Harlequin Rasboras, two Peppered Corys, one Otocinclus (who is lonely and will be getting some friends soon), two Trumpet Snails and one Neon Tetra. The neon is the last of the original school (the school that survived) more than two years ago.

All of these fish have jobs to do. The rasboras and the neon are there to look pretty and dwell in the upper levels. The corys and the snails are bottom feeders who also clean up debris. The otocinclus and the snails work on algae.

A couple of weeks ago our aged neon started to look a little gaspy and his red racing-stripe tail began to fade. Boychild (they’re his critters, really, although I obsess over them), is well versed in the signs of a dying fish thanks to his mother’s, uh, skill, and notified me of the situation.

Sure enough, the neon gasped his last and we said our goodbyes and congratulated him for his longevity.

Meanwhile, in a lovely Circle of Life (cue Lion King music) moment, we discovered our snails had reproduced! Tiny white and brown babies were creeping across the glass.

Yes, I know. Snails can be a problem. In fact, one only needs to have a single snail to have an epidemic because they are super talented in the art of self-fertilization.

Nevertheless, we’ve had snails for years and this is the first time we have seen babies. So far fewer than half a dozen have appeared, but I am monitoring the situation. Obsessively. As usual.

(The tank is in Boychild’s room, but I can see it from my desk. This can be either relaxing or distressing depending on the situation.)

Just when we thought we had ample excitement, the corys decided to celebrate spring as well and, as I write this, the female is skittering around the tank depositing eggs all over the place!

The kids have been called upstairs a bunch of times as their obsessive mother points out the egg laying and the latest deposit locations and the spawning dances and so on.

Another hard lesson I have learned about fish tanks is that sometimes you just have to leave things the heck alone. For example, there is no need to handle the tiny, delicate baby snails, moron, unless you are trying to eliminate them.

Similarly, this pair of corys laid eggs one other time and I did some research and determined it was probably a good idea to put the eggs in a separate tank. It didn’t work out, though, so this time I have decided to just leave them where they are and see what happens.

I figure it will be one of three things: 1. The corys or some other tank inhabitant will eat the eggs. 2. The eggs will get all fuzzy and fungal and won’t even hatch. 3. The eggs will hatch, but the babies will be so tiny we won’t see them no matter how obsessive I am. And then someone will eat them.

By the time you read this, those eggs could be dinner!

That’s okay, though. It’s nature. We’ll have Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom right in Boychild’s room, except instead of chasing beasts with tranquilizer guns, I’ll be terrorizing fish with a small flashlight.

Stay tuned!

Published in The Perth Courier, March 29/12

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