Finny Friday: Begone, Pet Store Betta Cups!

I’ve always enjoyed keeping fish. They’re fun, relaxing to watch and beautiful to have around. They remind one of the amazing array of aquatic life across the planet. Though I’ve never ventured into keeping a saltwater aquarium, I’ve had a decent variety of freshwater fish over the years: from the goldfish I rescued from zoology class in high school after its under-the-microscope ordeal to an array of neon tetras and glass catfish. I learned the hard way that it wasn’t wise to put platies in a 5-gallon aquarium after the pet-store purchase suddenly produced a bunch of live young. I had a great golden snail, named Boutros Boutros-Snail, who grew to the size of a plum before he passed away after a couple of years. The next snail I got, though, a blue snail, began reproducing on its own and the flood of baby snails broke my filter pump and killed the other fish.

But my tried and true favorite has been the betta, or Siamese fighting fish. You know, those poor little guys kept in the cups in pet stores.

My first betta lived for about three years after I freed him from one of those dastardly little cups. The bowl I kept Muqtada al-Fish in wasn’t that big, but he was a gentle, leisurely guy who seemed happy blowing bubble nests all day long. I’d put him back in the pet-store cup to clean the bowl, then refill with bottled spring water.

Having a tank with a broken filter pump thanks to the breeder snail, I thought about putting a betta in there. Inspired by a nice clearance section at a pet store, though, I got a fresh 2.5 gallon tank for the new little guy. It had a clear lid to prevent him from jumping out, yet by removing the filter pump at the back there was a nice air vent for him to enjoy. A fold-down LED light at the top switched from daylight, to night-light, to off.

I went straight to the bottom of the pet store’s high stack of dastardly little cups to find a spirited little guy wanting to get the hell out. I brought the half-moon blue-red betta home and, continuing political tradition, named him Recep Tayyip Finnogan.

I have the tank up on a counter near a sink for easy water changes. Recycling out spring water weekly costs about a buck a week, with a full water change less often. I put in silk plants — gentler against his delicate fins — in an arrangement by which he can take cover under some and sit on the leaves of others, which I see him doing now and again. He prefers the betta pellets over freeze-dried bloodworms, though I keep both around. He knows when it’s feeding time for the other animals it’s time to get some pellets, too.

What a friendly little guy. Comes up to the side of the tank to say “hi,” and is super-curious. Definitely a recommended fish.