Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Maintenance Care And Food Betta Fish

Betta Fish life started out in a small plastic cup. His next home was a small glass jar and later he enjoyed the luxury of a five gallon tank with water filter and aerator. But let’s face it, his tank was much like every other fish’s tank: Standard issue with standard options: plastic water toys, fake rocks, the occasional half dead plant. I wanted  Betta Fish to move up in the world. He was better than the other fish and therefore needed better accommodations. If the fish tank was an apartment building then Fishy Wishy should live in the penthouse suite. I had grand plans but my wife had just enrolled in university to get her teaching degree and so she put a lid on any new purchases which unfortunately
included fishy penthouses. I needed to be creative with a low budget.

Penthouse suites are up, on the top floor, overlooking the residents below. I needed to somehow elevate Betta Fish above the others. I thought of tubes, elevators, ramps, and canals but these were all complex and potentially expensive schemes. In the end the solution was simple. I took a large clear glass cranberry juice bottle, filled it with water, inverted it in the tank and raised it up, stopping just before leaving the tank’s surface. I expect most people will remember the science behind this,
something about atmospheric pressure on the outside matching the inside pressure but for me all that mattered was that I had a water filled penthouse suite ready for my Betta Fish. I used some old particleboard to keep the bottle permanently suspended above the tank.

Betta Fish On Glass

While I was certain this was the right home for Betta Fish, Betta Fish was not so sure. You see, for a Betta fish, the water’s surface is a sacred barrier to be treated with ultimate respect. Below it is “fish-world” while above it is a world for creatures who serve the fish (and the occasional threadsuspended dried bloodworm which, for some reason unknown to the fish world inhabitants, has not been seen in ages). As a betta fish…well, as a Fighting Fish…you can venture into the world above but only very briefly. Extended visits result in certain death. Over and over Betta Fish would swim up to where the water surface should have been…and stop. The sacred barrier should be there, but it was not. It was now a portal into the other universe. “Should I cross over? Can I ever return? Will I die?” Days went by.

Then after days of me sitting, staring, watching, he finally crossed over, up into the portal, boldly going where no fish has gone before, looking down upon Water World below him. A small step for a fish, a big step for fishkind. My wife and I, well…I celebrated for the rest of the day. Betta Fish took up residence in the penthouse suite rather quickly. Because of the curvature of the jar he appeared larger than life relative to the fish below. This made Betta Fish and I both feel good
with me noting to my wife “Honey! Look how big he looks!”

Having established the penthouse as his territorial home, other fish that would come close to the barrier portal would be quickly chased off. Brine shrimp, not being smart enough to understand portals and parallel universes, would occasionally venture across the barrier and into the suite. From Fishy Wishy’s perspective, this was some curious combination of homeinvasion and ordering-in. The penthouse was clearly exclusive Betta Fish territory.

Betta Fish

Betta Fish was well set up. He was a strong fish having honed his hunting skills. He had plenty of food. He had the best pad in all of Water World. What he needed now was someone to share his fortune with. He needed a female partner. Now let’s be clear about something. I liked Fishy Wishy but one fish was enough. I was not ready to start a family of fish. Under the title of “How to Entertain Your Betta Fish” a supply of female Bettas would likely be at the top of Fishy Wishy’s list but you have to draw the line somewhere. He would have to settle for a reasonable substitute.

With lonely Fishy Wishy gawking on through his penthouse suite I picked up a Betta Fish book I had bought some time ago. As I flipped through the book I found a small picture of a female Betta on. For those who don’t know already, male Bettas are the amazingly beautiful of the two sexes. The females are not nearly as attractive as the males. (My wife says it’s just the opposite with humans, or at
least it is in our household.) But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and by simply lifting up to the Penthouse, Fishy Wishy immediately changed his expression. I allowed to “swim” past the tank a few times. It was clear that this was what Fishy Wishy was looking for. He was now swimming in circles.

Suspecting that a female fish being followed by several hundred words of text may not be conducive to the full effect, I got out a pair of scissors and extracted the essential ingredient from. With a little wire and tape, I had a reasonable facsimile of a female Betta. I spent most of the afternoon doing my
best to make the paper cutout as attractive as possible, perfecting the “seductive swim by” with each pass. Part way through the process my wife came home. She stopped dead in her tracks and stared at me. “That’s sick.” Trying to be smart I replied, “But honey, it’s just a fish”. That didn’t help much. From her perspective I had sunken to a new low but I didn’t care. I knew Betta Fish had risen to a new high. His happiness was my happiness. Figuring Fishy Wishy had enough for one day I went to bed and got plenty of sleep that night.

The next morning we awoke to a surprise. Fishy Wishy had built a bubble nest in his Penthouse suite! Quickly referring to what was left, I read that when Betta fish are ready to mate, they create little bubble nests that float on the surface. I was thrilled. Fishy Wishy wanted a family of his own. You can be certain you have a happy, comfortable Betta when he makes his first nest. I felt I had accomplished all of my goals. Even my wife was excited about Fishy Wishy’s paternal urges. “Honey, can we get a real female Betta for Fishy Wishy?”, she asked. But you have to draw the line somewhere. After all, it’s just a Betta fish.


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