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So I know I’ve not been active for about the last week. Things have happened. Some good, some bad. I suppose I’ll start with the good.

Finally got paid from work at Dollar Tree last Friday. A small portion of that supplemented with some of the money I’d made selling an external drive and some collectible Bioshock toys on eBay, I have finally gotten around to building up a 20 gallon tank that had been sitting in my van for the better part of 3 weeks. I took advantage of a sale at Petco that featured aquarium tanks for sale at one dollar per gallon. I was very excited to get it.

I should probably back up a little bit. I’ve always had interest in aquarium fish. Some of my earliest memories as a child was helping my grandfather with his goldfish tank. He had the usual large feeder goldfish types and fancies with a generic HOB (hang on back) filter and an incandescent light with hood. Definitely beginner type stuff.

Of course, my 4-year-old enthusiasm to care for these fish was tragically comical…

I recall my grandparents taking me to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. I suppose it was modeled after the traditional Edo period Japanese stylings-Cherry blossoms, zen gardens etc. Surrounding the garden was a pond, or perhaps a moat that housed hundreds, if not thousands of live Koi fish. And I had noticed other visitors feeding the fish what seemed to be bits of crackers and pieces of bread.

In my young mind, I patterned that the Koi basically looked like giant goldfish. See where this is going?

Later that day, when we returned home, the thought process was focused on getting grandpa’s goldfish to grow as large as the Koi from the garden. And so there I went, with determination and intent, stormed into the kitchen set up a chair to the cupboard, climbed up, and grabbed a whole loaf of bread.

I then took that loaf to the living room to my grandfathers fish tank and began to stuff said loaf of bread into the tank.

After awhile, as I was sitting on my knees, excitedly watching the bread expand against the walls of the tiny tank, my grandmother caught sight of the scene. “Ronnie!” she screamed. “What are you doing? Jerry!” She peered back into the bedroom and motioned for my grandfather to come.

Grandfather quickly rushed out. “Ronnie?!” At this point I imagine most parents would start to cuss themselves out. Not my grandfather. Grandma Virgie, yes, but not grandpa Jerry. In fact, I can probably count on both of my hands of how many times I’ve heard him say the -S- word, but never the -F- word. In later years, when my grandfather was in contact with his brothers and sisters (who were all military as well) yes, I would definitely hear them all cuss up a storm-But he never would in parenting mode.

In anycase, grandfather calmly walked over to me and this ridiculous scene, and asked what I thought I was doing.

“I’m feeding the fish so they can get as big as those fish we saw at tea garden!” I replied with glee.

Mind you, the tank and its inhabitants were basically destroyed from what I did, but my grandfather didn’t yell at me. He had a very puzzled look on his face that slowly grew to amusement. He turned around and my grandparents looked at each other for a moment then they started to howl with laughter.

Of course, I not understanding the ramifications of my actions had shyly asked them. “What?”

That’s right folks. Ron Dador, newly/recently re-emigrated from the Philippines, at four years old was a destroyer of worlds.(Queue opening chorus from This Corrosion).

Of course those fish had died and my grandfather had gotten more of the same. Feeders and small fancies are generally cheap after all, and my grandmother liked those colors. Not long after we finally made our move to Santa Clara, and the fish were bucketed and successfully transferred to a long life at our Greenwood Drive home. I can’t remember exactly, but I believe those “new” fish and the tank were given away years later, before we again moved.

Again many years later, I think in my late teens, shortly after moving from Salinas, just gallivanting around Hillsdale mall, I noticed a small pet store (that no longer exists). I went in and on a whim had bought a crowntail betta, a 1 gallon bowl, a small bottle of water conditioner, and some generic betta food. Of course, I wasn’t really thinking. I should have gotten one closer to home, not 30 miles away. In any case, the pet shop owner, a little old lady, armed me with some knowledge on how to keep a Betta. And Traz (Don’t ask me how I came up with that weird name) lived a decently long life.

I believe after getting my first local job at Sanmina Corporation, I celebrated by getting a 10 gallon tank. My knowledge of fish keeping was still very basic, I had a book on keeping bettas, but knew nothing of non-anabantoids. Traz stayed in the bowl. In the new tank I put in black Mollies and red sword tails, but I didn’t have a filter. I had instead bought a powerhead-Figuring the fish basically just need oxygenation.

