The Ocean's Breathing

For The Voices Who Go Unheard.

The Ocean's Breathing
(fish reap what we sow)

Having opinions of your own can be a hard thing, in the sense that it's hard to have your voice heard in a world so opposed to your beliefs and values. Unpopular opinions for that matter are even more overlooked, but it's important one does not lose sight of what they feel strongly about. Before we begin, I'd like to ask you to come into this with an open mind and open ears for those whose voices go unheard. Now, what is this unpopular opinion? Fish do feel.

Ever since I was younger, I’ve always taken a liking to animals of all sorts. I’ve always been fascinated by mammals, reptiles, insects, amphibians, etc. of all kinds, but something about the ocean has always called out to me. This longing feeling to explore the peaceful deep blue of the unknown. My curiosity is what began me on my journey that would soon escalate into something bigger. Let's rewind a few years to when I was about eight years old. Definitely not my favorite memory, but an important one at that. My brother and I were both young, unknowledgeable, and wanted a pet. So my parents got three goldfish and put them in a few gallons worth of a small tank. Looking back, I feel saddened and guilty. The fishes water did not have a balanced ph level and wasn't fish friendly for that matter. The water was unconditioned and dirty, had no filter, and no bubbler for oxygen. It didn’t even have a place for the fish to hide. I wish my parents were more knowledgeable at the time, but I can't blame them for not knowing I suppose, because they were brought up differently. Fast forward a year and the same thing happened, all these fish had died off within a month or two. Thinking back I always feel a pang of guilt. Some of the fish began to have problems and you could tell. How sad of a life it must have been and stressful for them to have been cramped in a tiny tank filled with chlorinated water, not to mention no hiding space. I know too many people, all they see is a fish, something to keep their kids busy or decoration for their homes. It's honestly sickening to see so much mistreatment among so many animals, fish being one of the many mistreated and unheard of. Let me tell you another story.

Fast forward to when I was about 15 years old. My brother was talking about getting fish for himself, but remembering back to when we were younger, I felt that instant guilt again and told him not to, but he did nonetheless. Fortunately, this time we had a friend's dad fill us in on all the right ways to care for fish, easing my mind a bit. My brother ended up purchasing a 10 gallon tank, with a nice little set up inside. They made sure to buy a bubbler so the fish had plenty of oxygen, a filter to keep the water crystal clear, as well as water conditioner so that the fish could live in the correct pH water balance. Two little dalmatian mollies were bought about a day or two after. Ace was the bigger one, fully black with white dots all around. Cloud was the smaller one, fully white with black dots all around. I checked up on the fish every now and then to make sure my brother was taking care of them and for the most part, everything looked great. After a month or so though, I noticed him slacking and unfortunately by the time I noticed, Cloud had already gotten sick and I wasn't able to save her. My gut feeling told me this would happen, but I was determined to make sure Ace lived her full life span (3-5 years). In my heart, I knew these animals weren’t just play toys or decorations, no. She had a heart beating in her chest. Maybe they can't feel all the emotions humans can, but they still feel nonetheless. After Cloud passed away my brother decided to let me have Ace. It's funny to say, but I've never been as devoted to an animal as I was to this little spit fire.

Fast forward a few months to where I ended up getting her a new 20 gallon tank with decorations to make it feel as much as home as I could for her. Happy to say she was a happy little fish. Mollies are very active, fast fish, so it was important I give her the space to enjoy herself with what I could afford as a 16 year old kid in college and high school. Overtime I honestly formed a very close bond with this fish. I know it may sound corny to some, but if you take time to just watch and learn about the little things in life, you will eventually see what you couldn't before and I soon saw her individual personality show. Ace was a cute fish, saddens me to think I no longer get to come home to her wagging, little, lively body every day to greet me once I came home. It was easy to tell how she'd get excited when it was dinner time. I usually stuck to a specific time, but sometimes id be caught up on something else, passing her feeding time. She'd get ancy, swimming up and down the tank trying to get my attention. Ace was a smart fish and knew how to communicate what she wanted in the best way she knew how. Some days I'd just go up to her tank and play with her. She liked to come up to the front of her tank and stare right at you. Sometimes I'd be alone in that quiet, big empty house, grab a chair and place it in front of the tank. I would just sit there and listen to the bubbles and filter ripple onto the water as I admired the peaceful tranquility of the tank. Ace would just float there, right by the front of the glass, just staring right at you.

You know how fish have to constantly move to keep the water flowing through their bodies? It made her do this little wiggle with her body so I copied her movement with my head and would move around and she'd follow me. Haha it sounds so silly, but those little moments made my day. Mollies naturally have fat puckered lips too, so it looked as if she was smiling some days which made me happy. We both just sat their like goofballs smiling and dancing in our own world of communication with each other. She was like an escape for me/someone I could find comfort in away from the reality of my life.

Overall, I gave Ace the best life I could. I probably saved up and spent a few hundred on her over the years. She got sick only a couple times, those days I did as much research for home remedies and bought some store bought medicine. A few years in I was very much invested into this fish. I always made sure her tank was crystal clear often getting compliments on how homey and clean it looked (of course I am at fault for slacking off at times). As time went on though I could see she was getting old. Her smooth black scales began to turn gray and a few began to flake off. She wasn't as active and when she stopped eating I knew. After almost four years of having Ace, she passed away.

I know for many people, a fish usually doesn't have any sentimental or emotional value to a human, but Ace taught me differently. This tiny animal opened up my mind in ways I didn't realize. She taught me to think before I do. To observe and learn from things I don't understand. I will always feel a pang of guilt for the fishes I had in my childhood that were mistreated unintentionally, but I believe that caused a ripple affect for my future and broadened my horizons in a sense.

A few other events I feel worth mentioning are how fish can do tricks such as jumping out of the water to go through a hoop or how this one man was able to handle and pet his fish as it encircled around his hands in the pond, allowing him to pet it, the fish following him wherever he went. Just type in “fish playing with man” or “beta jumping through a hoop”. This goes for all animals though, not just fish. Animals are more intelligent then we give them credit for. It saddens me to see so much cruelty is happening within the world and yet it is considered normal. I don't understand how someone is able to boil lobsters alive or serve fish still alive on the plate just for some made up myth that the meat will taste better. Tell me, how could that morally be right to anyone?? And its not just with aquatics mammals, but other species as well. In other countries people will gladly skin an animal alive, just as well as the United States will. My heart is angered and saddened by how much cruelty goes on in the world day in and day out and people day by day let it go unsaid and unheard. But with that I'd just like to spread awareness in hopes that we could ease the worlds pain just a little more.

lauren ionescu

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Lauren Ionescu
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