Sunday, 7 October 2012

RIP Dean the Dancing Fish

As far as goldfish go Dean was quite the performer, thanks to the informative powers of the internet we found out 'he' was actually a 'she', but Dean didn't care for labels, a kind of a piscine Billy Elliot, when confronted with a beat and a dancing person in front of her tank, she would follow the lead and swim in time to the blob of human present. She might just have been seeking attention for more food and was just following the shape but we like to think she was feeling the rhythm.

Dean survived 2 house moves and swimming with 2 companions - the last few weeks of Buffy (my longest living fish) and Sam (her pet shop tank buddy) - to be honest she seemingly pestered Sam to death (probably just wanted to dance) so I didn't warm to her for the first while but she won me over.

During those moves and also all through her little fishy life, she was very relaxing to watch swim and probably brought our blood pressure down at some important times. A Comet goldfish, her tail was very long and white and shimmered like a streamer in the current of the water.

She was only still a young fish, approx 3 and a half years old, but alas, we knew she'd probably not live a really long life because Buffy and Sam both died of fish Mycobacteriosis (here is a link to a great article entitled 'Understanding Bacterial Disease in Aquarium Fish' by Myron Roth) and they were already in the same tank before we knew.

So it was just a matter of letting Dean live out a happy fishy life as long as she could and on her own with just 2 humans and a TV as entertainment. We knew that sadly, at the first real signs of stress, would probably take over. It was just a matter of time. Whether or not a lost scale was the initial damage or part of the symptoms, it seems the first cold mornings of the year combined with a poorly timed water change were that little bit of stress to tip the balance and whichever disease it is did it's thing.

Fish Mycobacteriosis is horrible by the way, almost enough to put me off keeping fish. The initial symptoms are vague, mine tended to spend time on the bottom of the tank, followed by lethargy, followed by not eating, all the while, a sore tends to develop on the side of the fish, all these symptoms though can be other things, it's when the spine of the fish starts bending that it become apparent. From what I've seen first hand (though I've never used antibiotics) once you're at this stage it's game over. I sensed early that whatever the fish had was not going to end well, first we hoped it was just a case of swim bladder as she was still able to swim strongly in bursts when fed and per usual we gave her some crushed up unshelled fresh peas. That did seem to help and there was improvement for a couple of days but all it seemed to do was buy time. When the lethargy came back, we tried to use an internal bacteria infection treatment from the pet store but with no success. I don't like to give up on a pet but with this one, having not being able to do anything for the other two, I was going to do the right thing by the fish and euthanise it. Mercifully for both fish and me, she ceased to be very quickly overnight on the day I was calling it quits and inevitable, the final stages this time being a lot quicker than with the other two.

On the plus side, I can now do something about controlling the pathogen, starting by thoroughly disinfecting or getting a new tank and new equipment. I think I might hold off getting any new fish for a while though. I've had 6 fish (3 sets of 2 overlapping by 1 fish each time) in a space of 9 years without the tanks unoccupied. In that time we've also had 5 house moves and up-sized fish tanks 3 times. Longevity wise, the oldest fish lasted 5 years but I know I've not done everything as well as I could and maybe should have. Next time I'll test the water a lot more often and also vary the diet more, I think more regular but smaller water changes might be a good idea. I think I'll also reduce the amount of plastic plants in my tank and only buy those that are softer/finer. Ornaments-wise I think I'll keep it simple - something smooth and round edged in which the fish can hide rather than just behind things.

Dean seemed to have a happy life, not that she probably cared as she was a fish, but we enjoyed having her as part of our household. She will be missed.

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