“You need a fish.”

Tim the freshman plopped a Nalgene bottle with a goldfish on my desk.

I did not need a fish. I thought they were stupid. If you want to give me something, give me a dog, a cat, a snake, or some coffee.
But the creature was alive and looking at me–I had to take care of it. I knew nothing about aquaria except I was sure a 32 ounce Nalgene bottle wasn’t the right one for a goldfish.
I went to the store, got some food, and a one-gallon tank.
Turns out goldfish do not get one-gallon tanks. They get 20+ gallon tanks. Much like high school freshmen, they are messy.
I brought him home. Declan, age 4 or 5 at the time, decided he needed a friend. So, we got him a bulgy-eyed goldfish friend.
Somehow–I can’t get the timeline right–I ended up with a small tank at school, two tanks at home, then one day I snuck into the science closet under the cover of darkness and found a large tank that looked like it hadn’t been used in decades.
“Anyone care if I borrow this?” I specifically asked the person who didn’t care.
“No. Go ahead.”
So, I wheeled the stand and the tank into my room, hooked it up, tested for leaks, and before long, I had a really big tank in my room–freshwater tropical fish.
All thanks to Tim.
This all flies in the face of Chapter 1 through 1 million in my book and everything I’ve ever aid about not spending your paycheck on your job, but fish weren’t my job. They were my new hobby.
On a good day, they cheered, floated around the tank, and said good morning to me when I walked in. On a bad day… I could sit there for a few minutes. They swam–each one beautiful–in and out of plants… just… eating, and being alive.
And fish really do recognize people–it was nice to tell them about my day.
There’s something about a fishtank.
They’re peaceful, meditative. There’s science showing that watching fish lowers blood pressure.
I don’t know if any of my high school kids had high blood pressure, and I didn’t, but they certainly loved the fish.
Kids came early (I never assigned seats) to sit at desks near the fish. They moved chairs up to the fish. Some asked to care for the fish. Others knew about all things aquarium and wanted to do the hard work.
Parents came into parent night and loved the fish, and on conference nights, all the little brothers, sisters, and cousins who got dragged across five towns late at night to see me–got to see the fish.
All in all, I loved them.
Until… I fish sat one fish who picked away at the silicon seal of the tank.
One day–final exam day, mind you–a kid said, “Miss, there’s water.”
“I got this. You do your exam.”
Except it wasn’t water. It was WATER. 30+ gallons of it.
“Change of plans. I’m going to empty this and clean. You’re all going to do your exam and not cheat. Cheaters get bad karma. That’s how today will go. Enjoy your exam.”
That was the end to the fishtank.
I could’ve gotten another, but life bogged me down. We missed our fish.
“Mom, can we get our fish back?” When we moved to our new house we were supposed to get our fish, but there wasn’t space.
“Mom! We need our FISH back.” This went on for a few years.
My cat got squished by a car on Route 12 in Plainfield, CT. My mom said we could get a new cat when we moved then she never let me.
I owed the boy his fish.
It started again–the one tank. Then two. Now three. They really are addictive. They’re beautiful, they teach a lot–they teach kids science, biology, ecology, environmental science, geology, patience, and how to care for living creatures.
They’ll teach you to slow down and watch the fish.
Trust me… if you’ve never considered fish, you will love them.
Those little shrimp arrived today after a long while setting up the tank, planting it, and making sure the balance was just so.
The clear dude is supposed to be red. But, I kinda like him. He’s a good reminder that you don’t have to be perfect to be perfect.