Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Fish Tank Goodness

So, i managed to get out to PetSmart finally and buy shoes for Molly. yea! She has cut her little paws too many times down at the river, and she needed some protection. So, last week on Tuesday, my friend and I went down to PetSmart and bought Molly some shoes. She looked a little funny walking around in the one I put on her to check the size. However, she always walks a little funny when something like that is on her foot, and I'd rather she be walking funny because of shoes than because of bandages. Since I know you're all DYING to see how they turn out, I promise I'll post some kind of update on the progress of the shoe situation when I get a chance to try them out. Molly spent the weekend with her cousin-dog Orenda at my sister's house, since I was out of town. And here, of course, is the segue into the subject line...

I was in Phoenix over the weekend for a friend's birthday party. Supercoolfunstuff... yea! When I got back, my fish were not having a good day. I had shut off my computer when I left on Friday, because we were having storms and I wasn't entirely sure that my flight would actually leave. I didn't want to tempt the Wild Little Green Men in the sky into zapping my computer with lightning while I was gone, so I shut off the computer and everything else when I left. Of course, the filter and air pump stayed plugged in for the fish, but I did leave the tank light off. My apartment gets indirect daylight a-plenty through the mini blinds, so I figured that would take care of my fish while I was gone. They're tropical, and I've read in the books that they need to have a well-lit tank. It never says what happens to fish in a poorly-lit tank, though, and it doesn't really explain how lit a tank has to be before it's considered well-lit. This is probably heavy-handed foreshadowing, but that information would have been REALLY USEFUL LAST WEEK.

Anyway, when I got back from Phoenix, I noted that the coloration of all my tetras was "off". They usually look like this: Healthy Cardinal Tetra My fish, however, did NOT look like that. Their blue top stripe looked very dark blue just above their side fins, and pale blue everywhere else. Ordinarily, the whole thing glows a uniform blue that varies from deep indigo through teal, depending on the lighting. Also, their red bottom stripe, (which is usually the color of freshly oxygenated blood) from mouth to tail was completely missing. They were translucent with a barely discernible pink tint. Finally, as if their coloring wasn't bad enough, they were effectively lying on the bottom of the tank behind the rock they usually hover above, and "gasping". That's what it looks like, anyway, they work their gills hard and rapidly and it looks like they're struggling for air. Errr... ummm... water. Which has air in it. So, air. Yeah, my fish were gasping for air. There were two that kinda stirred about, but the other four were only occasionally and spastically moving their fins, just enough to keep them from colliding with each other in the faint current at the bottom of the tank.

EEEEEP! Knowing how fragile fish are and how challenging it is to bring them back from illness, I set my friend to researching tetra illnesses online while I began trying to figure out what I'd done different lately that could explain this. I was gone all weekend, and I left them with a weekend fish feeder tablet. I haven't changed their water in about two weeks, and I just got some plastic plants. It's the first time I've used a weekend feeder since I got the tetras, so I decided giving them their regular flake food might fix this. Maybe the tetras weren't eating the fancy krill and spirulina so lovingly time-released by the tablet. So I turned on the tank light to let them know food was forthcoming (because fish appreciate the warning) and I opened the tank and sprinkled flakes in it. Well, the zebra danios (who were perfectly fine, by the way) gleefully ate almost all the food. The two tetras that were kinda swimming around made weak lunges at some of the food bits, but didn't appear to get much. In the meantime, I'm hearing terrifying things about sporatozoa and necrotic tissue being read to me from the internet.

I settled in to watch the fish and listen to the disease descriptions coming from the computer, and noticed that the most active of the two active fish suddenly had a red flush over parts of his belly which looked like it was slowly spreading. His blue color was never as bad as the others, but it seemed to be almost back to its normal distribution, not concentrated above his side fins at all. I thought that maybe since he'd gotten some food, he was perking up, so I tried the food again. Alas, the four at the bottom still didn't stir, but the two who were out got more of the food and seemed to be improving by the moment. Knowing you can't force-feed a fish that's less than an inch long without traumatizing it to death anyway, I resigned myself to writing off the four at the back and decided I would have to find an alternate weekend fish feeding arrangement. Bummer.

About five minutes later, I checked in again, and the two active fish were totally back to normal. Better yet, the four at the back of the tank were moving around and their color was returning! But they didn't get any food... at least not that I could tell when I was watching the others feed.

Newsflash: tropical fish need light. Lots and lots of light. Especially the kinds that "glow" when the light is shining. I thought that enough ambient light was getting in during the daytime through my blinds, but apparently, I was wrong. Food or no food, after about 20 minutes under the lights, all the tetras were back to their zippy old selves, and their color had completely normalized. *WHEW* And that, my friends, is Fish Tank Goodness.

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