It’s a Small World

Many people often ask me why I love my aquarium so much, and how could I possibly spend every last cent I have on that instead of buying some luxury item for myself.

Some even ask, why in the world would you want to keep an aquarium????

Most people can not comprehend how someone could actually enjoy the hard work of keeping an aquarium. Even more people can not understand how someone could simply sit and stare into an aquarium for hours on end, without getting bored.

In fact, I would not be shocked if you asked me the same exact questions. I will save you the trouble of attempting to ask those questions without sounding rude, I will answer them for you the same way I answer everyone else who asks me.

When you look at an aquarium what do you see? Most likely you would see some fish, a couple of rocks on the bottom, maybe a plant or two, and some bubbles being pushed down into the water by a powerful modern filter.

If you look at the aquarium like that then yes it is really, really boring. However, when I look into my aquarium I do not simply see fish with some rocks, and a bubble or two floating around in the water. When I look into my aquarium I see an entire society of creatures going about their daily lives. I see the three different couples of fancy guppies that will stay together for life, being more loyal to each other than most humans are, not to mention the bachelors always looking to find a single female. I see the clown loach foraging through the rocks, weaving in and out of the tiniest pathways of the conch shells just so that he can find those scraps of food that he dropped during the feeding frenzy that morning. There is the one remaining ghost shrimp that survived the unfortunate outbreak of a disease that killed all of its brethren as well as the king, if you will, of the society the unusually large betta (AKA the Siamese fighting fish). Also in this societal ecosystem I notice what you may actually consider to be somewhat interesting. During the early spring and fall if you watch the female fancy guppies closely you will most likely see them give birth to the newest additions to the society. These new additions will eventually feed on the eggs of the many snails, which are to an aquarium what locusts are to a plush oasis in the desert.

All of these things, along with many more that are not mentioned, resemble a human society. In that small thirty-gallon universe you can find families, orphans, plagues, diseases, murderers, disciplinarians, and the overly-passive fat one??? that could kill them all but instead just sits there all day and takes the abuse. They have the same rules of death and life as we do, and they have the physical boundaries, which they cannot pass without assistance.

As for the question of why someone would want to keep an aquarium in the first place, the answer seems to lie in ancient China and Japan.

Originally the only purpose of keeping fish was to keep a fresh supply of food. Keeping a stockpile of live fish to be plundered whenever they are needed is only logical. Considering how difficult it is to catch a decent sized fish even with modern fishing gear and sonar, in ancient China and Japan where they had a spear and small hand-woven nets, it would be near impossible to catch enough fish to feed the country. Even today there are many fish farms??? where people grow food fish so as to avoid the hassle and dangers of fishing for enough fish to make any kind of profit. However, some of these fish farms??? now hatch and grow their fish not only for the purpose of having business with a slaughterhouse, but they also sell many fish to individuals who have artificial lakes and ponds. For example Mr. Robert Fliescher, a former teacher at Oneonta middle school, has a fish hatchery/farm from which many people in Oneonta and the surrounding areas stock their ponds with his different types of trout and bass. Eventually these fish will, in all likeliness, be fished out of the personal ponds with a fishing rod and eaten, but why would the pond owners want to buy live fish instead of an already gutted and spiced fish (which would be cheaper)?

There are those select few who do buy the fish simply for the novelty of it but originally keeping live fish for purposes other than food was very, very important to the ancient Chinese and Japanese.

In ancient China and Japan the tradition of keeping live fish was not just something that they enjoyed doing, the nobles of each city were expected to keep them so as to enlist the assistance of the gods. The colored carp and the koi are both extremely large fish that can grow to be well over five feet long and can form life long bonds with members of its own and other species. Also the koi has a life span of around one hundred-fifty to two-hundred years, at that time it was almost four times the average life span of a human who was only expected to live to be fifty or sixty if they were lucky.

These properties, combined with others and the religious belief of the Chinese and Japanese that everything had a spirit and a purpose in life, lead the fish to become renowned as deities and were worshiped as such. As a result many stories began surfacing, stories of a large koi granting wishes to a compassionate fisherman who let him go, or a carp carrying a child to shore on his back after the child was stranded in the middle of a river or the ocean. Eventually the koi and carp were moved out of the ponds in the yards, and into the smaller ponds in the house.

Once contact with Europe became a frequent occurrence the indoor ponds slowly began to be replaced with the western worlds??? more economical, yet smaller, glass aquariums. Having a glass aquarium in your house was considered to be great for the feung-shuea of a room. This led to the very popular, and very expensive, practice of being allowed to pick out your own fish, in a restaurant, from a large tank in the center of the restaurant. Naturally I do not keep an aquarium to eat my fish, but the religious beliefs regarding the original pet??? fish did lead to the American aquarium. Now the aquarium is simply a decoration to most people, and those who practice feung-shuea often use large hexagon aquariums to help the chi of a room easily flow over a corner.

There are so many reasons to keep an aquarium that when someone asks me why I have aquariums the first thing that comes to mind is why do you not have an aquarium????

Many people ask me how I can stare into an aquarium and not get bored, to me its not just an aquarium, instead it is an entire society that closely resembles our own. Watching an aquarium is like watching a soap opera or reality television, except the cast of this show will not become whiney or annoying. There is birth and death, hunters and the hunted, the passive and the aggressive, everything that is in a human society all contained in a small thirty-gallon universe. I do not know if the fish are deities or if they are simply little morsels of protein, to me the fish (as well as the shrimp and my one frog) are all members of a complex universe that I control.