Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Death at Christmas

Around 11p last night, we finally rolled in to Tri-Metro, returning from our Christmas Holiday with the wife's family in North Carolina. My cat, Winston, mewed at the sound of our arrival and came out of the bedroom to complain at us for leaving her alone for a few days. As is usual, she was fat as mud from having gorged herself at her cat-feeder while we were away. All was not well with our other pet, though.

I had just listened to our answering machine messages and was about to head back down to haul up another load from the car when the wife came in and said, "Oh, no! My fish is dead!"

Yep. There in the crystal bowl on the table between the two comfy chairs was our Betta fish, Betta Prime. He floated on his side, his formerly vivid red and black coloration now a dull gray. The water around him was now a bit cloudy on the surface and there was a lone piece of fish food floating nearby. I'm no CSI: FISH expert, or anything, but he looked like he'd been dead for a few days.

For those of you who don't own Betta fish, they tend to die a lot. They're not exactly hearty little souls and have a life expectancy of around 2 years. In fact, Betta Prime was originally named Betta Gamma, as he was the third in a series of Betta fish we've owned since we first married.

Our first fish, Betta Alpha, actually lived for nearly four years, having survived three moves (one of which was interstate), algae poisoning, algaestat poisoning, a tussle with a cat, dozens of tussles with his own reflection and some pretty serious rage issues. We thought he was indestructable, though, until we woke up one day and found him dead.

Betta Beta, who came into our lives a couple of years later, was defective from the start and only lasted about two weeks. His downfall came in the fact that he did not seem to recognize fish food as something he should eat and refused to do so. Eventually, we discovered that he liked freeze dried blood worms and fed him those. However, the blood worms tended to disintegrate in the water, which wound up poisoning it and ultimately killed him despite a last minute water change. That's our theory, at least.

Betta Gamma was high quality from the start, though. He was bright red, feisty and full of life. Not only that, but my wife trained him to jump out of the water on command. Each night when she would go to feed him, she would hold up the red-lidded Betta fish food container and say, "Jump for mama! Juuuuuump for mama!" Betta Gamma would flair out his fins and glare up at the intruding container. After a bit of frustration that its bounty wasn't being distributed to him, Betta Gamma would leap out of the water and look very angry indeed. It was astoundingly satisfying to watch. We decided he was the coolest Betta ever and thus rechristened him Betta Prime. We loved him as much as any two people can love a Betta fish.

We don't know for sure what happened to Betta Prime. Before we left Saturday, the wife fed him well and gave him an extra food pelet or so, as we would be gone through Tuesday. (We took him with us during Thanksgiving, but he didn't like it at all and refused to jump for mama for a week as punishment.) After that, the wife poured some leftover water from two bottled water bottles into his bowl. She worried at first that the temperature variations might upset him, but the tank water was already heated by our fish water heater, so we figured it would settle out soon enough.

Our major theory at this point is that we might have overfed him or that he ate his food so fast he choked his fool self. The fact that there was still a piece of food in the water with him leads us to believe he died shortly after we left.

We'll probably get a Betta Delta, but likely not until we return from our upcoming trip to Austin to see my sister and parents.

Betta Prime: RIP.


Jane said...

I'm sorry for you loss and can empathize, having had 3 or 4 bettas all named Fletch (like the end of an arrow).

Vampire Librarian said...

This is sad. I love bettas too. It sounds like you gave him a good life. Wikipedia says they generally only live 2-5 years.

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