Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

How to Prepare for Marriage

They say the best way to prepare for marriage and children is to get a pet, as one learns how to care for others without regard to oneself. They also say the sea is cold, but the sea contains the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent...

So I've gone and gotten a number of pets. Courtesy of my little brother, Cody, I have a new aquarium. Small to be sure, but worthy of the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end. I started with an urchin and three small snails, and then added a seastar, a worm, and a sea cucumber.

Actually, that's a bit too simplistic a rendition. It would seem that salt-water aquariums are incredibly hard to maintain, especially ones that are as small as only seven gallons. Initially I thought that there was the right amount of salt in the aquarium, and there was far too much. The urchin died.
I went out and got tools to measure the salinity, and a new urchin. His name is Jaws, since urchins have the strongest jaws in the world. (Gender is arbitrary with many of the echinoderms, since only they can tell the difference.)

Next was a seastar, named Cody, because a seastar is all arms. (Let the reader understand.) Then it was a worm, a featherduster worm, like Seballastarte sanctijosephi, which I used to sing of to my little sister when she was two. His name is Jonah, after the real hero of the Jonah story. And finally I found a sea cucumber. I am still looking for the right name for him.

I still plan to add a brittlestar, completing my shallow-water Echinoderm collection, and an anemone, since Cnideria is my other favorite animal group. I don't know why. But it is odd, the two very unrelated groups, having such surface similarities: nerve nets, radial symmetry, and water-based propulsion.

I've spent a good deal of time watching my pets. Cody sits there, and occasionally battles for space with Jaws, since space is more a premium on the ocean floor than a parking space in downtown Seattle. Jaws uses his spines and tube feet to move around, occasionally stunningly moving across the entire aquarium with great speed. I watch him scrape algae off the glass with his Aristotle's Lantern, his jaws, the most complicated jaw structure in the world. It is fascinating to see all the moving parts scrape together.

The three snails, too small to name, also scrape algae, and I can see them slowly remove algae with their radulas, their hard "tongues". Jonah of course just sits there, ocassionally allowing me to brush his tentacles, but mostly withdrawing at the slightest brush of water. The cucumber for the longest time only moved a centimeter every day, literally. More recently, while still at a slothful pace, he has explored the rest of the aquarium, but has yet to eat and excrete the sand. (Cucumbers find snail speed far too impetuous.)

But still too simple a story. I had to add sand to provide a suitable habitat for the cucumber before he was added. This necessitated moving the seastar and the snails out of the habitat. The worm remained, as it was buried, and a filter-feeder. (I tried to move the urchin. You try picking up an urchin.) The habitat was extremely cloudy for half the day. I then returned the snails and seastar, but it appeared that the seastar was too stressed by all the changes. Its arms curled up, and a day later it showed the tell-tale signs of death, as the arm tips turned white.

To rectify the situation, I bought some NanoReef, which puts just the right type of chemicals in the water. You have to add Part A, and five minutes later, Part B, to maintain alkalinity. Two days later the featherduster worm's tentacles began to curl like a fern's fronds. The next day the tentacles detached, and it died.

I bought a test kit, and discovered that the addition of Part B in the recommended amounts had caused the water to become far too alkaline, probably resulting in the death of the worm. The water remains too alkaline, despite the subsequent suspension of all NanoReef Part B.

A saltwater aquarium is hard to maintain, a small one even more so. I now have renewed respect for the amount of care needed at the Seattle Aquarium when I volunteered there. I'm learning as I go, but now, besides the tiny snails, am down to two organisms. I comfort myself that none of these creatures possess brains, and as they say, "No brain, no pain." But I fear that, based on the mortality rate, I am not ready for marriage.


Omar said...

I don't see how this can get you prepared for marriage; it will all depend on the woman you marry.

The best preparation is to be financially stable and choose a woman who is compatible to you. Otherwise the rest - leave to luck.

Anonymous said...

You could call the sea cucumber Crunch.

...I think that fortunately wives are easier to keep alive than sea creatures out of their natural habitat....


@bdul muHib said...

Funny, RD.

Well, Omar, I think financial aspects are really something that is shared between the husband and wife. But as for preparing for marriage, as the first line of the post refers to, this post is a tongue-in-cheek response to the common thought in America that a pet will help you learn responsibility. A woman is looking for a guy who can be responsible with something alive and caring for it. However, usually that something alive is a dog or a cat- something larger that you have to regularly feed and take for walks, etc. Certainly, in this common thinking, a sea cucumber was never intended! :-)

Aimee said...

hee hee - I thought it was "no pain, no gain" ?

And, you should name the cucumber Larry or Larry Boy (you know, from Veggie Tales!)

Anonymous said...

what does Cody say?

@bdul muHib said...

Well, Cody was a seastar, hence had no brain...

tp said...

Well, keeping a pet might be a great step. But I agree with Omar, too. A woman is also looking for a guy who can be responsible with his life and checkbook. I'm curious to see how the sea cucumber turns out. Did you post pictures? You know I'm not so blog-savvy.

:) -t

tp said...

Oh, wow, there's even a video. I'd so, go for a cuddlier looking pet! Although the cucumber is definitely unique. :)

@bdul muHib said...

Are you kidding? Cucumbers are very soft and cute and cuddly! ;-)