I was, again, stuck in Florida with a shuttle that wouldn’t launch. So, again, after several days, the Sabra decided to come down and join me. And, again, she proved to be the good-luck charm we needed, and that little Shuttle launched.
Since she was in FL anyway, we decided to take a vacation, and we stayed in Orlando for a week. It was nice; we went to Disney World, which was pretty fun. We only had one day there, so we just went to Magic Kingdom. Then we spent the next morning listing to the benefits of buying a timeshare. We were strong and didn’t buy, but we DID get a free breakfast and 2 one-day passes to both Universal Orlando parks, so I guess we did OK.
I started back at work this morning, and I noticed that even though schools are all officially back in session, the Metro was surprisingly empty. Then I got off the train at Gallery Place/Chinatown to transfer. As I walked down the platform, there was a mass onrush of people walking the opposite direction. Someone had opened the floodgates and people were pouring out and over the walkway. It occurred to me that this is exactly how salmon feel as they fight their way up against the currents of the raging rivers of the Pacific Northwest. Where once I felt like drone in the subway, today, I better appreciated the plight of the salmon. Unfortunately for me, I did not spawn at the end of this river of people; however, fortunately, I did not die as do the fierce salmon who make the difficult trek to perpetuate their species.
I merely went to work.
Right before I left for Thanksgiving, I noticed that one of my sunbursts was "sleeping" soundly on the gravel. I scooped him out and marked TOD as “sometime during the night”...that's 2 fish and 1 frog I've murdered in my quest to become an aquariumist (or is that aquarius?). Whatever, I had a flight to catch, so I couldn't be bothered...into the garbage he went.
Truth be told, I'm not sure he was really all that healthy when I bought him. His tail looked like something had taken a healthy bite out of it, and you could see his ribs through a greenish skin...definitely NOT like the other sunbursts. Also, his tail (what there was of it) was definitely not as red as the other sunbursts. So, I'm chalking his untimely demise to sick fish and not bad parenting.
Since I knew I was going to be gone for a week, I bought a 14-day feeder and a timer for the lamp. On my way out the door, I plopped the feeder in the tank, said good-bye, and left, secretly praying that I wouldn’t come home to a tank full of dead fish.
I’m happy to say that when I arrived they were all still alive. But, they were acting kind of sluggish and lethargic. I was wondering if maybe the water needed to be changed. Then I noticed that the 14-day feeder didn’t look like it had dissolved any, so I dropped some food flakes in and went to unpack. When I came back to look in on the little guys, I was surprised to see that it was like I’d given them speed or something…they were quite active. I’ve been feeding them normally since then, and I’m pleased to report they are all still doing fine.
In fact, I was so happy they were still alive, that I bought them a new friend: Ernie. He’s an algae eater. He pretty much ignores them all and sucks the side of my tank.
My froggie has taken to floating on the surface of the water. At first I thought he was dead, but it appears that he just likes doing that.
Then the Girl told me that frogs are the canaries of the aquatic world. So, since I had today off, I decided to change the water. The frog definitely got more active after the change, but I made the water too hot, and now it's in the 80s instead of the 70s like it's been.
And, I'm sad to say that I couldn't even go 1 whole week! One of the boys is dead. Everything was fine before I changed the water, then, within minutes of finishing up, my spotted cory catfish went belly up...but not without a fight first.
In good news, it seems that one of the guppies was preggers when I got it, and now I have 2 little fry swiming around.
So, after waiting weeks and weeks for the right time, I finally took a sample of my water over to PetSmart and had it tested. So, after waiting weeks and weeks for my water to be just right, they told me last night that it was. I said to the girl, “Good. I’m buying some damn fish tonight…sell me something.”
I walked out of the store the proud owner of the following fishies:
I also bought some live plants, but I’m not sure what kind they are.
I am very happy to report that all 8 creatures were still alive when I left the apartment this morning!
I decided that the table upon which I originally wanted to set up the tank was not such a good choice. So, last night I returned to Ye Olde PetsMart, and bought a faux wrought iron stand for about $50. I got home and tried it out behind the couch where I originally envisioned it being, but the stand was too low, so I ended up moving it to another wall, which is just as well as the table that is behind the couch was too long for the wall where the aquarium is currently residing…so, I reckon it all turned out well.
