A Sad Fish Story

When Axa turned six in February, we decided she was ready for her own little pet. So for her birthday she received a fish bowl with two little goldfish. One was a chubby little white fish with bubbly red “hair.” Axa christened it “Little Redhead.” The other, pictured above, she called “Little Gold Fin.”

Fat Little Redhead was a spunky little fish. He always grabbed the lion’s share of the food. So I suppose we should not have been surprised a few weeks later, when he began swimming upside down. We looked online for what could be wrong with him, and were informed that he had eaten too much, causing his swim bladder to malfunction because of a too-full stomach. The website enjoined us to feed him a single pea, promising that it would clear up the problem in no time. So we duly bought peas, shelled them, cooked them, and mashed one up to feed to him. It didn’t work. After a week of upside-down swimming, Little Redhead succumbed, victim to his own appetite.

Axa chose to hold the funeral at the beach. We buried him in a deep hole in the sand, sang a hymn, and each talked about what we loved about Little Redhead. Then we decorated his grave with shells that we had collected. The demise of Little Redhead endeared the remaining goldfish to us even more. When we moved to our new beach bungalow, we couldn’t help but notice that he managed to match both the dijon mustard-colored carpet and the orange curtains. And he did it so gracefully. When we first got him, he had been a very shy fish, but after a while, he no longer darted away when someone walked in the room. One day, Tony dropped a fruit fly into his bowl. Little Gold Fin snapped it right up, and spent the next few hours alertly patrolling the surface, ready to pounce should another opportunity arise.

When we went to Sicily a couple of weeks ago, Axa asked our landlord to watch Little Gold Fin for her. She gave him careful instructions for how to care for him, and how much to feed him. When we returned, Gold Fin was as chipper as ever. But the brown patches on his fins and scales had turned dark grey. Worried, we made sure to change his water extra often. He seemed fine for a week or so. But then two days ago we woke up and found him on his side, still breathing, but obviously not well. His condition deteriorated throughout yesterday, and this morning he was floating on top of the bowl.

We held another beach funeral today, and talked about how Little Redhead and Little Gold Fin are together now, swimming happily in heaven. Axa bore it very well. Better than Tony and I, it seems. We can’t stop talking about Gold Fin and how we miss him. I need to put away the bowl, but I just can’t quite bring myself to do it. Tony wants to wash and save the rocks from the bottom of the bowl. I feel so sad for our poor little fish. Like I’ve somehow failed as a mother, both to my sweet daughter, whose two fish died within four months, and to the defenseless little fish I couldn’t keep alive. Maybe I just shouldn’t have pets. I remember many hours of crying as a child over fish, mice, and even our pet chicken. Or perhaps I should get a tortoise or a parrot that will outlive me. In any case, even if we ever do get a pet again, today was a sad, sad day. Rest in peace, Little Gold Fin. You will be missed.

4 thoughts on “A Sad Fish Story

  • November 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm
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    Ah, fish. Of our goats, chickens, ducks, dog, rabbits, (ex)cats and bees, I’ve had fish the longest. If you want longevity, go with black tetra. They are far and away the most hardy and beautiful. I have at least sixteen in my aquarium. And of course the obligatory pleco (algae-eater), dubbed ‘His Majesty King Ugly’.

    Goldfish are notorious for carrying disease (and procuring them). My sister – who once had pet-envy, though she barely remembers to feed her children, let alone a critter – once got a goldfish. They decided they couldn’t handle the responsibility and gave it to us. All twenty-three of my fish were dead within 48 hours of its introduction to the tank. So I wouldn’t feel too badly. Goldfish are aquatic jihadists.

    OTOH, I can make you feel MUCH better by telling you about how I really WAS responsible for killing a fish, once. It was pleco… our illustrious King Ugly. He wasn’t getting the job done. There were green splotches on my tank. So I thought if he was on overload, maybe I should get another pleco, to help him.

    King Ugly look one look at Prince Junior, and tapped danced on his head until he was dead. I gaped in horror, unsure of what was going on (bonding? Was it actually Queen Ugly?)… until it went belly-up. ALL. MY. FAULT. Apparently plecos are territorial dictators. And would you believe that King Ugly actually *winked* at me as he finished off his competition?

    I was beside myself for a week…

  • June 20, 2011 at 9:19 pm
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    We just got a goldfish with big bulging eyes (a black moor) for Merayla, and loved him, and tried to take care of him. Then we bought him a companion who died a day later. Then he died two days later. I had to put away the tank; it made me sad every time I did the dishes because he wasn’t swimming around in it. I think goldfish should come with an instruction manual. Same with kids, it would save alot of stress.

  • June 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm
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    That is a very sad fish story indeed. I believe pets are a part of heaven. I hope you see Little Gold Fin and Little Redhead again =)

  • June 3, 2011 at 11:37 am
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    That reminds me of when our beloved Walker the rat died. We were quite inconsolable. And we still can’t quite part with the little wooden headstone from the back corner of the yard that has the names of quite a few family pets carved on it. Hugs to all of you.

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