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 …
Pleas to haul the old tank out of the garage, scrub it, and fill it with gravel, plastic plants and fish. Grace 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 to keep them in, and that they love to play hide and seek in their bowl.
It was almost Christmaslike, to get to the pet store.
Grace, by virtue of her family-best NCAA bracket (complete with Louisville as champ), got to plan an entire day.
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 awesome fish-catcher lucky enough to help us, stalked each fish with a net, cornered them and scooped them into a plastic bucket.
One small orange comet and a skinny conspicuous feeder who’d probably snuck between bigger goldfish snuck 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.
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 – Marie 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)
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? As Kaden fished him out, I struggled a bit. Should we reward his good fortune or serendipitous wandering into the net with a trip home with us?
When the others struggled to breathe on Day 2, I thought maybe 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?
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