A recent post from PoppGrrl has got me thinking about the year Santa brought a pair of fantail goldfish for The Girl. It was.. I think.. Christmas four years ago, before The Girl realized that goldfish are terrible pets. You can't take them out of the tank; they aren't furry; and even if they were furry, it wouldn't matter because you can't pet them! Plus, they're filthy, so their tank needs to be cleaned ridiculously often, and they grow, and grow and GROW!
Anyway, Santa slung the tank down the chimney, and on Christmas morning the fishes were named Katie and Lisa. Based on relative growth rates over the years, we decided that Lisa was probably a male. Breeding never occurred, whether because of modesty (glass walled aquaria leave no room for privacy), or hunger (goldfish will eat anything, even their own eggs, I'd guess. they especially like thawed frozen peas with the skins removed), or clinical infertility (whatever), or because they actually were both girls.
After a year or so of growth, the 'girls' started getting sick. People will tell you that goldfish will only grow as big as the tank you put them in. This is only true because if you leave them in a tank of a certain size, they will quickly grow to the size of the tank and die. But first, they get sick. Ick... septicemia... fin rot... The Girl and I have come to know the signs well, and I have come to know the meds well, too.
I'm a firm believer that, by inviting a critter into your home, you commit yourself to care for it within your means. Although I didn't like buying $10 packs of medicine for the fish, it was certainly within our means. So was the 10 gallon tank we eventually bought, which is now solely the home of the monstrously large Lisa.
After one vacation, the two fish both turned mostly white and fell ill. I expect that they saw a ghost carp while we were gone, and the shock left them white-scaled. Whatever the cause, Katie never fully recovered, and eventually died. An appropriate back-yard burial ceremony was held, although no marker has yet been placed.
But Lisa lives on. And he gets larger, and larger, and larger. Last time we managed to measure her, she was about 6 inches nose to tail. I'd guess she's over 7" now. Due to space considerations, we've had to draw the line at the 10 gallon tank, even though he'd appreciate a larger one. He gets ick about three or four times a year, but we spot it quickly and treat at once. We use a sort of anti-ick alkaseltzer. It costs more per tablet, but its quicker, and seems more effective.
About once a year, she gets septicemia, usually after a particularly difficult ick infection. Maricyn II does the trick for that. It appears that the key to avoiding the ick infections is frequent tank cleanings. (goldfish are among the filthiest fish... next time we get guppies). As designated pet approver/sucker, the task falls to me.
And I tell you, I wouldn't dare stop cleaning that tank. As far as I know, the tank cleanings are the only reason that Lisa doesn't slip out of the tank at night and throttle us in our sleep. As she gets larger, this seems increasingly likely. When she reached 2 feet in length, I want her thinking fondly of me. Let the others fend for themselves. It's an uneasy truce, but it is a truce.