Goldfish fire drill
April 24, 2012 4:58 AM   Subscribe

Help my small apartment-dwelling friend come up with a fire evacuation plan for her goldfish.

We live in a multi-story apartment building. Every three or four months some joker pulls the fire alarm, and after trooping down multiple flights of stairs we spend an hour socializing outside.

This happened a few days ago and one of the little kids (about 5 years old) was visibly upset because she and her mom left the goldfish (just one, but in a small filtered aquarium) upstairs. I understand her plight...I bring my dogs with me and it would upset me to leave them behind. I saw them this morning, and mom says the kid's still worried.

So, I'm looking for a way to get a goldfish out of a small tank and down five flights of indoor fire escape stairs without killing said goldfish. Back in my unregulated youth, I'd have popped it and some water into a zip top bag. Is there a better way now?

Disclaimer! Please don't think that if there was really a fire, mom and kid would spend 20 extra minutes accommodating the goldfish. What we're looking for is a realistic way to get my young buddy past this little emotional bump in the road. If she'll sleep better by seeing a brown paper bag that says "Fishy's fire kit" that only contains a solo cup and a baggie, that's a win. It has to be realistic though, because they'll probably try their own fire drill.
posted by ladygypsy to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Any rigid container (preferably one with a handle and a securely fastened, but not airtight lid) should work for transport.

I would also look into getting a couple packages of aeration tablets which are typically used to keep baitfish alive for extended periods while fishing. (I'm assuming these would be safe for aquarium fish, though you should definitely check the Internets for better advice).
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:15 AM on April 24, 2012

Best answer: Any pet supply store will sell little plastic small animal carriers like this one. I'd look carefully into how to safely transfer the goldfish and keep it alive--I think water temperature changes can be dangerous, for instance, and it would be good to know whether, for an hour, the aeration tablets or something like them that RonButNotStupid mentioned would be needed.
posted by not that girl at 5:38 AM on April 24, 2012

Best answer: Can she allocate a smallish round tupperware, perhaps having perforated the lid a bit with a nail, and use it to scoop fish and water together up out of tank?

This is an adorable AskMe. Hug that kid for us when you see her.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:41 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Little net to catch fish, cup or measuring cup to scoop out some of fishies water, quality plastic container with a lid that screws on or otherwise attaches really securely. Then ask kiddo what else he thinks fishie should have in his fire kit and add as necessary.

On preview, fingersandtoes has a simpler idea.
posted by mrs. taters at 5:43 AM on April 24, 2012

I suggest straight up lying to the kid and telling him that the firemen will rescue his goldfish. You're lying to him anyway, might as well make it a safe lie instead of a dangerous one. Fire drills need to practice the actual steps taken in the event of a fire.

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but you might think "of course, in a real fire they won't stop for the goldfish" but a 5 year old might not think that.

God forbid, what if he runs away from his mother and back into a dangerous situation because they "forgot" the fish? He needs to practice leaving the fish behind so that it will be automatic in the case of an emergency.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:53 AM on April 24, 2012 [38 favorites]

Best answer: Could the 5-year-old make a sign for firefighters to put on his door that says something like [Goldfish's name] Lives Here - Please Rescue! That may help him feel like his goldfish is safe without worrying about temperature changes or baggies leaking/getting dropped or, as the young rope rider mentioned, interfering with a legitimate fire.
posted by amicamentis at 6:04 AM on April 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: These are cheap, but look official so will hopefully instill some peace of mind for the child. Another plus is that no one will hurt the fish by frantically scooping at it whenever someone pulls the fire alarm.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:17 AM on April 24, 2012

I'm going to agree with the young rope-rider. It's better to tell the safe lie.

This was a worry our daughter had, and it was what we told her for everyone's safety (though we'd have to scoop up two snakes, a gecko, a cat, two mice, a dog and at other points in our lives, even more pets.) Just as at school they treat every alarm like a real fire alarm and nobody has a plan to save Pickles the classroom frog and everyone's fine with it, kids can handle this.

For a while we had a sticker on the door saying "In case of fire, please rescue our pets" (assuming they even try.) But then realizing a parent at our school is a fireman, and that I'd never want him to risk his life leaving his lovely kids fatherless in looking for a dog that may be out for a walk with me, I took it down. In this case a solution may be as simple as the kid having a sign ready saying "Pet Fish Inside" and sticking it to the door on the way out (on preview, yes amicamentis) - but I still really think the focus should be on "get out safely."

