2 min read

Poop Water

Poop Water

My first pet was a Betta fish.

He was blue, because my favorite color was blue.

His name was Fish, because he was a fish.

The Petco employee said he would do great in a small bowl, the kind of bowl kindergarteners draw when asked to draw a pet fish.

Fish was always lethargic.

I was too.

Come wintertime, Fish would move slower. I wrapped a towel around his bowl to keep him warmer.

One day, Fish was very, very lethargic.

I dumped him in the toilet and flushed.

More than a decade later I got interested in aquascaping. It’s like if you took an aquarium and shoved an entire Ansel Adams landscape photo in it.

competition aquascape

There’s an international competition for aquascaping. Competitors build their tanks in secret, and are only allowed to submit one single, unedited photograph.

To keep a fish alive is one thing. To keep fish and plants and bacteria and shrimp and snails alive--and beautiful--is quite another.

Shortly after getting into the hobby it was clear I had done Fish a great disservice. Betta fish come from SouthEast Asia, where water temperatures are in the 77-80 range. My room was a balmy 67.

With no filter, Fish was constantly swimming in stress-inducing poop water. I’m pretty sure all poop water is stress-inducing.

Fish’s conditions were terrible.

Had I been swimming in poop water too?

competition aquascape

Despite being a closed box, aquascapes are a complicated living ecosystem. Feed your fish a little extra and suddenly they’re pooping more. This might cause your plants to uptake certain nutrients quicker, changing your required fertilizer regimen. Dozens of tank parameters are multicausal and connected in not so clear ways.

complicated looking chart about plants

This chart has something to do with plants I guess

If your tank develops algae problems you can’t just dump some chemicals in to fix it. You’re just patching symptoms. The algae will come back. You have to figure out what kind of algae you have, why it’s showing up.

There’s only one real way to clear out your algae: tweak a parameter and wait to see what happens.

If you want a beautiful, thriving aquascape, you’ve got to get the conditions right.

And if you want to be a beautiful, thriving human being, well…

competition aquascape

Unfortunately, being human is a bit more complex than being an aquascape. When you’re lost you can ask a friend, or a dead philosopher, or some guy on twitter. They might give you good advice. But that doesn’t always work.

Sometimes there’s only one real way to clear out your algae: tweak a parameter and wait to see what happens.