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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Fishtank Foibles and Tales of Disaster Nearly Averted

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Fishtank Foibles and Tales of Disaster Nearly Averted

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tiki hut
I am back. The weekend was lovely. A full account and pictures will follow, probably tomorrow, just as soon as I get my lazy butt off the couch (literally) and move myself and my computer back to the desk. Oh, this wireless Internet is a dangerous thing....

A few weeks ago, after returning from the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Bobby and I decided that since we like animals (but have an apartment too small to deal with the rambunctiousness and odors of a dog or cat) and are after all embarking on a study of marine science that will hopefully culminate in jobs not involving warrants or bird flu, then we would like to keep our own aquarium. Bobby used to be an aquarium nut, with three tanks in his room at one time: a 55-gallon "aggressive" tank, a ten-gallon community tank, and a five-gallon piranha tank, so this would be an easy undertaking for us.

Last week, we got the tank set up and bought out fish, and everything was going beautifully. But of course, Murphy had to stick his fingers into the water....

We were debating and finally decided to keep an aggressive/cichlid tank. Bobby has kept all kinds of aggressive and cichlid fish before. To start, we bought a few non-cichlids of a hardier variety, to (pun intended) test the water: a featherfin catfish (Maedhros), a plecostomus (Maglor), a bala shark (Celegorm), and a black ghost knife, who Bobby named Mack the Knife.

Once they had adjusted, we added smaller cichlids in small batches over the next few days. All was well. Everyone was happy and healthy. Maedhros (the catfish) grabbed the rock cave right away and quickly established himself as the boss of the tank. The cichlids--such curious, adorable little fish--would poke their little noses into the cave, Maedhros would come flying out, and they'd poke no more. I haven't seen Maedhros out of his cave since we got him (though Bobby claims that he is often out at 5:30 a.m., when he leaves for work, but I am not that eager to see him).

One morning, I got up and could not find Mack the Knife. This was especially weird because he's the second-largest fish in the tank and looks like a jet-black cross between an eel and a fish. In other words, he's noticeable.

I made myself late for work that day looking for him. It's not that big of a tank to hide a three-inch fish. And he wasn't dead, and I'd seen him the night before, so I knew that the cichlids hadn't devoured him.

When I came home, he was back like nothing had ever happened, nosing around in the plants in his corner of the tank.

That evening: gone again. I asked Bobby, "Have you seen Mack the Knife?" Bobby verified that he had seen our three-inch black fish "disappear" on a couple of occasions too.

Now Mack was starting to tick me off. Where the hell was he going, this little fish that was cleverer than me (who thinks herself pretty smart)? I searched the cave, but there was no way, with Maedhros still holed up in there. He wasn't inside or underneath any of the plants or the mechanical diver. He wasn't dead because I'd seen him only a few hours earlier. Then I noticed a water outlet at the top of the tank. It was about a half-inch high (1.75 cm) and completely dark inside. I looked inside and saw a flash of white. Mack has white markings on the tip of his tail. I called Bobby over. "No," he said, "there's no way he could get in there!" Alas, the white markings flashed again, and they exactly matched Mack's, so I stuck my finger inside and, yep, that was a fish-tail I felt.

After a bit of poking, Mack slithered out backwards and into the tank.

A bit of observation proved that Mack was scared of the cichlids. Yes, he is the largest fish in the tank (aside from the plecostomus, who does not really count), but he is a pansy. So we bought a second set of caves, figuring that he could hide in one and Maedhros in the other. Bobby lured him out with food--call Mack what you will but never "Late for Dinner"--and Mack saw the caves and took up refuge. Good. Then along comes Finwe, a pretty little blue cichlid, nips Mack on the tail, and it's right back up into the water outlet. Next I checked Mack's cave, Maedhros had taken up residence in it, and the cichlids were playing in Mae's old cave.

It was pretty clear that Mack was not aggressive enough for our tank. Neither of us were surprised; fish do have temperaments that differ from the expectations based on their species. We had a red swordtail when I was a kid who behaved like a bloody piranha; we had to put him in the baby-tank for "jail" until we could return him to the store. Mack obviously swung the other way, more towards a community tank. So that left us with a decision. Both of us felt bad about leaving him up inside of the water outlet for the rest of his life or leaving him prone to bullying. I made the suggestion of buying a small tank to keep as a community tank; if we added fish that were too mild for Finwe and the Rough-housers, we could move them into the other tank. So late last week, we bought the tank and set it up so that we could let it run while we were away and move Mack in as soon as we got home on Sunday night.

"Watch," I said to Bobby, "the little bastard will come out while we are gone and move into that second set of caves."

"Nah," said Bobby. "He's terrified of the cichlids."

When we came home on Sunday, first thing we did was check on the fish. And noticed something weird.

Our tank is on the entertainment stand that we bought from Ikea, on the top shelf. Beneath it is an expensive array of a Bose iPod docking station, an Xbox 360, the cable box, a DVD player, and my original Nintendo Entertainment System, which is probably worth $5 in cash but $500 in my heart. And the fishtank was suspiciously...leaning. Leaning to the left, rather like Dawn and Bobby both. The rest of the shelf looked normal.

