I took the day off work today. The weather was beautiful and I was sure I should enjoy it, but after taking a lie-in and doing some chores I found myself at a loss to what to do with myself. I kept checking my work emails, looking for an excuse to get dragged back in. I didn’t get one. In the end, after some time sitting in my favourite chair, absentmindedly flicking through social media, I decided to get started on my Betta fishes new tank. He was housed in an undersized 12L. I had incorrectly stated it as 19L on this blog, but it was actually only 12L. With a heater and filter it wasn’t too bad, but it was far from ideal. I had wanted to upgrade him to something larger and I was thinking perhaps something fancier too, but bigger, fancier tanks are expensive, and my father pointed out (rightly) that my floors might not like two very large tanks. So in the end I picked up a cheap 24L kids aquarium – basically the larger version of his current tank. That way, I could keep my existing heater, wouldn’t have to pick up too many new decorations…and there wouldn’t be too much extra weight on my floor.

I decided for his new tank that I wanted to add some wood. His tank always seemed a bit plastic and although I wasn’t about to put in some real plants – I didn’t want to buy lighting, or deal with snails/algae/dead plant matter like I do for my big tank- I wanted something organic. A big slab of wood seemed a good choice to add something natural. I picked it up last weekend- crouching on the floor of the pet shop looking through all their samples for the perfect piece, I’d even brought a tape measure with me to check the sizes- and I had been soaking it all week to remove the tannins. These tannins leech out of the wood, turning the water brown. It’s harmless to the fish, but I didn’t want that kind of look for my tank. But the tannins wouldn’t go, so in the end I found myself spending my afternoon boiling this wood in a big pot on the stove. Exciting, right.

It seemed to do a good job getting those tannins out though. And the boiling would also have killed any potential bacteria or fungus in the wood, which is good too.

After that, I rinsed out the new tank, rinsed the new gravel (I was going to combine black gravel with the lighter gravel in the existing tank for a fancy looking substrate), emptied out the existing tank partly so I could move it to one side and put the new one on the table. Then I began to pull apart the old tank, poor fish still in it and looking quite bemused, and build up the new one. Finally, I moved the fish to a bucket so I could finish taking out the items and substrate in the existing tank and empty the last of the water in the new tank. (Poor little guy was definitely having a time of it through this process. Thankfully in the wild, as far as my research suggests, betta’s have to deal with these situations now and then. They have a gland that lets them breathe in air to get oxygen to help them deal with stagnant water conditions. So he could deal without a filter and a small space, only for a time though, as it would be stressful for him to actually live this way. That’s why you shouldn’t keep betta’s in those pathetic 7L betta tanks with no heaters or filters. They may survive it, but it’s stressful for the fish to live like that…I found this article on the Betta’s natural habitat very interesting. You can find a picture of a betta in the wild here, which is also interesting.)

I removed the old tank, pushed the new tank into position and put the fish back in alongside his bucket of water. (I decided to risk using the new tank straight away, due to needing to place it in the same location.) Slowly, I filled the tank, watching as my fish explored every nook of his new territory. Finally, I got the heater and old filter on. I still need to create a baffle for the new filter so I can get that established. I need to buy a new background for the tank. The fish looks happy though, albeit still a little bewildered by all the new space.

He is finally in a proper sized tank. Finally, his tank doesn’t look so pathetic next to my big 120L.

I’m very pleased with it too, though I do think I want to make it even more heavily planted going forwards…

I started out with two shrimps, then one seemed to mysteriously vanish, so I bought two more shrimps. But instead of having four shrimps now, or even three shrimps, I appear to still have just one. I peer intently into the wild depths of my tank, behind the ornaments and plants, looking for a flash of red and finding none. What is happening to my shrimps? (Is it my danios? It’s probably my danios, isn’t it.) It would seem the only thing I can keep successfully in my big 120L tank are my cloud mountain minnows. (I am fairly sure some of my minnows are at least a year old now!)

Meanwhile, my betta fish is alive and well in his 19L. He has started to flare at me when I get too close to his tank sometimes, which I am taking as a sign of sass and not stress (google searching seems to support my theory). He seems very big even without the extra beard (i.e. when he flares his gills at me) and I am contemplating buying him a new and larger tank at some point. Having just bought a car, I probably shouldn’t, but I worry about him in his on the verge of being too small tank. I don’t want him to feel confined or bored.

I was also looking at old photos of my marimo, and indeed, they look exactly the same then as now. I’m going to be an old, old lady before they become noticeably big. I’ll have to leave them to someone in my will, won’t I?

The Guest Cat

Whenever I move to a new place I always do my best to find out where the cats are, and which ones are friendly. In my last house there were three cats down the road adjacent to my house, and I’d pass them by on my way to/from the bus stop and spend a little…fine a lot of time petting them and letting them climb all over me, because yes, I would sit down on the curb just to be with them for a time. In my new neighbourhood I sourced three cats all very close to me – two gingers and a black cat. The black cat is rarely out, and one of the gingers cat even harder to see, but that left one ginger cat, who was very friendly and was often out and about when I was. I’d see him to/from work and he would let me pet him. Sometimes he’d follow me to my door and show interest in being let in, but I never let him in and he never really pushed for it. It was fine.

