Wednesday, December 13, 2017

50 Ways to Kill Your Fish: Improper Habitat

How to explain this one? I think all new fish keepers generally know that fish need food and clean water to survive. But beyond that, it's kind of a mystery why things die. Maybe there aren't any obvious signs like white spots or wounds. Your fish just slowly gets lethargic over time, stops swimming around, doesn't feel like eating, and then poof, it's gone. This silent killer is known as improper living conditions. In order to fight against its deadly trap, let's talk about a couple of key tenets for setting up a comfortable habitat for your fish.

Replicate the Natural Living Conditions of Aquarium Fish

Try to Replicate Your Fish's Natural Living Conditions

We've all seen those extensive care sheets for each type of fish where they list recommended tank size, temperature, food, etc. While many fish have been raised in captivity for so long that there's some leeway with the requirements, try to match the natural living conditions and environment of the species you keep. We want to emulate their life in nature as best as we can.

That's not to say that you have to make a full-on South American biotope that only contains creatures from that region. The cool thing about aquariums is the very fact you have flexibility to mix-and-match fish from all around the world. However, one of the best pieces of advice I've heard from veteran fish keepers is to plan your tank around your favorite fish.

For my community tank 3.0, I felt so overwhelmed when planning which fish to keep. Should I narrow it down by swimming level to get a good mix of bottom feeders, mid-tank swimmers, and top-dwellers? Or maybe I should first choose a temperature range of super warm, regular tropical, or cold water? In the end, I nailed down my favorite, must-have fish (albino corydoras!) and planned the whole tank around their ideal needs. That meant buying a healthy school of them and skipping out on more aggressive fish that might out complete them for food. And in the end, I'm really happy with my choices – because I put my favorite fish first!

Don't Push the Boundaries as a Beginner

I'm totally guilty of this, especially when it comes to matching the living conditions for multiple species. I really, really want something to work (even if the research says "probably not"), but I don't have the experience to make it succeed. For example, my first betta was in a 3.5-gallon tank, and I was so proud of all the amenities he had (e.g., filter, heater, good food). But when I found out bettas can be kept in community tanks, I become obsessed with getting more fish but... I didn't want to buy another tank. So I kept searching the internet until I found one site that said they had kept their betta with cory catfish and neon tetras in a 3-gallon tank. Yeah, that didn't work out for long.

Another instance was when I read that albino cory catfish like waters at 72-79°F and German blue rams prefer 78-85°F. I thought that maybe if I kept the temperature at 78.5°F, everyone would be happy. Unfortunately, the super sensitive German blue ram didn't agree with me and slowly faded from the stress of being too cold. After watching a video about a breeder of rams, I now realize a solid 84°F would have been more appropriate.

Peaceful community fish aquarium with German blue ram, neon tetras, and albino corydoras
"Dude, I'm freezing to death in here! Crank up the heat!"

Bottom line: do what it takes to make your animals happy. If care sheets for axolotls say they can live in temperatures from 50-74°F, don't settle for room temperature – spend the money to get a fan or chiller and shoot for the mid 60's. And if you can't make certain conditions happen with your setup, then don't keep those species. (For example, fish that need soft water aren't going to thrive in my extremely hard water, especially without an RO/DI unit.) There are plenty of aquarium fish to pick from that will perfectly match your environment, so as a beginner, keep it simple and go for easy, hardy pets that you know you can make happy. Best of luck and keep on swimming!


Follow the rest of this series: 50 Ways to Kill Your Fish.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

50 Ways to Kill Your Fish: Crowded Tank

50 Ways to Kill Your Fish - Crowded Tank

If you post an online picture of a beautiful hobbyist-owned aquarium packed full of fish, you'll probably get several reactions:
  1. OMG, that is the coolest thing I've ever seen! (^▽^)
  2. OMG, that is the cruelest thing I've ever seen! ((╬◣﹏◢))
  3. OMG, how did they accomplish that? I must know! ლ(ಠ_ಠ ლ)
That's because there are sooo many differing opinions on how many fish in a tank is too many. Asking "How many fish can I keep in my aquarium?" is like asking "How many cats can I keep in my house?" – it totally depends on each person's preferences and lifestyle.

five kittens on grass lawn
Clearly, five cats is not enough. You need at least six in a school or else they start getting nippy.

