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Murder in a Fishtank

Hello. My name is “Platy”, I am a Xiphophorus maculatus. I live in a quaint little aquarium somewhere in the world; I honestly couldn’t tell you where, I don’t get out much. It’s a quite enjoyable place to reside, previously I housed in a minute glass box, and that’s complimenting it, with 24 of my siblings. It was an unusual place, regularly large longing eyes would stare in at us and habitually something would hit the glass. However one day… actually it was a somewhat traumatic event and I can not quite remember the details, all I know is that thankfully I made it into this charming aquarium and now I reside here. Everything was delightful here until the population size started dropping mysteriously.

But let me tell you the tale from the beginning. So you already know that I reside in a charming little aquarium, lets call it the Nautilus, as it stands underwater after all. Now, I live in Nautilus with 7 fellow fish each of them also called “Platy”. It is somewhat confusing and I will be perfectly honest it stays that way. We have other similar traits, not just our name, as we are all part of the same species of Chordata. To be truthful all the confusion is worth it as our similarities let us get along quite splendidly most of the time. As the saying goes “Like attracts like”. But I diverge… let’s get back to the inhabitants of the Nautilus. There is one additional occupant, “Frank”, and he is somewhat different to the Platys. He is a Epalzeorhynchus bicolor, also called a fire tail shark, however don’t let the name fool you, he has the morphology of a shark but is quite a gentle creature. He acts dark and mysterious but thus far I have only observed him munch on the algae around the tank. Additionally, he has an easy tell, once you have figure it out, which lets you know what he is really thinking. So there you go that’s the complete crew of the Nautilus.

The Nautilus itself is also quite intriguing, at times it seems endless and at times it seems quite minute. On a routine swim one can come across Vallisneria, which are long green stalked plants that transcend the height of the Nautilus. They grow as long twisted blades which wave around in the ever-present current. Additionally, one might come across some Hydrocotyle leucocephala with large dense flat leaves that fragment the Nautilus into many cave like compartments. Numerous leaves also float on the surface, shading a large part of the territory around the caves, giving the whole area a secretive look. Furthermore, there are many moss-covered roots, which extrude from the sediment and form channels and swim throughs. As you see the Nautilus has many faces.

I was on a customary morning swim through the Nautilus when I felt something was out of place. I did another loop of the surroundings but still couldn’t place the inexplicable feeling I was experiencing. I ran through my customary checklist:

  • -Continuous current
  • -Moss masked roots
  • -Vacillating Vallisneria
  • Hollow Hydrocotyle
  • -Feeble Frank
  • -Plural Platys 1 – 7… wait no 1 – 6

Where was Platy? I thought I was mistaken, but another lap of the surroundings indicated my initial suspicion was right! Platy was missing! I informed the others of my findings and they confirmed that they had also not seen him. Since it was commonplace for a Platy to be absent for a short period of time they had not thought further about it, but now that it was drawn to their attention it seemed like it had been quite a long time. In fact, no one could remember seeing him for days. We completed a group search of the Nautilus but came up with the same conclusion. Platy was gone.

The others were seemingly as perplexed as I but due to the lack of any explanation or imminent threat they unanimously chose to continue as normal. I, however, due to my absolute inability to deal with boredom, wasn’t going to let this mysterious disappearance of a fellow fish go down without a thorough investigation, if there were any clues I was going to find them. Firstly, I went in search for any signs of a jump or a jump note, although generally uncommon some of us do contemplate about what’s beyond the Nautilus. However, my extensive searches yielded no clues as to his disappearance. The lack of evidence however blocked my investigation and left me theorizing whether it was possible for a fish to just simply disappear or dissolve?

Roughly four days later during my morning swim, while I was still debating the likelihood of spontaneous dissolution, I got a familiar peculiar feeling. I went through my mental checklist again:

  • -Continuous current
  • -Moss masked roots
  • -Vacillating Vallisneria
  • Hollow Hydrocotyle
  • -Feeble Frank
  • -Plural Platys 1 – 6… wait no 1 – 5

Where was Platy? Again I went to the others and enquired about the whereabouts of Platy and again they supposed that they hadn’t noticed he was gone, but now that it was mentioned, yes it had been a while since they saw him last. It may have to do with my tendency to overthink things, but was it not unusual to simply ignore the disappearance of two fellow fish? Why were the other Platys simply accepting these disappearances, or did they know more? Was it something to do with the heated debates, which I heard them having on several occasions?

