Ossie Vs Mr Plec

Those of us blessed with children would recognise the situation perfectly. Take two semi-adolescent children - brothers, sisters, one of each and put them on the sofa. One way or another a squabble begins and always ends in tears. Sometimes it's nice to come to work and leave all that behind...

Or it would be if there was not, just 6' from my computer as I write, a juvenile Oscar and an 8' plec in a 4' tank.

As I've said before, virtually all of the fish we keep in the office are waifs and stray that we've given a home to. Much as I like Oscars and plecs I've gone past the days when I want to keep them, taking up valuable space in one of only three office tanks. But the plec came from one source and the Oscar stayed behind when a staff member left and somehow they ended up together.

Our previous adolescent Oscar (now resident somewhere in Norfolk) used to pick up Callichthyd catfish by the pectorals and shake them like a dog with a rag. The current tiger-coloured fool is not as large - the plec is probably twice the size of the Callicthyds and a lot younger to boot. But Ozzie doesn't let that put him off - he's in there giving it his best shot and looking as amazed as a fish can when the plec shrugs, dips what approximates to a fishy shoulder and shrugs him off with a David Ginola body swerve. I fed the pair today - frozen bloodworm in chunks. The Oscar, of course, doesn't wait for defrosting - he grabs the chunks and chomps them. Defrosted individual bloodworms fly from his gills as though re-animated and the plec starts to clear them up.

Ozzie, having chomped everything near the surface, suddenly realises the cat's getting his share too. He quivers and flares, then makes repeated attempts to bite the plec on the gill cover. Each time he positively bounces off the leathery skin with a puzzled expression on his face. So he gives up.

Mr plec accepts all this with resignation and goes on croppping the many worms that cover the substrate. Having finished that agreeable task, he decides to continue the squabble with the Oscar and drives him round the tank, attempting to fasten onto him with his suckermouth or butt him with his boney head.

There's no reason for this but pure stubborn aggression - and 20 minutes later, after much rumbling and sloshing, the argument is over, and both are cruising the tank or suckering to the glass ignoring each other like nothing ever happened. Thank goodness they don't demand pocket money...

© Steve Windsor. May not be reproduced in part, or whole, without permission.