There’s an on-going debate at our house, “Pet or No Pet?” The kids and I would love nothing more than to add a furry, waggy member to the family. A doggy to play with, eat leftovers, chase away solicitors, keep me company on the couch while I attempt to watch all 4 seasons of Heroes in one sitting (it’s a comfy couch).

The kids would love a dog to swim with, play fetch, chase and keep them company on the couch while they watch Spongebob Stupidpants.

Scott, my computer programming geek husband, is more of the practical, reality-driven sort.

“The MySQL query “SELECT first_name FROM Family_Members WHERE (after_the_first_week_who_will_feed_dog_daily =’YES’ && who_will_exercise_dog_daily = ‘YES” && who_will_wash_stinky_dog_weekly =’YES’ && who_will_scoop_up_dog_poop__from_yard_daily =’ YES’)”

……results in only one Family Member name as answer to the query — Scott. The reality is that Scott will probably end up doing all the work around pet ownership after the exciting first week.

So we’ve “compromised” (in other words, he won) and bought a tank and filled it with 3 baby aquatic turtles, 4 fish and 25 cute shrimp.

The baby turtles are quite cute and definitely have distinct personalities. “Scotch” here is the curious one.

Oh, the kids naming their pet after an alcoholic beverage? Don’t ask.

This one is the grouch.

I named him Soup.

There’s not much that makes his guy happy.

Especially not camera flash.

The small shrimp we got are so incredibly adorable, they are about an inch long, see-through so you can see their bodies working (okay, so you need a magnifying glass to see it all, but still cool).

We added a few fish to the mix, bought fish food, turtle food and shrimp food. $600 later and armed with specific instructions on tank cleaning, filter operation and interior tank decorating tips, we welcomed the new members of our family to our home.

What the pet store clerk failed to tell us was that we just bought ourselves a fancy little foodchain.

The turtles aren’t vegetarian as I previously thought (those are tortoises)

SHRIMP!?! SHRIMP! Where’s the shrimp? I smell SHRIMP! Gotta be shrimp! There’s only one thing that smells like shrimp and it’s SHRIIIIMP! (oh you remember the Beggin’ Strips Commercial don’t you?!)

Where’s the shrimp? Is it here?

Maybe over here?


We now have 4 fish, no shrimp and 3 very fat turtles.

Curiously, the fish had no interest in their fish food, but ate the pellet shaped turtle food instead.

Mmmmm turtle food must be tasty.

With no more shrimp to hunt, the turtles went after the fish food.

Mmmmm…..fish food must be shrimp flavored.

Okay, the turtles ate the shrimp, the fish ate the turtle food, the turtles ate the fish food.

Still with me?

The next day, the boys noticed something floating in the tank.

Ewwwww…..POOP! WHO DID THAT????? Which one of you made that mess???

Uh….sorry Mom….that was me.

Don’t think for one moment that the dysfunctionality starts and ends in the tank.

Only a very dysfunctional mother would channel her Johnny Depp obsession….

….onto her kids.

With matching hats.

Though I wonder if Scott knew that we could train a dog to wash windows, do dishes, clean the counter, make the bed, would he change his mind?

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Comments 65

  1. Oui, Chef

    We’ve been having this very same conversation for years now, and SO FAR have been able to put of getting a dog. We did cave for a snake (hardly any work up-keep at all) and for a guinea pig (who is a prolific pooper and requires a cage cleaning once a week). Still, they don’t require walking, and their messes are confined to their cages. – S

  2. Peggy

    Pet stores have nothing to gain if they told you that you purchased a food chain.

    When we were kids, we had two aquatic turtles that were housed separately from the fish tank full of tropical fish. Then we thought it would be cool to put the turtles in with the fish and watch the turtles swim with them. A few days later, we noticed the there were less fish in the tank and realized that the turtles were snacking on them. The turtles were about the size of my palm, hard lesson learned. This was back in 1986. One of the turtles is still with us. They are quite resilient.

