Jeff Ross
Tijeras, New Mexico

More life aquatic

I enjoyed the recent Voice essay about the trials, tribs—and perks—of fish-keeping, metro-style [Sloane Crosley, "Heavy Petting," The Essay, January 19—25]. It was funny, entertaining, and gave me some idea of what it's like to own pets of any sort in a big city. Even though I live on five acres in Georgia with dogs, cats, goats, and ring-necked doves (relatives of your citified rats with wings), I can relate to your fondness for fish. My wife and I have a tank in the living room, where bala sharks, silver dollars, and an algae-eating catfish provide a lot more entertainment than prime-time TV.

I'm sorry Sid and Nancy/Fish died on you. You seem like you'd be a good fish parent and I hope you try again. Here are some suggestions if you do. Goldfish aren't as low maintenance as they seem. A lot of people think they're a good starter fish, but they create a lot of body trash (poop and ammonia), so you need to do partial water changes at fairly frequent intervals. And contrary to the "bowl world" image, they do better with at least a little filtration. By the way, the ones you see with bugged-out eyes and oddball shapes are often the results of Dr. Moreau— style crossbreeding. This means their insides haven't totally "evolved," making them even trickier to keep.

But here's the good news. There are plenty of hardy breeds out there that only need a little bit of upkeep. Tetras, White Cloud minnows, and danios are some small fish that do well in a basic tank setup. And you can find aquarium "starter kits" that include tank, filter, and other helpful stuff. They range in size from 2.5-gallon desktop units (I keep a betta in one) to five- and 10-gallon tanks. Average prices range from $25 to $50 (at least they do down here). You can also find some deals online. Fosterandsmith.com is pretty reasonable and reliable. I've ordered from them a couple of times and been pretty satisfied with what I got.

All in all, keeping fish is a pretty cool pastime, especially for busy folks. Just feed 'em once or twice a day, change a little water every couple of weeks (not all of it: Believe it or not, they need some of the bacteria that's in the old water), check/change the filter periodically, and you're most likely good to go.

John J. Harlan
Cusseta, Georgia

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