Then my own cat died.

And one night, when the little ginger cat came to my door and asked to be let in, I pushed open the door and let him in. He ran in, ran up the stairs to my flat, looked around, then turned round and went back outside. I was a little relieved. I thought that was it. But there was a next time. The next time, he came and started exploring a little. Then there was another next time, and many more after that. I was not feeding him so I figured it was OK, I could pet him a little, let him explore a little, then kick him out and he wouldn’t become particularly attached because I wasn’t feeding him, and I figured he’d get annoyed with being kicked out and stop coming eventually and that was OK. I liked his company, but I am aware that he is not my cat and that I am not allowed pets in my flat. I missed my cat though, and I wanted some feline company, and it was only for a few minutes, so I pretended that it was fine. But.

He didn’t get bored. He started to fall asleep here, staying for whole afternoons on the weekends or when I am working from home. And finally, he has started to sit outside my door, wailing to be let in, at random times of the day and even at night. I know I need to ignore him but it kinda breaks my heart to hear him meowing. It’s hard to ignore him. I feel awful ignoring him. I usually end up giving in and letting him in. I know I started this, after all.

It’s…become a problem now. He has become very clingy – always at the door meowing to be let in, and he always seems to be out when I get home, and then he runs to my door and what can I do? I need to get inside myself. And if I manage to get inside without him, he sits out there and meowls at me. He knows I am inside. I know he’s outside.

I just want him to go home. It’s not right. I know. His owner is hopefully not ignorant to the nature of cats – she is probably used to him disappearing for hours, and probably knows he may interact with other people. All cat owners know, or should know, that cats have very little loyalty and are very independent. But ultimately the cat should, usually does, comes home to its owner and eats there. I haven’t been feeding this cat at all, but he still seems reluctant to go home and that worries me. I don’t want to be a cat napper! I don’t want to violate the terms of my rental contract. But I love cats, and I miss my own desperately. I have started to feel lonely since I lost my cat, even though I hadn’t lived with her for years. (I don’t get it either.)

I have no idea how to resolve this. Cats don’t know the word “no.” I don’t want to spray water at him to chase him off, because I’d feel so mean. I love cats too much to take such a stance against him. It’s not like I want to get rid of him completely, I just don’t want him inside anymore. My only hope is that the flat I think he is coming from is on the market to be sold, and if his owner could just move and take him away, that would be the easiest way. Because I have no idea how to handle this myself. I am completely weak to his advances. (I mean just look at him. He’s adorable. <\3 )

Pros and Cons

Pros of fishkeeping-

They are entertaining

Fish have surprising amounts of personality. My minnows are shy and indifferent, my danios are lively and a bit boisterous , my betta is curious and always has an air of royal annoyance. My danios and minnows swim around, investigating their environment, chasing each other, displaying, they nose at the gravel and around my marimo seeking fallen items of food. They start shoaling around the food hatch at feeding times, and when I put in crushed peas I put it in the water by dipping my fingers in and they’ll eat right off my fingers. My betta skulks around his kingdom all day, making sure it’s ok. He watches me when I’m in the room, and follows my movements. He has a special ‘dance’ he does when I come close to the tank, in order to beg for food. He’s always hungry that one. I catch him staring up at the place where food appears, quietly waiting. He builds bubble nests and i have caught him just once, curled up on his betta hammock. He won’t play with me, but occasionally he will follow my fingers if I slowly move them across the side of the tank, and it’s nice to know he knows I’m alive, that I am there. (Even if all he wants is food! 🙄)

They are beautiful and interesting

Basically.

They are relaxing

I could watch my fish swim around for hours. As someone with an anxiety disorder, I find there’s something very therapeutic about watching fish. It instantly makes me feel a bit calmer, a bit more in control of my racing thoughts.

They aren’t demanding

You can miss feeding periods, you can go on holiday, you don’t need to exercise them, groom them or play with them. They don’t care when you leave in the morning or when you come back.

They are cheap

Many fish are between £5-£10 for a small group. My betta was £6. Their food is under a tenner. I can feed my minnows and danios peas and spinach as a treat, which is something I have in the freezer anyway. I can catch little flies and throw them into my Bettas tank, which again, cheap and easy and makes him very happy. (I err…Have lots of plants, which is where the tiny flies come from. They are harmless to my plants so there’s not much I can or want to do (using pesticides indoors is bad) so yeah, they aren’t garbage flies and there’s not swarms of them!!)

