Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Keeping my cool

In terms of personalities, I'm pretty even-keel. It takes a lot to make me angry.

"Lots" easily describes the last few weeks.

It turns out my boss is not a bad "substitute fish mom." He did exactly what was asked of him, and kept my fish healthy and alive. He was on top of things. His fish-sitting privileges have been reinstated.

So what happened in my tank?
Why was it nearly fish soup?
Why were lines detached?

Well, the answer is quite simple. Some idiot is trying to actively harm my little zebradanios.

At first I felt paranoid. The line must have snapped. The custodian could have easily unplugged the other line by bumping some furniture. The heater must have shorted due to technical malfunction. It was just a perfect storm.

So I tested my heater in a 5 gallon bucket. I could not get it to raise the water temp that high without pegging the thermostat. It's not a mechanical failure. The dial needs to be physically moved all the way to (+) or the heater won't run constantly at max wattage.

I also reattached the lines. The cut line was put back together with a cheap-o plastic valve. Anyone who's seen what I'm talking about knows that those are pieces of junk if you want to regulate air flow. The plastic screw isn't so much threaded into place as coerced, and tightening it to reduce air is a royal pain in the behind. When I left that evening, air was flowing. When I came back the following day, the valve had been forcefully shut. This cannot happen by accident. (I'm actually a little surprised that it could be effectively shut at all, so golf-claps there, I suppose.)

It was around this time that my boss called the cops. Our lab door wasn't closing because of the AC pressure. The front door to the building wasn't locking at night. It could just be idiot kids with nothing better to do than vandalize helpless fish. We filed a police report. Pictures were taken. Doors were repaired. I got to know the maintenance staff a lot better. Nice folks.

2 weeks passed.
Yesterday, I came in to find my new heater smashed with exposed electric coils in my tank water and glass littering the bottom of the tank.

It doesn't matter if the door is locked. Someone has a key.

We're moving the fish. I'm not telling anyone but staff and faculty where. My males from the effected tank all appear to be sterile, now. There's a strong chance their testes were permanently damaged. When you keep fish explicitly for their gametes (ie, eggs and sperm), if they stop making them it becomes really difficult to justify keeping them to the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. If they don't recover by mid-October, I will be forced to sacrifice them (because ethics. There's a rant in there about fake ethical justification for the sake of a moral system based exclusively on how fluffy the animal is.)

I am legitimately angry right now. I'm in a lab that has a stated goal of ensuring reproductive success in species. Our whole perspective is that every animal is valuable, and that we do what we do to make sure that both individuals and populations are healthy.

And someone is trying to kill my fish.

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