Speaking Fish.

Some of you will remember my prior post about my fish. I had two fish. One was a goldfish named Big Boy. He is no longer with us. The other is an old bottom feeder. He’s shy and he wouldn’t turn around to get his photo taken.

Big Boy was an exotic goldfish with big googly eyes…kind of Marty Feldman like. And he had an eating disorder. My vet once told me that it is never a disorder in the animal but in its caretaker. ; ) Anyway, he always seemed hungry, so I fed him. Then he got way too large. I’m talking Carp size here, ladies and gentlemen. Anyway, he started to swim upside down. And he’d poop upside down. And he’d eat his dinner upside down. I began to ration the flakes but he still could not right himself.

One day I came out to the kitchen, where the tank is, and Big Boy had pressed up against an overhead light and had a burn on his tummy and one fin. I took off the cover on the tank and never did put it back on. But he didn’t heal properly. I got all kinds of healing liquids to put in the water and he was okay for a while. He was wise. He used to swim with his one good fin to lie beneath the filter system where a small waterfall would trickle over his belly. He’d keep himself wet that way. He lived almost a year longer. Then as he got closer to going to fish heaven, he’d sometimes get stuck near the filter and be unable to turn. I used to wonder if he’d gone belly up. But just as I’d go to check and see if he was still alive, I’d notice Old Man would swim up from the bottom and nudge him away from the filter. It was amazing to watch them.

It made me think about what kind of language fish have.

I could imagine Big Boy saying, “I’ve got my fat ass stuck again. Can’t turn. Can’t turn.”

Then Old Man would huff.  “Damn it. I’m in the middle of vacuuming. I’ll be up in a minute.”

I speak to my fish. I tell them good morning when I put on their light and give them breakfast. I tell them goodnight when I turn off the light before going to bed. Old Man is always addressed first because, well, it’s just the polite thing to do. He’s over 20 years old.

A month ago I found Big Boy was really failing. I knew it was time, and I wanted to help him because I thought he was in pain. I googled what can I do with a dying goldfish? You wouldn’t believe the sick bastards out there. There were references to blunt instruments and knives between eyes, and while some comments were outrageous, others were kind of funny. But Big Boy was a living being. I couldn’t do anything anyone suggested, except one person said to buy Alka Seltzer and put it into the water. The fish would be rendered unconscious. I thought I could do that. I didn’t want him to suffer. I went to Walgreens and while buying the stuff I felt like a murderess, like I was buying strychnine, or a gun. I bought the stuff home and couldn’t do the job. I stuck the box in the drawer and went to bed. The next morning Big Boy was gone. I said my fish blessing over him and gave him a fond farewell.

So, I was left with a bottom feeder once again. Old Man always hangs out down at the bottom of the tank he’s an old guppy, bottom feeder, catfish…I have no idea. He’s old and ornery. You should see me trying to catch him. Once he flipped out of a plastic jug and fell into the garbage disposal. I was totally panicking, and ran around for a minute or so shrieking, “Oh, no. Oh, no,” and trying to figure out a plan of action. I never thought I’d get him out of there, but finally he let me scoop him up. He’s fast. My kids named him the shit eating fish a lot of years ago. He’s outlived so many goldfish and every time the fish die I swear I’m done with owning fish. I say I will not buy another. But then Old Man goes all nutso on me and he starts darting around the tank and crashing into the sides of it, and I end up feeling sorry for him.

That’s how Tequila Sunrise came to Casa Robena.       

I brought her home on Easter weekend. She’s a pretty little, bright orange, ordinary goldfish: a $5.99 special. Old Man did not like her at first. He sulked and pouted beneath his bridge. Then he’d swim out and dive bomb her. I watched them closely all day, thinking I might have to save Tequila. But she was fine. She’d swim all around Old Man and shake her little butt and be all cute and everything. I gave him a good talking to, and advised him to be gracious and welcoming. By evening they were hanging out together, which was sweet because Old Man is normally grumpy. He’s a loner as a rule. But not now, now he’s all frisky and happy. He hardly ever seeks solace under the bridge.

So, how about that? I speak fish. What about you? Do you speak fish, dog, cat, bunny, gerbil, or lizard? Tell me all about it, because then I can tell my fish your stories.

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20 Responses to Speaking Fish.

  1. Janie Emaus says:

    Years ago I was taking care of my daughter’s snake. Yes, you heard right. And he wouldn’t eat. The pet store owner said I should talk sweetly to him and gently rub his throat while placing the mouse in his mouth. Needless to say, I didn’t rub his throat. An the only talking I did, was to yell at him from across the room.

  2. Big Boy died? Oh, no! I did not know this. So sorry to hear about it. I must admit I never even noticed your grumpy bottom feeder. So sorry. I’m thrilled you listened and brought some new life into the tank.

    I wish I spoke dog, then maybe I’d have known much earlier that our sweet dog was in pain long before we realized how sick he was.

    I hope to speak baby sometime in the near future. I used to be pretty good at it with my own kids. Now if only Emily and Anthony would hurry up and give me a grandkid! 🙂 I know I’ll be waiting a long, long, time before JP grants his old mom a grandchild.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Yep. BB died just before Easter. I still laugh when I remember your visit to our book club last year, and how everyone stood around in my kitchen watching BB swim upside down.

      I’m with you on speaking dog. Wish I knew how, although I think I speak cat because my daughter’s SO has cats and one is so shy that she runs away from everyone and hides. But she even came to me for tummy rubs. Marcus was amazed.

  3. I love this story, Roben! I love fish. During college I had a puffer fish named Rodney. He was the best! He went back and forth with me when I went home for summers and long breaks, and never seemed bothered. I was so sad when he died.

