I. Love. The water. I have been a bona fide water-lover since I was itty bitty—and not just the water, but also the critters that call it home. Despite this obsession, I never had any aquatic pets as a kid—not a turtle, fish, hermit crabs…nothing. So, about three years ago I decided to change that and I adopted a one-eyed aquatic turtle (yes, there are reptile rescue groups. I was surprised, too). I bought a 30-gallon aquarium, rocks, a nice filter, a heat lamp and a large stump that would allow my turtle to get out of the water and bask under it. I also got a koi fish—after all, even turtles need a companion, right?
Let’s fast-forward to this past winter, about two years into me having my peaceful aquarium. While the filter made a lovely “babbling brook” type sound which created a serene atmosphere, my koi, whom I’d named Roy, was over a foot long and in obvious need of a larger tank. However, with koi growing as large as 3 feet, I realized my tank upgrades would be never-ending until I was forced to dedicate an entire room to Roy and his wall-to-wall tank. After talking to an aqutics specialist at a pet store, I decided Roy needed to be re-homed—to someone who had an actual koi pond where he could swim and turn and frolic without splashing water all over my living room. He had also taken to putting the moves on my turtle as he was reaching koi maturity—my turtle, a primarily solitary creature, was none too amused. Luckily I found a very nice koi enthusiast who had a large pond in her backyard with a screen cover and all, to prevent Roy from becoming a raccoon’s dinner.
My troubles were over—Roy was in a better place (literally, not in that euphemistic death way) and my turtle had all the room she needed to dig in the rocks, swim and bask on her stump. But little did I know just what a great service Roy provided. Being in the carp family, Roy was a natural born cleaner and spent most of his time sucking on rocks, filtering the water through his gills and feeding on the icky aspects of an aquarium ecosystem. Unfortunately, my turtle was not interested in picking up the slack in this department and my filter, why top of the line, was no miracle worker.
Soon, my aquarium began to resemble a pond, greenish and murky. Just as I was figuring out how to go about cleaning this 30-gallon beast, my filter broke. And let me tell you, high-quality filters are not cheap. Not to mention, with Roy gone, the filter would still only do part of the work, leaving the rest to me and a scrub brush.
So in a grand moment of equal parts selflessness and selfishness, I decided my turtle to go to a more dedicated and knowledgeable home—to someone who actually enjoys scrubbing pond scum, turtle waste and algae out of massive tanks. And alas, I found that home! A lovely family with two sons heard of my re-homing needs and jumped at the opportunity to take in a turtle. The boys were actually excited to get to work cleaning the tank and building her an even more turtle-friendly habitat. So, at the end of the day, we’re all better off.
I am writing this for all my aquatic enthusiasts out there. Yes, aquariums are beautiful and peaceful and fish, turtles and the like are fun to watch and feed. However, by no means are these low-maintenance pets. So, don’t fool yourself unless you’re willing to put in the time and effort or don’t mind having a greenish-brown, musky-smelling miniature pond in your home.