When “Bad Things Happen to Good Fish”


“Bad Things Happen to Good Fish,” observes a telling article published  at Vetstreet.com.


Unlike a lot of the contradictory advice swimming around on the web, this article draws on the expertise of vet Dr. Greg Lewbart,<http://www.greglewbart.com/> MS, VMD, Dipl. ACZM.

He is a professor of Aquatic Animal Medicine at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine<http://www.cvm.ncsu.edu/index.html>.

Though aimed mainly at novice gold-fish owners, Vetstreet’s  “happy aquarium” tip sheet is actually applicable to most freshwater community tanks.

I wish I’d had this sheet in hand when I set up my first fish tank. It was a 20 gallon freshwater aquarium stocked with no less than two robust gold fish, a nervous school of tiny, red white and blue neon tetras, four nippy zippy striped zebra danios, a pair of jumpy orange swordtail fish, two indifferent gray cory cats and one lustrous ANGEL fish.

Hold off on the appalled comments please. I was only 12.

And, call it beginner’s luck or whatever, but the truth is, they mostly survived. Though the angel undoubtedly acquired his halo earlier than he should have and here’s why:


My dedicated aversion to changing the tank’s filter media (cottony fluff flecked with gross stuff and gravel) possibly kept their eco-system in some kind of established steady-state? I don’t know, but choosing fish because they were ‘pretty’ resulted in a happy-ish medium. Even so,  I do credit the local pet store for steering me away from the tiger barbs!

Anyway… fast-forward to 1995 and my first, properly populated and lovingly appointed aquarium as an adult… and everything died. Well, not right away but over the course of a dreary two weeks. Why?

I read a book.

No. Not really.

What I read was a sumptuously illustrated fish encyclopedia cluing me into which species can live with whom and at what temperatures. But I hadn’t read anything about what it takes to prep, or cycle, their tank… like the fact it should run empty for at least 24 hours – though preferably one to two weeks. In point of fact, I hadn’t finished my homework.

I’ve learned a lot since then yet find the hobby and information is ever evolving. Which is why my next post will include an interview with a fish expert I’ve come to respect at a local not to be named big box retail store.

errare humanum est



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