When Is a Fish Not a Fish?

Long ago, I was an apartment dweller, and wished I could get a large fish tank. But I did not, as I was afraid something would happen in the apartment and it would break or spill and the people under us would have stuff wrecked, and I don’t know. When we bought our house, I almost immediately got a 20-gallon tank and gradually, a bunch of fish. Samir was about three years old and enjoyed it as well. Actually, you can read all about it in this post.

So, yeah, I no longer had a fish tank. But years ago, before I had bought that 20-gallon tank, I also bought a small, 5-gallon tank, but never used it, because I wanted a bigger tank. That small tank was still in a box in the basement, and I took it out and set it up. Why did I do this? Samir still is upset about the fact that I got rid of the larger tank and had been asking for a Betta fish forever. It is a corner tank, and I realized I have a corner in my kitchen that goes pretty far back, so it’s not like you would use it for preparing a meal anyway. Plus, being the kitchen, it’s right near the sink, so cleaning the tank will be much easier.

IMG_0420
Samir gradually coming to the realization that a pet fish doesn’t do that much.

The two kids had a great time picking out the gravel and tank decorations, and of course the fish himself. For the first ten minutes or so, they were very excited about having a fish. Then they were way less excited about having a fish. Feeding time came, and they fought over the privilege to feed the fish. Then they fed the fish and soon were no longer excited to feed the fish. Eventually, we decided to name the fish, and Samir suggested Joey Ramone the Second, which was unanimously approved.

We’ve had Joey for about a month now, and the kids are mostly uninterested. Oh well. So much for my rule of, “If it’s your fish, you have to feed it and clean the tank or it will die.” I do enjoy watching him swim around while I cook dinner or do the dishes. And Bettas are pretty smart, so to cut down on debris in the tank, I’ve trained him to take individual pellets of food from my hand. A friend watched Joey swim up on my command, and said, “If you have trained a fish to eat from your hand, then that fish is clearly your fish.”

IMG_0415
When is a fish not a fish? When it’s Joey Ramone the Second!

About a fish tank

The good news is that I only have two days left to do in my minimalist game. The bad news is that I was supposed to be done on December 31, but at this point it’s looking more like mid-February. Anyway, I am writing this particular post because I have made what I feel is some sort of breakthrough. Let me tell you a story about a fish tank.

Many years ago, before I had kids even, I wanted a fish tank. But we lived in an apartment, and were afraid it would break and go into the downstairs neighbors or something. Two years ago, we moved into a house, and one of the first things I did was get a fish tank. I set it up, and in a week or two, I had some fish! It was exciting and fun, and next to the cat and the toddler, didn’t seem to be that much work.

Around the time when I got pregnant with my second kid, I started seeing the monthly cleaning as a burden. This was mostly because I was nauseated all the time and tired and didn’t want to lift all the associated buckets of water. After I had the baby, while I was still on maternity leave, I gave the tank a major cleaning and changed the plants and planned to get a few more fish. (There were about three left at this point.)

Then I went back to work, and the stress level rose, what with only having a certain number of hours in a day to be with my family, do the housework, and sleep. I began to neglect the tank again, and it got yucky, and I just kept the light off most of the time so I didn’t have to see it. Every time I looked at the tank, I felt guilty about not cleaning it, and stressed thinking about it. Last week, and the final fish passed away, so the time had come to make a decision.

On Friday night, I thought “What would happen if I get rid of it? How would I feel?” Without hesitation, I turned off the rather loud filter, and instantly felt relief. I would never again have to feel guilty about not wanting to clean it. We would have more space in the living room. And I wouldn’t have to buy the filter parts or various fish-related items again.

I realized that my desire to hold onto it came from remembering how much I had wanted it in the past and holding onto that even after the actual desire had passed. Maybe I was even trying to recapture a bit of the younger me who wanted a fish tank in the first place. Maybe that’s a part of why it took me so long to get rid of it after I no longer wanted it, because I had to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer that person.

So Saturday morning, my four-year-old son and I emptied out the tank and dragged everything into the back yard. My original intention was to put it in the garage. My thought had been that someday, when my sons were old enough to take care of a tank and if they wanted one, I could give it to them. But who knows if they will ever want one? And if they do, I would probably want them to have an small acrylic one anyway, and not a large glass one.

Luckily a friend saw my Facebook post about getting rid of it, and wanted it, so out it went this afternoon. And yes, I’m rather glad it went to someone who will actually use it, and not sit in my garage for many years while I continue to think about it.

I am hoping that this step will give me the push to get rid of more things in my environment that are stressing me out. (No, not the kids!)