One Fish, Two Fish, Old Fish, New Fish

Thanks to back when Wal-Mart actually had a decent pet department and sold live animals and tropical fish in the 80’s, I developed  a life-long interest in tropical fish because my home town store’s pet department was right next to the toy department. After browsing the toys, I would meander over to the pet department and ooh and ahh at the fish just as much as I did at the He-Man action figures. This was back when it was perfectly okay for adults to let their kids run off by themselves to look at toys in the store. My mom always joked that a kidnapper would not want me anyway!

Between the ages of 10 and 18, my tropical fish hobby would foster and grow thanks to several people who worked in the Wal-Mart pet department who I came to know on a first name basis. At one time, I had almost twenty different sized tanks and numerous fish bowls containing bettas. But by the time I left home for college in 1995, there was just one twenty gallon tank left. That tank still sits in the same place in my mother’s den and has been the home to many a county fair goldfish over the years from when my niece and nephew were young and would win them by playing games on the midway.

I still love tropical fish today and can’t resist a quick look at the tanks anytime I’m in a pet store,  but a lack of space and time has kept me from setting up several tanks of my own in the house. A few years ago we installed a small brackish pond in the backyard as decoration for water plants. This pond has no aeration and is usually home to a few dozen mosquito fish each year. I added two small comet goldfish last year but they did not survive the winter.

This spring after cleaning the pond and adding the traditional mosquito fish and plants from the pond store, I noticed the fish were either disappearing or dying off after just a few weeks. I decided to replace them with two dozen rosy minnows from the pet store instead. They cost about the same as the mosquito fish, but are easier to see thanks to their pink color.

Rosy Minnows

Rosy minnows are typically sold as “feeder fish” for about 16 cents each. They are bought and fed to other larger predatory fish like piranha or cichlids, or fed to turtles, snakes, or other pets. As you can see from the photo, their tank is usually crowded so they are not always in the best of health at stores.

Given a chance, these little guys do quite well on their own. Within weeks, I noticed I had fry (baby fish) in the pond. Here’s a link to a video I posted on Instagram from July of the fish at feeding time. You’ll catch a glimpse of one of the gray-colored babies up top near the end. After doing some research, I discovered their babies would be born their natural gray color and are typically called “fat head minnows.”

By early September, all of the pink fish were gone and I had quite a few of the grey ones instead. They had done so well in the pond I was afraid to leave them in there during the winter. I decided to set up a ten gallon tank in my basement to bring them inside.

By this time, I noticed some of the larger new gray fish had red fins which I thought was odd. I began to do some research, but could not come up with a solution as to why they had red fins. Taking them out of the pond for a closer inspection would hopefully help. Here’s a link to a video of the fish in the tank from September 12th.

I would net a few of them each day, but was worried about over-crowding after the tank had two dozen fish in it and there were still more in the pond! So, I quickly set up a second tank. By now, my research had led me to believe these were not fathead minnows, and that they were “white cloud mountain minnows” instead.

My minnows

After reading about white clouds and watching several YouTube videos, I learned that there is a “golden white cloud” variety that can get mixed in with rosy minnows in fish stores whose babies also end up being the original gray color. That had to be what happened! After talking to an expert in a local pet store and showing him the photos, he agreed with me.

White Clouds have a fascinating history and are supposedly easy to breed and care for. This made me even more happier about bringing them inside. This has led to me learning how to hatch my own brine shrimp to feed to them to encourage spawning. I don’t have any babies yet though! And having two tanks filled with live plants and life fish has made me feel like a kid again. Ms. Maietta Simpson (a sweet older lady who was the pet department manager at Wal-Mart back in the day) would be proud!

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