Monday, June 16, 2014

Aquarium 2.0

Trooper chasing fish in the old 20 G tank
My awesome landlady C and her youngest son N took me to pick up my new aquarium the other day. 

It was quite the adventure, filled with a few mishaps, all punctuated with N's endless chatter.  Almost seven year old boys can be extremely chatty!

I was planning on getting a 46 gallon tank with a bow front, but the one I'd picked went up in price since I'd been in a week before, so we looked at the other tanks available.  The 60 gallon tank was on for $50 less than the 46G, and C was quick to point out that it would fit in the car, no problem... so my arm was twisted and I got the bigger tank.  N and his mom helped pick out some decor for the tank, and the staff loaded the tank into the car... then realized that with N in the back seat, there wasn't enough room for the tank and its stand (which comes assembled and not in the box as we'd assumed) so we unloaded the tank, loaded in the stand and drove it and the myriad of items that we got to go with it and took our first trip home.  C and I unloaded the stand and other items, she fed the kids, and we headed back for round #2.  I should note that nearly the entire time, N was chattering away and asking questions that only almost seven year olds seem capable of coming up with, punctuated by the constant refrain: "How much longer?!"
The 20 G tank looks so tiny next to the 60 G!

We loaded the tank into the car, got ready to head home, and noticed 2 chips in the corner of the tank.  Several phone calls later, the staff at the Strawberry Hill store had located another tank... in Langley, given me a nice discount because of the inconvenience, unloaded the damaged tank, and sent us on our way.  I should point out that C is awesome and barely flinched at the thought of detouring to Langley. Luckily the new tank was in mint condition - the staff there and C, N, and I all checked thoroughly! 

N picked out the Chinese Dragon.
We used our awesome girl power and got the tank downstairs to my suite without incident or any male assistance (other than ten year old L closing the door behind us) and put it in place.

The rest was up to me.  You may have read my How To Set Up Your Tropical Aquarium post, if not, go check it out to see what it was basically like to set up the tank, only 3 times bigger. :)

It took what felt like a thousand trips with buckets of water to fill it up, not to mention setting up all of the cords and tubes so that they'd be as unobtrusive as possible, and I used some of the tank water and other items from the old tank to help jump start the biological filter.

The tank is now set up and after getting the levels and temp in the correct range, I just transferred a few Zebra Danios and my Pleco into it.  I think Danio's are ninja fish.  They are very good at eluding human attempts to capture them.  I suddenly see the value in the over-sized nets that the local fish store staff use!

Pleco expertly hiding behind a very short green plant.
True to form, I've seen Pleco move only once since going into the tank.  Eventually he's going to realize that he has a lot more room than usual, and will probably redecorate the interior of the tank as he likes to do, but for now, he's "hiding" behind the shortest plant in the tank... he's not going to win any awards for hide-and-seek anytime soon.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Spiders, Raccoons, and Frogs... Oh, My!

For months now, every time I go to take a bath or shower I find a spider in the bathtub. Every. Single. Time. I don't know what it is about my bathtub that is such a draw to spiders, but it seems that there is some sort of spider law that a single spider must take up residence in there at all times.  I carefully remove the spider using a yoghurt container and a piece of paper, relocating little Igor or Charlotte to the back yard, yet the next time I go to use the tub, there is inevitably another eight-legged critter in there waiting for me.  It's like my bathtub has a vacancy sign that only spiders can see: 
Spider residence now available!  
Must fill immediately!  
Move-in ready! 
Disclaimer: Slight chance of free relocation to a more outdoorsy abode.
Take possession Today!

It's funny, I seem to have a history of critters of various sizes entering my homes (or yards) uninvited.  I've had frogs, raccoons, squirrels, hummingbirds, cats, bunnies, and dogs appear in our house or yard without invitation... not to mention the numerous critters our cats used to catch and release in the house when I was a kid, or the animals our neighbors would bring to my mom to rehabilitate.  We wound up with several unusual birds that way... golden pheasants, crows, ducks... 

I've written about the frogs who have not only appeared in my garden, but have hopped right in the door and across my living room floor - more than once! I actually thought that the little frog was one of the kids toys left out during a recent visit with N&J, until I saw it leap a couple of feet up and to the right.

