Stef's Folly or, "I Married A Closet Aquarist" SUSAN M. TOPPING-ZANDER he Christmas before last my husband Stephan decided that what our two year old daughter Leah really wanted Santa to bring her from the North Pole was an aquarium filled with fish. Ignoring my suggestion that it might be a good idea to research the subject, he went to the nearest Wool worths and bought a 10 gallon aquarium which he assured me would not cost more than twenty dollars. However, the tank, hood, air pump, gravel, food, plastic plants and three goldfish cost almost five times that amount. More was spent when my husband decided that the blue gravel was not aesthetically pleasing and returned the next day with natural riverbed gravel, a syphon, designer fish food, water conditioner and medication. The venture proved a big success, not so much to the intended recipient of the gift, but it was obvious my husband got a big kick out of setting up the tank, arranging the aquascape and taking care of the fish. Leah quite liked the three goldfish, naming them after her cousins: Laura, Jessica and Christopher. Jessica died two days later. Although not provided with a funeral, I did tell my daughter that Jessica was in fish heaven. For those of you with small children, I think that dead fish, and they do seem to die a lot early on, particularly when the fishkeeper remains in ignorance about such things as cycling a tank, provide a great simple lesson in metaphysics. In our case, it proved useful when my mother and later our dog died. The former, of course, had gone to people heaven, while Dixie was in dog heaven where the fields are always green, the sun always shines and there are bones everywhere just waiting to be buried. Although I was not enthusiastic about the fish, I made two contributions to my husband's newfound interest. First, I got a book out of the library on goldfish which not only revealed the mysteries of cycling a tank but also provided a lot of very nice color photos of the more exotic goldfish. And second, I pointed out that I had noticed in the local paper, which I read only for the children's listings, that there was an Aquarium Society that met on the first Wednesday of every month. He went; he listened; he returned a convert. The rest is hazy. I do know that it
wasn't long before my husband started measuring walls, rearranging the furniture and building stands out of two by fours to hold the ever-increasing number of fish tanks. Soon the only magazines in our bathroom were all about fish, and, because I happen to read anything that's laying around, I learned about things like ick and other fish-related trivia that I could have lived quite happily without ever knowing. And my husband started to disappear for hours into the bedroom where all the tanks, not counting Laura and Christopher's, were housed to do "fish things." I would sometimes enter unawares and catch him gazing at a particular tank with a concentration I had not seen since he studied for the Bar exam. Eventually I cancelled our cable television. The technician who came to unhook our cable found it hard to believe that we did not need it anymore. And I must admit that I would never have believed that Stef would ever prefer the tranquility of fish-gazing to the joys of channel changing. I knew my husband's hobby had become serious when I realized that the noise from all those filters and air bubbles had rendered our bedroom uninhabitable. I had confirmation of his allegiances when we started looking for a house because the first things he asked were to do with the size and condition of the basement. Fortunately, we found a suitable basement quickly and moved into the new house at the beginning of this year. We are still working on the rest of the house: installing baseboard heating in the basement was more expensive than I would have liked, but the fish find it cozy. Although I confess to finding fish people a little strange, I was impressed when my husband's friends helped him move his fish on a bitterly cold night during one of New York's harshest winters. I am less impressed by their tendency to offer enormous tanks, more fish or special filters gratis. Stef finds it hard to turn anything down and now that we have a back entrance it is so easy for him to smuggle things down to the fish room. He says it is my imagination when I notice on my way to do the laundry that his tanks seem to be proliferating but I swear he didn't have this many in the apartment.
