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.