Sunday, October 15, 2006

Just add water

My aquarium is installed, commissioned and is teeming with life. After planting some genuine greenery, some real bogwood and an authentic plastic rock, it was time to check water quality. Chlorine, as found in tap water, is deadly to aquarium fish, but fortunately chemicals are available that instantly get rid of chlorine from the water. A small bottle of bacteria helped to get the nitrogen cycle running. The pumps are pumping, the bubbles are bubbling and the overhead light goes on and off.

The Aquarium: All 375 litres of it

After a week or so, everything looked good so it was time to introduce the first residents. I picked a couple of suckermouth catfish and four tiger barbs. The catfish are referred to locally as janitor fish, as they spend all their time hoovering algae off the glass, gravel and other tank hardware. The barbs' primary purpose is to be ornamental and cute. Tiger barbs are shoaling fish; I read on the InterWeb that a solitary one will pester other fish and take chunks out of their fins. If there is a shoal they generally pester each other and leave everyone else alone.

Within twenty-four hours I had an outbreak of the dreaded ich. White-spot is a protozoan infection that if left untreated will kill all the fish in the tank. Where it came from is a mystery. There could have been ich cysts in the gravel or any of the fish or the plants. "Immediate action" is the recommended course, so I immediately shot down to the aquarium shop in Sharjah and got hold of some methylene blue. The warmer the water the quicker the ich life-cycle will be, so 28C and 48 hours later I'd removed all symptoms and hopefully killed the infection stone dead. One dead tiger barb too, unfortunately.

I returned to Sharjah Aquarium Centre a day or so later to pick up some more fish, and some spare white-spot treatment just in case of another outbreak. I had a very careful look at the tiger barbs in the shop, and was able to confirm that there was no evidence of ich anywhere in that tank. I also collected four shark minnows. I'm pleased to report that the tank has apparently remained ichless. I bet the infection came in on the plants.

I had previously read that a small freshwater crayfish could be a good idea as a bottom-feeding scavenger. "They will have a go at fish occasionally, but are generally too slow to present any real danger," went the tropical aquarium website. Yeah, right. Lobby the lobster immediately started moving the furniture around in the tank. The following morning I discovered the decapitated corpse of a silver shark. Maybe it died, and the lobster had been noshing on the carrion. Or not: that afternoon one of the barbs got caught in a pincer movement. Either the lobster is a lot quicker than advertised or all the other fish are dozy and stupid. Or possibly both. I now learn from other aquaculture websites - those that are not concerned primarily with selling aquatic invertebrates to the punters - that lobsters, crayfish or what have you do not make harmonious and co-operative tank mates.

One of the Cray Twins

Bearing in mind the pincers, I was amused to see Jay, or possibly Edgar, slurping something off the lobster's carapace, just out of range of the latter's weaponry. Crustaceans can't generally do 'cross and annoyed', but this one came close. But it'll have to go. I explained to Abdul Kareem over at Sharjah Aquarium that even a tiny lobster seems too aggressive for my tank community. He has agreed to accept the lobster back and exchange it for some less nocuous fish. A pity really, because the crustacean is fascinating to watch. Ornamental fish are however a bit expensive to be used solely as one of the lower levels of a food pyramid.


MamaDuck said...

Sounds like the start of an awfully big adventure! Our tap water is clean - you can smell the chlorine in it! Consequently I bought quite a cocktail when I set up my pool (rather than tank) and never had any trouble. It included Methylene Blue. What did become a pest were water snails, which perhaps came in on an aquatic plant. Should these guys move in on you, I suggest a regular cull because they multiply at an extraordinary rate.

I envy you your aquarium - the hum, the light, the movement, the whole silent soap-free opera! Joy to you, and good luck with the twins: make sure you cover the tank if you're watching Finding Nemo!

halfmanhalfbeer said...

G: I hope Pinky's furniture proves up to the task!

I liked the 'Cray Twins', very droll!

Keefieboy said...

You need an aquatic version of a goat in there!

Gnomad said...

an underwater goat with snorkel and flippers! :)

Grumpy Goat said...

Thanks for the hint about the snails, MamaDuck. I have a plan to get some clown loaches. These bottom-feeders are coloured like clownfish (a la Nemo) and will happily eat freshwater snails.

As for the underwater goats, with or without snorkels and flippers, I regret that goatfishes are all seawater species. You don't suppose for an instant that I'd not have a freshwater example if I were aware of one.

nzm said...


I have to get into this once we set up residence somewhere and somewhat permanently.

Looking good, GG!


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.