Saturday 20 October 2007

Farting Fish

When I was eleven I desperately wanted a dog for christmas, but since my mum didn’t want to spend the next fifteen years traipsing around the park with it every few hours she said no. I offered to settle for a cat instead – a good few years had elapsed since our last cat had run away and I thought my mum had probably forgotten by then. She hadn’t. I tried for a hamster or something, but my mum also remembered the gerbils that had died just because we’d gone away on holiday and left them, so a few weeks before christmas I’d downgraded again to goldfish, which I also wasn’t going to get. We went to some kind of grown-up house party, and as well as being told I’d grown and being forced to say something about what I’d been doing at school (hiding, mostly), I was asked what I wanted for christmas. Before my mum had time to roll her eyes, the other grown-ups realised they’d found something to talk about with a shy eleven-year-old, and whisked me outside to see the goldfish in their garden pond which had just had little baby goldfish… We went home with six of them flapping around in a bag of pond water, and I kept goldfish for the next seventeen years.

They’re not the same ones now, although goldfish can live much longer than they’re usually allowed to – they have their reputation for dying only because so many people stick them in a stupid bowl, feed them too much, and say within their hearing that they’re probably going to die in a couple of days. They actually need oxygen and friendly bacteria too, but once that’s sorted out they’re happy and hassle-free for months on end, and don’t even leave hair on the carpet.

Just occasionally they need some help though. Today one of mine has been hanging uncomfortably from the surface of the water most of the time, and after watching it for a while I saw it fart, which I can’t imagine the other fish were very impressed by. It looks a bit bloated too, and has probably eaten far too much of the new plants I’ve just put in, the greedy little blighter.

There will be a small white bottle called “Fartozine” or “Aquafart” at the back of Pet City (fantastic shop) which cures gastro-intestinal bloating in freshwater fish but kills invertebrates and all the friendly bacteria in the tank. It probably costs five or six quid, has a 50% success rate, is made by some big pharmaceutical company or other and is flown around the world a couple of times just for fun before it reaches me. I’ve used stuff like that before because if a fish is seriously ill then I just want it to get better, but if I had wind myself I’d just eat something else to sort it out, and I don’t see why a goldfish can’t do the same.

I’ve been growing tee tree plants in my flat, and the last couple of times a goldfish has had a fungal infection or scratched itself on a rock I’ve put a couple of leaves in the water and it healed up in no time – curiously without killing off all the filtration bacteria, even though tee tree is anti-bacterial. My books say that mint and chamomile both help digestion and wind colic, so I’ve made the fish a nice cup of chamomile tea and chucked it in the tank with a mint leaf. The sick one actually looks better after about three hours, and now none of them should suffer from insomnia or painful menstruation either, according to the book.

So now it’s feeling better it’s started munching all the plants again. I can HEAR you all remarking on their three second memory span, stoppit! It’s not even true. Their short-term memory is supposed to be about SEVEN seconds, but they have a long-term memory too, and very good eyesight. They can recognise the person who feeds them, and can even be taught to do simple tricks, you just have to repeat things often enough to get it into their long-term memory.

I wonder if I could teach this one to make itself a cup of chamomile tea?


Ralph Mills said...

I enjoyed the mental picture of you watching your goldfish fart! I also think you may have discovered a natural goldfish cure goldmine. You could mix up tiny bottles of camomile tea and sell them for extortionate amounts as goldfish colic cures. And you are right about fish memories - our fish know exactly by whom, where and when thay are going to be fed. And then there are those migrating salmon...

BumbleVee said...

better yet... maybe u could teach it to make you a cup of tea!

In all sincerity.. I am with commoner... bottle it up and sell it.