Something Fishy: Our Foray Into Fish Ownership


fish tale
photo credit: jing.dong via photopin cc

There’s something fishy going on around here.

No, this isn’t another post about Lance Armstrong, or lice. We’re past that. We’re talking goldfish. And I don’t mean the snack. It’s been just 48 hours of fish ownership, but it’s been a wild ride already.

It began with a movement.


Pleas to haul the tank out of the garage, scrub it, and fill it with gravel, plastic plants and fish. Camdyn begged me to research what it took to get a tank started. She posted lists everywhere: How often she’d feed them, and when, and how often she’d clean the tank.

Ask her.

She knows what they eat, what temperature the water should be, and that they love to play hide and seek. It was Christmas-like, to get to the pet store. Camdyn, by virtue of her family-best NCAA bracket (complete with Louisville as champ), got to plan an entire day.

goldfish digest
photo credit: Waiting for seperation via photopin (license)

The plan

The centerpiece, accented by crepes for breakfast, a park visit and wings for dinner: A trip to PetSmart to pick out their fish.


Which PetSmart would we visit? Who would visit just before we got there? It’s a fine line between feeder fish and beloved pet with a name and fake plants and TLC, when your address is the 27-cent fish tank.

Each girl chose a goldfish among the din of orange, white, black and gold scales which darted around the tank.

Kaden, the fish-catcher, stalked each fish and scooped them into a bucket. One orange comet and a conspicuous feeder who’d slipped in between bigger goldfish sneaked their way out with our chosen fish like an escape from Alcatraz.

Fish struggle to breathe in a tank too small, we learned.

We transferred two to a bowl, installed filters and air rocks and a kept keen eye on temperature management. We probably should have run the tank for a few days to get it just right, but well, just see the section on anticipation above.


Nature can hold back the fish wish of a second grader for only so long.

fish tongue
photo credit: Benson Kua via photopin cc

Today’s gold-fishing

Goldfishing isn’t what it was when we were kids. Remember the days a goldfish could sit in the sun in a jar of water at the fair, come home with a winner, and live a prosperous life in a simple fish bowl?

No more.

The hardy life of the Dr. Seuss goldfish is a thing of the past. All three goldfish: Bob, Fin and Ishy; and one feeder minnow named Lucky, are frisky, breathing and thriving in their new oxygen-rich environments.

Fish funerals averted, for now. Good thing – Hayden has already created photo montages of them all on Instagram. I don’t mind if they become attached. If they cry or are sad when the fish goes to the big fishbowl in the sky.

If they didn’t care about this small loss of life, that would bother me.

They girls have asked enough questions to load up a good Five For Friday – Go Ask Daddy edition this week to find out if fish have ears or eyelids or genitals.

What’s this all worth?

  • $10 for the emergency filter
  • $6 for the bottle of dechlorinator
  • $4 for a sack of blue gravel
  • $3 for the set of six fake plants
  • $2 for a small canister of fish flakes (not the smallest one available, but definitely not the biggest. I’m optimistic, but also a realist)
  • $2 for the air stone for tank No. 2
  • 81 cents for three fish (no charge for the 13-cent stragger known as Lucky)
photo credit: Waiting for seperation via photopin (license)

What we’d like next

Not all is perfect.

We’d still like a bigger tank for them. A cool spot in a house that’ll only get steamier as the summer encroaches. Maybe a cave or two for them to play those underwater games of hide-and-seek.


And what about that little orange fish that tried to sneak into our bag?

Should we reward his wandering into the net with a trip home with us? When the others struggled to breathe on Day 2, I thought that orange straggler was better served going back into the tank and take his chances with a hungry predator!

So, why did we do this?

Why do we now consider the benefit of getting one big aquarium for the living room so we don’t worry as much about perils such as room temperature and water quality and in-room soccer matches sending the smaller tanks tumbling?

Why is fish ownership even a good idea?

    • Because you never know if another second-grader ready to pick out that “pretty orange one” will come in to the pet shop next. I hope someone like Kaden will chase the lucky fish down with a net and give him a life, however long, as a pet.
    • Because the kids get a little lesson in responsibility and something else that lives and breathes depending on them.
    • Because the line between 27-cent feeder fish and the beloved and named pet is pretty thin, but it’s a world of difference. And we can all learn a lesson from that.

What stories do you have to tell about fish in your house?

This post was written as part of The Ultimate Blog Party. Check out some of the other great bloggers participating by clicking the icon below.

rudd quote goldfish.jpg

Ultimate Blog Party 2013


  1. Ilene Evans says:

    I think that it’s possible that the same thing in the environment that is causing all of our kids to have unprecedented allergies has also weakened the immunity of fish – because I swear that those 1980’s school fair goldfish of mine lasted for years out in the sun in those glass jars.

    Nowadays, I’m lucky if our fish last a week in their filtered and water-purified tanks.
    What gives?

    I hope that Grace enjoys her fish. Being a beloved and named pet by that girl of yours is a pretty good gig if you ask me!

    1. We just had this convo last night – have we weakened our kids and goldfish in one generation?

      Ours are doing well, but the water is murky. I just read you should give a single goldfish a 30-gallon tank. This is kind of like asking a kid if they’re ready to leave the playground of if they’d like to have veggies for dinner.

      Her fish is a lucky one, indeed. So am I.

