With most of the other things I’m worst at (or just bad at), I’m generally so bad because I don’t practice enough (or ever) or because I don’t much care about being good at it and don’t try.
In most cases (unfortunately not all ;)), I will improve with increased practice and effort.
By ‘improve’, I mean ‘be less dreadful by a miniscule amount’. For example, I might be one minute less late than usual, or iron something so that it has one less wrinkle, or leave one less gardening ‘tool’ (=anything gardening related) on the lawn for DB to trip over or complain about. I can even, when pushed, run further, or faster, or for longer than the previous run. It might only be a couple of metres, or seconds, but it’s improvement, and it’s measureable improvement.
I’m not, and will probably never be, good at most things, but I can become gradually less bad if I want to.
Fish-Catching, as opposed to fishing, is something I want to be able to do, but can’t.
Not for want of trying, or of effort, or determination. I just can’t.
We have 2 aquariums; a huge big one with 750L (200x60x70, and a smaller one with only 250L (that’s the size most people think of as having a big aquarium).
Until the end of last month it held the slowest growing of our many discus babies. They’ve finally moved into the big aquarium to join their siblings.
I’ve planted it, and DB has sanded and repainted the lid, and now it’s full (of gravel and water and plants and snails), and pretty, and empty (of fish).
There are people who keep empty aquariums as a kind of underwater garden, but I don’t think I’m one of them. I like wildlife in my real garden too, as long as it’s not destroying anything.
DB and I had talked about buying small fish and growing them in the small aquarium until they get big enough not to be eaten, and then transfer them into the big aquarium, but once we discovered the baby black tetras, it seemed more sensible to put them in there, instead of feeding them to the discus and buying new babies.
The babies themselves had other ideas.
I didn’t manage to catch a single one
To be fair to their genetics, if you’re a small fish, it’s probably never a good idea to be oblivious of anything large coming towards you. Swimming fast and/or hiding is a much safer bet.
They couldn’t know that I wasn’t (and am indeed still not) a hungry fish, and was instead trying to save their lives (and restock the second aquarium).
Later, I tried to catch the next pregnant fish. I figured if I put her and a suitable mate in the other aquarium, then their babies would have a chance of survival, even if I’ve failed these babies.
I couldn’t catch her either. Or any of the rest.
Not achieving something I want to achieve feels pretty bad at the best of times, knowing that lives depend on my achievement and still sucking at it, is a whole lot worse.
Still, I suppose nature knows what it’s doing….
After spending most of the day* with my arm in the aquarium not-catching fish, I know several new things:
– I am worse than rubbish at catching fish
– I am spectacularly good at not catching fish
– the next net I buy will not be bright blue…
* several hours spread over the day… I stopped occasionally to give the fish some rebate time – the plan was to catch them not kill them, and the discus get scared pretty easily. Also, the aquarium is high enough not to be too comfortable to reach into.
At least 3 of them! (From approximately 500 eggs, according to the fish website I consulted)
Totally unexpected too…
On Tuesday I came back from England. I was there for a week and had been travelling in Germany for a few days before that.
It’s amazing what changes in a couple of weeks. My baby catfish are almost double the size they were when I left (:)) and the discus we quarantined died just before I got back (:(). The plants are threatening to turn into triffids (:/) and the duckweed layer was thick enough to block out most of the light.
This evening I finally got my act in gear and skimmed the duckweed off the top of the water in the big aquarium. I was planning to change the water and suck up all the algae from the bottom of the aquarium too, until DB said he’d prefer it if I cropped some pictures ready for printing on a T-shirt for a friend of his. I was almost finished with the duckweed anyway, so I stopped and decided to carry on with the algae tomorrow – one day more or less is no big deal… This algae grows faster than I can get it out, and collects in dust-bunny-like clumps. I don’t even know what kind of algae it is, but it’s how I imagine underwater tumbleweed..
Before I headed upstairs to the computer, I sat back to admire the light reaching all the way down to the pebbles for the first time in ages – and something tiny moved… We don’t have anything tiny living in there so I looked more closely – and there swam a very (VERY) small, VERY cute, perfectly formed, baby Trauermantelsalmler fish :). Not much longer than 4mm and a whole lot thinner. Then it was gone, hidden in a mess of long wavey ‘grass’ and tumbleweed. Then there was another one, smaller than the first, but still identifiable as a TMS, followed by a third. What a good thing I didn’t change the water!
