Well, no aquarium project is completely finished until it supports life, and in this case, fish. I had a little time late on Sunday to get out to a creek that is only 15 minutes from my house to catch a few fish. My goal was to collect a few minnows of any time, and if lucky, a couple darters. So, I gathered up my hip boots, a bucket, and my net, and headed to the creek.
After about a quarter mile hike, I got to the spot that I wanted to collect. I had about an hour or so before the lost of daylight. I walked the creek bank for a bit and didn't see any fish at all. Either the fish weren't there, or the cold weather had them all hiding. I wasn't sure if perhaps they migrated out of the creek and into the river or were still there.
I climbed into the creek and tried kicking up leaves and, sure enough, the first fish showed up in the net, a small eastern black nosed dace (Rhinichthys atratulus
). It was tiny, and I didn't want tiny fragile fish in a new tank. So, I kept disturbing leaves and eventually, found more larger fish of the same species. I kept five of them for the tank. I moved from pool to pool disturbing rocks and leaves with my feet, but, no darters.
So, I decided to start turning over larger rocks with my hand. So, I rolled up my shirt sleeves and began to work. I turned over the rocks, used my other hand to scare anything underneath into my net, which leaned precariously against my leg. After a few rocks, finally, a beautiful male rainbow darter (Etheostoma caeruleum
)showed up in my net!
I was so pumped, what a beautiful fish. I should have taken a picture then, but, my phone was in my jacket on the creek bank a few pools back. It was very dark, and his orange/red fins were stunning. I kept turning over rocks looking for a female companion for him.
After a few more rocks turned over, another darter showed up in the net. At first, I thought it was a female, but, on closer inspection, it was a different species. It was a fantail darter (Etheostoma flabellare
). I tried for a while more, working down each pool with no more success on darters. I caught a sculpin, but released it, along with several more blacknose dace. Since daylight was ending, I called it quits, happy with what I caught. Not just happy, elated!
I took the fish home, stuck an airstone in the bucket and let it alone for about four hours, so the water temps would warm to room temperature in my basement, about 64 degrees. The creek was quite cold, so it took a while. I tested a few parameters of the creek water and they were very similar to those of my tank. After that, I netted the fish out of my bucket and released them into my tank.
Within an hour, the dace and fantail darters were exploring the tank. The rainbow darter hid and sulked for a long time, perhaps more than two hours before coming out to explore. I fed a few flakes to the dace, and they ate. I didn't expect the darters to eat the flakes, so, I tossed in some blackworms. The fantail darter ate some immediately, as did the dace. The rainbow darter had no interest in food yet.
Last night, I came home from a fishing trip and rushed downstairs to observe my new fish. All of the fish were happy, doing what they do. The darters explore every nook and cranny in the tank, hunting for food. I fed them flakes again first, thinking the dace would get full and not eat the worms. I learned that they are never full.
I dropped in some blackworm with a turkey baster, target feeding near the darters to make sure that they got at least one worm to eat, and that worked. Both darters ate them with gusto. Success! The fish are feeding already, and seem happy in their new environment. I marveled at the personality of both darters, and the brilliant coloration of the male, not yet in breeding colors, but still amazing that fish like that live so close to me.
I put together a video of the clips from the last two days, showing the tank with fish. I hope you enjoy it!