My 59 gallon aquarium of about 7 years had begun to seep. A ugly cascade of impenetrable scale had solidified down one side of the tank. I'm pretty attached to keeping an aquarium; I have to discipline myself to keeping only one. Sheesh, it's fish. What's wrong with me?
Our current budget is tight, buying a new tank would be unjustifiable. The obvious thing to do was to give away the fish and retire the tank, and still, I had to talk myself into calling my favorite fish store to see if they would take my large, lazy angel fish and my mysterious, mighty plecostomus.
I called them three times.
The first time I got a green light from the fish store, I got all sad and lost my nerve. It's just fish, for cryin' out loud. What is wrong with me?
The second time I called, I had gathered my buckets and enlisted my daughter to help. She pointed out that the angel fish wasn't actually looking so well. She is always right about things like this. He was definitely in decline. I would never deliver a sick fish to a fish store. Sadly, the old guy died a week later.
Now only the plecostomus remained. It should have been easy. I called the fish store again. They were still happy to take him, but clarified that I should bring the fish in after 4:30 pm, so that the guy who knew the best tank for him would be on hand. Terrible timing for us, with traffic and kids' activities. I stalled out again.
Then out of the blue, my parents pulled a perfect 40 gallon Plexiglas aquarium out of my sister's attic when they were helping her move. I pounced. The new tank is smaller and totally sound. I began to envision a revitalized freshwater community of little fish.
I dragged my son with me to browse at the closest fish store, which does not happen to be my favorite fish store. We gazed into all the tanks, debating the temperaments, compatibility, and appearances of various fish. We were indecisive, uninspired, and about to leave empty-handed when the Coolest Kid walked in.
I wish I had a photo of this kid. Specifically, a photo of him talking about fish. Jack, a high school sophomore, had chased down the store's aquarium guy, and was actively engaging him in lively discussion of cichlids that were currently in the store, and others in his home tanks, comparing notes and swapping stories. This kid was so inspiring that I am considering tracking him down to ask to interview him about his various aquaria and his obsession with cichlids.
I eavesdropped on their conversation for about a minute before I was unable to resist asking them both about some electric yellow cichlids I had been considering. I haven't owned cichlids, but they are interesting and beautiful. How much space? How aggressive? Could I keep my plecostomus, or would a breeding pair go after him? Was there a cichlid I could put in my tank that would work?
They were both super-knowledgeable and friendly, and the next thing I knew, I was asking about a solitary male Convict Cichlid who minutes before, I had completely written off. The fish in question was at the top of the tank, and appeared to be stuck to the intake filter. I learned that he had been dropped off by his owner a few days previously because another fish had been attacking him. His fins are ragged, his color indicates stress, and his demeanor made him seem like a lost cause.
As I described my tank situation to them - a mature tank with only one reclusive resident - we all began to see the possibility of my adopting this guy. I had been sure that fish was going to die, but they assured me that he would recover, and that moving him to a 40 gallon tank with places to hide and no attackers would do him a world of good.
So we brought him home.
Every day, his color improves, and every day, he acts a little less traumatized.
As I write, I am surreptitiously watching him arrange gravel. He is very shy. If I move suddenly, look directly at the tank, or head over there with my camera, he darts for the safety of his cave.
IT'S A FISH. What is wrong with me?