Aquarium Advice Apprentice
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: San Diego, CA
Betta Death: Circumstances Sad, Ironic and Blackly Humorous
First off, I know how to keep bettas. I didn't when I first started, but over the years I spent more and more time researching food, tank requirements, behavior and general health to keep these beautiful fish in top condition. I was one of those people who when I first learned about water changes was like, "You're saying I have to invest time in this fish beyond dropping food in there in the morning and at night? Screw that: I quit." Now I'm a Water-Nazi: it WILL be changed a minimum of 25%/week, or I will not keep fish.
I mention this because I don't want people coming on here screaming, "MONSTER! YOU'RE A MONSTER! YOU DIDN'T CARE FOR HIM PROPERLY AT ALL!".
Anyway, my betta was a little terror named Khal Drogo. For those of you familiar with Game of Thrones I'll say this: my Drogo was EXACTLY like that Drogo. My fish embodied the spirit of his namesake so accurately it was uncanny. For those of you who aren't familiar with the character, in the series Game of Thrones Khal Drogo is the leader of a vast horde of warriors, women and slaves who worship horses and kill whatever displeases them. They are violent and proud. Of his people Khal Drogo was the most violent and most proud of them all, a warrior through-and-through.
My Drogo had a jet black body and dark red fins fringed in black (when I first got him I feared this was fin rot, but I owned him for 2 years before his untimely death and gradually accepted it as his natural coloring). I kept him in a 10-gallon that he patrolled constantly, wary of "invaders" (to keep him occupied and provide him with some amusement, I would occasionally show him his reflection; when I would take it away he would try for some 20, 30 minutes to be sure he'd really scared his challenger off). In the past few months I've been wanting to try a few small, nondescript community fish that he could coexist peacefully with. Before you get all self-righteous know that not ALL betta are killers: if put with other fish that they won't mistake for their own kind, they can tolerate others nicely.
I planned and plotted for weeks: what would I get, how would I know they were adjusting, would I have to feed them separately, etc.etc. Eventually I got 3 ghost shrimp and introduced them to the tank, just to see if they would be left alone. Drogo knew they were there: he would follow silently behind them, watching, sort of wondering what in the blazes I had put in his tank. But he never attacked them, even when they got adventurous enough to swim around from time to time. I took that as a good sign: okay, he's not interested in attacking other animals, even one that could be seen as a potential food item.
So I got 3 guppies. I don't remember the type; I picked some darkly-colored ones (not the fantail type either) and let them sit in the QT tank for 2 days. At first Drogo was curious, but since they weren't in his tank he eventually grew bored. Not once did he flare at them.
After 2 days I didn't just drop them in; I'd kept the bag they came in and put them back in it. While the bag floated I watched everyone in my tank: Drogo was curious and kept bumping into the bag, but again: he didn't flare. I should mention that my Khal Drogo was a little bastard: he would flare at the cats, the TV, mirrors, pens, stuffed animals... but apparently he was cool with other fish. So I let them out early in the morning and spent that day at home, reading a book and watching them fanatically like an obsessive mother watching her kid and the neighbor's kids for the day. The tank seemed to settle down almost immediately: the guppies were cruising, exploring their new home... the shrimp retreated into their cave, wary of these new visitors (I expected them to come around eventually)... and Drogo. Drogo didn't seem to know what to make of these foreign visitors: he hung back, watching them from the safety of his favorite silk plant. When they'd swim by he would chase them away, but there was never any nipping. Just, "Get away from me you overly-cheerful freaks!"
They spent the whole day like that, forming opinions of one another. And I went to bed that night satisfied that this experiment would work out.
Khal Drogo lived up to his reputation.
The following morning I awoke to a massacre.
I first noticed the bodies floating at the surface. There were 2 of them: guppies, torn into like a tiny shark had been at them. A quick survey of the tank revealed the third, hiding in the relative safety of the rock cave. And scattered all over the bottom of the tank were pieces of ghost shrimp. Oh yes: Khal Drogo had gotten into a murder frenzy so violent he'd murdered the shrimp he'd been living peacefully with for a few weeks already. I found him in his plant, his stomach distended from having cannibalized almost every living creature in there with him, and his fins torn to shreds (acute fin rot). I immdiately scooped him out and put him in the QT tank: I could tell he was in a bad way, and if I wanted him to survive I had to start treating immediately.
As I set him up with some Betta Fix and started looking for remedies for overfeeding (I tried to treat it like constipation with some pea, but he refused to eat) I gradually reconstructed what had happened the night before.
In hindsight I'm certain he wasn't chill with his new roommates. He was just waiting for the cover of night to slaughter theml. And once that bloodlust overtook him he had to kill everything: old tankmates, new tankmates, it didn't matter. THEY NEEDED TO DIE.
Anyway, I tried my best to save him, but he was blocked up so badly he couldn't poop or eat, and that in addition to the fin rot proved too much. Days later he'd died, after I'd flushed all his tankmates (the third guppy, maimed as it was, didn't last the day).
If you didn't get the irony or why I find this funny in a twisted sort of way, let me explain. In the book series and the TV show for Game of Thrones, Khal Drogo is injured in battle during a raid on a small village, during which his people slaughter everyone (except a few likely slaves and the women: you don't want to know what happened to the women). His wounds later become infected and he dies days later (the circumstances are more nuanced for fans of the series, but that's the gist of what happened). So, yes. The name, the personality, the colors and the ultimate demise all parallel the series.
I'm not introducing other fish to a betta ever again. I've learned my lesson. Where I think I messed up (besides picking the wrong betta to introduce new fish to) was the order of how I put them in. Instead of introducing my betta into an established tank, I introduced new fish into a betta's established territory. I rearranged the tank before I put them in, but I guess that wasn't enough. R.I.P., my Sun-and-Stars. I'll miss you.
Approximately 83.5% of statistics are untrue.
Mama to 3 Trili Corys