When I was sixteen I worked in a pet store. Every Tuesday we would get a shipment of hundreds of goldfish. A handful of fancy goldfish and hundreds and hundreds of others labeled feeders sold for between $0.05 - $0.25 per individual. By the end of the week, after customers would come and buy our stock to feed their larger predatory pets, I’d be left staring at one or two goldfish… and then the next shipment would arrive. The cycle would begin again.
Goldfish arrive in a bag.
Goldfish are dumped into a holding tank.
Goldfish are put into a bag.
Goldfish are fed to larger fish.
Another shipment of Goldfish arrives.
In 2020, now in my early 30’s, I look back in horror at my relationship with goldfish. How could I, someone who claims to love animals and life, be so complacent to a system of forced captivity, forced breeding, mass culling, and the standardization of subpar living conditions? The week before Illinois shut down for Covid-19, I purchased five fancy goldfish from three different Chicago area pet stores. I intend to take care of and make work with these fish for their entire natural lives (10-15 years). Hopefully, I’ll find meaningful ways to work through my past, deeply problematic relationships to their species as a whole, and help create a New Eco-Mythology surrounding goldfish.
We know the goldfish started as a carp in a bowl in China. The first golden color mutation was recorded in 265 AD. What does it mean to be a goldfish now existing thousands of years later? What will it mean to be a goldfish thousands of years from now?