Tilapia fry
Tilapia fry, so tiny, but they grow so fast.

Daddy, is the basement floor supposed to covered with water? Having just adjusted and modified the Tilapia filter system, I did not have to wonder whether the washing machine or the well system was leaking. Nope, I was confident that whatever water spill awaited me it was one caused by my DIY improvement.

Sure enough, the hose routing water from the fish tank to the bio-filter had slipped out and was now directing water onto the floor. Yes, the basement is finished; however, we use carpet sparingly. My daughter and I contained the spill using every available towel in the house: bath towels, beach towels, face towels, tea towels all spread out to create a sponge quilt.

The fish tank was nearly empty with perhaps ¼ inch of water gathered at one end. I expected to see fish laying on one side, dead or gasping for air but I could not find a single fish. I looked across the basement floor, under towels, under appliances, and in the bio-filter but I could not locate a Tilapia. I did not think it possible for the cats or dogs to eat all the fish but the fish were tiny. So much for the great Tilapia experiment, how embarrassing.

Having contained the water and placed fans throughout the basement, I focused my efforts on packing up the fish accessories. Recall the 2.5 lb weight borrowed to anchor the fake air stone? I hope so because it played a vital role in the fish lives. The weight and air stone lash up elevated a portion of the weight above the tank bottom creating a gap approximately ½ inch high and four inches across. Water had pooled around the weight and hiding in that small crevice were all of the fish! So, fortune had smiled and pointed to one advantage of raising micro-Tilapia.

I prepared for the worse thinking that I could not do much more to stress the fish except perhaps add a bass to their tank. Amazingly, the fish survived the basement flooding experience as well as the process to restore their environment. All went well for a couple of weeks until a few fish became lethargic. I was exchanging water everyday and micro-tilapia seemed to have plenty of water but lethargy quickly progressed to a more permanent state, death.

Six fish went down the utility sink over the course of two days. At this point I determined the DIY system was simply too cumbersome to maintain and it was time for an aquarium tank. I bought a 20-gallon tank and transferred all the fish to their new, store-bought home. I did not think colored aquarium water was necessary. Heck, the one-mile stretch from our house to the closest paved road is covered by blue granite gravel and it is free! Admittedly, the gravel was not beautiful but it was there to support Tilapia.

Again, for a few weeks all went well. I exchanged approximately 1/3 of the tank water daily and even used a suction hose to clean old fish food and fish poop from between the gravel pieces. There seemed to be a lot of debris in the water though. For their part, the Tilapia were very entertaining. Every time a person passed their tank, they jumped to life, swam to the surface, and swirled for food. Who could be so stingy as to ignore their meal dance? I know not to over feed fish and only provided two meals a day.

What I did not know was so was everyone else in the house. OOPS the saga continues!


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