Huge props to the Real Fish Talk: How Much Is Too Much? video for breaking it down like this:
The more fish you have,
The more food they eat,
The more waste they create,
The more work you have to do to keep the tank clean.
In other words, more fish = more time you'll have to invest to maintain them and keep them healthy. My idea of fun is enjoying my fish without having to change their water more than once a week, so if that's not achievable, I probably have too many fish or something else needs to change. (I'm not lazy; I'm just low maintenance...) For example, I once tried to keep two axolotls in a 20-gallon tank, which was fine when they were juveniles. However, the larger they got, I found myself doing daily water changes to keep up with the huge waste load. (No one told me these things lay giant doggy turds!) Clearly, I had one too many axolotls in that tank and I was no longer enjoying my hobby as much as I wanted.

leucistic white axolotl and black melanoid axolotl
"Welcome back to Survivors: Axolotl Edition! Who will get voted off the island in this episode?"

When it comes to deciding how many fish are going into an aquarium, I like to plan rather than impulse buy. The AqAdvisor aquarium stocking calculator is a nice starting point for beginners. You enter your tank size, filter brand, and a list of fish, and the website spits out recommendations on compatibility and how "full" your tank is. Then you slowly start adding fish and regularly test the tank water every few days to see how clean it stays over time. (For freshwater parameters, people usually like to see 0 ppm in ammonia and nitrites and maybe 40 ppm or less of nitrates.)

Case in point: here's the step-by-step plan of action for building my community tank 3.0:
  1. Research different combinations on fish and stocking levels using caresheets and AqAdvisor.
  2. Set up and cycle my display tank with live plants and biological filter media.
  3. While it's cycling, buy my favorite fish first (cory catfish) and put them in quarantine.
  4. Six weeks later, move the cory catfish in the display tank and buy my second favorite fish (dwarf gourami).
  5. While he's in quarantine, regularly test the main aquarium's water to determine how often I need to do water changes.
  6. In another six weeks, rinse and repeat step 3 with my next favorite fish and so on.
As long as the water parameters stay stable without me having to do more than one water change a week (my personal limit due to time constraints), then I'm happy with the number of fish I have. If at some point, the water quality starts dipping because I'm overstocked, then we have a few options:
  • Do more frequent water changes
  • Rehome some fish
  • Buy a bigger tank
  • Increase the amount of water volume in the system by installing a large sump or canister filter
  • Add more biological filtration like live plants (especially fast growing ones that absorb lots of fish waste)
Fans of live plants often recommend having a ton more greenery than fish to avoid overstocking issues, so I may give that a shot this time around. Good luck to all of us and keep on swimming!


Follow the rest of this series: 50 Ways to Kill Your Fish.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

How to Make Friends as an Adult, Part 4: The Tale of Four Friends

All this time, I've proclaimed the wonders of the Friendship Funnel and how great the method has worked for meeting people and making new friends. Today's where the rubber meets the road. Let me tell you about four different friendships in my life and what it really looks like to put these relationship tools into practice.


3 Decades and Counting

Technically I met my best friend at age three, so this counts more as a childhood friendship. However, in adulthood we went to colleges 800+ miles apart, started our first professional jobs in the same city, and then split up once more a couple of years after getting married. And most likely, I'll never live in the same state as her again.

So why is she still my BFF to this day? I can't remember who started it, but in college we decided to become accountability partners in our walks with Christ. Ever since then, we've maintained a weekly call, hangout, or video chat to ask how the other is doing and pray for one another. The funny thing is that we rarely text or call each other between our scheduled meetings, but she absolutely is that steady rock I know I can count on, no matter how many years pass or miles increase between us. And that indeed is a rare, once-on-a-lifetime friendship that I'll probably never be able to recreate.

belly shot of a pregnant married woman in a long-sleeve red dress
Yes, I totally ask my BFF to stand up for the webcam so I can see how her belly is coming along. Just a part of having a long-distance relationship!

