>After a week of careful water balancing and monitoring, our aquarium was ready for new fish. I suggested a pair of Oscars, knowing full well that E despises them, but hoping I could sneak them in by using their scientific name (no luck). So I constructed a list of likely candidates based on size, aggressiveness and community living, while E looked at pictures from my horde of aquarium books. A half-hour of analysis resulted in E’s recommendation for a marine aquarium. It took me some time to recover from the horror of his suggestion, since a beautiful and healthy marine aquarium unquestionably requires a Ph.D. in Aquarium Science plus a six-figure income. After some debate (and another request for Oscars), we headed off to visit our local pet supermarkets.

Only one pet store in town existed when I was a kid. A mediaeval place called Jerry’s Pets–where I purchased many a scrawny newt and lanky salamander. An anathema to modern pet lovers, it was unsanitary, foul smelling and inhabited solely by animals of increasing decrepitude and disease. Remarkably, Jerry’s Pets had a monopoly on the industry until I reached highschool, when overnight the city seemed populated by competitors. Only one out of the almost ten stores was tolerable, the rest were regrettably Jerry’s clones.

The arrival of the pet superstores quickly changed that. This year Jerry’s Pets and the last of its former rivals closed due to the opening of a second pet superstore (Pet’smart). While I believe that big business wrecks local enterprise, and that only a devoted hobbyist can manage a superlative pet business, I’ll invariably frequent any clean, modern store with healthy stock.

Despite my preoccupation with the parameters of fish selection, beholding acres of colorful and vigorous fish restored my childlike wonder. Welcome to our new danios, gouramis and rainbowfish!

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