A story of Jen

Last week Sam and I were walking to the pet store to get some hay for Ginger, our guinea pig. It’s only about a mile to the pet store and a pretty nice walk.

On the way there as we passed a restaurant with some planters out on the sidewalk we noticed a betta fish container from the pet store.  It was a pretty odd thing to see on a sidewalk, and it was sunny and hot, which made us more concerned about it.  At first we thought maybe it was dead, I mean it is a betta fish after all.  They are sold cheaply (which is sad) and live in tiny containers and are generally not treated fantastically as pets.  But no, this fish was alive swimming around.  We looked around, mainly to see if anyone inside the restaurant was looking out keeping an eye on the fish, but couldn’t see anyone doing so.  We decided to move it about a foot into some shade and out of the direct sun and leave it in the hopes the owner would come back and pick it up.

We continued our walk talking about how horrible it was for someone to have purchased a betta and left it out there.  That we would inform the pet store and see if they kept track of who bought bettas that day – but I was pretty skeptical about this.  Maybe they’d ask us to take it back to them, or take it back themselves.  We purposely slowed up our pace hoping the owner would be there.  We pretty much lollygagged in the pet store, drifting from aisle to aisle until we had hay and some treats for our cat.  We talked to the cashier and she told us only two bettas had been sold that day, and heavily insinuated that they wouldn’t take it back and if it was still there we should take it.

We didn’t want a betta fish, and hoped as 40 minutes had past that someone had picked it up.  Sadly that wasn’t the case.  Being the good natured people we are we picked up the betta and carried him home.  We decided to fish just see if he lived through the night.  We left him on our kitchen counter and that was that.  The next morning I had to go into work and Sam was staying home.  The betta fish lived so I thought I’d get some fish food from work to bring home.  We knew bettas ate different food, but hadn’t quite decided to invest into him at that point, and flakes were good in an emergency for bettas we had read online.  However while I was at work Sam decided to walk to the pet store and ask about bettas again and pick up some actual betta food since it only cost $3.  They told her bettas like to be in small tanks as that mimics their natural environment, they said bettas typically live on lily pads or something like that. That the reason most betta containers have no filter is because bettas breathe air coming to the top of the water to breath (fish that can do this are called anabantoidei).

The tanks they had specifically for bettas cost under $20.  Sam didn’t pick one up, but came home and fed our adopted betta who was still in his cup.  Sam used that afternoon to do some more research on bettas and watch some youtube videos on them.  Most sites that she looked at recommended betta fish be kept in larger tanks, at least 2.5 gallon tanks. Humanely kept betta fish had 5 gallon tanks according to her research.  Betta fish also needed a lot of plants to hide in, live or fake, but NOT plastic fake plants, instead what is called silk fake plants, because plastic fake plants can tear a bettas delicate fins.

Acting on all of that, and accepting we would have to keep this betta fish we walked down to the pet store that evening.  It looked pretty clear outside and Sam assured me it wasn’t going to pour on us, but it did started lightly raining.  We got to the pet store and spent a long time looking at tanks before settling on a $40 dollar 5 gallon tank with a gentle filter we could turn on and off easily.  We got three fake plants for the tank and an ornament he could hide in (122 Conch Street from SpongeBob).  We got some water treating drops and set off back home, in what could best be called a torrential downpour.  It was only a mile, but it meant any hope of ever returning the fish tank was lost when the box disintegrated from all the rain on the walk back. Our free $4 betta fish that we found on the sidewalk had just cost us $80 in fish tank supplies.

We set up our fish tank and let it sit for a few hours so all of the water would come to room temperature (we had bought a fish tank thermometer to assist with this, particularly so we would know the water temperature in winter). Eventually we moved our betta fish into the tank and Sam spent a copious amount of time watching the tank to make sure he was ok.  I told Sam she had to come up with name for our betta fish.  She sat there and thought for a while before coming up with a name for our fish, Jen.

Yes Jen is a girl’s name, but see our fish is red, and the character Jen on the IT Crowd has red hair. What Sam really is planning, and why she was overtly excited about owning a betta fish is because in her research she discovered moss balls.  Moss balls are essentially algae that grow into circular shapes.  They can live for years (some sites had said over 100 years) and they have to be squeezed and rotated regularly.  Sam is super excited at the prospect of being a moss ball owner, and really wants to own two moss balls, and name them Moss and Roy (the other two IT Crowd characters).  Unfortunately this means our male betta fish has a girl’s name, but I have taken to calling him Jen (Yen) like he was Swedish.

Our betta fish story could end here demonstrating our downward trend of rescuing and adopting animals together.  Since we have dated (and now married) we have adopted a guinea pig (Ginger) whose owner had to get rid of her because she couldn’t get along with the other guinea pigs she had, another guinea pig (Paprika) from a shelter who couldn’t get along with other guinea pigs there, a cat (Maisey) who had been returned to the shelter several times – including being dropped off in a box behind the shelter once, and a cat (Mr. Shadows) who the shelter was going to put down if we didn’t adopt him because he came from a hoarding home and nipped at people for attention.  We are apparently suckers for sad animal stories, and now have taken to just adopting animals off the street with Jen, although we may be the only people to somehow adopt a fish off a sidewalk.

But NO, our betta fish story continues.  We hasn’t yet gotten Moss and Roy because we wanted to see how Jen would do, and to make sure the tank was set.  However on Tuesday, while changing out some of the water Sam noticed a group of bubbles at the top of the tank.  Not being sure where they came from she asked me to research betta fish and bubbles. This was the first thing I found:

That foam, if it is what I think it is, is a bubblenest!  If you have a male betta and the foam looks like lots of little bubbles then congrats, you have a very happy betta!  male bettas make bubblenests when they are happy enough with their life to raise young.  After bettas spawn the males puts the eggs in his bubblenest (the bigger the bubblenest, the more babies they can have).  It is nothing to be worried about, in fact be very happy that he has blown a bubblenest! (from Yahoo Answers)

So apparently we have a very happy betta fish named Jen.  I took this picture a day after we first noticed his bubblenest, so it is smaller than it was originally.  We have ran the filter a few hours since then to try and clear the water a bit before shopping for Moss and Roy.  I told Sam she can be proud that she is a good betta fish owner, even if she named our male betta fish Jen.