I'll also go so far as to say, as nicely as possible, unless the mom asked you personally and specifically to solve the problem, don't assume that a further mention of her kid's fears means she's not handling it and that you have to come in with a solution here. It's thoughtful, to be sure, and very nice of you - but these things take time to play out, and it just may make the problem worse to reinforce the anxiety. Kids do need to wrestle with concepts like emergencies and eventual loss and process these things, and hopefully they'll learn to come up with their own way of dealing with it. I'd, quite honestly, be irritated if we were working things out, and if my kid was just getting her mind around something, and then someone put a stick in the bicycle spokes with a cute "solution." But I admit I can't know if that's the case here from how it's written.

This is from our experience as a family with a graveyard in our garden full of dead goldfish and other small pets, and a kid who came to understand that these things happen; plus we have two families in our school/neighbourhood that actually did lose everything in a fire, and they are happy to have their lives, and we've talked about that too. When a parent allows a kid to have a pet fish, there's always the consideration of dealing with the eventuality of death, and in this case the fire alarms just provided the introduction to it. Unless he's a particularly anxious kids and there's a serious problem and wrestling with these fears is seeming insurmountable at this point, it's probably okay for him to be worried for a bit and work through it. Sometimes these are the kinds of bumps that kids have to take on their road to emotional maturity.
posted by peagood at 6:42 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Upon further reflection, the young rope rider has it. The fire drills should be used for practicing getting out of the house fast, not messing around with goldfish.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:02 AM on April 24, 2012

Best answer: Fish are shipped all around the country to petshops in nothing more than plastic bags pumped full of air in polystyrene foam coolers.

Heck if it's only for an hour or so a Tupperware container with some of it's tank water in and something to put that in so the temperature doesn't vary too much, say wrap it in a towel would work fine. Get a large soft net so catching the fish is easy and not stressful for the fish, heck you could catch the fish in the jar. With a bit of practice a fish could be caught and in the jar in a minute or less using the net to chase the fish into the jar. Tip out some water to leave an airspace screw on the lid and you're out of there.

Maybe run the kid through some when it's safe to rescue the fish and when it's OK to leave the fish because the water in the tank will protect it (kind lie) scenarios.
posted by wwax at 7:58 AM on April 24, 2012

Response by poster: I love these ideas! I knew AskMe was the place to come for answers!

I'll also go so far as to say, as nicely as possible, unless the mom asked you personally and specifically to solve the problem, don't assume that a further mention of her kid's fears means she's not handling it and that you have to come in with a solution here.

You have my assurance that I have chatted with the mom and I'm not being a white-knight childless neighbor swooping in all willy-nilly to derail her parenting techniques. I learned long ago that it takes a village to raise a child but only if the village has received a personal and notarized invitation to do so.

Like I said above, please don't assume that if the alarms are going off and the hallway is filling with smoke, Mom is going to spend more than 5 seconds dorking around with a goldfish and not grab her kid and run out the door. This is something to make the kid feel better until the next kiddie crisis comes along. Like nightmare catchers and monster repelling magic glitter and other things I've read here before. Because if a bear really broke into a kid's room, I'm sure the parent's not going to toss glitter at it.
posted by ladygypsy at 8:48 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My friend has this sticker from the ASPCA up in his window.
posted by hooray at 8:59 AM on April 24, 2012

The issue with the deception is not what the mom would do in the case of a real fire but what the kid is practicing and learning to do in the case of a real fire. Kids can pick up on a lesson from a small thing and with something as dangerous as fire, it's really, really important to set a safe example. What if someday there's a fire when he has a babysitter over and he gets stubborn about leaving the fish behind because Mom always brings the fish? What if Mom trips on something and tells him to leave the building without her? What if by some bizarre unexpected situation he's alone in the apartment? The point of fire drills is that he'll know to immediately, and with no fuss, exit the building in those situations.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yes, and I think you might be overestimating the ease of grabbing an uncooperative 5 year old in a situation where it's smoky and confusing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:16 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to all who answered my actual question. I didn't intend for this to be about fire safety or parenting techniques or what I don't know about dealing with children. Just how to move a goldfish quickly and harmlessly and possibly ease a few kid worries in the process.

But I'll definitely print this out and show it to her mother, so she'll see another side of the situation at hand.
posted by ladygypsy at 3:23 PM on April 24, 2012

« Older Good books on 1960s rock?   |   BYOC - Bring your own condom? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.