Saturday, January 20, 2007

Felix the Oscar

From my post a few days ago, I think it is obvious that Puggles, Queen of All Pugs, Etc, has a special place in the hierarchy of "animals I have loved". The adored creature next in line is a little different. He had no legs or fur at all. Despite that, he was a treasured member of my family for years and deserves to be honored.

His name was Felix. No, not a cat, but Felix the Oscar. Clever of me, wasn't it?

Oscars (or Astronotus Ocellatus)are large ciclid fish commonly found in South America - Amazon and Orinoco River Basins - Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. They are popular for aquarium hobbyists and are known to be a highly intelligent, observant fish. Good size for aquarium fish, they get to be about 12-14 in long and weigh 3-4 lbs. The picture above is of course not Felix, I have a picture or two of him, but taken in the pre-digital days and thus not on line anywhere.

I got Felix as a small fry and watched him grow, and grow and grow, until he needed his own 55 gallon tank with his friend the Mentally Retarded Catfish (MRC). MRC would stand for days on its head in the corner, until poked. It would then thrash around and disappear, only to reappear a few days later, on its head in the corner. MRC eventually disappeared totally, I wonder if Felix ate him, finally having enough of his silliness.

Felix was about 14 in long, but I never weighed him. Suffice to say, whenever he needed to be moved, a large bucket was necessary.

He lived with me in Jefferson City, moved with me to Grain Valley, stayed with my sister in Illinois when I was in Chicago and then to St Louis with me. He was nothing else but a well traveled fellow. Through all that, a bout with "hole in the head disease", a common affliction with Oscars, a nutsoid neighbor in Grain Valley who fed him a whole 10 lbs of food while I was away one time and thus turned his water into cornmeal, and my sometimes neglectful attitude, Felix lived and prospered.

As I mentioned, Oscars are observant and very smart. I taught him as a smaller fellow to jump out of his tank and catch his food. He would spot you as you passed by and enjoyed following you. If you were in the same room, he would make sure you were well observed. He caught everyone's attention. Once I brought a fellow home with me and as we made our way passionately back to the bedroom we passed through my den where Felix lived. As this fellow was doing things to me that my modesty will not allow me to write :), he caught sight of Felix staring at him menacingly. Briefly startled, he exclaimed "damn that is a big fish". He unfortunately was referring to Felix.

He also loved to dance.

As one can imagine, a dancing fish is quite a rarity. If you went up to his tank and started swaying back and forth he would follow your movements, faster and faster until he broke into a boogie that rivaled anything on Saturday Night Fever. A towel was usually in order to pick up the sloshed around water.

When I left St Louis, my life was in turmoil. I was facing another move, little money and a job I knew was not going to last long. Felix was then around 11 years old and I was not sure he could stand another move. I made the hard decision to take him to the local aquarium shop and give him to them. They promised to keep him and not kill him but set him up in a nice tank. They had never seen him and were impressed by his size and personality when he arrived. He got a nice new home. I visited the shop a year or so later and they said he was with an Oscar enthusiast they knew in a 500 gallon tank with some other fish and was still well. He was at least 12-13 by then. That is not uncommon.

I miss Felix, he was one of a kind. Occasionally I think about getting another tank and an Oscar. But my little space here is pretty crowded as it is. I don't know where I'd put one.

Felix, you were special. Here's to you my friend! Happy swimming.

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