Mom blog: Because I Said So! To make a long fish story short…

shark-balashark-bala-1.jpg(Don’t get too in love with this fish, if you know what I mean)

I had originally planned to stretch this fish thing out over a couple of weeks, but it’s going to take so long, even I can’t stand it. Instead, here is a highlight reel of sorts:
• We go back to Walmart, return the filter, feel like a fool (me), buy some cool long blue cylinders that are supposed to, when pricked, provide a “wall of bubbles” for our fishes to enjoy, a fake coralimages-3.jpg (“real coral will kill them”), two more fake plants (“At least they won’t rot”) and five fish: a shubukin (pictured at left), two coby catfish (no photo, plus I think I made that name up because I can’t find anything in Google Images), a bala shark (above) and a blueberry tetra (at right).
• The fishes are acclimatized, then released in the tank. Everybody is happy!

• Graydon and I realize that the blue tube things need something: an actual air pump. Back to the store another day.

• Another day comes, and off we go. This time, we head to where we got our bunnies and Abigail, the new hamster: PJ Pets. We ogle the many, many fish at PJ’s. The only fish I ever wanted to look at longer than dinner were neon tetras, and they were all gone before we even had the 10-gallon tank. So, we chatted up two fish guys, told them that we were successfully combining coldwater and tropical fish in the tank, and could we get the 5 neons for $8.89 special? Did we have a heater, they countered. Do we need one? the lights seem pretty warm, we said. Your fish will start dying, they said. Obviously, they hadn’t heard about us yet. They directed us to the heaters, then to the air pumps. We asked about going back to the neons tank, but no, they said, 10 gallons means 10 fish, and you have 10 fish, so no more. HUH? A STORE REFUSING TO SELL MORE PRODUCT? That’s why we love that store.

• Back home, read the pump bumf, and discover that the long blue cylinders need more than a pump, they need a couple of feet of clear plastic tubing. I am at my breaking point. Gas is at a crazy all-time or near high, my time is too valuable to be making the trip to fish stores, and soon I’ll start looking like I’m hitting on the fish guys! And, oh yeah, you can’t install the freaking heater until you have an independent thermometer to verify the temperature of the water. I want to give up, but I can’t. I have 20 creepy eyes staring at me (thank heavens, not all at the same, usually 10 or 12 though).

• One last trip to get 10 feet of clear plastic tubing and a liquid LCD thermometer for the front of the tank. Graydon did the tubing and the pricking of the cool blue tube (I had put holes in the smaller one with a corkscrew the night we got it—the air come through them not like a wall of bubbles, but like a set of air sabres), and I lined up the thermometer strip.

• Everyone is happy!

• Two days later, the bala shark swam into one of the plants just as the end of the fishies’ breakfast. An hour later, he was still there. At lunchtime he started to look suspiciously listless hanging around in the plant. You guessed it. It was bye, bye Bala. One thing I do like about fish as pets is that I seem not to care when they die. Do I sound cold and cruel? Have I lost my humanity? I cried for days when cats died (had to stay off school and work, even, a few times). As a child, well, state funerals for every frog and toad, grass or garter snake. But now, I can shed a wee tear for a hamster, save them in the freezer for a proper burial when the ground thaws, will probably have to pay someone to put Angel to sleep when the time comes and then take off a week for bereavement. But the fish? All I could think as I tied up the bag on Mr. Bala Shark was Yipee! I wonder if that neon tetra special is still on?

And that’s the end of the beginning of our family’s Adventure with Fish. I’ll come back to it again, I’m sure. I do have two questions for you, if you’ve actually got to the end of what has turned into a massive posting:

1) Do other fish owners actually cry when a fish dies?

2) How often do you clean a 10-gallon fish tank in the real world? Do I need to empty out all fish, all plants, all gravel and squeegee the walls and bottom? Isn’t this why you put snails in aquariums?

3) Should I get the 5/$8.89 neons now? Or wait and see if there is something icky spreading through the tank?

Thanks in advance for any advice, real, smartypants or otherwise!

2 Responses

  1. We used to have a fish tank and I remember taking what was obviously good advice: get a good pump/filter. If your filter system is a good one, you can put off cleaning the tank way longer. I seem to remember about once every 6 to 8 weeks to do the full job. But it doesn’t take long once you get your system down.
    We didn’t have a heater but we made sure the tank was positioned where it wouldn’t get chilly, close to a rad.
    I can’t say as I ever cried over a fish, but I know the kids were weepy when one of the googly eyed fish bullied and chewed at another googly eye until it finally gave up and floated.
    I would spread out the purchase of more fish. Kinda like candy.

  2. Don’t feel bad – I’ve never cried about a fish dying. Flush time! When we were down to one fish our nine year old daughter decided after a while that the fish shouldn’t be alone, so I brought it to the school where I work so that it could be among ‘friends’. :o)
    As far as cleaning goes, we had gold fish and I found that we really didn’t need to feed them every day (I’ve overfed goldfish in the past and it died of ‘ick’ I think it was called). We find that this, along with a good filter, means that we didn’t have to clean the tank very often at all – maybe every six months or so. The water stayed clear and the fish lived a very long time.

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