As we strolled through the Halloween carnival last October, my animal-loving 6-year old spotted the neatly-lined rows of fishbowls containing goldfish and he lost his heart forever. He paid the man at the booth a crisp one dollar bill and proceeded to chunk ping pong balls at the orchard of shiny bowls only to come up empty handed with each toss. So, being the oh-so-gullable Mom that I am, I found myself perusing the aisles of PetsMart the next day helping Jacob find the perfect aquatic pet.
Little did I know at the time how involved and complicated fish ownership can be. Do we want a goldfish or a betta? Then there are the tanks and filters and the food and the chemicals and the rocks and the plants not to mention the education on water temperature, tank size, feeding schedules, pH balances and so on. What I had assumed would be a quick trip to the pet store quickly turned into a crash course/ Masters degree in Aquatic Chemical Engineering. What had I gotten myself into?
Having selected the red and blue betta fish and a tank where we could keep them separated and unable to eat each other (huh?!), we headed home with the new additions to our family-- Spike and Henry. Spike lived up to his name with his feisty swim patterns and bold electric blue color. Henry, on the other hand, was a much more docile fish with a deep red color and a reserved demeanor. Jacob instantly fell in love with his new "fishies" and, surprisingly, kept up with his every other day feeling schedule and took great delight in his new responsibility.
Then things started going downhill for poor little Henry. Somehow, Spike made it through a small gap where the rocks and the tank divider met and he tried his best to take out Henry. He successfully chomped part of Henry's left fin leaving him to list on one side most of the time. Valiantly, Henry still ate and swam around but it was clear his war wounds left a deep psychological scar. (You can't be too dramatic when it comes to the mental wounds caused by your brother trying to eat you.)
That's when we began Death Watch 2015. Poor Henry. That was one month ago. This morning, Jacob awakes me to tell me that Henry is face down in the rocks and looks like he's sleeping. (Oh no. Here we go. The DEATH conversation is here.) I go upstairs to find Henry indeed nose-down in the rock but breathing. "Look, Mommy, his little cheeks are puffing in and out. He's breathing." GREAT. Just great. What am I supposed to do now? I can't go all Finding Nemo on the thing if he's alive. Flushing him into the unknown while he's alive would haunt me forever and my child would think me a monster. So, what's a girl to do? The Manual on Dead Fish Protocol clearly states:
1) Fish is toast if he's floating at the top of the water.
2) Scoop and flush.
3) Alternate: place his tiny little dead fishy body into a matchbox and bury him with a little ceremony that honors his contributions to the family and how he was such a special little fishy, blah blah blah.(Personally, I think option 2 is much better)
But, NOWHERE does the manual say anything about a fish trying to off himself by sticking his little fish face down in some rocks. WHY ME? Why can't I just flush the sucker, sing the theme song from Free Willy 2 and be done?
Oh well, the Death Watch continues......