Mismatched Expectations

During our "married without kids" season, we naturally hung out with a lot of other couples in the same life stage. One of the women really sought me out for one-on-one hangouts, and we quickly connected over tea and cats. Unfortunately, she wanted our relationship to go much deeper at a faster rate than I was comfortable with. A good heart-to-heart every once in a while is normal, but when every meeting becomes a soul-bearing session where you have to play the counselor... it becomes very draining. Healthy friendships are a two-way street where both people give and take, and I felt like I was unable to give her the emotional support she needed. And I didn't require as much emotional support as she was willing to offer. A mismatch in friendship needs, if you will.

Eventually Mr. Gamer and I moved states, and I gradually let the distance, both physically and relationally, grow between us. At one point, the woman did ask me why I didn't want to keep in touch with her as much anymore, and I told her truthfully that I wanted to focus on making friends in my new hometown. In hindsight, I wish I had the courage to tell her the whole story, so she could learn and grow from our relationship.

Don't Discount the Quiet Ones

After moving, we eventually found a church to attend with a Bible study for married couples with young kids. I felt an immediate connection with one of the women there, but she seemed rather... quiet and shy. Like, to the point where I had no idea if she thought I might be a potential friend too. We did this dance for several months, kinda clicking but then never really spending time together outside of church.

I think our friendship would have forever failed to launch if she hadn't randomly asked me to teach her 7-year-old daughter how to knit. We would get together once a week (see what I mean about consistent one-on-one meetings?), and I would instruct both her and her kiddo. Eventually her daughter got tired of the craft, and then it seemed like our friendship would fizzle out now that our excuse to hangout regularly had disappeared. Luckily, my friend told me about her bucket list to run a 5K race, and I jumped at the chance to train with her. So we moved from being crafting buddies to workout partners, which is a much better match. We both need motivation to keep in shape, so our get-togethers every two or three weeks usually involve taking a long walk and chatting about life, family, and Jesus.

A Work in Progress

My final story involves a current work-in-progress relationship. I've been on the hunt for playdate buddies for my kindergarten-age son, and I found a classmate whose mom is easy to talk to. We set up a low-key first playdate at an indoor playground and it went swimmingly, especially with our youngest children being around the same age. I approached the mom for a second playdate a few weeks later, and it was also a success. I found out she likes to crochet, so maybe after Thanksgiving is over, I'll see if she'd be interested in hanging out sans kids for a craft night over a pot of tea. Just taking it slowly with low expectations, so we'll see what comes of it!

black teacup and teapot, backlit by strings of lights
All my friends must love tea! (Just kidding, but it's a bonus. ^_~)

Well, I hope you enjoyed this series on making friends in adulthood. I'm by no means an expert and am still learning how to be a better friend to others, but I've found these basic techniques for developing new relationships to be tried and true. Best of luck with your current and future friendships, and send me a comment if I can be of any help!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

How to Make Friends as an Adult, Part 3: How to Turn an Acquaintance into a Friend Worth Keeping

In this series so far, we've talked about the Friendship Funnel and how to make friends by meeting, filtering, and investing in people. Part 2 focused on where and how to meet potential friends. Part 3 explores what it means to filter and invest in people. These two steps go hand in hand because in order to determine if someone is a friend worth keeping, you need to invest time to really get to know him or her.

How to Make Friends as an Adult, Part 4 - How to Turn an Acquaintance into a True Friend

Spend Time Together

If you've met an individual several times in group settings and your personalities seem to click, now it's time to test the waters and find out what kind of friend she is. For me, that involves hanging out on a one-to-one basis. Conversations tend to deepen once you get past the small talk and you find out what the other person actually thinks about his boss, spouse, and even political and religious views.

Take the Initiative

You need to make the first step, not wait on the other person. People get busy with life and may not make friendship a priority, so it's up to you to text, call, and arrange a meeting. And to avoid the back-and-forth phone tag of "I dunno, what do you want to do?" – have a plan. Give them a choice between two fun options, such as going on a hike, grabbing lunch or a cup of coffee, arranging a playdate, or catching a movie together. The more you get to know each other, the better ideas you two will have for next time's hangout.

