Yesterday I buried my eldest Betta fish.
I admit that usually I would dispose of my fish in the trash, as I feel that although callous it’s the most responsible thing to do and I don’t have access to a private garden to bury them anyway. But Alfred, my eldest Betta, I took home to my parents to bury him in their garden. He went next to Theo, my youngest Betta, who passed away just over a month ago. It feels pretty rubbish to have lost them both, to see the empty tanks, to feel like maybe it was my fault, did I not care for them properly?
Alfred was my first Betta fish purchased in August 2016. I blogged about the experience of buying him here. He was a veil tail Betta with a red body and bluey purple fins and flecks of silver around his gills. At first I had him in an undersized 19L then I moved him into a 24L in which I put a chunk of gorgeous mopani wood and stuffed it full of fake plants, each chosen carefully so it wouldn’t tear his long fins. He was a gorgeous fish and full of personality. When I was in the room he would watch me, swimming up to the side of the tank to stare at me. When I approached the tank he would swim up to the side of the tank and, if I got too close, he would flare at me. He would build huge bubble nests. He loved frozen bloodworm and to eat tiny flies that I would catch and chuck in the tank for him. I had to be careful about placing my hands in his tank for too long as he would stalk and attack me. He bit me a few times! Really, he was grumpy and ill tempered but he was my little dude and my companion for three years. His feistyness and his weirdness and all his antics filled me with joy. But, not so much in recent months. His death was a long time coming and I am grateful that he made his third ‘birthday’. Truthfully, I have been watching my little dude suffer terribly for a couple of months now. I honestly don’t know when or how he got sick, but I definitely noticed it during the end. His stomach swelled up and his beautiful fins turned raggedy and he couldn’t swim properly. My little dude who would beg for food multiple times a day (see: him staring at me and swimming up to the side of the tank when I approached ) would only come out for food every few days and he would struggle to eat it, struggling to keep himself afloat for long enough. It was painful too see. I feared he had dropsy and, knowing that it was likely fatal even if treatment is attempted I did my best to keep him comfortable and happy until the inevitable happened. But it was hard. And then I went to London for a few days for work and when I came back I couldn’t see him. The next day I found him and he wasn’t moving. I told myself he was just resting. But the next day he hadn’t moved still and I knew. I feel so guilty that I don’t know when he died. I was so busy that week, have been all this month and the last, I didn’t pay enough attention and I lost him without knowing when. I feel stupidly sad too. It took all my courage to get him out the tank and I could barely look at his limp, rotting body.
I thought after Theo died I would be better able to handle it, but I wasn’t.
Theo was my youngest Betta fish. I bought him on a whim as blogged about here. This was also in August, but a year after Alfred. I put him in the same 19L as I had Alfred until I could eventually get him set up in his permanent 24L. I also put a nice chunk of wood in for him and lots of silky fake plants. I had rainbow gravel in his tank, the better to show off his colors. He was a stunning fish. He was a metallic blue crown tail Betta, with red and purple shifts on his fins and around his gills. He was a gentler fish than Alfred, sweeter. He rarely flared at me and he would get so excited when I approached the tank. I could trail my finger in the water and he would follow it. I would play with him like that, making him chase after his food in a similar way, and he seemed to enjoy it. He never attacked my hands like Alfred. He was fussier and preferred his Betta food though he did not mind the occasional bit of bloodworm. He tried to build bubble nests but he never became very good at it (they would disintegrate quickly). One day I noticed he had a small wound on his body. I didn’t think much of it, I figured it would heal. I tested the water just to be sure and the chemistry was fine so I figured I shouldn’t worry about infections. Of course, it got infected. It didn’t heal, he became weak and reclusive, barely eating. At one point I thought he had died because I found him lying on the bottom of his tank, motionless, but when I went to collect him he darted away. I never really knew if he was dead or alive, he was so still and hidden away during those final weeks. In desperation, seeing him still alive and clearly not dying and probably suffering, I bought an anti bacterial (methylene blue) and tried to treat him but it didn’t work. And eventually he passed away. I took him back to my parents and buried him there. He didn’t even make his second birthday. It killed me a little. I felt sure, still feel sure, that’s it my fault somehow.
I feel sad now, to see my empty Betta tanks. And my confidence as a fish keeper has taken a hit. Maybe I am not good enough at this, maybe I am too busy, away from home too often. My main shoal of fish are OK, although I am even having some trouble with their tank, just the icing on the cake.
Having pets can be really hard. Their lives are so short and watching them degrade and then die can really be quite painful.
However they bring so much joy too. I guess that makes it all worth it in the end.
I miss my Betta fishes but realistically they weren’t going to live very long and I really tried to care for them and give them a good life. I think they were comfortable and happy fish living their best life. I really tried to give that to them.
Will I get another Betta? Mostly likely yes, I just need some time…and also to figure out how to prepare the tanks to accept a new fish without making them sick too. You can’t use cleaning chemicals on or near fish tanks which makes sterilising and cleaning a bit of a question mark at times…