I laid the 10 pounds of gravel along the bottom and then filled my bucket with water and began to pour. Wouldn’t you know it, I missed and spilled all over the carpet and down the side of the tank. Not discouraged, I wiped up the carpet and tank and tried again. I filled and filled and filled and filled and filled, and the water got cloudier and cloudier and cloudier and cloudier and cloudier. Then I installed the filter and heater. I taped the thermometer to the outside of the tank, and tried to put the lid on. No one told me that I was going to have to cut the notches out for the filter and thermometer. Fortunately, all of my tools for my wood modeling are lying out on my dining room table (which, in point of fact, is nothing more than a computer table, but that’s another story for another time). I took a saw exacto blade and began to saw away. In surprisingly little time (and without breaking anything) I got the right notches out and put the lid on.
I plugged everything in and watched the filter begin to spit out water. It was beautiful, if still very cloudy (did I mention the water was cloudy). OK, so I’m inspecting everything, and I think I might have a leak in the bottom on the side. Here’s the thing though, that is the side where I originally spilt the water, so it’s really hard to say. My dad said that I should wait a bit and see what happens because the weight of the water might help to force the seal. I went to bed a little concerned that we were going have a reenactment of Noah’s flood during the night.
When I got out of the shower this morning, I immediately went into the living room and turned on the light in the aquarium. I was relieved to see that the water was still in the tank where it belonged, and everything was working fine. I was also excited to see that the guy at the store was right. He told me not to worry about rinsing the rocks before I put them in the tank since I was going to let it run about 3-4 days before I added fish. He told me just to let the filter deal with it. When I peered into my tank, the water was crystal clear!
So, I’m going to give it until Sunday, then I’m going to take a sample of the water over to PetsMart, and assuming all is good with my water, I’m going to buy me a fishy!!
OK, so doing as my dad asked (as I always do), I went to two other aquarium stores yesterday: Congressional Aquarium, Inc. in Rockville, MD, and Totally Fish Aquariums and Pets Store in Aspen Hill, MD. I braved DC traffic to get to Congressional Aquarium, and it seemed like quite an impressive store. It was pretty big, rather clean, and few dead fish in the tanks.
Unfortunately, no one acknowledged my existence. I decided to do a complete walk-thru, and noticed that nothing in the store has price tags...how odd. Perhaps, this was the sort of store where one is supposed to haggle. Not a bad idea; I haven't really haggled since I was in the Arab market in the Old City of Jerusalem about a 100 years ago. Sadly, as I said, no one offered to help me. There were two employees on the floor, and they were helping others—in fact, one nearly ran me over while working with another customer and didn't even say, "excuse me." As I walked by the counter, I saw 3 guys sitting around talking about their websites and video games...I felt it would be rude to interrupt. So, I left there without finding out how much they wanted for a starter kit.
I moved on to Totally Fish, which I should mention is across town, and it was still rush hour (which in DC terms means bumper to bumper and moving at a snail’s pace). That place was perhaps the most disgusting store I’d ever been in. It was small, cramped, crowded, and stank to the high heavens (of rabbit, I believe). I went up to the counter, and this dodgy dude with somewhat greasy hair asked if he could help me. I said that I was looking for a starter aquarium kit. He asked me what size, and I responded that I wasn’t sure as I was just starting out and knew nothing about keeping an aquarium…what did he recommend? “It’s completely up to you. What size do you want? What kinds of fish do you want? I can build any kind of kit.” Now, I realize that in the printed medium it’s hard to get inflection, so please reread that quotation with a little intolerance and dismissiveness. I told him that I wasn’t sure what kind of fish I wanted. He said that that was what I needed to know before I could get a tank because it would depend on the size of the tank. When I again said that I didn’t know, he handed me an index card and a pen and told me to go in the back where all the fish were and jot down the numbers on the tanks of the fish that I was interested in. At first I thought this to be a complete waste of time, but then I decided to give it a chance; maybe I would learn something about fish. So, I spent about 20 minutes walking up and down the aisles noting the number on the tanks of the fish that I thought were pretty.