Their behavior left me rattled with suspicions and I knew I must uncover what was happening. I went to the only other fish whom I could voice my distrusts to, Frank. The ever algae orientated Frank seemed quite shocked to discover that anything was amiss. He hadn’t until that time noticed a reduction in the occupancy, what he had apparently noticed was the distinct reduction of algae around the Nautilus. And as he said it he looked at me with a feverish hunger. I quickly changed the subject as I knew all too well about Franks algae addictions and voiced my suspicions about the unusual behavior of the remaining Platys and asked him his opinion. He immediately appeared bothered and began fidgeting. I’ve mentioned before that Frank has an easy tell, well it’s actually an easy tell tail. His tail changes color when he is lying or bothered by something, which was clearly the sign now as it had changed from its fire red to a near white. However, he didn’t voice his worries about the Platys but said he would keep his eyes pealed for any unusual behavior.

To put my ever-busy mind at ease I went in search of any clues of the second disappearance. Again, there seemed to be nothing until I swam across the mossy roots. I noticed that there were some scales embedded in the moss. They seemed to be caught there as if someone injured had swum into or against the moss and deposited them there. I took a closer look and found a trail of scales along the moss leading towards a nook between the roots. The trail ended there but as I swum into the nook I got the wary feeling I was somewhere I shouldn’t be.

Finally, a clue, it was likely that I had discovered the place where Platy was last. But why would he have been so close to the moss? Platys are normally never too close to the bottom and why had he lost scales? I had discovered something but there were still so many unanswered questions. A couple of days later and my investigations were going nowhere. I had found no further clues and my suspicions about the Platys left me unsocial and mistrustful. I was on my morning swim pondering about the Nautilus and how it had changed when a peculiar feeling hit me. I knew what the outcome would be but again I went through my mental checklist:

  • -Continuous current
  • -Moss masked roots
  • -Vacillating Vallisneria
  • Hollow Hydrocotyle
  • -Feeble Frank
  • -Plural Platys 1 – 5… wait no 1 – 4

Another Platy missing! I opted not to waste my time asking the other Platys about what they might have seen or heard, as I was quite certain I knew what their response would be, but instead swam straight in search of Frank. He loosened himself off the algae covered tank wall as I informed him about the missing Platy. He looked at me seriously and inquired if I had any further information about the matter. His tail rapidly turned a clear white as I shared with him all I had discovered. I was still no further in uncovering the truth but I voiced my suspicions about possible foul play in the matter and asked Frank to stay alert. Even after my meeting with Frank my suspicions still left me weary about the true nature of the disappearances and so I elected to camp out near the roots in order to survey any occurrences in the vicinity.

I had been by the roots for many days, my patience was wearing thin and my fins were acing. The lights had gone out for the fifth time and I was beginning to rethink my decision when one of the Platys swam overhead. He had not seen me as I had intentionally hidden myself between the Vallisneri,a but he swam casually over towards the moss. He was alone and the situation didn’t seem unusual. Abruptly a dark form came into view just above the moss. It slithered its way directly towards Platy, who was swimming on unaware. All of a sudden it detached itself from the moss and attacked Platy from behind, biting relentlessly into his tail. It pressed Platy flat against the moss and continued biting him. From my vantage point I could see Platy struggling to free himself but he was trapped between the fiend and the roots. I spurred into action and swam towards the attacker ready to intervene. As I reached the two entangled fish I bellowed loudly for anyone in the vicinity and then crashed head first into the shadow. I tumbled through the water with the attacker and as we came to an abrupt stop as I found myself face to face with Frank.

Many weeks have passed since these mysterious occurrences and it has, in hindsight, occurred to me that the clues were laid out and the case was quit simple. Frank’s dietary addictions and the lack of available algae around the Nautilus had lead him in a hunger driven state to nibble at a Platy. When he discovered a fondness for the taste he, after several days of starvation and in a ravenousness feverous state, attacked one of the Platys and proceeded to nibble away his fins. After the act Frank would rapidly depart and the Platy would have died. And the key fact to the disappearance, which I forgot to take into account initially is, of course, that dead fish are always removed quickly from any aquarium. That is why there was never a trace of evidence or a body to be found. Additionally, I omitted to read Frank’s tell as a lie and rather believed him to be shocked, as I was. In hindsight we are all the wiser. In the meantime, life in the Nautilus has begun to revert to a more customary routine now that Frank has departed. In fact, some peculiar new lodgers arrived yesterday and I think that the future has much in store for us.

Yours sincerely,

Platy H. Quin

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