People love fantastic stories, and this misleading headline would seem to supply them with something to cluck about:

New Zealand goldfish survive 134 days without food

Sounds incredible, right? The problem with the story is that if you bother to read it, the fish had food. They were in a 26 gallon tank filled with algae and detritus (which is food, if you are a goldfish), and I think it is very likely that mosquitoes also helped out by laying eggs in the water and supplying free food in the form of wrigglers.

Luckily for the fish, they lived in a large 26-gallon (100-liter) tank. They had weed to munch through. And, according to Clarkson, the fish may have gleaned some nutrition from eating algae growing on the tank’s rocks and walls. He said naturally growing bacteria may have helped keep the water clean enough to sustain life.

Oh, and BTW, like the ill-fated Donner Party, not all of them survived. Which raises a “delicate question.”


Then there’s the delicate question of their missing companions. There were six goldfish in the tank when the earthquake struck. By the time the survivors were found, no trace remained of three of the fish. A fourth was found floating in the tank. Goldfish are, after all, omnivores.

Yes, fish eat fish! Isn’t it amazing?

Interestingly, this little-understood natural phenomenon swayed young Ben Franklin from his earlier devout vegetarianism when he saw small fish pour out of bigger fish that were being cleaned he was while at sea.

…when the Fish were opened, I saw smaller Fish taken out of their Stomachs: Then thought I, if you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you. So I din’d upon Cod very heartily and continu’d to eat with other People, returning only now and than occasionally to a vegetable Diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for every thing one has a mind to do.”

Ah the convenience of Reason!

So the headline should read “New Zealand goldfish survive 134 days without humans providing food.”

Don’t thank me for pointing this out. I am merely doing by duty to keep readers ahead of important breaking international news.