Die Fish, Die


I am a faithful and loyal pet owner.

My almost 15-year-old dog will attest that her day-to-day life is beyond comfortable. She gets love and treats from me even on the mornings when she wakes me up before 6 to go outside and simply sniff the grass, having already left me a present hidden in the darkest corner of my kitchen where I can step it in as I make coffee.

I believe a commitment to a pet is until death do we part (or you hurt my kids because there are some lines that cannot be crossed). But that death part… can I maybe speed that up for our fish?

Thinking back, getting a fish tank was probably a little foolish on my part. After all, I’d been traumatized by fish as a first-year teacher. Our science unit had involved a tank of ill-fated guppies, and in our non-air-conditioned classroom with a wall of windows where air temperature easily reached the 90s, there was no place to hide a fish tank from the sun. You can imagine the horror when one of my sweet first graders peeled a fish from the bottom of her shoe, and we discovered the fish had started leaping from the tank to their death on the carpet rather than spend another minute in their warm, watery home. Shudder.

Anyway, after much begging from our kids, I began to think fish could potentially be a colorful, quiet, and fairly temporary addition to our home. I keep our air conditioning at a firm 72 degrees after all, and we bought a tank with a snug lid to ease my fears of fish with a death wish. My husband promised to take care of the upkeep, and the kids seemed very excited, so we picked up our first batch of fancy-tailed guppies. They were pretty, low maintenance, and dutifully died after about 3 months. Just what I wanted.

We picked up another set, new colors this time, and again, after a couple of months, they departed just in time for us to not have to arrange fish care for a short trip. And that brings us to our most recent family of fish. There’s nothing special about them, just another foursome of fancy tail guppies from PetSmart.

Only, these fish? They. Will. Not. Die.

It’s been twice as long as the agreed upon 3 months (I guess they didn’t get the memo), and while they look scraggly, they are very much alive. There have been moments when I dared to think the end was near. I’d cheerily tell my husband, “I don’t think this one’s going to make it much longer.” I’m always wrong on that. They’ve ferociously picked at each others’ tails at times, and for a couple of days, one of the fish floated at the top of the tank moving very little but still alive. I crossed my fingers that it had a transmittable disease, and whispered “go into the light” every night as I headed to bed.

Alas, my dreams were not to come true, as it rebounded and is happily schooling with its friends again. My kids have long since lost interest in these fish. My husband cleans the tank with much less regularity than before. And now, instead of boarding the dog and heading out of town for our next trip, I’m calling around for a house sitter to come feed these stupid fish. Things would be a bit easier if they just… weren’t around.

I can’t bring myself to flush them alive, especially with them being healthy and whatnot. But if they could find a way to make peace with this life and move on sometime before our next family vacation, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t hate it. Maybe I just need to take the lid off the tank and turn off the air conditioning for a bit…

Do you have a critter that you wouldn’t be sad to part with? I’d love to hear about it!


  1. This has really made me chuckle at 4 in the morning. I too have wished end of life on a fancy but ugly looking beta fish that my 25yr old daughter had to get when her last one passed on (that I was stuck taking care of too until finally – what seemed like 4 years-celebrating his demise). My almost 5yr granddaughter could care less. Thank you for this! 😄

Comments are closed.