100602_fighting_fish.jpgIt started with a fish bowl. It always does. Fishkeeping commences with a goldfish in a fish bowl.

I first took care of three gold fish when I was in the sixth grade. When you start looking after fish, you get into it thinking that all you need is a fish bowl, water, and flake food (the kind that reminds you of torn pieces of colored construction paper). After a while, I found myself buying white aquarium gravel. Then a live plant. Noticing how the water easily turned cloudy, I decided to buy the most basic green air-pump-slash-water-filter. I was also tempted to buy kitschy aquarium décor—like a treasure chest that reveals a skeleton inside once air pumps through it. But that wouldn’t fit inside the fish bowl.

Then my family and I went on vacation. While in Boracay, I gathered a few seashells to add to my fish bowl. When we came home all three gold fish were floating belly up. I didn’t cry, though, unlike the time when my ducklings died. I suppose it makes a lot of difference if you could pet a, well, pet.

I was already working when I rekindled my interest in fishkeeping. Well, actually, it was a PR firm that unwittingly revived my fascination for the pastime. This company sent out invitations to the launch of a resort, and their invites were Siamese Fighting Fish in a fish bowl. My eyes actually widened in horror when I saw rows upon rows of fish bowl “invitations” on the floor in the office reception area. Well, at least no trees were killed in the making of the invitations, I just told myself.

I wasn’t actually invited to the event. I just wanted to take care of one of those poor Fighting Fish, and if I remember correctly, it was Men’s Health editor-in-chief Agu Paiso (who was working for another title at that time) who gave me his fish bowl. Anyhow, I went home with a new pet, whom I named Triumph the Insult Comic Fish (just “Fish” for short), and the wheels of the flake-food-gravel-live-plant-air-pump cycle were put into motion once again.

Oh, but by now I had learned that the cycle doesn’t end with an air pump. It ends with a siphon with vacuum cleaning action for your fish bowl turned 15-gallon fish tank that’s a pain to clean.

100602_convict_cichlid.jpgAfter I got Fish, I bought him a nicer small acrylic fish tank from Hobbes and Landes, which came with a filter and a light. Then I found myself purchasing a basic 5-gallon fish tank, three Guppies (Tito, Vic, and Joey), a rainbow shark (Extra Jaws), and a load of other fishkeeping accessories. The 5-gallon tank eventually became a branded 10-gallon one. Other fish came and went, too: a Tangerine Cichlid (OJ), an Albino Convict Cichlid (Bingbong) who was my next favorite after Fish, and many others that I can’t remember.

One day, the 10-gallon fish tank became a 15-gallon one. It had a complex water pump and filtration system, loads of artificial plants (I eventually learned that the trouble with live plants is fallen leaves rot and compromise the quality of the water), and big and small rocks for décor. It was in my room and I maintained it myself—imagine what a drag it was when come fish tank cleaning time. I had to carry gallons and gallons of water to and from my room.

I should’ve known my fishkeeping days were numbered the day I bought that siphon with gravel vacuum, which my boyfriend (now my husband) said was made for the lazy. It meant I had become so busy I had no more time and energy to do fish tank maintenance anymore. See, with tropical fish it’s more about the fish tank than the fish itself, unless you’re looking after an Arowana or Flowerhorn. Needless to say, I have a lot of respect for devoted fishkeepers—especially those who clean their fish tanks themselves.

The Convict Bingbong was my last fish standing. He passed away in the small acrylic tank.

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