I’m feeling really down today. Fortunately, I had my “Shark of the week” post already saved last week,  so I can stick to that plan, but I don’t know if I can write new posts about the ocean right now.

Beforehand: we have pets, two rabbits in a big enclosure in the garden (more then 64 sq. ft.) and a fish tank in the living room. We try to provide them with everything they need, but I’m aware that one could think that “The only good way to keep an animal is not to keep an animal”. I know we are selfish: I have been watching the fish tank to relax since I was pregnant with my oldest, and the rabbits are, despite not being abused as cuddly toys or being reduced to vegetate indoors, utilized to teach our younger children to care for a living being.

I read up on the right water conditions and co-housing, and the fish tank survived 18 years, during which we moved a few times. Yes, we did have to buy a lot of fish between now and then and not because the old died of old age, but overall the fish tank thrived, I think. Half a year ago, however, there was a more serious bacteria outbreak (a common bacterium caused illness and dead in several fish due to weak immune systems). After that, we switched to a new filter system and I researched again and chose to add recommended, highly resistant species to our survivors (a bunch of Ancistrus’ and a shoal of black tetra – most of them more than 10 years old). The new fish, a shoal of read eye tetra and a couple of Siamese fighting fish (the male was a fringetail – supposedly not overly fancy and sensitive because bred for fighting and not beauty), settled well, and we added floating ferns to accommodate the Siamese fighting fish.

And than the summer began. Hot winds from the Sahara and temperatures about 104 °F at day and 78 °F at night, just the same as last summer. But, unlike last summer, our normal measures to cool the fish tank down didn’t seem to suffice. Green algae bloomed, the water began to became opaque, and the fish stayed at the surface in the morning. During the day everything went back to normal. We suspected lack of oxygen due to overheating, but last year the plants coped with it well. Yesterday, the male fighting fish was nowhere to be found, and even the Ancistrus’ came to the surface to catch air bubbles. Being a Sunday, no shops or veterinarians were open here in Germany, so we changed water, removed some of the floating ferns (where we discovered a lot of remaining food in it), deactivated the automatic feeder and hoped for the best. Desperate, I added supplements against ammonium and nitrite, heavy metals and chloride (which was remaining from starting the fish tank) and oxygen pills.

Today, most of the fish were dead! Only our Ancistrus’, one read eye tetra and the female fighting fish survived – less than 30%. I killed the rest. I killed my own little ocean.

Did I poisoned them? There was no expiration date on the supplements, but they can expire, right? What I know now is that the darn automatic feeder put to much nutrient in the water without anyone fit enough to eat it besides slugs and algae. And the mass of floating ferns concealed that fact and stole the light from the other plants and released oxygen themselves not into the water but into the air. Coupled with the overheating – the result was mass extinction.

As emergency measures, we changed almost all water and removed all mulm and floating ferns. The fish are o.k. , for now.

What will I do now? The sensible option would be to forget about aquaristic altogether. But what becomes of the remaining fish? And I must admit I have a special affection toward our oldest Ancistrus – I watched it hatching in our fish tank around the same time as my firstborn child did.

In the light of  this tragic occurrence, I wonder:

How is it that we can ignore the killing of wild or farm animals for food but are upset if our pets are hurt?

I realized that I am no aquaristic expert, in spite of all my research. We managed the heat well regarding our rabbits, but a fish tank seems too complex. But it has nothing against the complexity of the whole ocean, and I fear even the greatest experts face tragedies like Deepwater Horizon just like I faced my fish tank this morning: with confusion, sadness and no clue how to make it right again.

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