By: Nina Schwelm
I’m staring at him now. A beautiful shade of red, with fins like feathers. The tank light reflects on his scales, making some appear blue and turquoise.
A few weekends ago, I stared at my failure of an empty ten-gallon freshwater tank that had been sitting on the dresser in my bedroom for well over four years. It received the failure status after an unknowingly diseased fish, Speckles, joined my ten other various fish. Her illness spread rapidly despite treatment measures and all of my fish died. I was tired of looking at it and was procrastinating from doing my homework, so I decided to clean it out on an impulse. Although I loved my ten-gallon, I thought it would be best to downsize. If my next fish was unhealthy, a smaller tank would make it easier for me to deal with the issue. I posted a picture of my ten-gallon on my neighborhood’s website and it was picked up within twenty minutes.
Now it was off to PetSmart.
Buying fish sucks. It really does. They aren’t great quality unless you buy directly from a breeder or a fish-specific store. The only fish store I know was around here closed down years ago and is now a nail salon. All of my fish have come from PetSmart, but it’s such a bad option. Big pet store chains buy their fish wholesale; they aren’t cared for properly and are generally unhealthy, hence the Speckles Catastrophe of ’15. I really shouldn’t even be entertaining the idea of buying fish from big pet store chains, but I am unsure of where else I can purchase them. Ordering a fish online and having it shipped can be traumatic for the fish if not done properly, not to mention very expensive.
So, PetSmart it was.
I bought a three-and-a-half-gallon tank with a nice filtration system and a built-in water pump, which would make periodic water changes and pH adjustments easier. I already had my pH testing kit and some tank decoy, so I just needed to grab some more pebbles, a new heater, and of course, one lucky little fish to come home with me.
An employee suggested that only a small betta fish would be adequate for my tank size, though I think a small goldfish would have been fine, too. I went ahead and took her advice; betta fish are one of my favorite breeds anyway. It was off go to rescue the chosen one from one of the nasty little plastic cups PetSmart keeps them in on the endcaps of the fish supply isles.
I’ve had five bettas before. My first was Bubba, then Bubba #2, then came Bubba #3 and Bubba #4. (Every time a Bubba died my mom replaced him. I only recently learned that Bubba was not a singular fish.) My fifth betta was Yellowstone; he was a birthday party favor. One of the best fish I’ve ever owned, he was the only one from the party to live longer than two weeks. Yellowstone lived for a little over one year.
As weary as I was about getting yet another fish from PetSmart, I was excited about getting my first betta since second grade. There wasn’t many to choose from that looked all that healthy. When choosing a betta, vibrant colors and aggressive behaviors are a sign of heartiness. With those two factors in mind I chose the meanest and most colorful looking of the bunch. That’s how I ended up with Rocky Balbetta, a bright red male crown tail. He was out of that little plastic cup and into his new home a little more than twenty-four hours later after I had gotten my tank set up, my pH all balanced, and him acclimated to the temperature. I think he likes it.
All of the recent events have been causing everyone immense stress and inconveniences. But doing my schoolwork in my bedroom all day isn’t terribly bad. Whenever I find myself getting stressed out or feeling overwhelmed, I just go over to the tank and watch Rocky swim around for a bit. I find it incredibly calming and am glad to have Rocky as my roommate.
Since getting Rocky, my water quality has been nothing but excellent and I am so pleased with the built-in water pump; it is such a time saver. The heater works great and excuse my pun, but everything is going quite swimmingly.