a peek inside the fishbowl

06 Jul, 2011

Guest post: What Happens When The Fish In The Bowl Dies, by Sharon DeVellis

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Guest postings

Thank you Sharon for agreeing to be a guest poster at the Fishbowl today! Sharon DeVellis is a mother, wife, writer and editor. You can read about the deep, dark, grammatically incorrect intimate details of her life at The Inside Scoop or how she decided to become a speed skater at the age of 41 at Speed Skating Mom. Read on my Fishies! :)

One goldfish, two hamsters, one lazy cat. Casa DeVellis is a pet friendly house. Sort of. I don’t actually *like* all our pets. The cat is okay, except when she bites my ankles because she’s hungry. And I’ve renamed the hamsters from Hammy and Cinnamon to “What The Hell Was I Thinking” and “I’m Pretty Sure You’re Satan”. Goldfish are pretty much at the top of my list, causing the least amount of problems.

Except, you know, when they die.

We have now been through three goldfish deaths. All three, unfortunately, belonging to my youngest son. Despite living in the dirtiest fish tank ever, my older son’s fish is now two years old and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I’m pretty sure that’s some sort of world record. Also proving the old adage that what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

Goldy, Goldifer and Swimmer – may they rest in peace – have taught me a few things about dealing with the death of a pet. Hopefully this will prepare you for the demise of any goldfish in your house and/or any unflushables.

Death Is Not Always Swift: Goldy was the first and most coveted fish. His death was a bit of a roller coaster ride. Floating at the top of the bowl, gills not moving I’d announce “I think Goldy’s passed on” and my son would burst into tears only to look over 30 seconds later and see Goldy take a breath. This went on every four to five hours for three days.

Not gonna lie. By the third day I wanted to kill Goldy myself.

You Never Know How They’re Going To React: With Goldy, my son cried uncontrollably, shoulders heaving while trying to catch his breath between sobs. When the second fish died, he took one look and said “when can we bury him” and went out to play. So when the third fish died, I was expecting another non-reaction. Instead I got uncontrollable crying again. Just go with it.

The Reaction Might Not Come Right Away: The non-reaction for Goldifer’s departure wasn’t so much a non-reaction as a delay. That night when I was putting my son to bed and he spotted the empty tank, the tears came. Again, just go with it. Also, remove any evidence of the dead pets from the room even if you spent the entire day caring for your other son who has the flu and are completely exhausted. Kids whose pets die can cry for a really really long time. Like, way past their bedtime.

Note: If they catch you glancing at the clock to see the time this will only make things worse.

Funeral Arrangements: My parents used the drop and flush method but when I suggested this, my son started crying again. He didn’t want his fish to go to the sewers so we decided on a burial in the backyard. Our backyard is all patio stones. Thanks for that Nemo.

Bury Them Right Away: Goldy and Goldifer were ceremoniously buried immediately and to great fanfare with speeches, tears and headstones. We got a bit lax with Swimmer, having to run errands before any sort of burial took place. Milk and bread supersede pet funerals at our house so I threw Swimmer in the freezer in a plastic baggie until we got home from grocery shopping. Only, we all kind of forgot about little Swimmer…..until about a week later when my son got himself a Freezie as an after dinner treat.

Freezies will never be the same at our house.

5 Responses to "Guest post: What Happens When The Fish In The Bowl Dies, by Sharon DeVellis"

1 | Lara

July 6th, 2011 at 7:45 am


This just backs up my no pets rule ;)

2 | coffee with julie

July 6th, 2011 at 8:45 am


LOL!! Such a great post!!! :)

3 | Mom2Michael

July 6th, 2011 at 9:20 am


Great post Sharon, with very sound advice :-)
With a tank full of fish that die regularly, we’ve been lucky I think – death of a fish has been normalised to a point where there’s no reaction at all, and drop and flush works. After seeing Nemo, Little Boo now believes all flushes lead to the sea anyway :-)

4 | Chelx

July 6th, 2011 at 11:11 am


My son is quite fond of looking at fishes in aquariums… I am just hesitant in having one because I am afraid it won’t last long enough. So, officially, we don’t have pet! Just sad…

5 | binki

July 6th, 2011 at 3:52 pm


We did the fish thing. The novelty quickly wore off and we had to wait for the fish to die (it took a few years). No more pets for us.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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