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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

October 12, 2012

Carp, Carp, Carp

By Elizabeth Creith


I have pedestrian tastes in fish. No, this doesn't mean that I like walking catfish—although I do. It means that if there was nothing available in the aquarium section but goldfish, I'd be happy as a clam.

There are also dozens of different varieties of goldfish. It's hard to believe they were selectively bred from carp, especially if you've ever seen a carp.

I saw a carp once. It was about three-feet long, with yellow scales edged in brown. It was certainly an impressive fish, though not particularly pretty. Carp are tough, too—they can survive out of water for hours.

At the time the family pet was a black moor in a goldfish bowl. The black moor would come to the top of the bowl to be petted. The carp looked like it would swallow me whole if I tried to pet it.

Nevertheless, some enterprising Chinese fish enthusiasts, centuries ago, started with carp that had a few red or gold spots on them and bred red and gold carp.

“Why stop there?” they thought, and went on to breed blue and brown and white and calico ones. They changed the size and the shape of the fish to produce comets, fantails, orandas and pearlscale goldfish.

Ever seen a pearlscale goldfish? It's like an anti-fish. Imagine a golf ball with the dimples popping out, and add fins, a mouth and eyes. Aquadynamic it is not. It has to wriggle so hard to get anywhere that I'm astounded it stays spherical. If I had to do the twist just to get from the kitchen to the couch, I could eat French fries all day and look like Twiggy.
My all-time favourite for weird goldfish, though, is the bubble-eyed goldfish. Imagine a couple of early fish-breeders, having a brewski and watching the all-day pearlscale races.

“Hey, I have an idea! Let's breed a fish with a huge balloon under each eye!”

“What possible good would that be?”

“I dunno. None at all?”

“Awesome, dude! Let's do it!”

We brought bubble-eyes in a couple of times. They're not particularly aquadynamic either, what with the balloons on the front of the face and all. You need to put a sponge on the filter intake, too, because any slot or hole will suck on that ocular balloon, sticking the poor fish to the filter.

The other day I noticed two women staring at the fancy goldfish tank. They looked like someone's grandmothers, talking softly together and pointing at the tank. I ambled over.

“Any questions?” I said

“That fish there,” one of them said, pointing at a bubble-eye, “are those its lungs? If you poked them with a pin, would it drown?” They both looked at me with bright eyes.

Yikes! What kind of person thinks of poking a fish with a pin? was my first thought. My second was: What kind of person thinks a fish has lungs?

“Um—it's a fish,” I said, “and it breathes with gills. It doesn't need the bubbles to breathe—they're just ornamental.”

“Really?” asked Granny Hyde, she of the pop-the-balloon mindset.

“Yes, really,” I said. Their sadistic little faces fell.

“Thank you,” said Granny-the-Ripper. They brushed past me and walked up the aisle to the door. As they left I heard Granny Hyde say to Granny-the-Ripper.

“I bet they would, too, drown.”

And I bet not. Behind those bubbles, after all, is a carp.

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