Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer Reading, and New Fish

Sorry for the long silence. Summer Reading is kicking my butt.

We decided to have a little fun with Summer Reading this year, and get a pet fish in honor of our theme, "Paws for Reading."

I volunteered to take care of the little guy. Little did I know what this would involve.

We started with a pretty blue betta fish. They are beautiful, and don't need much in the way of complicated care. Technically, he's named Nemo - but he was quickly dubbed Mr. Kitty. Yes, it's a strange name, but we're a strange bunch.

Mr. Kitty was soon joined by two neon tetras, which can peacefully coexist with bettas.

That's when the trouble started.

Betta fish are supposed to be jerks, right? They aren't known as Siamese Fighting Fish for nothing. Right? RIGHT? So, when one of the two neons got her back fin chewed off, naturally we would blame the betta.

Nope. He's totally chill. He likes to swim figure eights around the fake grass and sleep on a leaf. Sometimes, he blows bubbles.

The bully was the other neon. Immediately, I scoured the internet. What could be causing the strange aggressiveness? Two potential reasons came to my attention: Too few fish for a proper school, or perhaps an even number of fish - according to some sites, an odd number often works better.

Reassured by fish care sites that the injured tetra would regrow her fins as long as I kept the water clean and dosed the tank with Melafix, I went to the pet store and bought a third tetra.

Overnight, the bully killed the new fish. I found its broken, bitten body on the bottom of the tank in the morning.

Grimly, I took the little murderer back to the pet shop, and replaced him with two new neons.

Peace reigned.

But wait! Why had the water turned cloudy? I was doing small water changes EVERY DAMN DAY to keep it clean for the hurt fish!

I had never heard of the nitrogen cycle before this week. Innocently, in the way of new aquarium owners, I had put my victims into what would turn into a cesspool of their own waste. By sheer luck, I've been doing the right things to keep everyone alive - my big mistake has been vacuuming the gravel.

I STRONGLY recommend reading up on the nitrogen cycle for aquariums before you dive into buying your kid a fish. Brand new, uncycled tanks are a big killer of fish. The simplest resource I found for someone who has a new tank filled with live fish was here. If you're starting up and have no fish yet, this is a more humane solution.

I went back to the pet store to buy ammonia and nitrite testing kits. I'm now topping something along the lines of $60 worth of equipment for $15 worth of fish. It's a good thing that they're pretty.

Now to keep them alive until the tank chemistry settles.

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