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Slices of Life - A family issue

September 30, 2016
Jill Pertler - Columnist , Traer Star-Clipper

Goldfish. Most people probably don't give them a penny's worth of thought. I never used to. Then my kid brought a few of the sparkly swimming gems home from a local fair and we were pet owners. This was last summer - over a year ago.

This year, when the same son asked if he could go to the fair, I had one admonishment: Don't come home with any more goldfish. After all these years as a parent, I'm still that nave.

Of course he came home with a goldfish. We all knew that's how this would end up.

So now we are goldfish plus-one.

No big deal, really. How much more complicated can one tiny, extra goldfish make things in the fish tank of life? Unfortunately that is not a hypothetical question.

As goldfish stepmom, I worried about various problems that could crop up with the latest member of the crop. Our newest fish is much smaller than the existing four, who have obviously grown during their time living in our kitchen. I worried about them picking on little "Sharkbait" - whether they'd nip at him or keep him from accessing his food. I worried he might not adapt to his new environment. Or that he wouldn't make friends with the existing team.

None of those things happened. Sharkbait joined the group and they seemed to welcome his smallness with open fins. But things were far from golden.

A couple of days after Sharkbait arrived, we found ourselves with a completely different fissue, or in layman's terms, a fish issue.

One of our perennial golden oldies had developed a red spot on his nose. It didn't look good so I got on the Wiki and searched for answers. Turns out it all comes down to habitat.

Goldfish, which are actually a type of colorful carp, don't like the small glass containers they so often call home. They do better in a larger environment - a recommended 20 gallons for the first fish, with 10 gallons for each additional set of fins. We have five fish. By my calculations, they need an entire bathtub - a large one.

This seemed counterintuitive to everything I knew about goldfish culture. I had a friend who kept her goldfish in a large goblet. It couldn't have held more than a couple of quarts of water. Her fish lived to a ripe old age, without any red spots anywhere. Apparently he was an anomaly. According to Wiki, "Fishbowls are not appropriate housing for goldfish, and are so detrimental to their health and well-being that they are prohibited by animal welfare legislation" (in some locations outside the U.S.).

Legislation or not, compared to a goblet my fish had an expansive pool. Despite that, they had a fissue, which was my job to fix. I found a vessel about twice as large as their current tank and set it up as their new home.

They seemed to like it. It's hard to tell with fish. They aren't big on showing emotions. Sharkbait lingered in the corner (maybe lonely), but after a time joined the rest of the group in swimming the lengths and depths of the new fish pad.

The extra water and space must have helped the red-nose situation. In a few days, the spot on Goldy's nose (we've since renamed him Rudolph) disappeared and he was back to swimming like his old self.

The five of them have been healthy ever since. Sharkbait is growing. I bet by this time next year he will have caught up to Rudolph and the rest of the gang.

Five fish isn't so many, really. Some people have a lot more. For us, though, five is enough. I don't want to have to upgrade and enlarge the tank ever again. That's why (and I'm sure you'll understand this) next year my son may have to skip the local fair. And I mean it this time.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don't miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

 
 

 

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