Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spot the differences

Were you getting tired of me talking about fish? :-)

I can't believe I've never written about bettas before! Well there you have it, most of my knowledge... I'm sure there's more but my brain is tired and the weekend is almost over which means my free time to write paragraphs and paragraphs on betta fish will be more limited. :-)

On to other favorite topics... kitties! I am still in the process of getting 3 months worth of pictures off my camera and uploading them. (Why does it always seem to take so long to get around to transferring pictures from the camera to computer??) I uploaded two tonight that I thought you'd enjoy. They are of Ebony, surprisingly, who hates to me photographed.

Now, at first glance, you might think this is the same picture. However, if you look very closely you'll see the main difference between the two: (click on the pictures for bigger versions)

Ebony Ebony

Do you see it?

Ebony was sitting on my dresser staring at me, which I thought was really cute. (I also thought it particularly cute because I didn't have my glasses on at the time and so all I could see was her silhouette. Thank goodness my camera has an automatic focus; it's very weird to take pictures without being able to see clearly yourself! I recommend always having your corrective eyewear on hand, especially if you are partaking in European or Argentina travel. Yeah, it would be bad if you couldn't see on those instances.)

I took several pictures, as I always do. After snapping the first one, Ebony turned her head, so I lowered the camera to see if she would resume her position of staring right at me. She then, with her paw, knocked down the deodorant bottle that was right in front of her, and then returned to the alert stare-her-down pose that she had been doing before. Thank you, Ebony - I do like it better with the deodorant on its side, a little more inconspicuous. She's such a lady.

Ah, cats. You gotta love them. :-)

Getting a fish, part 2

So, congratulations! You've bought all your supplies and you're ready to set up your tank. Here is what you need to do next.

Rinse everything
It's a good idea to rinse everything, especially if it's been sitting for a while or was just bought from a store. This includes the rocks, the plants, the tank itself, and the pump (you only need to rinse the part that goes in the water). Do not use bleach, as it is bad for fish. If you need to sterilize it, put it in the hot sun for a natural bleach.

Be careful of the water
You don't need special water, but you do need to make sure the water you're using is clean. Sometimes, I trusted the tap water, but other places I didn't. Sometimes I found it easier just to buy the gallon containers of "spring water" from the store - especially if the sink I was using was too short to stick my tank under. It's okay to use tap water but you have to treat it before you put the fish in (the same goes for spring water). I used a brand called AquaSafe, which is in a bright yellow bottle. You can find it and other comparable products at a pet store. You don't need a lot - follow the directions on the bottle, and fishy should be happy.

Preventing ich
Ich (also spelled ick) is a parasite that is common in aquarium fish. It looks like white, cloudy splotches on your fish, and will kill your betta if not treated. (microdermabrasion won't help this fishy!) The best way to prevent it is to put non-iodized salt (found at grocery stores) in your aquarium whenever you do a water change. I haven't been able to find a specific amount, but I think about a teaspoon for a two gallon tank is good. The salt will kill the ich without hurting the betta. If your fish does get ich, you can buy medicine at pet stores. I know Zeke (the first one) got tail rot one time and I bought these drops at Petsmart that made him all better and he lived for 2 more years. (I had him for a really long time!) The drops weren't too expensive either.

Put it all together
Once you've set up your aquarium, added your rocks, plants, water, water conditioner, and salt, you're almost done! Turn on the filter (or air stone, which is what I had) and let it run for a bit - particularly if it's the first time you've used it. It might be helpful to buy an aquarium thermometer to help you monitor the temperature - you'll want to make sure it stays between 75F to 82F (bettas are tropical fish). Don't put a heater in a tank less than 5 gallons, so be sure to keep your tank in a place that is warm enough for the water to maintain that temperature. (I never had any problems with this).

