February 4, 2015

the fish and i

for reasons unexplained at this juncture, I recently became the caretaker of a 50+ gallon fishtank. I say 50+ because I'm not actually sure; I didn't buy the tank and I don't feel like measuring.

this morning, Shemp died. To be more accurate, I located Shemp's corpse in the mouth of the water filter intake at about 8am.

Shemp was an opaline gourami, and i acquired her (note the assumed gender) and two others (larry and moe) from the local pet store. I dislike the part of pet stores that sell animals, fish included, pet adoptions from shelters not included. Yet, I still paid them about $5 for three fish while simultaneously hating myself for supporting an industry that breeds with little care for living conditions or quality of life.

I did it because at the time of acquisition, the fish tank had only one occupant. Frank Castle, a fairly long lived gourami, who had survived many troubles. After cleaning the tank, treating the water, putting in new plants, and scrubbing algae, I suppose that I felt that all the effort should be for more than one spunky fish. So, frank soon had friends.

Friends is a pretty loose term in this situation. Gouramis are aggressive fish, generally, and Frank was easily three times bigger than the newcomers. There was quite a bit of chasing in the first two days, and I was worried that I would have to take the new guys back to store before someone was bullied to death. Shemp, in particular, could always be found by herself in the tank. Larry and Moe were always together; i still can't tell them apart.

However, with acclimation and good meals, the fish settled into harmony. I was thrilled. The tank was lovely! The house feng shui was increasing! I spent a few minutes every day watching the fish after i fed them; fish flakes in the morning and blood worms in the evening. I did notice that Shemp seemed to have problems eating. Now, in the grand scheme of things, gouramis are pretty stupid. I've watched those fish attempt to eat the same piece of poop twice in the same second and miraculously forget that the piece of food they were eating is still there right in front of them.

But Shemp was special, and not in a good way. Sometimes she would nibble at a fish flake and then break off to stare at nothing for a good thirty seconds. When feeding time came, she never seemed to pick up on the cues that food was coming, like all the other fish. For awhile, i was thinking about returning her to the store to avoid having to face the inevitable. But i never did.

Just last night, i was noticing that her acquisition-mates were twice her size. She was in good form otherwise: active, no sores, no red patches around her fins or gills, and able to swim normally. but then the morning came and i couldn't find her swimming around.

So, i might've been a little upset when I found the corpse. And i don't know if its wrong, but I am comforted by the thought that this was Shemp's fate. Shemp, with her wacky neurological/behavioral problems, was not meant to survive in my fish tank. And if she couldn't make it there, I am not sure where she would have survived in her role as a commercial asset sold by a large chain store for less than two dollars, to whomever had a desire to purchase.

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