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Stevie TV: On the Despair of Watching YouTube Videos Set in Tropical Fish Tanks

 Steve Braunias plumbs the depths of Youtube for guidance on fish hygiene. 

This is what I’ve been watching.

Fish 1

I don’t know her name but she’s world famous. Her 5min:54sec instructional video on how to siphon water from an fish aquarium has 617,179 views – not all of them mine.

I watch it during the day. I watch it during the evening. When I can’t sleep, I get out of bed and watch it. When I sleep, I watch it in my dreams – it doesn’t look much different, except that the instructor is a fish.

I can’t make sense of it. I want to make sense of it, badly; I remember feeling the same anxieties about the first series of Twin Peaks, and all of the last season of MasterChef – how in the name of God did Tim win? That kitchen dimwit, that grinning slouch! Like all nice guys, he deserved to finish last.

But he won, and good luck to him. His life has taken on new meaning, is rich with potential. I’m stuck at home watching this.

Fish 2

We took tropical fish into our home on September 16: they were a birthday present for Emily. It was our daughter’s idea. We got guppies and neons, and a tank, and various bits and essential pieces, including a siphon thing to suck out dirty water. It was a rubber hose attached to a plastic tube. In part, it relied to a basic science of gravity and water pressure. But it relied on something else, something more mysterious and elusive: common sense.

I tried. I failed. I tried. I failed. Ten times, 20, 100, hundreds. I failed before I tried: the loop of failure had gone back on itself, and I was stuck in a Sisyphean crisis. I kept going back downstairs to consult this.

Fish 3

I also went to a pet shop, and asked the nice man behind the counter to demonstrate in real life. He put the plastic tube in the fish tank, and it sucked out the water into a bucket. “Okay, you have a go,” he said. I put the plastic tube in the fish tank, and he shouted, “Not like that!”

I shouted, “You don’t have to shout!”

He shouted, “You could have hurt the fish!”

I flung down the siphon thing, and said in a low, shaking voice, “Learn some manners!”

It was back home to this.

Fish 4

She makes it look so easy – except for the first time she demonstrates it on the video, and she says, “Oh. Actually, that didn’t work.” I hated her for her failure. Why include it in the video? She tries it a second time, and it works. I hated her for her success, because the method didn’t look any different to the first time. I’ve studied her video, taken notes, paused it at strategic moments – and then I’ve gone upstairs to the fish tank, and nothing works.

Actually, it’s worked twice. It was exhilarating to watch the plastic tube vacuum the water out of the fish tank and through the rubber hose and into a bucket. I felt as released as the water. I experienced bliss, true happiness. But it was illusory. I didn’t know what I was doing right, and I couldn’t repeat it. The loop of failure once again closed in.

I tried and failed during the All Blacks vs France game. The flower of New Zealand athleticism bloomed bright on a field in England; I withered over a fish tank in Te Atatu. I tried and failed during The Block. I was so useless that even Sarah and Minanne would have beaten me.

I watched other demonstration videos. There was this guy, who filmed himself horizontally.

Fish 5

I tried watching it horizontally, but it didn’t make any difference. There was this hottie.

Fish 6

Hubba hubba! Her video has 860,774 views – most of them mine – but I didn’t learn a goddamned thing. It was back to the lady with the studs in her face, her belligerent nature, her no-nonsense demonstration technique, her staring, fishy eyes.

Fish 6


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