    I wish I spoke dog, too. My little Harry is so smart and I love it when he tilts his head and looks at me like he really wants to understand everything I’m telling him.

  4. Robena Grant says:

    Thanks for coming by, Robin. Fish are fabulous aren’t they? I’m imagining Rodney was named after Rodney Dangerfield. : )

  5. Robin S. says:

    Ack! I said, “No more commenting on new posts!” (Time sink!) But this is not a short answer, so you got me. (This is also my second attempt. I managed to delete my entire post already, dammit.)

    Okay, that was weird. I hit return and it popped me up to ‘name’. Technology does not like me.

    What you described with BB is a common problem with goldfish, especially as they age. The short answer is it starts with too much ingested food and then becomes a swim bladder issue. The swim bladder is what keeps them upright. Presoaking the food can help. Just take something like a custard dish and dip water out of the tank and add food. Let it sit a couple of minutes and then dump it into the tank. Goldfish are notorious piggies and will eat the food dry. It then swells and puts pressure on nerves and the swim bladder, and over time this is bad. Another problem is constipation, which also puts pressure on internal organs. Goldfish eat alot of vegetation in the wild. You can help this by feeding them peas a couple times a week. Just take a couple of peas out of the freezer and heat them a few seconds at a time till the skins come off (throw them away) and the peas are softish. Then just pop them in the tank. Your Old Man will probably like these too, so adjust accordingly. If your goldfish starts wobbling or floating, stop feeding him for 24 hrs. and then only feed him peas till he is upright again. There are also bacterial issues that can cause this, but they are not common.

    Goldfish are like wet puppies, so keeping them where people are regularly is a good thing. They can learn their name and to do simple tricks, if you want to go down that road. I didn’t see any large ornaments in the pics. If you don’t have anything big for them to swim around and explore, you might want to consider it. Gives them something more to do.

    As for your Old Man, pat yourself on the back and be proud as a peacock. Go You! Your Old Man appears to be a Bronze Corydora catfish. Catfish can be long lived fish. Corys are very tough little fish, the Bronze and Peppered corys in particular. They can handle pretty much anything but high nitrate levels and that is what the average fish owner rarely works on getting out of the tank. (You need to change out at least 25% of your tank water every week.) However, you don’t overcrowd your tank which is a -huge- plus. Go You!

    The reason your Old Man gets grumpy is because he is a schooling fish. Corys do best in schools of their own kind. I generally don’t keep less than two. However, when I was younger and didn’t know about this, I had single corys like your Old Man. And like your Old Man, they, too, chose other fish to be their companion. And your Old Man is hardly languishing.

    Cory’s are personable like goldfish, so paying attention to him is a good thing. Both of your fish will readily learn to eat from your hand if you want to thrill and impress the kids in your life. They get a kick out of having a fish eat out of their hand. Just make sure the little beggars wash their hands first. (Peanut butter and Jelly are not proper fish foods.)

    I know you feel bad over losing BB, but the fact that you’ve kept Old Man alive this long means you’re a good fish mom, so don’t beat yourself up over it. And the decision on whether or not to euthanize an ailing fish, or any animal for that matter, has been a hot button topic since I’ve been old enough to understand it. In the end, you have to do what you think is right for you and your pet.

    Enjoy your fish!

    • Robena Grant says:

      Robin S. You are amazing. : )
      Thanks for stopping by and for all of your “Fishy” experience. I know when you mentioned at http://www.reinventingfabulous.com that my fish might not be a guppy, I was intrigued to see if you or anyone else could identify him. So, he’s a catfish. Uh oh. I know they live for a loooooong time. I’ll have to go google all about him.

  6. Maria says:

    Not a fish person but you’ve brought your fish to life. Lovely post, I guess that I’ll support my brother’s deep desire for a salt water fish tank now.

  7. Nan says:

    Roben, I love your fish story, but so sorry you lost your BB. This weekend at the lake, the kids next door were fishing along the docks and pulling in 8-10-inch crappie faster than they could bait a hook. When I saw them, my first thought was, “I swim with those fishes…hmmmmm…” but I’ve never had a problem, so I guess it’s okay! Thanks for the fun read!

  8. Marge says:

    Sorry to hear of the loss of BB. Proud of your new accomplishments of playing match maker for your new fish. I think you need to start writing comedy- the story was so funny.

  9. I speak plant. Pitiful but true. They have names and backstories and habits and everything. Good thing, though, because so does the heroine in my current wip.
    I just got a new plant. La Diabla. I’m going to blog about her soon and you’ll see why she has that name.
    Welcome Tequilla Sunrise. I’m sure you will be happy living with Old Man at Casa Robena!

  10. Robena Grant says:

    La Diabla. I like that. : ) Yeah, I have a friend who plays specific music for his plants and he does seem to have a green thumb.

  11. Julie says:

    Oh I’m so sorry for your loss! And you had taken such good care of him too. I’m with Robin, you’re a great fish mom. Old Man is proof of that.

    We have a gold fish that the kids named Crystal. For over 12 years. She was a simple little “feeder” gal that one of my witchlings won at a fair or carnival or some damn place. We thought she’d outlive us all!

  12. Robena Grant says:

    I read Robin S’s comments and then googled. The average age for these fish is 12 years. Old Man is over 20 years old. Hard to believe. This is the fifth house he’s lived in. : )

  13. londonmabel says:

    Oh it’s so lovely to read about someone who loves and is interested in and really cares for fish. I’ve never had any, but I don’t think there’s any creature in this world that isn’t interesting. I know someone who has two snails, and they have their little personalities etc.

    I’m glad the Old Man has a pal again.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Yes, I agree. All creatures are amazing. There’s something very peaceful and calming about fish, and they do have distinct personalities. : )