06-11-2013, 03:49 AM
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The Epic Story of Waddles (part 2)
When I arrived on the scene, the water level was already 10-15 gallons below full, the filter so clogged it wasn’t even running anymore, and the water so filthy and brown (flash used in the tank images taken by an adult owner of the tank make it appear to be clean compared to what greeted me IRL - the water was disgusting). That was before I even touched the substrate, which was so filled with mulm and rotten food it literally turned my stomach. The tank smelled awful, the filter slime smelled worse. . . so began a long process in which I went over every week, twice a week when I could, for months, and did my best in getting this poor fish into clean water. For a while, I did everything myself. She helped where she could in filling up buckets, double checking temperatures, adding dechlorinator - but I couldn’t in good conscious allow a child to put her hands into a tank that filthy. It was really far worse than anything I could have imagined supporting life.
As time went on, things got better. The nitrate levels sloooooowly lowered after (I think?) Around 6 weeks of at least 50% water changes, they were finally at a point where I could test them and get a reading at the highest level on my API kit. But the water, at least, was clear, and Waddles was still swimming. I was concerned by the fact that he flashed a few times after every water change, but he otherwise appeared to be taking the changes to his environment like the tough little guy that he is (still amazed that he lived through that, goldfish are such strong and adaptable animals). One by one we got rid of the algae-covered decorations in the tank, cleared the tank walls of algae, and were slowly working on removing gravel (also algae encrusted) to further lower the levels of waste in the tank, with the eventual goal of setting it up again in a minimalistic way better suited to a goldfish - and far easier for a little girl to keep clean.
Together we studied my books every week, learned all the parts of a goldfish, and the things that they needed to thrive, including what they needed to eat, and why. They had never been in anything remotely resembling a feeding routine, as I’m sure you can guess. Though sporadic feeding and insane amounts of algae probably went a long way in helping their fish to survive just a little bit longer, it certainly wasn’t doing Waddles any good at this point. We tried to switch him from flake food to pellets, but he didn’t seem to recognize them as a food source, which worried his young owner, and she ended up going back to flake. I also brought over treats like brine shrimp and kept little Waddles in constant supply of duckweed - a thing he immediately recognized as a snack, and throughly enjoyed.
He was obviously a bit happier than he had been, his colors had deepened, and he was far more active than he was when I first came on the scene. But he was a very shy little fish, and though I spent as much time at the tank as I could while I was over there, and she claimed to when I was not, he never really lost his shyness when people were around the tank. I hoped that would come in time, she was very excited to try hand-feeding her little pet, and having a more personal relationship with him.
Things were going well, and though we were still pulling an insane amount of old detritus from gravel, and the nitrate and phosphate readings were still far too high, they were finally dropping. She was now doing all of the maintenance on her own, with me more or less keeping her company and double checking as she did it. Waddles still flashed a time or two after every water change, but otherwise seemed well enough to our inexperienced eyes. Then I got sick with a stomach bug and missed a week going over. She also missed that water change. When the girls were ill the following week, she missed that one, too. Life started getting busier for me, and maintaining TWO tanks out of the house was getting to be an impossible task. She was now fully capable of doing the basics on her own, and comfortable enough with the routine to have no problems with it. I told her that I’d be stopping in every two weeks for a while, and then once a month - making sure she understood that, as she had promised initially, she was going to be required to do this on her own - but that I’d always be around to pop in if she saw signs of trouble, and that in another month or two - when the nitrate was finally down to something resembling normal - I would help her out with the tank transformation, by then we had pegged down exactly what she wanted to do. She agreed, and for a little while did a really great job with things, sometimes weekly, sometimes bi-weekly - the water was changed, and the gravel was siphoned and slowly being removed. She brought over water samples every week or two, and everything seemed to be on-track and going great.
Until one day, she was at my house because schools were closed, we were watching tanks, as was our nap time routine, and she burst into tears. She said that she didn’t think she could keep Waddles, because she didn’t think she could continue to do water changes, even once a week, consistently. Maintenance of a Goldfish tank is no easy task, especially recuperating one left for so long in such bad conditions, and with a gravel bed. Even if it had been a fresh setup, Goldies have a high bioload, and it takes a good amount of work to keep up with them. She’s only ten years old, and I was surprised that she even had the strength to lug 5 gallon buckets around to begin with. She was very upset, but I was so proud of her for thinking it through, and making the right choice to give up a pet who she loved very much, and who she had put so much effort into saving, so that he could go on to live a long and happy life. . . it was not an easy decision for her to make.
