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26 June 2007

Aquarist Update

Right, the fish (parental) are out of the tank (20 degrees C) and transferred to the pond (16 degrees C). The other fish (eggs) are still resolutely stuck to whatever they first touched. Having never done this before, I am both excited and utterly all-at-sea. I'm doing what I think I'm supposed to do.

The tank is being kept warm - the thermostatic heater kicks in at 18 degrees C. The water has not been touched, save for the volume removed to transport Mum and Dad to the pond. It was then topped up with fresh water (tap), and the water then treated, and anti-fungal and anti-bacterial added.

The uber-power filter I bought only weeks ago has been decommissioned, replaced with the old one I had, which was really a bit poor. Minimal suction power is what is needed right now. Along the same lines, aeration has been reduced to lowest power. So: water should be great, temperature should be great, there should be just enough water-flow to keep it uniformly warm in the coming days.

And then it's a case of wait-and-see. My observations regarding the eggs are as follows: good eggs are part clear, part cloudy. Bad eggs are fully-clouded and darker. My eggs - well, you know what I mean - are definitely in the first group. And today, I rather fancy I can see dark spots and lines moving within these microscopic globes.

What happens next goes like this: within the week, I should be able to clearly identify the developing fry. I should be able to see a pair of black dots (eyes) and a black line (spine). Just before hatching, the yolk sac should become clearly visible, and at this point our little chap bursts from his bubble to take his first gulp of fresh water.

He's not a fish, yet. He's a hatchling, he's fry - he's a mobile nervous system and digestive tract. He's see-through - you get to see all his workings like some posh Swiss watch.

His yolk sac will hang beneath him making it tricky for him to move about; rather like a big, dozy bee with its legs smothered in pollen and nectar. For the next week, this yolk sac will gradually reduce, until it finally disappears. At this point, I need to start feeding them, as their portable, always-on larder is no more. And once I start feeding them, it's about another week until I have a very recognisable small goldfish.

I am so excited.

Turning back to the newly-released parents, they are still very much getting used to their new habitat. I think, rather like taking a high-rise city person to the countryside, the space has done their heads in. They have done very little moving about of any great note since I transferred them. They seem vaguely interested, but are generally lying around on the bottom, doing nothing. I'm sure they'll quickly learn the new security standards - there are herons, pigeons and frogs about. They should look sharp.

I'm not worried, despite the fact they are immobile and off their food. It's a big change for them, and they are probably shitting themselves, though I can't imagine how given their lack of eating. I've treated the water with Shirley Aquatics own Para-Pure to clear excess protozoans and fungus. Some Tetra Pond MediFin to generally chill them buggers out, and some King British Professional Safe Water - not because the water's loaded with bad, processed chemicals, but because it aids degradation of ammonia and nitrite and helps digest sludge. As I do not have any form of electric filter in the pond, these will substitute until such time as I do.

I've also schlopped in some bio-claire Gold Plus Montmorillonite Clay, which generally heals, tonics and contains aloe vera, which helps with the fishes' slime coats. This can break down under stress, so this will help any reduction in slime quality. So, basically - they are being very well looked-after, parents and children alike. It's like having two exciting new projects simultaneously.

There is some news of some concern. I had noticed that Edgy - the yellow, female comet - was starting to bulge a bit. I've seen this before, on an exactly similar fish, strangely: it's dropsy, it's incurable, and it's fatal. At first, I had thought it might be because she's in spawn, but today her shape is worse.

Dropsy is easy to identify. It occurs when the fish stops being able to expel all of the water from it's body, and essentially it starts to inflate. Now, fishes scales lie flat against each other, so well meshed that you think it is a whole. When the animal has dropsy, the internal musculature and organs begin to swell (not a very nice thought), and the creature expands. Each individual scale can no longer lie flush against its neighbours, given the expansion, and starts to stick out, anchored at its one cartilage root to the fishes body. The fish starts to look like a pinecone. And that's what my fish looks like.

The advice has been: make her as comfortable as possible; don't separate her from her mate (dropsy is not contagious); keep her well-fed; make sure you've got clean, medicated water. And then cross your fingers. Unfortunately, the recovery rate for dropsy is nil. The survival rate is nil.

And so, nature's great cycle continues. In the tank, hundreds of potential fish. In the pond, one very probably dead fish.


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