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A few months after we moved into this house, I made the decision to pack up all three of my aquariums and put them away for a while. We had lost many of the fish during the moving process (despite my best efforts and a lot of help from Eric during the move - thanks again, Eric) and life was very busy at that point so I decided it would be easier to put them away for a while and focus on other things.
For the last couple of months, I've been toying with the idea of getting at least one of them out again, and seeing how the boys liked it. Owen was not even a year old when I packed them up, so he never could really appreciate them before (although he did seem to enjoy looking at them as a baby). Mary and I had talked about setting up the 20-gallon tank first, and if the boys really enjoyed it, we could get out the 55-gallon tank as well (I also have a 10-gallon tank).
We had decided the ideal spot for the 20-gallon tank was in the kitchen at the bottom of the stairs, but we didn't have a good table or stand to put it on. A full 20-gallon tank weighs around 200 pounds, and you don't want it to shake or move at all because that could spill water and stress out the fish. So, you can't put it on just anything. At our old house, it was sitting on a very sturdy table in my office, but that table was being used for something else and wouldn't really fit in the kitchen, anyway.
Long story short, we ended up buying a very nice stand / cabinet that is made specifically for a 20-gallon aquarium. It looks very nice and would work as a regular table if we decide not to have the aquariums long term, so I didn't feel like we were committing to anything if the boys didn't show any interest.
Owen was really interested, though. Once I told him we were buying a stand to set up a fish tank, he wanted to buy some fish immediately. Of course, we couldn't do that until the tank was all set up and ready to go, so I pretty much spent the whole day on Saturday putting the stand together, getting out the tank and all the supplies, cleaning everything thoroughly, setting it all up, filling it with water, checking for leaks (none, thankfully), and making sure the filter and heater still worked. By about 5 PM, I had everything going, and Owen and I headed down to the pet store.
When you set up a new aquarium, there are several steps in the process of getting the water chemistry right. I won't go into all the details about what happens, but it takes about a month from the point that you add fish to the aquarium to the point that the water chemistry is right and stable. The types of fish that I want to ultimately have are not the types of fish who can thrive during that month-long process, so I usually start with some cheap but tough fish who can survive the set-up period, and then trade them out for what I really want later.
I used to go to a local mom-n-pop fish store called "The Fish Bowl", where the owners were always there and I got to know most of the employees. They were good about letting you get some of the "cheap-but-tough" fish to begin with, and then trade them in for what you really want later. Sadly, though, The Fish Bowl closed sometime in the last couple of years, so we just went to PetsMart, which is near our house. PetsMart doesn't let you trade in your fish, but there's another good store across town that will take trade-ins even if you didn't buy them there, so I may end up going there when I get to that point.
Owen was very excited about picking out some fish. He initially wanted goldfish, which definitely fit the mold of cheap and tough, but I talked him out of that because once you put goldfish in a tank, it can take a lot of work to make it suitable for other types of fish because of the high amounts of ammonia that goldfish give off. We settled on some cherry barbs, which I've actually had before and they are a pretty red color and fairly active. They're not very big, but they'll grow some (and besides, they are only temporary).
After dinner, I set Owen and Ivan in chairs in front of the tank to watch as I let the fish out of their little bag and into the tank. Ivan pointed and squealed when he saw them swim out of the bag - he was so excited. I've been letting Owen help me feed the fish (which he wants to do way too many times per day), and Ivan likes to watch them swim around. The only problem with having it in the kitchen is that it's somewhat of a distraction while they eat, but I'm sure the newness of it will wear off after a while.
If all goes well, I'll be getting some better fish in about a month, and then looking for a good place to set up the bigger one.
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