The Spawning of a New Era, Part II

Help me.

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.

GET ME OUTTA HERE!

P.S. Do you want a goldfish?

Pick one.
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10 Comments

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  1. This sounds like the start of a Haruki Murakami story. Egg bearers in general are difficult to breed. People who *want* to breed goldfish would envy you. Maybe you should just sell your magic tank to the highest bidder and then start over. With a single gender tank. Or you could put some of that stuff in the tank–the stuff that prisons supposedly put in the food. Perhaps the best solution is to put one of those separators in the tank and allow the two fishies to simply yearn for one another.

    Maybe you can earn some extra income selling caviar?

    • Alaina Mabaso May 5, 2011 — 4:14 pm

      Some have suggested that selling the babies would be a good way to make some extra cash…but even if I could do that, I’d probably just break even after all the fish stuff I’ve bought…

      I wonder if you can get a tank divider for one as big as mine. If so that would be a great idea.

  2. What a riot – maybe I shouldn’t have let you have so many pets as a child. A dog now sounds like less work than goldfish!

    • Alaina Mabaso May 5, 2011 — 4:15 pm

      oh please Mother – I wouldn’t even want to imagine childhood without pets, as you know. Goldfish are a lot more labor-intensive than I once thought…but I guess that’s true of most things.

  3. Candy Quintero May 5, 2011 — 4:35 pm

    Love it! Never have I been so enthralled reading about goldfish! If nothing else the suffering improves your art, right?

  4. Alaina, I can completely relate to your crisis! I have 3 black moors, 2 male 1 female, 1 female oranda, 1 male red panda oranda and a male fancy that is blind in one eye, I had them all in an 80 gallon tank. When they began to spawn for the first time this year in January I was thrilled. As the months have gone on and the spawning has continued, I went looking for a tank devider, I didn’t want to order one online do to worrying about them spawning again.
    I decided I would go to the hardware store and get a plastic sheet, drill holes for circulation. I put the 2 females on one side the males in the middle and also sectioned off a smaller part for my growing babies from some of the spawns that have survived to comeeput of my hatchling tank.
    I was sure that I had seen my last spawn till I was ready to have more babies. Yet this morning to my horror, both of my females laid eggs and the males fully cooperated by milting and now I have a new unwanted batch of miracle eggs?
    I feel I have looked everywhere and have found no help with the question “how do you stop goldfish from spawning”?
    I have enjoyed reading your blog! And I don’t feel alone in my crisis!
    I don’t think there is a way to keep them in the same tank and not have them dancing to their little hearts content! I think I will continue to do my best to save the hatchlings I can and hope for the best! Not sure is I have been of any help or if I just made your life a little harder? Good luck with what ever you decide with your babies big and small!

  5. Alaina Mabaso May 21, 2011 — 3:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing your fish saga, Jamahl. I too had a black moor for many years. Did you read my most recent post about the fry, detailing the installation and cruel effects of the tank divider?
    https://alainamabaso.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/an-embarrassment-of-fishes/

    The divider has worked well to prevent further generations, but no-one in my apartment who lives underwater is happy about that.

    It’s great to hear from at least one person who can relate to the problem of repeated spawning. I hope you visit the blog again. Among other topics, I will continue to give updates on the goldfish.

  6. Hey thanks for the fish saga,
    I’m just entering the world of goldfish breeding. I annually transfer my goldfish from a 70gal indoor tank to a 200 L outdoor rain barrel. I have done so since I have moved into my house 6 years ago and have several of the originals. This year I introduced 3 breeding mops to the rain barrels and almost immediately I had about 15 eggs, since then I have 9 fry in a 5 gal tank on some cinder blocks next to the rain barrels.

    Currently the fish are outside braving the elements until the fall. This leaves the basement 70 gal is just running with some snails and a small pleco. I plan on transferring the fry (about 3 months old) into the 70 gal and repopulate the 5gal fry tank with some new eggs. The reasoning behind this is that I have put in several more eggs into the 5gal, but I fear the current fry are feeding on the new eggs I introduce as I don’t see any new fry.

    Anyway, thanks and if you would like to follow my fish journey i am on youtube.com, user name IEATCHAIR, please come and see what’s happening.
    thanks again.

    • Wow, only 15 eggs? and you still have 9 fry? I’m impressed. I had hundreds of eggs and hundreds and fry. Now I have four of the original fry (starting to outgrow their parents), not counting the many who were adopted out. That’s interesting about the rain barrels – sounds like a neat thing to try. Thanks for stopping by and telling us about your fry adventure.

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