Monday, December 31, 2007

Bringer of Death

One morning, I was running a few hours late on a daily chore I call "feeding the barn." We have a cat, a rabbit and some fish. It was late morning by the time I got around to feeding the fish. My daughter noticed me grab the fish food from an upper bookshelf, pinch a few flakes into the tank and I went about feeding the other animals.

After the others had been fed, I walked back into the front room where my aquarium sits and I noticed my daughter standing on her little foot stool she uses at bathroom sinks to reach the faucet for washing, brushing, etc. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, just her standing on the stool next to the fish tank, nothing in her hands, her looking at me. No particular expression.

It was at this moment, I had a thought. She's two going on three and she has started mimicking things we do, repeating certain phrases too. I had a thought that since she just saw me feed the fish a few minutes before, she might like to try that too. I checked the fish food canister, it was still on the bookshelf where I left it, lid on and everything. Normally out of reach for a three foot little girl, but I did notice that thanks to her plastic height supplement, she was now tall enough to reach it. So I checked the tank.

Time stopped.

What I saw, or rather what I didn't see in that aquarium was unbelievable. There was so much fish food floating in my 30 gallon tank, I could no longer see the fish, the plants, the miniature roman ruins, fake rocks; nothing but floating fish food occupying every cubic inch of my tank.

I grabbed the fish food canister that didn't look out of place and I ripped off the lid. It was completely empty. I had just bought the food a few weeks ago, it was pretty full last time I checked and now I was staring at the bottom of an emptied yellow canister, awed by what my two year old daughter had accomplished.

I leaped to action. Emergency extraction from the tank into a breathable water to try and save my fish. The hard part was that I couldn't find them, the tank was so cluttered. I shoveled out as much fish food as I could, like ski patrol digging for survivors in an avalanche to get a location on the life inside. Eventually I spotted them.

They didn't want to go willingly. They hadn't been in the net since I cleaned the tank over a year ago but after a lot of chasing around, I was able to get them out and into a miniature tank I had ready.

They were finally out and in clear water while I worked on cleaning the tank.

The next day, the catfish died. Unfortunate, but I happen to know this particular breed does not deal with excitement very well. I figured the transference to the new environment was too much for it. So I flushed him and hoped for the best on his roommates.

A couple of days went by and the Black Skirt was swimming on his side. That's not good. I knew he didn't have much time left. The next day, he was still on his side but on the bottom of the temporary tank, no gill movement. Flushed. Also not a good sign as generally Black Skirts are very hearty fish. Nothing kills them unless they're on dry land.

Over the next couple of days, the remaining fish begin to swim crippled as well and eventually they all died.

The number one killer of fish is over feeding. All that excess food they had temporary access too and the excitement of the transference must have been too hard on them. The last three fish died in the same day so I had a 3-way toilet funeral for them. The executioner of these fish was standing beside me in the bathroom during my send off. She thought it was neat to see the fish corpses floating around in the toilet bowl. When I pulled the lever to send them to the great beyond, she said, "Bye fish!"