I don’t know how long they’ll last since ALL the other fish (including the parents) are hungry savages when it comes to tiny baby fish (cuteness doesn’t get them anywhere; they’re better off swimming fast and hiding well) but I’m pretty sure there’s at least 3 which have made it this far (something like 8 days judging by the size) so we’ll see. Wish them luck 🙂
During the week I have to be dressed, breakfasted and out of the house by 7am (7:10 at the very latest), and DB demands that I eat breakfast with him at least once per weekend which involves being up by just gone 8. Over the last couple of years I have managed to gradually move breakfast time from 7:30 to almost 8:45, but that is still too early for my idea of a leisurely weekend breakfast… (Remember how I said DB is a morning person? 8:45 is practically lunchtime in his mind ;))
That leaves me ONE day per week when I can sleep until I wake up, instead of when I’m woken up. I look forward to those days*.
Yesterday was our ‘common breakfast day’ (with fresh breadrolls from the bakery down the road, courtesy of DB who is glad to be up and doing something, anything, even queuing for breadrolls at early o’clock in the morning, as soon as he wakes up. Plus, it gives me 15 extra minutes to humanise enough to be able to make breakfast table conversation, so we all win ;)).
Today should have been my sleep in day. Instead, I was out of bed and in the bathroom before 8:30. Voluntarily. On a Sunday. I must be mad.
We got new fish and a couple of new aquatic plants last weekend. We still need some (=lots) more plants, and maybe some more fish. That’s quite an expensive game in ‘normal’ shops, so when we found out that the local fish club has a sale on the first Sunday of the month we decided to try our luck there. Being a very morning-orientated country, the sale opened at 10am. Being a very morning-orientated person, DB said we should be there when they open the doors. We were taking DB’s dad with us, so we needed to plan in another few minutes to pick him up. ETD 9:40.
Being busy in the evening has disadvantages. I’d fallen into bed, passing neither ‘Go’ nor the bath, despite knowing that we had a very important fish sale to get to relatively early and that I had to wash my hair before going anywhere near other people. Not sensible.
Plus, I wanted to cut another few centimetres off while it was still wet.
Hey ho. There went my lie in.. The things you do for love (and fish) and all that.
The fish sale was held in a cellar. Close to 40 mini-aquariums were lined up In the middle of the room; the current owners on one side, the prospective owners on the other. There were more people than I’d expected, and most of them had sharpened their elbows specially. There were obviously no ‘reserve fish’ so once they’d been sold they were gone.
We were approximately 10 minutes ‘late’ (if you can even be late to a sale), courtesy of my breakfast** and already there were seriously depleted aquariums.
DB looked for plants while I fell in love with some white catfish. I asked for two, so they could keep each other company. The first was out of the water and into the bag before I’d finished asking. The second got a fin caught up in the net so he gave me a different one and hung the net in the water so the fish could “free itself”. I paid and went to find DB. After looking round the rest of the sale room with a bad feeling, I went back and said I wanted the one in the net too. It was still hanging and didn’t look like it was capable of anything more than struggling. It took a while, and a lot of under-breath-cursing, but eventually my baby catfish was free to join the other 2 in the bag. In retrospect, I should have demanded it be freed immediately, but anyway. I think 3 is better for them anyway. Probably 6 would have been even better than that, but I don’t know enough about them yet.
In other news, DB’s dad bought 20 assorted small fish and I won a bottle of aquarium-plant-food in the raffle.
Once home, it was time to get the fish and plants into the aquarium. I let the bag float on the surface and concentrated on the plants, since the fish have to acclimatise to the temperature and new water before you can let them out.
Our biggest aquarium is 2m long and about 65cm deep. To plant anything in the 2inch gravel layer, you have to remove the outer lid, climb up a stepladder, slide the glass lid to one side, and lean over – one hand in the water, one on the edge for balance. Usually DB does Aquarium-related things, this time I wanted to be involved, especially since I had my first very own fish.
What I didn’t realise was just how short my arms are, and just how sensible it would have been to get undressed first!
