Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas Time, Mistletoe and Wine

Man, I love the holiday season. I really do, all the snow and joy and laughter and tasty holiday baking...

This year there isn't so much snow; we're really seeing the effects of global climate change around these parts. I have vague memories of the not so distant past standing in a snow storm this time of year. I look outside now and the sun is shining down on my garden in the front of this new house that is still blooming. Yes, we've had frost, and a bit of snow. But apparently not enough to take down the mighty mutant snap dragons the previous tenants planted in the front garden. It's currently only -1C out there. I can very clearly recall my city used to have some of the worst winter cold snaps this time of year, when it would hit -28C in a blink of an eye and then add in the wind chill and snow, you were looking at some serious frost bite conditions. Although, we've never had tons of snow here like we did back on the lake where I grew up, but they haven't gotten much yet this winter either. I honestly worry when the winter is so dry like this, because I live in semi-arid desert region of British Columbia, without a good snowfall we can easily see drought in the summer time. Then again, last winter we got a walloping for winter weather in late January through February, which was a little odd considering. This year I don't even know what's going to happen.

I've done lots and lots of holiday baking this year, but none of it seems to have lasted 'til Christmas. I already ate a big chunk of the almond roca I made last night (that's a healthy breakfast, right?) but none of my 4 dozen walnut crescent cookies made it past a weekend in my house. I have a terrible sweet tooth, holiday baking is bad for me. I've gained back all the weight I lost over the summer, and a bit extra. Dammit. So the holiday baking is giving me glee in the baking and eating part, but then the weight gain is not making me happy at all. I still want to make some butter tarts and maybe some more almond roca. I'd have to go get some more almonds though.

So I guess there's been some stress on me this season, what with not working and all. Still. Big ol' sigh on that front. Then again, it's kind of nice to not have to worry about going to work on top of all the other holiday stresses, like family and gift buying and wrapping. I don't know when wrapping presents became a stress for me, but there you have it. I still haven't done it. The biggest stress I think is Christmas shopping, because I hate it and it's still not done yet. I'm one of those people who would rather have all my shopping done for Christmas before the 10th of December. I'm like that. But Mr. C is more of the procrastinating type, and when we're utilizing his cash flow for presents, I'm kind of at his mercy when it comes to shopping. He hates shopping. I keep trying to tell him that waiting until the last minute only makes things worse, but I don't know if he really has been thinking about that. And I hate having to last minute wrap gifts bought on the 23rd in a mad rush in a store filled with insane people who haven't bought a single thing yet and are freaking out and paying no gorram attention to anyone else in the store.

This problem I have developed over shopping in crowds and stores like Wal-Mart stems from having no personal sense of spacial awareness. I walk into people constantly, turn around and run into them if they are behind me, I talk with my hands and hit them in the face as they walk by, or whack them with my jacket as I'm taking it off when I come in the store or putting it on when I leave. I really try super hard to pay attention to others in public spaces, but in crowds I'm a complete clumsy mess. And around the holiday time, it gets so much worse. It gets on my nerves, because I try so damn hard not to get in other peoples way and to pay attention to their personal bubble, and when someone else doesn't pay attention and is spacing out and I accidentally bump into them as I turn around to look at the end cap display, they act like I'm the asshole. I'm really not a jerk, I'm not that person who doesn't give a shit that you are there, it's just that I have no ability to sense when people are in my space. I have the smallest personal bubble ever, it's not really my fault.

Man, I'd make a good target for a pick pocket.

I have, however, finally finished my nieces teddy bear she was supposed to get when she was born. Whoops, she's like one and a half now. Oh well, it's lovely and she still gets it and I know she will like it because it's soft and cuddly like her. And it's the same size she is. It's so pretty and tealy blue, one of my favourite colours. He has grey feet and grey ears and grey patches on his eyes, which haven't been appliqu├ęd on yet. On his foot pads and paw pads I used some of the scrap paisley fabric from my 50's wrap dress I made back in July this year. If my camera were still alive, I'd take a picture for you to see the beautiful teddy bear. But it's dead, sadly, so I guess you will never look on the glory that is teal teddy bear with no eyes.

Anyway, yah. I think that's all that I feel the need to say. And, just in case I don't make another post for awhile,

/end holiday caps attack

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Personal History of Keeping Fish

So shortly before I moved, I had 3 aquariums in my home, a 10gal, a 20 gal and a 40gal long. They were never very stable, no matter how hard I tried, well all excepting the 10gal which I had for quite a long time before it too finally became a problem. That was due to an outbreak of horrible murderous internal parasites, that got so bad, I had no choice but to go nuclear and clean the bacterial slate in all my set ups.

