Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bye Bye Frank

Bidding a farewell
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007

I'll cut to the chase so you don't have to skim to the end.

Frank has passed on. He is no longer living and Omigee has lost his tankmate of six months.

It's been over two weeks since that fateful day when Air Boss had given Frank our snail a rigorous scrubbing with the tank toothbrush (as opposed to one of our own toothbrush). I think that scrub down is what did Frank in. He was never the same after that. From my last blog entry, he was starting to perk up a bit by climbing around the rock and tank glass but he still wasn't the same old Frank. He seemed slow, lethargic, and his slug body seemed limp and shriveled a bit.

Every couple of days, I would find Frank in a very unnatural upside position (shell opening facing up). Just when I would think it would be time to take the tank chopsticks out (as opposed to our regular eating chopsticks) and pull him out for some mouth-to-radula resuscitation, he would somehow manage to flip himself right-side-up and do whatever snails usually do.

This past weekend, Frank was in that freakish upside down position again. This time, it seemed a bit different. His circular foot wasn't neatly tucked into his shell as usually is the case when he's being shy (or upside down as of late).

"Eh, better to wait around and see what he's up to," I had thought. And I made sure that the kids weren't around when I talked about Frank's pending expiration with Air Boss.

That was Saturday. Then came Sunday. Then Monday. And surprise - Tuesday followed. Still no change. Either he was dead and I was in denial or he was acting EXTREMELY shy - even by snail standards.

We had decided to wait until the next morning to extract him and dispose of him. The kids were already in bed and we wanted to give them a chance to say their farewells to Frank. That was last night.

This morning, Air Boss took pictures of Frank (sadly, our only pictures of him). Omigee came around and said his good-bye to his hard-shelled friend. 'Shroom and Lolli were eating their breakfast on the kitchen island where the tank was and were starting to say their good-byes. I had prepared a paper towel for Air Boss so he could land the snail. Air Boss had also prepared a cardboard "coffin" made out of a paper towel tube.

Air Boss was worried that as he pulled him out, Frank would move and show us he wasn't quite dead. Well, let's just say that needn't be a concern. As Air Boss skillfully picked up the upside down Frank with the chopsticks, Air Boss noticed that Frank was very limp and soft. Just as Frank was clearing the opening of the tank, the snail slipped from Air Boss' grasp and the snail fell back into the tank with a "plop!". A plume of --something-- formed a cloud in the water. Frank's decomposed slug-like body had fallen out of his shell. Most of his body fell behind the tank rock. His circular foot fell in front of the rock.

"Eww! Get that piece! Over there! There's his foot!" I squealed like a ninny. I was utterly grossed out. If we were looking for confirmation that Frank was indeed dead, well - there we had it.

"Oh sick! It stinks!" was Air Boss' brief and poignant eulogy for our dear snail. I opened the windows and lit a scented candle as Air Boss tried to scoop out the remains while holding his breath.

Meanwhile, the smell hadn't yet hit the kids and 'Shroom and Lolli were saying "Good-bye Frank. I love you" in between mouthfuls of cereal. Then the smell hit them and they were covering up their noses.

Once Frank was sealed up in his cardboard coffin, I immediately took him to the dumpster (did I mention that trash pickup is six days away?!?). When I came back, Air Boss kindly asked "Do you want me to clean the tank?"

Without even thinking (and believe me, if I had thought just a split second more, my answer would have been different), I said, "No - don't worry. I'll do it."

As soon as that was out of my mouth, I realized I had passed up a pretty good offer (the tank cleaning job had somehow ended up being my responsibility all this time).

"Wait - do you want to clean the tank?" I tried to ask politely while trying to keep the eagerness out of my voice.

"Naa - I can't. I've just remembered I have a conference call, " Air Boss said as he quickly exited the kitchen, "later this afternoon!"

So, I was stuck cleaning the mess, the stench, the body bits. I almost lost Omigee down the drain as I tried to get him in as little of the contaminated water as possible (don't blame me if he's flipping all over the place!). It was the quickest tank scrub down and I did it all breathing through my mouth!

Well, somehow our sadness over the loss of Frank was camouflaged by the ick factor of a decomposed mollusk.

Bye bye Frank. We miss you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Fresh Water World

"Mommy, how come Frank didn't eat all of Omigee's allergies?" Lolli had asked me last week while I was changing the fish tank water.

Omigee was temporarily displaced in the little plastic bowl (a.k.a. his moving container from almost a year ago) while I was scrubbing the green slimy scum off the bottom of the tank. As if the little plastic container wasn't small and cramped enough for this two inch fish, Omigee had to share it with Frank, a freshwater snail we had purchased ths past December.

"Huh? How do you know if Omigee has allergies?" I had asked somewhat distractedly as I tried to clean the tank as quickly as I could.

It wasn't until later that day that I had figured out what Lolli was asking. We had told the kids when we had purchased Frank (who, Lolli insists, is a girl) that Omigee needed someone to eat all the algae (i.e. "allergies") in the tank. The tank was getting too dirty too quickly even with the filter running. After consultation with the pet store ower, we had decided that a snail with its hard shell would be able to withstand any attacks from a larger more agressive fish.

For the months that Frank has co-habited the tank with Omigee, the yellow shelled guy seemed to be doing his part in keeping the tank fairly clean. Except for one part - which was a slimly disgusting dark green. His own shell. The poor guy (er--girl) couldn't keep his/her back clean. Air Boss joked that we needed to get another snail to eat the algae off Frank's back (I can see it, "You eat off my back and I'll eat off your back").

Quite by accident, I have since discovered that the algae build-up is relatively easy to remove (the "by chance" discovery involved a chopstick, stiring the water, brushing up against Frank's shell, and a big flake of algae floating off).

I decided to gently brush Frank's back with the fish tank toothbrush. I did what I thought was an okay job - not the cleanest but definitely cleaner than before. Frank didn't seem to mind and he was even still sticking out of his shell while I scrubbed him clean.

Air Boss didn't think I did such a great job.

Later on that day, Air Boss took the toothbrush and scrubbed like he was attacking a food-crusted pot with a steel sponge. Frank was restored to his glistening butter yellow color. But he also didn't move or come out of his shell for almost three days!

Well, now that it has been over a week since Frank's shell-shocked experience (haha - pun totally and undeniably intended), I'm afraid that the creature is slowly dying. I don't know if freshwater snails have to maintain a certain pH balance (and thus some algae is okay) or if the backscrub was too harsh. He was on the bottom of the tank upside down and totally stuck in his shell for 2-3 days. He's out now but not looking very well. In case you're wondering how I can tell if a snail is looking well or not, he's little slug-like body is a bit shriveled and curled up on the corners and his antennae are drooped (one is even bent).

As I'm praying with the kids for Frank to feel better, Air Boss is decided whether to do a "toilet flush" or "in the ground" burial. I'll have to keep you posted on Frank's whereabouts . . .