Salmon, by Mark Kurlansky
I received this book via NetGalley.
I’ve read a lot of Mark Kurlansky books, because I’ve really enjoyed the way he takes one thing – salt, in particular – and investigates its history and place in the human and natural world. Sometimes his work can feel a bit too general; I think this is a function of the format and his purpose, which is to present a wide-ranging view of the chosen topic. However, he does also present specifics – vignettes, effectively, to illuminate a broader point.
All of these comments stand for Salmon.
The first chapters are largely about the biology of the fish, which is way more complicated than I had realised – what even is a salmon, basically?? – and about its natural habitat and habits. Most salmon return to their natal spawning ground for their own spawning, and then die, which is just a whole thing when it comes to life cycles and how on earth they find their way back to a particular river after hanging out in the ocean for a variable number of years.
Much of the rest of the book is a litany of how humans have placed the existence of salmon in peril: through destruction of habitat in a multitude of ways, and directly through overfishing. Kurlansky touches on several ways in which indigenous peoples in what are today the USA and Canada and Japan used and managed salmon over hundred or thousands of years to demonstrate the possibility of living in balance… but all of that is against the construction of dams and other ways that ‘progress’ and ‘civilisation’ have led to the destruction of rivers, in particular. Honestly most of this book was pretty depressing to read. There’s so much we just don’t really understand about how to make it possible for salmon stocks to redevelop… which leads to further catastrophe in the food web. Salmon is, to an extent, just a symbol for how much the last 300-odd years of industrial development have ravaged the environment. So that’s fun.
If you can handle the story of environmental destruction, this is a readable and generally approachable book. As noted above, Kurlansky necessarily goes in for some generalisations – it’s a result of making a readable book for the general public, I think. But he does present specifics – about particular rivers, about particular indigenous groups, about particular styles of fishing, and so on – and there’s no doubt that he’s put an enormous amount of research and work into telling this story. It’s a sobering read, and it’s a worthwhile one.
Fish… the sad bit
My apple snails are no more.
In fact, they never were: they never came out of their shells in my tank.
Apparently – having called the aquarium I bought them from – some areas of my town have increased copper in their water due to the drought. And this kills snails, like, instantly.
Was there a mention of this at the shop? No. Was there any suggestion that there might be an issue? No. And how does the shop know about the copper? Because they had a batch of snails drop like flies a few months ago, got their water tested and found out about the copper. So this is not exactly a surprise to them.
Argh!! I sent a moderately-worded email expressing my disappointment.
No snails, again! I’m so sad. And one of my lovely new cloaches died, too. But the other three seem happy enough….
Ah, the things that make me happy.
After being nixed in what I had hoped would be the completion of my want-a-blue-coat saga, I finally bought some new fish for my depleted tank.
I got 15 Colombian tetras, because they were on sale as a bulk – we had a fleet of them for a while but they’ve slowly died off over three or four years. So now we’ve got more, they’re happily schooling – and they have colour, too, which is nice (they didn’t in the fish shop).
To appease my love, we also got some clown loaches. Five of the beggars! (Another bulk deal.) I said we were never, ever going to get more, because it is just too, too heartbreaking when they die: they are my love’s favouritest fish ever (except for discus fish, which we ain’t getting because the tank isn’t big enough for more than, oh, one of them). They are terribly cute, and being all cloachy: going up and down in the corners, going around and around… they are like the excitable dogs of the fish world. And then they hide under rocks and don’t come out for days.
And, finally… mystery snails! It’s the first time our aquarium place has had snails in years – since my last wonderful snail died, in fact. J said I wasn’t allowed to name this one, because I was so sad when Ajax (the last one) died… but it was too late. Two snails, so I get to have Major and Minor (Ajax).
So now the tank is looking more full, which is lovely. I can’t wait for them all to settle in. I still might go and get some more rasboras… but that should probably be in about a month, if not longer, to let these guys become acquainted with their tank mates.
 If you don’t get the reference, you haven’t read The Iliad.
On a slightly more upbeat note than the last couple of posts, I bought some new fishies on the weekend.
I had been intending to get a bristlenose catfish, to help deal with a slight algae problem, but the guy said that a) they tend to basically ring-bark any plants you’ve got, and b) fish eat slowly, so any algae they might eat will probably grow back faster than et anyhow. Which was very useful, saved me money, and I will simply continue to pull the damned stuff out by hand.
