He's always been a bit of a character. I bought him over 7 years ago as a tiny little thing not much longer than my thumb. I had just purchased and set up a 20 gallon tank a few weeks prior, and he was a perfect little addition. I've had that dude longer than any fish I've ever kept, and he sort of grew into the role of grandpappy of the tank. Plecos are bottom feeders (related to catfish) and are mostly put in aquariums to eat algae. They're pretty notorious for abandoning the algae-eating when they get older, and that's what this guy did, favoring veggies and fish flake food over the fuzzy green stuff. In the beginning he was shy like all Plecos, only coming out at night and darting into the first cave or bush of plants he could get to when anyone walked by the tank.
Chillin with my Gouramis Cotton and Candy
As he got older, I guess he got used to us. And he outgrew his two favorite hiding spots. After a while, he just started hanging out on the bottom of the aquarium and would stick himself (via his sucker mouth) to the glass. Over the past few years he started getting fairly aggressive when it was time to eat, sometimes knocking my other fish out of the way just to get to a pinchful of tasty flakes (or at least I imagine that stuff must be tasty - they all go to war over it at feeding time). But he liked to float partially on his back at the top of the water and let me drop food directly into his mouth. He was barely spooked by people anymore and seemed to like having his picture taken. Vain son-of-a-gun....
Whenever we visit pet stores, particularly our favorite, I like to look at the Plecos and compare their size to my guy. At last measurement (a couple of weeks ago) he was right around 12 inches long and meaty as hell -- he's always had a good weight to him; I know this from the time we had to transfer him in to the larger aquarium, and one time when I accidentally netted him - he displayed his catfish heritage BEAUTIFULLY, splashing water frikkin EVERYWHERE and thrashing around like a real trooper. Strong as hell.
Waiting for food with Candy
I blogged about him back in April of last year, and he really enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame (har har)! He's always had him moments -- seemingly loving to be gawked at, then going all diva and refusing any attention. It's crazy, but we never could come up with a name for him; his personality wasn't as well-rounded and obvious as all of the other fish I've had (you'd be surprised how much personality fish can have o_O), and we just never could come up with anything that seemed suitable. It didn't really matter...we've still always loved the guy.
Taking a breather from playing in the bubble curtain...they LOVE that thing....
So it really bothered me Thursday when he seemed so agitated...he's been moving around a bit slower lately, but he's no spring chicken (those guys can live 10 to 15 years in captivity, and even up to 20 in extraordinary conditions). One of his eyes was a little cloudy, but we decided to change & test the water the next day and monitor it to see if he would need meds. I took some pics and video of his thrashing around because it was so bizarre....
Unfortunately, that would be his last moment in the spotlight. We woke up Friday late-morning to find him dead in one of his favorite spots in a corner. He's always still (when he isn't swimming around like his tail is on fire), but looking at him, you could tell it just wasn't...right. My hubby prodded him gently with a net, and sure enough, he was gone.
We had been going back & forth for a while over what to do with him because he was simply outgrowing our 55 gallon aquarium. He deserved to have a nice big open space to swim and nice nooks to hide in. Even Friday night we discussed it because his wild behavior that evening was terrifying my other fish.
He was much much MUCH too big to dispose of down the porcelain throne (has been for a long time), so we gave him a proper aquatic 'burial at sea', setting him in the pond out back. I think he would have LOVED it out there when he was living, so it's the most befitting place for him to make the journey to fishy heaven.
It was shocking at first, and then really sad. It's still strange going up to the aquarium and not seeing him lounging around, sucking on some gravel, or shooting up to the front with his mouth wide open for food. He was an excellent pet, beautiful, strong, hardy, sometimes quirky, and a real conversation piece -- not one person that has ever come in here and seen him has walked away without gawking at his size.
I'm really gonna miss ol' grandpappy. May he rest in fishy peace....
The pic I uploaded in my April blog post - awesome blue lighting on the Pleco one night