Now that I am (allegedly) a grown-up, not to mention a parent, I often marvel over the fact my own parents seemed to know what they were doing. How did that happen?
Maybe after my brother and I went to bed my parents broke out the tequila and had a good cry over the misery of it all – the “how will we ever cope with all the questions and anxiety” of it all. But I doubt it.
This, naturally, brings me to my fish.
I don’t know how my mother learned how to take care of tropical fish. Maybe someone taught her or maybe she did her research. I know that is what you should do when you get involved with a new hobby – especially one involving sustaining life. Thinking that you know what you’re doing because you kinda sorta did it before and nothing bad happened doesn’t always cut it. That’s just luck.
You may recall my 15-gallon Fish Tank of Doom has had its ups and downs. It is currently home to 10 neon tetras, two algae eaters and a surprise snail I’ve named Andy Sipowicz, because on the TV cop drama NYPD Blue Det. Andy Sipowicz had an elaborate aquarium at the precinct and he took exceptional care of it.
“You keep a healthy tank, you call yourself a guy who knows fish,” he said on the show. It was a metaphor for life. My snail helps to keep the tank clean.
A friend of mine also keeps tropical fish. She did her research. She has live plants in the aquarium, a variety of fish species, snails and algae eaters. She tests the water and knows the real honest-to-goodness meaning of things like “cycling the tank.” She buys her fish from a store that interrogates you before they will sell you their fish.
I’d probably be in jail right now if I had bought my fish from that store. But let’s not rehash the sad tale of the accidentally toxic water and the loss of the first batch of pretty little neon tetras. (Sniff.)
You may recall that with this current crop I didn’t realize I needed to “float the bag” when I put them in, so they all went into shock. They recovered.
Then, probably because of that shock, they developed ich. Two died, but with careful treatment and much hand wringing the rest recovered.
The other day I noticed a build-up of some whitish crud in one corner of the tank, so I set about changing water, cleaning stones and ornaments, scrubbing walls, etc. Basically, I dove in while the fish weren’t expecting it and completely rearranged their room. Some of them were ticked and showed symptoms of shock.
This time, instead of hand wringing, I laughed. No, I’m not evil. It’s just I can sympathize.
My mother used to wait until everyone left the house and she’d rearrange furniture. Upon our return from school, my brother and I would hear ABBA thumping away on the stereo.
“Oh oh. That’s Mom’s rearranging music.”
Sure enough, there would be changes. Sometimes it was the living room. Sometimes she would rearrange things in one or both of our bedrooms. Sometimes she would switch the rooms completely and I’d go from sleeping at the front of the house to the back or vice versa.
Most of the time it was disorienting but no big deal. In fact, sometimes the change was kinda neat – it was like getting a whole new room. As I got older, though, the rearranging became a territorial thing. My stuff was moved. It could be stressful.
Fish are like teenagers, it seems. Sensitive. Easily stressed. I wasn’t necessarily prone to doing a weird vertical dippy dive swimmy thing like the fish do, but I probably had something to say about it.
The fish eventually settled down and everything was fine, except the water was a tiny bit cloudy. So, thinking I now know the drill, I added some of the stuff to clear the water – except it made it worse.
What the heck? Should I call my mother? What would Sipowicz do? I’m guessing he would not be impressed. He might even put me in jail.
Published in The Perth Courier, April 15/10