This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
February 5th, 2007

Just Questions

I'd like to think I am observant, after all it is one of the important things in fly fishing. Things like what you see stream side. Shucks of molted insects in the foliage of bushes, caddis high in the pine trees, swallows sweeping the stream searching for the newly hatched insects. Rises of trout, sips of trout, bulging trout picking off hatching emergers. Tiny seams where one current of water joins another, making a nice hidden place for trout to hide and pick up bites of dinner as it floats by. Observation becomes very important to anglers.

It has been raining for several days, my yard is a mess with broken limbs and one tree broke off and needs to be cut up and the rail fence repaired where the tree limbs broke the rail. But in the cold and wet, neither of us are anxious to get that wet or that cold. It will wait until the weather warms up. It is always possible to get one more nasty storm here before the sun is too high to allow snow. The tree isn't going anywhere, and we'll get it eventually.

Stuck inside, I spent a little time observing our 'indoor' fish. We have a small aquarium, just ten gallon but large enough for a good assortment of fish. We would both love to have a saltwater tank, but we have enough trouble keeping this one up. Saltwater tanks take even more time and care.

As fish grow and get too big to live happily in the tank, we take them into a shop in 'old' Silverdale. The owner has some huge tanks and makes a home for them. We can't 'trade' them in for smaller fish, but at least we aren't flushing or killing them.

When we take a big fish out of the tank, it allows for a couple smaller ones. We have a delightful variety, some I had seen before, and some which are so different I can't imagine not knowing about them. One kind is a ghost fish. These are see-through fish. You can see every bone and organ. Absolutely fascinating. They are a kind of catfish, and have long whiskers.

Now here's the interesting part. We had just one of these odd fish. And it didn't seem right for it not to have a buddy. So we got another. Within just a very few minutes they found each other. They hang out together, and hide together under a nice convenient rock. How do they know they are the same breed? How do they recognize each other? I've noticed some of our fish seem to group by color too. How do they know what color they are?

I know some fish are community fish and school together. Some are loaners and find their own nitch. We also have two Cory Catfish who are inseparable, but they had been living in the same tank with others all of the same type. We have one upside down catfish who claimed the inside of a barrel decoration and doesn't come out. However the bamboo shrimp go in and out of the barrel and don't seem to be disturbed by his presence.

The ghost fish are a mystery. If a trout has a brain the size of a pea, what size brain does a three inch fish have? If I stand in front of the tank and talk to the fish, the two ghost fish come out of hiding and their whole bodies shiver. Very odd. What does it mean? Is it a greeting? Perhaps that is how they recognize each other?

Why is it every time we become involved in something else - even a little freshwater aquarium there are always more questions than answers?

I was reading the little signs at the fish store (sort of like reading cereal boxes or soup labels) and I noticed each sign told where in the water column the fish like to hang out. Some are bottom dwellers (even those who aren't scavengers) some prefer the 'middle' and others are top water fish. Those preferences are based on a water temperature of 80 to 82 degrees. Since heat rises, is it warmer at the top of the tank? Would those fish prefer to live where the temperature is optimum or is it the amount of pressure exerted on their skin? Or both? Or something else?

See what I mean?

Let's take it a step further - no I'm not kidding - how about the specie of fish you fish for? Does it have the same kind of preference? Yes, I know not all fish will survive, much less thrive in too warm water, or in too cold either. Do they live where they do in the stream or pond out of preference? Or availability of food?

Have you noticed the lead fish in a run, the largest fish will chase intruders away? It wants to be the first in line to feed. And if that fish is caught, or removed, another fish will take its place. There is competition - at least to feed - and probably at spawning time too.

One of the reasons we take the 'big' fish to the fish store is to cut down on the competition in the little tank - which also cuts down on fish chasing each other and the possibility of wounds and infection. It doesn't provide the most natural situation however, but it does make it easier to maintain the tank.

Something I learned from having the Koi ponds outside is you can tell the general health of the fish at feeding time. Someone told me to "make sure they all come when they are called."

That is a good rule of thumb. If a fish doesn't show up, it might be a good idea to check under lily pads to see if one is sleeping.

The behavior of the 'guys' in the tank is fascinating - there are always surprises. Like the time I watched as a large snail cleaned the frog. The frog is an African frog and quite small, maybe an inch and a half spread out. The snail is several times that size. I called JC to come and see and I was prepared to stick my hand/arm in the tank to remove the snail. But as we watched it became obvious the frog could easily move away. Either he enjoyed it, or it is just one of those strange symbiotic relationships. Then there was the day I found the frog's head sticking out of the Plecotemus's mouth. I waved my hand in front of the glass and the frog popped out of his mouth. And no, I don't know it the frog was being 'cleaned' or eaten.

So even stuck inside on a rotten cold rainy day I can still find things to ponder - and not have an answer - sometimes I don't even know what questions to ask. ~ The LadyFisher

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