Through the Eyes of a Goldfish
An unexpected new pet is more complicated than anticipated
Keira has a goldfish now, thanks to David Keyes and the Daily Bee. Every year at the Bonner County Fair, the Daily Bee hosts a booth where kids can toss ping pong balls into jars of water and, if their ball actually lands in a jar, they win a goldfish. It’s a perennial favorite of my grandson, Tyler, and thankfully his ping-pong-tossing skills are not that great.
So I felt fairly safe in allowing Keira to play the game this summer, given that Tyler’s fine motor skills at the age of 12 are more advanced than Keira’s, who was then almost 3.
I forgot how people think almost-three-year-olds are oh-so-cute and who wants to see disappointment on an almost-three-year-old’s face? When Keira’s ping pong tosses landed far shy of the water jars, the young lady monitoring the booth took matters into her own hands by walking Keira up next to the jar where she then simply dropped the ping pong ball inside for her.
So we went home with a goldfish.
Now, I’m certainly not the first person to take a goldfish home from the fair, and this was not even the first goldfish that’s become resident at my house, but this is a whole new world for Keira and she loves this stupid fish. Which means I have to give a little bit of thought to the care and feeding of a goldfish, so that when Keira comes to visit and runs over to check on how “Fishy” is doing, she doesn’t find him floating belly up in the water.
How hard can it be, right? Get a jar, put water in the jar, put the goldfish in the water and throw some food flakes in every day.
This is why the Daily Bee shouldn’t give goldfish to my granddaughter: because it’s harder than you think!
First, you can’t just put the fish in a jar of water, at least, you can’t if you have cats in the house. I discovered this upon awakening one morning to find the jar tipped on its side, the carpet wet, and the fish hiding in the tablespoon of water left in what was now the bottom of the jar. Wow, THAT was fun.
So I got a much bigger ‘jar’ for the fish—one the cats couldn’t tip over. Except Gandalf is a beast of a cat and easily outweighs, it would appear, several gallons of water. Plus, he really likes the aroma of goldfish food.
So the fish went into a large jar with a lid. (Only at night. I’m afraid there won’t be enough oxygen in the water if I leave the lid on all the time.)
Well, here’s a poor little goldfish in a mighty big jar of water and... did you ever stop to wonder what a goldfish might want? That is, a goldfish that’s stuck living in your house? Because I kinda think a goldfish might want to live in a pond and not in a big jar of water. I also suspect he might like to, at least occasionally, have a place where he can hide from view.
So I stuffed the jar full of plastic plants. It is not the best solution; I’m afraid he’ll get hurt on the plastic, and they do seem to collect a lot of crud. But it’s a start.
So seriously, how would a goldfish define a comfy home? What kind of habitat does “Fishy” need to be at least moderately happy, however we define happy for a goldfish?
The short answer is, of course, a pond, but at least for now, a pond is not in Fishy’s future. So the second-best answer? According to Tropical Fish Magazine, a fish tank.
The smallest breeds of goldfish, they say, require something with a capacity of 20 gallons or so, and Fishy’s large jar, which holds a gallon and a half at most, is not going to cut it. In fact, it’s likely that Fishy is one of the larger breeds of goldfish (as that’s typically what’s given away at county fairs), and the same magazine tells me he could grow “over 18 inches and [up to] 10 pounds.” That sentence really needs an exclamation point and Fishy, it seems, really needs a bigger tank. Thank you, David Keyes.
Poor Fishy, like all goldfish, actually has a pretty good memory, which means his little jar is boring, boring, boring. I’m also given to understand that he’s trainable, though training a goldfish is not going to make it very high on my to-do list.
Fishy, by the way, if properly cared for, has the ability to live 40 or 50 years, so the goldfish Keira won by watching the booth monitor drop a ping pong ball into a bowl when she was almost three could possibly still be keeping companionship with her when she reaches her grandma’s current age. It boggles the mind.
Do goldfish get lonely? I asked this question of Google and found myself in a fish forum where one person wrote, “I’ve had my fish get really shy and withdrawn when they’ve been with other fish and are then on their own.”
I have no way of knowing if Fishy is currently either shy and withdrawn, or conversely, is quite outgoing for a fish. How would anyone know? Who has the time to observe a fish long enough to tell? But if Fishy needs a 20-gallon, filtrated tank to live in, he’s going to have to resign himself to batching it, because 40 gallons is out of the question.
I’m also not quite sure about his TetraFin, “nutritionally balanced diet,” “clean and clear water formula” goldfish flakes, given I’ve read that goldfish are both herbivores and omnivores, preferring both meat and veg on their dinner plate.
This means the aquarium is going to need a few plants that goldfish like to nibble on. And an aeration/filter system. And probably one of those little house things to hide in. And maybe some animal-based food pellets (because I’m not going to throw living creatures in for him to eat).
Next year, I am not going to allow the grandchildren to come within five feet of the Daily Bee’s booth at the county fair. It’s too much work.