Friday, November 14, 2008

Swimming over to the Dark Side

I've had fish for about the last eight years. It started out as one male Betta in a tank "for Master J". He may not have actually been born yet, I don't really remember all the details. I just know that I really wanted a Betta. He was beautiful and we named him Fred. Right around the time Master J was two, Fred started feeling his age. He started hanging out in the bottom of his tank and when he would try to swim to the top it was pretty pathetic. Luckily, his illness didn't last long and he died within 48 hours. Please not that I didn't say it was lucky for Fred. Anyway, not wanting to have to explain death to my child just yet, I rushed out and purchased a carbon copy and promptly named him Fred. When Master J saw him swimming happily around his tank he commented that "Fred got better!" and all was right with the world.

When we moved from that house to our next home, I went out and got a 20 long tank so that I could purchase some Bettas with pedigrees. I had my dad cut some pieces of heavy duty mesh to divide the tank into four compartments and ordered a pair of Bettas from a lady in California. She sent two extras at no charge so I ended up with two males & two females, each in their own apartment (as Master J always called it.) At one time I did spawn a pair and ended up with over 70 babies. I gave away almost all of the males and kept the females in a second 20 gallon tank that someone had given Mister C.

Then came the big tank. For whatever reason, one day I decided that what I really wanted was a big tank. Specifically, I was looking at a 75 gallon one. I figured out what it would cost and started saving my allowance so I could buy it on my own. Side note, yes, we both get an allowance. It's part of our family budget and we both get the same amount every pay day. It makes sense for us. Moving on. I gave up buying things like coffee and such so I could save more money. I must drink a lot of coffee because within six months I had over $800 saved for my tank. I told Mister C that I thought I was almost ready to go buy my tank and that we should probably start pricing things just to make sure. We went out that day and I definitely had enough. But, Mister C was being drawn to the bigger tanks. I tried to explain that I only had enough for the 75 gallon tank and I really wanted to buy it soon. It would take me months to save enough to get an even bigger tank. But Mister C had set his mind on the bigger tank and even offered to make up the difference from the family funds. Yay! Of course I agreed to that. So we ended up with a 125 gallon tank that day.

I set up my new big tank as tropical. I added some clown loaches, a few bamboo shrimp, catfish & the typical tetras. And my female Bettas. I also added a leporinus fasciatus. This community did very well together.

When we moved (again), I moved my fish with us. I added a couple of Albino something or others and the remains of a friend's tropical community. They were moving and didn't want to move their fish. Mostly they had a bunch of guppies. Which did not make it in my tank. They fit in too many other fishes mouths.

Then we moved (again) and since it was a cross county move I elected to give away my fish. About six months after we moved I finally set up my tank again. This time, Mister C was with me when I was going to stock it and he kept gravitating towards the cichlid section. I wanted nothing to do with them since they are notorious for being aggressive. No, I put my foot down on the cichlids, they would not dwell in my tank of peacefulness and joy. Instead, I ended up with a killer in the form of my new leporinus facsiatus. The first one must have been a male. He never did a whole lot. He mostly floated around looking tough. This one was an absolute killer. It searched for stuff to kill and eat. My tank became the tank of death as this fish ate it's way through whatever I threw in there. It ate 17 neon tetras and 5 female bettas in a matter of weeks. I ended up with seven fish that I could keep with her, all of them close to her in size. Nothing else would survive.

And now we've moved (again). Since this was also a cross country move (back to Sunshineville) I again elected to re home my fish and start over. I got my tank set up last week and have been running it empty since. Today I went over to the fish store to pick up some test strips to see how my water is in the tank. While I was there, I started looking at the fish trying to figure out what I was going to put in this time. A worker asked if I needed any help and I explained how I was setting up my tank again and starting over. When he found out how big the tank was he suggested cichlids. I related to him all the negative I'd ever heard about them. How they can only be kept with other cichlids. How you can only have one or two in a tank no matter how big. How hard they were to feed, etc. He then told me some things that basically refuted most of what I'd heard. He admitted that some were extremely aggressive (Jack Dempsey, anyone?), but not all. He told me that loaches make great tankmates for them. He explained that if they had places to hide I could have around 20 of them in my tank. The less aggressive ones were even easier to feed since they didn't require meat (although they will eat it). And the best part? The water that comes out of the tap in Sunshineville is pretty much perfect for cichlids. I am sold. Welcome to the Dark Side. I now have three new fishes, all cichlids. One of them will be a blue so bright and vibrant that it's almost cobalt blue. The other two will be a bright yellow with blue on their heads. Next week I'll be looking for some orange ones that I can add. I am so excited to finally get some bright colored fish in my tank. That's always been my one complaint with my tropical set up, most tropical fish aren't as bright as the salt water fish are. Now, I can have all the color, with none of the expense.


K-Mom said...

This was a very interesting post. I don't know that much about tropical fish. Hubby and I had some goldfish once, but they died suspiciously while we were on vacation and Hubby still thinks I had something to do with it!