So I Have A Fish Now

Oh, hai!

Oh, hiya.

She is a six line wrasse. I named her Audrey because she has the grace and elegance of Audrey Hepburn.

And because Audrey – like all living things – needs to poop on occasion, I also got a shrimp to, ahem, clean up after her. The shrimp is named Fosse – as in Bob Fosse. I named the shrimp Fosse because his waggling antennae reminded me of jazz hands. I also chose the name because, if memory serves, Bob Fosse (the person) drank Tab. If you don’t remember Tab, it was a diet soda that tasted like poo. So there we are.

Hey, big spender!

The Jets and the Sharks have nothin’ on the Shrimps.

And no tank is complete without a snail. He has yet to exhibit enough personality to warrant a name. I am, of course, willing to hear suggestions.

Turn Ons: Eating slime. Turn Offs: Slimelessness.

Turn Ons: Eating slime.
Turn Offs: Slimelessness.

To be honest, Audrey, Fosse, and No Name Snail don’t belong to me. They are my son’s pets. He just let me name them.

Alex was always fascinated with saltwater fish. Ever since he was about three, he would leave me in the dust the moment we entered a pet store. Off he’d race to the tanks along the far wall.

He must have picked up this behavior from my wife, Ellen, who also has a habit of abandoning me in pet stores. She, however, would dart in the opposite direction, to the furry critter section, and act as if it was her personal petting zoo.

I would’ve preferred to have followed my wife to the critters; I am a rodent person, after all. But you can’t let a preschooler wander off to a distant corner of a huge, busy store alone, because, you know, blah, blah, blah, bad parenting, blah, blah.

I also couldn’t ask Ellen to watch Alex because she would always have her hands full. Literally. She would be cradling three chinchillas in her arms saying, “Who’s adorable? Who’s adorable? You are! Yes, you are!”

So off to the fish tanks I would go. Alex would talk to me endlessly about how beautiful the fish were. How graceful they were. How awesome the tanks looked. How much he liked the pump that blurbled air bubbles into the water.

Then he’d ask me which fish was my favorite. In response I’d point to the 89-cent goldfish, because I had a pretty good idea where this conversation was going.

But he never asked for a fish. Perhaps in his young mind he thought they were for display purposes only.

So Alex and I just talked and watched the fish as we waited for the PetSmart employees to shoo Little Miss Grabby Hands away from the rodent cages. When Ellen no longer had anything in her arms to pet, we were allowed to leave.

As Alex got older he and I still lingered in the fish section of the pet store, but our discussions shifted to questions about fish care. And when his questions got too complicated for me to answer, we’d chat up an employee. Alex knew my philosophy of pet ownership: If you’re not willing to take care of it, don’t bother to ask the question. This philosophy had held him off for years. By the time last Christmas rolled around, however, he was weighing his options. Maybe he did want to take care of a fish.

And maybe I did, too. After all those times of standing in front of those tanks, I began to awaken to their appeal. No, fish aren’t as cuddly as rodents, but they sure are beautiful, aren’t they?

At Christmas, Alex got his aquarium. And this past month, Alex picked out Audrey. Much to my chagrin, Audrey is not an 89-cent goldfish. And much more to my chagrin, Audrey costs much more than an 89-cent goldfish.

And did you know that you have to pay for salt water? You can’t just throw sea salt in tap water and call it a day, apparently. And you need living sand. Not just any old sand. The living kind. That also goes for rocks, too. You need living rocks. (The  idea that the rocks and sand are alive unnerves me slightly.) You also need a heater and a thermometer and a thing that scrapes the slime off of the glass. And those poo-eating shrimp aren’t chump change either. And please don’t get me started on how much that bitty eight-gallon aquarium cost.

When I was a kid, I had a goldfish. I won him at a fair. It lived in a glass bowl with colored (non-living) rocks and a plastic castle. It was dead in two months. I wasn’t exactly sad to see it go. Neither was my mom. The investment was minimal. The bowl, rocks and castle probably cost three bucks.

But I will do everything in my power to keep Audrey alive and happy. I’ve spent way too much for her not to be happy. And alive.

Besides, ever since she came to live with us, not a day has gone by when Alex and I haven’t pulled up two chairs to watch Audrey glide around the living rocks, Fosse whip out the jazz hands, and No Name Snail do nothing. We watch and we talk. And those moments are well worth any investment.

105 thoughts on “So I Have A Fish Now

  1. This is so cool! I’ve had fish over the years, both when I was a kid growing up, and now as a pretending-to-be-an-adult-person – outdoor goldfish, and also indoor aquariums with tropical fish, but never saltwater fish. I always imagined they might be quite tricky and expensive to set up and it sounds like that is the case, but it does sound like a good investment when your son has been interested for so long.

    I think you should name the snail Gonzales, it’s both a slight joke, because of the Speedy thing, but also gives a nod towards your beloved rodents.

