The Wild Kingdom

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By: Thomas Fletcher, CFP®

When we moved into our home about ten years ago, there was a "spot" in the corner of our kitchen where no plant, pottery, candle or artistic object was able to fulfill the desired decorative effect that we had in mind to visually "soften" that corner. Since it was an alcove with a horizontal surface, we thought perhaps a small aquarium might meet our needs.  In addition to filling up the space, it also could teach my son some responsibility in keeping a domestic pet. In my eyes, this was a win-win since it fulfilled my obligation of getting us a pet, but didn't require me to cave in to that overwhelming pressure of getting a family dog.

We started with a bunch of hermit crabs. They were cute and all (if you like crabs), but I wasn't all that keen on cleaning the tank and mostly neither were any of my other family members. If blindfolded, that corner of the kitchen eventually could easily have been mistaken for that unique pet store odor. Not very appetizing. After a few months we made a family decision and donated the critters to one of my son's friends with a larger (and cleaner) colony. 

Because the crabs were gone, we still had to fill that space. Goldfish. Yes, that's what we needed. The guy at the pet store warned us that goldfish eat lots of food and therefore produce lots of waste requiring lots of cleanup. My guess is he'd seen that "I want a goldfish" look on many a face before.  We gave him the scout's honor that we'd take good care of the fish. Despite the small tank size, we bought a few. Fast forward a few months later and I'll be darned if that fish clerk wasn't telling us the truth.  And we broke our oath because one by one they moved on to the afterlife. The tank wasn't exactly a swamp, but...

I'd had enough of the rotating menagerie. Tropical freshwater fish is what we needed. I'd had several tanks over the years and really enjoyed watching the synchronized swimming. We could just fit a 20 gallon tank into the "spot" and it looked pretty good. After doing some research I formulated a plan on what type of fish I wanted and because I had loads of free time (joking), I also decided to grow some aquatic plants as well.  This required special gravel, a different spectrum light bulb and a system to distribute CO2 into the water.  

After about five years, the tank is still going strong.  No weird smells and it seems to have correctly "softened" the kitchen corner. I had to eventually ditch the plants because of some weird algae mutation that briefly hijacked the tank, but the fish mostly seem to be happy. A bunch of them have been doing their synchronized swims now for 4+ years - that's got to be at least 90 in human years.