Reflections on the Other Side of the Fish Bowl

By:Ernie Hurt

Many a night I find myself sitting alone, often intoxicated, listening to the soothing hum of my fish tank air pump. Maybe I am a little crazy but there are few things in life as peaceful as watching fish swimming in their tank.

If you really think about it, the world you give them is all they know. To them you are God, bringing food and safety. Now goldfish or fish in general, may not be the best pets when compared to dogs or cats.

They may not be cuddly or even notice if you’re in the room- but they like me represent the fine line between wild and domesticated. A dog or cat knows he or she is a pet, relying on us for stimulation and love- where as a fish is a slave to no one. A fish rules his domain without a single fuck to where he is or who owns him.

You may say a bald eagle is the embodiment of freedom but honestly the lowly fish represents the greatest freedom there is. Through ignorance and oddly placed eyes the fish float through life with less cares than a billionaire.

Even 2500 years before Christ, fish were kept indoors for various reasons. Although Sumerians and Egyptians considered fish sacred, the Romans kept them inside as a means to keep them fresh in order to eat them. The early Chinese also kept them inside for food, but later bred a separate form of carp that we know and love today, the goldfish.

Early fish were kept in large bowls or indoor ponds. Over time glass replaced porcelain or marble and became closer to the aquariums that fill 10 million U.S. homes. The original glass tanks often had slate or steel bottoms that were heated with fire before central heating in homes made it unnecessary to keep most aquariums warm.

With the invention of the first mechanical air pump in 1908, aquariums could be better maintained and fish began to live longer lives. In the 1920’s Mattel Toys marketed toy fish tanks in the United States and Europe, bringing fish keeping from the homes of the rich, to anyone with a couple bucks in his pocket. Numerous advances in technology have made it possible for even the simplest of minds to keep and care for fish. I feel as if I am perhaps preaching to the choir. It is estimated that there are at least 139 million freshwater fish being kept in tanks in America alone. Almost every home I’ve ever entered has contained at least a small fish bowl. It makes me feel good to know I’m not the only person with a love for aquariums. To me it’s like meditation, almost another world to escape to when this sometimes harsh and cruel world deals me-a bum card. I just sit and watch, gilded with envy for the carefree, almost sarcastic way my fish floats from one end of his home to the other.