We are welcoming Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Hermes, and Aphrodite to our lives now. Oh, and “Tina”.
Ray has sleep issues and Ray craves company. If we could all sleep together like puppies in a pile, Ray would be happy. And since he has his own room, he is always concocting ways to get out of it, while we are busy concocting ways to keep him relaxed in it. He has a white noise machine, a night light, his bed angled to face the television in the living room, and the television going with a sleep function on it. He has every imaginable way we could think of to reassure him that he was not alone, that he was safe, that he could relax. And still, every single night is a challenge. We’ve tried passes (3 chances to get out), we’ve got a routine, we read to him, we let him read. We’ve been firm. And every night, he appears like a wraith at my bedside, crying, “I can’t sleep”.
So, for his birthday, Ray got a fish tank. We figured that fish were fairly low-maintenance pets and that the sound and the company would be good for him. Plus, it would give him something to focus on that wasn’t HGTV or the Food Network. Having fish might teach him some pet ownership responsibility. And if it didn’t work out, I figured, fish are fairly expendable. I’ve never had fish before and have always considered them a pretty bland pet. When something that could be on my dinner plate is next to my bed, I’m inclined not to get attached. Not that I would eat a guppy. But my cat could…
And since one of our family mantras is “What you do for one, you do for the other”, Elizabeth got a Betta bowl.
But we were going on vacation. Which meant that the purchase of the fish would have to wait until we got back. This past Sunday, we went shopping, where I learned that a few of my assumptions were just plain wrong.
First of all, fish are not low-maintenance. Even guppies, like we got, and a Betta- all hardy fish- are finicky creatures. They have to have the right amount of water, the right Ph of water, water conditioner, the right temperature and all kinds of other “right” things.
Secondly, fish are expendable, and cheap- but they have clear-cut personalities. Ray named his fish after his love of Percy Jackson and his recent interest in all things Greek Gods. Zeus, named because he is an “electric green” guppy (get it- Zeus/lightening bolt connection?) is afraid of the dark and darts around when in a panic when the light is turned off. Hera and Aphrodite- typical girls- hang out together and do everything together. Which pretty much means hanging out at the top of the tank together- the fish version of the mall, apparently. I can almost hear the fishy giggles. Hermes alternates between trailing after the girls and dashing around the fake plants. Such an athlete! And Poseidon is the algae cleaner fish (get it? Cleaner of the “ocean”- the King of the Sea would be concerned about things like the environment).
Thirdly, “fish” are not just “fish”. Elizabeth’s Betta requires its own food, its own conditioner and its own tank. Also, it drives me crazy how the word “Betta” is spelled. It should be pronounced “Bet-ta” based on the spelling, and not “Bay-ta”- and it bothers me every time I see one of the million little jars we now have. Her Betta is named “Tina” because Elizabeth’s tank lid is pink and she chose a pink castle for the bottom and a pink “Diva” sign that the fish likes to hang out around. She knows it’s a male, but he’s so pretty with his purple fins, and Elizabeth likes the name “Tina” right now. Between the name and the sign, I made the mistake of joking with my husband that clearly Tina was a drag queen, and now Elizabeth has repeated that to all of her friends. I’m not sure what the neighbors now think about our pets…
And lastly, fish ARE a great way to teach responsible pet ownership- for me and James. I now find myself, along with our two cats, hanging out in Ray’s room at bedtime with him, watching the fish. Ray goes off to sleep with company happily. Needless to say, the experiment has been a complete success- but not quite in the way that I imagined.