Cons of fishkeeping –

They require expensive equipment

The fish and their food is cheap, but the initial set up is hellishly expensive. A proper sized tank, filter, air pump (optional), heater (optional), substrate , decorations, plants (real and/or fake), water testing equipment, tank cleaning equipment (gravel cleaners, siphons, buckets, algae scrapers, sponges), thermometers…It quickly adds up to a frightening amount of money. This leads nicely on to:

They don’t have great emotional needs, but they have intense environmental requirements

I read an article which said that keeping fish is not about learning to keep fish, but learning to keep water. Ain’t that the truth. Your fish will only be non demanding and cheap if you invest time and money into setting up a decent sized tank (tank size dependent on what fish and how many!) and then take the time to maintain it properly. I do water changes every one-two weeks dependent on the tank and circumstances (my betta tank is too small for two weekly changes, and my big tank needs weekly water changes for a bit after I go on holiday as algae can build up from the food blocks I use, and waste build up too probably) I test the water monthly. I keep my Bettas tank heated. I have appropriate hiding places and foliage in both tanks. I have a baffle on my Bettas filter to still the water as fast water flow stresses him out. In contrast, I have an air pump for the big tank as my danios and minnows really like it. My danios in particular like to swim through the bubbles.

You don’t need to play with them or groom them, but you must watch over their environment carefully. I have thankfully not really witnessed the side effects of poor water quality or inappropriate environment (apart from my betta before I put the baffle on his filter), but I’m always aware of what stresses my fish and how to create and maintain the best environment for their needs.

I am not allowed to move, ever

I am not sure how I would go about moving a 120L tank… They are also impossible to catch. 😐 this is slightly problematic when you are living in a rental and are in the early stages of your career.

They have limited lifespans, and are prone to suddenly dying

You a) can’t get too attached because b) they are going to die, sooner rather than later and c) you are likely going to have to deal with the remains, if they don’t just mysteriously disappear. Dead fish aren’t any easier to catch than live fish. And without a garden to bury them I have no choice but to chuck them in the bin, which feels terribly heartless. :(

They are hard to keep track of

I don’t know how many fish I have. They swim too fast for a headcount, and they hide. My minnows especially love to tuck themselves behind ornaments or within the plants. I think I have 16 fish in my big tank…Maybe?

In a World Without You

A life update.

I went to see Bastille in concert recently. They were supported by Rationale. Thank you Bastille for introducing me to such a powerful, soulful voice. I was disappointed to find out afterward that Rationale won’t be releasing an album until next year, which means the songs I heard are unreleased? I am confused. Anyway, after Rationale Bastille came on stage and played a great mix of old and new songs. They played some of my favourites like Laura Palmer, The Draw and Of the Night. Although they skipped out their fabulous city high cover of What Would You Do?, which made me sad. I went with my sister, who had seen Bastille before they were famous (my sister is an unintentional hipster) and it was interesting to hear her talk about how before they were barely filling the standing area, when now the whole arena except for one block was packed. The lead singer was constantly wandering around stage and weaving into the crowd, which was a bizarre game of where’s Wally, followed by two massive bodyguards. He had nothing before, my sister claims. The concert was too short. It was massive fun. And although I didn’t get a chance to check out their latest album before going, I’ve bought it since, intrigued by what I heard. I’ve been looping the album daily since and I like it, though not quite as much as their first. Though to be honest, the bonus disc of Bad blood probably contains some of their best work. I’ve also been looping my videos of Rationale and waiting impatiently for his new album – which I’ve got preordered. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a concert, and it was good fun. The crowds were intense though, and I don’t think I could have coped with that aspect without having my sister next to me.

My sister stayed at mine for the night then the next day we went to see our parents together, where I was to stay for the weekend. I wanted to go back to see my cat…wasn’t there. I needed to see she was gone. It was weird though, being home without her there. I kept looking for her – instinctively scanning every room I entered, looking out the window to see if she was in the garden, looking up at every noise, wondering if that was her, jumping off one of the beds upstairs, or something. I couldn’t find her and I couldn’t make sense of it. I still can’t stop thinking about her, missing her. We received her ashes back from the pet crematorium recently, and we ordered a small memorial stone for her today. It really is tiny, just a little piece of slate engraved with her name. We will bury her beneath the azaleas were she spent her last days, and place the stone to mark the grave, subtle and not fussy, just something to honour her. She was our first proper pet. My first pet. I didn’t realise that I had beliefs about death or what comes next, and I am surprised by how strong some of my feelings are when it comes to how she should be laid to rest. Like, I desperately want to bury her with her nametag, and some of her favourite things. I want her to have them with her for…later. I didn’t know I held that belief. My family probably thinks I am a little crazy.

My sister recently got her own cat, and I am a little jealous. I’m not sure what is too soon for a new cat for myself, but I know I do want another one at some point. There is a cat shaped hole in my heart. I cannot have my own though, due to my rental contract, so I am relying on my parents to want another one. I am slightly jealous of my sister for having her own house now, and having the freedoms that come with it. It can be hard to have an older sibling, to see them ahead in the future, living out the life you are still working towards.

I have really been so gloomy since my cat died. I thought, I wanted, to come back from holiday happy and relaxed, but my cat’s death shook me and uprooted me. I lost my way for a little while, and I am only just putting the pieces back together. I have started my happiness journaling again, I am watching my diet more closely (I stopped eating for a time after my cat died, subsiding mostly on random binging episodes of much junk), and am cleaning up the house, getting that all back together.

I miss her too much.