1/15/2009

When I am King: Filet Minions

When I am King...

Pet fish must die.

As a kid, I owned fish as pets. We had the tank with the filter with cotton and charcoal in it, and rocks and decorations, and lots of different fish. Dead fish. Dying all the time fish. That's all I remember about them: fish died. You get them, they swim around, then you find them belly-up in the tank one morning, transfer them to the toilet, and give them a watery grave.

So now, as an adult, or as someone pretending to be an adult so that my kids don't notice how unqualified I am for the position, I pushed back on having fish in the house. "Fish die," I told the kids, thinking that they'd see the wisdom of my sage advice. But why would they start now?

They kept at it, wanting fish, talking about getting fish, getting an aquarium, getting the whole thing and finally, in a momentary lapse of reason combined with a birthday for which we had no other present in mind, we got them some fish. It's basically the same setup I had as a kid, although the filter is now nicely packaged in disposable pouches that you can handily pay more for every month.

There was considerable grumbling as I got things ready to go: getting the tank located, getting the equipment situated and plugged in, getting the water stabilized, but we finally got everything working, got some fish and - tada! - we were fish owners.

And I have to admit, they had me going. After a few weeks of owning the tiny filets, I was thinking it wasn't too bad. In fact, they're a lot easier as pets than dogs, for one very good reason: they poop where they live and I don't have to worry about it. It's like raising a dog in a plastic bag that I never have to throw away.

But then they started dying. One day I walk by and one is floating at the top on its side like a, well, like a dead fish. The kids are wondering if he's practicing his sidestroke and I'm getting down the net of death for a toilet-bowl funeral.

Then the following week we lose another two, and all my memories of morgue tanks come floating back to me. The aquarium becomes a killing grounds. I can't walk by without feeling like the Grim Reaper. I start calling out, "Bring out your dead!" as I near the tank. They used to come up to the surface when I was around, assuming that it was feeding time. But now they swim lower down, thinking that it's the ones that hang out on the surface that never come back.

Clearly, we have water problems. So we study up on the problem and start cleaning the tank (apparently you can't let them swim in their poop for too long before it has an effect - I wonder how they handle this in lakes?), and changing filters, and vacuuming the gravel, and still they're dying by the pound.

Apparently, one of the problems is that the kids have been overfeeding them. Funny - the fish never complained.

Now, the whole tank has something called Ich, pronounced "Ick." Which I find hilarious. Imagine going to the doctor and having him tell you, "Mr. Haase, you appear to have a case of what we in the medical field call Yucky."

The disease is brought on by, among other things, stress. So the fish are working too hard in there, swimming from one side to the other and looking for food? Or is it just that they're stressed out wondering when they're going to die of some mystery tank problem?

We'll work through this latest problem, probably losing most or all of the fish in the process, cleaning the tank again, and populating it with new doomed creatures.

When I am King, fish will not be pets. They are simply too much work and tragedy. Instead, people will be encouraged to put orange and lemon peels into the tank; they look and act about the same, and have the added benefit of already being dead so that you don't have to suffer at the bedside of the terminally ill patients as they slip away.

Other solutions to the pet problem will be encouraged, especially those pets that live much longer. Like rocks. Fish as pets simply don't scale.

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