Something’s Fishy

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.


“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!


10 responses to “Something’s Fishy

  1. Sunny–I just saw this comment…what a hoot…those fighter fish are demons from what I hear….poor Tooters.

  2. we did the beta fish at my house but the dumb teen at Walmart told me that Nemo would be ok with some tetra fish because they were fast and would not be eaten. This is not true and did you know when a beta eats another fish he will leave the bones to flow at the top. This is how Tooters found poor Dory. Can you tell we are Finding Nemo fans. I did a whole post about it on my blog. Called “The Fast Track to Heaven According To A Child” pretty entertaining.

  3. Man–you guys are pros Lisa. Way to go. My neice is like that. They have two tanks for tropicals and they’re beautiful. Sorry about the kitties…and good on dad for keeping up the tank. He rocks!

  4. That is tragically funny! We did the same thing by opting for fish as our family pets. We had two very affectionate cats, who we specifically got when I was pregnant because I read some article which suggested that children exposed to at least two furry pets growing up are less likely to develop allergies. Lo and behold, what is my daughter deathly allergic to? Why, CATS, of course! After having her allergy tested and putting her on daily allergy medicine at the age of three, we still listened to her struggling all night with a raspy cough for months. We decided that her health was the top priority, so we found new homes for our kitties.

    We wanted to get her another pet, and toyed with the idea of a guinea pig, but then we were afraid that she might be allergic to them too, so we opted for fish. Fortunately, my husband got into it as a hobby. We’re both scuba divers and loved the idea of a tropical fish tank, which is what we ended up with. We now have a fairly sustainable saltwater environment with a handful of fish. It takes less work than fresh water aquariums, and my husband thinks its really cool, so he ends up doing most of the work. My daughter loves to feed them. She puts her fingers in the tank, and the red peppermint shrimp swim up and tickle her fingertips, which she finds thoroughly entertaining. So far, nobody’s eaten anybody. (Fingers crossed!)

  5. Those things are cool looking. Not sure I could hold back from putting them in the tank together–just for the 4 minutes of entertainment it would bring the boys on their day off.

  6. You always make me laugh!! We bought Betta fish and they are awesome…one per tank though…no community living there. But they seem to last well and the kids love them.

  7. I’m laughing cause I have a pasta strainer upstairs too that I’ve donated to the cause. Poor Dorothy…there’s no place like home.

  8. that was a great post!
    the first time i cleaned out our little “dorothy’s” bowl i made the mistake of dumping the water and rocks into a pasta strainer. i simply gave no thought to the fact that fish poop too and that was the reason i was cleaning the bowl. i might have used that strainer for several more years had i given any thought to the entire process before charging ahead. dorothy I and II died shorty after. and i bought a new strainer.

  9. Undaunted by the lessons of failure we continue to beat ourselves with the proverbial dead fish (a pink one come to think of it). Danny turns 7 this week, guess what he’s getting :).

  10. We also did the great fish experiment. Of the 11 originally purchased to fill the tank my MOM purchased (I sense revenge plot), I flushed one a day. Second generation fared better. Perhaps it was my father meticulously testing the water and regulating the temperature? I especially liked that they “cleaned up” after themselves. Never found floaters. The weak ones just disappeared. Finally only a PINK fish remained. (I speculated that the others made fun of HIM and so he ate them.) After 3 years, I gave him up for adoption and gave the tank to Goodwill (HA! Goodwill, not really:-)

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