The Begging Fish
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“The Begging Fish,” Friend, Mar. 1982, 38

The Begging Fish

Tim moved closer to the glass aquarium to watch the red velvet swordtails chase each other. He had received the aquarium last week for his birthday. Each night Tim was responsible for feeding the fish and checking the filter that cleaned the tank to make sure it was working. This afternoon as he watched, all the fish swam over to the corner where he usually fed them and poked their mouths out of the water.

“You must be extra hungry today,” said Tim. “I’ll give you a little food to hold you until tonight.” The fish quickly took in the food.

That night Tim fed them again. And they ate most of that too. Whenever Tim saw them at the feeding corner, he gave them more food.

By the end of the week Tim noticed the tank had a bad odor. The water looked cloudy, and the swordtails didn’t swim around as much or as fast as they did before.

“Dad,” he called. “Come look at my fish.”

Dad put down his newspaper and looked at the aquarium with Tim. “Looks like the filter isn’t working, Tim,” said Dad. “The water isn’t getting clean.”

“No, Dad. The filter works. Look at the bubbles. I check it every night.”

“It’s bubbling all right,” replied Dad. “But something’s wrong.”

“What’s that black stuff at the bottom?” asked Tim.

His father examined the patches of black on the orange rock. Tim saw the fish in the feeding corner and got out the food.

“It’s not feeding time yet, Tim,” Dad said.

“I know. But I feed them whenever they come to their feeding corner. And they sure get hungry a lot.”

“Then I know what that black stuff is, Tim, and also what that strange odor is we’ve been smelling. You’ve been feeding the fish too often. When you give them food several times a day, they don’t clean it all up. That excess food is rotting and making your fish sick.”

Tim was sad. He had thought he was being extra nice to the fish, but he was really hurting them.

Dad continued, “Remember when you asked the other day why Heavenly Father doesn’t give us everything we pray for?”

Tim nodded his head.

“Here’s a good example,” his dad continued. “We’re a little like these fish, always asking for more. Our Heavenly Father knows what and how much of everything is good for us. At times He tells us no, or not yet, just like you’ll have to do to these fish when they keep coming up to the corner for more food than they need.”

“The man at the pet store told me how to clean out the tank,” said Tim.

“I’ll help you,” Dad said. “While you take out the rocks, I’ll get the bucket and siphon hose.”

Tim pushed up his sleeves and put his hand into the tank to take out the largest rock. “All right, you guys,” he said to the fish. “I’m sorry I made you sick. You’re not going to like the cure, but for your own good, I’m only going to feed you once a day from now on.”

Illustrated by Karen Sharp