News from the world of fish drudgery

I’ve been away from my office and computer all day doing manual labor. Our little fish facility had a problem: the tanks all drain into these custom built trays (we made them from sheet plastic with PVC angle rods glued and caulked around the edges), which then drain into the reservoir tank. It turns out they leak, not much, just a few drops an hour, but when you multiply that by two dozen tanks and 24 hours 7 days a week, it adds up. The custodians complained.

That constitutes a full scale emergency, you know. As every scientist learns early in their careers, the two groups of people you cannot ever piss off are 1) the department secretaries, and 2) the custodians.

So I bought a bunch of solid strong trays (Christian trays, no less) and a pile of bulkhead fittings, and have spent most of the day with a hole saw punching tidy precise holes in their bottoms and clamping on watertight fittings and adding vinyl tubing for precision delivery of waste water, and then ripping out old trays and putting in the new ones.

Now I’m all damp and sweaty. But now water goes in, and water goes out, and I can account for every last drop, so we’re all good.

Also, by the way, we’re getting steady production of about 50 eggs a day, and I’ve got about a hundred larvae I’m nursemaiding every day, with more on the way. We’re struggling with the science side of things now that the production side seems to be working smoothly.



  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    But now water goes in, and water goes out, and I can account for every last drop, so we’re all good.

    Tide goes in, tide goes out; never a miscommunication.

  2. congenital cynic says

    Looking at that photo you can almost feel the morphogenesis happening. Cool eyes in those things too.

  3. says

    If you don’t mind me being a nosy scientist, why are some embryos darker than others? Is that a normal developmental process and they’re farther along? Variation within the population? Some sort of marker you’ve spliced in to show where expression of some gene is taking place? I know nothing about zebra fish!

  4. Anthony K says

    I can account for every last drop

    As line items on your budget? Granting agencies are tougher than ever these days.

    we’re getting steady production of about 50 eggs a day

    While I applaud your factory farm efficiency, free range eggs are where it’s at these days.

  5. says

    That’s a mix of one day and two day old embryos. The pale ones are younger; neural crest is busily migrating all over the place, but the melanocytes haven’t yet started forming pigment. They have by day two.

    That’s the cool thing about these little guys — development is so accelerated.

  6. Anthony K says

    I know nothing about zebra fish!

    Me neither. If you cross zebra fish with seahorses, which part of the offspring gets the stripes?

  7. shouldbeworking says

    The 3rd group of support staff a new teacher learns to never annoy is the ones who know how to unjam the photocopier and to change out the empty toner cartridge without referring to instructions.

  8. Anthony K says

    people you cannot ever piss off are 1) the department secretaries

    Oh, I dunno. Back in grad school, my department had a particularly obstinate support staff person. Trouble was, she was responsible for all sorts of things a grad student might need to deal with, and she hated grad students (though probably not without reason). At the end of my program, when I was returning my lab keys, she wouldn’t refund my $15 deposit without a receipt, and of course, I had no receipt, nor did I think I’d have to produce one. After a cursory and superficial look around her desk, she couldn’t find her copy of the transaction from two years before. Could you look again? I asked. No, I can’t find it, and if I can’t find it, it doesn’t exist. Case closed. But pleasant and persistent idiot is a persona I keep in reserve for situations like this. Are you sure it’s not in another drawer? Yes, I’m sure. Go away was implied. Stalemate. Then, a strategy hit me: think about who you are, and think about who I am, and ask yourself if there’s a snowball’s chance in hell you would have given me a set of lab keys without my having given you a $15 deposit first. Silence, then Good point; I’ll look again. The receipt was in a mostly unused receipt book in a drawer she didn’t often open.

    They should give degrees for that kind of thing.

  9. b. - Order of Lagomorpha says

    *pulls out a copy of Baby Names for All Occasions*

    Should we start posting name suggestions for the fishy progeny yet? The husbandly unit had been planning on doing some ordering from US Plastic for things for our own fish (among other things). I told him about their missionary efforts and his comment was, “Ah. I’ll be ordering from Tap Plastics, then.”

  10. Graculus says

    JB Weld (marine epoxy) Let’s just say it ain’t pretty, but many things do not leak because of it. (no, not the plumbing… the water level, the wet pots, the hydroponic lines…)

  11. No One says

    They are sooooo cute. And now PZ is going to do Nazi experiments on them. Science is evil! I bet those fish are all atheists…

  12. says

    Now that it’s probably thoroughly too late, a great place to look for water fittings is in the computer case modding community. Lots of pumps, tubes, and very very leak-resistant stuff (if it’s going in a computer) all designed to be easy to work with. My favorite source-site is
    Also, you can get huge sheets and cut pieces of ABS plastic in a variety of sizes from Ridout, delivered to your door (be careful – an 8×4 sheet of 1″ lucite weighs a lot. don’t ask me how I know) ABS is dreamy to work with, insanely strong, and easily glued with acrylic glue. For watertight applications you can flow solvent glue (lucite glue) in the cracks, which works just fine. I’ve made a variety of tanks for my wet plate photography (vertical 11x14x1″ tanks hold a lot and there’s a lot of pressure on them) – it’s just great stuff to work with, and as a benefit you can snort the glue afterwards. Just kidding about the glue. Actually, use it only in well-ventilated areas because it’s pretty flammable.

  13. moarscienceplz says

    Man, you go to school for donkey’s years to become a research biologist and what happens? You end up becoming a plumber, a mop jockey, and a fish nanny.

  14. Sunday Afternoon says

    Careful there Marcus – you’ll be needing “transparent aluminum” for your next project.

  15. kantalope says

    I think PZ answered the black on white – white on black question before…I think Chris asked too. If I am recalling correctly: they are clear fish with black stripes because you can watch the stripes develop.

    –I could be totally wrong I was not reading for comprehension and probably didn’t even read that whole post. I don’t care much about fish beyond breaded and fried or seasoned and grilled. Go Flounder!

  16. latsot says

    Yeah, you don’t want to piss off the secretary. Unless you *want* the journey to your next conference to take 26 hours.

  17. DaveH says

    When I was in grad school, there was one departmental secretary who was a bit of a battle axe and didn’t tolerate fools or slackers very kindly. Here is what I learned: secretaries appreciate the little things you do that make THEIR life easier. They don’t mind answering a question if you have exhausted all the department and university websites and manuals looking for an answer first.

    If you bring them a stack of forms, or just a multi-page single form, hold it together with a paper clip rather than a staple, don’t fold it, and put it in a folder or envelope so it doesn’t get creased. Chances are they will have to photocopy it, and if they are able to just run it through the document feeder rather than using the flatbed for each individual page, or unjamming said document feeder, they will be much happier.

    Have a neat little list with the three questions you need to ask and any paperwork ready, so you don’t bother them 4 times in a day, or have to go running back to grab something, and miraculously, everything happens much quicker. Add that to the usual politeness, and you will have very few problems with secretaries, aside from the ones who hate everyone no matter what you do.

  18. Air says

    Secretary? No such staff at U of Minn – only administrative assistants. Not a term frequently used any more except on Madmen.

  19. David Marjanović says

    Man, you go to school for donkey’s years to become a research biologist and what happens? You end up becoming a plumber, a mop jockey, and a fish nanny.

    No money in the budget to hire mooks minions lab technicians.

    Or anyone else. Oh for the days when each and every Full Professor had his (!) own secretary…

  20. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Oh for the days when each and every Full Professor had his (!) own secretary…

    That went out when PC’s proliferated. Curse Jobs, Wozniak, and Gates….