I recently acquired three foster goldfish, although to be precise, only one of them is entirely gold and the others have a motley complexion.
Now, prior to becoming a foster parent, the only thing I knew about keeping fish involved a plastic bag and a freezer.
However, not one to be defeated by a lack of knowledge, I took the opportunity to learn about fishkeeping and to study the intricacies of a day in the life of a fish. The exercise has left me deeply distressed.

At some time in the history of the human race a myth arose that watching fish swimming in a glass enclosure was relaxing. No doubt this scam has been maintained enthusiastically by people who make a living from selling fishkeeping equipment. I feel it is my duty to expose this myth for the sick practical joke that it is.

It only takes a few minutes observing these wee creatures to realise that, far from leaving you relaxed, you soon find yourself searching the telephone book for the number of your local animal liberation group and a qualified therapist.

You see, once you make eye contact with fish it becomes apparent that they never blink and the reason they do not blink is that they have no eyelids to speak of. After this fact sinks in, you begin to reason that if they cannot close their eyes then they cannot sleep, ergo, they must stay awake their entire life!

Just as you come to terms with the torment of sleeplessness you begin to notice something even more disturbing. Fish are never still. They are allowed no such luxury as a little floating about on their backs on the surface of the water or a nice lie down on the ornamental rocks at the base of the tank.
Indeed, if they were discovered actually “being still” it could lead to an early entry into fish heaven by being flushed down the toilet. “Still fish” are considered to be dead fish.

And, if you can bear to continue your observation, it becomes unnervingly apparent that for fish to refrain from “being still”, some part of their little bodies must maintain the constant movement. As you survey their anatomy you notice that the fine feathery-like fins below the body are forever a flap and the flimsy little tail keeps a vigil, awaiting the call to propel the body forward at a moments notice. You watch. You worry. You yell, “Keep Moving”. You become transfixed. You become exhausted.

Other issues worry me. Imagine having to exist in an environment that is also your drinking water, your toilet, your kitchen table and your bath. Or worse, actually having to share such an environment with strangers. And what about the privacy issue? No amount of miniature sunken ships or toy deep-sea divers could compensate for the lack of a room of one’s own where you can escape the prying eyes and fellow inmates.

Now I know that I will be accused of being anthropomorphic, but, when the little dears frantically swim towards me, eyes bulging and mouths gulping as if to mime an urgent message to me, I become anxious. No dry lecture about short attention spans and appropriate metabolisms can stop me from empathising with their plight. It is no consolation to me that they are designed to endure such a claustrophobic existence.

My foster fish are soon to be returned to the bosom of their family of origin. I will miss them but I remain traumatised.

Fish watching relaxing? What a scam!

For those of you who wish to sit in front of a glass enclosure and watch something moving slowly to and fro, I have a safe substitution. If you wish to dull your senses I suggest that your watch test cricket on TV (re-run old tapes if necessary). A warning though, to avoid the irritation from the voice overs, engage the mute button when ex-cricketers (particularly those with the initials of “Tony Greig”) are commentating.

Michelle ©



Clifton, Australia

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