An ill Fossie.
Aka: when things go wrong!
by Francesco Zezza
"Fossie" has been the “abbreviated nickname” George and I were using – since a long time ago – when referring to Fossorochromis rostratus. I don’t know how it came out but we both liked it and the term entered our common vocabulary.
As you probably know neither George nor I managed to spawn these fishes (this picture is by Marco Isidori who was successful), despite the extreme attempt of moving an adult male from Greece to Italy … but, all the same, we – both – loved them a lot. When I had to face the illness of my last remaining male which arrived as fry from Lake Malawi (1999), was conditioned in Italy, sent to Greece (to grow to a gorgeous male – final size of 35 cm) and from there – as an adult fish– returned in Rome in 2002) I tried everything possible - even went to extremes - to save him: Regrettably with NO RESULT!!!
However, during our common “fight” against his disease, the following fact took place and kept me thinking a lot:
Things were quickly advancing from bad to worse and I decided to “force feed” him by hand (for as long as it would be needed) to supply him with more drug (an antibiotic), so I prepared everything as well as I could :
- all tank covers removed,
- caves (in the tank) "locked" to prevent him from hiding,
- towels in position (one wet to hold him, one dry for myself),
- pill "opened" (Minocycline),
- one tablet of spirulina (he liked it!) to force feed him
Ready? Here we go: I netted him quite easily and then happened something absolutely unexpected which puzzled me a lot: I was expecting him to “fight”, splashing water everywhere and so on. Nothing like that happened. He remained calm, gracefully moving his fins in the net (a large 50*50 cm handnet). Then (after having, as fast as possible, dipped my hands in the water to handle him with wet hands ...) I gently moved him to the wet towel and – again - he rested calm. I picked him up to give him the drug … then for a quick, "incredibly fast", second he (the fish!!!!) looked at me "whispering": "I'm gonna die, help me!!!"
I poured the powder in his mouth, added the spirulina tablet and he swallowed everything. I then took him in my hands to return him to the tank and again, for the second time in a row, I had the strange feeling of being looked at, again him (always the fish!) was - silently - saying: "Thank You!"
I gently held him for few second more in my hands, watching him breath almost regularly in the crystal clear water of the tank, then I released him ... we swam away, gently, slowly, full of grace (would You imagine such a "monster" being upset: water splashed everywhere ... at least!) but he didn't even tried to hide !
I started to put the tank's cover back in place and a teardrop rolled down on my face ... When I lost him – a few days later – it was the saddest moment ever in all my years of fishkeeping. Now that everything is – regrettably – over I’d like to remember him like this: on duty!!!