1. Keeping fish as pets is an excellent way to reduce stress, encourage relaxation and bring peace to a troubled mind… at least, that’s what relaxation experts say. Personally, I find observing my fish perplexing. I used to have a rectangular aquarium and the fish I added to the tank—those that survived that is (this was before I realized how deadly my unconscious recklessness could be for the poor defenseless creatures)—swam back and forth, up and down and seemed to have no sense of direction. Then I changed to a large bowl-shaped tank and now the fish always swim around the periphery of the aquarium in a counterclockwise motion. My only explanation for this predictable behavior is that they’ve watched too many NASCAR races, but at least they don’t die on me when I bring them home from the pet store anymore.

    If you have fish dropping dead on you, one of several reasons can be the cause. First of all, if after purchasing the fish you decide to take it on a whirlwind tour of your city while it endlessly circles its little plastic bag, it’s likely to run out of oxygen and die. If the fish is already floating belly-up before you try to dump it into your aquarium, this might be the cause. Also, if you leave it in your car while shopping on a hot day, you may return to find it not only floating belly-up, but somewhat poached.


     However, the most common mistake made by those buying new fish is that they fail to equalize the water temperatures between the plastic bag and the aquarium. If the water in the bag is warm and that in the tank is cool, your fish will probably suffer shock when dumped into the aquarium. This will kill a fish as surely as will an M-80. To avoid this, place the plastic bag into the aquarium for about 10-15 minutes without emptying the water. This will allow the water in the bag to equalize gradually to avoid shocking the fish. It will also give your new fish a chance to give his fellow prisoners a somewhat muffled, “Howdy”.


     Another common mistake made by fish enthusiasts is dumping all of the water out of the aquarium when cleaning it. This may not kill the fish, but it may interfere with their overall health. Over time, aquarium water builds up levels of beneficial bacteria that help to break down urea, the nitrogen-rich waste product that fish just can’t hold in (if they do, they explode, which is really messy). If your aquarium stinks only a week after you’ve cleaned it, this is probably why. So instead, use a siphon to remove 20-75% of the water a couple times a month; as you do this, run the end of the siphon hose over the bottom of the tank to suck up as much fish poop and uneaten food as possible. Then refill the aquarium with water stored at room temperature for at least a day, preferably treated with Acu-Clear or some other product that removes chemicals such as chlorine from tap water. Also, to avoid stirring up any waste you could not remove earlier, use the siphon to replace the water slowly and with as little turbulence as possible.

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