I hinted at this before, but our first step in preparing the aquarium for Dibs’s arrival was to stock it with live plants and a little community of fish—some friends and some food—to live with him. This was more complicated than it might seem, since I wasn’t interested in watching a fishy massacre play out but I wanted the “food” fish to be safe to eat.
Shopping is Husband’s least favorite activity, but complicated shopping wears him down by the second stop. I don’t know how much experience you have shopping with a cranky man, but food is my secret weapon/bribe of choice.
ME: Okay, so let’s hit that place and the other place, and then…
HIM: And then…?
ME: I’m hungry.
HIM: Okay. What do you want?
ME: (bites lip, ponders question)
HIM: Plants and fish?
HIM: (laughs) I said that as a joke, but then I realized, that is your actual diet.
ME: Oh my god! Dibs and I will eat all the same things! We already have so much in common!
Plants were obtained about a week before we settled on fish. Because I wanted whatever I put in the tank to have at least a fighting chance of survival and—in case you haven’t been fish shopping lately—most of what’s stocked in the big pet stores is dumber than the tile in said stores. Plus there was the other issue…
ME: See, I know she recommended these but… look at them!
HIM: What about them? She said they get bigger.
ME: Right but… watch. (touches glass)
FISH: (zip ‘round in tight bunch)
ME: These are clearly schooling fish. They won’t be happy if I buy only two or three of them.
HIM: (points at tag) For that price, you can buy a dozen or two.
ME: Uh-huh. And how will we be sure we’re getting all males or all females?
ME: Do you think (chain store) employees know how to sex these fish?
HIM: No. But why—
ME: Have you ever had a tank suddenly full of baby fish?
ME: Can you at least imagine what it’s like to be with me when the tank is suddenly full of baby fish?
HIM: … (alarmed)
ME: Did you know they make baby fish playpens?
HIM: … I did not.
ME: Because they do. And you need one, or several, to protect the baby fish from their parents. And then you spend half of every day feeding and cleaning up after them and generally taking care of the stupid baby fish you never wanted anyway but they’re your baby fish now!
I’d like to take this moment to thank the Local Fish Guy who convinced me to buy two dozen platies, on the logic that they couldn’t possibly breed fast enough to keep up with a turtle’s voracious appetite and the wild-type fish he was offering were zippy if not exactly clever.
Raise your hand if you can see where this is going.
ME: (aggrieved) We have baby fish.
HIM: (sighs) Well, we knew that was a possibility. I mean, we dumped a dozen platies in—
ME: Yeah, but I didn’t think it would happen this quickly! I’ve been sat here screaming at the tank, “which one of you little cunts gave birth?” It must’ve been pregnant when we bought it.
ME: And I’m here, watching them swim around—trying to count, you know? And all of a sudden this tiiiiny little baby fish swims up to the glass and sort of waves at me. Like, ohai, hooman! Omnomnom plants. And I’m like, well, fuck. I can’t catch you!
HIM: Not in that tank, no.
ME: They’re on their own, fuck ‘em. Fortunately it seems fine; it swam past a whole group of adults and they were chowing down on plants and stray food and didn’t even care.
HIM: Yeah. I don’t know how we’re gonna get all those fish out of the tank, ever. I mean… unless we get a turtle.
ME: Do you really think he’s going to bother himself with baby fish?
HIM: Probably not.
ME: No, he won’t! The baby fish will grow up watching their parents get eaten! What kind of life is that for a fish?
ME: (genuinely distressed) It’ll be like living in a Disney movie!
HIM: (laughs right along with Fate)
Note that literally ALL of my plans hinged on one basic fact: turtles eat fish. Hell, I’ve been warned that turtles eat everything and that I shouldn’t get attached to anything in the tank, down to the décor.
Y’all, Mom gave me a defective turtle.
ME: (sends picture of tank full of fish and plants)
AUDREY: Are those his friends?
ME: Well, and food.
AUDREY: He never really ate fish when he lived with us, but maybe Mom’s taught him to eat fish in her tank.
ME: … He doesn’t eat fish?
AUDREY: No, he was a really shitty hunter.
ME: (glares at fat, begging lady platies) Dammit…
AUDREY: He might learn!
 These help oxygenate the tank as well as absorbing and converting harmful waste products; if you are a lazy person who does not want to change water frequently in a turtle or fish tank, get some live plants to do part of your job for you.
 Fun fact: goldfish and minnows and the like are actually bad for turtles (and most other fish-eating critters). “Feeder” goldfish are grossly mislabeled.