Western culture is full of quirky superstitions and traditions. Many of them are leftover bits of former religious practice, retained long after the traditions and beliefs that gave them meaning fell away, while others are more recent inventions designed to convince people to spend money or part of quasi-religious traditions still gaining ground. I have one (las doce uvas de la suerte) I maintain for cultural reasons. Humans are peculiar creatures, and derive much benefit from activities whose instrumental utility is opaque or absent.
Perhaps the best-known such traditions are horoscopes and birthstones. Both of these connect the date of one’s birth to something in nature (a constellation and a gemstone, respectively), and have been used to generate loads of money for people who convince others that the association has magical or predictive significance. Horoscopes in particular get treated with bizarrely outsized seriousness in some circles, but for many of us, they’re a cute little game.
And why should folks interested in gems and stars have all the cute little games?
So here’s a new one: Your Birthfish. You’re now symbolically linked to this kind of fish, and obligated by the same rules that make people obsess over Gemini and Taurus to tell everyone that you’re now a Chinese high-fin banded loach or pumpkinseed sunfish. May this amusing bit of fake superstition entertain and confuse your friends and family, and lead to some seafood-themed birthday dinners and greater appreciation for the beauty of fish.
Continue reading “Learn Your Birthfish”
It is a bad idea to enter the aquakeeping hobby on a lark. Not only is this a recipe for any of various easily-avoided mistakes that beginners make, but it encourages a cavalier attitude about one’s new pets. It is easy to treat fish and other small-animal pets as easily replaced decorative accents rather than animals with their own needs, behaviors, and beautiful uniqueness, especially since relatively few fish respond well to attempts to physically interact with them.
I started on the path to fishkeeping as a precocious child, and my parents and other adult models were not themselves hobbyists. What I learned about the best practices for populating and maintaining an aquarium, I learned by reading every fish book I could find…and by trial and error.
There were a lot of errors.
Every fish that perished prematurely under my care stung my precocious heart. I felt affection for every individual fish, even if I couldn’t tell them apart or if I replaced them quickly. For every one of them, seeing them sicken and die as a result of something I did felt like a crime I was committing not just against them, but against their whole kind. This idea stuck in my mind, each failed effort seeming like an un-redressed wrong as well as an unsolved problem. I convinced myself over the years that I could assuage my conscience by revisiting each species and giving it, with that later effort, a home in which it could thrive. There is no possibility of effecting restitution for the fish I killed long ago with my overzealous and poorly-informed attempts, but I can still do right by others. Even if that reasoning is decidedly irrational, these stories may spare other aquakeepers from making the same mistakes and other fish from these often-gruesome fates.
Continue reading “Fishy Redemption”
In my previous two installments of Skepticism in the Aquarium Store, I looked at general advice about setting up and maintaining an aquarium and at common fish-stocking situations and principles. This third and final visit to skeptical aquakeeping looks at some more specific situations that an insufficiently skeptical aquarist might encounter.
Continue reading “Skepticism in the Aquarium Store, Part 3”