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Playing Possum

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Some recent discussions about euthanasia prompted me to write about an experience I had with a tri-color (Bala) shark. And, I am in no way saying that euthanasic actions are not correct or sometimes needed, quite the contrary.

In any event, late one night about a week ago, I noticed that one of the four adult Bala sharks I keep was not looking so hardy. In fact, he was at the surface gasping for air. Shortly afterwards, he went belly up with very little breathing. I noticed what seemed to be red areas near the gills and pectoral fins, so I just assumed it was this fellow's time to go to fish heaven.

Since it was about bed time and I didn't want to leave a dead fish in the tank overnight, I got the handy-dandy fish net out and scooped him up. Now, you have to realize that this fish had been belly up for at least ten minutes and breathing had all but stopped just before I got the net out. However, once in the net, he starts raising hell and thrashing all over the place. With all of this leftover energy displayed, I couldn't help but believe that something was not just right here. I put him back into the tank and once again, belly up with very little breathing. I gave him about ten more minutes and nothing had changed. I scooped him up again, and the same thing happened - thrashing around like there is no tomorrow. This went on for another 30 minutes until finally, when I released him the last time and he went to the bottom and somehow got propped between two big sword plant leaves. I left him well enough alone and went to bed.

The next morning I just knew I was going to be "fishing" a dead one out of the tank, but lo and behold, the fellow was swimming around with his buddies like nothing had ever happened. Go figure.

Since that episode, he has shown absolutely no signs of stress or "belly-up" behavior and is doing quite well.

Again, I am not saying that when it is time to go that we shouldn't take the necessary actions to help these guys out of their misery, but this was just one experience that I had never witnessed before and I have been dealing with fish for a LONG time.

Contributed by Ken Guin

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