Monday, February 2, 2015

Aquarium Setup: Part I

No fish yet but we've got water in it!
We FINALLY (yes I'm using all-caps because that's exactly how I feel about this) got around to rearranging our kitchen furniture to accommodate the aquarium yesterday. This only happened right before dinner, so that's as far as we got: moving a LARGE & HEAVY shelf unit, then the tank & stand into its new home away from the window.

This morning, as soon as I got back from biking Linnaeus to preschool, I started on the work of setting up the aquarium. I needed to rinse the gravel we bought, then wipe out the tank & test it for watertightness by filling it slowly. After a few minutes of trying to convince myself that it must be incredibly rare for these things to leak, or crack, then explode water & glass shards at me, I relaxed. No drips.

Then I transported the 50 pounds (I'm not using metric here because imperial sounds more impressive) of gravel from the bin in the bathtub where I'd rinsed it to the kitchen. Bronte was keen to "help", tossing bits of gravel all over the bathroom & probably eating some. I finally gave up convincing her otherwise & just penned her in the living room, as usual. This meant I had to put up with carrying loads of gravel as I opened & closed the first baby gate, then stepped over the second one.

Then on to the filter. More rinsing & assembling parts, then I hooked it over the back of the tank, levelled it, filled it with water & plugged it in. After some gurgling, it was primed & functioning. Yay!

I attached the thermometer--sprung for a digital one rather than just one of those fever strip style that stick on the glass--with the sticky velcro bits & suctioned the probe onto the inside of the tank. I decided to put the tank lid on, which meant figuring out which of the tabs to pop out to accommodate the filter & heater. Looked at the clock & realized I needed to go get Linnaeus already. How did this stuff take two hours?!?

Me & Bronte zipped down to the preschool on our cargo bike & picked up Linnaeus. After I fed the kids lunch, I popped the heater in to adjust to the water temperature, then turned it on after I put Bronte down for her nap.

Now the mechanical bits are all functioning with plain old tap water. I need to get to the chemistry & biology parts of the process: water conditioner to eliminate chlorines & chloramines (not even sure if the latter is in Vancouver tap water) plus some bacteria supplement to hopefully kickstart the process of growing our own bacterial colony.

If you're wondering why the heck I want more bacteria in my life, it's all about the nitrogen cycle. (Attention: Biology lesson ahead!) Fish produce waste products, obvs, which contain ammonia. This is toxic to the fish--again, obvs--so we want to cultivate bacteria that eat ammonia. Those bacteria then produce nitrites, which is slightly better, but still toxic. So we need another kind of bacteria that eat nitrites, turning them into nitrates, which are less toxic still & not hard to remove with water changes. Live plants will also be part of the equation, eating up more of the nitrates.

The process to get the nitrogen cycle going (cycling my tank) will hopefully take a week or two. Then we'll get some fish!

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