Clove oil works. 4/9/09
After explaining as gently as I could about what I was going to do and
why - All day today, I heard my 4 yr old daughter explaining over and
over to our 3 yr old that Mommy was going to put the Gourami to sleep
and then she would die and then we would bury her under the tree in the
backyard beside Bubbles the Betta that died a few weeks ago of old age.
She was insistent that she wanted to watch, so I called her when it was
time. I heard her yell to her brother, "Come on, Mom's going
to kill the fish now!"
<Well, yes, children show a remarkable ability to react in ways
you'd not imagine. They're much less sensitive and delicate
than we often assume.>
She went so peacefully - just like everyone said about the clove oil. I
put some tank water in a small container and then put her in. I then
quickly dripped clove oil in by drops at a time until I had put in
about 60 drops - to be sure it would work quickly for her. After about
30 seconds, she swam around the container once and then just fell
asleep. It was pretty uneventful.
<That's the idea! Euthanasia is all about relieving pain and
It was quite amazing to see how her color came back at the very end and
she was beautiful again. I used to work in hospice and have seen
something similar happen when people pass away. In all, it took just
over 10 minutes for her to stop breathing completely, but we waited for
an hour before we buried her - just to be sure.
The children sang "You are my Sunshine..." and said a little
prayer by Margaret Wise Brown of "Goodnight Moon" fame. This
is from her book, " A Child's Goodnight Book"
Hear and bless thy beasts and singing birds
And guard with tenderness
Small things that have no words.
...a much nicer prayer for children than "Now I lay me down to
Children instinctively know so much more than we give them credit for.
We adults too often foist our hang ups on them in our well- intentioned
and misguided attempts to "protect" them from what we think
of as the hard truths of life - that they recognize as simply
<On the flip side, dealing with the death of animals is often the
first way children prepare themselves for the death of humans around
them. That they can see death can be peaceful, as here, is a useful
counterpoint to the violent deaths they see in action movies and the TV
A true story out of the mouths of babes:
When our now 13 yr old son, Christian was almost 5 yrs old, our Betta,
"Tortellini" died of old age. That was his first experience
with death. We planned a little funeral, to say goodbye and thank you
for the enjoyment he gave us. I dug a little hole in a flower bed and
was about to gently lay the fish in it, when he shrieked "What are
you DOING?" So I explained again, and he complained that he
thought I would put him in a box first.
I had to look around for a nice little box before we could proceed. Box
found, back to laying Tortellini in the earth. "MOM! I meant a
NICER box." There was no nicer box to be found. So I removed my
wedding pearls from their silk pouch and asked if that would be good
enough. "Yes, Mom.
Tortellini was laid to rest in a lovely blue silk pouch. Pouch was
placed in small box and was about to be laid in the earth...again.
"MOM! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!" By this time, my nerves were
frazzled just from trying to remain patient through our little ceremony
that was fast turning into something from a cartoon. "What is it
Very matter of factly, he asked me, "Well, how are the ants
supposed to eat him if he's stuck in that box?"
<Smart kid! The "circle of life" as explained on the Lion
King; when the lions die, they turn into grass, and the antelope eats
the grass, and then the lions eat the antelope.>
He thought I should put the fish in the pouch during his prayer and
then take him out and bury him directly in the soil. "...of
course, " thought Mother. So I had to remove the pouch from the
box and the fish from the
pouch and of course, dead fish slime all over my now ruined silk pouch.
We laid the fish ON the pouch and THEN I was permitted to bury the poor
little dead fish.
When it was all over, he said to me, "Mom, that was a pretty fancy
suit for a dead fish - maybe we could dig it up for you after the ants
are done with him..."
<Ants are used in museums for precisely this. If you want a fish
skeleton to go on display, you put the fish somewhere with a colony of
The ants clean the meat and skin without disturbing any of the
Voila, a cleaned skeleton ready for mounting.>
That was good preparation for 3 weeks later when our beloved dog,
Molly, died of old age herself at 13 years old on Valentine's
Many thanks again for your compassion and patience and for helping us
let go of our little friend and for helping her to have a peaceful, and
hopefully, a painless end.
Take good care,
<Thanks for this thoughtful message. Cheers, Neale.>
Skeleton question - Re: Clove oil works.
Can't believe I'm asking this but -
So you mean I could put a fish "somewhere" with an
established ant colony, not just some ants from the yard with a bunch
of dirt, and we could have a good skeleton.....
