We are gathered here today to remember my pet cleaner shrimp, Fosse.
He joined the Allegra family in July 2015 as a supporting character in my son’s saltwater aquarium.
Audrey, a beautiful six-line wrasse, was the star of the show. Fosse’s job was to stay in the background hanging out with the snails waiting for Audrey to poop. When Audrey did poop, Fosse was to eat that poop. According to his September 2015 performance review, he did his work with “great enthusiasm and aplomb.”
Within two months of her arrival, however, Audrey crossed the Rainbow Bridge (the entrance of which can be accessed through my toilet).
Losing Audrey was a shattering blow for the Allegra family, but not quite shattering enough to purchase a new wrasse. Six-line wrasses cost a lot of money. And they die a lot. So we (and by “we” I mean “I”) decided it was time to give Fosse a chance to take center stage.
Fosse quickly rose to the occasion. He was a constant source of fascination for family and friends.
He was also a conversation starter. This was especially true when the snails began to suffer a series of “accidents.” Every morning, I would find them helplessly flailing around on their backs.
Fosse was the main suspect. Cleaner shrimp don’t kill their food, they scavenge for dead stuff. So instead of killing the snails outright, he flipped them onto their backs and waited for them to die; Fosse could then rationalize that the snails died of natural causes.
I would turn the snails right side up, of course, but I couldn’t protect them 24/7. It was only a matter of time before all three of them made a slime trail over the Rainbow Bridge.
Once they did, Fosse slurped them up like a Frenchman.
Starfish eggs hatched. Fosse took an immediate interest in the new neighbors. Then he started eating their legs.
Long story short, my eight-gallon tank was like a slasher film. Alex and Ellen wanted nothing to do with Fosse. Neither did I, really, but I take pet ownership seriously. I kept Fosse fed, cleaned his tank, and watched with growing alarm as his aggressiveness grew in direct proportion to his ever-molting body.
Though I was committed to giving Fosse a long and happy life, when Ellen told me that a cleaner shrimp could live up to ten years, I died a little inside.
One evening Ellen discovered a black spot on Fosse’s back. In the weeks that followed, the spot grew.
“Cancer?” I wondered aloud.
Ellen gave me “The Look.” Ellen always gives me The Look when she thinks I’m about to do something expensive and stupid. She gave me that look when I paid $400 to get my guinea pig a chest x-ray. She gave me The Look another time when I refused to release a wild mouse because “it was too cold outside for the little bugger.”
But this time Ellen had misjudged me.
“I’m not going to take the shrimp to an oncologist,” I said.
“Good,” she replied peering into the tank with trepidation. “Because if you gave that thing half a chance, it would eat your face off.”
This, I knew, was true.
Fosse died peacefully in his sleep on March 10. His was 2 ¾ years old. Which, in my view, is old enough. A private memorial service was held over the kitchen garbage can.
Thank you in advance for your thoughts and prayers.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the EscarNO Fund, a charitable organization dedicated to providing safe houses for edible snails.