I must make it clear that I do not object to my husband keeping fish for a hobby. Everyone should have a hobby. However, my definition of the word would be that it is an interest pursued in one's free time solely for the enjoyment it gives. My husband would agree. We differ only in our definitions of "free time," which to me is whatever is left over after family, work, and house or, in other words, the three minutes I have left before I lose consciousness at the end of the day, and to Stef is whatever time exists outside of work, including the time many very nice people often spend just eating dinner. But apart from the time it takes I think fish-keeping has a lot going for it: it provides a great lesson to the children about pursuing interests just for love; it teaches us all about the natural world, and I do know where my husband is because if he's not down in the basement doing fish stuff, he's up in the attic doing Modern Aquarium stuff. However. I do have one question and would welcome any sensible answer. Although our monthly payment to Con Ed is a closely guarded secret, it seems to me that the amount owed has grown larger in direct proportion to the number of tanks that have been installed. But when I ask Stef how much it costs to run a filter on a tank, his answer is that it costs much less than a light bulb and that the fact that our bill is the Zander equivalent of the national deficit is due to my inability to turn off the lights. Does this make any sense to you? Is leaving the hall light burning all night the equivalent to running a 135 gallon tank for a month? And if I stopped leaving the refrigerator door open while I pour the milk in my coffee, would our bill suddenly be halved? The reason our utility bill is such an issue is not just because we have to pay it, and on our income that is not always easy, but also because I like to know how much something costs before we do it and I have noticed that that is a factor rarely addressed in articles about fish-keeping. For example, this summer I read an article in a magazine that suggested every family should install a water-garden because they are a great family project (i.e., fun and educational) and gave explicit directions on how to go about setting one up. After calculating the cost of a whiskey barrel, a few plants and some fish we decided to go ahead. Unfortunately the two sets of fish we bought died, probably due to alcohol poisoning, and we discovered that we had provided the perfect breeding ground for the mosquito. Well, if that was the educational part, I guess the fun pan was watching me jump and curse as they subsequently tried to suck me dry.
Mosquitos adore me and abhor my husband and daughters. I got bites and the kids got a lesson in inappropriate language because it was very difficult to remember to say "drat" when all those other words expressed so much more precisely how I felt about becoming a mosquito snack. My husband's response was that we should install a filter because the mosquito doesn't like moving water. When I asked how much that would cost to run, he replied with that light bulb thing. As I was at a disadvantage because it had been my idea and I was the one who was scratching, I agreed. But even though I have turned off lights and have been very careful about the refrigerator door, our contribution to Con Ed increased. If I could work out how much those filters cost to run, or be persuaded to subscribe to my husband's theories about the cost of electricity, I would build a garden pond next year because I am astounded by the water hyacinth's fragile, yet fleeting, beauty. I might even let Stef stock it with fish, although the kids and I would rather raise frogs. Getting the children to sleep remains a problem in our family that is compounded by our daughters' refusal to do so without my physical presence. Unfortunately, our two-year old Sophie finds that her afternoon nap gives her enough energy to enjoy the evening and quite obviously views toddlerhood as a time to train for her future career as a party girl. Quite amazingly, my husband has managed to persuade her that feeding the fish will help fulfill her dreams. Thus, while I am upstairs with Leah who cannot sleep without her turtle (a gift made especially for her by her best friend's mother), her pink painting (her bedroom walls painted by Stef) and "Mama's arm," Sophie is in the basement "helping Daddy." On one notable occasion, her help consisted of dumping half of a large can of fish food into a tank full of Leleupi fry. 1 am not convinced that the reaction she got that night was one that will guarantee that her future attempts to impress the man in her life will be more successful if she remembers that "less is more" but I do know that my husband has finally learned that taking care of a child entails slightly more than just being in the same room as them. In fact, both Leah and Sophie are remarkably knowledgeable about fish stuff and some of Stef's enthusiasm has infected them so that visits to "Steve's Store," otherwise known as "Nature World" have become quite a treat. As 1 think about the way that 10 gallon tank from Woolworths has changed our lives, I can't help but realize the pan chance has played.
