Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Here, Fishy Fishy Fishy...

Dagnabbit, I killed our Summer Fair Fish.

This was not the fish we won ourselves at last year's fair; this fish was one of a pair that my sister-in-law generously bestowed upon us after she took the kids to the fair this year, claiming "turnabout is fair play."

Eldest daughter promptly named them Lily and Leona. Leona promptly died.

But Lily? Defying all expectations, predictions, and natural laws regarding goldfish lifespans in our household, "she" lasted through Labor Day. I'll admit, that little survivor grew on me, as she became part of my morning and evening routines: make lunches, feed Lily; make dinner; feed Lily. Hi there, Little Fishy. I can't believe you're still alive! was my daily greeting as I pinched those smelly fish food flakes and let them float down into her bowl.

The longer the lone fish lived, the more invested I became in her well-being, which is why I felt guilty one evening last week as I noted that the water in Lily's bowl was one shade past murky and that I was one more day past when I thought I should probably clean the bowl.

I sure hope fish like fluoride, I thought the first time I filled our fishes' bowl in June, using a carefully-proportioned mixture of hot and cold bottled water from our water cooler. I continued in that vein all summer, until last week, when we were nearly out of bottled water and between deliveries. I knew deep in my soul that tap water could be deadly for fish, but I went ahead and mixed in some good old San Diego faucet water, complete with chlorine, boron, haloacetic acids, and lead.

Lily was belly-up before bedtime.

This wasn't my first mishap with goldfish. In middle school, when we were tasked with conceiving a science fair project, I chose an ill-fated experiment which flew under PETA's radar, thankfully. While other friends tested the effect of temperature on height of tennis ball bounce (requiring only an oven, freezer, tennis ball, yardstick and about one hour), I set out to determine how size of container influenced goldfish growth.

For months, my bedroom was host to a card table with rows of varied-size jars of goldfish. Goldfish died and I replaced them in what turned out to be a seriously flawed investigation. To measure the weekly growth of the fish, I used a graduated cylinder and observed and recorded displacement of water.

That is, when I remembered to put water in the cylinder. More than a handful of goldfish went *BONK* down to the bottom of the dry cylinder or got stuck pathetically to the side of the glass when I was more focused on the task of catching the fish than on preparing my measurement vessel.

Not to mention that any of you with half a scientific brain are by now noting the number of insurmountable variables at play in this experiment, which I made a weak effort to control, starting with amount of food fed each fish. Assuming, of course, all those different-sized fish required the same amount in the first place.

At the end of the experiment, I proved very little, except that 16 jars of fish will stink up one teenager's bedroom in a matter of days.

Instead of swearing off animal experimentation, I went on to torture mice in Genetics Lab in college. I eventually saw the light and switched career paths from medicine to education. The last experiment I conducted was on 9th graders, and they all survived.

But poor Lily, she didn't make it to Veterans' Day.

I had to break the news to our daughter, who had helpfully written up the following guide to fish care in June:

Daughter was bummed but forgiving, and participated in a bowl-side "burial" in the bathroom, a ceremony also known as "Fish Flush."

Since I am confessing to some killings here, I might as well mention that we're offing pumpkins and bees lately, too. But not ants. The ants are staying away.

For now.

1 comment:

Heather P.C. said...

This is a timely post. A friend of mine is out of town for ten days, and asked me to watch her daughter's beta fish, Red-Red, while she is gone. After cleaning out Red-Red's bowl (one of those big fish bowls), I hoist it back up to place it on top of the fridge, where the fish is residing out of harm's way from the cat, and the bowl tips. I grab at the bowl to recover it, but alas, it is too late; all the water, with fish included, goes spilling out across and down the fridge. I yell "Fish Emergency!" to call Alec (who crooned "Here, Fishy, Fishy, Fishy") and his brother to my aid. We search frantically for the fish, pulling down the bread, juice jugs, chips, and other miscellaneous items from atop (all soakered, along with treasured kids' artwork, favorite postcards, and paper-covered magnets), searching under the fridge and between the fridge and kitchen walls, and at last find her floundering behind the fridge beneath the smoke alarm that had fallen back there after its forceful removal from the ceiling. I add new water (and de-chlorine drops!) to the bowl and toss Red-Red in, hoping against hope that she will pull through this ordeal. Despite the odds of surviving a fall of five-and-a-half feet, a coating of behind-the-fridge-gunk, a not-so-gentle grabbing by a harried human, and an out-of-water time of at least a minute-and-a-half, she seems to be alive and well today. Whew!