My husband and I went big last weekend and spent Saturday night at the local county fair.  There are so many things I want to say about the fair, but they are for another blog.  Today, I am gonna focus on one small thing: the goldfish I won playing a carnival game.

Now, to be completely fair, it was MY idea to play the game.  And, I realize what a hypocrite that makes me.  In my defense, seeing the thousands of the fish in little tiny clear plastic bags just sitting there made my heart break into just as many pieces.  Fish are creatures, too.  The rescue person in me just couldn’t be pushed aside.

$5.00 later and we were walking away with a decent size goldfish in a cute little blue plastic carrier.  My husband spared no expense to make me happy.

Our family has been down this road before and it has never ended well.  This time was gonna be different.  Immediately, after leaving the fair, we stopped at the grocery store to get fish food and some chemicals to de-chlorinate the water.  That much I already knew.

We got home and I found the fish bowl every American family has sitting in the back basement. Cleaned it out, stuck in the plastic plant, prepared the water, and let “Doc Ford” splash into his new pond.  I felt as liberated as I hoped he was.

The next morning I began googling, “Caring for the goldfish you won at the fair” because that is a real search – one done thousands of times.  Instantly, I saw the briefings of forums warning parents of the actual care that goes into having a goldfish.  The number one precaution, “A goldfish cannot survive in a bowl!”

The "aquarium" Doc Ford came with that would have eventually killed him.

The “3 cup” aquarium Doc Ford came with that would eventually kill him.

Crap!  Why didn’t I ever search this before?

Not only can a goldfish NOT survive in a goldfish bowl (how in the hell can they name something after an animal that does not even suit them?), for every goldfish you have, your tank should be at least 10 gallons.

I glanced over at the cute little blue carrier they gave us at the fair.  I would have been surprised if it held a total of 3- 8oz cups of water.  My eyes carried me to the “large” bowl I put Doc Ford in.  In my head I compared it to a gallon of milk.  I would be surprised if a gallon of milk would fit in the bowl I thought was Lake Michigan for Doc Ford.

Since I was on the computer, I quickly typed in and figured with my Prime account, I could have a new tank in 2 days with free shipping.  As I scrolled through all of the 10 gallon tanks, there wasn’t a single one for under $50.  And, of course, the ones I liked the best, the ones that would look chic in my kitchen were well over $100 and all of their reviews were, “Not good for a goldfish.”

To keep my $5 fish alive, I was gonna have to shell out some cash and live with a tank in my kitchen.

My family kept saying, “Wait to see if he lives a week before you spend that kind of money.”

Their commentary made sense, however, after all that I read on ten different goldfish forums, I knew that if I didn’t get at least a 10 gallon tank, Doc Ford had a near zero chance of surviving. See, while it is true that goldfish will only grow to the size of their tank, the reality is their insides don’t actually stop growing.  So, they die because their organs have nowhere to go.

There is also the problem with high ammonia levels.  Goldfish are extremely messy and poop all of the time.  Without a filter or larger amounts of water, the fish die of ammonia poisoning.  From what I read, it is a horrible death.

I would see Doc Ford gasping at the  top of the bowl and feel like a fish killer.  I changed his water constantly, which I also learned was only stressing him out.  I couldn’t take it anymore.


Doc Ford’s new ocean


I drove to Walmart and with only a few options, found a 20 gallon tank for the low price of $59.97.  It came with lighting and a filter.  Add $20 more for some gravel and a few plastic plants and for just under $100, by early afternoon Doc Ford was presented with a mansion and no mortgage.

I am watching him right now swim around his new digs.  I worry that he can’t breathe, that I didn’t de-chlorinate the water enough, that it is too warm, and that he doesn’t understand to       look on the top of the water for his food.

I have transformed puppy-mill dogs from scared, empty shells of nothing into loving certified therapy dogs, but I don’t know a damn thing about goldfish.

So, I just got off the phone with my husband, telling him all about Doc Ford’s newly appointed epic home. Within minutes,  I started ranting about how wrong it all is: the concept of the fair and the goldfish games.  (They also had a game where you could win hermit crabs).  I said to Bill, “Not everyone has $100 to set-up an aquarium for the goldfish they won at the fair.  They are basically setting the fish up to die.”

Of course he agreed with me.  One, I am right and two, he knows not to argue about animals with me.  But, he said, “Well, in reality though, how long would that fish last anyway?”

“12 years or more, ” I said, “That is what I read on the forums.  A goldfish can last well over 12 years with the right care.”

As only a husband of an animal advocate could reply, he said, “How about you free all the puppy-mill dogs first and then worry about the goldfish at the fairs?”

Yes, the mill dogs first, but as I watch Doc Ford and see him swim into walls, I just hate the idea that hundreds of little kids took home goldfish last week.  Those goldfish are sitting in the 3 cup carriers basically waiting to die.   The only satisfaction I get from any of it is knowing that Doc Ford is what they call a feeder fish.  Had he not been at the fair, he would have likely been another fish or creature’s dinner.

Doc Ford is just another example of what is wrong with the world.  We see such creatures as meaningless, worth nothing.  I don’t blame parents for not shelling out the cash for a 10 gallon aquarium just for the $5 goldfish and I know it is hard to say no to a child (or an adult) who wants to play the game and win a pet.  Just as we have done with the pet stores, stopping the cruelty at the point of sale, we must one day do with the fairs.  We must end the goldfish game because people don’t know any better and the best way to prevent more goldfish from needlessly dying in a 3 cup carrier, is to stop marketing them like prizes we can throw away.

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