An Aquarium Melt-Down

So, fish update…I was so sick that for a week, I barely did anything. Remembering to feed my cats – not that hard because they are loud and ye-owly and bite-y if not fed…remembering to feed the fish…too much effort…and as sick as I was, I figured that someone else would feed the fish, since my oldest asked me a couple days if she should feed the fish. In my not well state of mind, it should have hit me that if she didn’t ask, they didn’t get fed. The rule is—I feed things—lest everything get overfed. Well, when too sick to feed myself, it didn’t strike me as a long shot for someone else to think…hey, gotta feed the fish.

Now, there are also a lot of extenuating circumstances with the big tank. One is – the brown slime algae we have been fighting for years—interesting fact—no other tank has this slime. Even though to start both other tanks, I took water from the big tank and dumped it into the smaller tanks. Two is – a teen-ager’s stuff that piles up in front of the tank—since there is a table there—the stuff piles up and piles up…so the ten gallon/betta tank and the big tank (betta tank is set under the big tank) do not get cleaned out as much as they should…although I do top off evaporated water regularly, when not ill. Three is – back to the teen-ager, who is in charge of doing dishes and emptying out the kitchen sink—and to say that it is a rare instance when there is nothing at all in the sink is an understatement of monumental proportions. When sick, I am not fighting to get my sink cleaned because it takes far too much energy that I do not have…

The day I went to the doctor last week, we came home, and that night I walked past my fish tank and I always look in. The water didn’t look that bad—I knew it needed a cleaning, and it needed more water, but it wasn’t as bad as it has been in the past, at least not visibly. I saw my queen botia, bloated and white, floating, dead, at the top of the water. I instantly knew that something very bad was going on. I got the net pulled her, and another dead fish, a molly, as well as some bits of another/other fish. Now, there were only a few days where I did not feed the fish—technically the tank should not have gone all lord of the flies that fast, not the way I feed these fish. Death by overfeeding is more of an issue than death by starvation…but again, I don’t really think not being fed twice a day for three or four days should not have caused this issue…not to this extreme.

So…I was so sick, all I did that night was remove the dead fish that I found. That is all I could manage. The next day, over twelve hours, my four-year-old and I slowly pulled everything out of the tank. We would work for a few minutes, rest for even longer—work for a few minutes, rest for even longer. And yes, we started this chore after emptying the dish washer and sink first. We would pull out the plants (plastic). Then we pulled out the moss balls—which were nearly dead in places due to the contamination of the brown slime—I am still rinsing the moss balls out every few days to remove slime…I did enough the first day to make sure the moss would be able to breathe and thrive again. It took a while to rinse each ball too, to pull out as much of that slime as possible. We stripped the tank down to the glass. We pulled the two HOT filters. We pulled the undergravel filters. We pulled the powerheads. We dumped the gravel—and that brown slime algae had congealed the rocks into a solid mass in some places. It was worth it to me to toss this stuff outside into the one ‘flower’ bed out front that is full of gravel.

Each item that we pulled from the tank was soaked in bleach water, was then rinsed in vinegar water, and was rinsed again. The tank, the top, the light…the plants, the décor, the powerheads, the filters. Anything that fit into the dishwasher went into the dishwasher—twice. After soaking in the sink, I ran everything I could through the dishwasher using bleach. The second time was a vinegar wash. Then I rinsed them out and off in running water. I still had to scrub the algae off the plants and off the Buddha’s head once they came out of the dishwasher.

Are you wondering about the remaining living fish? There were about eight living fish in the tank…the two cory cats went into the betta tank with Jose Jalapeno the betta…and that fish is still upset with me over that move…although the corys are very happy. The other remaining fish (about six or seven) went into the plant tank…which instantly made me start to worry, because nothing was growing there and that was a great many fish in a small space…but I knew that it would be ok short-term. Better than just flushing them outright, ‘m kay…

So, once everything had been bleached, vinegared, and rinsed again…we put everything back into the tank. We lost the castle in the cleaning process—trying to dig out algae-congealed rocks, I smacked the one side and the other side fell off…and then as I was trying to see if it would still stand without that one part, it fell over and broke off a different side…so into the recycling went our big castle…I had in storage in the basement a water fountain – without the water pump – that I used to keep in the center of the dining room table—until it became too cluttered to try to pretty up—and that came up—got rinsed in a bleach rinse, then a vinegar rinse, and a water rinse…and that went into the tank…it is three layers that we have canted to give the fish entrance into the center—so give hidey-holes and spaces to retreat in safety…

Then we slowly, so slowly, began to refill the tank with water…until it was full again.

That took us two days to accomplish.

The water had plenty of time to cycle on its own, but on the second day after filling the tank with water, we made it to the store and I bought some tank starter, just to be on the safe side, since I worked so hard to kill everything in that tank and in those filters. Then…we let it sit another day after that. I started to turn things on then though. I had added a bubble wall to the tank. I used a different HOT filter. Yes, both were driven through the bleach, vinegar, rinse process first. I turned on the powerheads. There are not rocks in this tank yet. We may not put any in for a while.

Then, I added fish back in to the big tank…one lone blackskirt—who is loving the bubble wall—a lone danio—a lone neon (that seems to have vanished into the tank)–the male molly and two females—but I still cannot see that one (the Big Mama) molly, so I dropped a third female in the tank—for the record, leaving a single male and a single female in the tank can lead to that male pestering the female to death, literally.

I am leaving the cory cats in the betta tank—because none of those three fish need the stress of me trying to catch the two corys – plus with no rocks in the bottom of the big tank to cover the undergravel filter, there’s not a lot for them to do there…and they are really cleaning and helping the betta tank.

Despite having had current before, these fish are not excited about the current now. The mollies are sticking low to the bottom of the tank, hiding in the curves of the water fountain. The danio is having a blast and is always easy to find. The blackskirt is basically dancing it’s so happy every time I see her…and as I said, that fish loves the bubble wall. She is almost always near it or in the flow of bubbles every time I look.

As for the two missing fish—they are no longer in the plant tank—and there are no fish bodies on the floor/carpet under the tanks.–the two adults here and the four-year-old spent a great deal of time looking So…all I can say is I am hopeful they are hiding and will come out later. Come on, that neon is known to hide…not just for months, but years…because we are always shocked when we see her. We got her and several other neons when Duncan was tiny—we thought they were all dead many many times over…and this one always turns up somewhere—so we are hopeful, with good reason…

Yes, we plan to get more blackskirts, more danios (and soon, so our loner doesn’t go nutso all alone)–maybe even more neons…and some new mollies to help the bloodlines along…other than our male, the females we have are all third, maybe even fourth and fifth generation…and I think he is the dad for most of them, although we did originally have four males—three met there end bullying one of our larger females a long time ago—she was the epitome of take no b/s from any guy—she had a massive smack with her tail and that’s how those three met their demise—our remaining male was the smart one—he didn’t mess with her after the second male bit the dust from her tail…but still…we need new DNA there. But we are moving slowly there…

That’s all we can do here…move slowly….