    • Salt water is a bit tricky because you have to monitor nitrate levels and make sure that the salt doesn’t get too concentrated due to evaporation. But the boy and I are up to the challenge, I’m pleased to say.

      As for Gonzalez… he is perhaps the only Warner Brothers cartoon I didn’t like. So I’m gonna have to pass on that one. But keep thinking!

  2. Congratulations, Mike! Aside from the dog, we are owners of one lionhead goldfish, Fishy III or IV (I forget by now) and 4 lazy algae eaters. Our dog is very fond of the fish. Once I lifted her near the tank, I could see her mouth open. She’s been warned, they’re not sushi even though they look a lot like sushi. (I highly recommend becoming good friends with the folks at the pet store for that late night I need-a-fish fast trip.)

  3. Well worth it all. I had fresh and salt water tanks when I was a kid. Sitting in front of a tank at the end of the day and fussing with this and that beat any TV show. So naturally, I think that could possibly be the case for your son and you. Maybe so. And Audrey will be as good as any HBO series. That 89 cent goldfish just couldn’t compete with your current cast.

  4. Audrey is gorgeous. Fosse is a star and no-name shrimp, well, maybe he’ll do something one of these days. 😀 😀
    A great bonding source for you and your son, well worth everything.
    All this sounds familiar because my son-in-law went this route a couple years ago. I admit I enjoy watching the pretty fish. Don’t tell anyone.

  5. I really enjoyed this post this morning. Love your free flowing writing style.
    I thought I was the last person on earth who actually remembered Tab and yes, it really did taste like poo.
    Enjoy your day. 🙂

  6. First off, Mike, beautiful Audrey needs a friend. Imagine being the only fish in an ocean that’s supposed to be full of fishes. You might think she’d be happy with Fosse, but you can’t imagine how annoying shrimp can be after a time – all that constant fidgeting wears on the nerves. And snails are dull company to say the least, the personality of a…slug. I would suggest the name Sluggo, by the way. So, head back to Petsmart with Alex and consult with a fish-expert on the appropriate companion for Audrey – Gregory Peck or Gary Cooper will do nicely. ;-D
    Fun post – glad you’re back.

  7. We had fish off and on when I was growing up, but never saltwater fish. I remember one time when my dad bought live plants for the aquarium, and they came with snails evidently. I don’t think that was on purpose. But they decided they liked our aquarium, and bred. And then we had SO MANY SNAILS.

    You should name the snail Chuck Norris just for the heck of it.

    Me? I want a jellyfish. I shall name it Squishy, obviously.

  8. I love aquariums … they’re peaceful to watch and quite mesmerizing … and I’ve had many fish over the years.
    Now I have a cat. Fish would be a very bad idea.

    If I had a snail I think I would call him Pokey.

  9. I once had a nice aquarium with beautiful fish. Then one day I came home from to to a rather non-fishy smell. There, where it was not suppose to be, was the hooded light that had to firmly connected to the top of the aquarium, INSIDE the aquarium. My beautiful angel fish now had a round indent the same size and circumference as the tube light. You’ll never guess who, or what (as you might say), caused this “accident.”

  10. You and your son pulling up a chair to watch the fish reminded me of my mum, her fish, and Cassidy (her cat at that time).

    My mum had a pretty good size tank (don’t ask me how many gallons or size, because I really don’t know), but she didn’t have saltwater fish. She had all sorts of other fish that were very pretty, even her goldfish were pretty. Anyhoo, Cassidy, her tiny orange tabby cat, would sit on the book shelf across from the tank and watch the fish swim. It was really cute to see.

    Thanks for the memory. 🙂

  11. Years ago, we got my oldest a fish tank for Christmas. He cared for it okay, though my husband often had to step in to help. But he fed the fish and named them and enjoyed them, and that was fun to see. But then they started to die. That wasn’t much fun for him (nor them, I imagine), and eventually it became a thing of the past. Here’s hoping Audrey, Bob Fosse, and no-name snail live long and prosper!

  12. I have never had any luck keeping fish alive. We tried 4 times with just a gold fish in this cool tank that looked like a gumball machine. I followed the instructions to a tee and they kept dying! So we thought maybe it was something to do with the tank and just bought a glass bowl. Nope… stupid fish died inside of 2 weeks. So…never again *sigh*
    I love aquariums though. They are beautiful and peaceful to watch. What a cool time for you and your little guy to do together.
    WELCOME BACK MIKE!! 😀

  13. Sigh. You’re back. I’ve missed you here in the internet of space writing buddies. And you’re back BIG time with an adorable story that rings true (swims true?), funny, and sweet.
    Now, to business. You should name the snail — Dale (for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., race car driver). Because all true snail lovers know that, in the dead of night, snails race around their track in the aquarium or the ocean and make tracks, baby. I dare you to stay up and watch, say around 3 a.m. But it has to be dark in the room, and silent, with maybe a snore or two to seduce Dale to thinking he’s alone….