There were something like 20 plants to go in. The first went in ok, the second was just far enough away to get the edge of my [short] sleeve wet.
The third was enough to submerge the rest of my sleeve.
By the time I got to the last one, I might as well have got into the tank.
The fish were happy to be released, and darted round the tank like mad things until they realised they had so many hiding places to try out, whereupon they vanished, seldom to be seen again.
I left them to it and went off to have my second (/third) bath of the day 🙂
* I realise that there will most likely come a time when I can’t sleep as long as I want on any day, but in the meantime I intend to treasure all the chances I can get 🙂
** I would’ve been happy to eat in the car, but DB isn’t a fan of crumbs….
“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…
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…]
I need some help with a problem that’s going round and round in my head. I’d be grateful for insights….
Over the last few days I spent several hours working with a retired electrician who’s a friend of DB’s. We planned, installed and wired up the new lighting in DB’s aquarium. We went shopping for the parts we needed and talked about ‘Gott und die Welt’. A few things went wrong, lots of things went right, and although we’re pretty much finished, and could probably leave it as it is, we still have a little bit more to do, because it will make it that much better. He’s coming round tomorrow to put the finishing touches to it.
The electrician is a great guy. I like him, and working with him is fun. As we were working, he said we work well as a team.
Before Christmas, I spent a couple of days working with DB. We planned, installed and replumbed the replacement kitchen counters and old sink. We went shopping for the things we needed and talked about ‘Gott und die Welt’. A few things went wrong, lots of things went right, and although we’re pretty much finished, and could probably leave it as it is, we still have a little bit more to do, because it will make it that much better. (There are also plenty of other projects waiting for us in the kitchen, and the rest of the house, just waiting for us to make time to get round to them).
DB is a great guy. I like him*, and working with him is fun**. As we were working, he said we work well as a team.
Today, DB and I went to help the electrician move a heavy wooden workbench. Naja, I’m not that strong, so reality, DB went to help and I went along for the ride.
When we got there, his son had already helped him.
“Your woman’s been bullying me!”
Instead of moving the bench, they both complained to each other about how awful it is to work with me, how I am nit-picky and awkward and stubborn and slave-driver-ish, not to mention my perfectionism. How I bully them and boss them about. They compaired how much greyer they’d become and how much they’ve aged since knowing me/working with me. They agreed that it’s a pain in the wotsit to listen to me explain anything and that it’s easier to ignore me and say ‘yes dear’ when I finally shut up than to try and follow what I’m saying. They swapped examples of things I did or said while working on the respective projects which they found superfluous and/or annoying. They laughed companionably.
As they laughed louder, I got quieter.
This evening, as I wondered out loud whether it would be better if I kept out of the electrician’s way tomorrow, so as not to cause him any more grief, DB didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
Obviously I should carry on and finish the job with him. Why on earth not??
When I told him I didn’t feel particularly wanted on voyage, being as how they both find me a nightmare to work with, he said that was ridiculous; they both love working with me. The electrician wouldn’t agree to come back to finish off if he didn’t want to work with me.
I said it didn’t sound like that earlier…
Apparently, according to DB, it’s my own fault if I apply their words to myself/my behaviour (= take it personally) and think they’re getting at me. Especially since they/we live in Berlin.
Can somebody please explain male logic for me, because I don’t get it.
*’God and the world’
** and live with him 🙂
*** (most of the time)
Usually, when setting up an aquarium (especially for fussy fish like discus), one starts planning a month or so in advance. That leaves plenty of time to fill it up, and let the pump, the filter and the water get used to each other. There’s enough time for the chemicals in the tap water to lose their strength (please don’t ask me how – I have no idea), enough time for the right sort of bacteria to settle in, enough time for a mini eco-system to evolve – or at least for the water to get a green tinge!
We didn’t have that much time.
Instead, we hung the new filter into the old aquarium for a couple of days.
Usually, in an established anquarium, one changes about a quarter of the the water every 2 weeks (minimum). Ish. The water is syphoned out and replaced with fresh (tap) water. Officially the water you put in should have the same temperature as the water you take out but ours seem to like it a little bit colder – they swim in and out of the ‘jet’ like anything!
