Fish Care 101

We accomplished a big task this week… we cleaned the fish tank. Aquarium enthusiasts be warned, I have had fish for years and know that tanks need regular maintenance… but I am not the person to follow if you need good fish advice on how to clean an aquarium. But, let’s back up a bit shall we? We have a tall tank that sits in our living room — I’d say it’s about 35 gallons or so. We’ve had it for years and have done goldfish, tropical community fish and slightly more aggressive ones. My brother kept cichlids for years, but I am too “frugal” for that hobby favourite. Which brings me back to this week. A few years back we picked up some cheap show guppies — an easy-to-care-for community fish that is pretty enough to look at. Check out my facebook page if you wanna see the video of our fancy guppies! Fun fact about show guppies is that they are also live bearers (which means they breed well and have live babies). So, needless to say, our stock grew from 6 fish to about 80. Yes, 80. We also had some living duckweed and some other live aquatic plant in there… and an aggressive green algae that soon took over. ( I told you I wasn’t someone you should take advice from). Alas, here we are in the tail end of a global pandemic with nowhere else to go, so we decided to take the beast on!

You see, cleaning a green monster is no easy task when you still have about 80 fish… many of which are teeny tiny babies. You can’t just dump and pour. Fish tanks have delicate balances of good bacteria and things that fish need — not to mention our city water has a lot of bad chemicals that fish don’t need! And so we began the task of categorizing fish and separating them out to other balanced tanks. We even saved the littlest one which is about the size of “l” with eyeballs. We “traded in” quite a few to our local pet store (which was an ordeal in itself — self distancing with our bucket after sloshing the original container around in the car. Sorry about the seats, darling.) We knew we might lose a few to stress. Overall, though… a fairly successful fish move after their small tank “vacation” as the youngest referred to it as.

The tank itself wasn’t too hard to scrub out… and years of thrifting and pet ownership provided a nice selection of accessories to choose from, but we needed a new background. Did I mention I am “frugal”? Which means I wasn’t about to pay for a new fancy piece of glossy paper when I could print, laminate and creatively tape together my own… let’s just call it crafty, okay? So… after a week or so of scrubbing, fishing, waiting and bucket patrol… Volia! Happy fish and a clean tank!

The “After”

The week long task had me musing about fish, of course. And there are lots of examples of fish references in the Bible: the fishers of men miracle, Jonah and the giant fish, five loaves and two fish etc. Margaret Feinburg’s “Taste and See” book has some good thoughts on the “fishy” parts of scripture, so I encourage you to see my review about that here. However, my internet travels took me to another fish that I found interesting to read about: The Jesus Fish or ichthys. I’m sure you’ve seen it on jewellery, bookmarks or the back of someone’s bumper.

What I didn’t know was that the ancient Greek symbol was an acrostic of ΙΧΘΥΣ (ichthys), which translates into ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, [Our] Saviour’.

Iota (i) is the first letter of Iēsous (Ἰησοῦς), Greek for “Jesus”.

Chi (ch) is the first letter of Christos (Χριστός), Greek for “anointed” (of the Lord).

Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou (Θεοῦ), Greek for “God’s”, the genitive case of Θεóς, Theos, Greek for “God”.

Upsilon (y) is the first letter of (h)yios (Yἱός), Greek for “Son”.

Sigma (s) is the first letter of sōtēr (Σωτήρ), Greek for “Saviour”.

Pretty cool, eh?

Apparently the symbol was used by the early church as a “secret” symbol during the Roman persecution of early Christians. It helped to identify whether a stranger was a fellow follower or an enemy. As the story goes, the greeter would draw the first half of the fish, and a friend would complete the reciprocal line if they understood the initial drawer’s reference. If not, the stranger would just appear to be drawing arches in the sand. The symbol was also spotted on secret meeting places or worship gatherings. It made a comeback in the 1960’s as Christians began to use it as a “logo” for Christian merchandising. Do you have it somewhere?

I hope you liked that little tidbit of information on such a simple idea. In these strange times of identities and isolations, I’m reminded that I too, have conversations to start about my identity as a “fisher of men (and women)”. That I belong to a bigger world of people who follow Christ, and that by doing so I may be persecuted for my own beliefs. Like our aquarium, I can get overcrowded, choked out and clouded up without regular maintenance. And it can be a big job to clean it up and get our lives back to looking sparkling again.

So, next time you see an ichthys on the back of someone’s car, send me off an email to remind me to change my fish tank’s filters okay? Be blessed, my friends!