t was one of the coldest nights of the year. The temperature was in the mid-teens, Fahrenheit. We were about to bring tanks of tropical fish outdoors. What tale of madness was this? The tale begins with a hobbyist named Stefan Zander. Stefan is a member of Greater City and the Art Director for Modern Aquarium. Stefan and his wife, Susan had a growing family (two lovely daughters) and a need to move from their apartment. So, they bought a house. Of course, when you're a fish nut (as Stefan is) moving horrors are compounded by the existence of numerous aquariums. Stefan had many. What to do? Well, you call upon other fish nuts to help you out. In this case, two people were available on the night Stefan was ready to make his aquatic move. One was the ever redoubtable owner of Nature World and GCAS member, Steve Sagona and the other was me. Fortunately, there were some elements in our favor. The new house was only a couple of miles from the old apartment. Stefan had a station wagon. This meant we could make a few trips easily and did not need a large van or truck to move all the tanks. Stefan had no tanks larger than a 30 gallon, and the doors and stairways did not require that the tanks be upended to be carried to their new location (the basement of the house). In this situation, you want to act quickly but with as little discomfort to the fish as possible. This is the method we agreed upon. We drained the tanks down to about an inch or two of water above the gravel. We did not remove the gravel or the fish. (Obviously this method cannot be used for large fish in large tanks because the resulting weight of the remaining water needed to support the fish would make the tank too heavy to carry.) However, all rocks, driftwood, ornaments and plants were removed and placed in plastic buckets with lids. Removing the plants is optional. However the others must be taken out as not only do they add weight to the tank but they may become
dislodged and crush the fish. Filters, heaters and lights were also removed. The tanks over 10 gallons were then carried by two people into the back of the station wagon. Smaller tanks were carried by one person. The tanks were not stacked on top of one another. Each load was then brought quickly into the basement of the new house. They were then placed on their respective racks or stands, which Stefan had previously set up. This process was repeated until all the tanks had been situated in the basement. We worked at a furious pace. I can still picture wafts of warm fumes escaping from the tanks as they were exposed to the frigid night air. Ice was all over the ground from the fallen snow of that week. Miraculously, no one slipped. Tropical fish outdoors in the dead of winter! What lunacy! After all the tanks were in the basement, we began to re-fill them with tap water. We mixed hot and cold water to approximately the tank water's temperature, which had not gotten appreciably colder in any of the tanks. We added a water conditioner directly to the aquarium as we piped (using a hose) the water in. We only filled the tanks half-full that first evening, so as to lessen the "shock" from new water. We covered the tanks and let the fish settle in for the evening. This moving method worked rather well. Very few fish suffered any ill effects. I think we lost a few helleri swordtails, but none of the more expensive fish such as Lake Tanganyika cichlids and Apistogrammas. Why some of the swordtails succumbed a day later was not altogether clear. However, all in all, the method we used accomplished the desired result of being able to move over a dozen aquaria in one evening with a minimum of labor or fish losses. Is the winter the best of times to move tropical fish? Hell, no! But, using our expedited method of aquarium moving it wasn't the worst of times either.
Bowl Show STEVE SAGONA
he monthly bowl show at Greater City Aquarium Society has been a club tradition for many years. I have been Bowl Show Champion for 3 straight years, and, somehow my reward for this accomplishment is that I'm now Bowl Show Chairman. The only thing I can deduce from this is that success has its rewards (or something like that). As Bowl Show Champion I've gotten a trophy for each year, and lots of ribbons for each winning fish. These ribbons are prominently displayed around the tanks of the prize winning fish. First off, let's talk about the rules. Well, actually there aren't many, but let me give you a quick rundown of those rules we do have : 1. 2.
4. 5. 6. 7.
Only 2 entries per family are permitted per bowl show. A fish that places in a Bowl Show may not be shown again that season (September through the following June). In order to have your fish considered in a Bowl Show, you must fill in the Bowl Show entry sheet. Don't get the judge mad. You must be a paid up member of GCAS to participate in the Bowl Show. The judge's decision is final. In case of a tie at the end of the year, the person with the most first place finishes during the year will be deemed Bowl Show Champion. Points are awarded as follows : 1st Place - 5 points 2nd Place - 3 points 3rd Place - 1 point
Of course, rule #4 is the most important to me Also, rule #6 should be amended to say : "The judge's decision is final, unless there's a large bribe involved." Only kidding, of course. Then again, no one has offered me any large bribes yet, so who really knows ?
