Sheeeeeesh. . . it's been nearly a month since I updated this thread. Busy busy busy! Now maintaining SEVEN tanks, a family, and a daycare. . . yeah. Busy!
I intended to take pictures at every step of the way, but I'm terrible at remembering to take my camera in, so that didn't work out. I FINALLY remembered it yesterday, so here is a shot of the Kindergarten aquarium as it looks now:
Here's another shot - with flash:
I had to take these shots over the heads of many small children, sorry they're a bit crooked!
QUITE a change from the first shots I posted up!
The teacher and the students have been VERY excited to watch this tank grow, and it's nice to get so much positive feedback from them. The questions that the kids ask are brilliant, and I've had a great time teaching them about the creatures they're caring for. We've had two big 'Fish Days' so far, and added four fish each time, bringing them to a current total of 7 Platy and one little Juvie Molly - at least I'm pretty sure he's a Molly - this guy:
I call him Hob, he was the only one of the three surviving fish originally in the Kindy tank that I didn't re-home. I kept him in my home QT tank for around a month (where this shot was taken) until he was healthy before returning him to the school - everyone was very excited to have him back 'home' again, and he is doing great!
I purchased several used children's story books that are fishy-themed. In the mornings on Fish Days (before I get there) the teacher reads them one or two of the fish books, and gets them involved with painting pictures, making puppets, and other child-led fishy activities. Then I come in with REAL fish to add to the tank, along with a snack of Goldfish crackers, and Swedish fish, and field questions from the kiddos for an hour or so. . .
To keep the kiddo's engaged and learning, I've brought in small samples of driftwood that have broken off of a few of my larger branches, and let the kids pass them around before rinsing them and putting them into the tank. The kids have been learning about natural materials this year, wood being a big one, so they've really enjoyed watching their driftwood go from hard and dry, to floating, to waterlogged. They're doing a great job keeping an eye on it for me, and watching out for any fungal or algal 'blooms' that could be dangerous to their fishies.
I also passed around a jar of duckweed, and a piece of anacharis and fanwort for the kids to get a good up-close look at before they went into the tank. I give the teacher a few tidbits about fish every week to share with the class - random things that they enjoy, like the actual names of each fin, how fish see, basic info about the lateral line, gills, scales, and some information about the plants, too. I get one helper each day to help me feed the fish, and once a week to feed the plants - all of the kid stuff has been lots of fun! The teacher is even planning a field trip to the aquarium because the class is so excited about their tank! Lots of fun. . .
exciting to me than the enthusiasm of the kids is watching the teacher and her reaction to the tank. She has thanked me several times for opening her eyes to the ecosystem that an aquarium is, and really showing her that fish are pets and animals with distinct needs and personalities all their own, while before she really kind of regarded the tank as more of an ornament - along the lines of a potted plant or a vase of pretty flowers. I love it when she comes to me in the mornings and says things like "I was watching the fish for about an hour or so before I went home last night, and I noticed that *insert random thing here* " or "You've really are inspiring me to set up a fish-tank in my own home." She has been so amazed by the whole process, and it's wonderful to see an adult come around with the same sense of wonderment that the little ones show.
This is my first 'rescue' tank - I've started all of my others from scratch, so it's been a learning experience for me. Maintaining a tank outside of my home is not something that I really enjoy. I'm always worried about the fish, because I am unable to really observe their behavior as I do my own tanks, and I've found it fairly nerve-wracking - especially having to do everything under the watchful eyes of pretty much the entire school at this point. I knew the kindergarten would be watching me, but there have been several write-ups (some including pictures of me 'teaching' 22 youngsters in front of the tank *wince*) in the weekly school paper about the Kindergarten's tank, and even the principal asks questions about the tank's progress and thank me for my dedication. . .The blurb from this week:
"Jes, T****'s mom, has transformed the Kindergarten's aquarium into a wondrous and dreamy environment for the eight happy fish that live there. Please stop by the classroom to visit their friendly and beautiful naturally-styled tank - it's very inspiring! She has lovingly given a lot of her time in making sure the fish have a happy and healthy home - and she's not done yet! If you have any question about fish or aquariums, she is absolutley the expert to ask, and we thank her for all of her effort and dedication in creating this beautiful tank for our school."
While it's flattering and all, I haven't been keeping fish for very long, and I'm so far from being anything like the "expert to ask" that they insist I am. So, yeah - fielding lots of random fish-related questions from parents and staff, as well as being begged to take in this or that unwanted goldfish for the school tank. . . Luckily the questions have all be very basic, clean-water and cycling-related stuff - but goodness! I was NOT
expecting all of this when I asked if the kindergarten needed help with their tank!
(This is a picture of Mr.Red - one of the FAVORITE fish of the classroom... this shot was taken while he was in my home QT tank.)
A few of the random obstacles I've come across while caring for this tank. . .
I had a group of Platy picked out for the school that I was able to keep in a QT tank in my home for 2.5 weeks before our first Fish Day - not long enough, I know, but it was all the time I had. They came to me from the shop looking a bit rough - nipped fins and 'expected' stuff like that. Everyone was healing well and seemed fine until 3 days before it was time for them to move I started seeing signs of Ich (which I've actually never had in any of my tanks before). Luckily I recognized it quickly enough to treat before it really got bad. Unwilling to move these sick fish, but unable to 'get out of' Fish Day, I ran to a DIFFERENT shop and got 4 NEW fish for the class tank. Sure enough, a few days later, they also started showing symptoms of Ich, so I ended up having to treat the fish outside of my home anyway - luckily they all came through okay. But the end result was a lot of extra stress on ME to get these fish through without being able to watch them, and that the fish were in the tank before the plants were. The plants went into fishless QT for a month, and I gave them plants from my Molly tank (which has never had Ich) after treatment was complete. . .
Random weirdness. . . I noticed on the day before the the heater had come detached from the wall - the suction cup was old and brittle. The next day I came in with a new suction cup for it and found that it had been re-attached to the tank wall. When I went to double-check the temperature, I found that my thermometer had vanished. Neither the teacher nor the assistant have any idea what could have happened! WHO'S hands were in MY tank, and WHY would they steal my heater?! It only cost $2, but STILL! I replaced it with one of the sinking types, and it remains where it belongs. . .
The day after the first batch of 4 fish (plus the new thermometer) were introduced to the tank, one fish was missing - a Swordtail (the other three were Platy). It had been in the tank LESS than 24 hours, but a full tank sweep showed no trace of the fish ANYWHERE. Testing showed no ammonia. He was not anywhere outside of the tank, either. . . very odd vanishings! Perhaps someone needed a thermometer for their own Swordtail tank, and noticed the out-of-place fish in there? *shrugs* They better leave that Molly alone!
The school is old, all of the faucets in the school - both hot and cold - run the same temperature. For a solid month, the temperature out of tap was around 72f, so I started bringing a bucket of warmer water to get the temp right for my water changes. . .two weeks ago the temps suddenly changed to 84f out of tap!!! *sigh*
In general, trying not to make a mess during water changes, while hauling buckets of water across the classroom, and filling a tank that's around shoulder height without a step-stool has been pretty entertaining. . .
All in all things are going well! I've had no cycling problems whatsoever and for the moment, everything seems fine. I hope the fish (and their plants!) continue to thrive in their temporary home, but I'm REALLY looking forward to the end of the semester and bringing these guys home with ME where I can take proper care of them. Not a fan of maintaining a tank that can't be properly observed!