On another dare and as a gift for someone else who asked me for art in 2017, here’s a story based on a vignette I wrote on Facebook, starring the Doctor…or someone like her.
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.