Knitting by the pool

Both Kevin and Mom ended up taking nearly identical photos, so I had to post one. The days ended up going by very quickly, especially since the first three were Christmas and two days of dress shopping. On day four, I found the spot on the deck that got direct sunlight in the morning, and knitted while waiting for the clouds to pass. Not much of a tan, but pretty and warm.

Comet did a good job keeping me company and warding off the geckos.

It took a while to get this project going on the right footing (no pun intended). Want a closer look?

It’s the New England pattern from Nancy Bush’s Knitting on the Road. Yes, a sock. When I finished my first pair a year ago, it didn’t look likely that I’d ever decide to knit another. But, I bought the book, and then the red sock yarn, and the prettiness of both has been wearing me down. I have slight reservations about my gauge, and I’ve had a few mental lapses with skipping the work-even row in the lace that have forced me to rip almost as much as I’ve knit, but in spite of that, I’m enthusiastic.

Here’s to friends!

Our friend Larry (former Seattle-ite and now missed by the fish) was back home for the holidays, and pushed back his flight, so we got to see him down in Florida!! Another MIT friend, Jon, came too, so with my brother and sister along we had quite the group for a night out at the (aptly) Boston-themed pub down the street.

And a shot of the three guys — Happy Birthday, Larry!

Merry Christmas!

Our golden retriever was very excited about his present under the tree (the pink bag next to his nose, full of rawhide).

Once the rawhide was consumed, he moved on to playing with his new rope — tossing it, growling, chewing, and finally rolling on it.

The rest of us were a little more measured in our enthusiasm, but it was a happy Christmas and so fun to be with my family again.

Post-storm photo roundup

This is mostly a pictures post… just to show the storm pre- and aftermath.

I tend to take tank photos a few times a week. I was so happy to realize that I took some on Thursday right before the power outage, even if they didn’t come out so well.

One of the most shocking transformations was the death of all of the horrible red algae. It covered the lower third of the tank, prestorm. Here you can see the gramma’s rock (not the best picture, but it does have the tang in it):

Whereas afterwards, there are only a few clumps on the ricordia rock and the gramma’s rock left. When we turned the lights back on, it had mostly changed from a maroon color to screaming orange. Then over the next day or so, it all turned from orange to clear and disappeared. Good riddance — lets hope it stays gone.

The tank actually looks shockingly similar, pre- (below) and post- (above) storm. The major difference at a distance is that the xenias are gone, as are the gramma, tang and shrimp. You can see the pom pom xenia on the far left of the tank — it looks like a large pink ball. The other (original) xenias are the blurry fuzz all along the ridge line.

The rest of the corals did pretty well. Here you can see our yellow plate coral (a montipora) with attendant hermit crab, and the pink branching montipora. Both look great. In the back to the left, you can see the top of the leather. One of our jets died and he looked miserable without the extra flow, so I raised him up in the tank closer to the light and with good current, and he perked up.

And then the same corals, but taken from the front of the tank. You can also see a part of our pink plate corals, as well as a limb of the monti that I accidentally snapped off a few months ago, that’s still happily growing in its new spot on the lower rock. Also, some of our orange zoos:

Our torch coral (and embedded barnacles) made it through without too many problems, which was a relief. It definitely didn’t like the cold, and pulled in all of it’s waving arms completely, but once the heat and lights came on, it was one of the first corals to look normal. They’re supposed to be particularly able to take down a tank if they die, so I was glad that this guy was more-or-less unphased by the ordeal.

The bottom third, or so, of the acro bleached. Very sad because it’s really taken off in the last month or so. I’m hopeful that once it gets over the shock, it will grow back. The brown parts are the “mouths” which feed off of organisms in the water, and it’s also very dependent on light, current, and good water quality.

Since the power outage, there’s been a dark algae growing on the dying parts of the acro. The teeny hermit crabs (who seemed to survive! Yay!) are so obsessed with it. There tend to be one or two in the acro branches at all times, munching away. In the picture to the right, you can see one, in its white shell, trucking towards the bounty. The zoanthids that it climbed up are deeply (and momentarily) unhappy. Instead of the open faces with fringe, they close up into pale purple tubes until the annoyance has passed.
And finally the ricordia rock. When the lights first came back on, both ricordias were stringy and losing their grip on the rock. They came back to 90% very quickly, but still aren’t quite as puffy as they were before the storm. We’ve been playing with flow, since I suspect that more would help them, and waiting and seeing. The sunflower and orange zoos on the rock were just fine. This is one of the two places in the tank that still has red algae. Not pretty. And you can see the top of Clack, hanging out in his cave behind this rock.