If you've extended the invitation to meet up and haven't gotten a response after a couple of times, don't be hurt or offended. It takes two to tango, and not everyone needs more friends in their current season of life. Just assume that they're not interested or don't have the time right now. You can try again in the future to see if their schedule frees up, but in the meanwhile, move onto the next person.

Be a Person of Integrity

At the risk of sounding like your mother, here are some rules of common courtesy that all good friends should keep:
  • Confirm the meeting with your friend the day beforehand – they may have forgotten entirely.
  • If you agree to meet, then keep your word. Don't leave your friend hanging while you're waiting to see if better plans come along.
  • Along those same lines, don't say "We should totally hang out next week" when your schedule is already booked or you have no intention of doing so. It sounds polite at the time, but it sets inappropriate expectations.
  • If you have to cancel for legitimate reasons, cancel responsibly and reschedule a new time. Give the other person plenty of advance notice so they have time to make new plans.
  • Show up on time or even early to the meeting, and call or text if you're going to be late.

Schedule Regular Meetings

After a few one-on-one hangouts, you'll naturally start to sort people into different categories. In general, people have a core group of confidants, a bigger circle of friends and hangout buddies, and then everyone else in the world, ranging from acquaintances to networking connections to complete strangers. The key is to really invest time into those best and good friends. Unfortunately, it's all too easy for many adult friendships to fizzle out from a lack of effort and organization. To prevent this from happening, make your closest friendships a regular commitment that you both agree to.

two girls' hands with friendship bracelets
"Do you pinky promise that we're going to meet every third Wednesday of the month?"

Scheduling repeating meetups may sound really corny, but it works! I video chat with my long-distance best friend every Saturday morning before the kids get up, and I have a weekly playdate with another mom of young kids. For my regular friends, I loosely schedule a hangout every two to three weeks and then rotate among them. Even Mr. Gamer has a regular Thursday guys night with his best friend at their fav Mexican restaurant, and if they can't meet for three weeks, Mr. Gamer makes sure to follow up as soon as his friend is back in town because it's so easy to lose that habit.

Bottom line: spending time together is the glue that keeps friendships going for the long haul. Given how long it takes to find and develop a really good relationship, it's certainly worth the extra effort to keep it going. For some friends, that means getting up at 5 am every morning to run together. For others that may live far away, that may mean writing a huge email twice a year to catch up. In Part 4 of the series, I'll show you a few real life examples of my friendships, how they developed, and where we are today.

Question:
How did you meet your closest or oldest friend?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

How to Make Friends as an Adult, Part 2: Where to Meet Potential Friends

Last week I introduced the Friendship Funnel and how you need to continually meet, filter, and invest in people to make new friends. In this article, let's focus on the "meet" part of the equation – how do you intentionally encounter new groups of people?

Top Places for Finding Friends as an Adult

Top 4 Places for Finding Friends

There are a ton of situations and gatherings where you can meet new people, but the groups where I've had the most success had these things in common:
  1. An area of interest for you
  2. Regularly occurring meetings that happen at least once a month (or are supplemented with active social media channels, chatrooms, or forums)
  3. Growing membership with both new and longtime participants
Here are a few examples of where I have personally found and made friends despite not knowing anyone:

Church

Churches encourage fellowship, community, and love for your fellow man, so usually members have a culture of being very open to making new friends. (If not, try another church.) Upon finding a church to call home, I quickly get plugged into one of their Bible studies to meet individuals in a smaller group setting. After regularly attending for several weeks, suddenly you'll find people calling out your name after Sunday service and asking how your kids are doing.

Serving in a ministry is also a great way to get to know a subset of people at church. A friend of mine attends the local megachurch, and when I asked if she ever felt lost among the masses, she said that she and her husband serve with 20 other adults in the Sunday school class for first graders, and she has become very close with the other volunteers. (Oh my goodness, how many first graders are we talking about??)

