Many of you are unaware that I bought a fish tank 6th of July 2005 in the hope of getting some company while writing. But I had major nitrate problems possibly caused by my continuous chain smoking right next to it, and severe sleep deprivation because the air pump (yes it’s a very small fish tank and does not have a proper filter) was so damn noisy. So I gave up the entire project in August 2005, and didn’t think more of it. Until I told Lady C about it last summer and she immediately borrowed the tank and we began cultivation. If you don’t have an aquarium you have no idea how precise an art it is, and I have a dream, yes I do have a dream that one day I will get to build a proper tank based on an area in the world. That is, art imitating life. In the meanwhile, our little 20l (5.3 gallon) tank will suffice.
After establishing a positive bacteria culture, healthy plants and adding a prehistoric backdrop with dinosaurs(!) on the back we went out and bought two goldfish a.k.a fantails a.k.a Carassius auratus named Babette and Fyodor, in October 2008. Many people don’t know this, but the original goldfish can live up to 65 years in captivity, and the fantail breed around 5 years, but they often die sooner due to mistreatment. I won’t have any any of that in my house! While I don’t believe in God, I do believe in fish! And I bestow the best of care to any vertebrate to the best of my ability.
Visiting the same pet store a month later, we saw that the entire tank where Fyodor and Babette’s family had lived had been wiped out. Probably because of some minor disease emphasized by the stress the fish is put under in most pet stores. Babette and Fyodor lived on, however, and we were thankful that we’d been given the opportunity to save them.
Thriving under our care, we learned to know their difference of personalities, and even though most of a goldfish’s time is spent hunting for food they also knew how to have fun and make us laugh. I was especially thrilled with Fyodor’s Jaws interpretations, which he had developed as a strategy during the feeding frenzies. He would lurk from below, mid-tank, spotting the unknowing fish flake on the surface, then circle around the prey until SUDDENLY! attacking at full force from the bottom. Lady C even saw him jump once she was feeding them. Having seized the prey, he would patrol the waters like any other great white. You can see how I came to love him so much.
But Fyodor also suffered. Not from our care, far from it, but from generations of degeneration which is so usual in pet fish breeding. Instead of keeping a species healthy and natural looking, pet fish breeders have gone to great lengths to make bizarre-looking creatures with big eyes and enormous tails. Many of the individuals are not fashioned for swimming, some are blind, and most of them are in pain. After we got back from our mountain trip the 8th of February, Fyodor was having trouble swimming. We almost had to hand-feed him to make sure he actually got in touch with the food. Having spent a couple of days diagnosing the problem, we realized that Fyodor’s swimming bladder had burst and he was unable to control what way he was lying in the water. This condition is painful, but its progress can be slow, as the internal organs are pushed away inside the fish. Luckily he didn’t suffer long, and on February 10th 2009 at 9:30pm Fyodor died naturally.
Babette was devastated, as were Lady C and I.
The swim bladder bursting is not something you can control, it just happens sometimes, but I feel that the likelihood of it happening would have been smaller if Fyodor hadn’t been in a scheme of selective breeding. I’m happy that Babette is still going strong, she is a more healthy fish in terms of shape looking more like her free-swimming cousins, but the loss of Fyodor left its definite mark. Rest in peace little friend, we still love you. I am sad to say that our project of mounting lasers on you never came to be. I also want to encourage all of you looking forward to buying your first or next goldfish to make sure you buy healthy fish that has not been degenerated for the purpose of making it look funny. Buy a book on pet fish and see whether it’s a recognized natural species. Failing to do so encourages the business of this animal, or fish, cruelty; the process of which is deemed illegal in a growing number of countries. You also cause the suffering and death of its family members. I mean, why would anyone buy a pet that suffers? Educate yourself and support the movement for healthy pet fish and its protection’s legislation. RIP Fyodor.