CLAUDIA: The earliest memory I have of fish is when I was like 3, I think my parents got like this old 30 gallon aquarium, and they just put like those 13 cent goldfish in it and like just gravel on the bottom. No plants, which was a little sad but at the time, that was like the best thing I had ever seen in my whole life. I mean, I was like a pre-schooler, so the list was pretty short, but still. I think that’s my earliest memory of realizing fish are the most amazing organisms on earth.
When I was little, I wanted to be marine biologist for like a really long time, but my parents said no. So here I am now.
We did have one fish tank, but until I was 14, I didn’t know anything about it. But I think the turning point was like, in sophomore year of high school, I got this little desktop aquarium. And this is so terrible, but when you’re a kid and you put a fish in, and you’re like, “why do they keep dying? I guess they only live like three days.” Yeah. And then until I finally actually decided to Google things and realized I wasn’t doing such a great job. And I got my first shrimp in the same year, and I think that was really when I started getting into the hobby. I tried really hard to like name them, but it’s a bit hard to tell them apart sometimes, so I think I just named them all tweezers. I said, “That’s a funny name for a shrimp.” They’ve got like really really tiny little claw thingys so I was like, “they’re all named tweezers. I’ll just refer to all of them as that.” I started with three. They were cherry shrimp, so like little red ones about an inch long. And it’s very popular to keep shrimp with marimo, which are like these little algae that grow in like a ball shape. Red shrimp perched on a green algae ball is very very cute so.
After that, exams started picking up. And you know how it is, as soon as you become an upperclassmen in high school, you just have to think about your career and that’s it. But, you know, I tried to keep up with it online. You know like Tumblr? There’s this whole community on there called fishblr that is just people that like to post pictures about their fish, and share like husbandry tips and stuff like that.
ALINA: What was your Tumblr called?
C: The Secret Life of Shrimp. Like The Secret Life of Bees but with shrimp instead. I put in my header like, “message me if you have any questions about shrimp and I’ll be happy to talk.” And I did get like a couple of responses. I think I was like 16, and I was so proud because someone asked me for advice.
When I went to the fish convention, there’s a fish convention called the Aquatic Experience which is focused on fresh water fish and products and stuff. This year, it was right outside New York City in Meadowlands Convention Center in New Jersey. I was really really excited because before this, it had been in Chicago. And like every year I would sort of like watch–people would like walk around and film the convention and then put it online. I used to watch those videos
** Clips from Fish Convention videos **
The International Shrimp Contest was there. I was very excited for that. It’s like four long tables and each table has probably 50 like small tanks on it. And people will bring their prize-bed shrimp to the competition to compete. And there were tons of different kinds of categories. I thought I knew about shrimp but like when I got there and saw these, I was like, “I know nothing.” There’s so many different kinds of shrimp in the world. Actually they’re all sort of like the same species but like different varieties. Anybody that came to the convention could get like a little card and you could walk around and look at all the shrimp and then vote for your favorite and vote for best in show. And then they would announce the winners at the end of the day. It was a whole affair.
I voted for this one that was a Galaxy Strain of shrimp, which means it’s sort of like black with like white blue-ish patches all over it. It’s probably the most stunning animal I’ve seen in my life. It’s like if space was like a little one-inch animal, right? Like it’s so cool.
I think I’m sort of like living the marine biologist dream that I never got to have through it. I was like, “well if I can’t study this or pursue it as a career, I might as well–I can at least have them as companions in my house. I used to fantasize a lot about like my future apartment, and I’ll just have like 10 fish tanks, fifteen.
A: What kind of fish would you have in your dream fish tanks?
C: You know, I just want like–there’s lots of different
** fish collage **
I know that some people can’t really get into it because they’re sort of–they’re not really like a touchy-feely sort of pet, you know? But betas have like a lot of personality, actually. Some of them are feistier than others, they can kind of recognize when you like go over. And they do a little dance sometimes, they’re very cute. They’re kind of like miraculous, you know? They’re just, like, beautiful. Why does anyone like dogs or cats or parrots and stuff you know? I guess people just bond with different things.