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The Epic Story of Waddles (part 1)
Izzy asked if I would post the story of her newest goldfish arrival, (AGES AGO, Iím so sorry, live has been out of control lately) so here it is. . .but youíll have to bear with my meandering as I work my way thorough. The Story of Waddles is a bit convoluted, at least from my perspective. . . and yíall know I fail at short and sweet on a good day. Itís a sad story, but one with a very happy ending - for Waddles, anyway. ANY animal that ends up a tank in Izzyís home is by default one of the luckiest animals alive! Iím so happy heís finally found his way to a safe and loving home. . . and am eternally grateful to Izzy for her willingness to adopt a stray into her little goldy group, and give him the chance at a very bright and happy future. Thank you, so much - it means more to me than you know.
Waddles came from a tank that belonged to some very close friends of mine. As far back as I can remember, there has always been a tank in their house. I never paid much attention to it - shoved as it was into the corner of a room filled to bursting with childrenís toys and clutter. The lights were always off, there was nothing to see. But the story of this tank started many years before I discovered my fascination for all things aquatic, so I never really thought much about it, or itís inhabitants at the time. . . and I certainly didnít bother to wade through the mess in order to get a closer look. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was dimly aware that goldfish lived there, and that it was in the play room because these fish had been won over the years by the eldest of their three daughters - prizes brought home from the local state fair.
About a year and a half ago, my own fishy obsession began when a spontaneous trip to the mall for some Sunday-evening family fun ended with the unexpected result of several aquatic members being added rather suddenly to our family. I got lost somewhere between my own enchantment at the tanks and the sweetly begging voices of my little girls (then one and four years old), who were being so very good that day. . . mine was the same sad story that we see all too often told here, lack of prior research and trust in pet shop employees ending with a poorly stocked, overfilled, and dangerously cycling tanks taking the lives of innocent animals - with the owner being none the wiser in spite of well-meaning questions asked at the time. Iím ashamed to admit now that I was that person, but so happy that my mistake brought me to TFK, where I found so many lovely people so willing to give me the help I desperately needed to learn how to properly care for my babies. . . getting off track a little? Not really. Because this is actually the start of Waddleís story. . .
Among the mismatched fish that I ended up with were a pleco and a goldie - both commons, but it didnít take very long for helpful TFKians to point out to me that there was no way I could keep them in my 10g tank. Thinking I was doing the best thing I could do to rectify a bad situation (I was unable to return them to the shop - they refused to accept them, even without credit or refund, and I needed to reduce stock fast to save lives), I gave them to the only people I knew who kept goldfish, on the assumption that they must be doing a decent job of it, and continued on my quest of becoming a better fish keeper. The 10g quickly became a 29, and the tank that has come to be known as Becoming started to, well, become. . .
The family that owned the goldfish tank have been a daily part of my life for many years - we consider them chosen family, and though I see them nearly every day, I donít often find myself in their home. I babysit their littlest two, and we do other things outside of our homes, because the kids already spend so much time in mine. Months had passed, and though I asked after our little adopted fish, I still hadnít been to their house to see the tank through my newly-acquired fishkeeper eyes.
Since they are in my house so much, the family was watching first-hand all of the changes that were happening very quickly in my tank. They became inspired, and wanting to have a pretty tank of their own, decided to turn the lights on in their tank. It wasnít a very pretty sight that greeted them. Water so dirty the fish could barely be seen, some of them were dead or dying, algae covered every available surface. . . just yuck. They asked me what they needed to do to get their tank turned around, and with all of my new-found knowledge, and an API test kit in hand, gave them the best advice I could. . . which started, and pretty much ended, with the importance of water changes.
Iíll really never understand how skeptical people are by the thought that cleaning a fish tank on a regular basis is actually necessary, or how insistent they remain after having the reasons why itís important clearly explained. This is a road block that Iíve now run into on more than one occasion, and the adults in this home, unfortunately chose to take that point of view. Yet another case of dying fish in toxic conditions being Ďfine,ísimply because most of them have somehow managed to survive. And Iím not exaggerating when I say toxic. . . I canít remember the exact reading for ammonia or nitrites, but at that time they were present on the lower end of the range, the tests for phosphates and nitrates, however, tested so high that the colors were far darker and more vibrant than the highest reading on my key cards. Off the charts high - by a LOT. Having just learned as much as I could about beneficial bacteria, bioload, and stocking - and after just barely managing to bring some of my fish through the dangers of a cycling tank - was pretty aware of how unhappy those fish must be, and deeply distressed by the thought that I had actually sent fish that had once been mine to this disastrous tank to suffer and die.