I let my aquarium run for about 24 hours when I first got Zeke. I wanted to make sure the salt and water conditioner got a chance to filter all through the water, and that the water was properly aerated and at the right temperature. The first time I added Zeke to my tank, I did it cautiously as the internet sites told me - adding a little bit of the water from the tank to his temporary bowl, a bit at a time, until all the old water was gone. Every time after that I just plopped him in. :-)

For subsequent water changes, I always let the aquarium run for a few hours before putting Zeke back in.

This is all I'm going to write for now on the subject, but I'm sure I'll revisit betta fish in the future. :-) Enjoy your new fishy!

Solitary bettas

I got this comment from Jes, in response to my post, Getting a fish, part 1:

Actually, male betas are fine in a tank with other fish that don't have big flowing fins like they do. I had friends that had a male beta in their 10 gallon with all their other fish. Until then I had no clue you could put them with other fish. I have seen a few in big social tanks at pet stores. Of course, I'd still be very careful putting the male beta in the tank if it didn't come from a tank with other fish.

I looked into this, and she's right. But, you have to be careful with which fish you pair a male betta with, and to be on the safe side I'd run it by a fish expert at a pet store before doing so. Also, it will depend on how aggressive your particular betta is. For a beginner fish-owner, I'd probably just avoid the situation altogether. :-)

Here are the kinds of fish you'll want to avoid:
  • Fish smaller than one inch (may be eaten)
  • Fish with long, flowing fins (fancy guppies, white cloud mountain minnows, and some long-finned tetra species)
  • Slow-swimming fish (unable to escape bullying)
  • Fish belonging to the same biological family, such as Paradise Fish and gouramis (may attack or be attacked due to their relatively similar appearance and cross species aggression)
  • Mollies (tend to bite the fin or eat bettas)
  • Goldfish (great appetites, preference for cold water, and high excretion-rate)
  • Barbs (nip at slower-moving fish such as bettas)
  • Aggressive cichlids (exception: peaceful cichlids like German rams)

Of course, you should never keep two male bettas together. They are fighters in their natural habitat, and in an enclosed tank there is nowhere for the "loser" to retreat. Some people like to put two males together in a tank with a divider separating the two, so they can't actually hurt each other. I remember doing some research on this when I got Zeke initially, and I'd caution against it. It's stressful for both bettas to see their "opponent" and not be able to defend their territory. A better solution is to hold a mirror up to the tank for a short period of time. That will have the same affect - the betta will puff out his fins and try to look ferocious, but when you take the mirror down the threat goes away and your betta will be able to relax again. Just like Cyber Monday. :-)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Getting a fish, part 1

I got my first fish about 5 or 6 years ago. I chose a Betta fish because they seemed less complicated and they were very beautiful.

I bought a fish because at the time I was living in the dorm in college, and they were the only pets allowed. After the long winter, I was struggling with a bit of depression, and I really, really missed having an animal around to care for. Getting a fish was the best thing for me - having the life, beautifully colored, really raised my spirits.

Betta fish are really easy fish for the beginner, I thought. They are also known as Siamese Fighting Fish. Most of the ones you can buy in a store are males, because they are the pretty ones with beautiful, flowing fins. Females have short fins and aren't usually as vividly colored. They have to be kept by themselves, as they will attack and eat other fish. (Even breeders, I read, only put the two fish together long enough for breeding and egg-laying, before separating them again!) They do fine by themselves, and you can entertain them by holding up a mirror and watching them puff out their gills and fins ferociously because they think they see another fish. :-)

The tank
When you're getting a fish for the first time, you'll need to first consider how you're going to house them. Generally, the rule of thumb is a gallon for each inch long the fish is. (It really depends on the fish, though - some fish require more space than others.) Bettas are nice because they can survive in a smaller space than most fish. A lot of people just put their betta in a bowl or vase.

It's been a while since I researched this so I'm going from memory here, but I would actually caution against just using a bowl for your betta (surprised?). Getting a tank with a filter will keep the water fresher/cleaner, and increase the time between water changes, which reduces the stress on the fish. Also, I found that Zeke was very active and responded to me, compared to other fish kept in a bowl who just sat there unmoving.

