Take our fish, please!

So, what started as a small experiment in pet ownership has now spiraled into a full-fledged aquarium operation we don’t know how to stop or slow.

Tropical fish, it turns out, are just about the only pet that fit the many criteria we have regarding pets in our home. Dogs and cats aren’t allowed in the lease, and two of us are allergic; the wife would not, under any circumstance, share the same roof with any rodents, serpents or lizards. And pretty much all of us fell outside the societal subset of people who believe critters like tarantulas, scorpions and millipedes are appropriate specimens to be caged, cared for and admired.

(Involuntary shiver runs up spine.)

But like most kindergartners, Andy had a burning desire to be a pet owner, to experience the thrill of animal husbandry (if that term applies to fish) and to be smitten, as it turned out, by a plain-looking, rather grouchy platyfish he dubbed “Liddy.”

“Liddy’s hot!” he told me one day, not referring to the settings on the tank heater.

“Just say she’s cute, or pretty,” I advised. “Fish can’t be hot.”

“Well, she’s hot.”

Andy’s high opinion was apparently shared by Bob, the male platyfish who met his porcelain fate just days after coming home from Wal-Mart in Avon. We’d had expectations that Bob would sire a brood with Liddy, but our naïve beliefs looked something like this: Three to five fry (that’s aquarium jargon for “little baby fish”) every year or two.

We observed no unusual interaction between Liddy and Bob, romantic or otherwise. And, to be honest, we had no idea what that might look like and preferred it take place in the dark, behind the plastic plants.

And then Bob died, suddenly and unexpectedly. One minute, he was there in the tank doing almost exactly nothing (his default state), the next he was belly-up. And that, we figured, was the end of any amorous liaisons for Liddy.

Two weeks later, she had her first litter (or whatever). At first, we eyed with suspicion Rocky, the tank’s catfish, yeoman sucker of bottom skunge and ambivalent tank mate to Liddy. Could they have? Would they have? Rocky always seemed so focused on his skunge, but was there a sly old dog in there, we wondered, plotting ways to procreate across species? It was in violation of what we assumed were the natural laws of fish procreation.

A few weeks after Liddy’s first output of six fry, she plumped up again and kicked out another 14. We peered into the tank and looked at her, asking questions to which she offered no reply. She just gave us that look fish give you, you know the one: “You humans have no idea …”

So we bought the little net-tank that goes in the bigger tank so the babies could live there (Andy calls it the “baby carriage”). Then we bought another tank to handle the fry as they grew into teenagers. We wondered what we could do with these 20 offspring when Liddy fattened up again and squirted out another score of little platies.

(Note: It turns out playtfish females can store male sperm for months, impregnating themselves at will up to five times. For $2.56, it is truly the fish that keeps on giving.)

Andy, of course, thinks this is all wonderful and won’t hear of “finding nice homes” for some of the gang. As a foray into pet ownership has gone, it has been more exciting than we thought, but no one’s ever told us what to do with all these spare fish – party extras who slurp up the flakes, shrimp pellets and blood worms (I know, I know) with great zeal once they’ve gotten to be a day or two old.

So, take our fish, please. If anyone out there needs a couple of platies to start their own herd, just let me know and I’ll bring you in a bagful – no charge!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s