You know what’s a fun, enjoyable, not too time-consuming pastime? Keeping fish.
Big bowl, little plastic plant, figurine I later learn is Gary from Spongebob Squarepants. Throw in the fish. Happy, happy, gobble, gobble. There’s even a little pot of food with “Balanced Nutrition” in big letters on the side and in slightly smaller print, the details that constitute this great ‘balance’ (vitamin C, E and whatever carotenoids are). And then in really tiny print that I suspect doesn’t actually manifest until many months into the purchase, a discretionary notice that reads:
Dear buyer, congratulations on your new fish! We hope you enjoy the fun, enjoyable and not too time-consuming pastime that is keeping fish. May we take this opportunity to further welcome to you.
Welcome one and all to the CAROUSEL OF HELL that is keeping fish alive.
Keeping goldfish happy and healthy is more work than a small child. And I worked as a nanny for eight years.
I had two fancy goldfish (and good lord, do they live up to their name). The amount of waste they produce is about as proportionate as the area in square miles of Brazil is, well, to Brazil. Except Brazil doesn’t get afflicted by sudden-onset mystery diseases like ich and swim bladder disease.
Warning to all blissfully-unaware marine lovers. Toying with the idea of keeping fish? Toy this. Unlike dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, babies… bloody elves with checked jackets and matching breeches, fish require you to do the impossible. Re-create their native environment in a closed tank. FYI, that tank will need to grow as they do. Even when one dies and all you’re left with is one poor little trooper, all the gallons of water on god’s green earth aren’t going to suffice to keep him well. Thirty-six litres, I have. Thirty-six. For one fish. And Bioactive Tapsafe. And SafeStart. Aquarium salt. A filter. Testing strips for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, carbonate hardness, general hardness. pH. An air stick and an air stone and a water siphon and tubes and valves and plugs and sockets and bowls and solution and a real problem.
I’ve grown attached. Laugh all you like. I’m besotted. The sicker they get, the more I ache. Watching the first one slowly die after I did everything in my goddamn power to save this stupid idiot damn-near broke my heart. I ran the tests. I did the partial water changes. Adjusted the temperature. pH. Cycled the tank. Carried countless buckets of his dirty water back and forth.
I couldn’t save him.
They had (I think, vaguely-appropriately) been named Dumbass and Dipshit. Dumbass had ridges on his head and Dipshit did not, so that sorted the telling them apart issue. Except the ich made them develop strange bumps on their heads that completely masked the ridges. By the time one died, I could no longer tell them apart. I don’t even know which one died.