Fish and Chlorine — They Don’t Mix

There’s always a lesson to be learnt, or an analogy to draw when tragedy strikes. Our first response is to ask “why”.

“Why, oh why didn’t I read the label?”

“Why didn’t I stop reading and really listen to my child?”

“Why didn’t I check the basement for water when the storm started?”

You get the picture. Yesterday, Mother Goose lost four pretty fish in the process of cleaning the family fish tank. And here’s the answer to “why”…

In our village, water comes to our homes via pipes that originate miles out into Lake Michigan. There are numerous pumping stations and processing islands out there lurking ominously and mysteriously just at the edge of the horizon. Some people in America have oil rigs and pumps in their ocean view — we have water pumping stations. I have heard it said that the water “out there” is cleaner than the water nearer to the shore of Lake Michigan. That may or may not be true.

Regardless, “they” pump the water out of the lake and send it in giant pipes under the surface of the lake. You can read all about the James W. Jardine Water Purification Plant by clicking here.

And here’s a sweet chart that explains the process:

Please remember that there’s miles between points 1 and 2.

You will not be surprised to learn that part of water purification from a lake involves adding chemicals to the water. Here is a list of chemicals that Chicago adds to its H2O every single minute of every single day in order to deliver one million gallons of clean water to its residents and suburban partners every single minute:

Chlorine: to disinfect the water.
Aluminum Sulfate or Alum and Polymer: for coagulation to settle out impurities.
Blended Polyphosphate: to coat pipes and prevent lead leaching.
Activated Carbon: to remove unpleasant tastes and odors.
Fluoride: to help fight cavities in children’s teeth.

By the way, if you are still reading along on this somewhat tedious essay, congratulations and thank you…

In reviewing the list of chemicals in my tap water, I see nothing positive in it for the fishies. Unless perhaps the fluoride would help to fight cavities in their teeth. The activated carbon would be completely unnecessary to a fish. I don’t believe that fish require aluminum sulfate, alum or polymers to settle their impurities. As far as lead leaching goes, I’m not a big fan so I don’t mind blending the polyphosphates for those nasty old pipes.

However, fish were not created to withstand the toxicity of chlorine. Please read this excerpt from a New York Department of Health report: The health effects of chlorine are primarily due to its corrosive properties. The strong oxidizing effects of chlorine cause hydrogen to split from water in moist tissue, resulting in the release of nascent oxygen and hydrogen chloride which produce corrosive tissue damage. The oxidation of chlorine may also form hypochlorous acid, which will penetrate cells and react with cytoplasmic proteins to destroy cell structure.

And that’s what happened yesterday to my beautiful Swordtail, my two Glass Catfish, and a little guy with a black triangle on each of his flanks.

And here’s the simple solution which Mother Goose accidentally and tragically forgot to add to the water in the aquarium before reintroducing the poor innocent fishies:

Such a simple solution to neutralizing tap water and making it safe for the fish.

Lesson learned.

Mental note to Mother Goose: slow down, dear. And you really don’t have to photographically capture every event for the purpose of blogging about it.

And please come back tomorrow when Mother Goose spiritualizes this tragic event into an object lesson about life in general! 🙂

Six new Blue Guaramies joined the ranks of the survivors to the fish tank of Mother Goose. Everybody is happy and healthy today…


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dianna
    Aug 30, 2012 @ 14:30:56

    Glad to hear you have new fishies! (And I must admit that I sort of skipped over all the technical, chemical info…..!).


    • Natalie
      Sep 02, 2012 @ 14:50:57

      I would have skipped over that, too, but suddenly it seemed very important for me to share our water source with my dear readers. Sailor son told me that he thought that part was quite interesting!


  2. Three Well Beings
    Aug 31, 2012 @ 23:42:26

    Your fish are beautiful, and glad for the opportunity to take up occupancy in the newly vacated tank. Can’t wait to hear how you spiritualize this! D


    • Natalie
      Sep 02, 2012 @ 14:52:43

      Debra, thanks so much for your kind comments as always. I thought things were going pretty well with the new tropical fishies, but we did lose one of the Blue Guaramies yesterday… 😦 Still there’s reason to be glad at the end of the day — one of the swordtales seems to have a bunch of babies in her tummy!


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