What I did buy is four itty-bitty mottled angels. Three are black and white, and the fourth just white (so not really mottled then, I know, but that’s what the tank said!). Their bodies are less than an inch round, and even when you add their lovely fins they’re still small. Of course, they may grow up into holy terrors and traumatise all the other fish… but that’s a while away yet!
They’re so cute.
A very fishy update
It’s been a while since I reported on my aquatic friends, so I thought I would…
I’m pretty sure I mentioned that the Monster Angel finally went to the big aquarium in the sky… very sad. The tank has consequently been looking fairly empty – it’s a 50 gallon (about 150 litres) thing, with only 20 or 30 smallish fish in it. So last week, as part of our holidays, we went fish shopping. I got 20 neon tetras, who seem to be going ok; 4 harlequin rasboras, one of whom has died – but the others seem to be getting on with the older harlequins; and two bristlenose catfish, to help deal with the algae issue. I can’t find them any more. They’re pretty good at hiding, but… I’m a bit worried. We also got some plants, which always makes the place look much, much better.
In other exciting news, we found a fish place much closer to us – Aqua Fin. We’d heard of the business before, selling equipment, but they only recently opened as a direct-to-public place. Their stock of fish was pretty low, but their plants were ok – and cheaper, too. It’s just nice to have a shop 5 min drive away (or a long walk), rather than more than twice that, for things like food!
My Monster Angel has died.
He’s been on the way out for a year or so, I think: he got sick about a year ago, and I thought he would die then, but he kicked on. Today, though… on his side, all of a sudden; then, 30 minutes or so later, gone. Fallen off the perch.
The tank looks much emptier without him. He was three times as big as any of the others…
My last cloach died today.
Obviously things are not quite as happy as the tank might like to be. Cloaches are so darned sensitive, what with having skin not scales. Fortunately my other aquatic darlings are a bit more hardy than those soft cloaches. (This is me trying to turn things to my advantage. See that?)
No other deaths though.
Death strikes the fish world
Upon arriving home, I discovered some corpses.
Two of the cloaches – at least one of which is not much of a surprise, because he was looking awfully skinny on Thursday – and a Colombian tetra. I guess the tetra is also not much of a surprise, since it was one of the first fishies we got that survived after we moved here, and that’s more than three years ago now.
Still, very sad.
It has indeed been a long time since I posted about my aquatic darlings. The fact that there actually have been some changes in the last month makes that even worse… not that they’ve been huge changes, but still – this blog was begun with the intention of writing about fish and what happened to them, given the dearth (at the time, at least) of info for beginning fish-keepers… anyway, enough of that!
So, a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to put a few more fish in. I bought a herd of neons, because they were on special. They went into the quarantine tank, which I had finally cleaned up and started the tank in again. Sadly, they didn’t last very long – only a few days. The point was for them to break the tank in, without the time of fishless cycling… turns out they were remarkably fragile little neons, and they didn’t like that idea. So, I am fishless cycling.
I also bought three cloaches, I have been wary of getting them, what with getting too attached and then them dying too easily. (Might seem weird to buy fish at the same time as preparing the quarantine tank, but really, cloaches are better off going into a mature tank anyway, rather than a new one). These three have been fantastic! One – I presume it’s always the same one – spends most of his time under the rock, as our previous cloaches have, but the other two are generally out and about and being all cloachy: shimmying around the tank, nosing around, and basically being all adorable and cute. I love my cloaches.
Green tank – and a general fishy update
So I finally succumbed, and realised the tank was succumbing to sickness fairly badly. There are a couple of fish with serious cases of ick (I think), and a few others with slight spots on them. So I’ve dosed the ship up with meds, which has turned the entire tank green. It may well end up killing some of the healthy fish, unfortunately – especially the rasboras, I seem to remember from last time. But I think it will be worth it… and we’ll be able to re-stock with an assurance that the tank is healthy.
We lost a few fish over summer. I think a couple of neon tetras carked it, and definitely a couple of my pretty rainbow widows. The angel is still alive, which is amazing given that the hole is still there… the black neons are doing well, but the penguin tetras are looking dreadful – a number of them seem to have incredibly ragged fins, to the point where a couple of them don’t have fins, basically.
Fun and games. Poor little fishies.