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January 23rd, 2005
06:41 am
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Part II: The Good ...
So it's been a long week. But I tried to get my mind off of my server difficulties and just go attend the Journal's Employee Appreciation Party. Feeling appreciated does tend to brighten one's evening.

Truth be told, my expectations weren't high. Not that it's a bad party -- there's plenty to be said for free dinner, free alcoholic beverages, and dancing. But I'm just really not the small-talk-with-semi-drunk-coworkers sort. (When I put it that way, I'm not quite sure how anyone is. I really should specify I'm not the small-talk-with-non-close-friends sort. Or the small-talk-in-general sort.) kadyg was going along with me, but that didn't really change the math. One partner plus a roomful of coworkers still equals a roomful of coworkers.

Despite my misgivings, we drove to the clubhouse (I tried my best to get us lost along the way, but the place was too easy to find). We arrived fashionably late, right after dinner started. The food was nice, although there was some momentary confusion when the server tried to take away the pasta I wanted but hadn't ordered so she could deliver the steak I wanted but had ordered. I couldn't quite get it through her skull that, no, really, they were small meals and I was quite happy eating two. (I even had meal tickets for both, although the pasta ticket was still supposed to be in reserve at that point.)

While we ate, they started announcing the employee awards. I didn't win anything, but that's alright, because I've really had an average year and would have been pretty shocked to have deserved any sort of special recognition. They also started drawing tickets for the raffle prizes. More on that later.

After a slice of blueberry cheesecake, they opened up the dance floor and got the band started. Code Zero, if I'm remembering their name right, was a cover band with a broad repertoire of '60s to '80s songs. Not really glow-stick sort of music, but I'd snuck four in under my coat, so I handed 'em out anyway and hit the dance floor with one myself.

People tell me I'm a good dancer. I'm too humble to really speak for my skill, but I can definitely be memorable when I want to. (Blame DDR for building up my confidence and training me in quick footwork.) The glow sticks, of course, didn't hurt. Neither did knowing how to add some flash with them. Some swoops and transfers and tosses were probably enough to cement the reputation I built up at last year's party. In order to outdo myself next year, I may have to bring that glowstaff I assembled after Further Confusion.

I also went outside and stood in the darkness for a while at the edge of the golf course, listening to the crickets in the cool night air and giving myself some quiet time to get back in touch with the ol' inner dragon and the embrace of earth's stillness. Especially in the winter, when cold wimps like me bundle up and stay indoors, it's so easy to abstract life away from the real world out beyond the shine and blare of modern existence, and parcel it up onto a screen. (Hey, you. The one reading this. Stop for a few moments, put on a jacket, and go outside someplace without streetlights for a few minutes.)

But back to the aforementioned raffle. They were giving out a great many prizes which I had no interest in -- including many gift certificates to a tanning parlor. I wasn't even that enthused about the grand prize of a 40" TV, except that I figured if I won it I'd probably be able to sell it. The two snowboards and single pair of skis, I figured I'd put to good use if I lucked out -- but other names were drawn.

Then they got to the aquarium. Kady looked at me and grinned. "If you win that one," she said, "it goes in your room. There's noplace else to put it."

"Oh, come on. What would I do with an aquarium?" I shot back. Actually, my reply wasn't nearly that ironic, but I'm the one telling the story here, so I get to put words in my own mouth, thank you very much. What I probably actually said was something along the lines of having no space for it either, which, come to think of it, wasn't quite so ironic but did firmly foreshadow things.

"Great," the raffle announcer said, peering at the ticket. "It would have to be a name I can't pronounce."

You can see where this is going. Yep. "T ... ta... Tad, Raaam-spot?" she said, getting the name basically right, since it's certainly unusual but not actually difficult to say.

And the short of it is, I am now the proud owner of a 46-gallon, $499-retail-value aquarium, or at least a gift certificate thereto. 46 gallons! Holy smokes. That's practically big enough to start a salmon farm.

After Kady and I finished laughing in disbelief, we agreed that the best place for it and its 400 pounds of water is going to be in the bathroom where the washer/dryer would normally go. It'll make a nice nightlight, plus there's just something amusing about having fish in the room where you take your showers.

