In light of what has been a pretty controversial past month or so, I choose for my column topic this week some more lighthearted material — fishkeeping.
For about a month now, I’ve been charged with the safety of 11 zebra danio fish. Never before had I seriously kept any fish, and I never thought I’d take as much to them as I have.
Positioned on a small table in my living room are two tanks — one 10- and one 5-gallon. The 10-gallon tank holds seven of the little guys. All its residents seem happy and generally at peace. They zip and dart and wiggle in between the plastic aquatic plants, shells and other ornaments dropped in the bottom of their tank.
The 5-gallon tank, on the other hand, has not progressed so smoothly. It once held four danios, but now only three, as one has since passed into the fishy afterlife. I awoke one morning to find he’d inexplicably leapt to his death overnight; laying on the carpet a good 3 or 4 feet away from the table.
It was a sad morning, but life moves steadily on, and still 10 of that fish’s brothers and sisters are left to care for.
I’d done some research on danios before making my purchase, but did not and could not expect to discover how much a pack of maniacs they really are. It seems I have to sneak up on them to catch them sitting still for more than a second or two at a time.
In fact, I’d picked them out at the fish shop because they were such active swimmers. They zip and dart almost ceaselessly.
My research has suggested that this behavior is perfectly normal. The males and females apparently chase each other around in just about all environments. I believe the reason the larger tank is doing better is because there is a larger shoal of fish in it, however. They seem to do better in greater numbers.
I had thought the danios might school, but this was not the case. They will occasional swim together in a relatively tight group, but never flush and never will they turn at the same time like a more traditional school might.
Regardless, I am happy they’ve done as well as they have so far. I’ve managed to dodge the kind of aquatic horror stories I’ve read about online — no mass deaths, and no fish-gone-insane, though I probably shouldn’t speak so soon.
My research tells me the zebra danios are from eastern Indiana, and can grow to as long as 2 inches. The majority of my stock are less than 1 inch long. My research also tells me these are sociable, peaceful fish. I can only hope, for the sake of what other fish-neighbors I eventually choose to introduce, that they are kinder to others than their own sort.
Mated pairs remain together for life, which is definitely charming. However, I am not expecting to see any fry (younglings) anytime soon.
Apparently, the danio often eat their own eggs, as many fish species do. I’ve been told that some of the eggs may slip in between the gravel at the bottom of my tank and be kept safe, but I’m certainly not crossing my fingers.
Whatever the case, I have high hopes for these fish. If they are kept at least somewhat happy and somewhat alive for a space of at least one year, I will have felt that I’ve succeeded.
And that is really all I can hope for. These fish’s entire world is 10 gallons of water, and that is a small one indeed. Hopefully they will learn to treat each other with respect and kindness in light of that. And if they are to learn to do so, which I think likely, then we could do much worse than learn a thing or two from them.
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