A couple months ago, my daughter and I joined my mother for a trip to my aunt’s house for mother’s day. The weekend away was a fantastic break from reality. Love and laughter filled our time as we made new memories that we will all cherish forever.

One of those memories, however, revolves around disaster.

You see, my little cousin has an aquarium in her room. On Friday, my daughter came running into the living room, telling me how she fed the fish. Since they’d already been fed, the excess food had to be scooped out and we told The Princess not to do it again.

Of course, being 4 years old and bent on helping whenever she can, she did it again the next day. The family gathered around, cleaning up the mess. Unfortunately, this ended with the passing of one of the fish.

When I told my friend about it the next day, she laughed, stating, “I can’t believe she did it again!”

Despite being sad for the poor fish, I laughed, too.

The thing is, two years ago I wrote a post for “Life, Motherhood, and the Pursuit of Happiness” where I detailed another fish related tragedy.

Today, I’d like to share that story exactly as it appeared on my old blog on April 1, 2015. Let this tale be a warning: toddlers and fish don’t mix.


the princess and the fish, funny story, the dangers of combing kids and pets, fish safety, fish and kids, fish and toddlers don't mix, poor fish


Last Saturday started like any other Saturday. After loading the little one into the car, we drove the 30 minutes to our hometown to look at what feels like our millionth house. We couldn’t find the place right off, which honestly was a bit of a plus for us. We’re the kind of people who like privacy, and this place definitely offers that.

As we made our way to the door, we spotted a black cat sleeping in a potted plant on the porch, which seemed like a good omen. The house has a lot to offer and I’d really like to make it our own, but that’s not what this story is really about. No, this story is about fish.

poor fish, fish and toddlers don't mix
This poor guy had no idea what he was getting into.

You see, the people who currently occupy the home had a fish tank in the living room. The Princess was instantly drawn to it and we could barely pull her away to look at the rest of the house. Every now and then she’d run off and stand in front of the aquarium, gazing at the fish with excitement.

As we were preparing to leave it became apparent that we were not going to get her away from the fish without a fight. Knowing we needed to go to Wal-Mart anyway, I resorted to bribery. “If you get in the car we can get you your own fish.”

Now, when I made this offer I was planning on just grabbing a cheap bowl and a goldfish. However, Almost-Husband became just as excited as The Princess as they looked at the fish. Before I knew it, he’s talking about an aquarium and getting a lot more than just the goldfish. Ultimately, we wound up going to another store and purchasing 2 fish, a rainbow shark and a betta. We got a bowl to get them by until we got a nice tank. Seriously, I think we were there for about an hour while we decided what we were going to get, with the plan of getting more fish down the line.

If you know anything about toddlers (particularly mine), you know that this was a disaster waiting to happen.

Don’t let her cuteness fool you. This is the face of Chaos.

As we set up their bowl, Almost-Husband lectured The Princess on important matters such as not trying to touch the fish, not putting anything into the water, and not taking water out. She managed to break the first rule within a matter of minutes.

The next day, we sat around watching documentaries on the ocean and researching fish. I know that Almost-Husband and I learned a lot, but I’m not sure how much The Princess actually absorbed. I’d like to think some of it stuck. At any rate, we noticed that one of the fish had fin-rot, so we began looking up it’s causes and how to treat it.

It turns out, grubby toddler hands are a big cause of fin-rot. Seriously, this should have alerted us to the importance of ensuring the fish bowl was out of reach. However, we were foolish enough to think we could teach her to stay out of it.

Monday morning, I stopped by the table to feed the fish. One of them, the one who had gotten fin-rot, had passed away. The other one seemed to be doing just fine though. We decided not to replace him until we got our big tank set up.

That night, as I was cleaning up the kitchen, I heard a big splash. I ran into the dining room to see The Princess standing on a chair, throwing rocks into the bowl. Big, decorative rocks that we keep in a mason jar that is usually out of reach. We had forgotten to put it away after we selected a few to put in the bowl. Oops.

Not only did the rocks scare the bejeezus out of the poor fish, but I’m fairly certain she hit him with at least one of them. After scarring her with my cries of “No! You’ll kill the fish!” and pulling her off the chair, we had a long talk about not throwing things in the water and how it could hurt the fish. She said sorry to him and we went about our evening.

A few hours later I was again summoned from the other room by the sound of splashing. She was reaching into the water. Again, Mom The Yeller reared her ugly head and we had another long talk about not touching the fish.

As I started writing this, I was pretty sure the poor fish was dead. However, a quick glance into the other room proved me wrong. He was swimming happily around his bowl and I relaxed. I wouldn’t have to explain death to a 2-year old after all!

However, when Almost-Husband came home from work the poor thing had passed away. What appears to have happened is that one of the rocks The Princess tossed in there was actually not a rock at all. Whatever it was, it disintegrated, leaving weird fibers in the bowl and making the water dark and goopy. Ultimately, this is what killed the poor thing.

In searching for the moral of this story I’ve come up with a few vital lessons we’ve learned from this experience:

  1. Toddlers are much to curious to trust around fish.
  2. If you’re going to ignore lesson #1, be sure to get a container with some sort of lid.
  3. Don’t spend money on fish for your little one. Go with a little goldfish. I should have gone with my instinct on this one!
  4. Don’t let yourself get excited over a pet that most likely won’t last more than a few days.
  5. Speak up well in advance if you don’t want your partner to use your kitchen utensils to scoop up dead fish. Seriously, I now need to replace my pasta grabber and my colander because, EW!
Maybe one day we will be able to try this experiment again with a better outcome. Until then, I think we’ll just stick with our cat. At least he has the ability to get away from The Princess!

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