This post contains graphic violence and nudity and may not be suitable for all audiences. Reader discretion is advised.
This is not a post about farming.
This is a post about our fish tank.
Ten years ago, Santa brought a fish tank for our girls. When they woke up on Christmas morning, it was sitting in their room, full of water and fish, and was an immediate source of delight. Being only an eight-gallon tank, we could only have about five or six fish at any given time, but that didn’t matter. The glowing light made for an excellent nightlight and the gentle bubbling sound proved quite soothing. Watching the fish swim in circles provided entertainment that lasted… well… about a week, give or take, before they completely lost interest.
That was ten years ago.
Since then, we’ve had countless fish for varying lengths of time. Some last years; some last days. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to which fish thrive in the tank and which don’t. We are mediocre (at best) about tank maintenance so, like most everything around here (poultry, bees, dogs, children, etc.), survival is purely Darwinian.
The most recent incarnation of the tank has been a relatively symbiotic situation involving two tetras and an algae-eating fish that’s been named “Dinosaur Fish” as a tribute to it’s behemoth size and lumbering movements. Dinosaur Fish has been with us for at least eight years and has proven unkillable, despite our benign neglect. We leave him alone; he leaves us alone.
The tetras had been contentedly swimming in circles for about two years and then, one of them died. Feeling badly for the lone remaining fish, I decided to go to the store and get a couple new recruits. I picked up two mollies. I thought these vibrant orange beauties would make a nice addition to the tank and two would be perfect because I didn’t want to raise the ammonia level of the water too quickly.
We’d had the mollies about a day when one of the two promptly died. The next day, the other one also died.
I went back to the store and explained my dilemma. The woman there felt pretty strongly that there might be something wrong with my water. She suggested I get two more, see how they fared, and proceed from there. If the fish thrived, then it was simply an issue with the previous fish. If they died, then there may be an issue with my tank water. She told me to come back with a water sample.
I cleaned the tank water and then introduced the
sacrificial lambs new fish to the tank. With the tetra and the new mollies swimming around in there, all seemed right with the world and I went about my day.
The next day, one of the mollies was belly up.
I scooped her out, flushed her reverentially, and wondered what the heck was happening.
Later that night, Dave said, “The tetra is dead. Wait… No… Not quite dead yet.”
And so I looked. It appeared that the remaining molly was eating the tetra. But, she wasn’t eating it like she meant to eat it, she was eating it like she meant to murder it. Fin by fin, brutalizing our sweet, circle-swimming tetra, for apparently no reason at all.
By morning, the tetra was dead.
And so was the molly.
And I was just about to give up hope for our little fish tank when Dave noticed something kind of amazing.
Next to the dead Molly was a tiny little orange fish. These little fish were all over the tank and so, it would appear, the molly’s last act on earth was to give birth to at least 13 (very hard to count) itty bitty baby fish.
I did go back to the store with a water sample because now there were babies to care for and it seemed like the responsible thing to do. Inexplicably, the water tested perfect and there was no explanation for the murder by, and subsequent death of, the molly mama.
The working theory is that she killed the tetra out of some twisted maternal instinct (“Clear the way, bitches, my babies are coming!”) and that the sheer act of birth ultimately did her in.
Either way, we now have a tank FULL OF BABY FISH and we legitimately have to hope they don’t all survive because our little tank simply cannot handle that much fish pee.
To be continued…
What a brilliantly vibrant writer you are! Fish tank tragedies notwithstanding, reading you is the sheerest thrill. To boot, I’m in awe of your managing to keep the water perfect, as that sample indicated.
Having owned a mini zoo in my hovel in the not so distant past, and now a mere 3 free ranging parrots and a large pit mix (Maggie’s fault, indirectly), I am forever hygienically challenged but do keep the parrots’ water as perfect as can be.(distilled).
Thank you, Maya! Free-range parrots sounds delicious… I mean, lovely!