January 30th, 2006

mug, tea, writer

Visit to the Shirley Vet. Hospital

So - my sister and I made the long trip out to Shirley (the Shirley Vet. Hospital) to deliver Pippin the betta back to the doctor. An easier drive than usual, and a fascinating visit; the doctor was, as usual, full of experimental zeal and actually happy to see Pippin back; he thinks he may be able to save him. Pip, he said, is the first tropical he has been able to help using his new clean filtration system. These systems are now being used on ponds locally, and he had a couple of ten gallon tanks set up in his back room with a big, beautiful goldfish in each one. He took us back there to show us exactly how the system works. It is important, the doctor said, to ensure three things: (1) proper nitrification, which will happen naturally in any tank of a certain age; (2) complete water circulation with no dead spots, good oxygenation, and a very gentle current; (3) and proper growth of the bacteriophages - the doc says these are 'good' protozoans (unlike the bad protozoans such as ich), and their presence is what makes the water so clean.

I can't go into great detail about the system, because the doctor is still working on refining it for tanks. But I can say I hope he perfects it, because I would buy one! Those he has in his hospital room aren't beautiful, but they are pretty easy to set up and extremely easy to maintain - and they work! It's fascinating - in a way, the doc is going right back to the 'natural' systems described in my pond and goldfish book from the 1920s, but his system is more complete and 'idiot proof' than these. The old book recommends heavy planting with underwater plants; this really helps if you can keep the plants healthy, but what happens if you can't? You've got a lot of rotten debris from dying plants, which soon leads to sick fish (I know - I've been there). Our fish vet avoids this by relying primarily on terrestrial plants, which are easier to maintain.

The flaws in the present day aquarium kits are that the current is often too strong, without providing complete water circulation, and that the lights provided (if any) are often too weak and *also* throw too much heat. The doc relies on low light plants and natural light as much as possible - after all, he's working mostly with pond systems. I really hope he figures out a tank system soon, though. I have a sneaking suspicion it would solve all my goldfish problems. )
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