I can honestly say that I never expected having a pet fish to be harder than raising a cat. It all started with Renarld, Big Tom, and OJ: the first three fish I ever raised. Looking back, my childhood has been scattered with memories of raising a cat, guinea pigs, then more cats. Curiously though, never a fish, a “preliminary pet” most people have experiences with. So, being a veteran cat owner, I thought to myself, “How hard can it be? They’re just fish.” Needless to say, I was very wrong.
Due to distance learning, fun group projects and field trip opportunities have been lost. Students have been bombarded with monotonous lectures, homework, tests, reading assignments, more tests, and even more lectures. Therefore, I was so excited when I received the instructions for my AP Environmental Science Ecocolumn Project. Students would build a three-layer ecocolumn with terrestrial, decomposition, and aquatic chambers, and then would test different variables after manipulating the chambers. I decided to test the effects of human-caused oil spills by adding oil to the top terrestrial chamber every day, seeing how my plants and real-life subjects (my pet fish) would do.
When I first got my three fish, I was feeling a mix of excitement and apprehension. It would be the first time in 15 years I would care for a pet other than a cat, but then again, how does one “raise” a fish? There’s no such thing as playing with your fish, or petting them, walking them, or the other normal things involved in caring for a furry pet. But, wouldn’t that make it so much easier to care for fish then?
After a while, I came to the realization that fish were not the easiest to care for, and I ended up having to mourn all three. It was not that I did anything wrong, rather, the fish I had bought weren’t in the best condition to begin with. But still, I felt traumatized upon thinking about three fish deaths on my hands.
Frankly, I’m still not completely over their deaths. But, things are looking up. I recently bought three more fish for my APES project, and I’m proud to say that my new companions are thriving. I have become the owner of three happy fish that I have faith will live for a very long time.
I may not be able to walk my fish or pet them to sleep, but this APES Ecocolumn Project gave me more joy than expected. Yes, I will inevitably learn about human impacts on our ecosystem and other environmental concepts students are supposed to grasp through this experiment, but I have gained a crucial experience: learning to care for other entities besides myself, my pets.
You don’t need to be in an APES class or be assigned an ecocolumn project to gain this kind of special experience. It’s quarantine, and we’re cooped up in our house all day. You might as well become a fish owner and learn to care for them the same way anyone would care for their new puppy. Besides, fish are pretty darn cute, so that’s a plus!