Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

22 Mar 2004, 12:37 p.m.

I Have Fish!

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2004 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

On Sunday, I bought two tiny goldfish at Aquatic Central, 1963 Ocean Avenue.

A week previous, I had washed off the existing gravel, put in water and some insta-ecosystem stuff, and turned on the air pump that bubbles the water in my four-gallon tank. The sound of the bubbler can be annoying and comforting; I dreamt of peeing at least once last week.

Yesterday I bought a net and food and water conditioner, picked out a fake plant for the fish to hide in (I'd wanted real but evidently a beginner shouldn't get too fancy with the ecosystem of the tank), and bought two "feeder" goldfish, one grey, one gold. (They are "feeders" not only because you can feed them to get them bigger, but also because you can use them as food for carnivorous fish.)

I had wanted pet fish, off and on, for ten years. I reasoned: I can talk to them and they won't talk back; they will not escape or chew on things or void their bowels or bladders where they shouldn't. I saw them as controllable.

But as soon as the owner passed me the plastic bag holding Dave and Betty, two little arrows hit my heart. So tiny! So helpless! The reason I wanted them is the very reason that I am keenly responsible now. They cannot fend for themselves at all.

So, yesterday, I anxiously watched them in my tank. Were they agitated? Was the water too cloudy? Had I fed them too much? What right had I to take over their lives for my own amusement? I couldn't think of any secrets to confide in them; I only thought of their welfare. In tears, I told Leonard that I just want them to be happy.

Leonard, who has owned fish, inspected my tank and my fish and reassured me. Dave and Betty have food, and plenty of room, and each other for company. They are safe from predators and have a bubbler, their reflections, an uneven rock surface, and a fake plant for stimulation. And they are getting acclimated to the tank, their new home.

So it is reasonable to believe that they are as happy as goldfish can be.

I like that my fish will be waiting for me when I come home. I worry about them, and I know they'll die, and I'll feel bad even if it's not my fault that they die. But at least they are happy right now, and I can derive pleasure from that happiness.