They're alive! Orange and Other Orange have prevailed. They lived to see another day...and then another after that. It didn't look good for them at first - they did not come into our lives in a vestibule conducive to survival. They most likely originated from a location of unsanitary, diseased and morally vacant characteristics. I hope, at least, that our home was a step up in this regard (small children are not exactly famed for their hygiene and compassion however) . The tupperware was roomy, if sparse. The locals, i.e. Little A and Snugglepunk, enthusiastic and noisy but not, it turns out, murderous.
I will confess, it nearly ended badly...for Orange anyway. They were detained uneventfully for about 48 hours in the tupperware before the fish bowl and pretty green gravel arrived. After a few minutes in their new home, I came to the conclusion that the fish bowl was totally inadequate. Ayi did not agree, she has less interest in the comfort and spacial requirements of goldfish. Mr Oh concurred with my assessment that they needed roomier digs - he has a vested interest in the survival of the goldfish. He has no interest in explaining to Little A about pet-death...he's still a bit perturbed about Little A's extensive exposure to moth genocide.
This led to another prolonged online search in Chinese for fish accommodation, hampered by the fact that the Chinese for fish bowl is annoyingly not 'fish' + 'bowl'. Searches for "fish+bowl" (yuwan) resulted in many options, if I were in the market for a ceramic bowl with a fish painted on it. I was not - we already have six bowls with fish painted on them. Unsurprisingly (because he's essentially Chinese), Little A calls these items 'fish bowls' as well. It look a while to work out that the Chinese for fish bowl is "fish+vat" (yugang). [鱼缸 for anyone who finds themselves in a similar predicament.]
So, in the interests of keeping the fish alive, I invested in a “fish vat package with landscaping”. As is often the case when I order things online in Chinese, I am never quite sure what's going to turn up. What arrived was a medium sized aquarium complete with lighting system, internal filter and pump, live plants that arrived chilled in soil and skillfully suspended in a styrofoam box by toothpicks (a set-up that's hard to convey in words so I'll just stop now rather than spend the next three paragraphs describing the plant delivery method), three types of gravel, a piece of Japanese driftwood that I had to boil first, as well as enough food, apparatus and environmental stabilizers to set up an Irish national aquarium in Shanghai. I was mildly surprised it didn't come with fish.
It look me twenty minutes just to fill the thing with water. I really should have decided where I wanted it to be located before I filled it with water, plants, gravel and driftwood. Another hour and a half later it was both filled with water AND where it should be. The floor was pretty wet and Snugglepunk had to be sanitized.
Orange and Other Orange, who seemed pretty happy in their rather traditional-looking fish bowl, were a bit resistant to the move but I caught them with my fish net and they didn't really have much say in the matter. The Shanghai branch of the Irish National Aquarium was open for business and I was very pleased with how everything worked out.
About three hours after the official launch, I was walking past and took a quick glance into the tank. I saw Other Orange but didn't immediately see Orange. I stepped a bit closer, thinking he might be behind a plant or under the driftwood, but there was no sign. Just to get a better look, I got really close and peered over the top of the tank down into the water to see if I could locate Orange. I heard a faint smacking sound and, in horror, I realised what had happened.
Screaming "Help me, somebody help me" in a totally hysterical and melodramatic fashion (as is my way), I frantically pulled the writing desk, upon which the tank stood, back from the wall. I now must apologise to my friend, Jill, who up until then had been sipping tea in my living room and, at that moment, possibly thought that I'd lost an arm rather than just a fish judging from the way she leapt off the sofa.
As the desk was pulled back, Orange came into view, wriggling and dusty on the floor with fear blazing in his eyes. Ever calm and cool-headed in emergency situations, I continued to shriek and wail loudly while scooping Orange off the floor in the net and flopping him back into the tank where he retreated to a corner, pulled all his fins in and sat stonily, looking deeply traumatised and still draped in cobweb. Jill was not optimisitc. "I don't think he's going to make it", she said. I gave her a withering look but did concede that it was probably the fish equivalent of jumping out of an eternity pool on the 83rd floor of a luxury hotel onto the pavement.
I then did what any decent, fish-loving person would do after such a trauma...I put a magazine over the top of the tank and went out to lunch. When I came back, Orange was still alive. He even looked a bit more chipper although he was still draped in strands of cobweb - lest we forget.
The next morning, I took the magazine off and brought the water level down by another two inches. I fed the fish, spoke to them and had a peek into the tank every 20 minutes or so to check that Orange hadn't had another go. By the end of the day, I felt confident enough to step down the suicide watch. By the following morning, Orange had managed to lose his trail of cobwebs and was back to looking relatively healthy and content.
It just goes to show, large aquarium cannot buy fish happiness. I'm pretty sure Confucius said that.