We kept (and promptly killed) several fish in my childhood, but I really got into keeping fish during college. It was weird to wake up and not have to feed some kind of animal. And that’s what growing up on a farm will do to you. Furry pets weren’t allowed in the dorms, naturally, but nothing was said about fish and nobody really cared since they weren’t noisy and didn’t pee on the floor.

I actually got the fish at the Bible Chair, a college ministry sponsored by the Church of Christ I attended (mostly because it was directly by the college and I knew a girl who went there). It was a fan-tail goldfish in a bowl, part of an object lesson about acclimation, and it was actually a huge pain in the ass to get it back to the dorms because it was below freezing with ice on the roads. However, Fish survived the night, but promptly died the next afternoon for no reason that I knew.

I was pissed off at that fish, and embarrassed that I couldn’t even keep the damn thing alive for more than a day. Feeling guilty, I got another fan-tail, and due to advice on the Internet, upgraded the bowl to a little 1.5 gallon tank with a little filter. Fish Mark II lasted a few months before he kicked the bucket. I have a suspicion it was due to swim bladder disease or maybe improper temperature.

And then I got a betta (Siamese fighting fish) and a thermometer to actually check the temperature.


Aristarchus was a good fish. I kept him for about eight months before he keeled over from swim bladder disease. I was a little pissed at him, but it was definitely a vast improvement over my earlier fish.

Then I upgraded to a larger tank, about 15 gallons, and got some tetra and a plecostomus (sucker fish). They died overnight, and that’s when I discovered that bubble stones are a super-good idea with fish that aren’t tolerant of low oxygen levels like betta are. Trying again, I got a different kind of tetra, serpae tetra, and some corydoras catfish and another betta. The betta never did eat, and he was bullied by the tetra, little assholes, so Basilius was another failure.

But by now I’ve had those tetra and catfish for about a year and a half now. I didn’t put nearly the amount of effort into naming them as I did the bettas. For one, I can’t tell them apart, so the tetra are communally named Asshole, and the two albino catfish are both Whitey, while the peppered catfish is Speckley. For some damn reason, the fish I get from Walmart last longer than the ones I get from actual pet stores. Granted, Walmart aquariums are probably five times as Darwinian as Mother Nature is.

I think I would like to try a betta again, but not with the Assholes. One betta eats less and produces less waste than five tetra, so I’d get the bonus of not needing to clean the tank as often. The catfish would probably get along fine. But the Wiki tells me that serpae tetra can be expected to live for about 7 years, so I might stuck with the little bastards for quite a while. I’ve pondered just separating them off and pouring some Sprite in the isolation tank (a proven killing method a friend discovered by accident), but that seems really, really cold-blooded.

But at the crux of this is figuring how just how much I am invested in or want to be invested in this hobby. I’m shitty with hobbies because I’m pretty inconsistent with them. I’ll get interested in something and drop some money on it, but months later I could be back to near-indifference again. And I really need to stop that if only because I can’t afford it.

I really like the idea of only having as much crap as I need and not having closets and garages chock full of random junk like my children-of-the-Depression grandparents. On the flip side, they have some really cool junk that often turns out to be useful at unexpected times. But after moving in and out of a dorm twice a year for four years, I was ready to set most of my stuff on fire rather than packing and hauling it yet again.

Priorities. I need to figure out what mine are. Aren’t you supposed to magically know this stuff when you’re an adult?


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