Now I have to figure out what the heck I want to do with a 46-gallon fishtank. Fresh water? Salt water? Terrarium? (Kady sounds quite opposed to snakes, but maybe there are other land-based pets that would work.) I'm told that salt water is quite a bit more maintenance work than fresh, and honestly low-maintenance sounds extremely appealing. But even if I'm just going to go with generic freshwater $aquarium, I'm not even sure what I should do in terms of fish and decor and algae and current and and and my brain hurts already. I haven't owned an aquarium since I was in grade school and virtually all I remember is that overfeeding worsens algae and some vague imprecations about chlorine and water temperature. Does seasonal care of fish differ? Do I need to buy warmer-water fish since we have a heater for the winter but not A/C for the summer? Should I go with native species in case they pull a "Finding Nemo" and escape down the toilet? What happens if they start breeding? How big of a fish will the 46-gallon tank support, and would I be better off getting a few huge fish or a school of tiny ones?

So, please, please feel free to drop your aquarium advice, suggestions -- or even purchase offers, should you want a new 46-gallon aquarium for less than full retail price -- here.

Current Mood: confusedambivalent
Current Music: Hitoshi Sakimoto, "Temple of Kiltia"

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2005 03:39 pm (UTC)
46 gallons isn't _quite_ big enough for a marine aquarium with fish, to be honest. The rule with marine aquariums seems to be ten gallons of water per inch of fish. Freshwater requires something more like one gallon of water per inch of fish - so you could keep a few ten-inch fish in a freshwater, but only one four-inch fish in a marine, for example.

Native species - bad idea - they tend to be large coldwater fish (need some way to cool the tank in summer), and it's fairly irresponsible to allow any chance to get into the wild, since captive-bred fish may have been exposed to diseases that don't exist in your area, 'native' or otherwise.

Fishtanks are nice, but I'd be inclined to terrarium it myself if you want really low maintenance (being that I like reptiles in general) and 46 gallons is plenty big enough to keep a colony of leopard geckos, a solo bearded dragon, maybe an acanthurus ('spiny tailed') monitor lizard... With them, though the startup expenses can get high, once you've got the heat and light set up properly, they're easy to care for.

Pros/cons of each herp I've listed follow:

Leopard gecko Pros: About 8 inches in length, fairly slow, easily handled, don't require dead mice/rats or complex herbivore diets, inexpensive to purchase even 'fancy' morphs. Don't need UV lighting. Eggs can be incubated to produce more males or more females (temperature dependent sexing).
Leopard gecko Cons: Should not be kept on sand/particulates. Most don't seek out handling. Nocturnal. Primarily feed on live insects. Require some sort of non-visible light or under-tank heating to keep warm at night, regulated via thermostat - basking area should be consistent 90 degrees. Females WILL lay eggs even if not kept with a male, calcium supplement powder must be available.

Bearded Dragon Pros: About 18 to 20 inches in length, somewhat slow as adults, seem to seek out handling, don't require dead mice/rats for feeding. Inexpensive to purchase juveniles.
Bearded Dragon Cons: Should not be kept on sand/particulates. Skittish as juveniles. Primarily feed on live insects as juvies, but require a complete diet of fresh fruits and vegetables into adulthood. Require some sort of non-visible light or under-tank heating to keep warm at night, regulated via thermostat. Older animals are more expensive. Feeder insect size must be monitored - no larger than the distance between the animal's eyes. MUST have UVB lighting that the herp can get within 6" of - and require a basking spot heat of 110 degrees fahrenheit during the day. Difficult to sex as juveniles.

Acanthurus Monitor Pros: Handleable size - about 10 to 20 inches in length, don't necessarily require dead mice/rats for feeding. Easy to get a pair/trio - just purchase two or three hatchlings, and they will develop sexes as appropriate (socially-determined sexing)
Acanthurus Monitor Cons: Should be kept on some sort of particulate substrate - digging is necessary for them. Skittish as juveniles. Primarily feed on live insects as juveniles, will require larger insects such as roaches or locusts as adults, and potentially dead rodents as supplements. Require some sort of non-visible light or under-tank heating to keep warm at night, regulated via a thermostat. Comparatively expensive. May require UVB lighting - and require a basking spot heat of 110-130 degrees fahrenheit during the day.

I'd personally push the leopard geckos if you've not kept reptiles before... and the freshwater _tropical_ fish if you choose to keep this aquarium as an aquarium.

Wish I were close enough to make an offer on the tank - it'd be nice for me to start a third leopard gecko colony in *grins*
[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2005 04:59 pm (UTC)
... Wow. :)
Okay, just so that I know... Ssthist, honestly, did you have to look the details up, or do you really remember all that by heart? :D
[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2005 05:54 pm (UTC)
That was all 'stuff I know' about them - because those three species are the more commonly kept and more commonly available species out of the dozen or so I'm interested in.

