Tag Archives: goldfish

The Goldfish

Easter is a hard day for me in terms of grieving my mother. Because here is what is supposed to happen today. We’re supposed to wake up early so that Lindsay and I get our Easter presents, even when I’m not living in Houston and open my presents with her while she’s on the phone. Usually, it’s money and a metric tonne of chocolate, including a hollow bunny for the annual drinking of the Dr Pepper. Then, my mom and I both go off to our volunteer jobs. For a lot of my life it was playing my horn, and for the rest, singing in the choir. The first year after my mom died, I went to Easter services and cried all the way through it. This year, I am not even thinking about leaving the house. We’re having a to-do with “the family,” and that is enough.

This morning, Hayat and I sat around drinking coffee and eating Milanos, but first, I talked to my dad as he was on his way to play his trumpet at Second Baptist.

It’s kind of cool that between TV and Facebook Live events, I can actually hear him play, and sometimes see him in the background. It makes me happy because he is just as good as he was in high school/college. I, however, am not. Some of my fondest memories are of being on the brass line, so it’s nice to live vicariously through him.

Before there were church jobs for me, though, there were trails of plastic eggs filled with candy and/or malted milk eggs to our Easter baskets filled with that fake grass that gets damn everywhere. Black_Moor_Goldfish1In third grade, I asked for a goldfish, and I got it. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier with a present, because it was a black moor, and he was so incredibly cute. I managed to keep him alive for probably two years, a miracle since at that time, I didn’t know that goldfish desperately need an aquarium to breathe properly. He just had the classic bowl setup. I’d sit in front of the bowl and just stare at his googly eyes, wondering if he was lonely and deciding that no, he was okay. He had me. This fish is absolutely the reason I’ve kept goldfish most of my life, and will continue to in memoriam…. both for that fish and the one who gave it to me. I wish I could remember what I named it…. I’m usually pretty good about these things. For instance, I remember that Dana and I had a whole tank that we gave eastern names- we had Samir, Saeed, and Zain. Saeed came from Lindsay’s high school boyfriend, Zain was his cousin, and Samir just fit with the theme. But third grade is so long ago…. I’ve slept since then. I want to say it was Malcolm. Don’t quote me on that.

I wish I could remember other presents I got, but I only remember the candy. This was the big highlight, so the one that sticks in my memory the best. I thought it was hilarious that my mother was so big on giving us chocolate for Easter, but never really ate any herself. However, I think she enjoyed my goldfish as much as I did. I often wonder what made her pick the black one, or how she knew they were my favorite. But my mother was sneaky like that. She had the memory of an elephant, so I could say that I liked something and it would magically appear up to three years later…. and I never found any indication that she wrote stuff like that down.

I would make wish lists on Amazon for Christmas, and she never bought anything from any of them, preferring to listen to me and surprise me with things I’d forgotten about long ago. But Easter hasn’t been about presents since I was little. It’s been about hard, hard work. Hours upon hours of rehearsal and laryngitis and my embouchure being plain worn out after several services in a row. The trumpet descants were always better than the soprano ones, so when I gave up trumpet, I would sing those descants as a soprano instead….. unless the organist surprised me by playing his/her own modulations and the descants didn’t fit into the chord structure anymore. I think that only happened once, though, so I pretty much got away with it every year.

As you can imagine, even entering a church is difficult for me now, because I just see my mother everywhere, and it is not as comforting as one might think. It is just a reminder of despair, because there is no better synecdoche for my mother than a piano… or an organ…. or a choir robe…. or a really great alto part….

It’s hard to swallow because I miss choir, but I don’t miss feeling like crap every Sunday because I cannot rise above grief (at this time).

Perhaps the answer is in thinking that my mom’s resurrection is within me, carrying her music into the future.

I’m just not there yet. I mean, I haven’t even bought a goldfish.

On Pets

There are people working on the roof this morning. It’s excruciating, all the pounding, because it seems to pulse with my sinus headache. At least they are marching in step. I’ve already taken my Zyrtec and Sudafed PE this morning, and it’s still not helping, so now that I’m on my third cup of coffee in a mug that holds four cups, I might consider a Benadryl kicker. I find that treating the allergy is better for me than treating the congestion…. treating the root of the problem rather than the symptom. I also need to take a shower and clean my room…. the former because the water will wash away whatever’s making me bloom, and the latter being that I am most allergic to dust. I had one of those tests where they put 25 allergens on your skin to see how you react (smaller than most- I think some tests are up to 75 different ones). Dust overtook six other samples. The best thing was learning once and for all that I am not allergic to dogs or cats… I just thought I was…. probably because dog and cat hair on the floor attracts dust bunnies.