06-11-2013, 03:55 AM
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The Epic Story of Waddles (part 3)
The next question then became what to do with our little friend. . . any animal deserves to be kept in the best of conditions, but we had both become very attached to this particular baby, and put so much work into making his world a better place. . . re-homing him couldn’t be as easy as donating him to a fish shop at this point, and we weren’t willing to give him to just anyone. Waddles NEEDED to have a happy ending - and preferably one that his heartbroken little owner would somehow be able to see, so that she knew she had made the right, if heartbreaking, choice. But nobody that I know (and trust with fish) keeps Goldies. I considered keeping him myself for a while, but I don’t have anywhere else to keep another tank that size, and I really have been trying to get down to only one tank - too much maintenance for me right now keeping up with them all, much less a Goldy tank.
That’s where Izzy stepped in to play hero for all of us, most especially Waddles. She had been getting updates and offering advice on how to deal with the tank since the beginning, (thank you Izzy!) and so was very familiar with him and his sad story. I was overjoyed when she said that she’d be happy to give him a new home - and I still am! (Izzy is the greatest!)
Shipping fish, any fish, was something that I had never done at that point, and it made me really nervous, to say the least (I was kind of freaking out at the thought, actually) I felt that the first thing to do was to REALLY step up on water changes and get his water as clean as possible before we even considered shipping. This really should have been done ages ago, but getting over there more frequently for daily water changes was impossible for me, I only was sometimes able to swing twice a week, she has a lot of things going on, school, girl scouts, sports - she’s a busy kid. I was nervous to add to his stress, but after a few days of trying, decided (with Izzy’s blessing, as he was now HER fish! ^.^) to move him into my home for a week or two so that I could really concentrate on ensuring that he was leaving a good environment in the freshest water possible.
Waddles, of course, too the transition like the little soldier he is, though he was REALLY skittish for the first day or two, he came around quickly. He had been given a QT tank in my room - the calmest and quietest area of the house. He missed his initial shipping date, because life has been getting in the way of everything lately, but that was definitely in his favor, as he was given more time to de-stress in a calm environment, and get used to TRULY clean water for the first time in at least a year and a half or so by this point.
Waddles spent about a month under my care, and I fell more in love with the little sweetie as each day passed. In the time he spent here, he got daily water changes, good food, and all the duckweed he could eat. I made a point to spend time sitting by his tank, just reading through books and being still, until he became comfortable enough with me to come out of hiding, and even to anticipate feeding times (which were a couple of times a day, he was spoiled!). He never did get used to any food beside flake, but we found a happy compromise where I fed him good food in his little hiding corner, and he happily sifted through the (very thin and rinsed in tank water) layer of gravel brought from his old home to find it.
Waddles is such a shy, sweet, endearing little thing! The largest fish I’ve ever had under my care, though he isn’t very big. It was fun to actually HEAR him in his tank, the clacking of gravel, and the sound of the thermometer in his tank that he always managed to get unstuck somehow, knocking against the tank walls as he insisted on ‘playing’ with it. (My fish don’t make a sound, one of the things I love about them) Such a fun little guy, and in the time that he spent here I got even more attached to him. . . I’m officially a Goldfish girl now, even though I don’t own one, nor have no plans to in the near future, Waddles has made a convert out of me. He’s so cute and squishy, with those chubby cheeks in complete juxtaposition with the air of grandiose importance that he somehow manages to portray. Silly, sweet little Waddles. . .
His slightly extended stay also was good for the younger members of his original family, the toddlers still spend three days a week in my care, and their older sister is often in and out. They were able to get a little bit of distance from their fishy, while he was still in a place where they could visit him, and I got a chance to try to help the tots understand that he wasn’t going to be at Aunt Jesi’s forever, but was going on to a new and better home, with fishy friends, where he would be really happy. Their older sister was given a *bit* more time to come to a place of closure - she was really attached to her fish, especially after all that she had put into trying to make him okay. It made her feel better to be able to see on TFK and on Izzy’s blog, the type of care that the person she was giving her buddy up to on faith of my word would be a good place for him. She helped me build the box that we shipped him in, cutting pieces of Styrofoam and I think just being involved in the process made her feel much better about how things turned out in the end, and brought some kind of closure for her.
Waddles made his journey safely to Izzy’s home, though he sustained some fin damage along the way, all reports say that he’s settling in wonderfully, and healing up well. . . I am beyond happy that Waddle’s has come through all of that, and managed to snag the last spot left in the tank of one of the only Goldfish keepers on Earth that I would be happy to give him to. . . an amazing caretaker, who I KNOW will love him just like his previous owner and I do, and do a far better job at keeping him than either of us know how.
And now you know (if you managed to get through all of those words) just why it is that I am SO excited that Izzy decided to start this little thread, where we can be given updates of how he (if he actually IS a he), and his goldie buddies, are doing in their lovely tank, and see as Waddles settles into his new and happy forever home, especially the little girl who was so heartbroken and made a very grown-up decision to let him go . . . Thank you Izzy. There really aren’t words that I have to express how grateful I am to you for bringing Waddles home. *HUGS*
06-12-2013, 07:47 AM
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That's a great story! I don't have any goldfish, but I think they're beautiful.
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