Saturday, August 9, 2008

Things I Learned the Hard Way #2

Before I move on to the second thing I learned the hard way, I wanted to throw in a sub-lesson that goes with the last post dealing with the germy mess that is "fish poo water."


Nuff said? I don't really need to go into details there, do I? Ok, good. Didn't really want to relive that one anyway. So, moving on.......

2. Do your research BEFORE you go to the local fish store (LFS).

This is so important, I just can't stress it enough. Impulse buying in the aquarium hobby is almost always a disaster waiting to happen. Whether you're purchasing livestock, plants, tanks or filters, it's always best to know exactly what you're shopping for before parking your car and stick to that list (and that list only) while you're shopping. A good strategy for me when I'm just browsing at the LFS is to leave my wallet in the car.

Pre-shopping with a notebook and pen is a good idea - be sure to write down as much information as possible so you can compare it to what you find elsewhere. Most LFS don't list scientific names for their livestock, but if they do - THAT'S the name you want to work with. Take your list home and do a few internet searches. I guarantee the first time you do this, you'll be amazed at the discrepancies from source to source.

Here are some important things to consider when you're researching your future purchase:

1. Compare the internet pictures with what you remember seeing at the store.

  • *Is this the same fish?
  • *Does the store fish look as healthy as the pictured fish? (within reason)

2. Compare prices, if available.

3. What is the fish's temperament?

  • *Are they peaceful little Ghandi-fish or are they Rambo-fish that will rip into anything that crosses their path?

  • *Are they active or do they tend to spend most of their time hiding? (another aspect to consider here is whether or not they are nocturnal)

  • *Do they have any particular habits that might make them incompatible with other tankmates? For instance, many barbs have a reputation for being fin-nippers. Not a good idea to put them in with a slow swimming fish with long, flowing fins - like a betta. That's like waving a red cape in front of a raging bull. Trust me, I know these things!

4. What does the fish eat? Is it a carnivore or an herbivore? Whenever possible you want to house fish together that have same basic diet.

5. Along the lines of #4, What will the fish's ultimate size be?

  • *How is this related to fish diet, you ask? Well, here's the general rule of thumb with fish keeping: If a fish CAN fit into another's mouth, it WILL. So yeah, size matters.

  • *Remember that most fish you see in the store are either babies or juveniles.

  • *Another consideration is whether or not you can responsibly house a fish of that size. Be sure to consider not only the bioload that fish will create for the volume of water but also the amount of swimming room the tank will provide. This sort of goes back to temperament. Some fish are like husbands - basically sedentary until mealtimes. Others are like toddlers on speed - never stop zipping around and driving everyone else around them crazy.

  • *This is one area where you're likely to NEVER get accurate information from the store. Do your own research, check several sites, and split the difference. When in doubt, ask someone who's kept this fish - there are lots of forums out there with people willing to help, like Fishgeeks.

6. Here's a new one to make the list - What is its track record for breeding in captivity? And also, how sure can I be that I have males (or females). LOL Just guess how THAT one came be on the list!
  • *If your goal is to breed your fish, you want to be reasonably sure you have at least one male and one female (duh, huh?) and that you have the appropriate set up for breeding and raising the fry. Think, honeymoon suite and nursery. Don't forget the baby food.

  • *If you don't want them to breed, try just getting one male. Not just one female - some species (like guppies and platies) can carry fertilized eggs from the store's tank and drop them after you bring them home - sometimes weeks later. And not more than one, even if you think they're both male... TRUST ME! Don't believe me? Check out the photobucket slideshow on the right... there's a pic of some of the babies being raised in a tank that supposedly only housed males. HA!

I'm not going to give you the run-down for each and every incident that has led to the making of this list. Let me just say that I started out with a single 10G tank, not so long ago. At one point I had 15 tanks up and running, of various sizes. I've since stabilized at about 7 (soon to be 6, I think). THAT'S the power of researching before buying.

Until next time................................ Just keep swimming!

Got a lesson you learned the hard way to share? Just want to comment on my stupidity? Post a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Things I Learned the Hard Way

Well, I've been digging around in my brain (ouch) for some things to add to The Fickle Fishbowl. I've got quite a list, but I realize now that they aren't really in keeping with the orginal idea for the Fickle Fishbowl. Rather, they're more along the lines of "stupid things I've done." <-- I guess that could be my alternate title for this post! :) So, instead of trying to pull a Fickle Fishbowl post outta my you-know-where (cuz let's face it - it would be stinky), I thought I'd delight you all with a few "what not to do" ideas. If my foolishness can save just one person from experiencing some of these... well, then my suffering has not been vain. (and if you laugh your butt off, then it's all been worth it!)

1. Wash your hands

Most of us know to wash our hands before we eat and after we use the bathroom (at least I hope so). Some of us know to wash our hands before we stick them in our fish tanks to keep the oils and chemicals out the tank. But do we all wash our hands when we're all done?

Yeah? How about between tanks? Why is this important?

Well, first off - you really can't wash your hands too much (OCD aside). But more importantly for this post, there is that "window for error" in the space of time between ending work on one tank and beginning work on another. During that window (no matter how long or short it may be) all sorts of unfortunate things can happen. Here's just one example:

I wash my hands and begin doing a water change on one of my tanks. I've now got "fish-poo" water (as my family calls it) all over my hands. My son comes in and offers me a piece of his candy. "Oh, how nice of him to want to share with me," I think. But I remind him of the "fish-poo" water and have him pop the tasty treat into my mouth. Then I thank him and mentally pat myself on the back for reinforcing my son's desire to share while maintaining sanitary conditions. (two thumbs WAY up for Mommy!)

I rock, right? Yeah well... just wait. So I finish that water change get ready to do the next tank. I'm not actually doing the water change yet, so I guess my brain took a little break. Cuz here's the important fact I've neglected to mention so far. That yummy candy my son was sharing? Umm, yeah... they were JuJee Fruits. You know, the candy with super-glue as it's primary ingredient? Hmmm, yep - that one. So what does super-fishie-mommy do? Sticks her finger in her mouth to dig the candy out of her teeth. Oh yeah - I did. (gack!) Suddenly a flavor other than the candy flavor fills my mouth. Anyone who has ever had a mouthful of mid-summer pond water knows what I'm talking about.

Moral of the story? One thing I learned the hard way - I can't trust my brain to save me, so always error on the side of caution. Wash hands before, during and after work on tanks. Wash, wash often and when in doubt - wash again.

Swim on by later in the week for another "Things I Learned the Hard Way" (aka Stupid Things I've Done).

Got a thing you learned the hard way to share? Just want to comment on my stupidity? Post a comment and let us know!