My little blue Crowntail Betta fish, Suma, went to fish heaven yesterday. She will have plenty of company there. Fish, I've discovered, don't live very long. Not exactly earthshattering news, but as I never really had fish of any kind until pretty recently, and since I had heard of Betta fish living three to five years or more with proper care, I did not expect Suma, her tank mates, or my two male Veiltail Bettas, Murray & Chai, to swim over the Rainbow Bridge so quickly, or in such quick succession.
My fish adventure (and I use this term loosely ... unless you define adventure as endless trips to the pet supply store for filters that wouldn't filter, heaters that wouldn't heat, and live plants that made the lifespan of a fruit fly seem epic) began about a year and a half ago, when a co-worker, very randomly, came back from lunch one day and set a small round cup containing a blue male Betta fish (Murray) on my desk along with a container of Betta food. He could never really say what prompted his decision to go out to lunch and come back with a live animal, but as I now, apparently, had a pet fish, I thanked him somewhat bemusedly, and then I made a point of doing some quick research to find out what kind of care my new buddy needed, as my only fish experience prior to this was a goldfish my sister won for me at the county fair one year when I had to stay home in bed with Strep throat, and a pair of gourami that a classmate had given me for a birthday gift in the fifth grade.
My time, I should mention, with those fish was brief ... the goldfish, Bubbles, lasted weeks, the unnamed (at least to my recollection) gourami perhaps months ... and maybe it was the brevity of the experience, or the fact that the fish in question seemed devoid of all personality, but while I was sad when they died, I was not burning to repeat the experience. I only wish I had remembered that when Murray came along.
Murray was a beautiful Betta fish, with the long flowing fins common to the males of his species, and he lived, for the little over a year we shared together, in a four gallon filtered and heated tank on the desk in my office. I enjoyed him, I don't mind saying. And perhaps it was because, given the fact that he was sitting mere inches from me for longer hours each day than I really care to think about, but I really felt I got to 'know' him, and that he had a personality I hadn't realized fish were capable of. Sure, the fact that he immediately swam to the front of the tank as soon as I came in the door of my office each morning and flipped on his tank light was undoubtedly due more to fact that he knew it was time to eat than because he was excited to see me. Yet at other times of the day, I would look over and see him at the front right side of his tank (closest to my office chair) just looking at me. Maybe he thought I was there to entertain him, instead of the other way around? I'm not sure, but whatever the case may have been, I found his meditative swimming and curious exploration of his environment engaging, and he certainly made long, boring conference calls more interesting.
So much so, in fact, that a couple of months after Murray came along, I ended up bringing home another Betta, an unsexed baby no longer than my thumbnail, who looked more like a tadpole than a Betta fish, very much on a whim. No, really, it wasn't a whim. It was pity, is what is was.
Have you ever seen displays of Betta fish in pet stores? Regardless of the quality of care the other fish in the store may be getting, the care of Betta fish in pet stores everywhere is almost uniformly bad, from what I've seen. While the other species of fish are housed in filtered and heated aquariums, Betta fish are housed in small cups, alone. This is because they are not schooling fish, like most of the ones kept as pets. They are, instead, highly aggressive towards each other, as their nickname, Siamese Fighting Fish, suggests. Female Bettas can, if the tank is large enough, and there is enough plant cover, be kept in "sororities," of several females, but males cannot be housed together ever, and since, I guess, it wouldn't be economical or practical to house that many Betta fish in proper-sized tanks in pet stores, they are left to languish in these tiny cups, swimming round and round in water that rapidly develops toxic levels of ammonia from their waste. I have never yet seen a display of Bettas where at least two or three were not dead or dying, and so on the day that I brought home Chai, the baby Betta, I walked by, saw him there in a cup of filthy water, and just couldn't leave him there.
And that's how the other four (female) Bettas, including Suma, came to live with me. They, and, of course, all the various paraphernalia relating to their proper care and feeding. Chai, who turned out to be a male, lived alone in a five gallon tank. The females resided in a shared 20 gallon tank that was divided into fourths by means of acrylic dividers, each section equipped with its own filter and heater. As of yesterday, though, it was just little Suma who was left, all by herself in a 20 gallon tank. Frankly, she seemed pretty happy in there. Healthy, too. Until yesterday evening when I got home from work, went over to her palatial tank to feed her, and she didn't swim eagerly to the top as she usually did. Suma, I was sad to discover, had left the building.
And I, well, I am done with fish. Costing on average about three dollars each, they cost me, all told, more time and money than I really would care to ponder too much about, what with the large tanks, the dividers, the substrate, the plants (I finally went to silk plants, since the live ones kept dying and the plastic ones apparently damage their fragile fishy fins), the heaters, the filters, the various water conditioners, not to mention the test kits to test said water to ensure the parameters were optimum for their health and well-being. All, as it happens, for naught. My little finned friends had the best care I knew how to provide, and still they perished. Murray was the first and was with me the longest: over a year. The others averaged about six months or so. Far too short a time to justify the time and expense I spent caring for them. Perhaps this seems like a mercenary viewpoint, but frankly, I just don't think fish are my "thing." Plus, while I couldn't say I loved any of them, I was fond of them, and their domino-like deaths, one after the other after the other these last few months, has been sad and somewhat demoralizing.
Yep, I'm done with fish. But just so I'm not tempted, I'm getting rid of the last remaining tank. So, yeah, like I said: I've got a 20 gallon fish tank for sale ... cheap. And by cheap, I mean free. Along with enough water conditioner, fish food, and fish vitamins to start a small pet store.
What? No takers?