Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Fish Called Walter

In the frustrated flurry of the previous week, we lost track of our fish.  I mean, we knew where he was.  His clever little puzzle-piece-shaped habitat sits on a table in our kitchen.  We aren't sure how much Walter can really see, but we thought he would prefer the activity and warmth of the kitchen over, for example, the upstairs bathroom.  

We try to keep his little life as interesting as possible.  We talk to him.  We aggravate him just enough to keep him on his toes (fins).  We shift his Charlie Brown tree to a new spot every time we clean his space. And we place items next to him on the table to liven his day.  Most recently, we placed a bright orange baby pumpkin to serve as his "view".

But somehow, despite our oddly involved fish parenting style, we couldn't figure out how long it has been since he had eaten.  I remembered the girls pointing out leftover floating food a few days ago.  But had he eaten after that?  No one could quite be sure.  All we knew was that he had been hiding in corners a bit more than usual and refused to eat any breakfast that specific morning.  

It was clear he saw the food drop in.  It was clear he was not interested at all.  Walter once "bit" my finger when I decided to tease him with it instead of food.  He loves to eat.  I think all beta fish do and we try to be careful not to overfeed the little guy.  We are not sure they know their limits.

But apparently, they do.  When they get backed up.  

After the girls went to school and the hubs went to work I sat down to diagnose Walter.  Crouching down and pressing my face against the glass (plastic) I eyed our newest family member.  His fins and coloring looked good.  Everything else was pretty normal except for "lethargy" and "refusal to eat."  It really did appear, based on my super biological observation skills and the internet, that he was constipated.

Which...can be fatal for a fish?!?

I set to work.  Walter was not going to die on my watch (I mean, not right now.  He probably will, eventually, since he's going to die and he's on my watch more than anyone else's).  I was still feeling super guilty about the time he flopped out of the net and onto the counter (shh).  The webpage said that if the issue was caught early enough it was easy to fix and "your fish will be back on track in a few days."  

So I cooked one frozen pea.  Do you know how sad one frozen pea looks floating in a little dish of microwaved water?  Well it looks pathetic, but this is what the internet insisted I do.  After I shelled the booger and cut it into beta-sized bits, I dropped one into the very small tank.  The site promised that the bright color would be enough to entice the fish to bite despite its condition.

Walter watched the antidote sink to the bottom.  Literally.  His eyes moved from hopefully looking at the surface to sinking, like a piece of pea apparently does, all the way to the gravel .  Great, I thought.  Walter is going to die.  He even looked out in my direction.  Which I read as, "Lady, thanks for trying, but it's too late for me."

But, I wasn't going to give up yet.  I dropped another bit for him.  This time he nabbed it like a ninja right out of the air (water).  And then he swam down and ate the first piece, too.  I figured, since he is only the size of a large paper clip, that two pieces of pea was plenty for an already-filled-up fish.  Walter and I regarded each other.

Alright, buddy, I thought.  Now you gotta poop.  

Side note: beta fish poop out of the necks!  Like right below their gills...the poop comes out right there!  

Well, despite careful observation for most of the rest of the day I never saw Walter pop a fish squat.  But the website said it might take a few days.  I resolved not to feed him until the following morning.

Which brings us to today.  Walter seemed much more agile when I first checked on him this morning and I was cautiously encouraged that he had done the deed and would be okay.  I fed the girls breakfast.  I fed the dogs breakfast.  I fed myself breakfast (miracle)!  And then I walked over to Walter.  As I approached he swam over.  Are fish really this with it?  I am known for anthropomorphizing almost anything, especially animals, but he seriously seems gifted.  People probably always think their fish is the smartest.  I dropped one teeny tiny pellet of fish food into the water.   

And he swam right over and ate it!  I fed him two more (his typical meal) and he ate both of those too!!

I panned the gravel for a new present, but saw none.  Hopefully Walter got it done and is "back on track."  If not, I have a whole bag of peas in the freezer to get him going again.

Walter is a tough fish to read.  Does he still look constipated to you?

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