Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Of Goldfish And Peace

 Bob and Tiger this morning.

There's something so peaceful about watching fish, isn't there?  No wonder koi ponds are part of gardens all around the world, and aquariums can be found everywhere from college dorms and kids' bedrooms to doctor's offices, high-end restaurants, classy hotels, and super-luxurious homes.  The motion of the fish and the sound of the water are the ultimate in relaxing ambience. 

I had betta fish (Siamese fighting fish) in college.  I had a little 2 1/2 gallon tank that had glass dividers so I could keep three of those beautiful but aggressive fish together.  Their colors were like living jewels, and I enjoyed them very much.  Cleaning the tank every so often in the dorm bathroom was a small price to pay for their tranquil company.

Molly as a kitten, totally loving the little fish tank.

Years later, well after we were married and years past when I'd given away the betta tank, I bought a little self-contained 3 gallon tank/filter system, and kept a couple tiny goldfish in it.  Our cats were fascinated by the inaccessible hors d'oeuvres.  It was as much fun to watch the cats twitch and bat at the tank as it was to watch the fish swim obliviously to the hum of their little filter system.

I enjoyed that tank so much that one Christmas I asked for a larger one - another self-contained system, a 12 gallon plexiglass one-piece tank.  I still used the little tank too.  Now I had extra space and several more little goldfish.  (I've stuck with goldfish - they're inexpensive, hardy, and tolerant of my mistakes as an amateur aquarist.  I've toyed with the idea of having a tropical tank someday, but haven't done anything about it.)

In the spring of 2008 I was blessed to be given a really large tank:  a 75 gallon rectangle on its own base, with lights.  There's a funny story behind that one.  It showed up in our church office months before I got it.  I thought it was going to be used for decoration there, but it sat empty week after week.  Finally, I asked someone who worked in the office what was going on with it.  She told me that it had been brought in by someone in the church who was giving it to someone in the office.  Once it was there, the person who had wanted it realized just how massive it was, and decided it was too big for them to use.  Two other people also expressed interest after that, until they saw how big it was in person and changed their minds also.  Then she said, "Do you want it?"  My mouth bypassed my brain and said, "Sure!"  Then I had to go home and figure out where I could put it, and if it was even feasible.  I also realized I'd have to buy a pump and filter system since that did not come with the tank.  Still, I decided I wanted to use it, and talked my long-suffering husband into my idea.  I would never have purchased a tank like that on my own - that particular tank and base retail for several hundred dollars, and the lights cost quite a bit, and the pump/filter costs around $80.  It was quite a blessing to be given the tank/base/lights for free.

We hauled the tank and stand home in two cars, and tried to set it up.  That's when we realized one of the many pitfalls of living in an older home:  no floors are level.  Our entire house sloped away from the chimney in the middle.  The first place I set the tank, the floor sloped over 1/2" from one end of the tank to the other.  I could shim it, but that's quite a slope to compensate for.  Also, my (very smart Electrical Engineer) husband pointed out that where I'd set the tank was right over the electrical box in the basement.  Just what you want:  75 gallons of water on an uneven floor right over the electrical box.  Um, yeah.  So we went to Plan B and put the tank beside the stairway, in a corner near the center of the house.  The slope was only 1/4" so I shimmed away, got the tank level, and we were in business.

So we had goldfish, and a pair of bettas (male and female).  And one very happy cat.  B.C. discovered that he could get up on the tank from the stairway, and he used it as his personal water dish/fishing hole for months.  He never caught anything, but I know he tried (at night, when we weren't watching).  The 12 gallon tank went into our son's room, and I gave the little tank to my sister.

Then came the layoff.  And THE MOVE.  Have you ever tried to move a large fish tank?  Long distance?  What a circus!  I had to put the fish into a pair of large foam coolers.  Then I had to drain the tank, bag up the decorations and the gravel, and box up the filter and accessories.  (Yes, we moved the gravel.  Do you have any idea what it costs to buy enough clean aquarium gravel for a tank that size?  Around $40!  So we moved the gravel.)  We had the movers box up the aquarium for the move (more $$ to build a wood frame for it, but if it broke, they'd have to replace it).  The fish lived in those coolers for over a MONTH during the move, since we got caught between houses and had to live with family for several weeks.  I lost one fish during the move (the male betta), and a couple more in the month after we had the tank set up in the new place - moving is stressful on fish.  But I still have four of the fish that made that move with us.  After a year in the new house, I gave the 12 gallon tank to my sister as well, since our son wasn't really into having a fish any more.

 Proof that I'm no cinematographer - but you get the idea.

Now our one big tank is a focal point in our family room.  My husband likes the sound of it, and comes down to lay on the couch and listen to the water when he's having insomnia.  Our daughter and her friends like to have sleepovers in the that room, and use the tank as a giant night light.  Kids visiting us love to watch the fish, and sometimes I let them feed the goldfish cooked peas (a treat the fish and the kids never seem to get tired of).  I like to sit down in the evening, alone, and just watch the fish.  I've got ten fish now - the female betta (Georgette) and nine assorted goldfish (George, Speedy, Sunny, Stubby, and Merlin, the common and comet goldfish, Houdini, Pete, and Tiger the shubunkins, and Bob the calico fantail).

Someday I dream of having a koi pond in the garden.  I don't think that will happen as long as we live in the colder reaches of the northeast.  But it makes a lovely daydream. . . .

BTW, when I got the large tank, I realized I didn't know enough to set it up safely and maintain it, so I went online and found a wonderful site:  Wet Web Media.  They have awesome FAQs, cover any and all kinds of aquariums and aquarium livestock, and respond quickly to questions.  They were a tremendous help to me.

1 comment:

  1. Laurel, I love this video -- what a great idea to post it for us! And hooray that this tank has had such a good life after taking up space in the office for so long. :)