DISCIPLINING A FISH
Only one technique works...
I have this nice 55-gal “community” fish tank. That means pretty - with assorted fish, gravel, rocks, driftwood and plants. Soothing other-worldly escape from life’s stressors. Rectangular glowing 3-D; superior to FOX or sit-coms. It’s been just fine for years now and I know how to maintain the environment so is stays that way. At least I thought so until three weeks ago.
I bought a few new fish from the most-reputable dealer in town and duly housed them in a small “isolation tank” to acclimate them to my well water and observe them for parasites, sickness or unacceptable behavior. They were fine – so I transferred them to the main tank two weeks later. What a wonderful addition! They immediately and happily adapted and were accepted into the community. A nice little colorful school meandering around the box as if driven by a secret, purposeful goal.
A mere few days later I noticed my other fish had developed a fuzz on their “lips.” Upon closer inspection the new ones had hints of the same. I Googled “aquarium fish fuzz mouth” and soon was staring at “Cotton Mouth – Fish can die within 48 to 72 hours.” New fish are notorious for introducing it and I guess I should have kept them in isolation longer? So I got the meds and added it to the water along with other recommendations. After the 5-day treatment they were way better and two weeks down – looking good!
Today I inspected the infirmary and see worsening signs again, despite my scrupulous therapy. And one giant angel fish beating up another. The place used to be peaceful... I’m convinced this disease is affecting their little minds and it’s turning to aggression. I reluctantly netted the aggressor and threw him outside in the bushes. Others immediately calmed down and I’ve medicated the tank again ... but am convinced it’s hopeless. Probably just a matter of time before I give up on them and sanitize the whole thing and start from scratch?
This brings up the old topic, “How do you discipline a fish?” Well, for me it’s an old topic because I used to breed fish decades ago. Among my twenty tanks were three “community” tanks. I had three sizes for three sizes of fish - small, medium and large – 20, 50 and 150 gallons. And the communities were very healthy and peaceful...most of the time. Occasionally, and for no apparent reason, a single fish would get into the habit of beating up the others. Such miscreants were notoriously sneaky about it. I would just notice that many fish had nipped fins or worse with no culprit identified. I eventually discovered that I could carefully tiptoe to the room and slowly peek around the corner. Hah! – the Tiger Barb. A breed notorious for aggression. He would play dumb when I walked in, “just a swimmin’ around minding my own business.” I netted him and gave him a “time out” hanging in a net above the tank for 15 minutes. Then I dropped him back in from a punishing height and he sort of descended unconscious like a falling leaf. Nest day he’s beating up the others again and I (mistakenly) concluded, “You can’t train a fish to drop the aggression; they’re just too stupid.” Alas, rapping him on the snout with a newspaper proved overkill.
But I finally came up with a humane solution that works! If a fish in the small tank is too aggressive, transfer him to the medium tank. He will get along just fine there – small fish in a big pool. Ditto medium to large! It worked like a charm and I always enjoyed peaceful tanks.
The one exception was the big community tank. If a fish proves too aggressive, net him and fry him up for dinner.
© 2012 Thomas Dey - 3/27/12