Tuesday, April 28, 2015
The Sad Tail of Bubbles the Goldfish
Presenting Bubbles. Bubbles is a goldfish. To be more precise, Bubbles is a Comet/common goldfish, the type usually found in large “feeder fish” tanks in pet stores. Feeder fish, for those who don’t know, are inexpensive fish sold to pet owners with large pets (usually other, larger fish) requiring live food to stay healthy. As intended bait for larger critters, feeder goldfish aren’t dealt a great hand in the poker game of life -- but bigger critters gotta eat, right? Bubbles is one of those rare goldfish to escape the feeder fish fate, but I’m not sure Bubbles was all that lucky in that regard.
A while back, I established a tank of Lake Malawi African Cichlids, fully aware that they weren’t the most, er, mellow of pet fish. However, I wanted fish that were colorful, tough, and didn’t require a lot of babying. Yes, African Cichlids will start killing each other if their environment isn’t ideal, so I took all the precautions that well-meaning Cichlid lovers recommend. Before getting the fish, I made sure the water quality was just right. I aquascaped the tank with lots of little terra cotta flowerpots (at least two per fish) to give the fish plenty of hiding places, so they could stake out territories and avoid each other. (The tank looked like the dumping ground of an unscrupulous flower shop, but I was determined to do right by my fishies.) I acquired baby Cichlids, all of the same species -- nine little fish total, in a 50-gallon tank. I made sure to feed them three small meals three times a day.
Because there were nine of them, the Cichlids were all named after Santa’s reindeer (including Rudolph), and at first all seemed well. I thought I’d succeeded in creating a good environment for the cute, spunky, colorful little fish.
Alas, my efforts were in vain. As they grew, the little buggers started eating each other. Eventually there was just one big fat triumphant fish left -- a big blue bully that my daughter renamed Carson for some reason. We don’t even know anyone named Carson.
Pecking orders and natural selection be darned -- I couldn’t even look at Carson without feeling bad for all those other murdered fish (never mind that they rather gleefully attacked each other before Carson did them in). So, Carson was returned to the pet store, which was more than happy to take in a big pretty blue Cichlid that could be resold to another (hopefully more experienced) Cichlid lover.
Still, I had to have something in that big ol’ fishtank of mine, but I didn’t want any more grumpy fish or any delicate fish. My options seemed limited. I finally decided to get something simple: GOLDFISH. Nice, simple, domesticated, benign, drama-free goldfish.
I started off with four small Comet goldfish, rescued from the feeder tank at the pet store. I figured, if any fish deserved a nice home, it was a feeder fish -- and besides, feeder fish are nice and colorful, and they cost next to nothing. Once the goldfish were established in their new home, I thought my aquarium fish issues were finally over.
There were four goldfish, three red/orange fish and one mostly-white fish. They all seemed to get along nicely. I also liked the way they crowded together at the front of the tank and watched me, the hubby, the kid, and the dog as we all walked around the living room. The mostly-white one even earned a name -- Bubbles. Such cheery, personable fish! It was a nice change from the grumpy Cichlids. No issues for a month. This was back in September.
In October, we went on a week-long trip and left the house in the care of our favorite house sitter -- someone who’s always been good at taking care of the dog and the fish. We arrived back home late on Saturday night, and …
Y’know, when I return home from vacation, one of the last things I want to hear from the house sitter is, “I don’t know how this happened, but--!”
Turned out the three orange goldfish -- my nice, benign, domesticated, stress-free goldfish -- ATE BUBBLES. Well, okay, they tried to eat Bubbles. More specifically, they ate all of Bubbles’ fins off, including most of Bubbles’ tail. There were nothing but little stumps where Bubbles’ fins used to be, and the tail was chewed down to a sad little nub. The house sitter still swears that the fish were regularly fed and seemed fine. The attack on Bubbles seemed to have happened one afternoon while the sitter was out.
None of the other smug little bastard goldfish had a mark on them.
How does a fish swim without fins and a tail, you might ask? Well, it tends to wiggle a lot. REALLY wiggle. That’s what Bubbles was reduced to doing, just to keep functioning as a proper fish. Lots and lots of wiggling. It had to be very tiresome work, but survival is a very impressive instinct, particularly in a goldfish.
Again, I couldn’t bring myself to look at the bully fish, but I didn’t want to return them to their previous pet-store-feeder-fish-tank fate. Thankfully, in my mom’s back yard is a very large, very established goldfish pond, and she agreed to add the three bullies to the fleet of Comets and Kois. So, off they went. Given the size of some of those Koi, though, maybe the little buggers ended up being feeder fish after all. I’ll probably never know.
Bubbles has been alone in that big 50-gallon tank since last October and doesn’t seem to mind the solitude one bit. I did tape some little round craft store mirrors to the outside of one end of the tank, just so Bubbles can at least see another fish when the need arises. Really, though, Bubbles seems fine. Bubbles still wiggles to get around the tank, still comes to the front of the tank to watch us, and still has a healthy appetite. Best of all, Bubbles’ fins are starting to grow back! Well, at least some of them are. They seem to be growing from back-to-front, starting with the tail. Bubbles’ tail -- that sad stub of a tail -- is almost completely grown back. Also, the anal fin is almost back to normal and the dorsal fin is about halfway grown. It remains to be seen if Bubbles’ pectoral and pelvic fins will return, but there’s hope.
So, I guess Bubbles is lucky in that he didn’t end up being fed to a larger critter, but talk about being unlucky amongst one’s peers!
I think maybe I’ll stick with just one fish from now on.