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).
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