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I Killed My Mother’s Fish

20 September 2010

I may be the worst Chinese daughter in the world.


My mother has a small collection of koi fish in her pond. And they have lived in that pond for as long as I can remember. 10 years maybe?

My mum went on holiday, and she asked me to feed the fish every third day. Easy! No problem!

All went well for the first week.

Then. One day during the second week, I arrived to find the LARGEST FISH floating upside down at the surface of the water.

It was a huge fish. It was like the grand poobah of the pond. But now that it was dead, bug-eyed and belly up… it looked like a huge plastic toy.

OOOH CRAAAP! I had that awful sinking feeling – obviously, I had killed it somehow.

What did I do wrong? Wrong food? Did it starve? Over feed it? Did it die of old age? Do fish even die of old age? Maybe it got cold? Maybe it had a virus, and the other fish will die next? Why the biggest one first?

So I rang my friend – who owns koi fish of his own – and he told me that the fish would probably have been worth $500. SHITE!

I lifted the fish out of the water, dug a hole in the garden, and buried the fish under my mother’s mango tree.

I noticed that the water level of the pond was quite low, so I filled the pond up, and decided to come back the next day to check them again.


That’s $1500 worth of dead fish hanging over my head.

Curiously, they were the two next biggest fish. So more burial services under the mango tree. Those damn mangoes had better be tasty.

Anyway, I did what no child wants to do. I phoned my mum during her overseas holiday, and told her the bad news.

I was thinking, OH COME ON. THEY ARE JUST FISH. It’s not like I’m calling to tell her that her house burnt down.  Or that her house was burgled by thieves who had spray painted obscene images on the wall. Just fish! Could be worse!

Yet when I told her, I felt so, so bad and felt like an incompetent teenager again.

*Hangs head down in shame*

And what did she say?

“Oh… that’s not good.” In her massive understatement way.

We discussed what might be the problem, but she really couldn’t make a diagnosis. I may have over fed them?

So with my mother’s instruction, I topped up the pond again, and this time, I was to stay away for three days. I suppose my mum thought the fish were safer that way.

Which was great, because I couldn’t stand finding dead fish everyday. If they were going to die, they would have to do it without me as witness.

I returned after day three, ready to find that ALL the remaining fish had survived.

They seemed fine, if a little lonely.

By the time my mum arrived home, all the remaining fish were alive and well, swimming around like they owned the place.

And so what was the problem?

My mum told me that the pump that circulated the water had failed. Which  meant the bubbles of air that the pump was supposed to blow into the water, to oxygenated the water for the fish, had failed!

No pump, no bubbles. No bubbles, not enough oxygen. And so the fish died in order of size – because the bigger fish needed more oxygen. And once the bigger fish died, there was enough oxygen naturally in the water to let the little ones survive.

I thought the pump was just a zen-garden themed ornamental thing!!

How was I supposed to know it made bubbles for the fish for them to actually breath?!

I’m so glad that my kids just breath air.