Wednesday, June 27, 2007

“Bring out yer dead”


I purchased a new aquarium since my last post.

It is 10” x 11” x 22” … or approximately 10-gallons, whichever you prefer. I’ve detailed the specs below for your reading pleasure.

Maintaining the perfect tank is hard work.

Most people don’t realize it, but caring for an aquarium is a lot like having a cat or dog. You don’t need to take your tank for a walk or anything, but you certainly need to provide the same level of attention to your tanks’ inhabitants as you would any other pet.

I am in a constant state of worry about the well-being of my fish, inverts and coral. Are they happy? Are they healthy? These questions are never more pressing than when you are about to go on vacation. Like a cat or dog, they need a babysitter for feeding, cleaning and, [insert whoever you pray to here] forbid, anything that may go wrong while you’re away.

But, when it comes down to it, all you can really do is hope for the best and that when you return they will have missed you as much as you missed them.

THE STORY


I had to leave the country a couple of weeks back for a family emergency. Since I would be gone for 10 days, I gave my tank a thorough cleaning and carefully crafted an email with instructions for a fellow employee, hobbyist and friend. He is a rookie reef keeper himself, but considering his tank is flourishing with more than a dozen fish and corals, I concluded he would be a more than adequate caregiver in my absence.

THE EMAIL

Dear XXXX,

There will be a limited amount of actual work involved in the care of my tank, so I feel confident leaving things in your hands while I am away. Basically all you’ll need to do is remember to feed my fish and corals.

There are brine shrimp and krill in the lunch room freezer. Take a cube of your choice and warm it between your fingertips to allow the ice time to melt. Fish do not like cold food, so no TV dinners! Dip your hand in the tank and distribute the melting meat cube evenly amount my tanks’ inhabitants. Be certain to feed the anemone so he doesn’t dine on one of my fish.

Don’t feed them too much, either. If they seem uninterested in food, just remove it and give the remainder to Dot or Ryan’s fish. If Kira dips by with her cup of coral food, please have her hook up my tank, too. I guess that’s it … the telephone number is on the fridge and you can watch TV if you want. I have cable and feel free to use the phone. Please also feel free to clean the glass of my aquarium. Many thanks!

From your humble friend,
Royce
THE RETURN

I arrived home jet-lagged but jovial, anxious to learn how my reef faired while I was away.

First impression: good! My corals never looked better. Wait, wait… there’s something unusual. The sandbed now had a reddish-tint that spread throughout the tank. No matter, though.

I powered up my PC and breathed a sigh of relief. I glanced over at the tank once again.

“Hmmm … I wonder where my fish are,” I pondered, scanning the tank. “Where’s my clown?”

Strange. There seemed to be no fish in my tank. NO FISH IN MY TANK!?!

“Oh, $%#@! My anemone ate them!” I rationalized.

But then the truth sauntered in. “Dude, I’m sorry. I tried.”

THE DIAGNOSIS


The following string of events is pieced together from equal parts eyewitness account and scuttlebutt.

Witness reports indicate the first couple of days I was away passed without incident. Until one warm morning, when the caretaker—whose identity shall remain anonymous—noticed white spots on the fins of my clownfish.

Concerned, the-man-who-shall-remain nameless instant messaged one of MarineDepot.com’s resident reef keeping experts, Kira, to ask for her professional opinion. She moseyed over and quickly classified the ailment as Ichthyophthirius multifiliis or “Ick”, as it is more commonly referred to.

Kira tested the tank’s salinity, temperature and chemical balance to isolate the cause of the outbreak. Other MarineDepot.com employees also stepped up and collectively they did all they could to save my fish.

But it was too late.

Ick spread through my tank like the plague did in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and, like the film, there were no survivors, save for my corals screaming, “I’m not dead!”

The following day, my purple dottyback wearily gasped for air, but resistance was futile. My reef Haitian anemone finished the job, and the caretaker tossed the carcass in the trash.White spots began appearing on the Chromis Damsels and within a day they were gone, too.

A small funeral service was held in memory of 7, 8, 9 and 10 aka “Briefs” (he acquired the nickname because he had a pattern on his side that bore a striking resemblance to a pair of underwear).

When I first started working at Marine Depot I was told many things about keeping an aquatic habitat. One urban myth was never to name your fish because it was bad luck. What I have opened my eyes to is that fish pass away regardless of whether you name them or not.

Today I have rid myself of the ick by using Super Ick Cure by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. I also rearranged the scenery, since too many tragic events happened in the old one. Two True Percula Clown’s now reside in Bedrock and they seem to like their new home.