    Love the hat and wig pics. πŸ˜€

  3. DayenuFarms

    We have 6 dogs. (In all fairness, we do live on 40 acres, and 3 are outside with the flock.) Our indoor dogs are mastiffs, and they are amazing for the kids. They are playmates, and protectors. I was always allowed to have pets growing up. Looking back, I am so thankful to my mom for giving us the opportunity to care for, and have responsibility for another living creature. I know she had her days where she got exhausted with reminding us to care for them, but she did not give up, and we learned commitment, and persistence. We also have turtles, and tortoise, and birds inside (in addition to the livestock we grow for our own food.) But the turtles will never compare to the life lessons that owning our dogs taught us.

  4. Cindy

    Oh my, I am doing sql queries right now as I speak (or type)! Too funny. Am I a geek? We just adopted a kitty, they don’t need to be walked or washed.

  5. Angie

    I know what you mean about 1 person caring for the dog. Our dog won’t even follow my husband, when I beg him to take him out, I have to direct the dog and tell him it’s okay, please go outside with Daddy. He won’t listen to him for anything, it’s really annoying, and the dog is still getting up in the middle of the night and crying, and growing huge. I thought about turning our saltwater tank into a turtle sanctuary too, but was afraid it might get stinky if I didn’t clean it religiously.
    Yours looks beautiful, and I know your boys are going to love it.

  6. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle

    β€œThe MySQL query β€œSELECT first_name FROM Pet_Members WHERE (after_the_first_week_who_will_love_children_daily =’YES’ && who_will_lay_next_to__children_when_sick = β€˜YES” &&_who_will_look_at_you_like_you’re_the_best_thing_ever? =’YES’ && who_would_stop_making_poo_if_they_could_to_make_you_happy? =’ YES’)”

  7. Laura

    Congratulations on your new pet ownership. I do not want to sound snarky or mean, but did you research before purchasing three turtles? Most “aquatic” turtles need to spend some time on land and need a setup that includes a heater for the water, a heat lamp (which simulates sun) and at least 10 gallons of water per turtle per inch to swim in to be comfortable and not be literally drinking their own waste. You also need a fabulous filtration system for the water. They are also mostly carnivores for the first year or so of their life, which is why they are eating your shrimp πŸ™‚ They will probably get to your fish soon, once they grow a little, so you may want to separate them. Once they get older and lose interest, live plants are really great for them. They will eat anything they can fit in their mouth and tastes good- they love brine shrimp, also (it’s fun to watch them gobble those up!). The pellets are a good supplement to the live food and you need to add vitamin supplements to the water so that they don’t get ill(Nekton for reptiles is a good one). Pellets really are not a good, complete diet. It’s basically junk food, unfortunately.

    I learned all of these things by buying a cute turtle the size of a quarter who, a year or so later, was bigger than a dinner plate. My dorm room also constantly smelled like a swamp even though I cleaned his tank once a week or more. Luckily I found a man who had a full setup on his outdoor patio and loved turtles- it was basically a turtle paradise, and mine went to live there. I still miss having him, but he is better off.

    I hope you and your family enjoy your new pets. Good luck!

  8. Tina

    Frankly, I’d overrule the husband and get a dog! After the first hour (maximum, probably more like the first 5 minutes) your hubby would be in love. Trust me, I know. My ex-husband put off getting a dog for about 6-7 years after we got married, but after we brought home our first little fuzzy bundle, he couldn’t resist her. The marriage didn’t last forever, but the next furry bundle (fuzzy bundle #1 passed away after almost 15 years; we were married for 25 years) still lives with Daddy, and just gets the occasional visit from me. Besides, $600 for two tiny turtles, a few fish and shrimp (aka turtle food) plus the tank & equipment??? You could have gone to the SPCA, gotten a puppy and stopped off for a years worth of dog food and still spent less! BTW, if you do eventually decide on a dog, PLEASE consider a shelter dog instead of going to a breeder! There are so many dogs sent to shelters each year, and they desparately need homes!

  9. Patricia

    LOL the 4 legged pet would have been cheaper by now! I can highly recommend fostering. We have just finished fostering our first set of kittens with mommy. The kittens are now 8 weeks old and going up for adoption (we no longer take care of them either). We had them for 4 weeks. PERFECT amount of time for the boys to love playing with them and then get bored.

    We have now turned our sights on fostering a dog and just got a Rottweiler 3 days ago (approx. 4 years old). This is also going well, except she needs more training, but not more than any puppy would. We keep her until she is adopted or we can’t keep her any longer.