<Yes. In theory anywhere would work, provided ants and beetles could
get in, but scavengers such as rats and cats couldn't. For obvious
reasons, you don't want big scavengers that would eat the bones or
carry them off. You want things that clean the bones but leave them
exactly where they are. The process is called "defleshing"
and is usually done nowadays using beetles known as Dermestids, but in
the past ants were used. The Natural History Museum in London for
example has colonies of beetles maintained in the lab for precisely
this. Anyway, there's a great blog post at the link below, complete
with video! A great blog to peruse, by the way, with some of the best
science writing about.
Don't worry, I won't off one of our fish just for this
<It's a great hobby, and some folks do this for fun. They find
dead animals and then deflesh them to collect the skulls, which are
particularly attractive (!) collectables. Large invertebrates can work
well too, especially things like crabs and lobsters.>
I have a child that would be really interested in this.
<As was I, when young.>
How long does the whole process take and what about the smell?
<Small animals can be defleshed within a day or two, if the ant
colony is large enough. Something bigger like a Blue Crab would take
about a week.
Does depend on the climate; when it's cold, the ants and beetles
will not be feeding, and nothing much will happen. In summer though,
once the corpse is located, you'll be staggered how rapidly those
yummy proteins are recycled by Mother Nature. If you put the corpse
somewhere dry and airy outdoors, and the corpse isn't too big, it
shouldn't smell much, if at all.
That said, don't put the thing in front of the porch or driveway!
Find a quite spot away from the house, so any smells don't come
The smell will be the deciding factor considering we are in Florida and
it's really warm here and lots of raccoons around. How do I protect
it from scavengers, without having it inside my house?
<Ah, this is the tricky bit! Some kind of metal or plastic grill,
sieve or similar held in place with tent pegs or something would be
required if done outdoors. Alternatively, you could put the animal
inside something with holes, like one of those Bug Box/Critter Cages,
and then leave it in or nearby a compost heap. The bones may well end
up in a heap, but if all you want is the skull, that's no big deal.
Except in a lab, I wouldn't recommend doing this indoors.>
Maybe we should just go to the science center and look at their
<If you have a local natural history museum, send an e-mail to the
curator and mention your interest. Quite often curators are thrilled to
hear from people interested in the "nitty gritty" of
conservation. Such museum people may well invite your up and lay on a
tour; this is the kind of thing that sparks an interest in science that
can last a lifetime. Even if kids don't grow up to be scientists,
that they should scientifically literate (and curious!) is a great and
useful thing. Cheers, Neale.>
Unbelievable! Fish tummy size 8/4/06
There's an article in the current issue of AFM where the author
states "A fish's stomach is roughly the size of its eye, so it
doesn't take much to fill fish up"...(sigh!) Eric
<... some are this size... but most... much larger... and very
distensible to boot/fill! The editors of AFM are not... "fish or
science people". BobF>
Color Vision in Fishes Hi gang, The question just occurred to
me as to whether fish in general and Tangs of various varieties in
particular are color blind. Nothing shows in your data base. So, to
your knowledge has anyone tested for this? Regards, Charlie H.
>>>Hi Charlie, Yes, fish are equipped with both rods and
cones, and can see color very well. Some deep water fish can only see
in reds and greens - tangs, being surface fish can detect the entire
range. Jim<<< Can fish hear? OK so you've turned me
into a big time fishaphile (sp?). I've even started talking to my
fish when one day I noticed he jumped when I clapped my hands. I was
pretty far away from the tank and did not intend to startle him. Do you
think he hears my speech? Whether he cares is another matter...
<Fishes can indeed hear... through a couple of primary mechanisms...
a low amplitude, low frequency general "body" sense and a
similar ear-bone amplified internal "ear"... Especially some
groups of fishes on the latter... the Ostariophysians... Catfishes,
Characiforms (e.g. Tetras), Cypriniforms (e.g. minnows, barbs,
danios...) have very good hearing... akin to human range... They can
hear you. Bob Fenner> Allyson
Fish Stabilization Bob, why is it that some fish seem to have
fins and/or a body shape that stabilizes them along two axis, while
others appear to have stabilization along only one axis? <Mmm,
mainly different strategies for locomotion in an environment (water)
that is some six hundred times as dense as air...> It's commonly
accepted that the vertical stabilizer on an airplane is unnecessary in
the ideal case, and some plane designs (stealth fighter) eliminate this
element even though it makes the plane less stable. Birds don't
seem to need two-dimensional stabilization, though wing flapping might
serve that purpose. What's going on? Jeff <Motion through a
dense medium to get food, avoid predation... Bob Fenner>