If that wasnít bad enough, the tank was only a 30 gallon breeder tank, nowhere near large enough to house the common goldfish who had been living there. But in their opinions as long-time fishkeepers (as opposed to my month or three in experience) their fish were Ďfine.í Some of them had been in that tank, without ever having had a water change done, for three years, maybe longer! Those original fair-won goldfish were huge, some of them easily 9 inches or larger, the tank was a 30 gallon breeder - to them, a very large tank. They werenít even sure how old the oldest of the fish was. Their eldest child was adopted at the age of five, and she came with the tank already in her possession. More goldies had been won at the fair every year since - and they obviously had never bothered to pay any attention to them, so had no idea how many fish were even in there. Of course, not being able to see them through the water wasnít helping much. The oldest (who was then 9) didnít really seem to care one way or another about Ďherí fish, so I asked if I could at least rehome them. No. Because their 2 year old twins really loved the fishies (that they couldnít even see?), so they didnít want to give them up. I tried everything I could think of to convince them, and failing that was just about to just go in and clean up the tank myself (the owners wouldnít have minded, and I felt really obligated to the fish that I had sent to live there) My husband, who is far wiser than I will ever be, stopped me from taking that pointless and frustrating task on. . .
Still, the family was inspired, and in spite of all I had told them, and the fact that the water was so filthy the fish couldnít be seen, they went out and got a fist full of fancy goldies (they arenít sure, but I think this was the point that Waddles was brought home) a few doomed Apple snails, and an ADF, plus a new Halloween-themed substrate (black and bright orange gravel *puke*). At least they listened to my advice to change out the gravel piecemeal, and in so doing were forced to do several water changes on the tank. The first clean water aside from top-offs that it had ever seen.
I tried for a while, every time the subject came up, to convince them to do a water change, or let me rehome the fish and, if they felt it was that important to keep a tank for the kids (who got more than enough tank time at my house every day), at least start fresh with a lightly stocked tank with animals better suited animals for the tank size, but after a while I stopped pushing - it wouldnít lead to anything but annoyance on both our parts. Time passed. An entire year went by. . .
In the meantime my little Becoming had been busy growing and thriving, from a 29 into a 55g. The whole family is in my house enough to enjoy my tanks, and from time to time expressed that they wished their tank looked like mine - I always offered to help, in the same way, with willingness to do water changes and necessary tank maintenance being the only condition for my help. Their eldest daughter (who technically is the owner of the goldfish tank) comes to stay with me through the summer, and on days when schools are closed. She fell very much under the spell of Becoming, and the other tanks I had laying around my house, and started asking questions - good questions. I told her about the nitrogen cycle, she helped me run water tests, we watched torn fins heal up, and plants grow in. . . we would spend hours during the little oneís nap time of parked in front of Becoming and talking about all the animals who lived there. . . she really got into the details of fishkeeping more than I ever expected her to, and it wasnít long before she started asking questions about her own tank, and what she could do to turn it around.
In the meantime, her tank was fixing itself - to some extent - as nature will. Her fish were dying off, one by one. Slowly, but surely. Almost all of the newcomers were gone, and finally the older fair-won goldfish began to die, too. . . Finally, there was only one left. A little black fancy, the only one that she had picked out herself, named Mr.Waddles. She had gotten particularly attached to the endearing Waddles (and ONLY Waddles, it seems) - it would be impossible not to, heís just such a sweet little thing.
One day she came over and she asked me if I would teach her how to do what was needed in order to get Waddleís tank cleaned up, so he could be happy and live a long time. She was very upset, at having lost all the others, and afraid that he was going to die soon if something wasnít done. She was right. Though my husband had been right in stopping me from getting involved the first time, he didnít even bother to try to dissuade me from teaching a little girl how to maintain the tank alone. I contacted Izzy, along with a few other Goldie lovers on the site, and they gave me a lot of advice, including articles, books, and websites where I began my own quest to gain as much knowledge as I could about Goldfish and their needs. In the meantime, I learned all about old tank syndrome, and what would be required to get this awful tank cleaned up without losing Waddles in the process - not an easy thing after all the years of neglect, and the bioload of too many Goldfish. . .