Kids Groups

Speaking of kids, I made friends a lot faster once I became a parent. You have an automatic commonality to connect over and everyone likes to talk about their babies, the latest milestone, the troubles they're having, and such. I met other stay-at-home parents through my church's moms group, but there are plenty of community playdate groups, library reading times for toddlers, children's museums, and playgrounds to visit. And if your kiddos are in school, it's easy to run across other parents during pickup times, sports games, or when volunteering for your son's Halloween party. I just tell other moms, "Hey, our girls seem to get along so why don't we have a playdate?" and then you have the perfect opportunity to exchange phone numbers.

Baby wearing and drinking tea with moms and their sleeping newborns and infants
Don't you love drinking tea and bonding over how much you miss sleeping and taking daily showers? (Source: Suzanne Shahar)

Community

If church or kids aren't your thing, not to worry – there are loads of community groups and activities. I mentioned the library before, but there's also your home owner's association (HOA), service projects to clean up the town, neighborhood block parties, local alumni groups, classes and group outings for senior citizens, and much more. I know a family guy in his late 20's who wanted to make a difference in his city's government, so he attended a few political rallies and town meetings and now is running for office for the first time with the backing of his local representatives. Whatever you're passionate about, go for it!

Hobbies

Speaking of interests, join a club that supports your hobby. Want to get in shape as your New Year's resolution? Attend gym classes, find workout buddies for accountability, or partner up with someone to train for a 5K race. Adore cats? Volunteer at the nearby humane society to find fellow feline lovers. There are knitting groups, tabletop gaming enthusiasts, sports bar regulars, dog parks, fish keeping clubs... pretty much something for everyone.

As for places where I haven't had as much luck, they include:
  • Work: When I was fresh out of college, I made lots of friends with other recent grads. However, once people got older, they were generally less free with their time due to family commitments. Plus, I worked in a male-dominated engineering company and didn't feel like being super-friendly with married men. Afterwards, I joined an all-female marketing company, but by then I was a remote worker from home and everyone else lived in other states. Them's the breaks.
  • My Spouse's Friend's Spouse: Mr. Gamer has some buddies that he hangs out with on their guys' nights out. As of yet, I have not really clicked with any of his friends' wives. I just find that the odds are low where both husbands and both wives get along. So he has his guy friends and I have my female friends, and we just don't hang out as couples.
  • Family Functions: Friendships are kinda hit or miss with extended family since you can't really choose your relatives (or how far away they live). I've been very fortunate to bond with my mother-in-law, whereas I rarely see the other female relatives outside of holiday and birthday parties.

3 More Tips on Meeting Potential Friends

Before we end this article, here's some general advice and things to consider when looking for potential friends
  • Second Time's a Charm: Think about the most valuable friends you've had in the past and what they all had in common. If you only have a limited amount of time to spend with people at a party, try talking first to the ones that most resemble your BFFs personality-wise.
  • Opposites Attract: Yes, your odds of finding compatibility may be higher when you seek individuals who are very similar to you. However, don't forget the adage that "opposites attract." Your next hangout buddy doesn't necessarily have to have the same viewpoints, experiences, or even life stage as you (such as in mentor and mentee relationship). I love learning something new from someone who has traveled a different path in life. Remember that variety is the spice of life!
  • Never Say Never: Don't automatically talk yourself out of trying a friendship. We often form assumptions about individuals after meeting them once, and then presume that a relationship with them is doomed to fail. Case in point, Mr. Gamer didn't hit it off immediately with a fellow coworker, but after working together for several months, they later on became close friends with much to geek out about.
In Part 3 of the series, we'll continue our series by talking about how to develop friendships and invest in the people you care about. Now go forth and meet new people!

Question:
Where have you had the most success meeting potential friends?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

How to Make Friends as an Adult, Part 1: The Friendship Funnel

There's an art to making friends as an adult. Many studies and articles have been written about how easy it is to make friends in school because you're in constant proximity, but as adults we get busy with life – work, travel, the kids' soccer games, family commitments, etc. Our social circle (I'm talking about real friends, not social media followers) get smaller and smaller, and before you know it, your life has somehow become more isolated and, well, boring.

