The pet sagas- Et finalement- A very fishy affair (i)

The idea of getting fish had been bounced around for a while. Daddy had put a spanner in the works by tactlessly announcing that a fish can’t be taken for a walk. At this the the younger one had petulantly declared that she still wanted a cat, thank you very much! Much cajoling, and surfing the net for aquariums had finally convinced her otherwise.

With the best of intentions we set out to buy our first small aquarium.It was decided that this would house tropical fish. We set about educating ourselves on setting up aquariums, and introducing fish to their new home. It didn’t seem too challenging at first. The tank had to be installed with the ornaments, plants, a filter and a heater, and allowed to mature before any fish were put in there.I am as useful as a chocolate teapot when it comes to assembling things. Fortunately, a friend happened to be passing by even as I was racking my brain over the instruction leaflet. In return for a nice glass of wine, he agreed to help erect the structure.

For an entire month, the uninhabited tank sat like a feature in our living room. It was the prettiest thing, and at one point the husband remarked, “Maybe we should just leave it like this?”, setting off another flood of tears. I couldn’t be bothered to argue with that flawed logic, and instead said to daughter, “Shall we go buy the fish this weekend?”, with nary a clue as to what fish we were going to purchase. Hastily I messaged a friend in India who is rather an expert in fish. He suggested Rasboras. They were easy to manage and hardy little fish. Upon first sight I wasn’t particularly impressed by these nondescript fish that paled next to their prettier neon neighbours. But when the Fisheries man seconded my friend’s opinion, we agreed that perhaps this was the way forward.

We were the proud owners of three Rasboras that jiggled along in a plastic bag full of water, even as I drove the two miles home extremely cautiously. Introducing them to their new home was a task in itself. First, you had to ensure that the aquarium light was switched off. Then the bag had to be lowered into the water slowly, and left to float there for a bit, with the knot on top loosened. Little by little, you had to introduce the aquarium water into the bag. The entire process took about an hour. Finally, after an interminable wait, you could scoop the fish into the aquarium. Leave the light off another hour, and voila! There they were. The three little fish that were named Sky, Ocean and Lotus. As I couldn’t tell one apart from the other, I kept getting the names mixed up, much to my girls’ annoyance.

The three fish seemed to settle in well, although two seemed to be bonding a lot better. Why did we buy three, the elder asked? Surely an even number would have been better. I could see she had a point, but I had been looking at the deal (buy 3 for £10) rather than odds and evens. At any rate, the plan was to introduce another three in a few weeks time, and that would sort things out.

We left on holiday on the Sunday for three days. The fish were fed on the day we left, and we intended to feed them the evening we returned, which meant that the Monday and Tuesday they would not be fed. I had been assured by my fish expert friend that this was perfectly alright. Over feeding the fish was more of a crime than under feeding them.

On the Wednesday that we returned, I looked and looked in the tank, but I could only spot two fish! Had the other two gotten so hungry they had eaten the third? That never happens, chat forums claimed. Rasboras were simply not those kind of fish. Well then, the third fish was certainly missing in action and while the other two weren’t smacking their lips or waving their fins jubilantly, in my eyes they looked very suspicious indeed. The next morning I examined the tank from all angles, but Lotus had certainly disappeared for good. It wasn’t till many months later that his absence was explained, but more on that later.

My opinion on these cannibalistic Rasboras was forever altered, and regardless of all the cooing my little one indulged in, I refused to alter my stance. Let’s just say, I was not very fond of them.

The time came to buy some more fish, and we decided on some pretty guppies this time, after taking into account all compatibility issues. Now these were fish to relax by. I would sit with my morning cuppa and watch them swim around the tank. In and out of the little square cave, around the plants, near to the glass, and then back again. There was a sort of hypnotic, melt your worries away charm to them.

That is, till one of them started swimming low, then not much at all, till it took to hanging behind the filter. I couldn’t understand why. I tried enticing it out by throwing a fish flake close to it. But in its semi vegetative state, it let it float away to its compatriots that gobbled it up quickly. The next morning it was dead.

Like dominoes they fell. Like flies they dropped. Each one that died broke my heart. I lost sleepless nights wondering what I was doing wrong. The girls were inconsolable to begin with, then stoic, and finally blasé. The first ones were flushed down the toilet with a respectful, tearful adieu. Later, it was more of a hasty bye.

Thunder, Lightening, Bubble, Squeak, Magma, Meringue, all went down the sewers of Berkshire in the most ignominious of fashions.

I had had enough. Armed with a Chemistry kit to detect Ammonia,Nitrite, Nitrate and Ph levels, I began my investigation. With strips that reminded me of failed school time experiments, it was finally determined that the toxicity levels in the tank were too high. It was no wonder that the fish were perishing.

To be continued…..

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