Aquarium, Terrarium, Planetarium

Angelfish are like the kings of the aquarium. They swim about in slow, stately fashion.

As a teenager I was very much into raising tropical fish in an aquarium. Having fish to watch and fuss around with is a healthy, mind-calming hobby that literally helps you learn about environmental issues. Keeping an aquarium is all about keeping fundamental forces of biology in relative balance.

The lovely pearl gourami is a fascinating finny friend that fills the tank with beauty and color.

Some fish are there just for beauty. The angelfish and gouramis I have pictured already are mainly that. Though you could also say that kissing fish, the pink kissing gouramis, also provide comic relief.

Kissing gouramis actually perform the kissing ritual in the tank, and I really don’t know why, but I suspect it is about courting and sex.

Goldfish are the pigs of the fresh-water tank. They are slow and rather stupid, and they eat massive quantities of fish food, so they also poop excessively.

Keeping an aquarium is a balancing act.

Albino Angelfish
Neon Tetra

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a fancy Veiltail Guppy

If you put the wrong fish together, problems ensue. Fully grown angelfish will eat expensive guppies and neon tetras. Goldfish waste so much fish food and make so much fish poop that the tank has to be cleaned nearly every day to prevent it become a befouled cesspool of toxic filth and bacteria. Unless…

Cory Catfish

You employ bottom-feeders like the corydorus catfish or the red-tailed black shark (actually a loach, not a shark) to feed on the waste and be the janitor-fish.

A carefully balanced tank is a living work of art that grows and changes and progresses…

Red-Tailed Black Shark

…Until something goes wrong. Every fish tank I ever put together eventually had a crisis that made the whole ecology crash. All the fish would die and the tank would smell bad. This would usually happen when I wasn’t there to tend it as needed, when I was away at college or on vacation. Water has to be refreshed. The water can never be allowed to cool lower than seventy degrees, even in winter. The air pump can’t break down and stop aerating the aquarium. The filter has to be clean and unclogged. And disease has to be treated.

In a way, our entire planet earth is like that too. Of course, if it was all sealed under glass, it would be a terrarium, not an aquarium. But we can identify the same sorts of threats to the ecosystem of the terrarium we live in as would be found in a tropical fish tank. Donald Trump and his Republican fat-cats are the goldfish. Global warming threatens the air and water in the tank. An asteroid could break the glass and spill the contents out. So many things could crash our carefully balanced fish tank. And there is an even greater environment out there beyond the edges of our little solar system. Does the title make sense now in a way it didn’t before? No? Oh, well, I tried.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, humor

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