When I had completed my assignment, I went back to the counter to present my work. The long-haired dude wasn’t there, but some young kid (with hair as short as the other guy’s was long) was there. When he asked if he could help me, I explained that I was looking for the long-haired guy to go on with the next step. The kid gave me an odd look and said something about how he agreed that this was a rather strange approach. He found said long-haired dude who took me in the back where he proceeded to explain that the fish were grouped in order of tolerance to each other and salt and fresh water. So, I couldn’t have any in row A if I wanted from any of the others…OK. Then he tells me that Row B can only stay with other fish in Row B. Rows C and D, however, can be mixed. My first thought was why didn’t you tell me this in the beginning? It would have knocked off probably 10 minutes. OK, so then he asks me which I want. I say I don’t really know. “Well, I can’t tell you what tank unless I know what kind of fish.” “OK,” I say, “I want community fish, so I guess folks from C and D.” “OK,” quoth Greaseball, “Which one?” At this point, I’m losing patience. I say, “I don’t know. Let’s say D.” He replies, “OK, what size tank do you want?”
At this point, I completely lose it. The smell of rabbit was overpowering by now, and as I looked over the dirty dude’s shoulder, I see yet another fish slowly descending into Davy Jones’s Locker. I turn back to him and say, “You know, this really isn’t helping me at all.” And with that, I I headed out. There was another employee standing very near to us when this happened, and as I passed him, he had a rather shocked look on his face. I’m not sure if he was shocked at how Greaseball was treating me or that I would walk out on such a helpful employee. I left and didn’t look back.
So, I decided to return to PetsMart. The girl there had been very helpful and patient with me. She went over all the different tanks they had and the advantages and disadvantages to each. She showed me how PetsMart has all their fish grouped together so you can easily identify which fish will play with which fish, and which should not be put in the same tank. When I got there last night, the same girl was there, but she was working the register, so I asked a guy who was standing there for help. He was just as friendly and courteous, and again spent a lot of time with me answering my questions. I told him of my adventures at the other place and that it was because the girl was so helpful the previous day that I returned. He seemed genuinely grateful for the compliment to his store.
So, after spending some time stressing over whether to get a 28-gallon bow front tank or a 29-gallon flat front tank, I finally made a decision. I am proud to say that I am now the happy owner of a 29-gallon flat front tank and a bag of rocks!
so, I went over to PetsMart last night and looked at a pretty cool starter kit. It was a 28 gal bow front tank. It included a filter, thermometer, net, starter food, and some dechlorinator and something else I'm forgetting. It was about $120. I figured, OK, that sounds about right. After buying some fake plants and a rock or two and some fishies, it would round out to a little over $200 (and I would be doing this over 2 pay periods). I called my dad—that's where I went wrong!
Old man Cose puts the joy in killjoy. He started asking me does it come with this? Does it include that? The bow will distort your vision and you don't want that. Have looked to see how much it is in this store? Have you looked to see how much it is in that store? Wait until I look here in Baltimore.
I told him that while he takes immense pleasure in shopping around and going from store to store and keeping notes on how much it is here, and how much it is there, that really takes all the fun out of it for me. So, I was determined to go and buy the aquarium anyway.
Sadly, I am my father's son, and of course when I went back to the store (oh, sorry, I skipped...I had to move my car from one side of the street to another because the tank would have been too heavy to carry), I started looking to see if the bow would distort, then I started looking at the 20 gal flat front one that was only $75 for all the same stuff, but less water.
ERG....so, as you can imagine, I ended up listening to my father (as I always do—I always make the mistake of asking the ’rents’ opinion before I do something—that's why I never got my ear pierced when I was a wee lad). As you can well imagine, I ended up not buying anything last night.
When I was a very little boy, we had a big ole aquarium (now, in all honesty, I was very little, so it could have been a small aquarium, but only seemed big to me--but it had it's own stand, and I would guess it was 30 to 50 gallons). Since then, I've always wanted an aquarium, and I decided yesterday that the time has come to realize this less than impressive dream.