Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dear Carnival Fish

Dear Carnival Fish,

I am saddened by the purpose of your existence.  You are bred by the masses to be taken home in little plastic baggies for the child winner to 'ooh' and 'aah' for a day.  Then a grown-up must take over your well-being while you are still alive.  And that grown up is I.

Dear Daughter won two such goldfish at a recent carnival.  Because I was volunteering as a face painter, I wasn't around to stop the kids from playing the game whose prizes are goldfish.  When I saw DD with her two baggies of fish, one of which she later gave to Dear Son, my heart sank.

I have never been successful at keeping goldfish.  I tried, twice, before I had kids.  The first attempt was when the teacher next-door at my school gave me her goldfish to keep in my science classroom near the end of the school year.  When summer came, I took it home.  I did my research, bought all the necessary equipment, and did my weekly water changes.  So among fish keepers, there's something called a nitrogen cycle, wherein the fish waste becomes toxic to the fish until beneficial bacteria builds up in the tank to metabolize the toxins.  Until that happens, the fish are always in danger from toxic buildup.

The goldfish did not last more than a few months in my new tank.  Unyielding to my defeat, I bought two more goldfish for my empty tank.  This time, even more research taught me to "cycle the tank" by building up the beneficial bacteria with ammonia first before introducing the fish.  I had all sorts water-testing kits to make sure the tank was ready for my fish.  I kept the water at optimal condition (according to my kits), but this pair didn't last more than a few months, either.  Sadly, I took down the tank, swore off goldfish, and had my babies.  Luckily, I knew a thing or two about raising kids.

Three years ago, we came across some vendors at a Chinatown street fair who were selling baby turtles.  DD begged for one.  Of course, DH happily agreed to buy a $5 turtle for his princess.  I really should have nipped that in the bud.  The turtle was no more than one inch wide, active and happy in his little plastic container.  I, on the other hand, had a lot of work to do.  Research.  Shopping.  Set-up.

It turns out that selling turtles that were less than 4 inches big was illegal.  We just bought an illegal turtle.  It turns out that turtles can carry salmonella.  So only grown-ups I can handle it.  It turns out that this red ear slider turtle can grow up to 8-10 inches big.  Which means more money spent on bigger tanks somewhere down the line.  It turns out that I'm pretty good at keeping turtle.  It is alive, healthy, and always hungry, after three years.  And it turns out that these turtles can live for a long time.  Which means that I may be caring for this turtle until I'm a grandma.  Oh.  Dear.

I'm a softie.  I cannot help it.  Having any live animal in my home means that I must do my darnedest to keep it alive and well.  But I knew that our carnival goldfish were not going to stay alive, and that's why I brought them home with a very heavy heart.  The only container we had at home suitable for keeping these goldfish was a very large vase, i.e. a very small place with no filter for two goldfish to live.  I had already given away all my goldfish keeping equipment, and there was no way I would go out and repurchase them for fish I knew I was going to kill not be able to keep alive.  But I did buy a tiny canister of goldfish food, AND I fed them daily, AND I changed 50% of the water daily, AND I hoped for the best. 

This morning (2.5 weeks later), Fish #1 went to Fish Heaven.  DS cried, because it was his fish.  It's possible Fish #2 will live a little longer, but probably not by much.  (If there are any goldfish keepers/lovers reading this, I really do apologize).

So I need to have the discussion with DH again about bringing any fish/reptiles home just because a child begs, since I'm the only one who ends up with all the work without ever having asked for it.  Once a month, for three years, have I had to spend an hour or more cleaning the turtle tank.  Dollar amounts in hundreds have been spent on lights, filter, media, food, and water conditioner for a turtle that only ever begs for food.  And three years later, my happy turtle has grown from 1 inch to over 5 inches big, and is now begging for a bigger tank. 

I can only wish that fish were not bred for carnival games, but that industry is alive and well and has no "heart" in sight.  We won't have anymore goldfish at home, if I can help it.  So Fish #1, I hope you are feeling better now in Fish Heaven.  Your vase-mate may be at your side again, soon.



  1. Dear Muse,
    How do you get yourself into these things? Oh, I know, because you have a giant and kind heart. I will cross my fingers that DS gets over this and goes back to admiring the turtle...Good luck!
    Novice Teacher

  2. Dear Novice Teacher, You are very kind. But LOL, I think DS has gotten over it already! 4-y-os don't dwell for long. Love, Muse =)

  3. Oh boy! I did so much research when we set up our fish tank, now nobody watches it any more, let alone change the water. Kids want a turtle, but I don't, for many reasons.

    I still remember when I found my gold fish dead after jumped out of the vase, we buried it in my garden.

    Good luck!

  4. Laura, you had a vase goldfish, too? I guess more parents than I know go through this short-term pet keeping phase. I must say, though, that I love my turtle, and I rightfully call it mine!

  5. Thanks for the warning! Now I know not to let A and C have these things even though A has been asking for a hamster because S shied him pics of our previous ones!

  6. Well, kids can, not always, get tired of new pets easily, so you just have to be prepared to do all the care-taking from the get-go. Some pets are also not good for younger kids to handle. I must say that when DH agreed to buy the turtle, I knew that I was going to have to take care of it. But 3 years later, I do love my turtle!