I've mentioned the hummingbird that I had to rescue from the eating area of our house, and the squirrels who ate from my hand.  I learned how to patch up drywall when mom and I cut several holes in the wall to rescue a baby squirrel who got stuck in the wall of our house. 

Let me see if I can clear up some of the other animal appearances...

There was a giant neighborhood dog that used to break into our backyard and patiently wait there for me to come out and give him pats and scratches behind his ears.  He knew how to push open the gate latch in order to enter the yard, where he would visit with our dogs.  He showed up on the sundeck a couple of times, scaring the begeesus out of me before I realized that it was my furry and unnamed (to me) friend.  Our neighbors across the street had a black lab named Shadow.  He had an electric collar linked to an invisible electric fence around his yard.  He would carefully weigh the discomfort of the shock he knew he would receive if he left the yard (provided the fence was turned on, which it often wasn't) against how much he wanted to visit his neighbors.  I found him lurking in our carport numerous times.  Often I wouldn't know he was there until he was nudging his head against my hand to tell me he wanted to be patted, RIGHT NOW!  He managed to scare each of us more than once because he just blended into the shadows, so you rarely saw him coming.  He loved our neighbor Mr. G.  Mr. G was a quiet neighbor who usually kept to himself, but when Shadow was around he would just light up like a little kid, and made a point of visiting Shadow in his own yard every day so that he wouldn't get zapped crossing the invisible fence.

It was Mr. G who found a tiny baby black and white bunny in his garage, thought it was ours, and asked me to come retrieve it.  While we did have a rabbit matching that general description, Domino was about a hundred times the size of the little guy I found hiding in Mr. G's carport.

A few years ago we had a raccoon mama that moved into the shed in our backyard.  She found a large Tupperware container and used it to create a nest for her babies.  She let me take several photos of her, cooperating as long as I didn't try to get too close.
raccoon babies
When I was a teen, my mom stayed up late one night baking several dozen muffins to take to work the next day.  She left them out on the counter to cool overnight.  We woke up the next morning to find that every single muffin had at least one bite missing from it.  We scolded the cats, thinking that was the end of it.  A week or two later, I was in my bedroom downstairs when I heard a rustling sound in the hallway.  The bag of cat food was kept there, so naturally I assumed that one of the cats had gotten into the bag and was helping herself to a snack.  I called out an admonition, but the rustling started again after a brief pause.  I peered down the hallway to find two beady little eyes staring back at me.  Those eyes didn't sit on the face of one of my cats, but on the masked face of a rather large raccoon.  The raccoon had discovered the cat door, let itself in, and not only helped itself to the cat food, but to the muffins mom had made earlier.  To get the muffins, the raccoon had to go through the cat door, up the stairs, onto the kitchen counter and back out again without being discovered by one of our dogs or cats.  I really don't know how the furry little bandit managed it!

Speaking of our cats... around the time of the raccoon invasion, we had two cats, Quixote Anne (not to be con fused with our former kitty, Don Quixote) and Kira.  Kira appeared one afternoon in a nearly empty flower planter on our sundeck.  We went outside, heard a pitiful mewling sound and found a tiny, very dehydrated kitty curled up in the dusty planter.  How she got there, where she came from, and how she instinctively knew that ours was a safe place to go, we will never know.  We called the vet, described her condition and were told to try to give her some water via syringe or turkey baster, but not to hold out much hope.  If she made it through the night we were to bring her in, but not to bother right away as she was unlikely to make it. (In hindsight, it seems like the vet on duty was not very compassionate.  I've met vets since then who would have insisted we bring her in immediately, planter and all in order to avoid jostling her.)  Against the odds, we managed to get Kira to drink some water, and she gained enough strength to curl up in our laps and purr like mad.  The vet was quite surprised when she went from deathly ill to remarkably healthy in a short span of time.  Her growth was stunted, but she was a lovely and affectionate little kitty who liked to curl up next to our dog Gandalf. At nap time, she acted as if he was her mama, he in turn tolerated her unassuming presence.  Quixote on the other hand, he avoided like the plague after an unfortunate encounter in the eating area (of hummingbird fame) where he cornered her, then didn't know what to do with her, so he kept barking while lunging at her while she swiped her claws at his nose.  She won the battle, he skulked off with a few nasty war wounds, and that was the end of their chances at a lasting inter-species friendship.