Alaina Mabaso's Blog

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Tag: goldfish fry photos

The Spawning of a New Era: One Year Later

Many of you have been following the story since my goldfish unexpectedly hatched a few hundred fry almost exactly a year ago. Here’s a visual finale of sorts.

I didn’t know it at the time, but on the day our goldfish fry hatched, my husband made a video. I didn’t know he was filming while I was on the phone to a singularly unhelpful aquarium store, whose staffer intimated that he might be willing to give me advice if I came into his store, but wasn’t interested in telling me anything over the phone.

Here, for the first time, are the fry at just a few hours old, while I, a concerned and ignorant fish mother, am antagonized by an unsympathetic world.

Once I assembled the right equipment, for the first month or so, my main problem was that parents kept spawning. If you ever wondered what goldfish eggs look like, here you go. You can actually see the tiny fish curled up inside. At that point they’re mostly eyeballs and a spine.

At one day old, goldfish fry mostly cling to the side of the tank. They look nothing like fish.

But they quickly left their infancy behind:

At this point I was reading a bunch of fish care books that said I should “cull” 99% of the fry. So I was pretty stressed out, given my reluctance to kill the babies (the books didn’t say how I should do it) and my simultaneous knowledge that I would NEVER be able to find that many homes for goldfish.

The illusion that the fish were my children was reinforced by products like the net breeder, which was basically an underwater playpen, that my husband and I had to assemble.

I blinked and the fish were one month old.

Probably not the most humane photo opp, I realize now.

In no time at all, it had been two months since they hatched.

Somebody gave me this casserole dish for my wedding and this is how I used it. The fry had to go somewhere while I cleaned the tank.

The fry began to enjoy what I called egg bombs, which was a piece of hard-boiled egg yolk wrapped in cheesecloth and dunked in the tank.

At about three months, the fry discovered the joy of peas, which I carefully shelled and squashed for them.

At this point, summer vacation intervened, and rather than trust anyone else with my babies, I packed their tank and they rode in a bucket with me to the Jersey shore for a week. I should’ve taken some pictures.

I took more pictures when they were about five months old.

In case you're wondering, this is how much fish food I have.

Here is Augustus McCrae, (front) the first fish to have a name, always the biggest of the bunch.

Gus continued to grow.

Gus's companion, Woodrow Call.

Lorena Wood.


Unfortunately (or fortunately for my friends who were already bothered enough with offers of goldfish), Nemo was among many fry who bit the gravel. Like many other batches of animals born by the hundreds, not every goldfish fry that hatches will make it.

At eight months, seven of the largest were ready to go their new home. I put them in a jar for the ride.

My fry meet their new friends in the tank at Abington's Tien Thai Pho restaurant.

Meanwhile, back at home, the remaining survivors, who have gone from the playpen in the big tank to several months in their own two-gallon tank, go back into their parents’ tank.

Yes, someone is always pooping.

Bling (one of two possible fathers) and Augustus.

One month later, my childhood art teacher, still a friend today, adopts six of the fry.

The promises of a few other friends to adopt turn out flakier than fish food, but it’s ok. Goldfish are quite a responsibility, I’ve learned. I’ve had my oldest ones for about eight years and they have moved with me no less than eight times.  Cleaning a 40-gallon tank is no picnic, their equipment and materials are expensive, and every time I go out of town I have to set up these irritating battery-powered feeders.

The one-year-old Woodrow Call settles into his new digs. Note that the fish behind him is actually about six years old.

And then, Mom decides that she wants a few – Gus and Call, in particular. So, for her 52nd birthday (and Gus and Call’s first), I bring them in a bucket. By the time Gus and Call arrive at their new tank, they are extremely well-traveled goldfish, having visited four states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

Mom already has four goldfish known as The Wedding Fish. When I got married five years ago, she decided that goldfish would make a charming centerpiece for the tables. Four of them survived the reception and the day after the wedding, I bought a tank for them. They’ve lived at my parents’ house ever since.

A furry big brother.

So there you have it. Seven fry are left. A few are still available for adoption if you’re serious about fish. A year after they hatched, I sometimes still stop to reflect on the bizarre fact that one night last year, I went to bed with three fish and woke up with three hundred.

Here’s a video from this week, featuring both the original culprits and their remaining progeny in some excellent pellet-gulping action.

For those who haven’t been in on it from the beginning and want the whole story, visit The Goldfish Fry Saga category and scroll to the bottom for the first post.


An Embarrassment of Fishes: They Grow Up So Fast

The first to go.

I know I should have just been glad that someone wanted seven of my goldfish – a significant percentage of the population. But it was surprisingly hard to choose which ones I would scoop into the jar. How many silver fish, how many golden ones, how many white? Whoever I scooped wouldn’t be coming back.

At home at Tien Thai Pho.

