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