When I first began keeping fish, I had a betta I named Cid Fishious. The thing lived for a really long time, and I didn't know a thing about how to properly keep an aquarium. I washed the tank out with soapy water once a month depositing Cid into a 500ml glass, rinsed it in boiling hot water and reset it every time I cleaned it. My betta was probably exposed to all sorts of soap residues from the dish soap I used, and worse it was exposed to high ammonia due to the tank recycling probably every month or however so often I decided to clean the tank. Some times it sat stagnant for months before I cleaned it at all, and the water would evaporate to almost empty. That betta lived for four years or so and convinced me that looking after fish was easy, despite how terrible the conditions were in that teenage tank. That set up was in a 2gal hex tank with an under gravel filter, one of those $20 Petcetera starter kits with a tacky plastic plant and marbles mixed with the gravel that I wanted to be sparkly, thus I washed them. I never had a problem with algae in that tank, or bacteria. Once my betta got a bit of fin rot. I scrubbed the crap out of the tank, and shocked it with Melafix. Cid kept on trucking. Then, finally one day I was impatient and after soaking the gravel in boiling hot water I didn't wait for  it to cool before re-assembling the tank. The water was way too hot when I dumped the fishy in, and poor Cid went into shock. He got sick and died soon after.

So then, after a few trials of keeping other betta's the same way I kept Cid with no luck, and an attempt at keeping a few guppies, I was given a 10gal starter tank. This tank had a simple in tank cartridge filter, the kind you load up with washed activated carbon and filter foam, add an aeration stone and a pump and its done. I didn't supplement the filtration at all, or cycle the tank, and dumped in one algae barb and one tiger barb. They died when we were on vacation, and then my father in law gave me some plants from his set up and a few Rosey Barbs. I wasn't a big fan of the Roseys, but Mr. C named them Legion because they were fairly aggressive. The size of the tank really limited adding any more fish, 6 Rosey Barbs would eventually grow large and take up the majority of the tank. But I wasn't truly happy with the fish at first, but they were hearty and didn't need a lot of care and that was fortunate because I didn't put too much effort in. I just let the tank alone, and it flourished for 2 years, and eventually became quite gross until we moved.

This time, I put a bit more effort into the 10gal tank and began to actually like Legion, they had some strange behaviours and reminded me of trout a bit, and they were really pretty in the sunnier living room. So I got a Chinese algae eater in that tank after Legion kept killing anything else I put in with them (all seperately: 1 otto, 1 bushynose pleco, another otto). It was the only fish the barbs didn't kill because it was just as aggressive as they were, and together the fish got bigger and healthier.

Then I got the 20 gal and decided that I wanted to set up a tank with mollies. It didn't work. I read more about aquariums, more about keeping them. I found out about cycling, and how long it takes for bacteria to establish. I got a waterfall style filter, thinking it would be superior to the in tank filter, and also a bubbler. Then I put a sandy substrate in for no other reason than I liked it. I cycled the system for exactly 4 days before I got impatient and bought a bunch of fish, added about every other day for a week or two. I put an african frog with 5 neon tetras and 6 guppies, an otto, 3 balloon mollies, a sailfin mollie and hillstream loach. It wasn't the best combination, as all those fish need different things to be healthy. And it was a little over stocked for the tank size. Also, I bought all the guppies and all the tetras at the same time, and added them into the tank. There was a lot of death in that ammonia filled nightmare, but I didn't know why everything was dying. I hadn't really read a lot about the ammonia cycle and over stocking and stocking to fast.

I wound up getting a killer deal on a beautiful 40gal long tank with a stand and everything I needed but substrate, buying the whole thing used from a friend of a friend for $100. So then I moved my 10gal set up into the 40, and added a bunch of new fish that probably didn't mesh well. I only cycled the tank for like, a week without fish and only adding "Cycle" to the tank. I didn't test the parameters for anything other than Nitrates, but put all the water from the 10gal into the 40 when I added the barbs and Chinese Algae eater (who Mr. C named "Visagi The Suck"). I added in more fish, some strangely aggressive Danios my friends gave me because they were ramming the tetras in their tank that would school with Legion. Then I tried adding glass cat fish, which was an expensive error because they were just too delicate for the rammy danios and the mean barbs. Then I added Apple Snails, which the Chinese algae eater would pick up with his sucker and drop on the rocks, and then they both were eaten.

