Aquariums: Stupid Wastes Of Time or Stupid Wastes of Time?

A transparent tank of water in which fish and other water creatures and plants are kept.

Just the sound of that explanation of what an aquarium is pretty much puts you to sleep, doesn’t it? A transparent tank of water? Yeah, not too sexy. In which fish and other water creatures and plants are kept? Woo hoo. Can’t you just feel the excitement bubbling up inside of you? Don’t you feel your feet starting to tap away in an eclectic rhythm of happy thoughts? Isn’t it just too much passion to handle for just one day?

Yeah. No.

Don’t call me a pet-hater, because I’m not one. This isn’t about not liking pets, this is about the kind of pets that really aren’t pets yet we will brainwash ourselves into thinking that they’re pets because we so desperately want to have a pet when in reality we really shouldn’t have a pet (and can’t have one thanks to the lease we signed with our apartment complex manager) so why not buy some Sea Monkees or, oh I don’t know, put some pets in a big glass box and make it the centerpiece of a velvet room with black lights.

Sorry, that was too personal. Let’s get a little more general here.

Fish have to be one of the least interactive pets on the face of the earth. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary describes a pet as “a domestic or tamed animal or bird kept for companionship or pleasure and treated with care or affection.” First of all, there’s nothing in there about fish. NO FISH WHATSOEVER. Fish aren’t pets. But I’m willing to give all those fish/pet lovers a little benefit of the doubt for a second.

With dogs and cats and birds and bunnies and guinea pigs and eagles and monkeys and what not — you can domesticate them (per the Oxford Dictionary) and you can keep them for companionship (per the Oxford Dictionary) and you can get pleasure from the affection they show you.

But fish?

You might as well turn on that HD Net channel that airs every morning and shows you really clear moving images of streams and underwater sea life or hook up your fish tank screensaver on your computer to a big screen so you can watch the fish bubble around inside of a faux-tank instead. And here’s a plus: in that situation, you don’t have to manually feed them food for them to survive. That’s right, no dirty tanks, the fish always look vibrant and colorful and there’s never a worry about them becoming infected with the avian-flu of the underwater aquarium world…ick.

But do you really need to waste your time buying fish and setting up the aquarium and making sure the chemicals and pH balance is good to go and then find a huge base to put the aquarium on and then shine the line from above down onto the tank like a spotlight and then stare at it and stare at it and force everyone who comes into your house to stare at it also and force them to say things like, “Wow, great fish” over and over again?

Fish aren’t pets. And the insane cost of aquariums are sucking you people dry.

If you could take the fish out and play with them (scooping them out with little nets so you can clean their tanks doesn’t count) or go to the water park together (flushing them down the toilet when they die because you forgot to feed them doesn’t count) or poke eachother in a joking/ribbing way (your 3 year old cousin poking them with a fork through the open top of the tank that you forgot to close doesn’t count) then maybe I would delete this entire post altogether.

But I can’t. And I won’t.

Because fish belong in the sea. Where they were born. Where they can run free with Nemo and those really cool current surfing sea turtles. Where they can avoid Jaws and Orca and embrace the love of their too-close-for-comfort barnacles while sucking up food whenever they feel the need. They’re free down there, people. They’re passionate about the entire sea floor. Oh, there’s so much for them to do and see — it’s really the life of Kings and crabs.

But in your dirty, crappy, stupid little aquarium — sitting right next to that broken floor heater and those empty boxes of pizza and those crusty old flake-like plastic containers of food…there’s no life to be had in there.

God, it’s actually really sad if you think about it.

At least puppies get to romp and run and crap wherever they want. At least birds can flap flap flap their regal wings and reach lofty heights none of us ever could! At least mice and rodents burrow holes into our beautiful drywall and escape down into the valleys below. At least parrots can hold elaborate conversations with us and at least cats can roam the countryside and do whatever the hell they want to do since they’re better than all of us anyway.

But fish?

I think it’s time to put your own self-importance and the self-importance of that aquarium of yours aside and do something human for once in your life by setting those little creatures free.

Don’t you think?

17 comments on “Aquariums: Stupid Wastes Of Time or Stupid Wastes of Time?

  1. better safe than sorry - April 30, 2006 at 11:34 am -

    do you mean like flush them down the toilet free?

  2. Pauly D - April 30, 2006 at 11:45 am -

    BSTS – I would never suggest killing a living creature. Ever. But yeah.

  3. Rabbit - April 30, 2006 at 1:08 pm -

    I thought aquariums were meant as holding pens for lobsters until you could get them into a pot of boiling water.

  4. Belinda - April 30, 2006 at 1:36 pm -

    Due to our toldder daughter’s fascination with the koi pond (which is maintenance free, and came with the place, fish already there), we had long promised her goldfish of her own. So a couple of weeks ago we got them. Pretty little fish, in a little plastic tank with a lid and a little filter that she could keep in her room.

    I am already sick of them.

  5. Dave2 - April 30, 2006 at 1:41 pm -

    I don’t think of fish as “pets” per se… but decoration. They look quite nice at the dentist office or when I visit friend’s houses.

    Fortunately, I’m not much of a decorator in my own home, and don’t have to worry about killing innocent fish. Who wants to kill Nemo?