This is what I’d been hoping for ever since I realized, over seven months ago, that my apartment would be full of goldfish, possibly for the rest of my life. I knew my babies would have a good life with their new brothers and sisters in the fish tank at Tien Thai Pho restaurant (an excellent Thai/Vietnamese fusion place in Abington, PA where you can share a huge bowl of pho with the hubby, sans cilantro if you ask). But it was still difficult to dump the fishies in.

A host of worries plagued me for the rest of the evening. What if the other fish chased them? What if the new tank scared them? What if they got sick? What if they didn’t like their new food? What if they didn’t snag enough at feeding time?

Now I know how my mom felt the first time she dropped me off at the dorm.

Augustus McCrae

I decided it was time to move the largest remaining specimens in with the big boys (and girl). They couldn’t stay in the two-gallon tank in the kitchen forever. The tank divider, so useful last spring when I realized that Princess, Werner and Bling had no intention of halting the spawning as long as I left them together, was pressed back into service.

Lorena Wood

This time, I partitioned about 1/6th of the tank on the far left side and poured the biggest little fish right in. A shiny, pearly-charcoal colored pair immediately slipped around the side of the barrier and began exploring, and I gasped in horror as Princess swished toward them. She was big as a whale.  The babies dashed back into the pen.

Like a parent who furnishes her basement with a big-screen TV and an Xbox (is that what the kids are playing nowadays?), I added a miniature pirate ship to the pen to make it more inviting, scooping out the gravel underneath to make a perfect hidey-hole, in hopes that the babies would prefer to stay home, rather than swim the wide, dangerous world of the big tank.

Woodrow F. Call

They caught on immediately. Sojourns to the greater tank became common – a few even mingled with their parents from time to time. But home is definitely behind the fence, and they gather comfortably there for most of the day. Werner is the only adult fish who seems to notice that something has changed: he spends long periods peeking uncharacteristically at the left side of the tank, as if he knows something is going on over there, but he can’t quite fathom what.

But two days ago, I happened to glance in and see Augustus and Spot – the largest fry – alone in the pen. I scanned the tank for their companions – where were Lorena, Ron, Woodrow, Mohawk, Tang, Newt and Colonel Brandon?  They were all gone. In a rising panic, I opened the filter and shone a flashlight inside. Nothing.


There was only one answer. The fry had gone on a happy expedition, and their parents had gotten hungry.  It was a painful end to all those months of ichthyological nurture. In one more quailing, hopeless effort, I lifted up the plastic Parthenon.


Like the cool kids hanging out under the bleachers, there they all were.  Who knows how they all swam under there or why they preferred the algae-ridden darkness.

And like cheeky adolescents, the same babies who used to dance with excitement when I leaned over the small tank now dash to the opposite side of the barrier whenever I look in on them. If I had followed goldfish-manual protocol, 99% of them would have been “culled”, and now they don’t even want me to look at them. That’s gratitude for you.

Ronald Weasley

P.S. Local readers: some individuals still in need of permanent homes.

The big'uns - some of these still available for adoption.

The smaller fish continue to live in the kitchen tank.

Mom, Dad and Dad











Augustus goes exploring.

An Embarrassment of Fishes: And Then There Were 43

Goldfish fry at five months.

If you’re new to the blog and want to catch the beginning of the goldfish fry saga, here’s the original post

Since the momentous day of their hatching on March 31st 2011, the fry have been growing in size and shrinking in numbers, and that’s probably best for everyone involved.

During the latest cleaning of the babies’ two tanks, I counted every fish for the very first time since they were hatched. For weeks I had estimated that the population had dropped below fifty, which is much easier to count to than two or three hundred. After scooping the residents into their clean tanks two and three at a time, I learned that exactly forty fry remain. I know it’s been an interesting year when I count 43 live fish in my apartment and then breathe a sigh of relief that there are so few.

What a pretty pair!

My acceptance of the natural decline in the fry population does by no means imply that I have failed to nurture them to the best of my ability. When I went to the beach for a week in August, I worried that no-one else would care for them all properly while I was away. So I put them in a bucket, packed their equipment, and we all rode down to the shore together.

As several fish manuals warned me, feeding all of these fish is quite a project. Today I decided to find out just how many kinds of fish food I possess.

You have to understand, some of these I have purchased out of necessity, and some of them I have because Santa Claus, having got wind of my hobby, now puts fish food in my Christmas stocking. Some of these I purchased because after reading the labels in the pet store, I became convinced that they would transport my fish to a kind of gustatory nirvana (did you know that goldfish taste things with their lips?) while increasing their health, appetite and color. Eight times out of ten, the fish don’t seem to care that I’ve purchased a special treat for them, when there are the daily Medium Pellets to be had.

With so many different fish to feed, it’s natural that I must take different tastes into account. Some goldfish prefer to feed from the bottom of the tank, some prefer to nibble from the surface of the water. Some goldfish go gaga for algae and some do flips for brine shrimp. So I’m justified in having enough fish food to open my own shop. Right?

