By Molly K. Lichtner, 3/7/16
I work as a laboratory technician in a water toxicology lab. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds, trust me. I spend most of my days at work counting water fleas or fish larva in cups hundreds of times and I knock these cups over more times than I’d like to admit. As a part of my other duties, I feed and take care of all the tanks of fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas). Even though they’re just fish, I still feel connected to them. I like to put my finger at the top of the water and they nibble it until they realize it’s not actually food. They’re funny looking little things; the females look like regular minnows, but the males have big blue foreheads (hence the name “fathead”). They use their heads to impress mates and care for eggs (they secrete mucus in order to keep the eggs clean and safe). They’re good dads. I like them.
We’re moving the lab to a new facility, which is good for me but bad for the fish. No one has the energy or patience to move over 30 tanks with thousands of fish. The lab’s solution? Dump them in the creek just past the parking lot behind the building. Technically, it’s not illegal; fathead minnows live in freshwater and can be found all throughout North America, so it’s not like they were introducing an exotic or invasive species. Is it unethical? Probably, but no one asked me (I only work on the weekends).
The majority were dumped in the middle of the week when I wasn’t there. There was nothing I could do for them but mourn and hope that maybe some survived. There were still a few fish left in the lab because not all of the tanks had been drained yet. Someone from another department came in and put some aside for himself in a large red bucket. He was planning on using them as bait for ice fishing.
That night I went home with 14 fatheads.
Well, what else was I supposed to do? They can’t defend themselves.
I already had all the accoutrements because I used to keep fish when I still lived with my parents, but that hobby fell to the wayside when I moved out. Again, moving lots of tanks full of hundreds of pounds of fish, water, and gravel is no easy feat.
I picked up a tank and a filter from my parents’ house and set it up the next day. I put the fish in to acclimate overnight and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, the living room floor was soaking wet.
The tank was leaking.
Truly, no good deed goes unpunished.