In Memory of Sid or Alex

Did you know that goldfish can live for over 10 years in a decent tank?

When I was 16 and working at Walmart, they had this employee appreciation sale and I had no idea what to buy, so I bought an aquarium. I think I had dreams of having pretty exotic fish since I bought a heater and everything.

I went to the pet store and asked for 2 fish. The woman said something along the lines of “No, you’ll want more. About 80% of them will die within a week, so I’ll give you 10.” They were literally like $.25c each, so I went along with it, but it was pretty morbid to think that the majority of them would die.

But die they did. I was a kid. I had no clue that pH balance was a thing. I’d wake up with a new fish sucked against the filter grate every morning until there were just 2 left. And they were the runts of the troubling (a group of goldfish is called a “troubling”, look it up.) They were less than an inch long.

I didn’t name them all at first because apparently they were going to die pretty quick anyway. But after a while, those two fish thrived and began to grow. They’d bump into each other constantly, almost like one was always bugging the other. So I named them Sid and Alex, as this was at the height of the Crosby and Ovechken rivalry.

Fast forward many years, to when I was living in Vancouver. I got an e-mail one morning from my dad saying one of the fish was dead. I asked what he did with the body. He flushed it. I got unreasonably angry. The fish was at least 6-7 at the time, and in my eyes was a constant in our every day lives. But that was just me, the hopeless animal sympathizer who will likely worry about an animal every day for the rest of my life.

I never really decided which one died and which one was alive. I honestly could never tell them apart.

A few days ago I noticed the fish was at the bottom of the tank, and he was extremely lethargic to the point where I thought he had already died. But he twitched his gills when I looked right at him and slowly swam away.

The next few days he got worse and worse. At first he was swimming aimlessly on his side, then the next day he was at the bottom of the tank, burrowed into the rocks, his gills moving intermittently.

Like any crazy person would do, I began to look into humane ways to kill a goldfish. Turns out there’s only really 3 ways to do so. The first is to take it to a vet to be put to sleep, and I’ll be 100% honest that I considered it. If it weren’t a weekend, I probably would have spent +$75 to put a $0.25 fish to sleep. That’s the extent of my pathetic love for animals.

The second is to put the fish in a clove oil bath, which would put the fish to sleep and eventually it would kill him. Of course, I had no access to clove oil at the time.

The last, which to me isn’t “humane” at all, is to physically kill the fish. People suggested putting the fish in a plastic bag and bashing it onto a table. Others said decapitation was the way to go. Those options made my stomach turn. I cringed when my dad cracked live crabs in half before boiling them. I felt depressed for days after accidentally stepping on a snail. I can’t physically assault and murder my fish.

There were arguments that the best way for a fish to die is to let it die naturally. I looked at him and although you can’t tell what a fish is thinking or feeling, I knew it had to be painful. But it was nearing midnight on a Friday and I was out of options. I said goodnight to him before bringing Peyton to bed.

The tank is still. The filter is off. The automatic feeder is still turning. The fish is gone.

This time my dad asked what we should do with him. I said I’d like to bury him. Dad joked that we should bury him on top of where my first cat, Galileo, is buried under the pear tree in the backyard. Forever chasing that fish.

I realize I’ve just spent almost half an hour typing up the life story of a damn goldfish, but I believe every animal deserves to have its story heard. So this has been the memoir of Sid or Alex, the 14 year old goldfish who died on February 24th, 2018.

He was a good fish.


145 thoughts on “In Memory of Sid or Alex

  1. Reading this unexpectedly brought all of the emotions and memories back of my own pets past. The most recent to leave us was Nelson, our 16 years old dog on 8/2/18.
    Shedding a tear for all of the pets that we have loved and lost.

  2. I relate to this so much. I had a Siamese Fighter (Poseidon) who died in December, I could see he wasn’t well and also tried finding ways to end his pain. He died on his way to the vet…

  3. I’m really sorry about your fish. A very touching story. You’re a very sensitive and thoughtful person. Rare, like your beloved fish. Thanks for sharing this story.

  4. All my sister’s goldfish in her outdoor pond died all of a sudden last month…we cried together that night. Even my favourite. Stumpy, who was missing a tail, was gone.

  5. Our son’s Beta fish just died. He’s 3 and kind of a free spirit kind of kid so it didn’t really phase him.

    This post is so sweet! What an old goldfish! You must be an amazing goldfish keeper!!

  6. Dang. That was a good article! I feel the same way with animals. I always have buried them. I am sorry for your loss and it will get better over time. I recently lost my bearded dragon I have for just about 8 years. He was a good guy also. I swear he could talk to you by just looking at you, maybe I was crazy, but I had a connection with him. Had him my whole high school life. Rip Leo ❤ Anyways, keep up the good posts. I really liked yours and I feel like it was completely worth it and necessary for your fish you lost. Good job!

  7. This was a very sweet story. I’m sorry about your fish. My dad has a huge tank filled with beautiful fishes. I remember the first time he was picking out his fishes for the tank, he was like a little child. So excited for a fish! When one seems to look like it was going to die, it would break my dads heart 😦 I’m glad you shared this story. It was beautiful

  8. I just got into goldfish keeping and I can’t imagine your pain. I’m so sorry!

    If you ever want to get back into goldfish keeping, which I know it may be to soon, there are some great groups on Facebook. I learned a lot!

  9. beautiful story. Loved it. Sorry about the fish bud. My dog died recently as well and my ex was so casual about it.Don’t understand people sometimes. RIP Sid or Alex

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  11. I understand what it feels like to lose a pet… it’s an experience of intense pain and it’s almost customary to write about it. I’m sorry for your loss and want u to know that there are several people who will understand this sentiment and be on your side. I went through a similar feeling when I lost my dog and I wrote about it too.
    would appreciate it if you all could check it out

  12. You should cremate him – My Dad has always been a mad scientist, so I remember us cremating one of our recently deceased angelfish with I think potassium permangenate + glycerin. It seems like an odd choice for an aquatic animal, but burying a fish seemed weird to child me!

  13. I enjoyed this! Made me think of my goldfish that died when I was a kid. I insisted to my parents that it was still alive because its eyes were still open…. The sting of death is hard to handle, no matter the age.

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  15. Awesome. What an excellent blog post! It really goes without notice that our smaller, more exotic pets die too. We just had Bellamy, our 4-year-old dumbo rat, cremated. Some may never understand that pets are family, regardless of size. My thoughts are with you, Sid, and/or Alex.

  16. I wanted to let you know that I have the same love and sympathy for animals. I had fish, named them all but they were different breeds. My last fish was a garbage fish that I had for years (this was over ten years ago). When he started to look like he was going to die I put him in a bag of water in the freezer. I heard this way the cold makes them fall asleep and then they die. Not sure if this is the best way, but wanted to share for any future fish;)

  17. I am so sorry about your Goldfish. I have a saltwater tank and I am devastated when a fish dies – luckily none have died since the “incident” that happened five years ago. My Hawkfish committed suicide by jumping out of the tank. But I am still sad about it. So, I completely understand your anguish!!!

  18. Respect for a ‘life’ is what makes us all, more humane. When we see that life just slipping every second, to a point of no return .. that loss and grief is beyond words.

    Thanks for sharing Stef.

    And yes! Sid and Alex would be remembering you too. ❤

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