Rachel Wise: Something fishy as tank empties

By Rachel Wise

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Rachel Wise is a lifestyle-block owner and community newspaper editor writing for us while Jacoby Poulain is on maternity leave.
Rachel Wise is a lifestyle-block owner and community newspaper editor writing for us while Jacoby Poulain is on maternity leave.

I was backing around in the driveway this morning on my way to work when I saw something not quite right in the horse-trough.

A chicken.

Sadly, chickens can't swim and this one, the last of my rescued battery hens and admittedly a bit dotty, had tried.

I fished her out and berated the goldfish that live in the trough.

"You could have at least eaten her," I told them, "it would have saved me digging a hole."

I'm on the fence about fish. I'm not sure how they rate as pets. We've had one or two, right from when I was a kid and used to capture tiny eels in an estuary and take them home in a tin can.

They were happy to live in a fishtank and eat catfood off an iceblock stick, but eventually they would insist on slithering out of the tank and rolling about on the carpet. It didn't do them a heck of a lot of good. They would be discovered a day or so later, disguised as small, hairy sticks.

From there we graduated to frogs, which weren't exactly fish but my younger sister was convinced she could get them to live happily in captivity. Well, in our bath.

She had been delighted when there was a froggy population explosion and every trough on the farm was full of big, green frogs. I wasn't delighted when I found she'd brought them all home. And they hadn't co-operated with the live-in-the-bath thing.

Did you know frogs are sticky? They have sticky little climby feet and they can go all sorts of places, such as the ceiling, the bathroom mirror, the window and the walls.

Tropical fish were another fun venture. We had a tank of colourful characters, from a silver shark and some neon tetras to a plecostamus, a stripey, eely thing, and some round, pink things. All flashing about amusingly in amongst weeds and grasses.

Until my husband ordered some fish called "oscars".

They arrived as tiny, pale, pink fish and I tipped them in the tank and they sank to the bottom, motionless. I thought they were dead, so I poked them. It didn't appear to help.

From time to time they'd try to swim and I'd poke them again in a helpful kind of way. And they'd sink again.

Nothing had improved by bedtime so we left them to die in peace. The next morning they were fine. Apparently oscars faint under stress, ie when people poke them. Good for them.

They ate worms, which was gross. They also ate the plants in the tank, which was annoying.

Then the stripy, eely thing disappeared. Next to become non-existent was the red-tailed shark. We assumed the silver shark had eaten him, being a shark. The silver shark was proven innocent when he too went missing.

The oscars were getting bigger. We soon had no more neon tetras and the round, pink fish went too - the small one first, then the big one. By now the oscars - whom we had named Piglet and Fluffy - were large and it was obvious where our fish had gone. Well, not all - the big, spiky plecostamus was proving inedible.

Having run out of playmates, it seemed Piglet and Fluffy were directing their gaze towards the lounge ... they would stare at us all evening as we watched TV. I was feeling uncomfortable.

I placed an ad in the paper. A nice man turned up with a bucket. I explained the fainting thing and threw in a free plecostamus. We never heard from the nice man again.

In hindsight, I'm kind of pleased my goldfish are vegetarian.

Pass me the shovel. I have a chook to plant.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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