Having pets is good for kids’ right? So when you’re thinking about what type of pet to get, one that’s small enough for each child to have, easy enough for mom to take care of when they inevitably fail to do their part and of course, easy enough for mom to take care of when they inevitably fail to do their part; like me you may consider fish. DON’T. We started getting sucked into buying cute little fish and their cute little fish tanks when Sam turned five. We got one of those 15 dollar tanks and a goldfish. At the time we thought it would be pretty low maintenance. We carefully picked out the bag of purple rocks and a little “gone fishing” sign to sit in the bottom of the tank (which is a bit sick when you think about it).
How could we know that goldfish are apparently the ocean’s version of trailer trash? They can’t go much longer than a week without having their tanks cleaned and after doing THAT about 4 times a month, getting those pretty little purple rocks all over your sink and floor, swishing and splashing the brown fish water on your clothes during transport to and from the bathroom, and smelling the crusted fish food around the tank rim; you’re more than ready to upgrade to a filtration system. Of course you can’t get just any filter. If you buy the Wal-Mart special, your child will be sleeping with what sounds like a chain saw rattling in the corner SO you end up dropping 25 bucks for the “Whisper” system.
With a filter purchase you’ll find out that the fish will survive longer if you put an oxygen tube in there. I thought they didn’t NEED oxygen. I thought that was the whole fish thing. So you pick up the five dollar fish stick (no pun intended) and then a bigger tank for all of that fish STUFF to go into and VOILA, you’re done right? Not so fast Poseidon. You’ll need the water conditioner, four more bags of pretty purple rocks, extra filters for the new filtration system, the little thermometer thingy so you don’t cook your fish when you add new water and of course more fish to populate the new digs. One-hundred and eighty nine dollars later you’re walking out of PETCO with the equivalent of a pure breed dog in fish stuff.
The nice, pimply, high school kid that knows just that much more about fish than you do will explain that you can choose from any one of the “community fish” and they’ll all get along. Yeah. We picked up a couple of those “community fish”. We were all in the truck driving home with our two new “Mickey Mouse” fish and lo and behold, the female gave birth right there in the five gallon Ziploc bag. There were little fishies swimming all over the darn place. As we all sat gazing at the marvel of nature, all little boy and mommy eyes magnified by the plastic bag, you could feel how special that particular moment was for us.
“Mommy-why are all the babies swimming down?” Jake asked in childlike wonder as we buckled in and started heading home.
“Oh honey—I don’t know—I’m sure it’s some sort of instinct they’ve inherited.” I replied as we turned onto the highway.
“Mommy—OH MY GOD MOMMY” Jake screamed in a terrified voice.
“SHE’S EATING HER BABIES MOMMY….SHE’S EATING THEM”.
“WHAT” I said, now brilliantly clear as to why the little baby fish received the swim down instinct.
“Oh honey, don’t watch” I say, as the other three strain at their buckling system to see the slaughter taking place in the front seat.
Clearly these community fish had their own version of a family dinner and lucky me, my guys received a lesson on the entire life cycle during our 15 minute drive from PETCO. By the time we made it home, every swinging baby fish was gone.
After I’d calmed the boys, I put the fish in the tank and paused as I fed them their fishfood. It dawned on me for the first time why adult fish are so attracted to the little flakes falling through the water to the bottom of the tank.
Maybe later I’ll show the boys the R rated version of “Jaws”. How much more trauma could it be?
Parenting Tip of the Day:
My sister bought goldfish for her children and was disappointed to see the goldfish just sitting in the bottom of the tank and not swimming as she would have liked for the boys to see and enjoy. Upon returning to the pet store and informing them that her goldfish were “clinically depressed” the pimply, high school kid informed her that she had selected “bottom dwelling” goldfish and that they wouldn’t move around like traditional fish. Basically she could have dropped Swedish fish into the tank and received the same entertainment value. Happy fishing!