Well they got oxygen alright, about 250gph (gallons per hour) in a small 10 gallon tank. Stupid me. The current was so powerful it stressed the fish too much and they perished. Well, the sword tails I found out were prone to jumping out of the tank, and I also didn’t have a lid-So it wasn’t all the powerheads fault… yeh.

After I found out what I did wrong, I got an undergravel filter kit for the 10 gallon. Doing some research on the net, I found out why my new tank was cloudy, the cycling process, etc etc. And soon I bought another pair of black mollies. After the first day of their purchase, my grandparents had visited and were looking at my little tank, and laughing from recalling what I did with their fish tank as a child. Then my grandmother made the comment, “Oh, Ronnie! Are those little bugs in your tank?”

Puzzled, I took a closer look and was awestruck. One of the mollies had given birth.

Of course I had no idea what sex they were, let alone notice a pregnancy. Hell, I didn’t even know they were livebearers. And so it was, I did some research, and figured out how to raise the mollies. And I’d say that was pretty much the start of my fixation in aquarium keeping. It definitely wasn’t proper, and I still didn’t know what I was doing, but the fry survived to adulthood, and were eventually traded.

About a year or so into Mission college, I met a fellow student, who was related to a childhood classmate of mine. His name is Roy. Afterwhile, Roy and I started hanging out and found that he and his cousin (my former classmate) were hardcore fish keepers-Both having marine tanks. That’s way beyond me, even today. Roy would later major in marine biology, and scuba dives.

Anyway, Roy loaned me his 37 gallon Marineland Eclipse setup. A big step up from the 10 gallon, at least in my eyes. Big tank equals bigger fish, I thought. And so I started keeping African Cichlids.

Mind you, again, I stepped into a world of knowledge that I had yet to learn. Firstly, Traz was very much alive. And he was still the biggest fish I had. I figured, an adult Betta should be fine with other fish as big as he. He won’t bother the cichlids, and he should be much happier in such a large tank. I figure I’ll go ahead an move him in after establishing my newly acquired cichlids.

One morning before work, while it was still darker, I moved Traz into the cichlid tank. I let him swim around a little and finally turned on the lights. The cichlids (1 convict, 1 bright white, and two electric blue socolafi) took notice of Traz. They swam up to Traz, a betta, goes “shields up” in anticipation for attack, and just as quickly, the cichlids backed off. I saw that and was confident, things should be fine in the tank. So I fed them all, got ready for work, and spent a good five minutes watching Traz happily exploring the rocky, fake plant plentiful, and vast new world.

Of course this story turns for the worse. When I got home, I couldn’t immediately find Traz. After a good few minutes of searching frantically, there he was …Or rather what was left of him. The cichlids must have ganged up on him after I had left for work. What remained of Traz was his skull, fully depleted of all his glorious pigments-With the exception of a heavily faded blue on his lips. The cichlids are very thorough.

That was rather heartbreaking. Up to that point, Traz was in my care for a good 2 years. I did take good care of him. Did the water changes, fed him well. Seems never a day without some addition to his bubble nests at the top of the bowl. He was a happy little betta; Yet my efforts to make him happier had failed and led to his violent destruction. (Queue Mozart’s Lacrimosa)

I can probably go on with a plethora of odd often amusing fish keeping stories with the cichlid tank alone. Keeping that tank was actually hard work, and became quite expensive as they grew and required more food. More food, means more waste, means more upkeeping. Not to mention how destructive they are to personal vision of an aquascape. If they’re powerful enough to move and drag it, they will. It was kind of annoying, but you got used to it.

I will recall one brief amusing story.

One day, my cousins brought over their kids. The daughter, Meshelle-Anne, I call her Meany-She was looking with awe at the cichlid tank. I asked her if she wanted to go with me to the local fish store (LFS) to get my cichlids some new friends. And so she went with me. We went to the feeder tank, and I let her pick out 10 fish friends! (this place let you fish out feeders yourself)

And so I bagged them all up and let her carry the fish to the register. She told clerk with excitement that “Uncle let me pick out some new friends for his fish!” The teller asked me what fish I had, and I told her “cichlids” with a wink. She looked at the little girl and smiled then gave me a momentary look of disgust which turned into a small laugh and shrug. She figured I was playing a kind of mean joke on Meany.

On the way home, Meany was amusing herself by naming all the fish. This little joke was going so well, I thought!

When we got home, she ran up to my tank with the bag of feeders, urging me to put them in quickly. I oblige, no need to acclimate feeders after all. I pulled out the net and proceeded to drop them all in.

