Please welcome Eileen Daub with her first post to That Fish Blog!
As a professional actress in my free time away from That Fish Place, I’ve learned a lot from the theater world that I’ve brought back into our fish room (and vice versa….pronouncing the Latin scientific names of some of these fish really helps to untangle Shakespeare sometimes, believe it or not). One of the biggest tips that the dramatic community can give to aquarists is the theory of improvisation and “Yes, and…”, like the actors in shows like “Whose line is it, anyway?” use to think up those jokes and skits on the spot. To an actor, improv means saying “Yes, and…” to whatever someone else throws their way.
“Hey, you! You’re hair just burst into flame!”
“Yes, and…it saves on heating bills.”
“That dog there just jumped over a house.”
“Yes, and…he fetched his own ball from the gutter while he was up there, isn’t that nice.”
So, what does this have to do with keeping your fish alive and getting your plants and corals to grow? You’d be surprised. For example, our store alone currently sells over 30 products to raise pH or lower pH or raise pH but lower hardness and all kinds of things to make the number on your pH test match what your fish should be kept in. Well, instead of matching your water to a fish, why not try it the other way.
“My pH is really low.”
“Yes, and…discus, killifish, tetras, and other Amazon species love more acidic water.”
“My water hardness is really high and I can’t get the pH down.”
“Yes, and…that doesn’t work for these tetras but those African cichlids love hard water, and hard water with lots of minerals makes a good foundation for reef and marine tanks.”
Need more convincing? Ok, what about all that algae in your aquarium. Instead of scrubbing until your fingers have blisters or putting more chemicals in your tank than in a high school chemistry lab, work with it. Is the hair algae going crazy in your marine tank? Why not try a blenny, bristletooth tang, or a sea hare to help eat it up (or if you get really creative, pick up a small pair of craft scissors and make it your damsel’s new front lawn…tiny garden gnome statue optional)? If lighting is an issue, remember that fish don’t have a 9-5 schedule like the rest of us. If you are only home in the evenings to enjoy your tank, adjust the timers so the lights aren’t on when you aren’t around.
Better yet, how about those inevitable outbreaks of disease or an unpreventable accident. It happens to the best of us – I once wiped out my entire home saltwater aquarium because of an unquarantined new arrival – but the key to enjoying your aquarium instead of dreading its maintenance is how you respond.
“My tank just keeps getting ich outbreaks/bacterial infections/cloudy water/aquatic alien abductions.”
“Yes, and…now I’m going to figure out what to do about it.” (I hear aluminum foil tank covers work well for alien abduction problems. Doesn’t prevent the crop circles in hair algae though, sorry)
Very few things in the aquarium hobby are spontaneous; the cause of the problem might just be tricky to find and sometimes, we just might have to learn to adjust to and live with the problem. Ich and other parasites can be almost impossible to completely prevent, but if you’re fish seem to be especially prone, you might want to switch their diet, add supplements to boost their immune system, or avoid invertebrates and keep a low copper dosage in the tank, for example.
A favorite director of mine likes to refer to improv actors as “Chaos Surfers” – they take whatever anyone throws at them, accept it and ride it forward. I say, why stop there? Aquarists can do the same. We can take whatever our aquarium is telling us and instead of fighting against it, we can accept it and make what we have work for us. We just have to be flexible enough to realize that even when our aquarium “scene” is going the way it might have been planned in our head, what we do have is just as good in a completely different way.
We look forward to more blogs from you in the future!