And The Winner Is…

The blue cobalt discus.   His name is Socrates (after the Greek thinker, not the equally brilliant Brazilian footballer).

After whiling away several hours at The Wet Spot looking at fish, interviewing them and checking out the 40 yard times, it was decided that the best fish on the board was a rather nice looking blue cobalt discus.  I also picked up some new plants to fill out the back of the discus tank.

They also had some really cool looking cichlids on hand too.  But I would need to take my youngest daughter along to help decide the correct specimens for the Lake Malawi tank.  My personal choice would be the black ones with white dots on them….

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“Fish Are Friends: Not Food”

I have two newish pets:  Aristotle and Archimedes.  They are discus fish.   I  swear that Aristotle knows that I am writing about him:  there are two beady (well at least one since sideways is forwards in fish vision)  bright orange eyes staring at me from behind the glass of his, and his prison bitch Archimedes’, rather well appointed aqua-pad.  (It’s freakin’ me out, man.)

As I have gotten older, I have developed a passion for building and maintaining aquariums.  It has given me an excuse to indulge in research and” that thar book learnin’ stuff” that is way, way out of style these days. I get to utilize skills in chemistry, biology, some bio-chem and even some mathematics.  Above all else, it fits into the well ordered lifestyle that I crave.  Fish are quiet pets.  They don’t chew up my sneakers or claw the curtains or smell like my daughter’s beloved pet lizard Sir Igmund Pop.  Fish are not, however, low maintenance pets.  And of all of the pretty, pretty freshwater fishes, Discus fish are supposed to be the most incredibly high maintenance fish of all; or rather they are not high maintenance if they are maintained appropriately and often.  If these fish wore diapers and crapped, it would be just like having babies in the house again. 

Where this fascination with fish came from is anyone’s guess. Growing up I loved fish:  especially deep fried in a beer batter by the local psychotic Scottish chippie and smothered in vinegar and HP Sauce.  Later on in life (like when I turned 11) I found that I loved fish when they took a maggot on the end of a hook.  (This was a source of great consternation in my family since nobody else even thought about going fishing.) And as maturity (or something vaguely verging on it kicked in) that love was when a steelhead took an egg cluster and headed downstream trying to rip all of the line from my reel. Now my love of catching, killing and eating fish has not dwindled in any way shape or form. But my physical ability to withstand the rigors of mid-winter fishing for steelhead as the snow falls and the line guides on the rod freeze shut has.  Playing soccer for thirty years gave me a phenomenal tolerance for dealing with, what can be effectively summarized as, challenging conditions.  But the trade-off was a right knee that is barely functional from a bad tackle (by me on someone else) and a disc in my lower back that is deteriorating and creating issues for my left leg and ankle.  Pneumonia was also an issue this winter and continues to add another layer of challenges to fishing.  I can hook, catch and land any fish just fine:  getting down the bank to the edge of the river is where the real challenge lies.

Now, a huge part of my love of fishing was trying to understand the “process” of the fish (sounds sort of James Liptonish there, doesn’t it?)  I wanted to learn all about their ideal habitat and other habits.  And so I did research and book learnin’ and stuff because that’s what I do:  and since nobody else in my entire family fished, who was I going to learn from.   One of the things that my family has always thought is that I am just a tad bit weird with my love of doing everything by myself in great secrecy.  One of my favourite “weird Leslie” things to do is to hole up for a week’s vacation with a pile of books, lot of model kits and soldiers to build and paint, and plenty of DVDs and CDs to check out.   I disconnect the phone and just go I Am Legend for a week.  Remember people who like to be alone should not be confused with people who are lonely.  My mum and daughters are used to it by now and they just figure that I am either off fishing or on vacation when I disappear for a week or so.

So after moving tangentially there for a while, it is time to get back to talking about living with fish.  To quote that master thespian Bruce the Shark from Finding Nemo “fish are friends”.  However in a break from Pixar’s team of eco subliminalists, they are food too (just not the discus –that is way too expensive sushi).  My cichlids are like dogs.  When I come home from work, they rush to the front of the tank with a psychic scream of “daddy’s home” emerging from their collective maw.  I have to feed them then and there.  The largest tank in my collection is a 55 gallon Lake Malawi cichlid tank complete with rocks and caves.  This was actually created and used for a biology project for my youngest daughter in high school.My third tank is a variation on a theme by the great Japanese aquarist, and aquascaper, Takashi Amano.  I have been greatly inspired by his books, especially Nature World Aquarium.  This genius (and I am not resorting to hyperbole) has applied all of the constructs of Japanese gardening to aquariums and the results are stunning, breathtaking, like looking at a living Monet.  I have a 29 gallon tank that has only cardinal tetras in it so that there is a school of red and blue taking up the middle of the tank.  This contrasts with the bright green plants and red wood that is still forming the other living half of the tank.But my current project is the discus tank.  It is a work in progress.  The tank itself was set up last August and plants were added in September and October.  I did not add any discus fish until December and now after four months, it is time to add another one of two.  Now I just have to let my daughter figure out what colour fish we are going to add….