Growing up, I almost always had a fish tank. Well, rather, my mother always had a fish tank. It would be in my room, and I’d be the one who picked out and named the fish, but my mom would end up being the one to take care it; spending her Saturdays vacuuming it out with the tank siphon, getting stinky fish water all over herself and cursing her lazy daughter and her stupid fish.
I’ve also owned several fish tanks over the years as an adult. And they’ve all had something in common.
The fish hated me, they stank and then they died.
Let’s start with Calliope. Calliope was a betta that I bought while living with my friend Stacey on my internship in Arizona. Arizona was filled with lots of firsts: our first time living out of state without our parents, our first time we’d ever bought liquor in tiny bottles in grocery stores and pharmacies, our first time in discovering the wonder that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
And with this new-found freedom came the realization that I could actually own a pet on my own. So, giddy with the knowledge of my entrance into adulthood, I went to Wal-mart and promptly bought a betta in a clear glass cup, along with all the assorted accoutrements that is required for fish ownership. The tricky part was getting Calliope, named for the muse of epic poetry, home. (YES, I know the pretty bettas are all males, piss off.) I ended up sticking her in the cup holder, bolstered with wads of tissue to make it fit without spilling over. At home, I was able to set up a nice little contained tank, complete with low-flow filter and a dome light to help heat the water. I was a responsible pet owner.
Calliope lived a lovely and healthy week until I noticed that she was swimming oddly and acting weirdly. Thinking she had ick, the only fish disease I could think of but had no idea what it meant, I diligently searched the internet for hours trying to find the cause of my poor fishy’s illness. I eventually came to the conclusion that she had dropsy, a bacterial disease that swells the abdomen, and promptly put her in a bowl so I could thoroughly scrub her tank and then buy the appropriate antibiotics at the store the next day.
Tragically, I found Calliope lying upside at the bottom of the bowl the next day. I gently shook the bowl to see if she was just sleeping. (HUSH, I KNOW.) Her partially curled body rose to the top and from her belly came a large air bubble that rose to the top of the water and popped with an audible “bloop.”
I was horrified. And grossed out.
What was most horrifying was recounting this story the next day to my boss and Stacey, who had been gone during the time of crisis and had missed the whole episode.
Something you should know about Stacey is that she has an uncontrollable urge to laugh at inappropriate things. Oh, she laughs normally at the usual comedic fare, but if she is watching TV in the other room and you suddenly hear a loud and sharp cackle, that means that someone has probably just ripped the arms off of a tiny helpless baby.
While I was recounting my tale of fish woe the next day, she was able to keep a straight face until I got to the word “ick.” From there, it was a struggle of epic proportion until when I finally reached the part where Calliope’s bloated belly released a bloop bubble, and she just lost it. I think she might have literally slid out of the arm-chair she was sitting in while laughing even harder every time I exclaimed, “STACEY! It’s not FUNNY….”
Told you she was terrible.
From there I was gun-shy about fish until I’d graduated college and got another betta. I did a small poll on Livejournal and let my friends pick the name.
Stacey is not my only terrible friend.
Bait lived for a while, but eventually gave up the ghost after a move. (But not after months of being generally pissed off at the world, trying to commit suicide every time I cleaned his tank and having an eating disorder in which he refused to eat and then would gobble food angrily and then spit it our repeatedly.)
After Bait came Miles, named after Miles Davis because he was kind of blue. (HA! I’m funny.) Miles also prompted me to get another tank in which I had two guppies, Fishy Fish Fish and Sgt. Neko Case.
There were more, but Fishy Fishy Fish eventually killed them all. Including one that I didn’t discover until one particularly horrible day in which I was in a lot of pain after a procedure and my mother and friend J. were trying to cheer me up. It was working until I said something about feeding the fish and J. looked at the tank and said, “Um, how many fish?” Let’s just say that when recovering from an endoscopy, the sight of yet another dead fish, this one hiding behind the filter and covered in white fur of some kind, can send you into a massive crying fit. One in which your mother and friend J. try not to giggle at.
Everyone I know is a terrible person.
I eventually gave away my last tank of fish to my mother because Jethro hated them and they smelled. Which is true. I kind of hated them too after a while.
My mom doesn’t want you to know this, but she eventually killed the fish I gave her. One of them even died on the ride home and then she had the nerve to get a filet o’ fish at McDonald’s afterward.
SEE?!? EVERYONE IS TERRIBLE.
So why is this on my Life List? Because I do eventually want to be a responsible fish owner. I love the peaceful nature of a well-kept fish tank and watching the fish lazily swim around and just be fish. Even the hum of the filter can be calming and peaceful. Unless it’s one of those waterfall ones. Those just make me have to pee.
I also have always wanted to own a saltwater tank. But considering I have trouble with a 5 gallon freshwater one, I’ll start small.
And not let any of those terrible people near me and my beautiful fishes.
How about you, lovelies? How do you feel about fish tanks? (I know at least one of you is scared of them and I still find that meanly hilarious.) Any other pet aspirations out there?