Sunday, November 11, 2007

Genuine Plastic Plants

In hitch hikers guide to the galaxy, the advertisement for robots was something like "your plastic pal who's fun to be with." Marvin, the paranoid android was anything but fun but did make the series much more interesting.

I think the same can be said for aquarium plastic plants. They don't do much but they do make the tank more interesting. As a bonus, the fish seem to like them.

I became concerned about our fifth fish. He's the one that's darkly colored and spends most of his time under the castle. His name has ranged from Rebel, to Gollum, to Goblin, to Glowy to Galowy. Some of the information I read on the internet stated that platies can be shy when first introduced to a new tank and some hide for a while.

I decided the fish may need a bit more cover to come out from under the castle so Deb, Zack and I headed to the local pet store to buy some genuine plastic plants (GPP). My first tendency was to get real plants but the store owner guided us away from this decision. His concern was that plants make new tanks more complicated and can lead to algae problems.

While at the pet store, I described Galowy's plight of alway hiding in the castle. The owner seemed to thing the fish was suffering from the toxicity of the water. The term is called tank cycling and its the time that the bacteria form that convert fish waste into whatever they convert fish waste into.

Before the colony forms, ammonia and nitrates build up in the tank. The first set of sacrificial fish's job is to bring the bacteria with them so the water can support other, less fragile fish. So the owner said Galowy might be suffering from nitrate build up in the fish's blood stream. I came away from that conversation feeling guilty for naming the seed fish but not guilty enough to forgo the purchase of some GPPs.

We picked the plants that looked like they would fit in the tank. We bought two long and one short of different colors to give the tank a little variety. Zack was ecstatic to have the chance to add some new stuff to the tank and have the opportunity to actually put his hand in the water.

We added the plants and a few more shells to decorate. Zack giggled as he plopped two more shells in the water and watch them float to the bottom. I had to move the castle in order to situate the plants. Galowy swam out and joined the other fist for a while. It was nice to see it again. Galowy seemed to enjoy the additional hiding places as well.

Tangerine, the reddish orange fish, took to the new plants quickly, first tasting them and then swimming in and out readying his escape route from the tyrannical Mickeys. Tangerine is the explorer of the five always swimming new ways through the maze that's become our tank.

Sunrise, the pretty orange, yellow and black fish swims the perimeter trying to stay out of the Mickeys way and, by and large, does a good job of it.

As for the Mickeys, they tasted and re-tasted the GPPs hoping, somehow, they would suddenly become edible.

Galowy has since gone under the castle again. I think we'll move the structure once we feed again so that fish actually has a chance to eat.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Fish Tank, Day 2

As reported yesterday, we now have fish in our fish tank. Four of the fish seem to be doing fine the fifth, however, is hiding under the Castle and refuses to come out. The fish's original name was Rebel since it refused to swim with the other fish. I've since renamed it to Gollum because it to hides from the light in a cave. I still count it as the odds on favorite to go belly up first.

Meanwhile, Mickey and Minnie, the two Micky Mouse Platies, have become a bonded pair of sorts. Mickey never leaves Minnie's side unless he's going to to harass either Sunrise or Tangerine. These two rule the tank and the other fish get out of their way.

Sunrise is my favorite having colors going from black to orange to yellow. Its a very pretty fish. Tangerine is Zack's favorite so far. This bright orange fish was once Mickey's favorite target but the bully mouse fish seems to pick on Sunrise more these days.

As of noon today Gollum was out of the cave and swimming around the tank. I've read a bit online that Platies may be shy at first. Its either that of the fish is preggers and off getting ready to give birth.

Gollum has received a new name from Zack. Gollum's new tank name is Glowee. I'm not sure if Glowee is the proper name for a darkly colored fish but I'm sure there is some brilliant four year old logic to it.

Zack stormed into the house and I told him there was a surprise in the tank. He had yet to see Glowee/Gollum. The little man jumped up and down yelling "He's out, He's out." He then named the fish.

Note: Glowee is still the odds on favorite to go belly up first.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fish Tank, The Beginning

As time goes by, kids develop along certain predestined paths. We are now fully in the pet phase of Zack existence. This is the time when there is no animal, no matter how gross, that Zack would not enjoy having for a pet.

That being said, he's always wanted a fish tank ever since seeing Finding Nemo. Well, Deb and I finally broke down and bought twenty-nine gallon fish tank. But its not just a clear, water-filled, piece of furniture with pretty fish in it. Its a money disposal unit as well. Just put money in and watch it vanish.

Because you can't just have a tank sitting on a table. Oh no. You need a stand, a filter, a heater and special little rocks that go at the bottom. I wonder how fish in the wild survive without special little rocks but I'm assured by the pet store people that special little rocks are important to fish survival.

Now, I'm a fantasy nut so when it came time to decorate there would be no pirate ship, palm trees and treasure chest in my tank. Oh no. I had to have a castle and, being me, I had to have a big one. I still haven't added up how much the fish tank and its accessories cost, but I'm thinking its close to $500.

I'm sensitive to sum since the new computer monitor I want costs half that amount. I could even have an aquarium screen saver with real water filter noises coming out of my computer speakers as well. I'd never have to worry about belly up fish unless I programed it to have belly up fish. But I digress.

The steps to setting up a fish tank include buying it, the filter, the heater, the special little rocks, the castle, and the stand. You set this up in a nice location (which you'll want to change but only after you have 100 lbs of water in the tank), turn the filter on, and wait for two days.

I'm not really sure about the two days thing but I'm told by the same guy that says I need special little rocks that the water needs to filter for a while before I add any fish to it. I wonder how long water in the lake has to sit before the fish can swim in it.

So I waited for two days and added my first five fish (just a few minutes ago). You start with cheap fish that you won't cry over when they go belly up (whether programmed or not). The kind I purchased are called Platies. I have two Micky Mouse Platies, one gold and yellow Platy, one gold/orange Platy and one Blue/Gray Platy. I'm sure Zack will name them appropriately but there working names are Micky, Minnie, Sunrise, Tangerine, and Rebel.

These 'seed' fish are hardy and serve a very important purpose. Each fish carries with them a set of bacteria that help break down fish waste. Since these little guys are tough, they can survive in a new tank long enough for the bacteria colony to take up residence in the special little rocks. Once the colony is established, less hardy yet prettier fish can be added to a balanced ecosystem.

The whole process takes about three weeks. After that you take a water sample in and they test the ammonia levels and let you know if other wimp fish can live in your tank.

I'd also like to add a few live plants to the tank but the pet store folks tell me its better to get the tank established first before adding them. They promote algae growth and so you need to know what you're doing before adding them.

I feel a little sorry for the starter fish. They have a tough job and an uncertain future. They are the tank trail blazers giving their all for the others that follow.

I'll keep you updated on who goes belly up first (my money's on Rebel).