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A fish story - getting it just right

Published September 15. 2012 09:02AM

We were through four fish and we still had a snail and a fifth neon tetra remaining after the fourth fish succumbed in our little tank. At that point we decided we were going to retire the small tank in favor of a larger one. That Friday we returned to Dan's shop, Jim Thorpe Pet Supply to purchase a larger tank along with a heater, filter and light. He provided a backdrop to us and gave us some instructions as to how to set everything up.

My daughter Kathryn selected some pink and purple gravel for the bottom of the aquarium and we used the plant from the old aquarium that was keeping the snail company in the bowl in which he was living while we were treating the last fish. We also used the other decorations from the original tank, the Squidward house and the Sandy Squirrel figurine. We also purchased a Patrick figure to keep Sandy company in the new aquarium.

The setup was quite simple. We put the new aquarium together and attached the filter and the heater. I mounted a power strip to the wall so that the cords would create drip loops. A drip loop is where the electrical cord hangs below the outlet so that in the unlikely situation water finds its way along the cord from the aquarium it would gather and drip from the bottom of the loop instead of running into the outlet and potentially causing a fire. By attaching the strip to the wall, the cords would be long enough to create a trio of loops for the heater, light and filter.

We scrubbed the gravel and rinsed it before loading it into the tank. Next we de-chlorinated the water we needed for the aquarium. It required about eight gallons of water which we treated a gallon at a time adding it to the tank as we went. Soon the decorations were placed, the water was added and we turned on the pump and our little marine eco-system was in place. It ran for about 24 hours as Dan recommended and then we traveled to his shop for our first fish. In addition, he agreed to test the water to make sure it was balanced well enough to handle fish.

Dan checked the water we brought in a baggie and gave us the good news. We were ready to go. The temperature was around 80-82 degrees perfect for the fish he told us. The chemistry of the water appeared to be acceptable so the aquarium was ready to go. He recommended we add fish a small amount at a time.

"You probably want to add a tetra school and a scavenger to start," he said. Kathryn insisted she wanted a goldfish, so Dan said we probably could add one. He told me on the side though the goldfish she was looking at was used to feed the larger fish and they were not meant for long term pets. We decided to try one anyway. We also selected about five neons and two serpae tetra. We also bought a scavenger fish which I believe Dan called a Cory to handle excess food and debris. The snail was still alive so we figure he could handle the algae.

After thanking Dan for the assistance and his guarantee for the fish, we came home to add them to our little marine world. We removed some water from the aquarium and put it to the side. Next we added the snail after making sure the temperature in his bowl and the aquarium were the same. Finally we placed the bags of fish in the water to get accustomed to the new temperatures.

Dan mentioned there was a belief that fish store water should not be added to the aquarium but he felt if the fish were good enough for a person's aquarium the water should be just as acceptable. I have to admit the assertion was logical so I decided to use the water for the fish to replace the water we removed. We waited for the water temperature in the bag and out to adjust and then we opened the bags and added our new residents to their home. We replaced a little water to top off the tank, closed it up and everything was ready to go.

Three weeks, a half dozen fish and an aquarium later we were finally enjoying the experience of owning fish and having an aquarium. We still are planning to add some fish once we are certain the tank environment is stabilized, but our initial residents save the goldfish are enjoying their home. The goldfish unfortunately did not survive very long past the first week which was expected, but the rest seem to be doing quite well.

I have to admit the snail is one tough little survivor. No matter how many mistakes I made through this ordeal he was a trooper. He was exposed to ick, water that was cold, water that was too warm and water that was not being aerated. I accidentally exposed him momentarily to medicated water, then I switched him without much adjustment between three different bodies of water. Finally, he also endured some concerned caretakers who were paranoid about his health (that would be Katie and me) fingering him and checking his flap. Snails with closed flaps are alive, but a loose flap means a dead snail. Through all that Speedy the snail has endured and is going strong. Just goes to show that you can't kill a snail without a lot of effort or Speedy comes from a good line. At least six weeks later everything seems to be well.

Til next time…

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