    With fostering, our vet bills are paid for. They asked us to supply the food and litter (for cats).

    You might try this avenue for your kids and husband. It is a happy medium.

  10. Jan

    Jaden! Amazing photos! Next you’ll be shooting for National Geographic or the Animal Planet. If that teeny little poop was disturbing, just wait until you get a dog. If you do get a dog, get a shelter pooch, not a puppy.

  11. Dianasaur Dishes

    Oh man! That’s so funny, I really want a dog too, but we’ve already payed so much in vet bills for our cat that it will be a while before we add another pet.

  12. bunkycooks

    I think the dog might be an easier choice. ;)I had a similar situation with just fish many years ago and ended up with about 2 fish left out of an entire tank! Good luck as you navigate your way through the pet owning process!

  13. Murasaki Shikibu

    Been there, done that, i.e. recreating the Wild Kingdom. The turtles will eat both the shrimp & the fish. I had a water snake in my aquarium with my fish and I don’t know how anyone convinced me that the snake was a vegetarian but I soon found out that this wasn’t the case. Later on I let my turtle and water snakes loose in the pond in our garden and we saw some real drama there. One day I saw the turtle eating the snake… -_-

  14. Lizzie Longenecker

    omygosh… I laughed so hard during this entire post, especially seeing the expressions of the turtles looking left and right for the shrimp.

    Poor little shrimpies!!!!

    I used to have turtles… make sure you clean their tank regularly or your whooooooooooooooooole house will SMELL OMG.


  15. wendy m

    Um, I don’t think your fish will survive either, if they are small. We had baby turtles as pets before too, and as a treat, we got them little goldifsh looking fish and they ate it. The baby turtles also get bigger, so your fishys will become turtle food soon.

  16. Janet in Maine

    I too would overrule the husband and get us all a dog. Teaching kids to be kind to animals when they are young make them better adults. The adults that I know that grew up without pets are just a little “different”. They lack something. Your boys need to experience what it truly means to be loved by a dog. The memories and photographs will be priceless.

  17. rita

    LOL! we have the same dilemma. we don’t have kids – but i’ve wanted a dog for years now. since hubby and are in the IT field (i’m the geeky programmer, while hubby is in the security/firewall/forensics part of IT) – we have somewhat the same thing going on. the battle of logics. AHAHAHA! hubby’s excuse for not having a dog is the same as scott’s. i will play and feed the dog, but hubby will do all the nasty maintenance that will come with it. having “no dogs” in our lease, doesn’t help, either. oi… i can’t win on this one.

  18. Casper

    Maybe they named it after Scotch Tape and not Scotch the alcohol. Just a thought … to keep the children nice and innocent!

  19. maggiewann

    Oh man, we are so done with pets–in the grandparent stage now–we did all the pets for close to 40 years, now they’ve all died and we are not replacing them. Fish seem like they would be easy, but they aren’t, the grandkids just got a puppy and we are so happy for them!

  20. Brooke

    hahaha. I think it’s funny you went from a dog to an aquarium. While fun and interesting to watch (for a bit) I think the aquarium would be a lot more work. I have a turtle and fish at my parent house, and the turtle tank needs to be cleaned pretty often or the water starts to stink from poop. And fish tanks need to be cleaned fairly often as well. And the time involved in cleaning the tank is much longer than picking up some poop.
    As a Great Dane owner, while the walks in the rain are no joy, it’s a lot less work than fish! And she cuddles with us!

  21. will langford

    Theres a syntax error in your query .. the last ‘ should be ”

    πŸ™‚ – seriously I almost peed my pants reading this.. bravo!!

  22. shirley elizabeth

    Okay, if the shrimp really are gone, I suggest getting more. And this time more than four. We had a pretty large tank with fish that preyed on each other all the time, and the coolest part were the shrimp. At first we thought the fish ate them all, but it turns out they were smart enough to outsmart them – and even us – for long enough to boost their population a little. And then we always had shrimp. And it’s so cool to see them full of eggs, since they’re all see-through.

  23. Frank

    Of course, Scott will still be relegated to sole feeder and cleaner of the pets, though at least it will all be better-contained.

