Sunday, August 30, 2009

And the Aquarist Returns, Too

Two Christmases ago Karen got me a 55-gallon fish tank.  This was the Christmas before we adopted Zoe.  I’m sure what she had in mind was fulfilling my need for a pet.  She was aware that I had kept fish for most of my life but hadn’t in a couple of years.

When I was really into it my favorite fish to keep were sailfin mollies.  The males all have these long, tall dorsal fins that kind of look like sails.  They come in gold, green, silver, and black strains, and I kept them all.  They are Mexican in sailfin molly   In the wild they are found in limestone caves where the ocean meets the rivers.  As such their ideal environment is slightly warmer than most tropical fish, hard, alkaline water that’s slightly salty.  I catered to their needs.  I added extra sea salt to their tank, kept the temperature up, and even threw in bags of crushed coral to maintain the alkalinity.  Thankfully, most tap water here in the Bay Area is hard and alkaline anyway.

But this time around I just couldn’t get into it.  Got myself a few guppies and platies.  I didn’t pay any attention to them and naturally they died.  I just didn’t care.  I don’t know why.  I just wasn’t into them.

The tank sat idle for months.  I didn’t want to put that much work into fish keeping anymore.  Then it hit me.  Goldfish!  I’ll just throw a few goldfish in there.  No special requirements.  No salt.  Not even a heater is needed.  They’re cold water fish. I refilled the tank.  Let it cycle for weeks.  Finally I went down to my local Petco and bought 4 fancy goldfish.  Fantails to be exact.  Two died within days.

Fantail Goldfish

A few days ago I went to PetSmart to pick up a few more.  I didn’t want to put too many in.  One rule I intended to follow about goldfish is not to keep too many together.  They’re messy and produce too much ammonia.  Also, colder water holds less oxygen.  I also wanted to keep the tank fantails only.  As you can see they’re not streamlined at all.  The shape of their bodies and fins prevent them from being fast swimmers.  Keeping a faster swimming fish with them would mean losing out on food.

I was helped by a very knowledgeable person named Tina.  She told me a few things I was completely unaware of.  As mid-water eaters it’s very important that they be fed that way.  Eating flakes from the surface of the water is a particular danger for them.  If they end up gulping any air it could lead to air bubbles in their swim bladders which is almost always fatal.  If you look at their mouths you’ll see that it’s not upturned like a guppy or downturned like a catfish.  Guppies mouths are made for eating from the surface of the water while a catfish’s mouth is made for bottom feeding.  No, all goldfishes have mouths that are straight forward.  Tina recommended soaking the flakes before introducing them to the fish.

Tina also stressed the importance of having animal and vegetable supplements.  She recommended giving them peas once a week with the skin removed.  Maybe a little sliver of cooked zucchini.  She also recommended brine shrimp be rotated into their diet occasionally.

They must also not be overcrowded.  As a rule of them they should be given about 10 gallons EACH.  Therefore, I will not be adding any more to the five I now have.  I might add a snail or two to consume the uneaten food on the floor of the tank.

If kept happy and healthy all goldfish can be very long lived.  Fantails can live 15-20 years under the right conditions.  There’s no way they’ll ever replace the love and affection my dogs give me, but there’s no denying the peace, calm, and serenity they bring just watching them swim happily in their decorated tank.

A Note on the Passing of Ted Kennedy

Senator Edward M. “Teddy” Kennedy died last week.  For me, it was a sad occasion.  Although many will choose to remember him for the Chappaquiddick incident I have chosen to remember the man for all the good work he has done in his service to this country as a US senator.  He chose to represent the underrepresented.  Over his career ted kennedyhe had help to pass legislation that raised minimum wages, protected the rights of the mentally ill and the handicapped, migrant laborers and union labor, civil rights, was a key figure in ending the war in Northern Ireland,  the list goes on.

He was the patriarch of the Kennedy clan and had that responsibility thrust upon him at the tender age of 36 when his brother Bobby was assassinated.  I imagine that if a heaven exists and that his brothers Jack and Bobby are there they must have been very pleased with how he carried forth the Kennedy legacy.

Amongst his most famous quotes was, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”  Powerful words, indeed, but my favorite was the final lines of the eulogy he gave at his brother Bobby’s funeral, “Some men see things as they are and say why.  I dream of things that never were and say why not.”

Farewell, Senator Kennedy.  The world will miss you, America will miss you, and I will miss you.

Maria Shriver and Governor Schwarzenegger

This has been a particularly difficult time for California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver.  Just two weeks prior to losing her Uncle Teddy her mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver died.  My thoughts and sympathies go out to her, Governor Schwarzenegger, and their family.

And by the way, I must mention despite being a “lame duck” governor Governor Schwarzenegger hasn’t stopped trying to do the right thing for the state.  Last week The Governator ordered state surpluses be sold off at auction.  He had the foresight to autograph a few items.  I have no doubt that those items were worth a great deal more.  The auction raised more than a million dollars that will benefit state coffers.arnoldand_maria

On general principle I shouldn’t like Arnold because he’s a Republican, but I do.  For the most part he has avoided partisan politics.  He has put his film career aside, no small sacrifice.  And he has always tried to do right by California.  He may be “just an in-law” and he belongs to the wrong political party but his sacrifice and sense of duty to public service has made him a worthy member of the Kennedy legacy.

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