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Crisis seems to be over
John Shepard ( - Fri Oct 29, 2010 04:16:35 GMT - 1128
''The incredible sinking barb is now out of the sick basket, and the dyings seem to have stopped. ''
The tiger barb is well enough that I've been able to release it back into the tank. From my reading, this is not uncommon in barbs - hydrogen sulfide wrecks their swim bladder, and you find them either at the surface unable to dive, or on the bottom unable to lift off - healthy enough to stay upright, but unable to control their position in the water column.

Swim bladder is an organ that is simply kept full of air for buoyancy, since a fish by itself is heavier than water. If the organ malfunctions, either it absorbs more air and the fish is stuck at the surface, or the air is replaced with fluid and the fish sinks.

It occurred to me this morning that the last of the babies had precisely these same problems - the last two that were seen alive, one was at the surface, I thought it was gasping for air but maybe it was simply unable to be anywhere else, the other was sitting upright on the bottom of the basket.

Anyway, with the barb out of the basket now, the Second Great Crash of 2010 is now deemed generally over with - and the only casualties are the babies, the algae eater, and 98% of the snails.

Siamese algae eaters, by the way, are barbs, so now mine's death makes sense. The details of its death: the day or two before, I noticed it on the bottom a lot, fins clamped. The morning of its last day, we heard a splash at the surface - it had gotten itself seemingly stuck on top of a plant, just below the water's surface. I thought I would do it a favor and free it from the plant; once freed, it went down to the bottom and sat there. That afternoon I found it dead in that same spot. I now theorize that its swim bladder was utterly compromised by the sulfide event, and either its gills were damaged or the water quality still sucked enough that it couldn't get enough oxygen - a problem it would ordinarily solve by hanging out near the surface where there's more oxygen, which it was unable to do with a failed swim bladder. So it made a last-ditch effort to get to the surface and hang out in a plant, from which I stupidly tried to rescue it, and it suffocated.

Swim bladders, I feel scientifically compelled to mention, evolved from lungs, not the obvious other way around. The ancestor of both ray-finned and lobe-finned fishes (coelacanths, lungfishes, and land vertebrates) was the first freshwater fish and already had primitive but functioning lungs for survival in ponds prone to drying up. Those fish that then returned to saltwater, or became bottom feeders, or otherwise weren't as likely to be trapped in a dried-up mud puddle, either lost the organ altogether or kept it as a flotation device. Lungs aren't that hard to make, there are at least two examples of airbreathing "pouches" evolving separately. That's not the hard part of life on land. The hard part is mobility - and not drying out.

Anyway. So I stopped by one of the pet stores on the way home a couple nights ago, aiming to buy a couple of Amano shrimp. I prefer to have a fleet of three, and I was down to one from a batch I bought in June (one died in August, and one has simply disappeared). So I intended to buy two. I get in there and there's a sale on, 3 for $5. So says I, fine, I'll take three. So they bag me up some, write "3 x amano" on the bag, I go pay my five bucks, get them home - and on closer inspection there are five Amano shrimps in the bag.

My technique for moving "livestock" (I don't make up these terms!) from the bag to the tank is to pour the bag water through a net. This works great for fish. Amanos, however, are surprisingly mobile out of the water. So I had just done a water change, and I was doing my bag-to-net transfer over the usedwater bucket. I get my five shrimps in the net, I toss them in the tank, and a couple minutes later out of the corner of my eye I see something moving in the bucket. In the time it took me to pour the shrimps into the net, one of them climbed right out of the net unnoticed and took a swim. And that bucket was nasty water, so I don't hold out hope that shrimp is going to live very long - but anyway I rescued it and put it in the tank. This phases out the use of the "pour into net" technique for shrimp.

(Next day: one of the new shrimps is dead. But I'm used to that with Amano shrimp: you always buy spares, because some of them just don't handle transit. And I seem to have better luck with Amanos than cherrys.)

Anyway, the moral of the story is, hydrogen sulfide is even nastier than I thought. You know hydrogen sulfide is implicated in the Permian-Triassic Extinction, the largest mass extinction ever to occur on this planet - 85% of all the species on the planet and 99% of the individuals of every species that survived, all dead in a geologic blink. Sand as an aquarium substrate tends to harbor sulfide-producing bacteria, which is fine as long as you only ever disturb the deep layers of soil with the siphon an inch away and already running. Me, I uprooted something, tore up the substrate, flooded the tank, and in the time it took to grab the siphon, the cloud of brown death reached the filter. So don't do that. Know what you're uprooting, have siphon ready before removing anything big from a tank.

I mean, all is not back to normal - I notice the tank remains devoid of algae and nearly devoid of snails, I can tell the nitrates are still a little higher than I like, the hydras have not returned, which all means that the tank's bacterial filtration hasn't regrown. Fortunately I know where there's some Bio-Spira.

John Shepard ( - Fri Oct 29, 2010 14:15:38 GMT - 1129
''Note to self: don't read Rastport's message board before going to work. I don't really have time for this today. ''
Is there something about my writing style, that people think I'm bitching about something other than what I'm bitching about? I don't think my style is that opaque. I think if I'm mad about, say, the Boilermakers, that the IU fans won't think I'm talking about them.

I wanted to have a good time in Indiana. Even after we moved to Portland I made a case that Indiana wasn't all that bad, I could adjust to its relatively minor annoyances if I had to go back for good. Instead I went back for a short visit and it was like a parody of what I remembered. What you read was me in the middle of my utter shock, going "holy shit, I didn't realize this was even possible." Don't know and don't care if Indiana was always like that and I misremembered, or became like that in the last nine years - point is, I can handle it for a few days and then MUST get on the plane. Was it wrong of me not to try to contact friends while I was there? Yes. But given how those friends have reacted to my comments, it would not have been a pleasant conversation had it happened in person.

There were places in Indiana I didn't go, that might not have deteriorated so badly. There were people I didn't see, who wouldn't have been awkward to talk to. Sorry I didn't make it that far.

Maybe you have to not be in Indiana awhile to see what I'm talking about. It's when you've been someplace that doesn't do things like, to pull an example out of a hat, drive 70mph with half a car length following distance, that seeing it again is shocking.

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