Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hey Chum!

OK, confession time. I've apparently become a serial killer. The angel of death. Destroyer of worlds. Riding a pale horse. Wielding my scythe. The grim reaper.

OK, well, only for fish. But man, I seem to have the kiss of death when it comes to fish, lately.

My kids each have a fish tank in their rooms. Miranda's is larger -- about 7.5 gallons, with one calico fantail and one moorish fantail -- while Trevor has the basic small betta bowl. The betta's of course, tend to live forever, but the goldfish are, well, a bit more delicate. However, the two we had in Miranda's room were hanging in there. After going through 3 or 4 fish, we'd finally wound up with a couple that seemed to be hardy enough to withstand my tendency to let the tank get pretty dirty before I'd do anything about it.

Well, that all changed Sunday. I'm thinking that that's when my diabolical and nefarious powers first manifested themselves.

First, the calico ("Spot") goes belly up. Miranda cries and sobs "he was my little buddy!" Very sad, although she was over it in about 5 minutes -- the promise of a new fish seemed to be sufficient. So, I took the corpse out of the tank, changed the water out, cleaned the tank, and put the moor ("Luna") back in.

Hmmm. He doesn't look so good. Less glossy-black than coppery-gray looking. Well, perhaps the cleaner water will help.

Nope. Dead two hours later, after the kids went to sleep. So I sneak the lifeless body out of the tank, hoping Miranda won't notice that he's gone when she gets up for school in the morning. As luck has it, she does not notice and I resolve to try to replace "Luna" with an identical twin later in the day. We have some meetings at her school that afternoon, so I'vetaken a half-day of vacation and will have time to make the switch when she and her brother head to karate class.

Well, I hit the pet store, talk to the fish dude, explain what happened, and he recommends getting another tank. I agree, because the current tank is one of those plastic jobs that has the lid attached and that uses the under-the-gravel filtration system. The tank is continually filthy, and it's a bitch to clean, so enough is enough. So, I drop $50 on a new 10 gallon tank started kit, with light and basic over-the-side filter. Plus, I grab a new moor and a basic medium fantail goldfish to replace the calico. They look hale and hearty.

I sneak the new tank upstairs, and wait for the kids to leave for karate. Well, Miranda runs up to her room to grab some sandals and notices that"Luna" is gone.

More tears.

OK, so now we have to spill the beans -- Daddy is setting up a new tank, and we have some new fish. They go to karate I set up the tank. I follow the directions exactly. I let the fish hang out in their little bags, floating in the water, to minimize the shock of the new environment. Finally, an hour later, I release them into the tank.

The moor seems fine -- he's swimming about, wildly active. The fantail, though, swims quite a bit initially and then ... settles to the bottom of the tank.

Uh oh.

I'm trying to figure out what's up. His gills are going, but he's not really moving around all that much. I drop a few flakes of food in and he perks up, eats and swims around, and then ... settles to the bottom again.


Of course, at this point the kids come home. Miranda, excited, immediately christens my latest victi... errr... I mean "purchases" with names, thereby setting the stage for the next tragedy. Hey everyone, meet "Midnight" and "Goldy"!

Try not to get, you know, too attached.

Now, as I said, "Goldy" was once again just sort of sitting at the bottom of the tank, where as "Midnight" was still swimming about the tank wildly. Concerned, I kind of shush Miranda out of the room and decide to check back in a little while. Well, a little while later, "Midnight" was no more, his lifeless corpse clinging to the water intake for the filter. Apparently, what I took to be Midnight's "enthusiastic swimming and exploring" was more akin to "panicked attempts to escape from impending doom."

And "Goldy" wasn't looking to swell, either. But he was still alive, at least.

So, I scoop "Midnight" out, break the news to Miranda (less tears this time -- great, now she's getting calloused by the recurrent tragedies), and take the dead fish and a water sample back to the pet store, along with my daughter so she can learn a little bit more about what's going on.

Well, the guy at the store runs a test on the tank water and it comes back fine -- pH a bit high, but nothing terrible. The water is kind of hard, but not enough that it should kill fish on contact. So the fish dude tells me that it was probably just shock -- the water temperature in the bags hadn't equalized well enough yet, and the fish freaked. I let him know that "Goldy" ain't doing so well, either, and he' says she might be OK, she might not. He also recommends pulling the charcoal filter out of the filter system for a few weeks to help encourage the growth of the various beneficial bacteria in the water that helps keep fish happy and healthy. He then recommends against getting another moor at this time (they're delicate, he says) and instead suggests getting a couple of mollys. They're sturdy fish.

You know, tough to kill. Heh.

So, of course, Miranda picks out a couple of pretty red ones and off we go. On the way home she names them. I suggest that maybe naming them isn't such a great idea considering how the day is going, and if she really wants to do so maybe she should name them both "Lucky" just in case. She ignores me, instead dubbing them "Speedy" and "Pokey."

We arrive home, head to the tank, and of course "Goldy" has now expired as well. So that's 4 fish in less than 24 hours. Out comes "Goldy," in go "Speedy" and "Pokey." And they seem to be fine. I figure they're tough enough, and we'll just leave them in there to establish the environment for a couple of weeks (in fish talk, "establishing the environment" apparently means "pissing and shitting to pollute the water to a satisfactory level") and then we'll go back to bigger fish.

This morning, 6:30, I'm awoken by my daughter crying out "Speedy! Pokey! OH NO!!!" Two more down. 6 dead fish and 2 trips to the pet store in less than 36 hours. I surrender.

So yeah, the fish tank is getting a few days of rest. No fish until the weekend, and then we'll try again. I imagine that when I enter the pet store on Saturday Bernard Herrmann's theme from "Psycho" will be thrumming through a lot of fishy minds. Oh great. Here's comes the fish killer.

Mood: Annoyed
Now Playing: The Call, "Into the Woods"


evilsciencechick said...

holy crap! that ain't right. i've killed a few fish in my day, but never so many so quickly.

did you add the de-clorinating drops to the water first?

annnd...is there ANOTHER pet store near you that you can try? maybe the fish are sick already.

seriously, the temperature thing isn't THAT much of a shock. everything is at room temp already - not like you're dropping them into boiling water.

Gregg P. said...

Yup, used the dechlorinating drops, and after the first fish died I had the water tested and the strip looked fine -- the water was a bit hard, but that was all. As for the fish being sick, they were three different varieties pulled from three different tanks, all of whom were quite active and healthy and swimming happily about just hours before their untimely demise at my fish-killing hands. Seems unlikley that they were ALL at death's door when I picked them out....