I do not have any pets, but the family I live with has a number of dogs. I think “we” have four of our own, and a rotating cast of visitors. In this house, we are not cat people, and I am somewhat grateful. Though I love cats, I do not love the smell or the mess of a litter box. When I lived alone and had Asher, I bought disposable litter pans by the dozen and just threw them out every other day or so, because scooping a permanent one made me so sick to my stomach. So far, the only pet I have had complete and total success with is fish. I can keep a goldfish alive for years, and it makes me happy to pay five cents for a goldfish and watch it grow to mini-koi. In order to do this, the setup is expensive, but once setup is done, you can make an environment that sustains itself.

Oh, now I am on my soapbox, because I’ve come across something about which I’m truly knowledgeable.

The biggest mistake that people make with goldfish is that they don’t change the water enough. Goldfish are nasty. Gorgeous, but nasty. Their ammonia levels get really high, really quick, which is why it is inadvisable to keep them in a bowl…. unless you want to change the water almost every day. If you are going to keep goldfish, splurge on the most expensive filter for your aquarium that you can afford. If you just buy a ten-gallon kit, the filter it comes with will not turn the water over fast enough if you have more than one goldfish in the tank…. and by “turn it over,” I mean the amount of time it takes for the entire ten gallons to be refreshed by activated charcoal. I generally buy a 20-gallon filter for a 10-gallon tank if there are goldfish involved. You still need to change about a third to a half of the water every four weeks, roughly, but you’ll thank yourself if you buy a Python. Before you buy one, though, make sure you know how far your aquarium is from a water source so you get the right length. There are adapters for every water source- kitchen sink, bathroom sink, outdoor hose, etc. I also take the fish out when I’m cleaning the aquarium so that the fish aren’t barraged by chlorinated water. Although, since the chemical that takes out the chlorine works instantly, it’s not that big a problem if you don’t. It’s just my preference.

The best part about buying “feeder fish” is that you can’t tell whether the goldfish is exotic when it’s that small. So, I’ve paid five cents for black moors, pearlscales, etc. You just have to keep them alive long enough to find out. 🙂

The only time I’ve ever encountered true problems is when a tank gets ich. I have not once had any luck with treating it. I just do everything I can to prevent it. The treatment is expensive and might as well say “does not work” right on the label. Believe me when I tell you this is true; I’ve kept goldfish most of my life and am not inexperienced in the slightest. It spreads so quickly that even isolating the one fish that has it doesn’t make any difference. By the time you see the white spots, it’s game over for the whole tank…. which is why I buy five cent fish. If your tank gets ich, and you’ve had the fish long enough that losing the tank will be emotionally damaging (and I do mean it…. so much work goes into keeping these fish alive that it’s hard to watch them die after two years), try the treatment and see if your fish respond to it… but I’m betting dollars to donuts that they won’t.

If your entire tank dies, the only solution is to go back to the beginning. Start with an empty tank, even taking out the gravel and running water through it (I use a colander). Make sure the plastic plants are clean as well. Scrub the hell out of the walls and bottom of the tank with one of those yellow sponges that has the green layer on top. Never, ever, ever use soap. Even if you think you’ve gotten it all out, the molecules you can’t see will still kill the fish. Once you’re sure the tank has gone back to zero, replace the gravel and plants and plug everything back in. Then, let the tank run for at least two weeks before you add more fish. Some experts say that you only need to wait 24 hours to let the temperature stabilize, but I think this is unwise for goldfish. It takes time for the healthy bacteria to grow. Once you’ve had six or seven weeks with fish in the tank, a bottom feeder is also helpful, like a cory catfish. You want to wait until there’s enough for them to eat.

Also, aquarium size is directly proportional to how long goldfish will live. The smallest rule is one inch of fish (excluding their tails) per gallon of water. Also, goldfish will grow to the size of the tank they’re in. My rule is generally three goldfish in a 20 gallon tank, because I want all of them to be yuuuuge. 🙂

Lastly, don’t put a goldfish in a desktop aquarium. Just don’t. If you only have a one or two gallon tank, one betta is more than sufficient. I named my betta “Tester.” It also helps if you play Aqua for them. Bad puns, I’ll see myself out……