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As Long as We Remember...

September 24, 2006

The Death Knell

Tom McLaughlin

While here at the beach and living in the townhouse, I reached back to my youth and decided to have an aquarium. As a person who has had a business in old books, many people want things from the past including copies of Old Golden Books, pristine copies of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew series.

A friend who deals in toys relates there is a huge market for the old Tonka trucks and other items in wheels but they have to be in pristine condition. This is rare for items abused at play by children.

Not one to do anything half way, my vision was for a tank with different kinds of angel fish swimming gracefully with real plants waving back in forth in the waters. I contacted the local privately owned fish store and they sold me one. They came to the house and installed a huge 55-gallon on stand with all the trimmings.

The first fish I purchased were a few cheap little barbs, a few livebearers, and a pair of kissing fish. When the water was right, in about a month, they would quit dying, I was informed.

And, "they swam and they swam all over the place" as the song goes with only a few ascending to fish heaven. After a month, all were alive except for one kissers who floated to the top after about a week.

The required one month had ended and I began purchasing the Angels. They died except one. We decided they needed more oxygen and we bought an air pump that had the PSI to inflate tires. The bubbles looked pretty and they I went out and secured more. These usually ran about $6 each but they all died. The starter fish were growing, reproducing and rolling along with a smile on their face.

We decided it must be the huge pink georama kisser fish that was doing them in. He/she was netted and swirled down the toilet to join the other millions of fish who met the same fate. Meanwhile, I found you could buy live anglerfish on an auction on the Internet.

Thinking this would be the best way to stock the tank, I bid on about 60 in two different batches. These all had pedigrees with their bewildering genetics carefully explained. To my surprise, I won both offers. I did the Pay-Pal thing and they told me they would ship them via special something to the post office in Ocean City and it would take only two days.

I waited and waited, bugging the post office. Finally I called early one morning before they opened and they had arrived. I begged them to let me have the critters before the post office opened and they told me to go around to the back door. Remember this is a small town except in summer.

I got the bags, put them in the tank and watched with a silly Bill Cosby smile. They lasted only three days and began to die off. First it was one or two, but then a mass suicide.

Meanwhile, I had won another huge batch. I consulted with people and I added drops of this and that and went through the same routine. They lasted about three days, just long enough for the warranty to expire, as if they had read the same pact the others had.

Meanwhile, my other fish have thrived and the odds and ends added from Wal Mart have thrived and reproduced several times.

The tank has changed from Angels in heaven to whatever will survive.

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