It seems that a bit of water had trickled down over the course of the weekend, saturated the high-quality Ikea wood, and had subsequently begun to sink into the wood, partially collapsing the top shelf. If we had made this a four-day weekend, we quite likely would have come home to a soaking-wet carpet, a dozen dead (and expensively dead) fish, and close to $1000 worth of ruined technology.

As it was, we managed to drain the tank enough to move it to the floor in time. Today, Bobby went to Home Depot and bought a new, sturdier piece of wood for the top shelf. The fish are happily back in place.

But the funniest thing of all in this tale of near-disaster is that when the tank began to sink into the collapsing wood and leaned to one side, the water outlet in which Mack the Knife had been taking refuge was no longer underwater and therefore accessible. So we came home to find him in the first set of caves--fat, dumb, and happy--scaring off cichlids left and right, while his brand-new tank bubbles ready and empty in the next room.

Obviously, we no longer needed to move him, so we started a community tank in there instead. And Mack pokes his stupid head out of the cave every minute or so, looks around, proud of himself, and slides back in. He's got reason to be proud, I suppose: He outsmarted the cichlids...and the humans.
  • Go Mack! He almost sounds like he could be a character in one of your stories.
  • *snerk* Somebody around here has a virtual hamster named Artaher, which I think is genius. I told my friend about it, but she didn't really get it.

    I am going to get a couple of goldfish and name them Alpha, Gamma, and Delta. They will then keep my betta fish company...sort of. My betta should really be named Draco, because he acts like a jerk but is really a wimp.

    Anyway, you have crazy fishes!
    • Hee! I love those goldfish names!

      Well, our fishes take after their keepers, I guess.... ;)
      • It really wouldn't surprise me...I'm fairly sure the craziness my dog exhibits is only partially due to his crazy dad!
  • Ha! What a great story! Pixar may be calling you soon... ;-)
    • Lol! Well, I don't know that a movie about a fish named "Mack the Knife" is quite as cute--or suitable for children--as Nemo. ;)
  • Maedhros (the catfish) grabbed the rock cave right away and quickly established himself as the boss of the tank.

    Why does this not surprise me? :P

    The cichlids--such curious, adorable little fish--would poke their little noses into the cave, Maedhros would come flying out, and they'd poke no more.

    I'm sure it's your fault for naming him that. Now I keep thinking of the Dagor Bragollach. "...and the orcs fled before his face."

    Your Mack sounds adorable (I can never tell fish apart, especially not fish of the same species).
    • Now I keep thinking of the Dagor Bragollach. "...and the orcs fled before his face."

      Lol! The cichlids are obnoxious enough to be orcs, I think, but far too pretty!

      Your Mack sounds adorable (I can never tell fish apart, especially not fish of the same species).

      Most of ours look very different from each other. Mack is our only ghost knife, so he's easy to spot. He looks a lot like a small eel, especially in face. The cichlids are of different varieties; the only two who look alike at all are Amrod and Amras, and I can tell them apart. Finwe and Caranthir are the same species--blue with black stripes--but Finwe's stripes are fading, and I think he might be a male. Sooo...Finwe and Caranthir might have babies. *scrubs eyes with steel wool* And Feanor and Nerdanel were the same kind and looked a lot a like, but Nerdanel died on Sunday. :(

      I will try to photograph them again. I'm sure that the cichlids will pose, but snapping Mack might be difficult!
  • P.S. There's a Mr. Middle-Earth pageant starting over at the House of Feanor comm-- go check it out, will you? (though I think I have a good idea whom you'll nominate. :P )
  • What a great story! Illustrate it and sell it as a children's book! *g*
    • Hey, you're the painter...care for a co-authorship? :^D
      • Sure! I'm sure that would look great in watercolours. You only need to send me pics for the different characters. The fish I recognise is salmon filet on my plate... ;-)

        We could use LuLu and force our friends and family to buy the book.
        • Be careful what you wish for. I might just send them along. ;)

          I guess I need to come up with characters for each fish. And names that aren't Feanorian!

          We could use LuLu and force our friends and family to buy the book.

          Sounds like a plan to me! Honestly, I was reading a children's book in one of the Ocean City bookshops called something like "The Farting Dog" about a dog that...well, farted all the time. I think it might have been the dumbest thing I ever read. When I put it down, I wondered why I am writing for an adult audience when I could have been published for authoring that....

          So if your schedule allows you time to illustrate a children's book, let me know, and I'll send pictures. ;)
          • Well, same as you my schedule is always overflowing... but I've been wanting to do more *original* painting for ages. And it's not as if we'd be working against a deadline.