When judging fish, I evaluate the following criteria: A. The overall health of the fish. B. The finnage or lack thereof. C. The difficulty in keeping the particular fish. D. The relative rarity of the fish. E. The age of the fish. In the past there have been occasions where it has been a one person contest. That has certainly not been the case so far this year. If we get enough entries, I'm hoping to set up several categories for the different fish that are entered. October's Bowl Show, for example, was a difficult one to judge. I found myself switching winners and finishes several times among the nine entries before reaching my final decision. For all of you who are participating, or would like to participate in the Bowl Show I would like to share some of the "tricks" for transporting and showing fish that I've learned over the past few years while competing. One of the keys to my success was the fact that I almost always showed cichlids. which happen to be the type of fish that I'm most familiar with. I used one gallon glass bottles to transport and show my entries, which were easily transported in one of those little travel bags you can easily obtain. Placing the fish to be judged into the bottle about an hour before leaving gives the fish a chance to calm down and regain any color lost due to the stress of being removed from its tank. By the way, watch out for those fish that quickly lose color when disturbed, such as the "peacock" types from Africa, as well as many other cichlids. Of course, their nature will be given consideration during judging, but you want your fish to look as good as possible. To my recollection, we have never lost a fish entered in the Bowl Show, so, as long as your fish is in good condition, there is no reason to worry about bringing them in. Of course, if your fish is not in good condition, it should not be entered anyway Of course, I'm always available to answer questions on how fish were judged. One thing that I did not mention was that, as Bowl Show Chairman, I cannot enter fish any more. So someone else will definitely be Bowl Show Champion for 1994-95! Keep those entries coming and I know we'll have a fun and competitive year.
G.C.A.S. HAPPENINGS GCAS First Annual "Fish Fry" Registration for the first annual GCAS "Fish Fry" contest ends at the December meeting. The I contest entry fee is $5.00 and it is open only to GCAS members. All who participate will receive j some Haplochromis sp. "flameback" fry at::dtfr:JaBuajry 4, 1995, meeting. Contestants will bring I in the best one of those fish xfbr judging at the September 6, 1995, meeting. For more! information, and answers to any questions you rnjght have, see WarrensFeuer or Mark Soberman.
NEW MEMBERS "
New members joining G.C.A.S. since September are: Tom Bohiriek J; Cindy Brome James Chou ,.« Hfirb & Andrew Karen Michael Knowles Frank Laudato Sonlly & Katia Pimentel Monte Rauchwerger Solomon Vafon
Pete D'Orio Joan Micklus StanJIJyMassinger
Our annual Holiday Party wilt ibe held on January 4> 1995i To help make this year's party a| success, tell Mary Ann Bugeia what you are planning:to bring to the party. Participants in ou|;| "Fish Fry" contest will pick U$;||$ir "flameback" fry at this meeting.
Here are meeting times and locations of aquarium societies in the Metropolitan New York area: Big Apple Guppy Club
Brooklyn Aquarium Society
Meets: §-00 P.|vC;*:;:3rd Thursday of eacti month at the ©j^ens Botanical Garden ?•; Contact: Ms. Diane Gottlieb |:;:; Telephone: (718) 261 -4650 1
Meets: 8:00 P.M. - 2nd Friday of each month in Old Education Hall, the Aquarium I6r Wildlife Conservation j;;: j| Contact: BAS Events Hotline Telephone: (718) 33^6o|7:; • ! /'
East Coast Guppy Association
GREATER CITY AQUARIUM SOCIETY
Meetp8:00 P.M. - 1st Thursday of each month at the Queens Botanical Garden s;;; Contact: StephmiKwartler / Ed Richmond Telephone: (718^9j65067(718)761*0166
:Meets: 8*00 P.M. - 1st Wednesday of each momh:at the Queenst; Botanical :Garden Contact: Mr. Wapen;Feuer ,:;:••: Telephone: (71 Sf 793-8724 : - ?
Long Island Aquarium Society
Nassau County Aquarium Society
Meets: 8:00 P:M, - 3rd Friday pf each month at the Bayshore Veterans Wars Hall, Bayshore, NY Contact: Mr. Thomas Soukup Telephone: (516) 265-2682
Meets: 8:00 PM:^ 2nd Tuesday of each inonth a t : the Merrick Road Park Golf Course, Merrick, New York Contact: Mr. Ken Smith Telephone: (516) 589-5844
North Jersey Aquarium Society
Norwalk Aquarium Society
Meets: 8:00 P.M. - 3rd Thursday of each month at the Nutley American Legion Post Hall, Nutley, NJ Contact: Mr. Dore Carlo Telephone: (201)437-5012
Meets: 8:00 P.M. - 3rd Thursday of each month at the Nature Center for Environmental Activities, Westport, CT Contact: Mr. Mark Broadmeyer Telephone: (203) 866-2615
DECEMBER 1994 volume I number 10