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everything you always wanted to know about fish (*but were afraid to ask)

June 26th, 2008

If you make friends with the science teacher at school, chances are you’re going to end up babysitting the class fish for the summer.

Chances are this will turn into a “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” kind of experience, wherein…

* you will feed the fish the amount of food stated on jar of fish food.

* the fish will triple in size in one week. This will baffle you and your children.

* your husband will tell you, “They need a filter. And a heater. And they need out of that little fish bowl you have them in. They’re tropical, they’re not goldfish for the love of Mike.”

* you will think, “why is he always so damn smart?”

* your mom will bring over two of your dad’s old fish tanks (the smaller ones. You’re a beginner, y’know), plus some old Maxwell Coffee cans full of gravel (white, multi-colored, and Pop Rocks pink). Then she will go home to dig out the plastic plants, ceramic castle and scuba guy, and whatever else she can find.

* you will start fantasizing about gangsta-style fish tanks, like the one in “Scarface,” filled with salt-water fish. You will start considering how many hours it would take to care for this kind of tank.

* you will be jealous of the nice guy at the fish store (named, appropriately “The Wet Spot”) when he tells you that he has a 55-gallon tank, plus a small tank for his girlfriend’s betta. “She had to have a betta.”

* you will tell him that you want a big ol’ tank in the living room. He will tell you, “You’ve seen ‘Scarface’ too many times.”

* he will also inform you that you have been feeding the fish approximately three times too much. “Yeah,” he will say, “you feed ’em that much, they’re going to grow.”

* your two little borrowed fish will be identified as “blackskirt tetras.” (You will have brought in a photo, for ID’ing purposes. The photo will be taken and lovingly placed in the “Fish Baby Book” on the front counter.)

* you will realize that they take fish seriously at the Wet Spot. “Even if you don’t have a tank at home when you start working here,” the girl at the front counter will tell you, “you get one pretty quick.”

* You will be informed that these blackskirt tetras are sorta scrappy little fish, sorta the bullies of the tropical fish tank, and don’t really get along well with other fish. Especially those with fins. (Goodbye, mollies, angelfish, catfish — you’re too finny.) Also, your tank? It’s too small. You need a bigger one. Cuz fish in tanks follow this formula: two (or three) inches of fish per one gallon of water. We have a five-gallon tank set up and waiting. Our mean little tetras are going to get to be about three inches long. That means that tank is barely big enough for all their fierceness.

* in spite of this edict, the nice fish guy will allow you to adopt three neon tetras (tiny, and not mean) and one shy snail. Also, you will purchase a heater, filter/pump thing, more food, more dechlorinating drops, a selection of plants (fake — you need lights for real ones, and you may be getting a little dizzy at this point, thinking of filters/pumps/heaters… and lights? Shouldn’t the heater come with a light? Or something?)…

* also, you will purchase bloodworms. Frozen in two bricks. To feed them to the fierce little tetras, you dip out some of the tank water in a little bowl. Break off a chunk of the bloodworms. Watch them dissolve. Pour them into the tank. Put the remaining brick back in the freezer. You will be kind of fascinated by this process, and your kids will tell you, “You can do that part, okay?”

* your kid will read the fish book you bought and inform you that, “People get fish for some kind of reason. To relax, or to decorate their waiting rooms of their offices.” Why did we get them? you will ask her. She’ll think it over: “Because your dad had them.”

* you will decide fish are kinda nice. Even the little fierce ones.


  1. Vixen says

    Fantastic. And welcome to the fishy loving world.

    That is one damn smart kid you got there….

    June 27th, 2008 | #

  2. WackyMommy says

    Yeah, she’s smarter than her ma, for sure.

    June 27th, 2008 | #

  3. nan says

    This is so funny, because Tetras, guppies and other “tropical fish” live in the drains around here. Of course! When my sister settled in the UK, she decided to get some fish at the pet store to make her feel more like “home”. She picked up what she thought would be the cheapest stuff, and ended up spending a fortune!

    We have had plenty of good Tetras out of the drain, but they eat the guppies in no time, so we put them back.

    June 28th, 2008 | #

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