While we were setting up the new aquarium, we changed the water approximately every 3 days. We didn’t take nearly a third though, more like a sixth. We syphoned the water into the new aquarium instead of into the garden. The old aquarium was topped up and the process was repeated a few days later.
Once the new aquarium was about 3/4 full, we took the new filter out of the old aquarium and gave it a new home in the new aquarium.
We added the air-stones*, some wood for hiding behind, and a good handful of water plants and waited for the last water change.
Once the aquarium was full, and had been run though the filter for another couple of days, we were finally ready to transfer the fish.
Fish aren’t really good for the impatient. Unless they’re learning to be patient…
Even our accelerated set up took a couple of weeks. It was ok, but only just. If you have time for it, I would always recommend letting it settle down a bit more before adding the first fish. I think having ‘ready made’ aquarium water (from the old aquarium) is awesome, as long as you fish are healthy and happy. If they’re ill, and you buy new fish, I think I would rather wait longer and keep the aquariums separate.
Any advice welcome 🙂
*air is pumped through a porous stone ao that bubbles come out, circulating and oxygenating the water.
The DB’s father had 2 aquariums, neither of which was in use.
The short version would be: we chose one, washed it out and took it home. The real life version was more complicated but that’s not relevant here.. 🙂
We had an aquarium we wanted to use.
DB knows a welder who let himself be sweet talked into welding us a table exactly the right size for the aquarium.
Presumably one can buy ready made aquarium tables, but having one made to fit exactly is a lot cooler. Besides it’s better to have a lip on the table to give more support and most normal tables don’t have them.
We’d bought a tin of metallic blue paint for the garden bench so we used that for the table too.
Next step was getting a piece of wood and a piece of polystyrene to fit snuggly inside the table frame. The wood adds stability and the polystyrene insulates the aquarium (the water temperature is above room temperature, depending on what kind of fish you have).
Once everything was dry/cut to size DB and his dad carried it all into the sitting room and put it together. They put bits of cardboard under the feet to protect the tiles.
The next stage was preparing and filling it.
We bought and washed 2 small sacks of gravel.
Washing gravel involves pouring some of it into a bucket, running water into it and dipping your hands through it to the bottom of the bucket, scraping up the gravel at the bottom and bringing it to the top. Repeat.
It isn’t entirely necessary, but the dust makes the water cloudy and so means more work for the pump later.
I watched DB at the beginning and thought it would hurt my hands, but he said it was therapeutic so I tried it too. He was right, it didn’t hurt, it actually felt more like digging a hole on a gritty beach.
When the water ran clear we tipped the gravel bucket by bucket onto the floor of the aquarium. There doesn’t seem to be a perfect gravel depth, it’s more like guesswork and luck. 2 sacks was more than enough for 50mm of gravel.
At 3 1/2 weeks old, baby fish are still really really small, as in, small enough to be barely measured in millimetres.. They are also incredibly fast swimmers. Adult discus fish can swim fast but don’t very often, they can spend hours practically not moving. The babies didn’t spend 3 seconds not moving.
The DB set about catching them with a net and carrying them from the big aquarium to their new home. I counted them as they entered the water. The process took 2 evenings, with a few days in between to give the fish a break. Stress is very bad for fish.
There were 20 the first evening, and another 17 the second. Two were so successful at hiding/refused to be rescued so we left them where they were.
One of the two didn’t make it, but the other one grew up all the faster for it. Much faster than the others. It had all the secrete from both parents to itself.
Of the 37 babies in the new aquarium, 3 didn’t recover from the move.
As the fish grew bigger and bigger, their parents grew more and more tired of being their only source of food/nutritional secrete*.
We read about baby fish online, we asked the staff at fish shops, we phoned a professional fish breeder. We came to the conclusion that it was only a matter of time until we had to step in and do something.
The ‘Something’ involved procuring and setting up a new aquarium, asking a local welder to make us a table strong enough to support an aquarium containing 40 fish and almost 300kg of water and gravel, getting a large piece of wood (cut to size by the man in the wood shop) for the lid, buying aquarium gravel, a water filter, an air pump, a water heater, several metres of thin silicone tubing, a handful of water plants and a tub of antemius* eggs as well as 2 lights, 2 hinges, and a handle.
