At Christmas we welcomed a guppy named Butterfly into our home. This marks our first foray into pet ownership since Ian and I moved back to Washington, and Benji’s first pet ever. Fish don’t exactly fulfill the “snuggly buddy to play with” role that a mammal might, but they do have the benefit of demanding very little. And over time it does appear that Butterfly might, slowly, be associating the food container with food.
Anyway, Butterfly has survived in our care for three weeks, so we decided to introduce some additional fish into the tank. One guppy occupying an entire 20-gallon tank made people ask, “Is there anything in there?” After a little research, and at the recommendation of the pet store, we purchased a dozen neon tetras. (Now, reading the recommendations, we should’ve gotten 15 neon tetras. Oh well, I trust they won’t feel too stressed.)
By the way, Benji named Butterfly after Monarch butterflies, because his tail has orange and black stripes reminiscent of those endangered insects. (In an amusing twist, Mom hatched a butterfly at about the same time and named it Guppy.)
In addition to the fish, you’ll notice we have some live plants. The one with the broad leaves has grown new leaves, which I take as a good sign. The narrow-leaf ones aren’t really growing that I can tell; they should be attaching to rocks with their rhizomes and I don’t think they are. But they haven’t died yet, either. I guess not being dead is a good start.
With the live plants, we got a bonus snail. We named it Sam the Snail and gave it lettuce to eat. But then it turns out that one snail propagates extremely quickly, so that soon a tank is overrun with a zillion little snails. At one point it seemed like every day we looked, we saw twice as many snails. Exponential snail growth, oh no!
Turns out, snails can take over a tank, even to the point of clogging the filter with little baby snails. We’ve started an aggressive program of physically removing snails every day or so. Sam the Snail went first, along with his (her?) large progeny. When Benji asked, “Where’s Sam?” We said, “Oh, you know, he can be hard to see sometimes.” We haven’t broken it to him that Sam went to the great fish bowl in the sky.
Since then, every day I wipe the water line and edges. Zillions of tiny snails, the size of periods or smaller, wipe away. Several times I’ve found piles of snail eggs on the sides, too. Every time I wipe those little guys away, I feel an evil glow of satisfaction at preventing all those little guys from turning into big guys who can propagate themselves.
Despite these efforts, I expect the Lilliputians will win in the end — or we’ll have to call in some backup. I’m thinking assassin snails.