  24. Bettina

    Sometimes I wonder if turtles aren’t more work than a dog or cat. They will continue to get bigger and bigger, and potentially get aggressive. They’ll probably eat your fish soon enough too. Also, our three turtles are about 6 years old now, and I’d say it only took them 2 years to start getting aggressive, so that 2 have one tank and our grouch/Soup is in his own. If we really wanted to keep the tank clean (they’re in their 4th or 5th we’ve bought), we’d have to clean it at least once a week.

    That said, they are beautiful, beautiful creatures that demonstrate surprising personality and awareness.

  25. Lael Hazan

    LOVE IT! Good luck to you. We too started with “easy to care for” pets. We harvested pollywogs when our now 11 year old was four, but they jumped away. Then we got a beta fish. When the “fish sitter” killed it, we got another one. That too didn’t last. I thought I had the pet thing licked; however, my husband got into the act and now we have an overly exuberant poodle. Yes…. I’m the one who gets to do everything.

    Good luck…. actually, good luck to Scott.


  26. Cara dB

    Oh man. I wondered when I started reading this post if there was going to be a problem with the shrimp and the turtles. I’ll tell you what, you CANNOT make worse mistakes with your aquarium than I have.

    Here is the Tsunami story: http://slowtech.blogspot.com/2009/01/one-fish-two-fish-red-fish-blue-fish.html

    And the Cannibal Recycling story: http://slowtech.blogspot.com/2010/01/mysterious-case-of-disappearing-fish.html

    Learn from my mistakes! Or just laugh at me, whatever.

  27. kayenne

    UGH! if you hate cleaning up dog poop… you’re off worse with turtles… especially in a few weeks. we used to have a couple, started of cleaning the tank every 3 days, until we were doing it daily and it still smelled icky! and yes, they eat everything!

    i do agree with the above, the need a bit of sunlight and a rock to “sun” themselves in. we ended up donating them to a temple once they grew the size of a salad plate. you might be better off with baby lobsters. hehe

  28. Kruzon

    Turtles and a aquarium tank is good pet choice as much of having a pet is the learning and accepting responsibilities that go with pet ownership.

  29. Barry

    I don’t know about this whole aquatic adventure. After all, someone has to clean the tank, remember to feed, etc. anyway.

    Having my two pugs Zu Zu and Roxy got me out for a walk twice a day for the last 7 years during which I’ve met a lot of great neighbors whom I would have never seen were it not for the walks. Plus, their personalities are off the charts. And I was no where near ready to have a puppy but I don’t regret it at all. Also, small dogs mean smaller clean up and smaller food bills. Just sayin’.

  30. kayenne


    they can grow bigger actually – but we didn’t have the space. the temple we donated them to has a pond where they can roam more freely. =) they are pretty cute now that they are still small though. have fun!

    tip: check with the seller or experts how much you need to feed them.. the more you feed them, the more they poop – the more often you need to clean the tank, and the bigger and faster they grow. they just eat everything!

    and there aren’t any obedience schools for turtles. ]

    if you decide to change pets and still want fishes, see if your area has a legal salt-water fish supplier. maintenance is easier compared to fresh-water tanks.

  31. Maryann

    Great post! At about the same age our sons begged for a dog. They were 10 and 8 when we got one. They did play with the dog a lot and walked him on occasion but the brunt of the work was on the grown ups. Didn’t mind and we have had two other dogs. Still at ages 23 and 21 they love the dog, play with the dog, and would very much miss the dog, however, husband and myself feed, run and vet the dog.

    Don’t feel bad for channelling the magnanimous Mr. Depp. I channelled my Star Wars fixation on my kids. They were 7 and 5 and I pretty much told them they were going to be Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader for Halloween. They did like Star Wars and went along with the plan. Started about a month in advance getting the costumes ready. Luke had the robes, leg wrappings, and boots Darth had a full realistic mask, cape, boots and after a trip to Radio Shack had the lights and buttons on the front. Both had lightsabers.

    We had a early dinner, dressed them, took pictures. Watching them leave to go trick or treating with my husband I had a big fat grin on my face until……..20 minutes later they were back……half undressed because THIS IS FLORIDA AND IT WAS 85 DEGREES AND 300 PERCENT HUMIDITY that night. We redressed them in some of husbands old clothes and back out they went. Oh well, we’ll always have pictures.

