Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fish fry

I wrote recently that I had a very busy summer, so here's the first installment in my attempt to catch up a bit. I'm starting easy with an animal report, since this blog has sorta degenerated into Pots'n'Pets. But wait--don't hang up yet!--this is going to be a good one: it's about FISH.

When I last wrote about our fish, we were down to two courageous survivors of the Great 2010 Fish Tank Catastrophe. Leo, the lonely stressed-out harlequin rasbora, and Beamer, the studly voracious angel fish, eventually moved across the street to a friend's house, and we dismantled the hospital tank in the kitchen to make room for a cherry-red Kitchen-Aid mixer.

As is our way with things, we let our 45-gallon tank sit empty in the living room for another year and a half, until we cautiously decided to move it to the basement. (We're slow and measured decision-makers.) The realization that we would need to clear space in the basement became motivation to resurrect the tank instead. Thus, two weeks and a flurry of eBay plant and gravel orders later, in January our tank was back in business.

We populated the tank with colorful fish we hadn't realized we'd been missing: radiant red and blue cardinal tetras, a Chinese algae eater who isn't living up to its name, a reclusive pair of black-and-white polka-dotted corydoras, a half dozen beautiful bleeding-heart tetras, a dinosaur-like plecostomus who kicked the bucket early on, and a youthful black-striped angel fish.

In the spring, we got a phone call from our friend across the street. She had made a deal with her parents and was trading in the fish for a hamster. A hamster! So Leo and Beamer moved back in with us, along with a few odds'n'ends scrappy companions with whom they had cohabited during the previous year. It was just like old times.

Our nameless youthful angelfish was not to be outdone by the much older and distinguished Beamer. Within a few weeks, he grew to match her size, and soon, instead of nipping on one another's fins like our previous angel fish did (R.I.P.), they became an inseparable pair. In the heat of midsummer, they publicly demonstrated their commitment to one another by laying and fertilizing a couple hundred eggs on the filter pipe. Unsatisfied with the locale, they ate all of them.

Then they tried laying eggs on a leaf. Angel fish eggs gestate for about 60 hours. The second clutch hatched and survived into fry-hood, and their doting parents tended them aggressively, vigilantly keeping all the other fish in the tank at bay. They kept the herd together, catching strays in their mouths and spitting them back into the fold. The other fish did not seem particularly interested in chowing down on angel fish fry, but Beamer and Youthful Angel Fish didn't let that stand in their way. S and I thought we would give the parents a break by putting a barrier in the tank between the perceived predators and the young family. Beamer and Youthful Angel Fish responded by eating every single one of their babies.

They have since laid about five or six clutches, which means they have enjoyed about five or six really tasty high-protein meals. A friend who used to have a 96-gallon tank with angel fish warned us it would be so, but we hold out hope that someday a wee baby angel fish will charm its way past egghood through fryhood and into adulthood. Until then, we have home movies to watch to remember the good ol' days when the family was still intact...

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