Saturday, April 25, 2009

Poof and Pearl

For her birthday, my 6-year-old wanted to get a pet fish. Not being much of a pet person, much less a fish one, I started off my setting up a set of seemingly unattainable hurdles ("Collect enough small, yet unbroken, shells from the beach to fill the bottom of a tank!") to buy myself some time. Finally, though, I relented, and for her birthday my parents covered the cost of turning us into a fish household.

I wanted hearty fish, so we got two betta. I was told by the PetSmart salesperson that though you can't put two male betta together, it was fine to put two females in the same tank. I have two female kids, so that made enough sense to me, and I thought it would be nice for them each to feel like they had a special pet, and for the bettas to be friends. So, off we went with Poof and Pearl in their betta store containers, traipsing through Trader Joe's so that I could complete a last-minute errand, and then back home where we began to set up their habitat. Which I really enjoyed --I think I'll be adding "undersea decor" to my hobby list.

Once we added both fish into the tank, it was clear that there was some type of interaction going on. Poof (bigger, and pink) was frequently chasing Pearl (smaller, and bluish green). Poof would also eat any food that was dropped in, before Pearl could get to it. And when Pearl finally did get to a betta bit, it was too big for her mouth. Trouble.

I ended up staying up late reading up on female bettas. The frustrating part of it was that most of the available information was wiki-style, meaning that random people just posted information or answers to question (and I mean random -- there is no filter against people who can't spell or who write "yo yo yo" in their responses). I didn't feel like there was a real, definitive betta authority out there, but here is a collection of what I found out about female bettas:

  • They can live together in a tank.
  • But why would you force them to do that? It's stressful and against their nature.
  • No, they can't live together.
  • Well, they can, but you can't have just two. One will bully the other til the other dies.
  • It's best to have three females so they can form a hierarchy.
  • It's best to have at least four females so they can form a hierarchy.
  • Females can be aggressive and territorial.
  • Some betta bits are too big for some bettas.
  • Chasing is ok as long as the fish aren't nipping each other's fins off.
  • Horizontal stripes mean the fish are distressed.
  • If you see horizontal stripes, the fish are healthy.

See what I mean? Ok, so this is the worst part -- now that I was feeling like God of the Bettas and had personal responsibility for them, I had a sleepless night wondering if Poof was going to kill Pearl, if Poof was just showing dominance over Pearl, if Pearl was ever going to eat, and why I was up at night thinking about Poof and Pearl in the first place (didn't help that that afternoon some guy on NPR was talking about how fish have feelings and feel pain). I have enough things in my life that cause me to lose sleep, and I really don't like to lose sleep.

So the next day I ended up putting up a divider between Poof and Pearl, just to ensure that Poof didn't kill Pearl, that Pearl could have something to eat once in a while (we have to manually crush her pellets to make them small enough) and so that they could get used to the sight of one another. Now I'm obsessively researching whether I can remove the divider once they're used to one another -- seems that it would be nicer for them to have more swimming space. No matter -- last night my overly excited daughter fed Poof five pellets (she's supposed to have one a day) so this all could be moot soon.