For the first time in my adult life, I have a pet.
Or rather, 18 of them and counting.
My wife and I have joined the world of aquarium keeping. Fish are the most popular pets in America. And there is a lot of evidence that watching fish can actually help reduce stress.
So we started doing our homework on the subject. The first thing I learned was that, contrary to popular belief, most fish don't like to be kept in bowls, and that includes goldfish. Fish also are very particular about water chemistry, you have to be careful how many fish you keep in a tank and how big the fish get, and you have to learn a lot about water chemistry. But the more I learned, the more I became interested.
Not realizing just how addicting it can be, we got our first tank. It was a 29 gallon tank. After lots of research, we decided to start with a fish called a danio, which is very hardy and very active. They are also fairly common and fairly inexpensive.
They are also a schooling fish, which means they need to be kept in groups of at least 5. I thought I had read that the different species of danios would mix together, so we started with 3 zebra danios and 3 pearl danios. Unfortunately, they didn't like that, and got somewhat aggressive with each other, which is rare for that kind of fish unless they are kept in a large enough group. So we bought two more of each to bring both schools up to 5.
We would have gotten them before, but we needed to wait for the tank to cycle. Cycling is the process of turning ammonia, which is a common fish waste but is toxic to fish, into nitrates, a somewhat more benign chemical. There is actually some helpful bacteria that turn the ammonia into nitrites, a slightly less lethal chemical to fish than ammonia, but not much. Then another type of bacteria builds up that can convert nitrites into nitrates. But it may tank up to 6 weeks for those bacteria to build up. In the meantime, ammonia levels (and later nitrite levels) in the tank can reach toxic levels. That is the common reason why new fish in new tanks die within a week or two after bringing them home. People just aren't aware of the dangers to the fish in new tanks.
Anyway, keeping a tank turned into a very addictive process, and when we saw an ad in the paper for a used 20 gallon tank and a 10 gallon tank, we had to get them.
However, when we brought that setup home, we discovered an added bonus... a 2 gallon bowl was inside the 20 gallon tank. So we have set up the bowl and gotten a Betta, one of the few fish that don't mind being kept in a bowl.
We were watching a Reds game when we were setting up the bowl, so Gayle turned to me and said, "Since he is red, do you want to name him after a Reds player?" I thought about that for a few minutes. My favorite Reds player is, of course, Johnny Bench, arguably one of the best catchers in Major League Baseball history. But his name didn't seem to lend itself to a pet's name very easily. So I thought about other players with names that might be better for a pet, and naturally, I settled on a second baseman for the Reds in the middle 1990s, Bip Roberts. So, our Betta now goes by the name of Bip.
Not sure what we are putting in the 20 gallon tank yet. We thought about putting a goldfish or two into the 20 gallon tank, but after doing some research, I realized that the tank would be cramped for even one goldfish. They grow to over a foot long when given the room they need, and as adults, they need about 30 gallons per fish. Makes me wonder how the practice of keeping goldfish in 1 gallon bowls got started when one grown goldfish won't even fit comfortably in a 20 gallon tank. But the most surprising thing to me is, when goldfish are given the space they need, along with proper care, they can live for up to 30 years. That is an old fish. I no longer think I was doing good to keep a goldfish I won at the fair (when I was a kid) in a bowl for nearly 3 years.