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It’s a Fish’s Life

on June 13, 2012

A few months ago our ten-year-old (Pictured above on his first day of fish ownership)  said to me, “Hey Mom! Marlin is two years old now.  How old is that in fish years?”  Fish years? I’m not sure how to figure fish years but I can assure you that surviving in our house for two years is pretty extraordinary for a fish. Not that we aren’t a fully functioning loving family who takes good care of our belongings and pets.  We’re just notorious fish killers.  

 I have a pretty specific list of pets I will allow in my home.  I’m not a cat person: never have been, never will be.  It probably has something to do with the fact that when I was young my friend’s cat jumped on my back, dug in and hung on for a while.  It might also have something to do with the fact that I don’t like anything walking on my counters.  I’m not opposed to other people’s cats I just don’t want one in my house.  I’m also not a fan of gerbils, hamsters or any other kind of rodent living in my home.  I’m pretty fanatical about keeping rodents OUT of my home. We did have a couple guinea pigs for a while mostly because I foolishly believed it when someone told me they weren’t really rodents.  They are more like rabbits.  NOT!  I’m not a reptile person. Again: I do everything I can to make sure the snakes stay outside where they belong.  (see my earlier post here.)  Birds freak me out – period. Lovely to watch from across the yard but I don’t want them in our house.  That pretty much leaves dogs and fish.  We have a wonderful old faithful dog.  We’ve also had fish.  Several fish.  Lots of fish.  You wouldn’t think it would be so tough to keep fish alive.

It all started the year we got our oldest son a guinea pig for Christmas.  We thought our oldest daughter needed a pet also but didn’t think she was ready to take care of a guinea pig yet. (Heaven knows I wasn’t going to clean up after it!) Simple solution: goldfish.  We got her two, complete with pretty rocks and a princess palace in her bowl.  She named them Bubbles and Fishy.  It was a glorious Christmas morning.  By New Year’s Eve Bubbles and Fishy had been flushed to the great goldfish pond in the sky.  Well maybe in the underground, but you know what I mean.  Figuring we’d gotten sick fish, we replaced them with two more goldfish. More expensive ones.  They lasted a month.  Two more.  Another month.  Our daughter decided she wasn’t interested in being a goldfish parent any longer.

A few years later when the height of the “beta craze” was going on, our youngest daughter begged and begged to get her own beta.  I had one – complete with pretty glass chips and a plant (remember that??) – on my desk at work and on our dining room table.  What could it hurt? Betas are pretty sturdy.  We got her a red one to match her hair.  He lived two weeks.  We replaced him with a pretty blue one.  A month.  Number three I believe was also blue. Six weeks.  I was beginning to think that I should just open a fish funeral parlor in our bathroom. We were getting pretty good at Fishy Memorial Services.

 I began to wonder what was wrong with us. I mean who kills fish that regularly?  I secretly blamed my husband who loves to fish.  My theory was that the poor little fish we brought home caught the “he’s a fisherman” vibe and became so scared of becoming live bait that they had heart attacks. Then we figured out the problem.  Our upstairs where the children’s rooms are located is a converted attic. It’s got really cool angles and slants, but only one vent to heat and cool the entire floor.  It isn’t bad unless it is really hot or really cold outside.  Because we live in Nebraska, land of extreme temperatures, we have space heaters and window air conditioners to combat the extremes.  It works great and our children live at a comfortable temperature all the time, but it has a “Fish Flaw.”  In order to save energy we turn off the heaters and air conditioners when they aren’t upstairs.  Depending on the season we were either producing boiled fish or fishcicles.   Ok – well – the temperature isn’t that extreme up there, but you get the drift. We quickly discerned that being fish owners wasn’t going to work on the upper level of our home and what fun is it to have a pet you have to visit in the living room?  Our fish days were over.

Then along came Marlin.  Our youngest son received some money for Christmas and had his heart set on becoming a fish owner.  Since his room was a converted office on the main level of our house I didn’t think it would be a problem.  Our oldest son took him to purchase all the things he would need to become a fish father.  He was so excited and proud to show me the new pet he had purchased with his own money.  He named his fish “Marlin” after the father on Finding Nemo, which was funny considering he isn’t a clown fish.  But he is a clown.  My sons managed to purchase the pickiest beta on the planet.  We discovered quickly that he didn’t like the beta pellets my boys bought him. He’d put them in his mouth and then spit them back out.  Seriously. Funny to watch but I knew if we didn’t want to reopen the funeral parlor in the bathroom we needed to find something else.  I went out and bought him beta flakes.  He didn’t like those either. Desperate to get him to eat and avoid the inevitable tears and flushing routine we finally figured out that it was the SIZE of the beta pellets he didn’t like.  (He must have dainty jaws.)  If we crush them before we put them in his bowl he eats them.  You know you love your kid when you are willing to crush fish food just to keep him happy.

All was well until the first time I decided his bowl needed to be cleaned.  You know what they say about sending men shopping?  It’s true.  The boys had overlooked the tiny detail of purchasing a net with which to catch the fish. No problem. I’m a mom so I can improvise. I have slotted spoons, right? Didn’t work. Marlin is a fast fish.  Ok. So I’ll dump the water until it is low and then I’ll dump the rest of it in the cup I had waiting as a storage tank until his bowl is cleaned.   Sounds workable right?  Thank you Jesus that I don’t have that garbage disposal I keep whining I want.  Marlin ended up in the drain.  I quickly got him out of there and in his temporary cup, the whole while being thankful that our son wasn’t helping me clean the bowl.  We had a net the next day. 

Yesterday I got a text from our older daughter that they were going to clean Marlin’s bowl which has been relocated to the piano in the living room since we relocated our son to his older brother’s old room upstairs. (I do learn things after a while.)  Pretty soon I got a text that she’d flopped Marlin on the counter trying to get him out of the net into the cup. Thankfully she remained calm and got him back where he was supposed to be.  Couldn’t have been easy considering her little brother was there helping her clean the bowl at the time.  In her words: “Jakob was freaking.”  I imagine he was.  When I got home from work my son asked me how long a fish can be out of water before he dies. I really don’t know I told him, but it appears that Marlin isn’t any worse for his experience.  He seems quite content in his newly cleaned bowl.

After all: you have to be one tough fish to survive in our house for two years.

Marlin looking none the worse for his experience last night. (Though he may have a headache):


One response to “It’s a Fish’s Life

  1. gmapple says:

    I’m so glad the story has a happy ending !!! Loved the story and the fish !!!

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