Tag Archives: pity party

A (not so) brief interruption for self-pity

One Eyed Jack (left), Bandit (centre), Tigger (right)

I did actually motivate myself to blockfuse and start cutting Osiris’s  frock coat over the weekend. It’s going well, except that the iron has left marks which are showing through the right side of the fabric, and if they don’t even out when I finish the fusing then I’m going to be in trouble.

And that’s all the sewing there is in this post, so feel free to move on. Because this is where I get pitiful. Or perhaps pathetic. About, of all things, my goldfish.

Five years ago, just before we left our hometown, my husband got our children a small (10 gallon) tank and ten goldfish. Yes, this is way too many for the tank. His boss was evicting the goldfish from the tanks at his work, in favour of other, cooler fish, and the goldfish were either going to be flushed down the toilet, eaten by cichlids, or come home with us.

So, when we moved, we had ten gold fish, about seven small, three somewhat more medium-sized. To my utter surprise, all of them survived the move (which involved an eight hour drive in an un-filtered, un-aerated 1-gallon jar).

I am not really a fish-person. I am a cat- and dog-person, a cuddly mammal person. They weren’t the best-kept fish ever. But we had to give up our cats when we moved, as the new landlords were not pet-friendly, and so—fish. But I wasn’t overly surprised when a few of them died over the course of the next few years. Three of the smaller ones just—died. No idea what went wrong. One of the larger ones, a pretty multi-coloured one, seemed to develop an intestinal blockage. His sides got rounder and rounder, until his scales were sticking out. He was still eating but not, as far as I could tell, pooping. And then, one day, he was dead. Sad, but (for once) probably not my fault. But after that things really stabilized.  Six fish was still a lot for the tank, especially as they were all getting bigger, but we seemed to have weeded out the weak.

Fast forward until Christmas two years ago. We went home for the weekend (four days, a period of time we have left the fish alone for any number of times), and returned to the Great Filter Malfunction. The sponges in the filter (which I had cleaned not long before, I’ll add) decided to float up, so the water wasn’t being filtered properly, plus my husband left the tank light on (which heats the water a lot) and the house thermostat up, so the water was overheated. When we got back, one fish (Hook) was floating dead, and the others were not in good shape.  Over the next few days, as we scrambled to change water, we lost two more, and I fully expected to lose Tigger, our second-biggest fish, who was just sitting on the bottom, refusing to move, until his long, beautiful, trailing fins actually became warped from the pressure.

But, stubbornly, he didn’t die, and we were left with Tigger, Bandit (the biggest fish by far, although since he has short, stubby wild-type fins Tigger would actually be longer), and One-Eyed Jack, a small fish who had .

A little over a year ago, a friend lent us a somewhat bigger (25 gallon) tank, which we eagerly moved our fish into. Unfortunately, it was an upright style of tank, octagonal and deep—very pretty, but not really any advantage when it comes to swimming room. Even more unfortunately, it has an open top, and sometime last winter One-Eyed Jack took an ill-advised, and unprecedented, nightime leap and ended up on the floor. I blogged about that here.

So we were down to two, large goldfish (I’ll point out that my highly-in depth internet goldfish research suggests that plain-type goldfish require at least a 20-gallon tank for one fish, and at least an additional 12 gallons per additional fish. When well-kept, they also live at least 20 years, reaching a length of 10 to 12″). A month or two back, we finally decided that they were really, really to big to still be in such a small tank. Until we could find/afford a bigger one, we set back up the smaller, 10 gallon, tanks, and separated the two. Tigger, of the long, beautiful tail, thrashed during the transfer and ripped his tail, and proceeded to sulk on the bottom of the tank for the next week, refusing to eat, while the bit of his tail behind the rip fell off. In true Tigger form, despite my anxiety, he did not die, and eventually started eating again, but he still spent most of his time sulking on the bottom of the tank. Which, frankly, was his standard behaviour since the Great Filter Malfunction. The only time he really would swim around was when Bandit would poke and prod him. Meanwhile, Bandit, alone in his slightly larger tank with no one to pick on, took to eating constantly (I swear out of boredom) and bumping his nose into the glass every time I walked by. A bigger tank seemed like a necessity.

Ten days ago, while hunting on kijiji, we found a good deal on a 46-gallon, bow-front aquarium, complete with stand and filter and all that good stuff. Even a heater, which we’d never had before.

So we picked it up, set it up, and had our fish in it that very afternoon.

And my god, you have never seen such happy goldfish. Even Tigger, the sulker, bounced back and forth cheerfully. They swam and swam and swam.

Now, those of you who know about new aquarium setups know what’s coming next. A nitrogen spike is typical of a new aquarium setup. Nitrogen goes into the fish-tank as food (all protein contains nitrogen) and comes out the fish as waste, and gets converted through a few different formats by bacteria, but until the bacteria are well-established in the filter and the gravel bed, the toxic stages of the nitrogen cycle will build up. And I knew that too, and I was monitoring the ammonia (but not the nitrate or nitrite), and yes, it was elevated, but not THAT high, and we were doing partial water-changes every few days, which I thought would be enough. I mean, these are the fish that survived everything I could throw at them, in their teeny, overcrowded tank, for FIVE YEARS. I was expecting them to maybe be unhappy for a few days, but they seemed fine.

Until yesterday morning, when I discovered Tigger tangled up with the heater and the air-tubes, floating listlessly. I got him out of there, and while he was clearly alive, he was doing a lot of drifting and not really swimming strongly. But I mean, this is Tigger, he always looks sick, so I wasn’t really alarmed by this reversion to type. We did another partial water-change, though, to be on the safe side.

A few hours later, he was noticeably worse—still breathing, but drifting on his side.

By afternoon, he was dead. I wrapped him in a plastic bag, stuck it inside a cereal box, and taped it up, and tucked it in the freezer.

Osiris and the kids took a sample of water to the pet-store. No ammonia problem, but nitrite and nitrate were still high. We changed out even more water.

And just before bedtime, we realized Bandit—huge, fat, invulnerable Bandit, who’d nosed the ailing Tigger around the tank protectively—was acting listless. We pulled him out and stuck him back in the 25-gallon, which is still functioning, having been moved to Tyo’s room and stocked with some cute little orandas. He seemed to be doing a little better there, and we went to bed.

And this morning, when I went to wake Tyo for school, he was dead.

And I’ve had cats and dogs die on me and it sucks and I cry—frankly, I love my mammals a lot more than I love my fish—but here’s the thing. None of my cats’ or dogs’ deaths were my fault. They weren’t because I got them poisoned food, or gave them a lead-contaminated bed. The closest is a bit of guilt that Thea (the tabby cat) was allowed outside to be killed by the neighbour’s dog.

I measured Bandit just before I packed him in the cereal box beside Tigger. Even with his stubby fins, he was a full 10″ long, and fat. Good eating on that fish. Tigger was a smidge longer, but about 4″ of that was his prodigious tail.

How the FUCK can I keep two fish alive for years, years, in a teensy, grubby tank whose water quality was, frequently, shit—and then kill them both in less than two weeks in the brand-new, big tank that was supposed to make their lives better? Should I comfort myself that they had a week of great, fishy happiness in the big tank before it killed them? That they went together, just as they lived together for so long?

Dammit, why the hell am I crying over my freakin’ goldfish?

Give me a cat any day.

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