Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Don't You Dare Put a Goldfish in a Goldfish Bowl!

I'll start with the conclusion to a very long story.  After an ordeal (story below), we are now the owners of a red, veil tailed Betta named Cole.  Buddy insisted on that name. I wanted to name him Bernie. He's a frisky little fellow and regularly engages in raucous games of "attack the reflection."  The kids are in love. I just hope we can keep him alive for a little while. I hadn't planned on getting a Betta, but that's what we ended up with.
I woke up one morning and decided that I wanted to buy the kids a goldfish.  You know, get them their first pet.  I have fond memories of a fish tank that I had as a child.  I also enjoyed caring for a couple of Zebra Danios (Charlie and Vinny) that I kept in a small glass bowl. The pair lived happily for three years. I didn't think it would be too big of a deal.  Buy a small goldfish, put it in a goldfish bowl and let the kids feed it fish flakes. Easy, right?
We arrived at the store all starry eyed and full of hope and happiness.  We looked at the small rodents, enjoyed the ferret, perused the reptiles and birds and then wandered over to the fish center.  I found a small goldfish bowl and a few other essentials and then we went over to get a fish.  I was met by a tall, doughy faced woman. I explained to her that I wanted to purchase a goldfish, indicating one of the hundreds of goldfish in the feeder fish tank.  She asked how big my tank was.  I held up the goldfish bowl. "Oh," she said, "you can't put a goldfish in that bowl."  "Are you sure?" I asked, "Then why is it called a goldfish bowl and why does it have a picture of this happy goldfish swimming in it on the label?" "That's just the 'style' of bowl." she replied. "You have to buy a tank with a filter."  "Then what is this bowl good for?" I asked.  "A Betta." she said.
What are you looking at?
I found myself irritated by this, mostly because of her tone and because, frankly, I didn't believe her, but I went back to the fish tanks to look for another tank anyway. We found a small filtered tank for $7 more on sale. I took it back to the woman.  "I want to get a goldfish now." I said.  "Oh, those are feeder fish, you can't buy those." she relied. "We have some fancy goldfish over here.  Oh, but they can't be in that small of a tank."  "What?!" I exclaimed, "This tank is filtered and depicts another happy goldfish swimming in it."  "Goldfish can't live in that. You can't buy one of these." she stated.  "Seriously? You won't even let me buy a fifteen cent feeder fish?" I asked. "Nope." she replied. "Why is that?" I asked.  "Because it will be suffering!" She stated this with as much self righteousness as she could muster, "And at this pet store, we put the animals first!"  (now, I'll clarify,  I don't want a fish to suffer, if a goldfish really won't be happy in the goldfish bowl, then fine. But the dour expression on her face and the tone in her voice suggested that I regularly participate in animal cruelty.)  "Okay, assuming that is true, what kind of fish can I put in this filtered tank?" I asked. "A Betta." She replied.
Can I read you a story, Cole?
At that point, I turned to the kids, "Well, I don't think we can buy a fish today."  I wasn't a real fan of Bettas.   There's something about their loner and aggressive nature that has not endeared them to me...that and the fact that they prefer gross, live food like worms and brine shrimp.  In addition to that, I wasn't sure I wanted to spend my money in that store. Tears and whining from the kids, I had, after all, promised them a goldfish.
"Okay, fine." My palm smacked my forehead and I sighed deeply,  "We'll buy the darn Betta." We selected the cheapest Betta we could find.  Then I discovered a second aisle of fish bowls.  All were Betta bowls and all were cheaper than what I had been looking at before.  I'm still trying to figure out why they even bother stocking the goldfish style bowls, or why they don't just put them on the aisle with all of the Betta bowls.
Are you going to listen or what?
I'm still a little hot under the collar about the whole experience. First of all, I felt like I was being chastised by this woman. A customer should never feel chastised! Second, it should have been obvious, from my first interaction with the salesperson, what type of pet experience I was going for.  One look at a frazzled mother, with two toddlers, holding up a goldfish bowl and asking to buy a common goldfish should have indicated that I did not want to spend much on a large, filtered, heated tank and that I wanted something, you know, cheap and easy to deal with. If she had handled it in a more gracious manner (i.e. not implying that I was out to make a fish suffer and that her job was to protect the animals from the customers) then I wouldn't be as irritated. If, after the first interaction, she had talked about all the great things about Bettas in comparison to goldfish, I wouldn't have been as irritated. Plus, I'm still not sure I totally understand how she determines goldfish suffering.  How is it less cruel to buy them and feed them to your other fish?  Also, why could I have walked in and purchased one of their mice to feed to a pet snake, but they would not allow me to purchase a common goldfish and keep it in a well maintained goldfish bowl? I'll also note that the pet store may have gotten my $20, but I'll never shop there again after this experience.
Alright, where was I?
So, now we have Cole, The Betta. I'm discovering that he is a rather interesting fish. He appears curious about the environment outside his bowl, he's not terribly skittish and he almost always comes right up to look at you when you are anywhere near the bowl. It's possible that he's plotting a way to get out of the bowl and eat me, but I prefer to think of it as curiosity. I find myself obsessing over his health.  Did he eat too much? Is he looking bloated? Are his scales looking healthy? What kind of food is best?  I've been researching a lot for this little guy. I hope he appreciates it. I'll have to do a break down of my research in a later post. The kids enjoy feeding him in the morning and spend a lot of time asking him questions about his day.  My favorite from Buddy, "are you still alive today, Cole?" When this fish dies, it won't be due to lack of love.

After that mega post, I hope you have a Happy Day!


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