Of course the feeders didn’t last long. As soon as they were in, the cichlids were in hot pursuit. The golden scales flew rapidly around the tank, as one by one each feeder was swallowed hole by my gang of cichlids. The look on meany’s face was obvious and total shock! Wish I had a camera.

Seems however that the fragile childlike innocence, the empathy, the pain, and sorrow had quickly faded from Meany, and she exclaimed. “Uncle that was cool! Can we get more fish?!”

This blog is become far more lengthy than I had anticipated, but I’m having fun writing it. Hope you don’t mind the read.

Let’s fast forward to present time. Yes, I had just gotten a 20 gallon tank, and procured some money to put it together. I’m actually quite proud of what I accomplished so far. I had previously gotten two smaller pico tanks. One 2.5 gallon that still houses my current Halfmoon Betta, named Alvar (old Norse for “vigilant”), and a 3 gallon Eclipse tank that I got for six dollars at a Salvation Army (LOL!)-That housed 5 Harlequin Rasboras, a black Kuhli Loach, a Nerite Zebra Snail and a couple Amano Shrimp. Obviously it was overstocked, but I kept it well enough, and all it’s inhabitants are now safely transferred into the new 20 gallon. In additioin I’ve added another Amano, three Cherry Red Shrimp, seven Neon Tetras, and a fiddler crab.

One major thing difference from when I first started is now I’m also keeping live plants. Believe it or not the Wisteria, Alternentha, Java Moss and Onion Grass had all flourished in the pico tanks-Actually taking up much of the little space, hence my eventual move to a larger tank. Flourish Excel and decent lighting in such tiny tanks sure did the trick. I’ve actually clipped some wisteria given them away.

Yet I’m now having trouble with the plants. It seems the transfer to the new tank hasn’t gone well for the Wisteria as it’s starting to melt a bit. It’s only been about a week, and they’ll probably bounce back, but I am very concerned because my lighting is definitely inadequate. It may be enough for these low light plants, yet the tiny pico tank lights are perhaps not penetrating deeply enough into the 20 gallon tank. I should have tested the lights before I so hastily started putting this tank together. I was just too excited. So now I have to hope the plants survive until my next pay day which is in 10 days. (Sigh) At least the fish, the snail, and the invertebrates are doing well.

BUT– Will I last 10 days is the next question.

Work as a Dollar Tree stocker is becoming more frequently frustrating. I almost quit last night, or rather, this early morning. That’s one problem I have, I am not acclimating well to the graveyard shift. I just can’t seem to get enough sleep these days. In the last 48 hours, I had maybe 4 hours of sleep. Furthermore, it’s ruining my appetite. I hardly eat anything anymore. Today is my favorite day of the week, Tuesday cheap chicken day at Popeye’s, and I had to force myself to eat my usual 4 pieces. Because I’ve been so tired, I haven’t made it to the gym much, and tho I’m losing weight, it’s not good weight. I feel like my body is just imploding in on itself.

The work is another aspect that I’m frustrated with. It seems I’m just too slow. I’m supposed to keep with a certain flow and speed-I just don’t feel very motivated to go any faster. Eight dollars an hour, maybe 20-24 hours a week, very bad logistics in moving in the product, backstocking, and upstocking. It just drives me crazy. I want to read the order count, the shipping manifests on paper, not just pick up a box and look at the count, and then try to find the matching product amongst other randomly piled boxes of products that all look the same! I’ve learned that I am a visual learner, I need to recognize and interpret, then take action. Taking the time to open up each box of product to see what it is just takes up too much time and is driving me nuts. That on top of keeping the shelves organized so I can fit everything-Yeah, honestly, I’d rather have everything cataloged, to the point of when something is purchased, you know what it is, where it goes and know it will fit. This random upstocking just …sucks.

They expect it all to be done in such little time, and I know I’m not getting any faster at it. My mind is so lost in negativity because of all these factors that when I’m working, I’m an emotional wreck. And when I’m not working, I think about work and how it’s affecting me outside of it that I’m still an emotional wreck. Look, I haven’t even written anything for my blogsite here until now. I’ve just been too far gone.

I am truly not happy working there. The people are fine, but the work, well it’s just not for me. Again, the payrate and (too little) schedule are not motivating. I’m at the point that where every little annoyance is becoming a very big annoyance. I was thinking about work earlier today and associating it with killing myself. It’s that bad!

What can I do tho? Earning a little money is better than no money, right? But is it really worth my physical and mental well-being to earn that little money?

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