Life lessons taught to me by a couple of goldfish…

I might get some flak from overzealous animal rights activists over this one…I have a turtle as a pet, named Myrtle.

Western Painted turtle

My mom called me one day and told me she found a turtle in one of the horse stalls. The poor thing had been kicked or stepped on at one point and was missing part of her shell. I and my girls had 2 red-eared sliders which we had to find new homes for, after 7 years of fun (the cleaning of the tank was NEVER fun!), so I knew how to take care of this sweetheart. Her healthy shell started showing signs that she wasn’t as healthy as she should be. I’ve been fighting this for a solid year, mind you. I took her to the vet, gave her oral antibiotics (think dealing with a psychopath is scary? Try getting a miniature snapping turtle-type to open their mouth, willingly! lol! Reminiscent of trying to give our 20 lb cat (pure attitude) not only one pill, but 2!) After a year of battling her shell condition, she was finally starting to show some improvement…though VERY SLOWLY.

The vet we chose for her, suggested introducing some gold fish. I thought that was a cruel thing to do to the poor fish, so I tried other methods, which she wasn’t interested in…cooked chicken…veggies…  A friend of mine, who is usually a blessing, smiled at me and said, “we should get her some goldfish” I sighed, and decided to go ahead and try. We went to the pet shop and picked up 2 small feeder goldfish. 13 cents each. We brought them back and put them in her tank. she chased them, cornered them, and then seemingly lost interest.

A week went by. I noticed each fish had different attitudes. One was a leader (more vibrantly, and the other followed the first, everywhere it went. That one was pale-colored. Almost a soft pink (like a girl :D).

I watched them in the tank with Myrtle. She seemed disinterested in them to the point that I thought I now had goldfish for pets, too. After a week they were comfortable enough to come out of their hiding place and swim around her, eat, play… The pale one, never far away from the stronger, orange one…never venturing out without the first.

Two weeks went by… Myrtle’s shell started showing WONDERFUL improvement! The only difference was the goldfish, and adding one tank ornament (a shrub). I was happy! Apparently, so was she. She was bored and depressed, I think, before the fish came along, and it showed in her shell’s health. We still had 2 goldfish one morning. One leader, one follower.

The follower was too scared to move around without the shield of the leader. One head behind the other, always following. I wasn’t the only one who noticed the behavior. Myrtle did, too. After all, she’s the predator.

Come to find out, the disinterest she showed in the gold fish was just a ploy to get them to trust that she wasn’t a threat to them. Sound familiar? They were comfortable enough to swim, play, eat and poop without a concern in the world that the predator was actually setting up a patient scheme to eventually catch and eat one of them. The goldfish and Myrtle were, for all intents and purposes, friends…or so it seemed.

That same friend who talked me into getting them in the first place, was at my apartment one morning. I was heading to my second job, and talking to him on the way to work. I’m glad I wasn’t there to see it. He gave me an unwanted play by play of the events… Myrtle, all at once was chasing them, and separated the follower from the leader…the weak personality from the strong, and in 3 gulps, the little follower was gone.

It’s now been a little over a month since we introduced the goldfish. Can you guess where the stronger goldfish is? Still swimming with Myrtle…comfortable…not a care in the world… Myrtle seems disinterested, still.

She’s still leaving the leader alone. I don’t think she’ll eat this one. I now have a goldfish, who is now trying to jump into the canister filter’s stream of fresh water. Smart little thing. It’s learned how to manipulate the current caused by the pouring water, and can launch itself 3 inches above water, and into the canister. It slides back out and repeats the process. Funny to watch. It’s a game to the fish. The strong one…free to live around the predator. Too strong for the predator to consider prey…for now.

Now, the moral as I see it…

Abused people…we who have known mistreatment from those we trusted, maybe since childhood…become the followers. We seek to be shielded by the strong. We feel safe, secure, warm and loved…but there is ALWAYS a predator watching  They see the strong self-assured type who is our shield…our support…our friends and family. They see our relationship with them, too. They integrate themselves into our lives, scheming for a way to separate us from them and devour us. The strong personality goes free. Not a good candidate for the predator’s lunch.

Learn to become strong and self-assured in our steps. We will keep from being someone’s prey as a result.

Amazing what we can learn from a couple of goldfish…


9 thoughts on “Life lessons taught to me by a couple of goldfish…

  1. What I thought when I read this: My EF seemed like the strong one, the leader, my protector, but when push came to shove and the chips were down, he escaped and allowed me to be eaten by NM to save himself.

    1. Amazing how we can see our own lives, here. Me, I can see myself in the relationship of the 2 goldfish. My friends (most of them) have pretty much all commented to me about how they feel the need to protect me. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that they care. What I didn’t see was I placed myself every day, in the position of the pale fish. I never learned how to take my own steps without a “shield”. I didn’t create my own defensive nature, then. I am now.

      BTW…the orange one’s name is now, Nemo! lol! Remember the scene in the movie where the fish were trying to escape from the tank?? Yep, just like that 😀

        1. That little fish only started doing that yesterday. At least, it’s the first time I noticed. He was at it for hours! lol!! When I saw him land inside the filter, i panicked because I didn’t want him to get hurt. I have come to like the little guy. Then I watched the routine unfold. Very comical! I watched him launch himself into the filter, slide back out….and I said, “HAHA!! Nemo!” And it’s his new name now. Amazing how attached I’ve become to Myrtle. It started as a rescue. She had apparently been dropped off by someone. Very tame, loves her feet rubbed, and flowing water on her shell. Her shell was broken VERY close to her tissues, and she would have died, otherwise.

  2. I read this from my phone the other day. I thought, “what a beautiful way to be “educated” by nature.” This is really a good post, and I never would have thought of the turtle and the little gold fish in that way, but I totally see this.
    I must say, I felt so sad for the little gold fish and I hope the other one will be ok, but I don’t have a lot of hope for him.

    1. I’ve never seen a predator/prey ‘relationship’ as dictated by nature, other than Nat Geo programs…so this one was an eye opener. i never realized that, even as pets, they still interact the same way…one scheming, creating false hopes, the prey…trusting what is “normal”. I felt bad for the little one, too. I could be wrong, but the stronger one seems to have been accepted by Myrtle as an addition to her “happy” surroundings. She might let this one go. Er…”Nemo” has seemed to be very comfortable. He was pretty unsure of things after his tag-along was chased and eaten, but he’s since recovered. Sick…sick… I’d rather Myrtle eat cooked chicken…

  3. I’ve learnt many lessons from my goldfish too… thanks for sharing your story. But here’s hoping the turtle wouldn’t eat that last goldfish in the end. Couldn’t you separate them so that would never happen? I can imagine the “leader” goldfish must know what happened to its friends. Goldfish have great memory (the thing about goldfish memory being 5 seconds is a myth). And so being in this situation where he constantly has to watch his back (even though he seems carefree) must be stressful? Of course, I’m just projecting a worse case scenario here, but still. I wouldn’t put my goldfish in this same place with the predator–but that’s just me.

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