  14. Congratulations on the fish! When Noodge 2 was about 8 she won a goldfish at a fair. I killed it two days later by accident. Who knew when you were cleaning the bowl you needed to keep some of the dirty water? A year later she won another one. I really should’ve kept her from that darn fair. The second goldfish lasted several months before he bit it too. Now we have a dog. A big, furry, German shepherd. Why go for a small dog when you can jump right into the big stuff. He’s almost 17 months old and we’ve had him for over a year. He’s holding up way better than the goldfish.

    • Fair fish are destined to die, I think. I think the fish breeders take all of the sick and dying goldies, toss ’em in baggies and let kids win them in carnival games. As a result, the breeders can lower their water bills by not having to flush all their dead fish down the toilet.

  15. Nice essay, but I’m wondering who gives it that tank the white glove test after the shrimp and snail are finished. Who, I ask you, just who is working quality control???

    WRT naming: Squidgy? Sleeper? Snark? I am a fan of the previously mentioned name, Sluggo. You could give him a rapper (or electronic device name) like D.S. (Da Slimer). The possibilities are endless…..

  16. You are a great storyteller, Mike! I so enjoyed that, even though I’m not a big fan of poo or slime 🙂 Audrey is beautiful! I’m sure you and Alex will get much enjoyment from watching her (er, how do you know she’s a girl, BTW?) and that your moments/conversations while doing so will be well worth her (apparently) exorbitant price! 🙂

  17. I had a pet snail in college. He became a pet by default due to my 89 cent goldfish croaking. We enjoyed him. I think he was as happy as a snail could be in his tap water in a jar kind of life. You got snookered, Mike–you could have had a snail. No living rocks needed.

  18. I can so relate with Alex, I love aquariums! I used to sit in front of mine for hours just watching them interact with each other…better than TV.

    Our “cleaner fish” was a plecostomus…ugly as sin. Some days he’d be sliding up the glass, others scouring the bottom and once in a while he’d perch on one of the plastic plants and suddenly this grotesque looking creature was cute. I don’t understand how this can happen but it did. Now, I don’t know much about salt water fish but they do sound quite a bit more complex.

    As for the snail…I have named every snail creature…le escargot…too simple?

  19. First off, Audrey and Bob are two of my favorite humans of all-time. Glad to see them reincarnated in your fancy fish tank.

    Secondly, I begged my dad for a pet for many years and he finally caved with fish, thinking they would die off quickly. We ended up with a Black Molly, who I unimaginatively named Molly, and all was great. Then Molly pooped out some babies, and we had a Molly gang. Unfortunately, she ate one of them and I was traumatized.

    We still kept Molly and her remaining baby for years, but they just kept on living. Eventually we gave Molly and son/daughter to another family to take care of. Never had fish as pets again.

    • My son received a triop aquarium (with eggs) as a gift. One of the eggs hatched right away and, by the time the other fellas emerged, Big Brother Triop was large enough to see them not as siblings but as dinner. I decided to overlook his cannibalism, however, because he was fascinating and unlike anything I have ever seen before.

  20. Some of my favourite childhood memories are of our tank of fish. They were awesome. Some of my least favourite childhood memories are of cleaning that damn tank. We should have gotten poop eating, jazz handed shrimp. Who knew? I love the names but most of all I love the bonding moments you are having with your son.

  21. Hello to Audrey, Fosse, and No Name! I am convinced that watching fish lengthens your life, so here’s to your very long life. Welcome back, Writer Fellow! I hope the summer treated you well.

  22. I can’t say I really see the resemblance between Audrey and her namesake, but I like the thought (though like you, not so much the thought of living sand -eep).

  23. You have an amazing gift for naming animals! I like the suggestion of Pokey for the snail as well. When I read the post I first thought of Anon as he was nameless. We are a dog family but I did have a goldfish at one point named Gaston who lived a surprisingly long life.

  24. I’m betting “Finding Nemo” has taken on a whole new light, eh, Mike? 🙂

    Seriously though, I’ve always loved aquariums. I mean, if you want to spend a LOT of money, what an under water world you can create!

    As far as the snail…hmmm…I’m sure there are MANY appropriate names for such a…should I say…Loafer? 😉 I’m thinking a Ghostbusting Slimer could work, too 😀 Mope, Speedy, Goober, Pokey, Dawdle, Sloth, Slothy, Lag Man, ya know… 😉 I must go back and read all the suggestions. I’m SURE there are some great ones! Meanwhile, I love imagining your father and son “Tank Time” conversations 😀

  25. Very funny! We got a goldfish from an elementary school festival that lived about 6 years! The best pets we ever had–besides our adorable groundhog hunter–were Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, but that’s another story.

  26. Pingback: So I Don’t Have a Fish Now | heylookawriterfellow

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