Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fish drama and tea (not together)

It's the last day to enter the EcoMom giveaway, BTW!

Two things.

Remember how my husband has gone to Calgary for six months? He left last Sunday. (Luckily, he's home again for the next two weekends in a row, and we video chat every day.)

Anyway, before he headed off, he gave the fish tank a really good, thorough cleaning. I mean, he took everything out, pulled up, trimmed, and replanted the plants, changed out the water, flushed the filter - the works. And it looked great. Nice and clear, the plants were pearling (this means they give off bubbles of oxygen that look like a string of pearls, because they are happy), fish seemed alright...

Until yesterday. When I noticed the fish were all gathered at the top of the aquarium, not swimming about. Then on a closer look, one of the shrimp was lying dead on the bottom of the tank. At another glance I saw that one of the diamond tetras had suffered the same fate, and the remaining fish were gasping, with red gills and lethargic movements. Uh oh.

The fish tank is my husband's project. I like the fish alright and it's pretty, but I wouldn't be a person that would have a tank, because I'm not interested in maintaining one. I don't like icky fish water, I don't like icky dried brine shrimp fish food, I don't like dealing with dead things. And I don't like the idea of a tank failing and 40 gallons of water flowing across and through our hardwood floors, into the finished basement (my painting studio). (This would not have occurred to me as a possibility if it hadn't happened once while we were living in an apartment - luckily a basement one with tile floors, so it didn't do too much damage. But let me tell you, it's a shock to come home to an inch of water on the floor and an inch of water left in the tank with desperate looking fish wondering where their home has gone!)

I gritted my teeth, bared my arm and fished out the corpses. Not the highlight of my day.

Later in the evening, I saw another fish had gone floaters. And another. Two more tiny fish bodies to remove. Finally, I got my husband on video chat and we talked about what was happening. I told him I didn't think the fish would last the night. He did some research after we hung up, and learned that he'd just given the tank too good of a cleaning. The bacteria that are necessary to deal with the fish waste had died or been cleaned away. The poor fish were dying of ammonia poisoning from their own waste.

I was already in bed when he rang me up and told me that if I got the fish out of the tank and put them in a bucket of conditioned water, they might make it. So at 10:30 at night (yes, I go to bed early), I'm downstairs in my bathrobe, catching fish and shrimp in the net and transferring them to a bucket on the floor. All of the fish were pretty sad looking at this point. Most were lethargic. Some were lying on their sides at the top of the water, gasping. One shrimp was lying on his back, flailing sporadically. The other shrimp had turned red (usually they're grey). The Siamese algae eater (very 'cute' fish that are long and gold with a black stripe) didn't make it. She (?) died within a few minutes of transfer.

I put the tank cover on the bucket so they wouldn't jump out, carefully washed my wet fishy arm off, and went upstairs, back to bed. I tossed and turned all night long. This morning the first thing I did was go down and check the bucket. I expected to find one or two survivors.

To my surprise, all of the fish and both remaining shrimp are swimming about in the bucket. They're not thrilled to be in there (the last diamond tetra was freaking out, actually) but they're alive.

Today I'll pick up some bacteria and ammonia reducer to replenish the tank and deal with the poisonous waste that remains. So it's a happy ending for some... a much less populated tank... a sad, awful death for some.

Lesson learned.

The other thing I wanted to share is a great recipe. Just clear your mind of fish now, and think about vanilla tea lattes. We love tea lattes over here. This recipe is so simple, and makes a jug of concentrate that you can keep in the fridge for up to a week for practically instant tea lattes whenever you want.

Tea Latte Concentrate

For this recipe I use Rooibos tea, but you can use any tea you love - an Earl Grey, English Breakfast, or Orange Pekoe would be good.

6 cups boiling water
12 tea bags
2 Tbsp sugar*
1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the boiling water to the tea bags (I do this in a pot, so as not to release any chemicals from the plastic jug I later put it in when it's cool). Let steep for 3-5 minutes, then remove the tea bags, stir in the sugar and vanilla.

For a quick hot latte, add about 1/3 to 2/3 cup concentrate to a mug (depending how strong and sweet you like it), and fill the mug up with milk. Pop it in the microwave for a minute or more, depending on how hot you want it.

For an iced latte, pour the concentrate over ice cubes and top with milk.

For a coffeehouse style latte, heat the milk first on the stovetop and use a frother to get some foam. Or if you have an espresso machine, steam the milk until foamy. Add the hot milk and a dollop of foam to concentrate that has been warmed in the microwave.

*You could leave out the sugar and vanilla and add maple syrup instead. Or use agave syrup or brown sugar.

I'd love to hear if you make this. It takes less than 10 minutes and makes about 10-12 delicious drinks. We make it all the time - there's a jug full in the fridge now and I had a mug with my breakfast. Yum!


  1. Oh.. That fish mishap sounds horrible! I used to have a small fish tank when I was younger, but every time one of my fish died, I would cry for days, so eventually I gave up on that hobby; that and I moved to Canada, so I wasn't too thrilled about transporting dozens of fish across the Atlantic. :D

  2. that reminds me of the time a friend of mine and I got some fish and put them in her old fish tank. She had "cleaned" it before we got them and it was equipt with a bubbler and everything. We threw the fish in, started the bubbler and went about our business. A few hours later we noticed the top of the water was covering in 4 or 5 inches of foam?? we cleaned it off but it just kept getting foamy again, and again. That was when I realized the foam (or bubbles) were coming from the bubler. So I asked her "did you clean the bubbler too?" (which as I'm sure you know is made out of pumice or a pumice like material) she told me that she had, in soapy water. Not the brightest girl, by morning all of our fish were dead and caught in a bubble pool.

    Glad to hear the majority of your fish made out better than ours did! My husband and I have a fish tank (and we're very good at killing fish), I believe you're never suppose to replace more than 1/3 or 1/2 of the tank water at a time to avoid the ammonia poisioning your tank is experiencing. Good luck getting everything balanced out!

  3. Awww poor fishys!!I'm so happy to hear that some made it!! And you did a brave thing by saving their lives! I'm proud of you girl! :)

  4. Sorry about the fish, but thanks for the tea latte recipe. :)

    ~ Dawn


Hey, why not leave a comment? I'd love to hear what you think. If you're entering a giveaway, be sure to leave your email address if it's not set to public in your profile!