If I knew more about Crested Geckos, which I have read are as easy to keep as the Leopard Geckos (though they climb, because they've got sticky toepads, which leos don't) I would have included them - but I have conflicting information regarding suitable feeding and don't remember the optimum basking temps for them.
[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2005 10:32 pm (UTC)

Here, have my respect:
    /|                      |
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   |     BALI'S RESPECT     |
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I really, really like listening to people who know their sh*t. :)
[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2005 08:12 pm (UTC)
As a former owner, my opinion is: leeeooopaaaaard geeeeeeckoooooo

[User Picture]
Date:January 25th, 2005 12:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Some sort of reptile does sound pretty attractive, actually, although I think my partner is begging to differ ... ;)

We'll probably go with a plain ol' freshwater fish tank, although perhaps if I can swing the vote enough ...
[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2005 05:25 pm (UTC)
If you do want to go with a freshwater aquarium, go with something simple. 46 gallons is plenty for this purpose. You'll probably want a community tank, which means you need peaceful species, and the ones that are hardy are the best bet-- usually easy to tell because they cost less.

I've had good luck with tetras (although they're short-lived, a year or two at most), black-tailed sharks (which aren't sharks), silver clouds, and angelfish- although supposedly angels are aggressive, not all of them are. And you gotta have a plecostemus (South American suckermouth catfish) to eat the algae and scavenge-- besides, they're cute, in an incredibly ugly sort of way. Plants, I drop in some cheap plant bulbs, I forget what they're called, but you can buy packets of them. They grow fast, are kind of nice, and you're not going to do a full Japanese garden landscaping job in such a small space anyway.

Use a motorized filter that hangs on the side of the tank, or an under-gravel filter.

Another possibility is African Ciclids, which are tough and brightly colored, but they'll go after other fish (except the plecostemus, nobody bothers plecos) so you want to have only ciclids if that's the way you're going.
[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2005 05:35 pm (UTC)

by the way-

TetraMin is a good fish food. But the pleco will thank you for a few algae discs, at least until the algae gets growing in your tank- and it will. Although with a busy pleco in the tank you might not see much of it.

One inch fish per gallon of water is about right. Of course some fish (like plecos and sharks) will grow, but others (like tetras) won't.

Mollies are pretty tough too, and they're the only fish I've had actually breed in a fish tank--they're livebearers, by the way. But I haven't had as good luck keeping them alive too long.

If you have chlorinated water leave it sit in an open container for a day or two before putting it into the aquarium. That will let the chlorine evaporate out.

Get a good heater. The cheapest ones are nothing but trouble, and they're very noisy on radio besides.

There's a kind of salt, "Dr. Wellfish," that I've found really helps keep an aquarium clean and healthy. Yes, a freshwater aquarium. You're using a very small dose of it.

Especially if you're in an area with hard water, you want to switch out a good deal of the water each week or two. This is to keep hardness from accumulating and also to remove ammonia etc from the fish wastes from the water. Although either an under-gravel filter or a tankside motor filter (which uses activated charcoal filter pads) will do some of that too. Because I live where it's dry in winter and I have a lot of evaporation from the tank, I also tend to top it up regularly with distilled water. Just adding tap water would concentrate hardness in the tank; distilled doesn't do this, of course. Plus it's got no chlorine etc. But I'm pretty sure pure distilled water would be bad for the fish, none of the minerals they'd need. That's aside from the cost of it.
Date:January 24th, 2005 03:14 am (UTC)

Re: by the way-

Mollies are pretty tough too, and they're the only fish I've had actually breed in a fish tank--they're livebearers, by the way. But I haven't had as good luck keeping them alive too long.

I never bred mollies, but at one time I kept guppies. If you thought mollies were easy, these things are the even easier. I started out with two ... ended up with about a hundred before a catastrophe took out the entirely-too-inbred population of the tank...

