By: Tom Fletcher, CFP®
Definition of fry: (noun) recently hatched or juvenile fishes
About a month ago I was doing some weekly maintenance on my fish tank when I was astounded to see a tiny pair of eyes staring back at me from amongst the plants in
the back of the tank. I had to do a double take and get my family’s opinion just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Sure enough, they belonged to a very miniature, totally adorable head-and-tail light tetra.
You may be curious why I was so surprised to see a baby fish in my tank because fish have babies all the time, right? Well, yes and no, and most definitely not in my tank. For one thing the tank has a 20 gallon capacity and it’s well populated with (very) hungry inhabitants. So typically if a fish lays a bunch of eggs, it’s considered free caviar for all residents. Parents included. Theoretically, survival odds drop even further once the eggs hatch. Think brine shrimp here.
The other reason is what I’ve had to go through with this tank. When I first set up the thing about nine years ago I thought it would be a lazy man’s hobby. Wash some gravel, add some water, plants, and fish, and voila! Well of course I’m oversimplifying and it didn’t turn out that way. This hobby takes a lot more time and effort than I ever would have imagined. And the obstacles are numerous. For one thing the MRWA adds chemicals to Boston’s water supply that unless altered before being added to the tank, creates a lethal environment for the fish. Until I learned how to manage it, I unfortunately had to sacrifice more than a few along the way. Then there were fish from pet stores on at least two occasions that introduced pandemics into the tank. With no social distancing, masks or vaccines available, the outcome was predictably grim. I also got a kick out of growing plants. I set up a carbon dioxide “reactor” in the tank and watched the tank turn into a lush greenhouse... until my tank started growing some weird algae that killed nearly every one of them.
OK, enough of this sad stuff, and back to the miracle baby. A couple of years ago I somehow got my mojo back. I found a couple of plants in the corners that weren’t quite dead. After doing extra maintenance on the tank, they started to regrow and reproduce. Before I knew it, the tank was thick and lush again with new growth. And the fish seemed to thrive as well. In fact it has been years now since I last donated one to science. So for the first time ever when a little baby popped out of the weeds, I felt immensely proud that all that hard work finally paid off, as fish usually require pristine water conditions to reproduce. Then last week when another one darted out of the plants I started thinking what any proud papa would: are we going to need a bigger house?