Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Leading Up To The End

Years a lifetime ago I made a life changing decision.  I made my first trip to an aquarium store.  Just barely twenty I will never forget walking around this warehouse type place filled with different tanks of fish.  Guppies, Goldfish, Gourami's, Catfish, Cichlids, Tetras, Plecostomus AND all different types of plants.  Don't even get me going on the tanks.

Without getting really geeky here, I'll say that the hexagon tank really caught my eye.  It takes up less space (which at the time, I lived a home in what seemed like a closet) and there is more depth but less floor space.

It is a lot like have a bright lamp depending on the size (trust me).  So I went for it.  I think I spent about $200 on the entire set up.  Stand, lighting, rocks, cover, tank the whole nine yards.  I had my first full time job, still lived at home ... and thought hell yeah when I took it all in.  I justified it in my head as I would have it for years and truly get my money out of it.

And I did just that.

At read lots of books and guides on keeping fish.  I have never bothered with salt water, there is just too much chemistry in it for me.   But if you can use chemicals and plants to get your water to neutral .... and get fish to live in the tank over time, it becomes established.  There were plenty of fish that croaked in those beginning years.  I've grown plenty of banana plants and raised lots of tetras.

But it got tedious after awhile.  I was engaged, married, moving and pregnant in rapid succession.  I didn't want to give up and my best friend at the time (EBF) offered to take the tank from me.  Allow me time to raise my kids and she wanted to enjoy it too.

I sort of thought I wouldn't get it back, especially when she added a giant conch shell from her honeymoon trip to Hawaii.  One day she surprised me by saying she was ready to send it back, the shell even came with it and I added a promise that the day I was done with the tank, I'd get it back to her.  Because it stayed doing all that time, it came back to me still well established.  I upgraded it a bit and add two black and white convicts.  They are from the cichlid family and look like fish in old fashioned prison uniforms.

I picked two good ones.  A boy and a girl, if ya know what I mean.  And in very quick order there was a corner full of babies.  Very cool learning experience.  The survivors turned my two to twelve.  I brought the six I could catch to a local pet store.  Again, in very quick order there was a corner full of babies.  At the end of that stage there were fourteen black and white fish, living in a 25 gallon hex tank.  I didn't go back to the pet store this time.  I gave one away to a friend (it died less than a month later).  I just let the cards fall where they may.

The tank took up residence in my living room.  In various spots.  For years.

Those little fellas lived for years together.  All of them.  I enjoyed them and enjoyed them and enjoyed them.  One by one they passed.  Sometimes it was the older/stronger ones picking on the weakest.  Other times I wasn't really sure what caused their demise.

Twenty years I had that tank.  The silicone seal holding the glass together finally gave way to a small leak.  I knew it was only a matter of time.  I had a spare five gallon tank (don't ask why) that I put the remaining fish in.  I used the same rocks and water.

That tank is currently sitting on my corner kitchen counter, no working light or heater.  A filter that hasn't had the cartridge changed in many months but it is still filtering.  And there is one single fish.  The lone survivor.  The strongest.  He has greeted me, as I take my daily vitamins, every morning.

This past week I  notice he is having a hard time staying upright.  When he is in his little cave, his fins move very slowly and he lays on his side.  He does come out and eat and say hello but I can tell his life is coming to an end.  There's no heavy breathing, no frantic fin movements, he is very graceful even now.

Seeing him makes me think about the decision I made so long ago.  And how far I've come.  How far this fish has come (at least twelve years) and where he is going, any day now.

1 comment:

Amy said...

oh but I so love this post. I had a tank for awhile, too. Saltwater in college (cause a dude convinced me I could do it - oh the seahorses I killed...) and then I got one for Jacob when he was 4. I even made a stand for it and everything. The stand I still have, the tank went several moves ago.

God bless your lone survivor!!