I bought an aquarium kit, like the one here. I really liked this particular kit. I had the two-gallon one, but I think a one-gallon tank would do just fine as well. It comes with an air stone filter, which just keeps air bubbles circulating through the tank (rather than collecting and cleaning the water). It also has a hood with a light, and the best part - it is completely cat-proof (unless your cat is particularly adept). Bettas also jump, so some sort of lid is essential - I used to put Zeke in a bowl when I was changing his water, and occasionally he would jump out of it.

The accessories
You'll need aquarium stones for the bottom of your tank - they're easy to find in pet stores, or in the pet section of stores like Walmart. You'll want enough stones to fill a few inches on the bottom of your tank. You will also need plants (as many as you have room for). Bettas' natural habitat are the rice patties of Thailand, and so they are used to having a lot of places to hide. Therefore, you'll want to make sure their tank has plenty of plants, without being two crowded (of course). I had three plastic plants that seemed to serve my Zekes very well. Other than that, you should be set - bettas don't need much in the way of toys. :-)

The food
The food is pretty simple - you can buy Betta Bits from the store. You can also get treats for your betta, which they love - freeze-dried bloodworms. Zeke used to get so excited when I gave him some bloodworms! There are probably other variations of the food, but to be honest I never researched it. :-)

Next I'll talk about setting up the tank for your new betta.


Joanna sent me a link to this awesome site, and I'm excited she did!

It's called, and the premise is simple. Every day, you go to the site and answer a trivia question about cats. When you do, 10 pieces of kibble are donated to needy cats in shelters.

There is also a site for dogs, called It operates under the same premise.

From the FAQ's:
Mimi Launched freekibble on April 01, 2008. On May 14, she delivered her first round... of kibble to the Humane Society of Central Oregon: 240 lbs. and enough to feed 456 dogs for one day! Since then and as of March 13, 2009, freekibble and freekibblekat, have raised over 120,000 lbs. (60 tons!!!) of kibble.

Freekibble now has 12 shelters across the country on a monthly program.

I like this idea of helping shelters, and also of learning a little bit of trivia in the meantime! Be sure to spread the word, and go every day to donate kibble! I put a button in my sidebar to help direct traffic to, so you have no excuses. :-)

Brought to you by motorcycle accident attorneys

Monday, March 9, 2009

My firefox kitties

I recently came across some adorable pictures of red pandas. I really like red pandas. :-) They're so cute! Watching the one at the zoo reminds me so much of my kitties. I even have pictorial proof of the similarities:

And pictures of Lewis and Ebony:



Speaking of Firefox kitties...
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Rest in peace, Zeke

Well, as I suspected, Zeke didn't make it through the night.

I was keeping a half eye on him, though I don't know why because every time I saw him it made my heart break. But, one time I checked on him last night, there was no doubt - he was upside down in one of his plants, and his color was almost completely gone.

Rest in peace, Zeke. You had a good long life and I hope that it was a happy one for you. I sincerely hope you weren't in any pain, and that the end came quickly for you.



I'm going to miss Zeke, and having a beautiful fish, and the tank in our apartment. It provided emergency lights sometimes!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I haven't talked much about Zeke, my betta fish, on this blog. I really should talk about him more. :-) Perhaps some posts for the future.

I got Zeke a few years ago, and kept him at work for a long time, until I changed jobs to where I'm working now. (I could bring him in, but I find changing fish tank water at work to be a really annoying task!)

Zeke, however, isn't doing very well. :-( He has been moving a lot slower the past few days. I went out of town this weekend, and when I came back I noticed he'd lost a lot of his color. I was hoping he'd pass while I was gone because my husband offered to take care of it happened while I was gone. I'm afraid it will probably be tonight or tomorrow. He's mostly white now, and moving very slowly, not eating. I know he's an old fish, so there isn't anything I can do now.

My heart is sad mostly to watch this process, and to lose him. I wasn't as attached to this Zeke as I was to my last fish, also named Zeke. But, I still love animals and it makes me sad when their membership card on this earth runs out and they leave us. :-(