How to Make Friends as an Adult, Part 1 - The Friendship Funnel

Starting from Square One

When Mr. Gamer and I moved to another state to be closer to family, I was suddenly dropped into a world where I worked from home and knew no one except my husband and parents-in-law. Video chats with my old friends back home weren't cutting it; I was painfully lonely and desperate to meet new people. Over the course of three years, I developed a systematic method for finding and making friends when you're starting from zero.

Obviously, this technique may not be for everyone. Full disclosure: I am an introvert by nature that merely endures big gatherings and favors hanging out with friends individually. (In group settings, I feel like conversations stay in the shallow end of the pool and tend to be dominated by the most outgoing speakers.) I hate talking on the phone (so awkward) and prefer spending time doing fun activities or having face-to-face conversations. Unfortunately – as a working professional, wife, and now mom of young kids – it seems really hard to find other women who are willing to take the time to have a one-on-one meeting for the purpose of having fun.

The Friendship Funnel

Have you heard of the "sales funnel"? In the business world, it's the strategic process of converting a potential customer who's never heard of your company into a paying customer who can't live without your products. It's also described as a funnel because you may start off with a ton of prospects, but a lot of people will drop off along the way until you have just a handful left by comparison. In the same way, the friendship funnel is the relationship process of meeting people, finding out who you connect with, pursuing them, and then investing in the relationships that stick.

Friendship Funnel - How to Make New Friends as an Adult

1) Meet People

When describing how to make friends, I use a lot of dating analogies because they both have similar goals – you're actively trying to find good people who have something in common with you and might be worth forming a relationship with. In the book How to Get a Date Worth Keeping (which Mr. Gamer totally used to catch me), the author says you can't just pray for a spouse to magically drop into your lap and then stay in your house all day doing nothing. Unless your future partner happens to be the mailman, making friends and dating require you to get out there and meet new people. And honestly, it's a numbers game because the more individuals you meet, the more likely you'll find someone you really click with.

In Part 2 of this series, we'll dive into the best ways to meet people.

2) Filter People

Not everyone you encounter is going to like you (and vice versa). Remember that here in our imperfect world, you will inevitably run across people you don't get along with, so expect it and don't take it personally. Whether or not someone appreciates you and your awesome idiosyncrasies has no bearing on your worth in God's eyes.

Even if you and another person instantly connect upon first meeting, that person may not have the same need or time for friendship as you. In the book Friendship for Grown-Ups, the author describes people who happen to be in very different seasons of life. One woman may be looking for a casual workout buddy, while another may be needing a close confidant. One man may be recently retired with plenty of time on his hands, while another may already have too many commitments and a full dance card. So don't be hurt or offended if your "potential friend" doesn't have the same expectations as you. Just chalk it up to a mismatch in compatibility and move on.

3) Invest in People

As you gradually convert your list from "people I've met once" to "people who want to be friends," remember that it takes time, money, commitment, and emotional investment to maintain a healthy friendship. It's surprisingly easy for time to fly by and life to get busy until, before you know it, half a year has passed since you last talked to your "friend." Luckily, you won't need to invest an equal amount of effort into everyone. It's only natural that different people will fall into the buckets of Acquaintance, Friend, or Close Confidant. As your friendships develop and mature, you'll start to find your hangout buddies, couples friends, friends for a season, and so on.

In Part 3 of this series, I'll specifically address how to move an acquaintance into the friend zone (the good kind).

4) Repeat

The reality is that people change and sometimes relationships run their course. Your friends will move, find new jobs, get married, have kids, or just plain get weird on you. You may have a random fight and then nothing's ever the same again. The other person may stop texting back for no reason. On the other hand, sometimes life gets insanely crazy for you both, and you grow closer and stay best friends forever.

In Part 4 of this series, I'll cover a few real-life examples of my own friendships and how they've weathered over time.

Bottom line: don't let life get stagnant on you! Keep meeting new people and add them to your "friendship pipeline," no matter how old you are. Who knows, you may be lucky enough to meet your new BFF in your eighties and nineties. ( ˘⌣˘)♡(˘⌣˘ )

Question:
What tried and true ways have you used to make new friends as an adult?

