It’s been over a month since life changed forever in our apartment with the unheralded arrival of hundreds of fry. But my goldfish problem has only gotten worse.
I did a lot of research when the babies were first hatched. I bought new goldfish books, scoured goldfish blogs and pestered aquarium store staff. Basically what I have learned is that raising goldfish is a chancy business best undertaken only by the serious, adequately experienced fish-keeper. After I posted the first blog about the fry, a wistful fellow blogger commented that he’d been trying to get his fish to spawn for years, but had never managed it.
I envy him.
Frankly, I’m a bit embarrassed. Things are really out of control over here, and I don’t know who I can turn to.
Most instruction on goldfish breeding makes it sound pretty miraculous that any goldfish make it to adulthood at all. First there are the admonitions that aspiring goldfish breeders begin preparations months in advance, with special tanks, products, food and water temperature, as if they’re preparing for a risky military operation and not a bunch of eggs.
Once fish actually spawn, not all of the eggs will be fertilized, and there is also the goldfish tendency to eat all of the eggs they can find. The ones left are subject to a fungus that rapidly kills them. It takes a few days for the survivors to hatch, but once they do, they once again risk becoming dinner if they hatch within the parents’ tank. They are sensitive to temperature, pH and sudden changes in water quality. They need tiny, specialized food. There are no less than five different fish foods on the shelf with the photos of our parents (and one food in the freezer). One goldfish writer opined that most fry are apt to die off of starvation, regardless.
But nowhere is there any advice on how to stop goldfish from spawning.
This is my problem.
About two weeks after the hatching, I noticed the fish doing what in our apartment we now call “the crazy dance”. In fact, they were behaving exactly as they had before the spawning. I tried to ignore it for a few hours, thinking that if it’s so difficult to get fry, they couldn’t possibly be at it twice in the same month.
The sight of brand-new eggs in the tank cruelly ended my denial. I immediately removed Princess to a bucket, fed her, and left her there with a bubbler all night. Meanwhile, I cleaned the tank, removing the plastic plants to rinse them.
Three days later, the surviving new fry hatched. What could I do but scoop them into the playpen with their big brothers and sisters? Fortunately, probably due to my efforts, I could count only six of them.
I thought that would be the end of it.
It wasn’t. About a week later, the dance began again. This time, I could see most of the eggs stuck to the outside of the playpen, while a few, inexplicably, were actually inside it. The only explanation for this I can summon is that the parents, splashing like exuberant whales during their more spectacular leaps and knowing that they would be hungry later, had thrown some eggs into the crib for safekeeping.
It was a tricky operation, but I removed the crib from the tank and transferred the babies to a bowl I use for making muffins on less hectic days. Then I scrubbed the crib of all eggs. The Pope or the GOP probably wouldn’t approve, but I don’t see any of them offering to raise several hundred fish in a one-bedroom apartment on a freelance writer’s pay.
I waited anxiously. No more fry appeared.
Not to say there weren’t problems in the meantime. Yes, a few of the fry have died off week to week of unknown causes, but let’s face it – it’s a loss we can afford. But Werner seemed to have sustained or exacerbated a wound on his tail in all the excitement, and I removed him to a small “hospital” tank for treatment. At the end of his treatment, he grew restless and miserable (I thought). He butted desperately against the glass and swished around and around. I returned him to his companions in the large tank. He settled almost immediately and all three of them looked ready to relax. I gave the fry their midnight snack and went to bed.
That was two nights ago. Yesterday morning, the dance was on again. Without wasting any time, I converted the hospital tank to a nunnery, and put Princess into it. Werner and Bling immediately went back to their regularly-scheduled napping and gravel-browsing.
Today, Princess is furious. She’s knocking against the filter, whirling and splashing. I know how she feels, because I’ve attended Christian boarding school. Romantic and sexual liberties certainly involved both the boys and the girls, but it was the female dormitory that was on veritable lockdown most hours of the day and night, RAs prowling the halls. Princess’s only crime was laying a few too many eggs, but I’d rather lock her up than double the underwater population.
When I came home from my morning meeting, I fed the babies lunch and did my usual check on the seaworthiness of the crib.
Oh no. Under the crisp brightness of the fluorescent tank light, I can see the next generation curled inside the tiny, transparent eggs.
“Just let them be fish,” my husband said several weeks ago, tired of my fry-related stress as I tried to halt the third spawning. It’s a dilemma.
All my life, I’ve felt a keen responsibility to my pets, from dogs to hermit crabs. I always believed that if you bring home an animal, you have made a commitment to care for it for the span of its life. But what if the animals you purchased begin to reproduce excessively?
What should I do? Keep Princess penned? Haul out the old ten-gallon tank from storage and find a place for it in the apartment? Or return her to her amorous companions and resign myself to weekly caviar-purges? The babies will need the ten-gallon in a few months, anyway (I already lie awake at night, wondering where it will go). I need a goldfish writer to stop telling me how challenging it is to hatch fry, and tell me how to stop the onslaught, because I don’t think I am up to maintaining the tank, the crib, AND the nunnery.
P.S. Do you want a goldfish?