The encounter with the wren was a lovely start to an otherwise sort-of-sad day. I had to say goodbye to Big Pleco. Like Topsy, he just grow’d. And grow’d…till he was nearing fifteen inches long and with a girth that would need two hands to span. My aquarium is big, but not that big. At nearly half the length of the tank, he was already finding it tight and would soon find swimming impossible. I’ve been trying to acquire a larger tank or rehome him for months, as soon as I saw which way the problem was heading, but to no avail. No-one except a few monster-fish keepers want these gorgeous creatures when they get so big, but come what may, he needed to move to bigger quarters. And I had been singularly unsuccessful in finding him anywhere to go. I had asked at all the local places and none of the fish stores could offer any help or advice.
I wasn’t even thinking about Big Plec when I wandered into the aquatic centre in High Wycombe yesterday. I was just calming my nerves after a scan at the diagnostic centre. The results were good and for some reason that left me shaky. Watching fish is soothing and the aquatic centre was just round the corner. Before the twenty-five mile drive back, a few minutes fish-dreaming seemed a good idea. On impulse, as I was leaving, I asked the young girl at the counter if she knew anyone who rehomed fish. She was most helpful and suggested a few places further south I might try. “Or,” she said, “our Aylesbury store could take him.” Now I had asked there first, being the best of the local stores, and I said so. “Oh no,” she relied, “we have a six hundred litre tank he can go in. I’m the manager of that store. I’ll let them know you’ll be bringing him.” And that was that. She gave me a fish box in which to carry him safely and I went home to arrange fish-catching with my younger son.
Now, Alex is a fish-man. A lifelong angler with a passion for all things fishy. Even so, he was daft enough to arrive in his Sunday best. When Ani had finished smothering him he took a look at the fish. He hasn’t seen Big Plec for several weeks… he’s grown again since then. “Er…how?” he said, when I’d siphoned enough water out of the tank for transport. Well, his guess was as good as mine.We tried netting him… catching him by hand…a towel… a big jug… By this time, I kid you not, the ceiling is dripping, water is running down the walls, pooling on the floor…we are both soaked and one of the smaller fish had nipped my son’s fingers. Ani is hiding under the desk. Big Plec did not want to be caught and a fish that size can make a lot of waves. I emptied the toiletries from a soft woven basket in an echo of much older fishing methods. That worked. A final look and the lid was sealed.
I drove carefully, very carefully, to the aquatic centre ten miles away. The water barely moved. But the fish did. That was one angry fish. Great swipes of his tale reassured me all the way…he was still in one piece, but I didn’t fancy the chances of the polystyrene box for long. True to her word, the manageress had let the staff know and we were expected. Within minutes, Big Plec was being acclimatised to his new home… a tank bigger, wider, deeper than my bath tub…and the only other occupants were a handful of tiny tetra. He would love that space!
It didn’t stop me having a hard time leaving him though. The tank seems empty without his presence. I miss his eyes watching me through the glass at feeding time. It may seem silly… ‘it is only a fish’… but it isn’t. We shared a home for a year and got to know each other’s movements. He is a fellow creature with whom I made eye contact in a wordless communication of unknown ideas… but communication nonetheless. Just like the wren, or Ani, size, species, language… it matters little. We are all creatures sharing one life under the sun, and as soon as you see the light in another creature, eye to eye, there is kinship.