On trying, and failing, to count to 20

“I think that’s 12” he said, from the top step of a wobbly stepladder. “Although they won’t stay still long enough for me to count them properly. I haven’t counted the rest, but there’s no way there’s another 20 in there”.

“That’s ok, we’ll take them all, even if there aren’t going to be as many as we wanted”.

***

Last Sunday (written last week, so really the Sunday before last), we decided to buy more fish. It’s an idea we’d played with for a while and because we’ve finally finished the light box and changed the water it seemed like a good day to act on it.

We have discus fish. They are generally pretty friendly, but they are liable to eat anything small enough to bite and slow enough to get bitten. On the other hand, they don’t eat all the food they’re given on any given day. The uneaten fish food makes the water ‘bad’ (I have no idea how. I think it has something to do with the pH value, but I don’t actually know), and encourages the wrong sort of plants to grow.

We need something to eat the leftover food, without getting eaten. We don’t want to spend loads of money on them, but we also don’t want something that won’t work in our aquarium.

To make things more complicated, discus fish are originally from South America and DB doesn’t want to mix continents. The choice of South American fish bred to survive in limescale-y German tap water isn’t huge.

The number of fish that fulfill all the criteria AND can be found in fish shops which open on Sundays is even smaller.

We chose Trauermantelsalmler*. They need a herd (or a school) to be happy**. 50 would be ideal, but even the cheaper, not-yet-fully-grown fish are expensive en mass, so we agreed 30 would be ok.

***

I think it is less than ideal that no one had told the trainee fish salesman that the fish scoops have extra long handles so that they can be hung on the side of the aquarium to save several journeys up and down the wobbly ladder. Especially when it was obvious that he was not a natural ladder climber, wobbly or otherwise.

Considering that we were in the fish department of a D.I.Y. shop, I think it is bad marketing for the trainee fish salesman to have a wobbly ladder at all

It would’ve been nice if he’d left a bit more water in the fish-transport-bag too, but I think he’s at the beginning of his training and will learn the rest soon. He might learn it more quickly if the dragon-like lady-at-the-till tells him she couldn’t lie the bag down because she’d have stranded them in the shallows.

***

As we left the till ready to crunch our way accross the frozen carpark to the van, I tucked the fishbag inside my jacket. I pulled my T-shirt up, and allowed the warmth to travel from my stomach to the water. The fish need at least 26 degrees (Centigrade, this is Germany ;)), 28 is preferable and 30 is about the upper limit. I am always cold in comparison to DB, so I figured I was unlikely to cook them on the 15 minute journey home. I kept the heated seat turned right up to avoid freezing myself :).

***

DB opened first the aquarium lid, then the fish bag, as soon as we got in, before we could get waylaid with timewasting activities like taking our shoes off. (I love traipsing snow into the house 🙂 (Really. I just don’t get the chance all that often – DB is such a spoilsport!)).

The process of transferring fish is pretty much the same whatever fish you buy: a bit of aquarium water is added to the bag, which is then resealed and left to swim in the aquarium. This lets the fish get used to the new water, without getting cold.***

Half an hour or so later DB tipped out most of the water in the bag (so we didn’t end up with the shop water in our tank****) and replaced it with ‘our water’. Another few minutes acclimatisation and they were ready to explore.

***

Theoretically, all new fish should go into a quarantine aquarium to make sure they’re healthy but we don’t have a quarantine aquarium, or even space for a part time quarantine aquarium, so we decided to risk it. Actually, it wasn’t really a decision. It was already clear that if we were going to buy new fish we were going to risk the health of the existing fish. Sometimes you just have to accept the risk and carry on.

***

As soon as they left the bag, the new fish raced to the end of the tank, and around the perimeter, and back and forth along the front,  presumably to find the best means of escape…

Black Tetra in Aquarium
Finally free! (the rest are already out of the picture)

There is none. Poor things. (Although I’m pretty sure they’d favour life in a substandard aquarium over life on the carpet if they ever did escape).

Took them a while to realise though – even longer than it took me to count them and be happy with the result.

There are 22.

The trainee had counted them and reached 20. He’d written 20 on the bag, and we’d paid for 20. I’m not going to complain, but,

“What do they teach them in these schools!”*****

😉

 

* Black Tetras. Also known as black skirt tetra, petticoat tetra, high-fin black skirt tetra, and black widow tetra. The German literally means “mourning mantel Tetra”

** not many people I know who need a school to be happy 😉

*** If you’re just moving them between aquariums, you can use a bucket. There’s usually enough water in a bucket, that it won’t get cold, so it doesn’t need to be floated in the aquarium..

**** helps to reduce risk of disease transfer

***** The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S.Lewis

☆☆☆

[Edit, 11. Feb: I thought someone would make a clever comment involving catch 22, but no one has…]

0 Replies to “On trying, and failing, to count to 20”

  1. When we had fish – various tetras I think – they were my son’s – and we had something called stress liquid or something which we added to the water when we introduced them at home after travelling here in a bucket. Maybe German fish are more robust than British…

    1. Hmm… never heard of stress liquid, I’ll have to look it up.
      We put nutrient drops in their food when they’re suffering from stress-related worm infections, maybe you used them prophylactically? That’s probably quite sensible, I generally don’t notice the worm attacks until it’s almost too late and it’s touch and go if they recover… 🙁

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