What My Angelfish Pair Taught Me About Writing

As some readers of this blog know, I have a pair of Black Angelfish.

Every two weeks or so, like clockwork, they lay about a 100 eggs, guard them till the babies hatch, hover around the hatchlings still attached to the leaves, try to carry them in their mouths and keep them safe once the babies are free-swimming. Only about 50 babies are left at this stage.

Then for the next three days, they do their best to sustain the babies, which dwindle from 50 to 25 to 10 to 5 to zero. This is because I don’t know what to feed the babies— am both scared of, and don’t know how to, breed mosquito larvae, which is their food.

A day after the last baby has disappeared, the angels are at each other, kissing, fluttering, chasing, back at the mating game. A day later there are eggs again.

I wonder if they remember their babies. I know they are capable of some kind of association/ memory,  because they know when I’m around and come begging for food, and dance around like mad puppies when I have the food box in my hand.

I no longer know how to feel about the regular births and deaths.

But I’ve learned the passion of creation by their example: write like mad, polish them like mad, submit like mad, and even if the babies come to nothing, set about making my writing babies again.

And just like with the angelfish babies, rejoice that they lived and swam free, at least for a while.

Who knows, maybe someday, one of the angelfish babies would survive. It would become more than a tiny tadpole, actually grow fins and swim at large.

In the meanwhile, what I and my angelfish can do is create, with passion and commitment. Results be damned.


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  1. fishtanx2011

    Most Angelfish never have the chance to pair off and breed in a home aquarium, so be proud that you give them such a good home that they will do that. I have some adult pairs that do the same thing,and it is heartbreaking, but one day soon I will have a separate tank ready for the babies, AND a brine shrimp hatchery, and it will make up for all those lost babies. That’s nature.


  2. bronxboy55

    Maybe for a piece of writing, the difference between life and death is that little extra time we give it, that willingness to edit and revise once more. I think most written works — even those destined to be considered masterpieces — go through a fragile, tenuous time when it seems as though there’s nothing much there worth saving. The thing is, we almost never see these stages of development with anyone else’s work; we see only the full-grown angelfish, the ones that have survived.

    I understand all too well the self-doubt you struggle with, Damyanti. But your aquarium is filling with masterpieces. Don’t ever give up.


  3. Priya

    I have a suspicion you sort of knew and practiced this before the angelfish confirmed it, Damyanti. Your passion and indefatigable spirit shows in everything you do.

    Wish you all the very best with everything.


  4. Rachel Morgan

    That is a pretty good analogy :-) Keep going at it with passion and commitment. Results be damned… I like it :-) Especially the part where I get to hope that one of the baby fishies will survive one day!


  5. J.C. Martin

    Poor angelfish. But what a terrific analogy to writing! Personally though, I hope to find some mosquito larvae for my babies…speaking of which, what do these mosquito larvae symbolise? Don’t think agents would appreciate being likened to mosquito larvae…


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