Jun 04 2013

Building! Plumbing! Fishing!

It’s been a busy, productive, tiring day. I’ve been working hard, leading and administering, while my student Josh has been working hard working working. We’re building a benchtop fish system and I seem to have spent a lot of the day in local hardware stores gathering stuff that Josh then assembles and cuts and hauls and scrubs and cleans. It’s a rough life.

Anyway, here’s the work in progress. On the left is the fish system…well, the shelves in place. On the right is the bulk of the fish system, in pieces and boxes and on the floor. We’ll be plumbing things together tomorrow, at least the stuff we’ve got — more bits will be trickling in as the week goes on. By this time next week I expect to see water cascading everywhere and fish frolicking and mating! And mermaids! And sirens! Manatees, even!


Josh just started work yesterday. I think we’re making wonderful progress already.


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  1. 1
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    And sirens!

    That’ll happen when the flames brew up.

    Don’t laugh. I’ve seen the movies. All laboratories (mwha-ha-ha!) burn down. Every movie.

    Unless you make the claim that movies don’t reflect real life?

  2. 2
    PZ Myers

    We’re going to have 200l of water swirling through that system. We’re not too worried about fire, but floods are a concern.

  3. 3

    If I need some bait, can I help myself?

  4. 4
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    We’re not too worried about fire, but floods are a concern.

    Don’t tell me either the Dean or Departmental office is under your lab…

  5. 5


    We’re going to have 200l of water swirling through that system. We’re not too worried about fire, but floods are a concern.

    So why to hydroponics setups cause house fires? Hint: keep yer wiring dry and tidy. Jammed pumps can overheat, don’t put them on a stack of research papers.

  6. 6
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Don’t bet on it, PZed. Here is a photo of downtown Wilkes-Barre, PA (my current town) after Hurricane Agnes in 1972 (I was six years old and living in California at the time, so I am not to blame). Notice the flood. And the smoke. Lots of fire during the flood. Bwhahahahahaha!

  7. 7

    But… But… with all that water in your tanks, what will the North Dakota Fracking people do when their water supply runs dry?

  8. 8
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.


    C’mon, the Ogalalla aquifer is just sitting there . . . .

  9. 9
    No One

    Ahhh P.Z.? Is that plastic shelving? How much water are you gonna put on it? I’m sure you know what you’re doing, but some part of my brain is sending out warning signals.

  10. 10
    PZ Myers

    Many small tanks, each with about 3l. It’s rated for 100lbs per shelf, we’ll come nowhere near that.

    Neither the Dean or the Division office are below my lab.

    The bookstore is! Bwahahahahaha!

    (Actually, first bit of work, not seen clearly there, is that we’re building a tray to put the whole system on with a drain leading directly into the sink.)

  11. 11
    Stephen Minhinnick

    My I make a helpful suggestion for a good occupant of these tanks?

  12. 12

    It’s rated for 100lbs per shelf, total 200 liters, that’s about 400 lbs on 4 shelves — the shelves should be OK… But what about that lab bench that holds it all? You appear to have the metal shelving positioned over the unsupported section between two sets of cupboards — is the bench top strong enough for that? Would you feel safe sitting on the bench top over that gap? You and your student both sitting on it? You might want to put a vertical support between the front of the bench and the floor. Just a thought.

  13. 13
    PZ Myers

    This is a rock solid bench. I would feel safe bringing in 4 or 5 students and all of us dancing on that bench.

    This is also a bench that has supported an array of 10 5-10 gallon tanks and 20l carboys of salt solutions for years. No worries at all.

  14. 14
    PZ Myers

    I already have a big can of sea monkey eggs. We’ll be raising them, too…as fish food.

  15. 15
    A. R

    You fish people are weird. Flies forever!

  16. 16

    Fascinating to see how you can build things in a place that doesn’t get earthquakes; it feels as if normal laws of nature don’t apply.

  17. 17

    You can actually touch your experiments. Woah.

    We’re going to have 200l of water swirling through that system. We’re not too worried about fire, but floods are a concern.

    Those aren’t mutually exclusive in some labs, as any chemist can tell you. When I heard the geochemists were playing with chlorine trifluoride, and that it set sand on fire, I was suitably appreciative from a considerable distance.

    Just like the radars I use should be appreciated from a sufficient distance to avoid being microwaved (we do zap birds that fly too near to the focal point every so often).

  18. 18

    I’m pretty sure manatees exist, I’ve seen them on the discovery channel…

  19. 19
    Nick Gotts

    Bonzai whales?

  20. 20
    Paul S

    Frolicking and mating? Will you be installing a webcam for your fish porn?

  21. 21


    I think you’ll especially like the fifth one. This post and the comic happened to be adjacent in my Google Reader.

  22. 22
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    Am I the only one who can’t find the fish?

  23. 23
    David Marjanović

    the geochemists were playing with chlorine trifluoride

    What? What do they need that for?!?

  24. 24
    No One

    PZ Myers @10

    OK I can breath easier now. At one point I had 30 aquariums in my bedroom. Now I’m down to a paltry 4.

  25. 25

    I still say you should Kickstarter your research. You can send a retired fish to your supporters as a reward.

  26. 26

    @David Marjanović:

    It was part of a process to measure the oxygen isotope ratios in quartz samples. Their procedure: put the quartz grains into the metal-fluoride-lined intake chamber for the mass spectrometer, pump it down for a few hours to make sure all atmospheric oxygen was removed, then dribble in the ClF3 and have it burn the rock to give oxygen vapor that then gets pumped into the mass spec. The student finished the thesis, so the process seems to work okay. It could be worse – semiconductor labs use it in industrial quantities to burn the SiO2 layers off of silicon wafers.

  27. 27
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Now, that’s scary!

    You might like to put something sound-absorbent under the aquaria to keep the fish from being stressed by transient thumps and clunks.

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