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8:28 AM Fri, Oct. 19th

Organic Matter

We may not realize it, but raising pets is a large part of our lives

Pets have been an integral part of American life for many generations.

We shower them with affection and gain their loyalty and trust in return.

At least, I feel we do when it comes to dogs or cats, the two most commonly kept creatures in our homes.

I cannot recall a significant period of time when there was not a dog in my home until moving to Kingman from Florida eight years ago.

We, meaning my wife Colleen and I, do not have a fenced yard, so that pretty much eliminates the opportunity to have a dog now.

I had long wanted a fresh water aquarium, so we got one upon relocating here.

I add the necessary items (e.g.

cycle, stress coat, etc.) on a regular basis, and our fish stay healthy and active for the most part.

Unfortunately, there is the isolated instance where "Ick," a fungus-like disease, gets into the tank and wreaks havoc for reasons that are not always apparent.

The fish develop bubbles or discoloration on their scales, become lethargic and ultimately die.

Treatment with a medicine may help if the outbreak is detected early.

Otherwise, Ick tends to run rampant and kill everything in the tank.

That happened to us two years ago.

It was heartbreaking to find one or two dead fish each morning until all were gone.

After such an outbreak has run its course, the tank needs a minimum of 30 days to recycle before you dare put new fish in it.

You treat for Ick weekly during the month to eradicate it completely.

Ick returned to our tank last week.

I removed and disposed of two fish that looked terrible in hopes the epidemic could be nipped in the bud.

I also began Ick treatments.

But the outcome was in doubt as of Friday morning when I finished this column.

Of course, you may pay little attention to any of this, unless you also have an aquarium and can relate to it.

Tropical fish have no fur and do not rub wet noses against some part of your anatomy as you sleep as do some dogs and cats.

They do not perk up ears and bark or give some other signal to let you know someone may be outside your door.

Once you establish a tank, you don't have to take fish to your veterinarian for distemper, heartworm or shots to prevent other problems.

Their impact on one's household budget as far as food is concerned also is considerably less.

Do a 25 percent water change once a month, vacuum the gravel well, wipe away excess algae buildup (leave enough for the tank algae eater to perform his function), rinse artificial plants, rocks or structures, adjust the heater (when necessary), put a fresh carbon in the filter, add the aforementioned liquids and you should be able to enjoy healthy, happy fish (if fish have feelings of happiness).

All you have to worry about is the occasional attack of Ick.

Our tank is located in the dining room, so Colleen and I take delight in watching the fish in it whenever we sit down to a meal.

They watch us, too, although I don't know if it is with delight.

But we like to think they have enough awareness to realize we're doing as much to safeguard their health as any dog or cat owner does for his or her pet.

By the time this column appears Monday, Colleen and I will be entertaining her 16-year-old daughter, Krystal, who flew from Houston to Las Vegas on Saturday.

Colleen had serious health problems when she lived in Texas and was forced to give up Krystal and her brother Joshua to the state 14 years ago.

Both were adopted by a couple in Huntsville.

Joshua paid us a visit three years ago, and Krystal contacted us for the first time several months ago, expressing a desire to get to know her biological mother.

We have been planning her visit for the past month, and it comes during a vacation week for me.

I'll report in my next column on how the visit went.

Terry Organ is the Miner's education, health and weather reporter.