7/13/2007

 

The David Bowie Aquarium

Things can sometimes get a little rough in my 55 gallon aquarium. Its occupants are mainly oscars, which are notoriously mean fish who enjoy a weekly feast of "feeder" goldfish. The bigger ones snap an entire goldfish in one bite, while the smaller ones prefer the more gruesome method of attacking and eating the goldfish's eyeballs, then gradually devouring the rest of the helpless creature community style. It took me awhile to get used to the raw carnage, but now it doesn't phase me at all. I suppose it would be stretching reality a bit to say that each fish has their own personality, but since I decided to actually give them names, they've somehow become a little more dynamic to me. I decided to use a common theme for naming my fish. My favorite music artist ever is David Bowie, so that was the magic inspiration. Here's a little who's-who tour of the Making Flippy Floppy aquarium. Lady Grinning Soul (Aladdin Sane LP, 1973) She's pre-historic, she's way into algae, and she's catty. Lady Grinning Soul is a giant plecostomus (Hypostomus punctatus) and at 15 inches long, she's the queen of the whole show. She isn't the most gorgeous gal on the block, but she makes up for her looks with ability to keep things clean, hoovering up bits of algae, fish poop, and half-eaten feeders. She's not one bit picky. She's a bit of a loner, most of the time she can be found enjoying the tickliness of the bubble area. She blends in well with her surroundings so well that sometimes when she moves suddenly, people are startled, thinking she was just a big rock. Her skin is like you'd imagine dinosaur skin, hard and thick and greyish brown, sorta spiky. She's been known to have sudden, unexplainable fits where she suddenly bolts into action, flipping and flopping wildly, practically shooting herself out of the tank and causing all the muck settled at the bottom to stir all up. It sounds crazy when she does it, a giant loud splash and a thunk when she hits her head on the tank. I think this is somehow her form of entertainment. If I sit by the tank long enough, she'll eventually notice and swim over to get a look at me with her beady little eyeball. Iman. (Mrs. Bowie) The latest addition to the tank and the biggest of all the cichlids at about five inches in length. She's a Jack Dempsey (Archocentrus octofasciatus), a type of fish which was named after the notorious boxer because of their pissy attitudes and habit of bullying the other fish. Actually, Iman has been quite mellow so far. I really haven't seen her get cross with another fish. Maybe it's the fact that she doesn't have much seniority in the tank makes her less bitchy. She's gorgeous, though, which is the reason I brought her home from Duncan's Pet Store awhile back. It's hard to find fish for my tank that won't get eaten - at pet stores I mostly find just the little bitty cichlids that would become a casual snack as soon as they hit the water. So when I saw Iman, all big and sassy with her lavender-gray body and phosphorescent blue and silver spots, I knew I had to have her. Sadly, I was told she was "under surveillance" and not currently for sale. I wondered what she had done to warrant direct observation, the little troublemaker. They told me they'd call me when she was done being punished. She came to her new home about a week later in a big plastic mayonnaise bucket, sliding into the tank with an enthusiastic plop. She's been cool as a sea cucumber ever since. Ziggy Stardust - (The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars LP, 1972) This guy is so glam, no other name would have fit the description quite as well. Ziggy Stardust is appropriately, a Fire Mouth (Thorichthys meeki) with really a really cool red underbelly and a shiny spot with a yellow edge. He was formerly the largest in the tank, but his 3 1/2 inches don't quite measure up to Iman. However he has been growing in leaps and bounds lately, as if he's trying to compete now that there's a bigger one than him around. For some reason, Ziggy is the only one won't touch the feeder fish when I get them. He's a pellet-arian, I guess. Blue Jean (Tonight LP, 1984) - This one is a Pearl of Tanzania (Labidochromis), and is electric blue under the special nature bulb half of the tank, with a glowing yellow fringe. Blue Jean isn't too big, but carries herself with a lot of poise. For some reason, her facial expression makes me think she's asking "Who?" all the time. Silly Boy Blue (David Bowie LP, 1967) - This Pindani (Pseudotropheus socolofi) is a little duller blue color, with darker blue stripes that glow a bit when they feel like it. Silly Boy Blue has always been the shyest fish, choosing to hide mainly in the fake leaves of the plastic plant. This fish is also a survivor of a feline fishing endeavor last year. I walked in the room in the nick of time to see all three cats staring quizzically at Silly Boy Blue, who was laying helplessly on the on the living room carpet. At first, I thought one of them had dragged in a slug, because the poor thing had turned from brilliant blue to dull gray in the air. I realized it was a fish and immediately grabbed its tail fin and tossed it into the tank. It floated lifelessly for a minute, and just as I was assuming the worst, it started wriggling a bit, and eventually came back around to normal. I'm pretty sure the culprit was Kitty Face, the only one who's ever shown much interest in the tank. Fortunately for him, he hasn't tried fishing since. Joe the Lion (Heroes LP, 1977) - A cute little Kalingo (Nimbochromis livingstonii), named because of his cool Leopard Spot coloration. Unfortch, David Bowie never wrote any songs about leopards, so I had to go with a different large, carnivorous feline. The others are cool too, but they don't really have amusing stories so I'll just run down the names: New Killer Star, Low, Red Money, Abdulmajid and then there are the surviving feeder goldfish that have managed to not be devoured by the bigger, meaner fish, who I collectively call (what else?) the Spiders from Mars.

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