Do you love fish? Of course you do! Who doesn’t enjoy spending time with members of a paraphyletic group of organisms that consists of all gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals that lack limbs with digits? (Thanks Wikipedia). Well then, we have the perfect Procrastination Destination for you. Hidden down a side-street off the Cowley Road, the Goldfish Bowl is the place to go if you’re feeling down and want to look at something pretty, or if you’re such a fish-lover that you want some to furnish your student abode.

Terry shows us around and introduces us to the fish. All the people who work here have an encyclopaedic knowledge of what’s in stock. Turns out the fish all have personalities and characters – who knew? Some of them are incredibly dim but others are pretty alert and pushy, particularly at dinner time. Many of the fish are beautiful, with intricate patterns, phosphorescent stripes, or billowing fins. Even some of the ‘fancy goldfish’ are less than mundane, with bulbous heads or protruding eyes,  and the names are pretty great: Clown Trigger, Malayan Angel, Knight Goby…

There are some fish that are, admittedly, pretty damn ugly. My companion can’t deal with the eels which keep emerging and slithering around. The Spotted Dog Face Puffer is also quite horrifying, although Terry tells us he’s a beauty who will sell for a ridiculous amount of money. As a baby fish, he’s like a tiny little dog head with a tail; as an adult, he gets huge and grows giant human-like teeth. Google it. Apparently the fish I think are hideous are in fact valuable and coveted, like the ominous Banded Catsharks.

I’m told that they get a lot of students coming in and buying fish, so perhaps we are seeing a trend towards celebratory fish buying; why not invest in some nice Variegated Rabbitfish once your exams are done? Just make sure you treat them right. Terry tells me about a time a student came in and sadistically dumped a Koi Carp in the piranha tank (they ate it all up immediately). He grabbed her hand and put it in with the piranhas: she immediately had a rethink.  

I have to admit I was dubious at first when a pet fish shop was suggested as an ideal procrastination destination. But, having wiled away an entire afternoon in Cowley with these aquatic oddities, I have to admit its an enjoyable and extremely unusual distraction from work. Personally, though I found the fish pretty exciting, it was the terrapins that really did it for me. Now I just have to figure out how to harbour a tank of them in my college room without my scout finding out.