  6. Dean - April 30, 2006 at 2:41 pm -


    You must have met only really dull fish, not special fish like mine.

    My fish are nice and they do all kinds of special tricks.

    Sometimes when I am gone they clean the apartment.

    You’d be surprised how clean you can get an entertainment center by flopping all over it with your wet, scaly naked body. Truly, it’s amazing.

    Also, they drink POM.

  7. Janet - April 30, 2006 at 3:53 pm -

    I quite agree with Paul. The only people who should be getting fish are those that can pay other people for their upkeep. Otherwise, you are wasting your time as the television, laptop screensavor and the view outside the window is equally captivating.

    Besides, should you get a fish, you are running the risk of their certain fish’s parent stalking you.

    That’s really kinda creepy.

    Eat them! Don’t keep them!

  8. Thoughtsgalore - April 30, 2006 at 4:20 pm -

    I can’t keep one goldfish alive. Not one! So, fish are totally not pets for me. Four goldfish later (with the money back guarantee) I totally gave up on them.

    You can call me the fish killer.

  9. Bre - May 1, 2006 at 5:02 am -

    It’s almost a new take on terminally single cat ladies – fish ladies are the wave of the future

  10. Kevin - May 1, 2006 at 9:08 am -

    I’m going with the former… no, the latter… wait, I think I agree more with the first comment… but the second holds some appeal, too.

    I’m so confused.

  11. sandra - May 1, 2006 at 9:26 am -

    Pauly D, I DESPISE aquariums and was so happy to read about someone else whose idea of “something fun” to do in…well, anywhere…doesn’t involve walking around in a humid building, staring through glass at fish.

  12. kathleen - May 2, 2006 at 12:52 am -

    ahhh I love the sea turtles in Finding Nemo – one little guy says to Marlin, “Did you die?”

  13. Meek - May 3, 2006 at 3:17 pm -

    I got an aquarium that a relative didnt want……. i quite like looking at it, but the best is watching the cat interact with the fish

    am i a cat-fish lady now? Its not my fault that only weirdos and really old men wanto date me.

  14. Lacy - May 3, 2006 at 6:27 pm -

    I’m late on commenting.

    You’re right. Can fish even really be counted as animals? They remind me more of bugs than animals. Bugs of the sea. I mean, catholics eat them on Fridays when they can’t have “real meat”, right? Anyway, it’s funny you should post this because I was just considering getting a fish the other day. I’m the one you mentioned, the one who spent sleepless nights brainwashing myself into believing a fish was a real pet, just because we can’t have a real pet in our apartment. After being totally shocked at what it would cost to get these really cool zebra-striped tropical fish(you have to get a fricking heater, bubbler, other crap, etc), I snagged a Betta Splendens at my local WalMart for a couple bucks. Right away it was pretty unsettling to think about what a meaningless and boring life he was having in that tiny fishbowl. I put him next to the window, but my windows let in a horrible draft, so I settled for a spot above the stereo in the living room where I’m conducting experiments on him to determine whether or not fish respond to Josh Groban. I haven’t named the thing yet. Is that strange? I guess people name their fish. My roommate thinks it should be Barbra Streisand. What-ev. And anyway, it’s a boy fish. So what I wanted to ask is this: would you have any kind of objections to me naming my fish after you? I just finished reading Consumer Joe, and have been wanting to name something after you pretty much ever since. I promise not give him the crusty, flake-like food in the plastic container.

  15. Pauly D - May 3, 2006 at 6:32 pm -

    Lacy – I will allow you to name your fish after me as long as you do not feed him flaky old fish food dust and that you also never force Pauly D the fish to fight against other fish for sport or gambling. If you can agree to that, then go for it.

    Oh, and send me a picture of me (the fish) reading my book.

  16. Lacy - May 4, 2006 at 6:33 am -

    You got it.

  17. anonymous fishowner - May 5, 2006 at 5:07 pm -

    i dont know you, but i cant believe you wrote such a long rant about the cruelties and inadequacies of fish keeping. i bought a ten gallon tank with guppies and zebra danios to entertain my cat, who sat in my apt all day bored while i was at work. I ended up getting another cat so he wouldnt be bored (and now he isnt).
    Anyway, I think it is interesting that you think keeping a dog or cat is okay but not fish. fish dont know the difference – everytime they pass the driftwood or rock or plant in their tank they think they’re in a new environment, or at least their pea brains dont comprehend what is going on. some larger fish actually develop relationships with their owners, begging for food and what not. but cats and dogs, they look out the window all day and if you leave the door open, what happens? they leave! so i dont think you should argue that keeping fish is somehow more unfair than keeping a dog.
    as for why you would want fish, they are fun to watch. i have my own little ecosystem sitting on my bar with creatures that dont understand their meaningless existence. i find that this helps me to keep my own life in perspective, as we too lead a meaningless existence in our larger ecosystem which we call earth. we pretend it is not meaningless, but if you watch fish, you can see they believe that too. additionally, i find it relaxing to listen to the water cycle through the tank.
    as for the money, you can learn how to build a low tech, low maintenance and therefore low cost aquarium, a planted aquarium, and i liken this to gardening in your home. i didnt use to understand why my mom likes gardening, but it is like any other hobby. i can tell you that building your own ecosystem is quite a rewarding challenge.

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