So, back in April sometime, Sean and I bought this little red betta fish from the Walmart across town. We got a little 1.5L bowl, food, some glass stones, and some special fish water. He took to it pretty quickly. When male bettas are happy, they build what's called bubble nests; this mass of little bubbles on the surface used to attract females in the while. He built us a few at first, but then they weren't so frequent. We named him Rocky because we had just finished acting in a Rocky Horror shadowcast show at our friend's theatre.
We kept his tank fairly clean, but not as clean as we should have. Still, he liked it when you put your face near the bowl. I put the big red fluffy end of a duster to the glass once and he puffed up. I wanted to check to see if his fins were all in good condition and that was the quickest way to see every inch.
Fast forward about seven months. It's mid-November, we just moved back into Sean's parents' house, and it's starting to get a little chilly at night. I was up reading or something and noticed him kinda side-floating. He'd straighten himself out but then he would get stuck on his side again. I panicked, knowing we hadn't cleaned his tiny, unfiltered bowl in about a month. I quickly carry his bowl to the kitchen, put him in another container, and cleaned his bowl. His water was so cold.
When I was finished cleaning, I dropped him back in the fresh water after I put conditioning drops in it. (We stopped using the fish water because it's like two bucks a bottle when I can buy a bottle of drops for about four, and that'll last me through about six betta lifetimes.) The new water was a few degrees warmer than the old water, so I was worried about shock, but I was more worried about getting him into clean water.
I went to bed, it was 230 am. I looked online on my phone about what he might have, and determined he probably had a case of Swim Bladder Infection. Easiest way to fix that? Clean the bowl and fast the fish until he poops. The next morning, not even four hours later, I woke up to Rocky swimming happily and normally (thank goodness!) in water that, because it was a tiny glass bowl near the leaky window in November, had cooled down to below what I wanted. Still, he was lively again, if a bit distended in the midsection. That's a common symptom of SBI. I cut his feeding to once every two days instead of everyday in an attempt to make him digest more between feedings. It helped a little. I cleaned his bowl once every seven to ten days.
Then, for my birthday, Mom bought me a bigger, plastic fish tank with a filter and lid. I know plastic cools more slowly than glass, and we moved his little table across the room to distance it from the window. I bought new glass beads, a rock that I thought would fit, and some Melafix. That's a tea extract medication that helps heal fins and skin sores on fish. We filled the tank, realized the rock was a little too big and the plants attached to it were a little too cumbersome, but it'd still be better than the bowl, so we dropped Rocky in the new bowl.
For a day or so, because he was still a little weak from his bout in the little glass bowl, he freaked out in the new cluttered environment that pulled at his fins. Then he started perking up. He reacted with curiosity and playfulness and swam about the tank with ease. It's been four days since we put him in his new tank.
Today I adjusted the leaves on the fake plants so he'd have more room and so they wouldn't block his food hole. He kinda freaked out when I kept removing and replacing the big rock, but he recovered once I was satisfied and gave him a little food to destress.
He's so cute! Betta fish are very hardy, so I'm sure he'll be fine once his fins are done healing. They're still a little rough around the edges, but he's got better control over his bouyancy and swimming. He seems much happier, and once we have some extra money and a bigger table, we'll get him a bigger tank with better gravel and filtration, and a floating mirror. The filter on this tank is a fraction too strong, so if he's trying to make bubble nests, the water on the surface is too agitated to maintain bubbles.
I'll post a picture of him later. I like betta fish because they have bigger personalities than a lot of other fish. They're not the smartest, but they're better than goldfish for sure. How do I know? Rocky learned after only one feeding where the food comes out in the maze of leaves before I fixed the crowding. He still knows right where it is. He reacts with apparent joy when I walk by his tank and greet him. He follows me and he plays among the leaves. The filter grabbed his tail once, I guess, because it's a bit more ragged than his other fins, but that'll heal up. Right now he's staring at me and enjoying his new little home.
Because bettas are so resilient, they cam survive in pretty crummy conditions, but they can easily get sick if left too long. It's best to treat them as if they aren't so hard to kill, and be happy that your fish will likely revive if he jumps out of his bowl and you discover him hours later stiff as a board on the floor. Betta fish are labyrinth fish, which means they breath with gills or straight through their mouths. As long as they get the oxygen they need and are healthy, bettas can live and love you for anywhere between two and ten years, depending on bowl size, cleanliness, and other conditions.