Barb Kerbox

Pet Tales

Barb Kerbox of Eureka Springs is a longtime pet-lover, pet owner and animal caretaker, as well as a contributing writer and photographer.


Conversations with goldfish, and other lessons

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Recently we have added goldfish to our repertoire of family pets.

I hadn't had these since childhood so I had forgotten how fascinating they really are. They are related to coy (large fancy fan-tailed goldfish) and carp (found in local waters -- in giant sizes).

I guess humans are largely responsible for their explosive numbers because there are colorful varieties that are not only beautiful, but are also easy (relatively) pets to care for.

Having fish teaches children about the different types of creatures in the world that exist in our environment. One of my favorite things to do with all my animals is to analyze their ability or interest in a relationship with a human, or another animal of different species.

So of course after about two weeks, it occurred to me to do something that might help me learn something about their intelligence. I thought about tapping on the rocks of the pond before feeding.

It's not easy to have a conversation with a goldfish, not even eye contact is easy with them. They were terrified for a very long time after being put in my pond so how was I ever to befriend them?

It must have taken about six weeks it seems for them to stop darting away from me when I came near the pond. I accepted their fear of me as standard, and perhaps it was good for them to flee from anything to stay alive. But then, just when I thought we would never be friends, it seemed there was a breakthrough.

I kept tapping before feeding, and eventually they put together that soon after tapping comes their rations. Hmmm. They can learn.

Then they began to lose their fear of me, because they noticed that I was their feeder.

One day my husband, Rob, came over to the pond and asked if he could feed them. They were afraid of him, but he tapped, and they eventually came up to feed, although very afraid of him at first.

It took many feedings before they would be comfortable enough to eat near him. The goldfish actually learn to recognize you, they can see you, and can differentiate between humans beings.

Hey, maybe fish can be found in "schools" for a very good reason, they are not dumb! They live in a different world than we do, with little defense mechanisms for fighting back (since they have no arms or legs to fight with!).

They must swim fast to survive. Hatched from eggs, perhaps they must even escape from their own hungry parents. Only the strongest and fastest -- and perhaps smartest -- survive. Wow, how's that for today's lesson?

Love your goldfish. You will learn how fragile the water environment, their environment, really is. How we treat our water and wildlife that occupies it may determine our survival success on this planet.

Let us landlubbers remember the planet is 75 percent covered in water, and we are dependent on it.

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Barb Kerbox of Eureka Springs is a longtime pet-lover, pet owner and animal caretaker, as well as a contributing writer and photographer.