Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ecoxotic EcoPico: Shopping for Fish

Acclimating fish using the Float Method.
After fertilizing, planting and outfitting my Ecoxotic EcoPico with a teeny-tiny heater from Hydor, I decided to let the tank get established for another month before adding livestock.

What secrets lie behind the driftwood?
Experienced aquarists often emphasize the importance of patience in this hobby. I am by no means an expert—I leave that to our support staff—but it felt right to take things slow in the beginning. I'd never cared for aquatic plants before, so I wanted to keep a close eye on my underwater garden for a few weeks. If I couldn't keep the plants alive, I rationalized I had no business adding animals to the tank.

And, as mentioned in previous posts, it's been a couple of years since I've had a tank of my own. I wanted to get back into the habit of visually inspecting the tank each day, spending a few minutes making sure the plants looked healthy and that the equipment was functioning properly.

Soon Stella got her groove back, so I began visiting some local fish stores in Orange County, CA to scope out their freshwater fish selection. I walked the aisles of a handful of stores. It was Slim Pickens. Tank and shelf space were mostly dedicated to reefkeeping. The exceptions were Tong's Tropical Fish in Fountain Valley and Reef Tropical Fish in Anaheim; both had a nice balance of fresh and saltwater aquarium species.

I was hoping to find some small red fish, like Cherry Barbs (Puntius titteya) or Chili Rasboras (Boraras brigitta). A striking red would stand out amongst the greens and browns in my tank—plus I thought my wife would dig the color choice. I envisioned a school of synchronized swimmers in red uniforms paddling peacefully in an aquatic Eden.

I considered buying fish online after striking out at a few local fish stores, but I'm glad I resisted. Buying the fish locally probably saved me fifty percent. Not only that, I paid less for six freshwater fish than I would for one of their saltwater counterparts.

I'd planned to purchase one type of fish, but ended up with two. I brought home three Cherry Barbs (2 males, 1 female) and three Silvertip Tetras (1 male, 2 females) and acclimated them using the float method. The tetras white-tipped fins and sleek, shiny bodies had won me over.

Cherry Barbs (2 males, 1 female) and Silvertip Tetras (1 male, 2 females).
Twenty-four hours later, I felt the familiar twinge of buyer's remorse. After a long commute, I plopped down on the couch, kicked my feet up and gazed at the newly inhabited aquarium. I expected to be tucked beneath a blanket of sheer tranquility at any moment. Yep, any second now.

A frantic frenzy of fins fervently darted, chased and swam loop-the-loops while I sat back in horror. It was as if I'd dosed the tank with caffeine. I walked over to the tank and dropped in a mixture of food pellets. The tetras gobbled up every one before the barbs even noticed dinner was served. The tetras were hanging out near the surface, so I sprinkled in some sinking pellets for the barbs circling midway down the tank. That did the trick.

My feelings of buyer's remorse faded in the weeks that followed. The tetras were fast, playful and aggressive eaters. The barbs were timid, slow-moving scavengers. Their yin yang personalities reminded of Dave and Cody from Discovery Channel's Dual Survival. Initially the fish sided with their respective tribesmen. I think once they realized there would be no shortage of food in this underwater oasis, tribal tension eased and the tetras slowed down. The fish are so intermingled now I often wonder if they remember they're different species.

Tune in next time for a look at my CO2 system and how I monitor it with Red Sea's CO2 Indicator.