An Embarrassment of Fishes

The newest Mabaso fish: note well-grown month-old fry and tiny day-old fry, clinging to the sides.

This time around, at least, I have some experience.  As I eyed the latest round of goldfish eggs stuck to the crib holding their month-old (and two-week old) brethren, I weighed my choices. It was too late for preventive measures. I had to decide if I would leave this round to the mercy of their 7-inch parents in their 40-gallon world.

I got out the mixing bowl.

It was a tricky operation, but I dumped the existing fry into the bowl and removed their impending siblings from the outside to the inside of the crib using a baby-food spoon and a cheese knife. I scanned the rest of the tank, but could not see any more eggs. I replaced the crib and all its denizens.

I waited. In the meantime, I also worried about poor Princess, still knocking herself against the filter in vain.

It didn’t take more than another day. The new fry began to emerge. Every egg in the crib hatched. But to my deeper chagrin, dozens of fry had obviously escaped my earlier inspection. What could I do but go after them with the glass measuring cup that was dedicated to the fish tank years ago? (We have an identical measuring cup in the kitchen cupboard and my husband worries that one day, I’ll mix them up.)

By now, I am an expert at the Ambush and Scoop. With most fry clinging to the tank’s sides relatively close to the surface, one can quickly and gently plunge the cup into the water behind them, and the fry are sucked harmlessly in. Then I pour them into the crib. (Whether or not Serious Goldfish Breeders have ever employed this technique does not interest me.)

Instead of working on the essays I wanted to finish, doing the laundry, or watching my Netflix DVD, I spent hours scooping fry. Then I sighed in resignation, unplugged the power cord, and rescued all the babies that had been sucked into the filter.

Seeing that the population of the crib has almost doubled, the problem of Princess came into even sharper focus.  When the first batch was hatched I said I can’t handle this ever again, and now that I’m chasing the third, I’d like to say that I really can’t handle this ever again.  Princess hates the nunnery, but I’m certainly not risking a co-ed tank.

I went back to the pet store and bought some bits of mesh, plastic and wire that assemble into a “Tank Divider.” This costs $14.99. There are many fish you can buy for this price, but at this time it is necessary for me to spend fifteen dollars to NOT have any more fish.

I thought Princess would be happier if she had more space and was in her accustomed environment. But she is like those sad little lizards at PetSmart who try endlessly to climb the glass fronts of their terrariums. When she is not looking high and low for a weakness at the top, bottom or sides of the divider, she is resting with her lips to the fence.

Sometimes she noses the crib, but no-one in there gives her any comfort. Her erstwhile suitors sometimes visit her on their side of the wall as well as they can. Wherefore art thou egg bearers?

“She’s going to go Free Willy on that thing,” was my husband’s opinion on the Tank Divider. I am just irritated that now I am responsible for three separate food disbursements in a single tank.

Those who know me personally have begun saying “How are the fish?” instead of “How are you?” I tried to sell the world premiere baby photo at the top of this post to US Weekly or People for ten million dollars, but they didn’t want it. To the readers who are enjoying this saga: I will continue to write about my goldfish adventures on one condition. No more caviar jokes.

There's no such thing as the fun side when you can't hang out with the boys.


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  1. I strongly suggest switching to tetras. Or maybe barbs. Angel fish? If you are really adventurous–tropical reef.

  2. Alaina Mabaso May 21, 2011 — 3:51 pm

    But I wouldn’t abandon my current goldfish…So I would have a tank of Tetras or whatever, and the problem goldfish as well, presumably. Goldfish live much longer lives than I was aware of when I purchased mine. So I’ll have to wait until their natural demise before I experiment with a new kind – I don’t have room for a second aquarium. I do still like goldfish, for all their stresses…

  3. Hello Alaina,

    Not really sure where to start, good new or what i feel is bad news?
    I think I’ll ramble for a bit, if thats ok…

    I have an 80 gallon tank, 3 black moors, 1 female, 2 males, 1 gold female oranda, 1 red panda oranda and a gold fancy male.

    My first spawn, as you call it “happy dance” started 2-4-11, I was very excited because my males had started showing the signs of maturity and I have had all of my 6 babies for about 2 to 3 years, long enough for them to all reach adulthood. From my first spawn I was only able to save 5 of the little guys cuase we were moving and I was also very unprepared for the event. Out of those 5, I have one that has lived through the move and the last few months.

    I was sad that I only had 5 babies, reading info on goldfish fry made it worse cuz I wasn’t sure if any of them were gonna make to adulthood let alone through the next week. Too my surprise once I got my tank set up and my babies in their homes, the Spawning began!

    First the oranda would spawn then a couple days later the black moor would spawn, I would have a week or a few days and they would go again, I stopped counting after spawn #15 cuz I couldn’t keep track anymore, I built a wall in the tank to keep them apart, that didn’t work! They would just swim over it or push through any crack in the rocks they could find, a few spans later I went to the pet store to get a devider, they didn’t have one in stoke big enough for my tank. So I went to the hardwear store and got a plastic sheet, drilled holes in it and put it in the tank girls on one side boys on the other. The females seemed very saddened by the separation, yet with baby flurries going on 20 plus, I can handle them being sadish for a while…

    The divider went in on the 9th of this month.

    This morning to my horror, I come to feed my babies, check on my growing fry, I find eggs on the bottom of the tank? I was sure I was done with the spawnings because I had separated them, I caught most of the orandas eggs in a net and milked the male of choice over them, and a few mintes later, my black moor begins to shower the tank with more eggs. This is the first time I have had them spawn together…

    At this point I’m begining to think that no matter what I do they are going to spawn! Unless I get another tank and pull the females out, and I don’t have the finances for that or the space…

    I think that once they start they don’t stop! I really hope the divider works for you, nothing has worked for me…

    Sorry if I have gone on to long.

    P.S. once the fry are big enough they will start to eat each other! I found that out the hard way, yet I have a big baby to show for it…

    • Alaina Mabaso May 21, 2011 — 4:03 pm

      Well I hadn’t thought of the babies eating each other, but that makes sense…so far I’m not aware of any cannibalism, but if it occurs, I certainly don’t have a separate tank for each one.

      My fish settled down after a few days with the divider, and I reunited them. They were calm after awhile, but then the dance began again. I took no measures to save the eggs, and no-one new hatched. In the meantime, the divider went back in.

      I have had a bit of a die-off among my fry, though I’m not sure of the cause. I’ve heard from several fronts that it’s normal to go through a few death cycles and that not everyone’s going to make the cut . I’m preparing to move the fry to their own tank in case the adults’ ammonia in the large tank is the problem. I will probably write another update within a few days.

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