I just remembered that there is packet of frozen brine shrimp in my freezer that didn’t make it into the photo.

About a month ago, the babies reached the important milestone of noticing me through the glass, and wriggling desperately lest I pass the tank without feeding them.

Shopping at the farmer’s market one day, it occurred to me that it’s no wonder we’re conditioned to feed our goldfish freeze-dried pellets from small plastic cans. Nowadays, how much human food comes dried or frozen in cardboard containers? But we need fresh food, and (who knew?) so do the fish.

arrr, matey...actually it's not an eye patch, some of the fish just have one black eye.

Now, despite the pantry of fish food crowding my shelves, I have begun tossing a bit of whatever I’m cooking into the fry tanks. Apple, egg, chicken, ground beef, vegetables – they tear into it all like tiny, toothless Great Whites. I purposely neglect to clean their plastic plants, because they love to eat the algae on them between feedings.

For goldfish, the food options don’t end there. To be honest, the babies’ current separation into two tanks, one for the little ones and one for the bigger ones, was not entirely due to space considerations.

Let me warn my more sensitive readers that they might not like what comes next.

One morning a few weeks ago, I woke up to discover that the biggest fry had the smallest fry’s tail sticking out of his mouth. I immediately thumped on the glass, in the manner strictly forbidden by all respectable aquarium stores, and the big fish spat out the small fish, which swam hurriedly away.

An Embarrassment of Fishes: Multiple Tank Syndrome

It's a fry feeding frenzy with ground fish food in a cheesecloth pouch.

Since the employees in the aquatic department at PetsMart have repeatedly demonstrated that they have only the most basic grasp of fish care, and there is a dearth of good aquarium specialty stores in Philadelphia, I have begun going out to a store called The Hidden Reef. It is nestled among one of several depressing Levittown strip malls. Its original location in Philadelphia burned down, just like the clubs I used to go to when I was in college.

Besides, The Hidden Reef, despite having a single location, has much cheaper prices than the PetsMart chain, and I can stock up on filter media, water conditioner, carbon and aquarium salt. I also thought they might have a lead as to what to do with all of my fish, when they grow up.

“Can I help you with anything?” an employee approached as my husband and I roamed the aisles, arms full of aquarium products.

“Well, my goldfish spawned,” I said.

“Oh. I’m sorry.” He said. “How many do you have?”

“About fifty or so,” I replied. “Look, I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do with all of them. Do you have any leads on how to find people who want free goldfish? I guess this is the wrong question to ask a fish store.”

“No, yeah, goldfish, man,” he said. “They never stop. We got people coming in here all the time with goldfish. There’s always a manager on duty here, bring ‘em by, we’ll take ‘em for you.”

“And you guys can sell them?”

“Welllll. Yeah. Eventually.”

“But mine are mutt goldfish. They’re half fantail and half comet.”

“Ehh. Yeah. That’s fine. Just bring ‘em.”

“But I want them to go to good homes,” I said. “I don’t want to raise them for all these months and then have them die after two days in some goldfish bowl.”

“Welllll. Yeah.” He shrugged mournfully. “Honestly I can’t guarantee that. Out here in Levittown, you know, we’re not exactly talking about the best people to take care of fish.”

I was surprised that, as a specialty retail employee, he would so casually knock his core customer base. But I was also grateful to hear the truth about my goldfishes’ likely fate at The Hidden Reef.

“I’ve had my fish for years,” I said.  “The adults are in a forty gallon and the fry are in a two gallon. I don’t know what the heck I’m going to do when they get bigger. I guess I need another small tank. I don’t have room in my apartment for any more tanks.”

“No, no, no,” he said. “Let me tell you. I used to have a pair of rare-breed piranhas. I love piranhas. I had ‘em in eighty gallons. They kept spawning, and I could sell every baby piranha for fifty bucks after three or four months.”

“Ok, how many tanks?” I asked.

“Alright. One bedroom apartment, ok?” He said. “Twenty-eight tanks.”

He looked at us. “Ha, I love it. It’s like the tables are turned, because it was me making my girlfriend put up with all those fish tanks. But I guess women can do that too.”

I tried not to look at my husband. While he cares for the fishes’ welfare and feeds them diligently when I’m out of town on assignment, he has made his distaste clear for several aspects of the aquarium: the noise of the filters at night, the piles of fish products. There have been certain derogatory comments on the natural girth and greed of the fish. Then there’s the fact that I appropriated the turkey baster, formerly an invaluable tool for roasting moist poultry, as a cleaning tool for the fry tank.

“Multiple tank syndrome, it’s real,” said the employee. “There’s no antibiotic for that.”

I am currently at three tanks, but I’ve had a terrifying glimpse at what can happen to people like me.

Won’t you help?

For those who are truly devoted to the fry’s progress,  click on the picture below for a link to the world-premiere video of the feeding frenzy. 


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