I’m going to diverge wildly and focus on the pet situation around our house. Once upon a time, our pet family consisted of 3 cats. Sadly, due to age, we’re down to one. A few years ago, Felix expressed the idea of having some fish in his room, so Santa brought him a 5 gallon tank. His MyMom (me, of course) took him to the pet store where he chose 2 goldfish and a snail. He named them Big Jeffry, Little Jeffry, and Mr. Snail. Mr. Snail didn’t last 2 weeks, but the Jeffrys hung in there for a long time. We lost Big Jeffry during the power outage associated with last year’s hurricane – Ida, I think? You lose track after a while. The tank obviously wasn’t filtered for a few days, and Big Jeffry couldn’t take it. We moved the tank near the generator and filtered Little Jeffry off and on until power was restored. I’m happy to report that Little Jeffry is alive and well, and absolutely not little anymore.
About 2 years ago now, Felix became obsessed with a strange amphibian – the axolotl. He proceeded to do a deep dive into this animal, learning all about their ecology, history, requirements, and even some about breeding. He took this enthusiasm to his school, whereupon he became Dr. Felix, the professor, teaching anyone in his path about this critter (ADHD hyperfocus, anyone?). Long story short, he not only convinced me but also his adult BFF at his school, the science lab teacher, to drive an hour away to pick up axolotls at a breeder.
Y’all, this has been the nost wacked-out pet experience I’ve ever had. First off, I had to learn all about the nitrogen cycle and tank cycling. Felix’s teacher and I spent hours obsessing over these things, worrying we’d kill them. I sent white powder in a baggie up to school in my son’s backpack so she could have ammonia to kick-start her cycle. More than once, I arrived at the school office with a container of live worms in hand. I will say this: that’s a really quick way to get through the office. Since it took so long to cycle the tank, Neo (short for “Neoteny,” the characteristic exhibited by axolotls, whereby they retain their juvenile characteristics through their lives) has had to go on vacation with us twice; how could I ask someone to feed this thing 2-3 times a day, do a complete 100% daily water change, and keep the temp around 62-64 degrees? The answer is I couldn’t so Neo has now been to the beach more in the last year than many humans.
But he’s cute. And Felix loves him. It’s been an experience.
One more aquatic animal story, and this is the strangest one. Probably in mid February – around the same time we were neck-deep in axolotls, Will decided he wanted a small fish tank of his own. He ordered another 5 gallon tank, and set out for the fish store. I could have killed him, because he came back with about 4 fish called harlequin rasboras. He didn’t really do any homework at all, so didn’t know they needed a school of at least 6 individuals, as well as temps of 75 or so. He went back to get 2 more rasboras, a heater, and also ended up with a tiny little shrimp. It was gold in color, and only about 1/4″ long. I shook my head.
Will had bought one of those cheesy castles to put in his tank. The shrimp disappeared for a couple of days after he entered the tank, and we feared the worst. Maybe sucked into the filter? Maybe a rasbora went nuts and ate it? Then lo and behold, one day I came out to see the shrimp perched atop the castle. He became Lord Shrimp. And despite my initial reservations about this tank and its residents, I soon became obsessed with the comings and goings of Lord Shrimp. This obsession caused me to buy another shrimp – a bright red cherry shrimp – to join the chat. I didn’t mean to. I went to the fish store to get worms for the axolotl, and yada, yada, yada. I named him Baron Von Shrimp.
The Baron disappeared immediately. We suspected foul play – perhaps a political assassination. Perhaps Lord Shrimp was not happy to share he castle with a mere Baron, and Baron Von was erased. We never found a body. This was back in late February.
Will texted me in a panic Monday morning, upset that Lord Shrimp had gotten stuck behind the tank wall. He didn’t know how to get him out, but eventually he managed to extract him (not before the Lord yeeted himself out of Will’s hand onto the floor – Will had to rescue him by a whisker.). That afternoon when I got home from work, I looked around for Lord Shrimp, making sure he was ok. I couldn’t see him, so I peered into that compartment behind the tank wall. Sure enough, I saw a shrimp.
Y’all, it was the BARON. Baron Von Shrimp was alive! He had somehow existed back there for months, obviously staying well fed on whatever detritus fell back there. We managed to extract him (turkey baster) and placed him back into the light. I felt so bad for him. It reminded me of Reek from Game of Thrones – locked away alone and bereft, hearing the jeers from gen pop. There was nothing to do then but wait, and hope that Lord Shrimp would share his castle with Baron Von.
I came out this morning, and they were having a parley on one of the fake plants. All is well in the kingdom.