Friday, December 6, 2013

Tales of a Death Trap Tank

Hello Reader,

As some of you may know, I have a passion for all animals, in particular unusual breeds/species.
Five months ago, my husband bought me two Oscars, complete with a ten gallon aquarium—with the firm understanding they would grow to be fifteen inches long. I have always been fascinated with this semi-aggressive, yet personable species. Each have a distinct personality, unlike any fish I have ever owned. I named them Spawn (yes, after the comic book character) and Dread (Judge Dread).

I watched them grow from tiny little one inch fish, into six inches long little devils that darted to the front of the tank the moment I walked by, but hid from most other people. I knew the time for the ten gallon chapter of their lives was over.

About a month ago, right around the time of the move, my husband went out and spent close to three hundred dollars on a fifty-five gallon tank, high grade freshwater sand, and a 100 gallon filter (Oscars are messy, and require a much more advanced filtration system to keep up with their hefty appetites.
By the time I had the second tank up, running and cycled, the move was a shock to my Oscars. Within forty-eight hours, they had both died from a disease that had many similar symptoms of issues I had researched. I was heartbroken.

So the tank sat there for three weeks, empty and unused. Until we unexpectedly had lost another pet—though don’t get me wrong. While the situation was sad, the beautiful baby girl has found her rightful home, and we will never forget her. In a bid to get my mind off of a second loss, my husband took me to Walmart Thanksgiving night, so I might find another Oscar for my tank.

Instead of an Oscar, we found a Dragonfish. An archaic, demonic eel-like-thing with a mouthful of teeth (look them up, you will see what I mean…). Teeth, which had a much too close encounter with my nephew’s hand as he released it into the tank. We watched him zoom around the tank for twenty minutes before we started talking. Not even a few minutes later, I gazed at the tank, to see the Dragonfish on the bottom of the tank, looking remarkably dead.

Now, we were all upset. For some reason I didn’t scoop him out right away. I was a little defeated. A little while later, I walked by again, and there he was, on the other side of the tank, lying on the bottom. I thought this odd, as I have a low-flow filter. A short while later, my husband found him lying on the thermometer. He poked him, and the Dragonfish went crazy.

So, my little demon fish can and does play dead. Very well.

Next day.

He was on the sand of the tank. Except this time, he was very dead.

Now I was befuddled, irritated and determined to find the root problem here. I ripped the innards of the tank apart, cleaned, boiled and sanitized everything…or what I thought was everything. I refilled the tank. Tested the water. My nephew, a greater fishmaster than I tested the water. We came up with perfect water quality.
So I went out, trying to decide what to try next. Then I found a location at work that keeps Parrotfish and Clown Loaches. They are bright, quick and beautiful. So much so, they appear every bit as striking as a saltwater tank. I’d found my goal.

I went out and bought a Clown Loach, and a plecostomus. The latter is a very hardy fish, the former, I wasn’t too sure about. However, the next morning, they too were dead. Next I took water and sand samples to my favorite and most educated source. He too took water samples, and had perfect results. There was NOTHING wrong with the water. It had all the right chemical compounds…

So he sold me four of his cheapest hardiest fish he had in the store. Promised me these zebra tetras had survived some pretty harsh circumstances.

I took them home. All four died within three hours.

That was yesterday. But I have decided I had to have done something wrong. Perhaps, after the Oscars had died in the tank, I hadn’t boiled the sand enough. Or after the Dragonfish died, I hadn’t cleaned the décor well enough. Or I had bought the wrong chemicals…too old perhaps? Not good enough? The water quality was pristine, but if there was a harmful bacteria in the lava rock I’d bought, would that show up in any tests we could afford to do?

Right now, I sit in the middle of chaos. My completely empty tank soaks in a 10% bleach solution. My filter is running hot water and bleach in the sink. The rocks and other décor are put to the far side. They will not touch that tank again, not until I know for sure. We have new, better filter cartridges, yet another sixty dollars in sand, and another sixty in new chemicals that come highly recommended from many sources.
Tomorrow I will buy one more round of test fish, and hope for the absolute best, knowing I have done everything I can do. (Yes, I’m stubborn…but what’s new?)

This is my last shot, before I finally give up, and name this the Cursed Tank. Sounds like it should be from one of my books, but alas, it’s our lives.

Kayden McLeod

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