            So if you come up with the names, a short characterization for each fish and a real life pic of the species, I'll try to come up with a few first sketches on how I'd paint them... and then we'd need to figure out how we want the text and the illustrations to work together. :-)
            • Awesome! :) I took some pictures last night, but they came out blurry because our digital camera is not good at taking pictures of things unless they are sitting perfectly still. The SeaLife would probably work nicely, but that's packed away till Christmas. :(

              I've been observing them too, trying to figure out who has what type of personality. Mack is definitely the most endearing! (And not surprisingly, Caranthir is the nasty one....)
  • LOL! Hilarious story! I think I love Mack.
    • Yes, Mack is freaking awesome! He looks cool, for one, because he looks more like an eel than a fish. And he's so funny when that stupid-looking head comes out of the cave, looks around, then pops back in. Plus, he'll eat out of Bobby's hand. He's a neat fish.
  • a featherfin catfish (Maedhros), a plecostomus (Maglor), a bala shark (Celegorm)

    Tyelko the Shark *giggle*

    Maedhros (the catfish) grabbed the rock cave right away and quickly established himself as the boss of the tank.

    LOL! He wants his own Himring!

    I haven't seen Maedhros out of his cave since we got him

    Maybe you should rename him Fingon or Eol ;)

    When I came home, he was back like nothing had ever happened, nosing around in the plants in his corner of the tank.

    men!

    A bit of observation proved that Mack was scared of the cichlids. Yes, he is the largest fish in the tank (aside from the plecostomus, who does not really count), but he is a pansy.

    lmao!!!

    Then along comes Finwe, a pretty little blue cichlid, nips Mack on the tail, and it's right back up into the water outlet. Next I checked Mack's cave, Maedhros had taken up residence in it, and the cichlids were playing in Mae's old cave.

    *rotflmao* Finwe is the King after all ;) And LOL Maedhros! How generous of him to give his old den to the chichlids.

    I made the suggestion of buying a small tank to keep as a community tank; if we added fish that were too mild for Finwe and the Rough-housers, we could move them into the other tank.

    awwwww

    Leaning to the left, rather like Dawn and Bobby both. The rest of the shelf looked normal.

    I can picture the two of you standing there asking each other: is this standing normal or not...

    So we came home to find him in the first set of caves--fat, dumb, and happy--scaring off cichlids left and right, while his brand-new tank bubbles ready and empty in the next room.

    Awwww!!! He found his spot. Now of course you can expect the question from me: how are Celegorm and Maglor doing?
    • Tyelko the Shark *giggle*

      Doesn't it kind of fit? The shark also likes to hide in the plants around the tank, so that's like Tyelko too, methinks. :)

      LOL! He wants his own Himring!

      Ha! I had never thought of it that way!

      Awwww!!! He found his spot. Now of course you can expect the question from me: how are Celegorm and Maglor doing?

      Great! Celegorm has come out of his shell a lot. He used to hang around the back of the tank, but now he swims around a lot more. Maglor has been sucking on the back of the tank since we got him...but that's normal since he's an algae eater. Once, I caught him on the side, but as soon as he saw me looking at him, he swam away. I guess he's shy. ;)
      • Doesn't it kind of fit? The shark also likes to hide in the plants around the tank, so that's like Tyelko too, methinks.

        Absolutely!

        Celegorm has come out of his shell a lot. He used to hang around the back of the tank, but now he swims around a lot more.

        Yeah being the sporty type, that sounds like him.

        Maglor has been sucking on the back of the tank since we got him...but that's normal since he's an algae eater. Once, I caught him on the side, but as soon as he saw me looking at him, he swam away. I guess he's shy. ;)

        LOL and that for a character that loves a big crowd ;)
  • Yes! Someone else who will share fish tales with her friends list!

    I'm glad you caught that problem shelf before it gave way. Do you know where the water was coming from? Not a tank leak, I hope.
    • Yes, I thought of you when I made this post! I'm sure our mutual friends were rolling their eyes and saying, "Her too?" :^D Well, I find fish posts entertaining!

      We've been monitoring the tank and haven't had anymore problems. It seems that a considerable amount splashed out before we left and slowly trickled down the side for three days, long enough to keep the wood saturated, so it doesn't look like a leak. I hope.
      • Hey, fish posts beat the next silly meme when it comes to entertainment value! Our friends have nothing to complain about. ;-)

        I'm paranoid when it comes to tank leaks, so much so that I sprang for an acrylic tank when I got my 55 gallon. The thought of what so much water could do to a hardwood floor (not to mention the cealing of my finished basement) almost put me off of buying a tank altogether. That's one thing I appreciate about the pond - any leak problem is the fishes' disaster, not mine.
        • Hey, fish posts beat the next silly meme when it comes to entertainment value!

          True that! I could post loads of quizzes: "What Kind of Melon Are You?" or "What Is Your Psychoanalytic Fuzzy Aura Coloration Scheme?" Personally, I'll read about the fishies. ;)

          The thought of what so much water could do to a hardwood floor (not to mention the cealing of my finished basement) almost put me off of buying a tank altogether.

          Eek. True. Luckily, we have carpet. And we rent, so the worst that can happen is we lose our $100 security deposit and Town & Country springs for new carpet.

          And, well, the carpet could smell like fishy water and mildew, but the living room tends to smell like Bobby's hockey equipment much of the time anyway, so that might be an improvement. :^P
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