I can’t remember if I ever posted this on the old blog (for those of you who followed it), and since it’s lost and gone forever now, I can’t check to make sure. But the other day as I was walking past the fish tanks at PetSmart, I was reminded of this circumstance and started laughing to myself. I decided I’d better share it here.
Maybe five years ago or so, I decided it would be fun to have a small fish tank at my desk in the office. It seemed like it would be relaxing and fun to have a couple of swimmy little friends to keep me company through the work day. I went and bought a cute little 2 gallon hexagon aquarium with a filter and all the trimmings, and a couple of pretty little fish. I also got a snail to keep the sides of the tank clean, because what has two thumbs and doesn’t like cleaning up poop? This girl.
A month or so later, I realized that the snail’s shell was at the bottom of the tank and hadn’t moved in days. I took my little net out and tapped it, and there was no snail in it. I scanned the whole tank and found no little gastropod. It was a mystery. A week or so later, I looked in the tank and found that one fish no longer had a body–it was just a head loosely connected to a pectoral fin by a few strands of tissue. I gave the remaining fish a very stern, but respectful look. He/she had evidently killed and eaten both of his/her tank-mates.
By this point, I had realized that I didn’t really get any satisfaction from having fish and cleaning their tank. However, I don’t have it in me to deliberately kill something that I don’t plan on eating immediately afterward. I kept feeding the fish and cleaning the tank. Then the fish somehow contracted the ich, which is pronounced “Ick” and was coincidentally what I said a LOT after I diagnosed it. I can’t even look at the pictures in the Wikipedia article–it looked like there was a piece of very thin, very unappetizing bologna laid over the top of the fish, and it covered one of the fish’s eyes. Ick. I can’t even tell you how ick it was.
I couldn’t even get any work done. There was a fish. Behind me. With a seriously fucked up eye. Fortunately, the next day I came in and the fish was motionless at the bottom of the tank. I scooped it up in the little fishy net and carried it into the restroom for burial at sea. I flipped the net upside down over the toilet and the fish plopped out into the bowl. The shock of the cold water performed some sort of miracle, and suddenly the fish started swimming rapid circles around the porcelain.
I screamed, and several co-workers came running into the bathroom. I think when they hired me, they never really realized that we’d all end up standing together in the unisex bathroom, watching my one-eyed fish swimming speedily around the toilet. No one saw that coming for some reason.
We conferred. I explained that I just couldn’t flush the fish, deliberately dooming it. The counter-argument was that I probably didn’t also want to have to scoop the fish out of the toilet we all used, put it back in the tank, and have it die later with the ich spreading all over the rest of its body–as they noted, I was creeped out enough already. I continued to argue for its life, and one of the smarter and more calloused people reached out in the middle of my spiel and pushed down the toilet handle.
This whole experience and my loathing of cleaning out the tank led me to develop the following rule for our home and my office: if it poops inside, it better be doing it in the toilet. Otherwise, it can’t live here.