TRIZ Applications for the Tropical Fish Hobbyist
I have been a freshwater tropical fish hobbyist for thirty years. I breed Flowerhorns, Bettas and guppies. It was during the last ten years that my backyard production technologies significantly improved. I attribute this exponential rise to practical applications of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ). I now supply selected pet shops with my backyard-raised stocks on the weekends. Using TRIZ, I developed several devices that have either cut my costs or improved my production.
Bettas – An Ornamental Fish
Bettas are popularly known as Siamese fighting fishes. They belong to the Anabantidae family and are equipped with a labyrinth organ that allows them to absorb atmospheric oxygen. This is why they do not need aerators and can live in a small space like a mayonnaise jar. They are colorful and attractive especially when their fins are flared.
Fin flaring for Bettas is a sign of aggression, health and youthfulness. The males need to be raised in individual jars because they are territorial and will fight and tear each others’ fins out especially when they reach sexual maturity.
The most common type are called Veil Tail Bettas, however, they have been slowly phased out by more contemporary strains such as Half Moons, Crown Tails and Plakats – the true fighters.
Description of the System
Cleaning Betta jars is easy if you have fewer than five Bettas. At two minutes per Betta jar, the task of cleaning the five jars should take ten minutes. Increasing this tenfold to fifty becomes taxing. Imagine cleaning Betta jars for 100 minutes every day. Far more time is spent with 500 Bettas.
Daily water changes (of 100 percent) are necessary to promote the overall health of the Betta. The water changes remove toxin build up caused by metabolic wastes (i.e., urine and feces). Daily water changes also increase the appetite of the fish, encouraging them to grow at a faster rate. The source water comes from a cistern of stored water that has already removed much of the water’s chlorine content.
The Challenge and the Process of Resolution
The compromise with daily water changes is that it takes time. With a full-time job, this was difficult. Realizing my dilemma, I browsed through the 40 inventive principles. I settled on Principle 2 – extraction – “extract the disturbing part.”
The disturbing part was the fish feces. When allowed to decompose, the feces become ammonia and eventually nitrite and it settles at the bottom of tanks or jars. These toxins will eventually kill the fish if not removed.
The first consideration: how do I extract the feces? The conventional way is siphoning using a flexible hose. Even though this method ensures efficient removal of the solid feces, it is cumbersome to transfer the hose from one jar to another. Instead I apply Principle 13 – “do it in reverse.” Can the flexible hose be replaced with something more permanent? Yes, using half inch polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes.
The second consideration: how do I gather and collect the feces in a specific area for easy removal? The conventional method was still the siphon. I was inspired, however, by another method – the use of a funnel type container. I got this idea from the pictures of several small silos illustrated in the founder of TRIZ, Genrich Altschuller’s book titled the, 40 Principles: TRIZ Keys to Technical Innovation. The illustration showed Principle 1 – segmentation. A funnel type of container will result in the collection of the solid feces at its center.
Combining the two proposed solutions led me to search for a container that is funnel-shaped and will fit into a half inch PVC pipe. To further my solution, I added the principles “easy to use” and “cheap” as part of my selection criteria. I ended my search with a 1.5 liter plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) cola bottle.
But my problem still was not solved. Bettas can easily pass through the bottom drain since it had an inside diameter of one inch while Bettas on average are half- to three quarter-inch in body width. My solution was to paste a screen at the bottom to prevent the Bettas from entering the drain. I cut a used screen of one-eighth mesh into a one inch diameter, force-fit it through the funnel using a half inch PVC pipe and glued it with VulcaSeal.
I cut the PET bottles into halves, removed the threads (by filing them down) and assembled the barracks. Here is what it looks like with no Bettas.
The barracks can accommodate 12 male Bettas. It has a white faucet to facilitate removing feces that settles at the bottom. My total cost is approximately P350. Cleaning time takes less than six minutes for the draining and refilling of water for 12 Bettas (about 30 seconds per Betta) a major improvement. Since then I have constructed 12 of these barracks with three variations.
Thanks to TRIZ I now take care of 150 Bettas using several variations of this barracks design.
Gerry Antonio has been a freshwater tropical fish hobbyist for thirty years. Contact Gerry Antonio at gantonio (at) smg.sanmiguel.com.ph.