DB built the lid while his father and I built my new bookshelf 🙂
We* also made ourselves 3 glass antemius breeding bottles with 2 way taps. The aquarium then needed a couple of sheets of glass to stop the water evaporating too much so DB cut some to shape and smoothed off the edges so that even I could slide them without injury.
By the time the aquarium table was painted, the aquarium set up, the water stolen gracefully from the original aquarium by means of a hosepipe siphon, and the first of the antemius eggs starting to hatch, the DB was as exhausted as the fish-parents, though not missing as much skin.
However, there was still something missing….
…..the fish themselves!!
*Discus fish parents produce the fish equivalent of milk. It makes them darker, presumably so they aren’t easily seen by predators, but that’s just a guess. As soon as the babies hatch, they start eating their eggshells. Once they’re gone, they leave the slope they were born on and latch onto a nearby parent. There, the baby fish eat the fish-milk off their parents’ scales. After a while, the babies are so big (and so hungry) they start eating bits of scale too. Being eaten out of house and home (by your offspring) has to be better than being eaten (by your offspring). In the wild, the parents swim away from the monster-babies, until they get the idea that the sea is full of other edible things. In an aquarium, they’re liable to be plucked to death.
**Artemias are mini shrimps. They aren’t exactly the natural food choice for a discus fish, but they will do. Most captive discus fish eat them. They are really very very tiny, but baby fish are very very tinier. There is no way they can eat fully grown Artemia. This means you have to start breeding the Artemia, and feeding the larvae to the baby discus fish. It’s not exactly difficult, but it is fiddly.
And another one from the draft folder… (late March 2014)
The DB was given an aquarium a few years ago*. He bought 5 different sorts of fish, some lumpy bits of wood and some fish food and has looked after the fish ever since.
Then he met me. He showed me the aquarium and I nodded and said something like, “yes, that is indeed an aquarium, and those are indeed fish”. I couldn’t see the attraction, but hey, each to his own.
As I spent more time at his house, I spent more time looking at the fish. I began to differentiate between them. They were different colours for starters, but they also had different characteristics… No, I wouldn’t’ve believed me either ;).
The fish started noticing each other as fish, and not just colourful obstacles.
In January, I moved in.
The fish, specifically 2 of the discus fish, started laying eggs.
The first few batches – if you can have batches of eggs – were eaten before they could hatch.
The next couple of batches hatched but disappeared while we were painting my flat.
I finally arrived, with all my possessions (although some are in DB’s dad’s cellar), on the 1st of March.
By midday on the 3rd, they’d laid new eggs.
We watched them hatch, left a light on to help their parents look after them. We rejoiced every evening after work when they were still there, exclaiming (loudly) how big they were. It’s astonishing how much a fish can grow in the course of a day.
I was worried that they’d get eaten again, so DB put a wire mesh across the aquarium. It took a couple of attempts, but finally all the ‘wrong’ fish were on one side, leaving the happy fish family on the other.
They’re 3 weeks old now.
It’s amazing how attached you can get to a fish. Or 50.
Dogs are fine. I don’t want one, but I can see the attraction of having it love you devotedly, of going for long walks with it, of snuggling up with it while reading. In return for those things I could probably put up with the muddy pawprints, with feeding it, with generally looking after it.
My real problem isn’t actually with dogs per se.
My problem is with dogs who are so ridiculously contrary you need a psychology degree to get them to walk with you.
(written on 10th Sept 2015, actually posted on 10th Jan 2017 as part of emptying my draft folder… not sure why not earlier, backdated so as to not confuse things :))
The DB has an order for 10 glass things due 2 at a time over the next couple of months. The first 2 are due next week. He didn’t want to leave it to the last minute, but it’s a 2-person job and the guy who usually helps him was away last week and doesn’t get back until tomorrow. We’re off for a long weekend from Wednesday, and he’s working elsewhere on Monday which doesn’t help much. We discussed his [nonexistent] options and I offered to help him instead.
The guy who usually helps said I wouldn’t be able to do it, but I don’t like believing disbelievers unless they have proof, and besides, there wasn’t any realistic alternative so we both went into work today and I helped him. Continue reading “On working with my boyfriend”