[b:b7b1faee4a]Labour of love to save tropical fish
23 June 2006 [/b:b7b1faee4a]

When it comes to pampered pets, Max Carter's tropical fish take the cake ? and the hot water.

When the Carter family woke in their power-less Levels Valley home last week, there was one question, one big concern, in the household: what about the fish?

Young Max has always been fascinated by fish. He got his first goldfish when he was only five. When he turned 11 in March, he decided to use his birthday money to set up a tropical fish tank.

Power-less the household might have been, but there was no way Max's finned friends were going to freeze.

Visitors to the home during the eight days that followed were greeted by the sight of a large pot of water boiling away on the log burner ? not for a hot cuppa, but rather to keep alive the angels, the platies, the neons, the cherry barbs and the red tailed shark.

Max and his parents Fiona and Dave began an operation of almost military proportions, an 18-hour-a-day exercise which could easily have been code-named "Operation Hot Water".

While the fish usually enjoyed a water temperature of 26C, by the time Max woke up on "Snow Monday" they were already swimming in the less tropical 23C.

A pot of water was taken out of the tank and put on the log burner to heat. Once boiling, it was gradually added back into the tank boosting the temperature back to 26C. Thankfully the tank was in the same room as the log burner.

The water changing and heating ritual was repeated every one to three hours. Dad Dave would do the first water change as soon as he got up at 6.30am.

At night the log burner was stoked up and the doors to the room closed to keep the fish comfortable.

So much did the fish and water routine become part of their lives that even when the family stayed away for one night, Dave had to head home at 6am to start another day of fish preservation.

The trio's dedication to fish tank duty paid off. When the power came back on on Monday, Max's collection of 28 fish had reduced by only one. Jafa the cherry barb had become a casualty of South Canterbury's record snow.