Eventually, mysterious illness crept up on all my fish. After a couple hundred dollars of fish death, I put live plants in the 20gal thinking it might help the aquarium flourish. I added salt, because I had mollies and guppies together, but didn't realise the salt might harm the other fish. I put things together that well, might have been able to survive but with my lack of knowledge didn't get much of a chance. So, as I read more I began to separate my 20gal into the 10gal, putting the 3 balloon mollies and the sailfin in the smaller set up. Soon I had some weird white worms all over the inside of the tank. I had no idea where the freaking things were coming from. The fish kept dying, going all stiff. I learned later that this was ammonia poisoning, and I should have introduced the fish to the tank slower, and been testing the parameters and doing more frequent water changes. But I thought it must be the worms, so I treated the tank for parasites over and over again. The fish would not stay alive, and eventually the 10 gal tank was the first to die. I still never learned what those weird white worms were, or if they were contributing to the problem or if they were relatively harmless.

Then I bought sick fish from a local pet store *cough* Petland *cough* and lost everything else within a matter of months.

I thought I might have bypassed it in my 40gal tank, the danios had all survived except the one neon pink one I acquired. It had been a little bit gimpy anyway. The longfin and the two zebras survived. None of the barbs did, nor did the snails or the glass catfish. So I added krebensis to the tank, again donated by Mr. C's dad. They were gorgeous and I loved them, but then things started to go weird in that tank too. The danios went first, just dying one day. The algae eater ate them before I even realised they were gone, he was voracious. Then the krebensis (named John Johnson, John Bigjohn, John Littlejohn, John Lithgow and Bob) began to get some of the weirdest illnesses I had ever encountered in an aquarium. First, velvet. I thought I had treated it, then ick came along. After the ich, one of the John's got popeye. Then Bob died mysteriously. Popeyed John lost his eye, and another John got hole in the head. This all happened in a span of a few weeks until all the Johns were dead and only Visagi remained. He never stood a chance, and died shortly before we moved.

From 3 tanks, down to 0. Hundreds of dollars wasted due to poor research and over excitement and impatience. This time around, I'm going a lot slower. And so far, so good, I think. Although, all my initial guppies didn't survive the first stage of the ammonia cycle, I didn't really expect them too, they were inexpensive feeder guppies. I added them first, after the tank sat cycling for about 2 weeks. After a month, I added two julii cories. I lost a julii cory last month, which made me really sad. But now I have to pepper corys that are very active and like to hang with the remaining julli. I still haven't decided who else is going to live with the three cories, but I don't want to take out the waterfall filter so whatever lives there needs to be okay with the current.

I also have the 20gal slowly cycling. Some strangeness occurred within the first week in the 20gal. I was using cycle to start the process, with only a simple foam filter in the tank to begin, and no plants. After the first few days, the water got quite milky and began to smell. Then, on the substrate I could see deposits of what looked like cotton. There were two, one was about 4" in diameter and the other a little smaller. There isn't much current, so I assumed it was just the bacterial bloom settling and let it be for another two days. Then I looked it up when it seemed to get bigger, and turns out its most likely a fungus or bacteria, everything I read indicated it was harmless. There aren't any fish in there, but to be on the safe side I shocked the tank with tea tree oil for a few days and did a few 50% water changes to clear it all up. When I did the water changes, the stuff went all stringy somewhere between cobwebs and snot, but it definitely cleared up after 3 water changes over six days. Then I planted the tank three days ago, Mr. C's dad just culled out a bunch of java fern plantlets from his aquariums and gave me a few other interesting plants like a tall val and some nice grass. I did another water change today. The water still has a faint smell about it from the tea tree oil but its looking nice and clean, and I'm still going to keep changing out the water if it doesn't go nice and crystal clear until I get the new filter I want. I also decided on impulse to put some of the tank water from the 10 gal into the 20, just because I figured it wouldn't hurt to get some ammonia in the tank to help kill any of the weird bacteria left in there. I don't know why it seemed like a great idea at the time, but it did. I also intend to get another one of those in tank cartridges like I had in my old 10 gal that held up so well, because I think it might be good in tandem with the foam filter for a betta fish like I intend to add. Bettas don't do well with waterfalls, and I forgot I had an undergravel filter kit which probably would have been the best for a betta in a community. I already plan on adding some glass catfish and perhaps some ghost shrimp to the set up. I'm going to seed the new filter in the 10 gal tank, just to speed up the process and hopefully promote a healthier environment this time around.

Well, I guess that's all I have to say about boring fish tanks for now. I'm gunna go watch Walking Dead now, because I still haven't caught up!