  32. justgloria

    Just a reminder: In Aquatic turtles, Salmonella is a concern for small children and immunosuppressed as it is with contact with any amphibians and reptiles.
    Adhere to Guidelines for Salmonella Prevention for Reptile Owners.

  33. Louise

    i’m with your husband, we have dog and it’s stalks me for food- eats everything in site and nobody does the list of things your husband has except me… turtle is a good thing

  34. Chris

    Let me preface this by saying I am a dog person. I love dogs. I’ve always had one until 8 years ago.

    But I am with Scott. I enjoy my freedom of not having a dog these days. I like not having to ask “what about the dog” every time we want to go somewhere.

  35. Alia

    Those are terrapins, right? We had loads of them when I was growing up as my dad refused to let me get a dog until I was old enough to accept responsibility for its upkeep, which meant that my childhood was filled with pets to lead up to a dog: fish, terrapins, hamsters, guinea-pigs, rabbits. Finally got an RSPCA puppy when I was about 11. I was probably the only kid at school who was waking up at 5:30am before school every day in order to clean out a puppy crate, put down new newspapers, top up food and water bowls, and spend time getting to know my new ‘baby’! It really did teach me a lot about responsibility and looking after another living thing. It was probably more work for me as our puppy was really quite young when we rescued him (his eyes had only just opened a few weeks earlier and he was still a little unsteady on his face, which made for some amusing incidents), but if you rescued an older dog who may already have had some training, there would be (slightly) less work for you/your husband, especially if you are first-time dog owners.

  36. Alia

    Just occurred to me – if you’re wanting a totally maintenance-free and hardy pet: Siamese fighting fish, if you can get them where you are. You find them everywhere where I live and, despite looking all colourful, delicate and pretty, they are surprisingly resilient and don’t take much work at all for tropical fish. They don’t even need a tank or water filter. We kept ours in (separate, of course) glass vases with just a drop of water purification solution in the water. One of them managed to survive for months, despite several suicide attempts (because those buggers sure can leap!) by leaping right out of the vase and onto the kitchen counter/into the kitchen sink. They look great around the house too!

  37. Deborah M Jenkins

    Speaking from experience….I would rather pick up dog poop or clean a litter box than do the fish tank thing, and you just can’t hug a turtle, they don’t like it. I have a new labradoodle, and she’s pretty easy. She uses a pee pad on the deck, or of course, goes outside, she’s had her accidents, but I know this will pass.
    The best part, for all the care I give her (and yes, taking walks is one, but it’s been good for me too)she comes and cuddles me while watching TV, she is at my feet while I am making dinner; she is my companion, hopefully for many years to come. I used to cry every time I had to flush an aquatic companion, as did my kids! I’ve had some brilliant, loving cats as well. Anyway to each their own, but cleaning tanks suck beyond belief.

  38. Asianmommy

    What a cute idea–owning shrimp…if only for a short time. I think I would enjoy that. Thanks for the tip about not buying turtles at the same time. πŸ™‚

  39. Tickled Red

    Oh lord I can’t breathe!!
    1st-Soup…so if he doesn’t change his attitude is that a possibility?

    2nd-Hahahaha…had a feeling you would figure out turtle vs tortoise some where in there. Soups head buried in the pebbles, AWESOME!

    3rd-Your son’s (2) expression in the Mad Hatter getup is cracking me up.

    Love ya bunches!

  40. An

    Haha, love the SQL query.

    I’m with Scott on this. We have a dog and while I love her, she’s definitely been shunted to the bottom of the totem pole since the kids arrived. We resent having to walk her (sure she’s got the yard but I’m sure it gets old after a while), pay for boarding her when we’re gone (and it’s gotta be a nice place which means $$$), or cleaning up her hair (she sheds like crazy!) or being limited in options for rental housing because of her. My husband and I have already agreed to no more pets after she dies – it’s a lot of responsibility and lasts for a LOOOONG time.

    I definitely agree with the commenter above that said if you’ve never had a dog before, definitely get an older dog to begin with, like age 8 or older, who have established personalities and some training. Puppies/teenaged dogs are as much work as human children with all the training and socializing you have to do to be a responsible pet owner.

    Love this comment: “I enjoy my freedom of not having a dog these days. I like not having to ask ‘what about the dog’ every time we want to go somewhere.”

    Haha! I can’t wait until I can say this too!

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