As for water, unless you live in a place with particularly bad water, I find that tap water's fine for hardy species. Of course, I didn't have such a problem with evaporation, either. I'd start off a tank with tap water, let it sit for a few days before adding fish, and then just top off when it needed it, straight from the tap. ('Course, this depends on how much chlorine and such your water company adds.) I'd do water changes once every month or two.
[User Picture]
Date:January 25th, 2005 12:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the tips!
[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2005 06:17 pm (UTC)
I got a Red Award (sort of like a B) at the Regional Science Fair in fourth grade for my document on attempting to control the ammonia problem in my fish tank. Can't go wrong with comet tetras- they're ten cents each and live for years if cared for properly. They're raised to be fed to larger fish, but they're still pretty cool.

Actually, with a tank of an actual sufficient size, I'd suggest whatever freshwater fish looks cool. I echo that a saltwater tank is probably a lot more work than you're bargaining for.

Something that's worth the trouble just to watch Pavlov's Goldfish: Get a light for the top of the aquarium. Turn it on just before dropping food in the watter. I give it about a week before the light alone, without the food, will cause the fish to zing around the water as if there was food in the water. Great way to get them hyperactive to show them off to guests without overfeeding them, and it's Psychology 101 in action...

I enjoyed having fish, but the supplies related to such set off my asthma so we really couldn't go on with it. This is from when I was about eight or so, and I therefore have insufficient memory of things to help you out much...

I admit the predictable bias that I think lizards are cuter than fish, and a leak would be less damaging to the area. However, I've had no experience with reptiles, so I can't give you advice there...
Date:January 24th, 2005 02:27 am (UTC)
Lizards! Hundreds of anoles. Girls like swarms of lizards, right? ;)

That being said -- as Ssthisto said, the tanks's a bit on the small side for salt-water fish, and salt-water aquaria are a pain to maintain, particularly if you haven't got experience doing it. Fresh-water is an order of magnitude easier, and harder to screw up. :)

I don't know how cold your apartment gets, but IIRC you usually want to keep an aquarium with tropical fish at 70 or so -- some research online will quantify that for you. Just buy a nice chunky submersible heater for that. Other than the heater, care is the same from season to season.

Personally, I like larger numbers of small fish rather than small numbers of large fish -- but that's all personal preference. Live-birthers (such as guppies, mollies, platies, and swordtails) are loads of fun, 'cause they're usually trouble-free, live well in large numbers, and, hey, you get the bonus of watching 'em swell up and then spew out young with some regularity. Of course, if you want the babies to have a good chance at survival, you need a good amount of cover in the tank, or you have to segregate the mothers when they start getting huge.

...They also tend to be cheap, so if you do screw up, well ... ;)

...If you -do- go with live-birthers, well, make sure you get several of 'em to start with. The genetic consequences of a small gene pool can get pretty dire pretty quickly. ;) If you're interested, I can tell you what happened when I had two guppies in a 10-gallon tank ... and then had about a hundred a year later.

Neon tetras are also a great addition to any large tank filled with small fish 'cause they're schoolers -- and there's nothing quite as neat as watching a school of fish zip around in concert.

Basically, do some research on freshwater fish and try and pick ones that have similar environmental needs and aren't aggressive. Spending money on a good filtration system will help you put more than one-inch-per-gallon in, though with 46 gallons, you've got a lot of inches to work with. ;)
Date:January 24th, 2005 03:08 am (UTC)
I was surfing around a little, and this page -- http://www.thetropicaltank.co.uk/ -- seems to be a good resource for setting up and populating a freshwater tank. It's got all the information I've forgotten and more. ;)
[User Picture]
Date:January 24th, 2005 11:25 pm (UTC)
>Girls like swarms of lizards, right? ;)

You would think so.
You would be wrong.
[User Picture]
Date:January 25th, 2005 01:34 am (UTC)
Theoretically mutant guppies might be sort of interesting in a eugenics-in-action kind of way. In reality, having a tankful of mutant guppies in the next room would probably give me interesting dreams that I'd rather not have.

I'm making a case for fish on the grounds that that are quiet, low-ish maintence and it will be easier to find someone to feed them when go out of town. And a school of neon tetras just looks darn cool.

Date:January 25th, 2005 02:59 am (UTC)
Amen to that. Shoaling small fish, around an inch in length, about 20 at least in that size tank. And some corydoras catfish to shoal on the bottom, and maybe danios or hatchetfish for the top. I'm biased in favor of fish, they're more active and easier to see from across the room, and freshwater is also pretty forgiving. The only thing you'd need to do is get your local water tested to see if it's really acidic, alkaline, hard, or soft, and then get fish accordingly. There are loads of people on LJ (as well as other places) that'd be happy to help with tips.

Like me, for instance.
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