Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Swimmy wants me to sleep with the fishes

Okay, I think I'm calmer now. Calm enough to type, anyhow. You see, I just narrowly avoided a murder attempt. The kiddo's pet goldfish, Swimmy, just tried to off me.

You think I jest? Allow me to elaborate. It was about half an hour ago. I was doing the weekly 20% water change in Swimmy's tank. Before I began syphoning out the water, I used the scrubby-pad-on-a-stick device that I found in the fish section of the pet store to scrub down the insides of the glass, because occasionally a slight buildup of algae occurs, and that's just gross. Now, Swimmy doesn't mind the water changes, usually - she'll swim around the vacuum end and whap the hand wielding this intrusion into her world with a tailfin, but she never bites or headbutts or anything. This is not the case with the scrubby-pad-on-a-stick, however. Swimmy apparently hates this thing the way I hate my kiddo having a splinter (or twelve). She gets agitated and swims around all angrily, attempting to get me to withdraw the SPOAS as fast as possible. (My attitude whenever I'm cleaning the tank, by the way, is always "Dude, this hurts me more than it hurts you. Seriously." More on that in a moment...)

Well tonight? The fish took it to the next level. I'd already begun draining the water out, with the kiddo assisting (she holds the end of the hose in the waste water bucket) and noticed a spot on the one wall I'd missed with the SPOAS. I grabbed it and went to swipe the offending algae spot when Swimmy decided this was it. The last straw. It was at this moment that Swimmy went from innocent, well-fed, carny goldfish to coldblooded, attempted killer.

Swimmy proceeded to SPLASH me with dirty, disgusting fish tank water. I'm not talking a little "splish" of water, I was absolutely DOUSED. As were the wall behind the tank, the light on the dresser next to the tank, the floor and, in what was probably an unintentional "friendly fire" sort of situation, the kiddo.


You see, I really have a thing about zoonotic diseases. It all started back in the day, growing up on the farm, when a member of our family caught a disease from our sheep. (I won't name names to protect the afflicted... *cough*Dad*cough*) This disease, we eventually learned from our vet, as the family physician and the ER docs were equally stumped, was called Orf. (Oh, total disclaimer here - click that link at your own risk. There are photographic illustrations and they are nasty!) (You didn't listen, did you? You clicked, and now you're sorry, aren't you? Told you so. Hey - I googled it so you wouldn't have to, don't barf in my general direction!) So, ever since those days, I've had a real thing about catching something horrible from an animal.

I'm not like ridiculously paranoid about it or anything though, I mean, the kiddo's going to a summer camp on a farm, we've been to umpteen petting zoos, we have a cat, we have friends with dogs, etc. (Yeah, I carry antibacterial wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer with me at all times, but that's not crazy paranoid, sheesh.) But........ when it comes to the fish, I get a little squicked out.

See, number one? Fish are slimy and scaly. I mean, nothing about them looks terribly hygienic, right? Their very nature is gross. Then, there's the pet fish's environment. In Swimmy's case, a ten gallon, tricked out aquarium with a filter and weekly 20% water changes. But still, the pet fish is, essentially, perpetually swimming around in his or her own waste, you know? (And if you've ever seen Swimmy poop, holy Hannah, that's some very serious fecal matter. Long and gross and floaty so it hovers in the water for way too long before finally getting sucked into the filter or settling on the bottom.) I view the fish tank as essentially a fish-churned stew of potentially zoonotic bacteria and ick.

I try, as often as possible, to let Hubby do the cleaning honors. Unfortunately, there have been long stretches of time when Hubby just hasn't had (or made, ahem ahem) the time to do it, and the choice becomes: Swimmy dies of dirty water complications, thereby devastating the kiddo, or I suck it up and change it myself. The first time I cowboyed up to do it myself, I tried to wear gloves - like the kind your grandma wore to wash the dishes. Didn't work; the water poured in the top and I wound up with my hand marinating in the fishy ick. I pondered putting rubber bands around the tops of the gloves for the next time, but it was a bit too tourniquet-y, so I gave up. I've settled, therefore, for scrubbing like I'm about to perform surgery in the hospital (all those years of Chicago Hope and ER came in handy after all!) the second I'm done with the water change. I make the kiddo scrub up too, sometimes overriding her and scrubbing for her if I feel there may be fish ick germies lingering that she's overlooked. And don't even get me started on when I might have an open wound anywhere above the elbow - I super-bandage it and then basically soak the wound in rubbing alcohol afterwards if it gets the slightest bit damp. *shudder* Even a hangnail gives me the heebie-jeebies.