A long, sad post about the tank and the windstorm

You know when you kind of stall on communicating because there’s bad news, and saying it in writing seems permanent? That’s been the case for me for the blog since the storm. We lost power for forty hours, and the fishtank didn’t do very well. The three biggest issues were heat, current, and light. Over eight hours on Thursday night, the water temp plunged from 79 to 72 degrees. We cranked the (gas) heat, and even though the electric blower on the fireplace didn’t work, the room that the fish were in stayed hot and we were able to slow the temperature drop. However, that big a swing that quickly is extremely shocking to all of our tropical life. The current is important primarily for keeping the water oxygenated, but also for getting waste to the filters and food to the corals. Fish like the tang (and the gramma to a lesser extent) also require high current. And finally, the lights provide food to the corals, balance to the creatures used to their daily “sun”, and the fish won’t eat if they aren’t on.

We lost power just after 10 pm on Thursday. We had candles at the ready, and Kevin quickly found his REI headlamp, and when the temp started to drop and the lights still weren’t on, we wrapped the tank in window insulating plastic (left over from Kevin’s apartment in Boston) and blankets, and cranked the thermostat. (which is aparently battery-powered. smart.)

We brought the futon mattress downstairs so that we could be there to monitor the pumps and siphons when the power started back up, since we have almost 100 gallons of water that needed to start flowing again — daunting. The hope that power would be restored overnight turned out to be wildly optimistic. Kevin made it to work on Friday, and called to say not to bother attempting the drive, since all of the power was out on the Eastside. He came back home, and we spent the day cut off — the cell phone towers were down, so even our charged phones didn’t do any good. The tang and shrimp died within the first day. It was incredibly hard to watch and not be able to do anything. We tried to pump a bit of air in with a turkey baster, but to no avail.

We went into Seattle for a while on Friday night to wish our friend Andi a happy 25th birthday, and to use her shower and internet connection (thank you, Andi!! for the company and the civilization!). Driving home across the 520 bridge and just seeing pitch black in front of us was incredibly depressing. Early Saturday morning, Kevin woke up with an idea stolen from beer brewing. If you pour water back and forth between buckets several times, it becomes hyper-oxygenated. The disadvantage though is that it also cools the water significantly due to the evaporation. So we started heating buckets and pouring water, and hoping that we were buying ourselves some time. An hour or so later, my mom called and a tower picked it up for long enough for the voicemail to get through — they’d been looking for solutions for us, and found that you can hook something called an inverter up to a car battery (or even better, a deep cycle battery) and it will provide several hours of energy. She called around until she found one in Puyallup that the wonderful Sears guy held for us, and we drove down to pick it up. We got it home, and were so happy to be able to power most of the lights, most of the pumps, the heaters and the skimmer. We’d been running it for about two hours when the power came back on. Great timing: we didn’t have to recharge it. Here’s the wrapped tank with inverter power:

And a picture of the poor clowns swimming together after the inverter power was turned on… It really was amazing to watch the two of them together. They are generally pretty independant now, and then check in with each other every five to ten minutes. When the power went out, they stuck side by side, swam together in unison, and the one would butt the other if they stopped swimming for too long.

Everything looked horrible for the first day or so. Click and Clack were both alive (but Clack was in pretty bad shape), we couldn’t find the gramma, the tang and shrimp were gone but I still kept forgetting and looking for them, and our corals looked so unhappy. We ended up finding the gramma the next day — he didn’t make it. The xenias all had to be taken out, except for the one in our sump that’s looking pretty happy. They were shriveled and grey, and xenias smell horrible when they’re stressed or dying.

Kevin and I were both very sad to lose the pom pom xenia, which has been growing like mad recently. The leather and torch coral had both retreated and wouldn’t come out — the torch coral took a day to bounce back and the leather finally started looking a lot better yesterday after I moved it closer to the light and into stronger current. Click and Clack finally started eating again on Monday afternoon, and are acting more like themselves by the day. Our two plate montiporas and one branching montipora are looking a lot better, but still not 100%. The acro about half died (another coral that had been growing like mad recently), but we’ve seen a few mouths out on the part that wasn’t bleached, so that’s hopeful. The zoos seem completely unphased — they’re adding a lot of color. The mushrooms looked pathetic, but are now about 90% back. The ricordia is still seeming up in the air — I’ve been keeping an eye on it. And, the one good thing to come out of all of this, the power outage killed about 80% of our red scourge algae.

So, it all could be worse, but it’s been a rough and nerve-wracking week. On one hand, I know that they’re “just” fish, and many people have had much worse things happen, but the livelihood of the tank is so important to me.

Fishtank lessons for future power failures:
1. Use blankets and plastic early
2. Have a battery-operated airstone on hand
3. Use water changes to improve oxygenization of the water, by pouring the over-heated water from bucket to bucket before putting it in the tank
4. Have the deep cycle battery and inverter on hand for backup power.