July 06, 2003

(Potential) piscicide, and things that

(Potential) piscicide, and things that suck.Recently
I was faced with the unenviable task of committing piscicide. Let me
explain. I have a ten gallon fish tank (I'm not convinced that a tank
with a ten gallon capacity deserves the name "aquarium", so fish tank
it is). It's a tank which, a couple of years ago, I bought for my
daughter and which I got to keep (talk about a stroke of luck! :-| )
when she and her mother and brother moved out last year. I'm not going
to get into Big Family Issues here - the only reason I mention this is
to serve in some kind of mitigation of both the nature and the naming
of the tank's inhabitants, of which there were six: Bumble, Bramble and
Ba-ba-ba (the last one named by my then one-year-old son :-) ), who are
fantail goldfish (absurd looking, bloated orange creatures with
ridiculously large fins and tails); Blackfish-bobbly-eyes and Osama,
who are black moors (just like fantails with the exception that they
are black, not orange, and with the addition of enormous, protruberant
eyes). Osama was named by me in the wake of 9/11, in an act of
convoluted patriotism, the logic of which worked something like this:
If Osama, the fish, were to die soon - which, I thought, he surely
would - then Osama bin Laden, the man, might be caught or killed. Maybe
I wasn't so wrong, since both fish and man seem to continue to
But I'm getting off the point. The final inhabitant of this small and
increasingly cramped container was a pleco
by the name of Sucky. It is Sucky whose fate I'm describing here.
How does a pleco get into a goldfish tank? It's dead simple. You buy
the tank, put the goldfish in, and before long, you notice that the
sides of the tank, and everything else in it that doesn't move
(fantails and black moors do move. Just. Sometimes.) is getting covered
in green slime, known in botanical and aquarist circles alike as algae.
After a few weeks of scraping this stuff off, you throw your arms up in
a sort of white-collar, middle-class approximation of desperation and
dash back to the pet store to whine about it. And they have a solution!
A fix that is not only quick and cheap, but ongoing: "You need a
pleco", they smilingly say, motioning you toward a tank which contains
a couple dozen small, brown, docile, catfish-looking things, which cost
only $5 a piece and actually EAT algae! That's right: they *live on*
that green slime that's been haunting you! They even *relish* it! Oh,
So that's how they get into your goldfish tank. They're quite
interesting, too: they are neither bloated nor orange; their fins are
in a fairly decent proportion to the rest of their bodies; they change
color a little, from time to time; and they are very diligent. You can
watch them doing their little sucking routine, day in, day out, all
over the tank, keeping it free of that stuff you'd grown to loathe,
even fear. In short, doing your job for you, for free, making a better
job of it into the bargain and (unsettlingly) providing you with an
excellent role model for how you should approach your own work... They
have beady eyes, though. Eyes that could lead the more paranoid among
us to suspect that they might have a hidden agenda.
And it turns out that they do: they grow. And grow. And grow.
Unfortunately, they're not alone in this: the other fish in the tank
(Bumble, Bramble, Ba-ba-ba, Blackfish-bobbly-eyes and Osama) were
growing, too, and resolutely refusing to proffer their lifeless bodies,
floating, belly up, even in the cause of national security. It was
getting to a point where there was hardly any room for water in the
tank (that's an exaggeration, of course, but, you know...). I even felt
compelled to remove my porcelain SpongeBob figurines to give the fish
more room. Over time, however, the more absurd fish in the tank seemed
to reach a compromise between their instinctive urge to bloat and the
physical constraints of their environment.
This was when the devious Sucky put his sickening plan into action: he
kept growing. Not only that - he became less diligent. And more ornery.
His policy shifted and he adopted a very simple, two-point strategy:
skulk; get bigger. Which is to say that he had taken me as *his* role
Clearly, my time to leap into action had come. I could get a bigger
tank - yeah. Maybe I haven't made it clear, so I'll spell it out:
caring for these bloated, absurd creatures that yell at me for food
every time I pass them (they do! They yell! Insofar as it's possible
for fish to do so...) is not a huge priority for me. I'm not going to
indulge them by rewarding their bloatedness with a bigger tank, and
with it an opportunity to resume their pursuit of perfection
(spherical, frilly). No. Somebody had to go, and since it was Sucky who
was most flagrantly flouting the unwritten law of equilibrium, and
slacking on the job, to boot, he was it.
(I should add: Yes, I am bloated, and my cat, Larry, is bloated. Your
I'm not totally without scruples, though. I had a plan: try the humane
approach and, *only if that failed*, try the toilet. So I went to the
pet store to buy a more modestly-sized replacement pleco. I explained
to the guy there that I had this enormous, 7-inch leviathan in my
little 10-gallon tank and asked, would they take it? Free? They could
sell it on, I didn't want a penny. The reply: "I'm sorry, sir, we can't
do that." I played my trump card: "So it's the toilet, then?" I was
shocked at the callous indifference of his response: "I guess so."
That was only the beginning. He then went on to tell me that plecos,
these quirky little creatures they chirpily sell for $5 as a panacea
for all your algae-related woes, can grow UPTO FOUR FEET LONG!!! Well,
maybe they could've mentioned that when I shelled out my five bucks.
But no, it was "Oh, you need a pleco" (smile, point), not "Oh, you need
one of these apparently cute little guys, but watch out, because in a
matter of months it'll transform into a four foot long, sucking monster
that'll crawl out of the tank and terrorize your family, devouring your
children and pets and enslaving you to it for the rest of your life (if
it doesn't suck the breath out of you as you sleep first)".
My course was clear. I shelled out another $5 for a cute, small pleco,
and then went home to deal with The Monster. It wasn't easy - to catch
him, I mean. Water was splashed, bloated, frilly creatures sent into a
state of panic (or their sedate approximation of it, at least).
Finally, when I had him in the net, I hesitated, just for a moment: in
his hugeness, should I flush him or filet him and fry him up for a
good-sized lunch (invite some friends round, too)?
The toilet it was, and now Sucky lives in the septic tank, out of
sight, out of mind, while his tiny successor, Mini-Me Sucky, works
diligently in his place, restoring the equilibrium in the little tank
and once more setting a good example to me as to how I should approach
my work. The bloateds seem much happier - I think Sucky was terrorizing
them behind my back. Hell, he was terrorizing me to my face!
My one lingering doubt: some day, in a few months, maybe a few years
time, as I'm sitting there, casually flipping through the pages of
National Geographic, Sucky, having attained his full, monstrous size,
will rear up out of the pan and suck my balls off.

Posted by dettifoss at July 6, 2003 12:51 PM