So, considering that on a normal week, I scrub myself post-tank cleaning until I'm practically down to the dermis, tonight's murder attempt had me flipping out. By some miracle, I didn't swear. I did scream like Ned Flanders (esp in the murder house episode) and then managed to hold myself to a stream of "EW EW EWWWWWWWs" as I assessed the damage. Fish water was dripping from my hair down my ear. My glasses were spattered, as was my face. My jammies were drenched. The kiddo wasn't as bad, as she was behind me so I took the full force of that evil fishy's assault.

I'm proud to say that I held it together - barely - long enough to finish the job and that I didn't immediately retaliate. The thought crossed my mind, albeit briefly, to see if Swimmy enjoyed the air as much as I enjoyed her water. As soon as I had the tank situation under control and had mopped up the wall and the light and the floor, I hightailed it to the shower. The only level of shower that really would've made me comfortable would be something akin to the decontamination shower in Silkwood (or alternatively, the decontamination scene in Monsters, Inc.) but I made do with a vigorous scrubbing in a hot, hot, hot shower with about half a bar of Ivory. After I'd scrubbed the kiddo down and she was playing in the (freshly drawn) bath, I decided to allay my fears by googling zoonotic live fish disease. This is what I found. See? My crazy paranoia isn't so crazy or paranoid after all, now is it?

Oh, yeah. Hubby's gonna have to start changing the water from here on out, no two ways about it.

(Incidentally, Swimmy turned a year old this month. We're not sure of Swimmy's exact birthday, what with her being a carnival fish and all, but the festival at which the kiddo won her last summer is this coming weekend. That day, I never imagined that Swimmy would still be alive a whole year later, nor that she would try to kill the hand that cares for her. Stupid carny fish.)


Anonymous said...

Swimmy is one smart fish!!!

There is something at the pet store you can add to the tank so you don't have to do weekly water changes. More like once a month water changes. I forget what it was but I used it on my goldfish in college and our tropical fish tank before.

Great thing about tropical fish, we had a cat fish and an algae eater. No scrubbing necessary!

My name is Andy. said...

I think I need to contact your Hubby and have him look at the parental controls on your computer. You should not have unfiltered access to Googgle!!!

I'm glad you survived though. Let us know if you develop a rash, fever or the urge to watch WaterWorld today!

Anonymous said...

Hey I managed to update the blog, go have a look!

Anonymous said...

We have had lots and lots of fish in this house...right now we have a 30 gallon in Spencer's Room...we have a 75 gallon down stairs in the basement not being used but at one time we have 155 gallons of fish and water going...and never any fish disease for any of us...

get a Plecostomus and let him do the honors of cleaning the tank...you can get small ones for your size tank and then you never have to 'do' algae again

quitecontrary1977 said...

a year is a long time for a fish.. especially a carnival fish! any way, I'm having a giveaway at my blog. I'd love it if you stopped by! http://nowenteringmomville.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Yep, it was the market over your way! We may go and get some more blueberries this weekend, we'll see.

Katie Says said...

That is a smart goldfish! haha!

great story and I will never look at a fish again especially after reading about ORF. ugh.

Veggie Mom said...

Hey there, SITSta! I've never been able to keep a fish longer than a couple of months. What's the secret? BTW, please come on over to my blog, and join our Oprah E-mail Campaign. While you're there, enter the Great Pop'rs Giveaway. Hope to see ya soon!

My Metabolic Rate is Stuck said...

Exactly HOW "BIG" is Swimmy?
You're hilarious! Love your blog!

Midwest Mommy said...

I think we need a picture in case he is ever on the wanted list :-)