Monday, October 23, 2017

50 Ways to Kill Your Fish: Impatience

This is a hard lesson to learn. When you first begin the hobby, it's so exciting and you just want beautiful fish in your aquarium now now now. You already went through the trouble of cycling your tank, so finally it's time to go on a huge fish shopping spree, right? Right?

Patience is key to keeping happy, healthy fish

Patience is key. Don't rush things. You hear that over and over again on the forums, but... I don't think there's really any way to comprehend how much waiting fish keeping requires until you kill a buncha fish and walk through that depression. Here are three real-life stories how I inadvertently killed my fish with impatience:

1) Quarantining multiple fish from different sources

"Hobbyist mediated pandemic" was a phrase I first heard from this awesome video on keeping discus. As soon as the speaker described the issue, I was shocked to discover the huge mistake I had been making. Nobody had ever told me this was wrong! You see, I was always diligent about quarantining new fish, but like many excited newbies, I was buying fish from multiple stores and quarantining them all together...

For example, I once purchased some marbled hatchetfish and put them into quarantine. A week later I decided to add one more neon tetra to my existing school, so I plopped the new guy in with the hatchetfish. Nothing wrong with that, right? Unbeknownst to me, the hatchetfish had ich that didn't show up during their two weeks in quarantine (also due to my impatience), and the neon tetra promptly caught it and was one of the first casualties. (╥_╥)

The problem is that fish from different sources will harbor different kinds of pathogens. By throwing creatures from three different pet stores together in quarantine, you're significantly upping your chances that someone's carrying something bad that's going to infect everyone.

Here's what to do instead: take your time, go to one shop to buy fish, quarantine them, and after they're fully done with quarantine, go to another shop to pick up more. Don't try to speed things up by overlapping quarantine times – patience.


Yes, this is proof of me creating the perfect storm for a "hobbyist mediated pandemic."

2) Buying new fish and returning them

This is basically a case of me horribly abusing the pet store return policy. (⇀‸↼‶) After my first community tank crashed, I started planning my perfect aquarium version 2.0 that combined a peaceful group of fish with a colorful male betta as the centerpiece. But it's hard to know if you're going to get a nice or naughty betta. So, while I was only buying from the same store, I was constantly mixing and matching different community fish and bettas in quarantine to see if I could find a combination where they all got along. And if there was aggression, then I would either return the bully or the victim. Yeah, don't do that.

Changing up roommates in rapid succession is very stressful, so make your decision and live with it. Or at the very least, slow down the exchange of fish (which means you can't rely on the return policy for buyer's remorse). Fully complete the quarantine process before adding new animals or rehoming them. This gives the fish time to get used to their unfamiliar environment, eat well, and build up their immunity again.

3) Making decisions when stuff is still unresolved

At one point, my melanoid axolotl Kalameet was in a hospital tank because he wasn't eating and seemed to have bad bloating in his stomach. I was tired of looking at an empty tank and started envisioning changes I wanted to make for his "homecoming." Maybe I could get a hardy java fern to replace the anubias congensis he had accidentally squashed. Maybe I could start quarantining some shrimp or white cloud mountain minnows to breed and serve as roommates/snacks. I had it all planned out and ready to execute, but.... God held me back. I know it's going to sound weird, but He told me to wait seven weeks before I bought any extra plants or feeder species. So I grumpily agreed. And you know what? That call for extra patience was correct. Despite my best efforts, Kalameet took a turn for the worse and passed away a few days later.

Black axolotl sitting on my anubias congensis
Back in the day, when Kalameet was happily crushing the poor anubias congensis

As sad as that story is, I'm so glad God asked me to take a pause. I already had the arduous task of tearing down and cleaning out Kalameet's tank, but at least I wasn't also loaded down with a bunch of minnows that I no longer needed. And not having the extra fish to take care of now means that I've been afforded a new opportunity – the freedom to choose whether I want to keep more fish, stick with axolotls, or quit the hobby all together. As of today, my seven weeks is still not up, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet. I'll keep you updated as I continue blogging about my fish keeping journey.

Question:
What do you think I should do – keep community fish, get another axolotl, or move on? Let me know in the comments below.


Follow the rest of this series: 50 Ways to Kill Your Fish.