  2. Ashley T. says:

    Goldie, aka Jaws, has had white stuff growing on his fins before. He is still alive and kicking. His BFF Whitey was not so lucky. He/she was flushed after only a few weeks.

    1. When your name is Jaws, you have a rep to protect. Sounds like he’s done it justice. Now, anything named Whitey? Well, he might have been doomed the moment he was named. No offense.

      1. Ashley T. says:

        Thanks to this blog post, Jaws got fresh water tonight. He thanks you very much. (PS he is in a plastic bowl with no air filter.)

      2. Jaws is hardcore. I hope the clean water didn’t shock him to Jesus.

  3. Wendy says:

    Hello! I’m visiting as part of the UBP13 which is the coolest thing…especially for a very new blogger like me. I’m glad they have the “daddy blogger” category. Whenever given a chance to tap into the male perspective, I take it. If you have a minute, I’d love for you to drop in at my little spot on the blogosphere, The Sweet Life of Second Grade, at and let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy the rest of the party!

    1. Looking forward to checking out your blog … and agreed, this is cool. Glad you’re here!

      There’s a few of us daddy bloggers. Honestly, a lot of dad bloggers sound like mom blogs. That’s why I keep mine kinda cavemanish and slightly cro-magnon.

  4. So, Many. Fish. Funerals. So many tears (with kid #1). So many trips to the fish store. Travelling/camping with fish. A green plastic cup (named Phil’s cup after the first fish, who died in the cup. I would set the table and intentionally give Hubby that cup…it mysteriously went missing several years ago). I was so thankful when we packed it up and gave it away, and I swore I’d never do fish again. Also thankfully, Little Guy hasn’t asked. I’ve also done cats, gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs, and I’m full of stories! 🙂

    1. There’s that tense moment in the morning when the girls get up and look at their tank that I hope everyone’s swimming around in good health. My sister and I cried our eyes out the first time a goldfish died. We got used to it after that, and although we were sad, we kind of expected it.

      You traveled and camped with your fish? That’s dedication! I’m just glad no one took a swig out of the cup when the fish was in there.

      I think you should share some of these pet stories on your blog, Jenn!

      1. Maybe I will, one day…May your fish live long and prosper! Or at least live long!

      2. If they can make it until payday, they’ll prosper in a new, bigger tank!

  5. Rorybore says:

    We have a 20 gallon tank right beside my patio doors…but this is Canada, so I actually need to put a heater in their tank. We started out with 5 goldfish, normal goldfishie sized about 6 years ago. We now have 3 giant goldfish in that tank. Like pond size koi-like goldfish now.
    I suspect some late night feeding or behind mom’s back sneaky feedy is going on.
    The fish literally line up at the front of the glass when my youngest comes into the room.

    1. I just learned today that floating a baggie of ice or a frozen water bottle can bring the temps down this summer. We’ll need to do that! I was under the false premise a goldfish wouldn’t get big without a big environment. These are pretty ones, so they’d be cool big – but not in this little tank!

      Goldfish are smart – don’t forget how resourceful the one in Cat in the Hat was when he really had to be.

  6. Who knew fish would be so high maintenance! I think it’s a great idea for a pet…better than having to pick up dog poop or worry about furniture! BTW, love the names!

    1. Fish are little gilled divas. But I’ll take cleaning out their bowl once a week over shoveling hot dog turds in the park any time.

      The names rock! I didn’t even have to sensor them from giving them profane names or anything. This time.

  7. You know how they say you can’t kill beta fish? Yeah. Beta fish don’t stand a chance with us. Which is funny because before kids, my husband and I had a 55 gallon saltwater tank with fish, starfish, anemone, etc. The fish aren’t cheap, which is why we had a heater, filter, paid attention to salinity, PH, etc. Not a cheap hobby!

    Good luck with your goldfish!

    1. You guys are hard-core – and I know a pet shop can kill a beta. We saw a few nose-down or nose-up at the pet store, so maybe you’d already gotten to those!

      Man, I’d love to have a big kick-ass tank like that. But if I wake up anxious over my 27-cent goldfish, what if I have a $27 octopus to worry about? (I don’t even know how much an octopus costs. Let’s be honest).

      Thanks for the good luck – everyone’s still on God’s green earth as of 9:30 p.m., April 10, 2013.

      1. I hate to admit this, but we’ve spent around $50 for a fish before. You become much more attentive at that price. There is no way we could raise kids and saltwater fish at the same time!

      2. Well, you spend about that much on surf and turf, and that’s delicious, but not as long-lasting as a pet. I’ve learned even the cheap fish aren’t so cheap, though. I think you should write a blog about the difference between raising kids and saltwater fish.

  8. Game on, Coach! 5 notable differences between raising children and saltwater fish ~

    1. Awesome! Checking it out now …

  9. Teri says:

    When I was a kid, 532 years ago, we had an aquarium in our living room. My brother had a party. Someone decided that fish love beer. Turns out, not so much. My silver dollar fish, who we suspected was a bit neurotic to begin with, went crazy and slammed so hard into the thermometer in the tank that he (she?) broke it and those fish that didn’t die from the beer ended up dying from mercury poisoning. All except for the catfish, who jumped out of the tank and ended up under the couch.

    Ahhh, good times.

    1. Holy crap. I’ve read your comment three times hoping it would end in a happy way at least once. No dice. I even considered editing it to make it happy. I can’t even do that.

      In unrelated news, I suddenly want fish, chips and beer.

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