Miller: We hate our fish
April 9, 2009
In the murk they float, the algae-clogged filter chugging away in the background as they occasionally let their sad eyes fall accusingly on me. Yes, I am the tank cleaner for the family aquarium ” and a loathsome job it is, too.
Unlike many a Summit County family, we are essentially non-pet. With the exception of our youngest, none of us are interested in owning or caring for dogs or cats, gerbils or ferrets, lizards or birds. With five kids to keep track of already, taking on any one of these critters represents to me nothing more than a colossal pain in the butt. Life, it should be said, is too short to waste a second cleaning litter boxes or chasing after the Lab with a Wal-Mart bag.
But on Andy’s 6th birthday, we agreed to a small aquarium ” a 5-gallon el-cheapo from Wal-Mart that we populated with a couple of platys and a small catfish. The male platy died almost immediately, but not before he’d done his job: “Litty” soon produced a swarm of fry, and then, a few weeks later, another batch, and then another (frantic Google searches revealed that these fish can store sperm and apply it when needed, thus the seeming immaculate conceptions).
Having gone from a few specimens to an entire school in short order, we purchased another tank ” this one 10 gallons. So much for being non-pet people.
Andy was fascinated by his fish, and the fry certainly made it seem to him like we’d gotten a lot of bang for our buck. The little fish were cute, but as all critters do, they quickly grew up and, so I imagined, were busily eyeing one another with impure thoughts, bent on creating new herds of platys and to hell with any concerns of piscine incest.
We managed to do some culling by donating many of the “spare” fish to one of the big pet stores in Denver. Whether they were adopted or fed to the oscars we’ll never know, but it enabled us to go back down to one tank with only a half-dozen or so fish. The matriarch Litty died a few months back, and we had a memorial hanging on the living room wall for several weeks after. But that was the last time Andy paid any real attention to the fish; the Wii is ever so much more interesting, and he wants nothing to do with the cleaning of the tank.
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So that’s it, we’ve decided. We are ready to divest ourselves of our unloved fish ” including the Wal-Mart catfish that started at 2 inches in length and is now the size of a small trout (and, I should add, creepily swims upside down). Surely fish have feelings, and they must know they’re no more loved than the dried flowers collecting dust on the bookshelf. For me, the guilt that results when the tank starts to resemble a Mississippi mud bog is too much. No more resignedly pulling out the latex gloves and the clothes pin (these fish stink). No more contemplating with disgust the can of “blood worms” the fish are supposed to enjoy as “treats” (they seem ambivalent about them).
Being 7, Andy will decide the fish are the greatest thing in the world once we start the removal process. But we’ll find a good home (any takers?), and we’ll find some kind of suitable, non-pooping replacement.
Like a mechanical gecko.
Editor Alex Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 970-668-4618.