Public Service Announcement: BETTAS

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. Much has happened, including my father passing away December 19, 2013 after a nearly 4 year battle with pancreatic cancer. One day I’ll write about him, but today is not that day.

1.5 weeks ago, I thought it’d be a grand idea to buy my daughter a little betta fish. Now, Isla is 3 years old so I understood that there would be MUCH parental supervision involved. In our area of the world there aren’t any betta breeders (that I’m aware of) so we made the short trip to PetSmart. Isla picked out a beautiful blue and red betta. I then purchased the typical one gallon “betta kit” marketed to parents with young children all over the country. Yay us, right? Not so much.

We get Goofy home. I follow all the directions for setting up his tank: start with room temperature water, use water conditioner to make the tap water safe for the betta, rinse everything off (including the inside of the tank and the rocks) with water (NO SOAP!) before putting everything together. We gently slid Goofy into his new home. He seemed happy.

In order to be a good fish grandma, I decided to look up more information on bettas. Wouldn’t it have made sense to do that before, you ask? Nobody likes a know-it-all! The fish was a bit of an impulse purchase; which I think, unfortunately, happens to a lot of parents. So, two days into Goofy’s tenure I started researching bettas. What follows is a summary of my almost immediate descent into becoming a crazy fish lady. I didn’t know such people existed, nor that I had the propensity to become one. Nevertheless….

I quickly learned that bettas should be in a minimum of 5 gallons of water. HEATED water. With a filter. AND, you should only use real or silk plants, not the crappy plastic ones they sell in the store. Crap! Goofy, I’m so sorry! I ran to Wal-Mart (which was the only place open so late at night) and purchased a heater, filter, 5 gallon water tank, and some silk flowers. The only silk flowers available at Wal-Mart were attached to a large rock formation that wouldn’t fit in the 5 gallon tank. I ripped the flowers off at home and used fishing line to tightly tie the silk flowers to a rock. The tank was gorgeous except for a crack in the side. I did what any other highly educated mother would do at 11 PM at night. I duct-taped it! Thank goodness I put the tank on a towel. Guess what? Duct-tape apparently doesn’t work when it’s wet. I learned that the next morning when the towel was soaked, the tank water was an inch lower, and my husband was hyperventilating from laughing so hard at me.

Did I do the fiscally responsible thing and return the 5 gallon tank? Nope. I just went back to PetSmart at bought a 10 gallon tank, another bag of rocks, and a thermometer. PetSmart had a horrible selection of betta friendly fake plants (I didn’t feel up to the task of using real flowers yet). The Petco down the street had a lot of silk flowers to choose from.

Goofy was living in a 10 gallon betta paradise. He was so happy! Whoever said bettas aren’t the most active of fish, probably had their fish in a 1 gallon tank. Goofy was swimming back and forth like a ballerina. I was feeling pretty impressive with my new found betta knowledge. So much so…that I bought a betta for my office: Atticus Fish. Atticus is a deep blue beauty who was also treated to a 10 gallon betta heaven.

The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I was at the big chain pet stores for marketing beta bowls to unsuspecting parents. Granted, they probably wouldn’t sell as many bettas if people knew they had to fork out the funds for a larger tank, heater, filter, etc. but they’re a pet store. Don’t they care about the quality of life for the fish they sell? Or because they’re fish they think it doesn’t matter? I guarantee if I’d put our old 75 pound American Bulldog in a crate made for a Shi Tzu, animal control would have been on my butt for animal cruelty (and rightly so) in a heartbeat! In this case, it’s publically accepted that most bettas are kept in tiny, dirty, unfiltered, and unheated water.

That’s why my (slightly) addictive personality revved its’ engine. I felt like I needed to SAVE THE BETTAS! I purchased two five gallon tanks and added Boo Radley to my office and Rocco to my bedroom. Boo Radley’s tank is a really cool chi-something or other with real plants!

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I continued to add to my betta knowledge and purchased the siphoning equipment to clean the rocks in the four tanks on a weekly basis and some water testing strips. A week went by. The fish seemed happy; although both Rocco and Boo Radley were less active than the other two. I’d read that I should keep the tanks clean to avoid the bettas contracting “fin rot.” I knew I didn’t have to worry about that because I had the coolest, cleanest tanks, right? WRONG! I decided to look up what fin rot looked like so that I would recognize it should one of the fish get it. Guess what? ALL four of the fish had some level of fin rot ranging from mild to moderate. I couldn’t believe it. It turns out they didn’t get it from anything I’d done – they’d all had it when I purchased them! Unbeknownst to me, virtually all bettas sold in the big chain pet shops have some form of fin rot from being kept in those tiny, dirty cups. Egads! I was ticked off all over again. Below is a picture of Boo Radley. You can tell where the fin rot is if you look at the dark (dying) edges of his fins and the places where it seems like the edges are almost torn.

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Now all four of the fish are being kept in separate quarantine tanks while I’m treating their fin rot with aquarium salt. I’m through day 3 of a 10 day treatment program. The poor guys! I’m still cycling and cleaning their tanks while they wait it out in the smaller q-tanks. My co-workers have asked if I need a fishervention 🙂 There’s many places online where you can find out how to treat fin rot; this is the information I used: http://bettasplendid.weebly.com/fin-rot-101.html

I think the next time we buy a betta, I’m going to assess the fin rot that will (most likely) be present and immediately put them in the aquarium salt quarantine; this will allow its’ new home to be cycling while the fish is being treated.

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