Bottom feeders are more fun

Zoë has a 10-gallon fish tank with two goldfish in it, Flippy and Finbar. The fish were acquired for about six bucks (along with their unlucky former tank-mate, Nemo, who sadly got sucked into the filter intake and didn't quite have the same luck as his movie namesake). And they have all the personality that six bucks can buy–they eat, they crap, they grow. Both are now roughly three times their original size; we've only had them since just before Christmas.

There's this little problem: these six dollar fish are basically rats with fins. No, I take that back–rats don't eat their own feces, last I checked. And they certainly don't bite their own feces, spit them out, and then bite them again because they forgot what they had just done.

Cleaning up after six dollars of fish can be quite an undertaking. Given what my usual hourly rate for the odd consulting job is, I figure these fish are into me for close to ten grand at this point just for algae scraping and gravel vacuuming. So, the time had come to outsource to cheaper labor.

A friend of Paula's suggested one of those sucker catfish, the black things that sort of glom onto the side of the tank and hang there. But apparently, by just doing that, they can grow to be up to a foot long, and we really don't want to have to buy another aquarium just because the hired help doesn't fit in it anymore, now do we?

Or, we could buy some snails. Snails are fun, in an invertebrate, gastropod sort of way. Unfortunately, we've been down that route before–only to find that goldfish actually eat snails. They suck them right out of the shell.

So Paula picked up a trio of algae eaters, little suckerfish that zip around and masticate the green sludge off of the bottom and sides of the tank. They're so small “they don't even count as a fish” for aquarium planning purposes, said the salesperson.

Now, here's the sad part: the algae eaters have more personality than the goldfish. They can hide in the little castle that the goldfish once, unbelieveably, swam through; they dodge from plant to plant in search of appropriate cover. Then they swim up to the side of the tank, adhere themselves, and hang there for a minute or two as they ingest some small amount of photosynthetic plaque. Meanwhile, the oafish goldfish stare at any human that comes in range of their questionable eyesight, flapping their lips and using their limited body language to beg for more food.

Maybe we just need algae, algae eaters, and snails for entertainment in our aquarium. Anybody want some goldfish?


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