Some of you may have noticed that we have some new fishy friends at our Laurel Ave. clinic. Introducing Beatrice (Bee for short- an albino cory catfish), her new tank mates the Zebra Danios, and our tank janitors the Mystery Snails! The aquarium setup and Bee came from our local Buy Nothing group- a former roommate had left them behind and the caretakers wanted to pass the tank along to someone who would be more excited about caring for the little ecosystem. That is where I came in. I originally hoped to bring the tank home, but realized that cramming it into my room that already houses a smaller aquarium and a frog habitat would be starting to cross a line I maybe shouldn’t be crossing. So I asked Sarah how she felt about having it at the clinic. I thought it was particularly fitting that the person giving it away was a clinic regular (yay for community!). Sarah was dubious at first, but once I promised her I would take care of all the major maintenance and she would have to do absolutely no scrubbing of algae, she agreed with my scheme. Little did she know that I also had no intention of scrubbing algae, and on the day we got the aquarium delivered I bought the snails to do the work for me. Watching them zoom around the tank that first day won Sarah over to the aquatic side entirely.
I got interested in aquariums during the lockdown in 2020. It started with the impulse buy of a couple feeder fish and a 1 gallon bowl- surprise, they all died in a weekend. Feeder fish aren’t supposed to live for very long, they are supposed to get eaten. So I upgraded to a betta fish and while I was at it learned about planted aquariums, and how when done right they can be their own self-sustaining ecosystem. I turned that one gallon bowl into a little underwater garden, but to my dismay, my betta started acting funny after a month or so. By that time it was late fall and the temperature in my room had dropped quite a bit- the little guy was cold! I had to get him a heater. (When I was younger I kept 3 feeder fish alive in a punch bowl for years, and my sister kept a betta alive in a bowl for years as well, despite our lack of central heating and drafty windows. These fish seemed to thrive on minimalism. I find myself wondering if the fish of our youth were made of tougher stuff than the fish today. Perhaps they had to swim to school 5 miles in the snow, uphill both ways? Anyhow…) As it so often happens with simple hobbies, the heater was just the beginning…the upgrades kept coming, I have tried to keep them modest. And I have struggled with getting my little ecosystem balanced. Part of the problem I have at home is that my aquarium is still small, and anything under 10 gallons is much more vulnerable to volatile water conditions. If there is one thing aquatic life hates the most, it is volatile water conditions.
That is why I was excited about the chance to test myself with this larger tank. And what better place to cultivate a balanced and harmonious ecosystem than in a community acupuncture clinic? Balance, homeostasis, harmony… Those are a few of our favorite things! Next time you come by Laurel say hello to our new friends, and keep your eye on them for new additions. To really get this ecosystem thriving we need to increase our clean up crew, and regulate our plant life, but we will be taking it slowly. Harmony doesn’t happen in a day.