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A Short Digression on Skimmers

• Not all skimmers are created equal.

• What was I thinking running a tank without one?

• There's something deeply satisfying about just how foul smelling the scum that you have just removed from your aquarium is.

Further Lessons

• Patience in fishkeeping is always a virtue.

• Research your fish before you brinaAem home — we somehow lucked out in spite of ourselves with eel number one.

• Skimmers are worth every cent.

• Bigger tanks are easier to keep Jhan smaller ones.

Startling Revelation

On returning home I was sickened to discover via the Internet that ribbon eels are really only for the advanced aquarist and demand only the finest of live foods. I was so mad! Sure, the last two snowflakes had just been sold. I had asked them to check. How hard would it have been to go back and verify that they actually had a pair in stock?

That said, our newKjj|haa a grace about its movements that I doubt a snowflake could mJEch. Feeding the fellow, however, was a problem. I tried ghost shrimpJwhich disappeared, but I nKkVaw it eat them), guppy fry, brine shrimp and just about anything and everything. But while it was not eating, it seemed to be thriving. If it was eating, it was eating on the sly.

Dangling a raw shrimp (defrosted) from a stick proved just the ticket. Indeed, so voraciously did the ribbon rip the shrimp off the stick that I was worried that it had injured itself as it ^Hled itself up in a little ball and wrestled the dead shrimp back into its hole.

Rather worried, I figured our white ribbon eel was going to do itself an injury and it was entirely my fault. That was, however, to come.

After a few months of living with our supposedly impossible-to-keep ribbon eel, it up and disappeared. Eels really are Houdinis of the aquarium. When I say I looked everywhere, I hardly exaggerate. It had not gone carpet surfing. I looked under every stone and became quite concerned that if I did find it I might crush it in the process. It was, I have to say, rather a heart-rending experience. I never thought I would say such a thing, but my wife even came to like it. It must have been 18 inches long and less than a quarter-inch in breadth, three-fourths of an inch tall, and the fact that such a slim and ephemeral creature could live in our tank made the heartbreak even worse.

Slippery Like an Eel

Christmas came and we were off to Florida with the intention of spending a night in Atlanta and visiting the aquarium there.

(As an aside: according to our guidebook, the I-75 has more public aquariums along its route through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida than any other road in the world. We never made it to the aquarium in Atlanta but found the aquarium in Tennessee to be something quite wonderful.)

Preparing for our trip, it seemed prudent to service the tank's filtration. On the evening before our departure, I opened up the new Magnum hang-on canister to change the mechanical filtration media and out popped what I took to be a gasket but soon realized was the missing eel! The slender Houdini appeared to be doing fine.

In the back of my mind, I remembered a time when the sieve was off the intake. However, as I'm sure every fishkeeper does, when I was servicing the filter (unnecessarily, as it looked very clean) I took the filter apart over

Filtration 102

Technical Nates: Problems with Water Conditioners

Water conditioning supplements that prep your tap water will contain sodium tbiosuifate, to neutralize chlorine, EPTA ia chelating agent) to hind up heavy metals and or a charged polymer (a clarifying agentl to Jell and precipitate out dissolved organic matter and turbidity.

Huwmc the broad. Indiscriminate nature of water conditioners will also bind op a out calcium. magnesium, trace elements and other supplements into a non-use able stateIn some instances the changed polymers create a colloid with iron. (Unliable colloidal suspensions form floes as the particles aggregate due to inter pa rtide attractions} that sirrf ae e c oat the qflis of f■Ish or bod fes of invertebrates In aquatic e nvi row. ■ nt

So how do you prep and improve the quality of yoor tap water without the binding, p recipltating, Idling and coating side effects that water co nrf itic>i i ng bri

L Reduce the need for water tate

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