Strabismus had a slightly colorful early life. Cynthia and I stayed at a Kimpton hotel a notoriously pet-friendly chain, that offers guests a loaner goldfish if you are missing your companion pet at home. Ours came in an upscale modern goldfish townhouse with little irregularly-placed windows.
Cynthia was taken by the design-forward fish habitat, and ordered one for us at home, and we acquired a Betta to live in it. Bettas are temperature sensitive, and ours succumbed to a water change that was a bit too cold. We decided to try a Blackamoor goldfish, the kind with the bulging eyes. We named him Strabismus.
Strabbs, we quickly discovered, was way too messy for the townhouse tank. Blackamoors love to eat – all the time – 24/7. If you feed them as often as the goldfish food container says (twice a day), they will eagerly consume it all and beg for more. What goes in must also come out.
I bought a 5 gallon aquarium. Strabbs was happy in his larger quarters, and was a beautiful little thing swimming around in circles, and then cresting at the top with a splashy flip. I grew attached to Strabbs, and I swear we had a mutual relationship. When I came into my study, he would immediately swim over to the side of his tank and stare intently at me. I know he was just after some food, but I am certain he recognized me. I was hooked, as it were.
I got him a small little common goldfish for company. Turns out that breeding for those bulgy eyes means that Blackamoors can barely see, and they are slow-moving to begin with. Not only did the little fish steal Strabb’s food, it attacked him and nicked a few pieces out of his tail. So the little goldfish went into the townhouse, and a few days later Murphy the cat reached into the townhouse and re-purposed the fish as an hors d’oeuvre.
Theoretically, Blackamoors can live as long as 10 years and grow quite large, but the average life expectancy is 6 months – highly dependent on how much effort you put into their care. Little Strabbs came with some medical problems but survived more than 2 years, overcoming a fungal infection, multiple bouts of ich, progressive visual loss, and tail paralysis from a tumor just above his beautiful fins. I gave his care my best shot, but when he could no longer see food that was right in front of his mouth, it was time to let him go.
I placed him in a bowl of ice water – reputedly the most merciful way to send goldfish to their next incarnation. I was not impressed – I came to know Strabbs well, and I don’t think he was especially pleased with his physician-assisted suicide. Not really a suicide anyway – I iced him, as it were. I buried him in the garden, under 3 amaryllis bulbs – I hope they bloom with little Strabbs-bits in their flowers.
He had a fine run, Cynthia assures me. Nearly 2 years. And even 6 months ago I was still considering upgrading to a 10 gallon tank.
Requiescat in pace Strabismus.