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.

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.

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