Sometimes a small incident can leave its mark—can teach you things, can make you aware. This is one such incident.

About 10 years back after I had repainted, redecorated and rearranged the furniture in my home office, I found that I now had an empty space that kept bothering me — a space on top of a small piece of furniture that I just couldn’t seem to fill with the right thing. I tried everything, different sized lamps, a couple of statues, knick knacks, a large candle, a fancy candle holder, nothing seemed to be quite right. Each item was either too large, too small, or just didn’t quite ‘fit’ with the overall energy of the room. And leaving the space empty didn’t feel right either. I knew it needed something, but what? All I did know, was that I needed something that would bring a little light into that corner of the room and still be the right size for the space. Then finally, it dawned on me. How about a fish tank? It would need to be a fairly small one as fish tanks go. But yeah, maybe a fish tank would be just the thing.

I always had a fish bowl growing up and loved the energetic calm my two little gold fish brought to my study table growing up.

So I went out to see what might be available to meet my needs and voila! There it was, a five gallon hexagonal fish tank that seemed to be the right height, width and depth to fit perfectly into the space. So, after double checking the dimensions of the space with my handy dandy tape measure to confirm the fish tank really would fit, I went right out and bought it, brought it back to the office, took it out of the box and set it on top of the end stand. It fit perfectly! I could see it already. Once everything was set up, the light from the tank would bring some light to that corner of the room, and the fish and plants in the tank would bring some life to the space as well.

Problem solved, right? Well, not quite. Little did I know that it was only the beginning… of many beautiful lessons.

The Lessons Begin

Excited and ready to go out and get everything else that I needed to get the tank set up that very day, including the fish, I ran into my first little snag. When I looked at the instruction booklet that came with the fish tank, I learned that it was strongly recommended to set the tank up and let everything run for at least 24 hours, preferably a week, before actually putting any fish in it. This is to make sure that everything is working correctly and to allow time for things to stabilize.

Even more disappointing, was the recommendation to add fish slowly, one or two at a time over a period of several weeks. This was to make sure that the tank had time to go through the nitrogen cycle in order to ensure the proper levels of bacteria in the tank that are necessary to breakdown the wastes produced by the fish. This is important to keep the tank from going toxic. Add too many fish, too soon, before the beneficial bacteria have had time to proliferate, and your fish die, poisoned by their own wastes. So even when I could put fish in the tank, I wouldn’t be able to add them all at once, well not if I wanted them to survive that is. I was going to have to do it little by little. Bummer. I wouldn’t be watching any fish swimming in my tank that day.

So, I decided to be patient. Well somewhat patient anyway. While I did rush out and buy everything else that I would need to set the tank up that day (the tank only came with a couple of things, most of what I would need was sold separately), I decided to wait a few days on the fish, and to add them slowly, one or two at a time over a period of several weeks. And later that day, I set up the tank…gravel, decorations, live plants (I thought these would be nicer than fake plastic ones). And it was pretty already, even without the fish. It was perfect.

Thus came the first of many lessons from the fish tank, patience in taking the right steps to ensure the best possible outcome. In other words, don’t rush it. As much as we might like it to, things don’t always come together overnight and sometimes, you just have to wait for your vision to come to fruition. Sometimes it takes as long as it takes, and like the nitrogen cycle that the fish tank must go through, it just takes as long as it takes. And if you try to skip important steps or rush them, you cause yourself more headaches in the long run than if you’d just been a little patient and taken the necessary steps to ensure the best possible outcome in the first place. As many people have found when trying to start up a fish tank, without going through the proper steps, they find themselves wondering why their fish keep dying, or the water in tank gets cloudy and icky, and why they have to keep buying new fish to replace the ones that keep dying.

Learning For Our Mind, Heart & Soul

Over the next few days, I daydreamed about what kind of fish I was going to put in my new tank and spent quite a few hours in the two local stores that sold tropical fish just checking out the fish.

Having to choose which fish to put in my tank was going to be hard. There were so many to choose from and so many things to think about: what would be the best fish for that size tank, how many would fit in the tank, what types of fish can you keep together… I researched what would be the best for the type of tank I had, and my experience level, and decided to start with two orange gold fish(my growing up friends), colorful, easy to care for fish that were hardy enough to be put into a new tank that was still going through the nitrogen cycle. So three days after I set the tank up, I went ahead and bought my first two fish and set them up in their new home. And then I immediately began to plan the next move… what fish to add next.

I had this fish tank with nearly 16 fish till I moved away from Muscat to get married and come to India. While moving, I gave away the tank to a lovely young newly married gal, who had just moved in from Australia. By this time, I had named each fish, treated them as my babies and loved them to no end. Luckily this young girl who I gave the tank to was just as emotional about her fish as me, cause she had to give away her fish when she left Australia to come to Muscat.

Patience, Planning, Problem solving, Loving, Calming, Beauty… are among the few lessons owning that fish tank taught me. And to think, I bought it just to fill in an empty space in my home office, without realizing how many spaces in my life it would fill.

Its now time for me to get my little girl her very first fish bowl! Oh the beautiful lessons she will learn too.